12 Mini-ITX chassis review: compact quality

A fully-fledged PC in a small chassis is perfectly possible.

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Participants

The majority of the chassis in this test fall under the cuboid category. These include the Chenbro SR30169, Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced, Fractal Design Array R2, Lian Li PC-Q03 and PC-Q15, Silverstone Sugo SG07 and Thermaltake Element Q. There are some more unique models as well. The Antec ISK110 is very flat, and the ISK300-150 isn't much higher. The Chieftec BT-02B is also very compact, the Bitfenix Prodigy larger, while the Silverstone FT03-Mini is very small and vertically-oriented.

The prices vary a lot. The cheapest by a long shot is the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced which costs an average of £36. That's an impressive feat, since Mini-ITX chassis tend to be expensive. Other affordable models are the Chieftec BT-02B, Thermaltake Element Q, Lian Li PC-Q03 and the Bitfenix Prodigy. The rest can't be called cheap, and the most expensive one is the £155 Fractal Design Array R2.

Test

We look at how easy it ease to install components, the quality of the interior and exterior finish, the quality of the materials, the number and type of connectors, how much internal space there is, how much noise they produce and how hot they get. The heat test had to be changed for the Mini-ITX chassis, but the principle is the same. We use light bulbs to create heat, mounted on a Mini-ITX motherboard, along with a temperature sensor. We performed measurements with 80 watts and 160 watts of heat. If fans are included we test them at low speed (7 volts) and high speed (12 volts). The 160-watt test was too hot for many of the chassis in this test.

We measure the noise production in a sound-proof box at a distance of 10 cm, in which all sounds above 17 dB(A) can be detected. Standard ambient sound levels are about 30 dB(A). We test each chassis with the fans switched off, to test the dampening capacity. Then we run the test with fans on low speed (7V) and on high speed (12 V). Results below 40 dB(A) are still considered very good. Noise in excess of 50 dB(A) can be clearly heard from 50 to 100 cm from the source.


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