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ITX Gaming Build Series


VaporX
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Hey guys, as the news noted on the front page we are doing a build series on the show and our focus is an ITX Gaming Rig. I have to tell you that during this series as we worked through the cases and MULTIPLE builds we discovered a lot of neat little facts and tips when it comes to building an ITX system. However the coolest thing I discovered is that an ITX system does not mean you need to compromise on performance. The final rig we build will easily play any game on the market at 1080 resolutions and detail cranked up. It has a lot of head room and we could have even built bigger, interest choice of words considering we are talking about ITX. The Small size means the finished PC can fit practically anywhere and serve any function.

 

If you have any questions or thoughts as we go through the build pleased post them here. I thought it would be cool to start a discussion about ITX building and this is my community of choice. Check out the shows blog for the latest written piece about the build and every Monday afternoon the podcast of the show will be available to hear our discussion from on air.

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Good idea Ed. My two cents:

1. Scythe SY1212SL12L's are great fans to use due to being thin, which makes them great when you don't have the extra clearance of a bigger chassis. They push a good amount of air, and at 7V's are pretty quiet.

 

2. The size of the PSU can matter for certain mini-ITX cases. You really don't need a high wattage PSU for most mini-ITX builds. Sandy/Ivy Bridge CPU's and the latest generation graphics cards are really efficient, you can get by with a good 550W PSU, or even lower.

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I want to save the PSU discussion as that is the show topic this weekend  :rolleyes: However I have a lot of information on it, a lot more than I expected.

 

As for the fans that is an awesome tip. I am also making use of Noctua fans and suggest people look at PWM fans as well as PWM fan splitters. I like letting the heat of the PC control the fan speeds. I commented on this a bit during our discussion of the Lian Li Q25. The stock fans 140 and 120 are both 3 pin header fans so just plugging them in means full speed. The 140mm fan is not to bad, even on high but the 120 is LOUD. I replaced both with PWM fans during some of our build experiments and the noise level dropped a ton with no cooling lose. 

 

The Node 304 uses a different approach by having a 3 pin fan controller for up to three fans in the back. It gives the option of Low, Medium and High. Fractal fans are normally very quiet and these do not disappoint. On low they are all but silent, on high they are loud but nothing unexpected for these three fans to be on high. Medium however offers almost the noise level of low and close to the cooling of high.

Edited by ComputerEd

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Yeah, I like how the Fractal Design Refine R4 also does the same thing, but in the front (up to four fans).

 

While I disliked fan controllers in the past (due to reliability issues from user reviews), I'm starting to try them out now. The NZXT Sentry 2 Touch Screen fan controller to me looks pretty cool, and does a decent job. How reliable it will be, only time will tell.

 

Aside from the looks, the benefit of being able to control the fan speeds without using Molex to 3-pin adapters and 12V to 7V or 5V adapters clears a lot of wire clutter. It's an added $25 expense, but if you already have fans and you don't want to invest in higher performance fans (which something like a Noctua fan by itself can cost $25), a fan controller can do a lot of good if your cooling and case airflow is already up to snuff. For mini-ITX cases, there's so little space, it doesn't take a lot to get airflow moving in them.

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I do not like fan controllers because you need to control them. I want my PC quiet when it does not need a lot of air flow and to use cooling as it needs it when it needs it. I do not want to have to control switches and stuff to do this. Now in fairness some of the controllers come with sensors for this but why? I mean we have a sensor for CPU temp built into every motherboard and control should be easy using this sensor. That is why I go for PWM fans, using a splitter I can run them from the BIOS control.

 

As you said with an ITX board you only need a few fans and this works well for the PWM route. Split one header and you have fan control.

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I do not like fan controllers because you need to control them. I want my PC quiet when it does not need a lot of air flow and to use cooling as it needs it when it needs it. I do not want to have to control switches and stuff to do this. Now in fairness some of the controllers come with sensors for this but why? I mean we have a sensor for CPU temp built into every motherboard and control should be easy using this sensor. That is why I go for PWM fans, using a splitter I can run them from the BIOS control.

 

As you said with an ITX board you only need a few fans and this works well for the PWM route. Split one header and you have fan control.

If its an ASUS ITX  board FanXpert 2 equipped you can fully tailor the cooling to the need of the system by setting up the fan profiles. It is incredibly cool to watch and experience. That would solve that problem altogether. Others have solutions but ASUS is by far the best one I have tested.  IMHO

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I agree, I really like the fact the FanXpert 2 lets you control not just PWM fans but 3 pins as well. I would love to see more companies give this kind of control to the users for case fans.

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I do not like fan controllers because you need to control them. I want my PC quiet when it does not need a lot of air flow and to use cooling as it needs it when it needs it. I do not want to have to control switches and stuff to do this. Now in fairness some of the controllers come with sensors for this but why? I mean we have a sensor for CPU temp built into every motherboard and control should be easy using this sensor. That is why I go for PWM fans, using a splitter I can run them from the BIOS control.

 

As you said with an ITX board you only need a few fans and this works well for the PWM route. Split one header and you have fan control.

Also, if you have corsair link, you can customize fan settings as well. Actually works quite well

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I recently found this case while searching for a mini-ITX case, You probably have seen it, but I will throw this out there anyway. 

 

http://www.mini-box.com/M350-universal-mini-itx-enclosure

 

Apparently you can VESA mount it on the back of a monitor.

 

As far as I know, the most powerful low profile graphics card is the 7750, and I wouldn't say it's powerful enough to play everything on ultra, but it does play Battlefield 3 on full High settings at 1080p at a playable 30FPS. The only real hope of a machine with that kind of power that I can see would be if you crossfired a 7750 with one of the about to be released Richland APUs.

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There does not appear to be any way that case can mount a video card. However your point if valid, that are a few ITX cases out there that can use a single slot low profile card and the 7750 is about the most powerful option. You are correct at 1080 it will have run with detail levels down but drop that resolution to 720 and you can get some really nice image quality.

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