Let’s build a Micro ITX PC!

The fact is this: I would like to create a PC on which I can play on decently, but that is as small as possible. A micro ITX system. I already have a battle cruiser PC with powerful GPU (Asus GTX 760 DC2OC) / CPU (Intel Core i7-4770K) / RAM (16GB Kingston HyperX FURY 1866MHz DDR3 CL10 DIMM) / Motherboard (Gigabyte GA-Z87X-D3H) / SSD (Samsung 850 EVO 250GB) system, so I don’t need another PC to perform so well.

What I need is a PC that is:
• Small
• Good looking
• Does not consume too much.
• Powerful enough.

Now that I know what I would like, I can analyze each point individually to come up with a good plan of acquisitions:

Small format PC – Micro ITX?

Well, this is pretty straight forward: I would like a small PC. Discreet, that can stay in the living room and be part of the room decoration. I need a micro ITX as motherboard. Not a mini ATX. Micro. The smallest format possible! If I give a look at how my main PC is build, I notice that the extra PCI ports are hardly used, except for the WiFi and my sound card; both in the case of a Micro ITX card are normally integrated. Personally I am not looking too much into any other extras: it has to be a workhorse (playhorse, maybe is a better term,) and that’s it. I believe that in this case, previous experiences with brands, video reviews on YouTube, and articles on internet will have a rather big influence on my final choice.

Good looking – because it’s all about the style

Here the challenge is also rather simple: “it has to look good.” As I mentioned, this PC i possibly going to sit in the living room, connected to the big TV screen and to the computer screen. Currently my main PC is there, and it is an eyesore. The case is a Corsair Carbide Series 200R. It’s massive and looks rather cheap, but it does work perfectly. This will not be a problem when the battle cruiser will sit in a studio or somewhere else, but a case like that does not fit this micro ITX project (or in a living room…)
I am looking for something that has a side window, good airflow, is small sized, and would allow me to recycle my current PSU (possibly). It has to have enough space for a traditional Hard Disk drive and a SSD combo. Room for a compact or full GPU doesn’t matter. Compact would be cool (because they are an engineering marvel!), but if the performance vs. price ratio doesn’t convince me, the full GPU could be the option. I need to make more research on this.

Not too consuming – because electricity costs!

Here’s the fact: PCs consume energy; energy costs money. So by extension, energy consumes my wallet. I need something that performs well when required (gaming), but when being used in 2D, it should consume, figuratively speaking, 2 Watts. This is the main cause why I am replacing my older PC after 10 years: the Intel Q6600 was awesome; invincible. It still runs almost everything fine… but, it consumes a lot of energy by today’s standards. Along with a super-dated MoBo-RAM-GPU combo (with the GPU having been replaced several times over the years,) it just can’t stay anymore. I am extremely proud of having put together a PC that lasted a decade, but the time has come to retire. The new mini ITX has to consume around 50 Watts (or less) on idle, and less than 200 Watts under stress.

A little research on the Intel’s C cpus

Fascinating point: Buying a CPU that consumes less is rather pointless. I the difference between a low consuming CPU (say an Intel Core i5-4690S) and a non-s version is the almost same, except for a few watts. Not enough to justify the downgrade unless you would create a PC without GPU, in that case, different matter. I will aim for a 250 euros i5 4690k then? The difference between a “k” version (overclockable) and a “non-k” (not overclockable) is around 30 euros. It is nice to have the option, but is it worth shelling out 30 euros more? I believe so, but then it consumes more According to this website, overclocking the CPU to 4GHz would mean 71 Watts more, almost twice as much (reference here.)
At this point, I believe a “non-K” is what I prefer. The 4770k that I own is not overclocked, and possibly will not be for the next 3 years.

The key is a lower consuming GPU!

I need a graphics card that’s small. The GTX 970s does offer a few options here, but it draws more power than my GTX 760, and it seems a bit of and overkill for my 1,920 x 1,200 monitor. I wouldn’t mind a small bump, but the GTX 970 is more than I need.

GeForce GTX 960s, however, appear to consume much less than the GTX 760. This was great news, but something that wasn’t as joyous to read was the fact that the GTX 960 basically performs the same as a GTX 760.

Powerful Enough

The great controversial point! Not all PC’s are meant to be Star Destroyers. Some PCs are meant to do their job well, without being the best. It is perfectly fine, and that’s what I am aiming for here. So I believe an Intel i5 will do perfectly. Which one, it is still to decide. RAM will be 8Gb or 16Gb, but which one I still do not know. Motherboard, as mentioned above, has to be investigated. GPU? I tend to go for ASUS often, due to very good experiences in the past, but in this case I will have to explore a bit more for the reason mentioned above: do I want a full GPU (with all the problems in heating and cable management in a tight spot, or do I want a GPU designed for smaller PCs that might perform a bit slower, but that consumes also less?) I already have a PSU, which is the Corsair 500 semi modular. It has handled my main pc without problems, it will do the same with this. Moreover, the size is small and would fit perfectly into a smaller case. No need for a DVD reader.

So, this is the base. Time to start searching for answers!

Giulio Menna
Lover of: all things digital, humanities, and medieval manuscripts. I created Sexy Codicology and the DMMmaps Project and run them both with passion and love in my free time. I am an MA graduate in Book and Digital Media Studies at Leiden University. Still happily living in the Netherlands.
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