Build A Mini-ITX :: Shrink Your Rig

There has always been an unwritten rule bandied about in the PC-build world, that if you want to play the latest games then you’d better get your hands on the biggest, beastiest, most state of the art parts with all the zeros on the end of the price tag – otherwise it’s just not worth it.

I must admit there is a place for the full-sized PC, and if you ever need to do some serious heavy lifting on a bazillion different screens, with every setting highly tuned – then I would look into an ATX build. But, the Mini-ITX motherboard has come on leaps and bounds over the years, to the point where the Mini-ITX and the ATX motherboards accompany almost all the same features – you can expect the Mini-ITX to support the latest processor chipsets, and in some instances, even allow you to overclock.

asus itxWith both forms being able to support PCI-E, USB 3.0, SATA 6G, and even the largest graphics cards on offer – the only real limitation the Mini-ITX runs into is not being able to SLI or Crossfire, as there is only one PCI-E slot. Depending on the graphics card, most mid-range GPU’s will be able to play the latest games on high(ish) settings –  and with the right parts you can build a pretty class Steam box for under £500. When building a Mini-ITX or small form factor it is always best to pick the hardware with a bit of foresight, as you won’t be able to expand out on a later date, but you will still be able to upgrade individual parts.

In all fairness, that is the reason why I was drawn to the idea of a Mini-ITX in the first place – as I never really ever found myself expanding out into my spacious full tower, all I ever really did was upgrade here and there. What I really needed was precious desk real estate, that was in dire supply, and my lot was diminishing at an incredible rate ever since I installed a dual monitor set-up.

Also Read: Intel vs AMD CPU’s :: Which Brand To Choose For My Build

So my mind was made up, I was going to shrink my rig. I already had an Intel processor, but if I was building from scratch I could use AMD just as easily – both have their pros & cons and as a rough rule of thumb, Intel are a bit more dearer providing more overall quality, and AMD can deliver a powerful alternative at a more reasonable price. The healthy competition between the two, mean that whatever choice you ultimately make, you will always be getting the best for your money. Another thing to consider is the abundance of Intel compatible Mini-ITX motherboards over the AMD Chipset versions – if you just want to build a PC for web browsing,  emails and some media, then the more reasonably priced parts will suffice, but if you want to use it for gaming then I would consider having a look into the higher priced parts and even the full range that Intel has to offer.

The CPU you have will depend on the sort of Mini-ITX motherboard you should purchase. For instance, I’m using an Intel i5-4670k, which is sitting somewhere in the mid-range bracket. I could overclock it, seeing as it is a K series Intel chip, but I only really intend to do some gaming and general purpose work on it – and can’t see myself having to try and crunch out any more performance out of it. So I don’t really need to look at the Z model versions of the Mini-ITX motherboards, as these are the only ones that will allow me to overclock, all I’m left with now is choosing the other parts – one of the most unique and iconic feature being the case.

Also Read: The Mini-ITX Motherboards Review :: Inte’s H81, H87, H97, Z87 and  Z97

mini case

Some of the best designed cases entering the market have been ones that only support Mini-ITX motherboards (Also Read: Top 5 Mini-ITX cases), they generally come in two forms – either a slim box, only really able to support integrated power & graphics options, and slightly larger cases that will allow you fit in a full power supply, graphics card and 3.5″ HDD, including a proper heatsink for your CPU.


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