Mini-ITX Game PC - February 2017
The Mini-ITX Game PC is a desktop computer that is small enough to be portable, but has better performance than a gaming notebook. Previous time, we built a low cost compact system for Full HD gaming, but this time we're putting ITX to the test for 4K gaming.
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.
If you want to know more about how we compile our PC Buying guides, have a look at this article.
For the time being, a Core i7 with HyperThreading provides almost no benefit in games. That's why we choose a Core i5 for our Gaming PC. The i5 7600K is part of the brand new Kaby Lake generation and offers a nice 10% performance boost without costing a buck more than its predecessor.
Many gamers will upgrade the graphics card during the lifetime of their pc, but with a nice overclock, you probably won't have to upgrade your CPU in the future. If you are sure you won't overclock, you can also go with a cheaper i5 and a B250 motherboard.
The airflow in a Mini-ITX system is limited compared to a mid or full tower. By watercooling the CPU, the heat it generates will be blown outside of the case. That means you'll be able to freely overclock it without cooling concerns.
NZXT offers an affordable 140mm all-in-one watercooler with its Kraken X41. It performs excellent and can easily be mounted at the rear of the chassis. That also solves the main drawback of the chosen case, which is the lack of an outtake case fan.
The chosen processor requires DDR4 memory. We choose a basic set with two 8 GB modules, which together form a 16 GB kit. Do consult our price comparison engine: as long as you look at the bigger brands, it matters little which kit you buy if price is the main concern. 8 GB tends to be enough for just gaming, but more demanding tasks, running a game server or video editing by example, can use the extra memory. You could possibly save some bucks by installing only one module and buying a second one later.
We invest a few bucks extra in a Crucial Ballistix kit with heatspreaders, which look nicer than Crucials budget dimms for example. Technically, there is no reason not to choose the cheaper ones.
The Mini-ITX form factor usually doesn't combine that well with a lot of features and possibilities, since the available space is limited. ASRock proofs it's possible to have a high-end Mini-ITX motherboard without any compromises. The Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac has extensive VRMs with high-quality components, no less than six SATA600 ports and an M.2 slot. The USB Type-C port doesn't only support USB 3.1, but also Thunderbolt 3!
ASRock takes good care of all other aspects important to gamers, too, like audio quality and networking connectivity. We almost can't wish for a better foundation for the Mini-ITX Gaming PC.
The GeForce GTX 1070 is the new best choice for a Gaming PC. AMD won't offer a GPU with this kind of performance in the coming months, while CrossFire is a bad alternative for a single faster GPU, in our opinion. With the GTX 1070, you can game at WQHD without any compromises on graphics quality.
Although really bad GTX 1070s are hard to find, we surely have a favorite. The Superclocked version from EVGA has a friendly price and combines good performance with whisper quiet cooling. Due to the silent cooling, you almost won't hear the graphics card, even under full load.
If you don't like the color scheme, you can also get this card in black. If you have some more to spend, the FTW edition is even higher clocked and has a custom PCB.
In cases with little airflow, the VRMs of the EVGA cards could overheat. EVGA released new BIOS'es that make the fans rotate faster. We retested the 1070 SC, and while the card makes a little more noise than before, the effect is limited and doesn't affect our verdict. New cards have extra cooling pads, that fix the problem.
If you don't need the system right now, it could be a good choice to wait for the AMD Vega graphics cards, which will be launched in a few months.
There isn't much difference in performance between SATA600 SSDs these days. Due to its 'weird' capacity of 525 Gigs, you get more storage for the same price as the competition with the Crucial MX300. That's more than enough for all your software and games.
If you want to run as little cables as possible through your case, you can choose the somewhat more expensive M.2 version and mount it to the back of the mainboard.
With the Enthoo Evolv ITX, Phanteks barely gives in on build quality and ease of installation compared to the bigger (and more expensive) models. Installing a big graphics card is not a problem. The only drawback is that only one fan is pre-installed, a 200mm fan in the front to be exactly, but we already fixed that by adding a 140mm radiator to the rear. The watercooler doubles as an outtake fan in that position.
The Corsair RMx series is an excellent choice in every respect, as our review has proved us. We also tested the 550W model since then and again, it offers an attractive mix of performance, silence and price. The Cooler Master V-Series is a good alternative, but a bit more expensive at the moment.
For a friendly priced mechanical gaming keyboard, we need to shop at Corsair. Its Strafe keyboard won an Excellent Choice award in our review. Of course, it uses the popular Cherry MX Red switches, but also things like macro's, lighting and game profiles are included.
If you want a so-called tenkeyless keyboard, we would recommend the CM Storm NovaTouch TKL. If you want to save a few bucks, Cooler Master has a few nice basic mechanical keyboards in its product range.
The Logitech G502 is one of the most popular gaming mouses in our price comparison engine. After our test, we know why: the buttons are extremely easy to press and very well-positioned. The scroll wheel can be used as a flywheel for fast movements, but also for low-sense usage with clear steps. Logitech's Gaming-software is very comprehensive and you can change the weight of the mouse by using the supplied weights.
The Zowie FK2 could be an alternative if you are looking for a mouse with less frills.
Not only should you get a quality mouse for a gaming PC, but the mousepad matters as well. Everyone has different preferences in material choice, so you should really try a few pads both in a store. The SteelSeries QcK is one of the candidates for your shortlist and a really popular store.
As a gamer, you want a fast display, so you will end up with a TN panel. The ASUS MG278Q (144 Hz) surprised us with its good color accuracy for this panel type and its fast response times. Those make this monitor an excellent choice for gaming. The high WQHD resolution offers a sharp image while gaming and leaves you with a lot of desktop space for doing other stuff. ASUS packed the MG278Q with a lot of features, like a built-in USB 3.0 hub and a Vesa mount, although the standard stand already has ergonomical customization.
If you're willing to spend 100 euros more, the ASUS MG279Q enters the arena. It combines a better quality IPS panel with the high 144 Hz refresh rate.
Are response times and refresh rates less important to you, and do you care more about the image quality? We've got you covered with the Dell UltraSharp U2515H, a good but cheaper alternative.
For a long time, we recommended the Kingston HyperX Cloud. While it continues to be a good choice if you want to do more than gaming, like listening to music, we liked the surround of the new Corsair Void a lot better. The combination with a very good microphone makes it our new first choice.
The Void Surround Hybrid is available in 'gaming red' and with carbon accents, for those who prefer a more neutral look.
|Processors||Intel Core i5 7600K Boxed||£199.99|
|CPU coolers||NZXT Kraken X41||–|
|Memory modules||Crucial Ballistix Sport LT 16GB DDR4-2400 CL16 kit||£162.41|
|Motherboards||ASRock Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac||£167.14|
|Graphics cards||EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 SC ACX 3.0 8GB||£519.99|
|Hard disks/SSDs||Crucial MX300 525GB||£122.96|
|Cases||Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX Window Black||£66.95|
|Power supplies||Corsair RM550x||£80.81|
|Keyboards||Corsair Strafe MX Red||£98.99|
|Mice||Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum||£56.99|
|Mouse pads||SteelSeries QcK||£8.99|
|Headsets||Corsair Gaming Void Hybrid Surround Red||–|
|Save as your own wish list||Average total price:||£1,981.73|