Mini-ITX Game PC - January 2014
The Mini-ITX Game PC is a desktop computer that is small enough to be portable, but has better performance than a gaming notebook.
Please note: the PC Buyer’s Guide is compiled based on independent component tests performed by Hardware.Info. If no new, superior products are released that should replace one or more of the components, then the component(s) will remain the same as the previous month.
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HyperThreading has very little added value for gaming, so for our mini-ITX gaming PC we picked the Intel Core i5 4670K. This unlocked CPU can be overclocked, is fast and also energy efficient. This is important considering the more limited cooling options of a mini-ITX enclosure.
The Mini-ITX Game PC can't have a cooler that's too high. Many common coolers won't fit, but a nice exception to that rule is th Big Shuriken 2 rev. B by Scythe. It has excellent cooling results and is very quiet. It has one more heatpipe than its predecessor and is slightly more expensive, but is an excellent choice.
More and more mini-ITX motherboards are hitting the market. The MSI Z87I Gaming AC is the best one we've tested recently, earning the Gold Award. It's equipped with a Killer NIC network card, the outstanding Realtek ALC1150 audio chip with Creative software and a number of other practical features. It's even good for overclocking.
8 GB of RAM is enough for a solid PC. Games won't benefit if you have more. The Corsair Vengeance LP 8GB DDR3-1600 CL9 is a quality kit that's also affordable. Thanks to its low height it will fit in Mini-ITX boards inside Mini-ITX chassis.
AMD's R9 280X graphics card offers excellent value for your money. It's powerful enough for Full HD and even WQHD gaming. The MSI Radeon R9 Gaming 3GB is both affordable and silent.
SSDs have finally gotten cheap enough to be used as standard storage device. The Samsung 840 Evo offers great value, and 250 GB is enough for a sizeable game library. With cloud services such as Steam, Origin, Uplay and others you no longer need to keep tons of games installed at the same time.
To store media files we added a 3 TB 7200rpm conventional hard disk. The Seagate 7200.14 Barracuda is fast and very affordable.
The chassis does not have room for a full-size optical drive. As long as not all video games are available digitally, it makes sense to include one. Even slimline DVD burners are not expensive anymore, so we included the LG GT80N.
There is a lot of choice among mini-ITX chassis. A good and affordable option is the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced. You do need a separate power supply, but there is plenty of space for a full ATX PSU. It has since been replaced by the Elite 130, but the 120 is still more than good enough.
To keep the weight down and leave enough space for a CPU cooler, we picked the new USB 3.0 version of the SilverStone Sugo SG07 600W. It delivers 600 watts, and is 80 Plus Bronze certified. According to our test, it is one of the best cooling Mini-ITX chassis.
The Corsair Vengeance K95 has very durable mechanical keys that can withstand prolonged use, and dome switch keys for the peripheral (non-numeric/ letter) keys. The macro functions are useful for games. The 18 macro keys can be set directly on the keyboard with the dedicated macro record button.
The buttons M1 to M3 let you change the position of all keys at the same time. The Windows keys can be disabled and are located in the top-right corner. The blue backlight makes the keys visible in the dark, and has three brightness settings. It can also be disabled.
Not only should you get a quality mouse for a gaming PC, but the mousepad matters as well. We recently tested a whole bunch of them, including the Razer Goliathus Fragged Alpha Control. We can't get into specifics yet, but let's just say this one should be on your shopping list if you need a new mousepad.
If you can't blast your speakers during late-night gaming sessions, a good headset should be part of your setup. The Razer Carcharias has soft, round earpads that don't squeeze your ears too much. The headband has steel wires for added support, and you're not limited by increments when you adjust the size of it. It's a great headset for longer sessions, in terms of comfort. The microphone sounds crystal clear. We were positively impressed when we tested it, so it's earned a spot in our gaming configuration.
|Processors||Intel Core i5 4670K||£197.99|
|CPU coolers||Scythe Big Shuriken 2 Rev. B||–|
|Motherboards||MSI Z87I Gaming AC||£217.51|
|Memory modules||Corsair Vengeance Black LP 8GB DDR3-1600 CL9 kit||£38.99|
|Graphics cards||MSI Radeon R9 280X Gaming 3GB||–|
|Hard disks/SSDs||Samsung 840 Evo 250GB||£98.34|
|Hard disks/SSDs||Seagate Barracuda 7200.14 3TB||£76.99|
|Optical drives||LG GT80N||–|
|Cases||SilverStone Sugo SST-SG07B 600W (USB 3.0)||£140.06|
|Keyboards||Corsair Vengeance K95||–|
|Mice||Corsair Vengeance M95 Black||£59.99|
|Mouse pads||Razer Goliathus Fragged Alpha Control||–|
|Add as wish list||Average total price:||£1,057.81|