PS07

PC builders looking for a bit more flexibility than what a typical mini-ITX build can offer will appreciate this micro ATX-based alternative to ITX systems. Going with the mATX standard opens up a lot more options in terms of motherboards. If you're looking for something a bit different from the big tower systems of yesteryear, but still want to pack in lots of power, this is the build for you!

For May 2017, we make two changes to our build based on product availability and pricing. First, we switch to the proven KL07 case from SilverStone, which has long been one of our favorite micro ATX models. Second, we pick up an effective 120mm-class CPU cooler from Arctic, which simply has no equal in its price range. Everything else remains the same, but that doesn't mean it's not cutting edge! You're getting the next-gen Intel Kaby Lake platform released in January, which includes the Core i7-7700K processor, the fastest consumer CPU ever released, along with the advanced Z270 chipset. The 7700K runs at a 4.2GHz base clock, but actually boosts to 4.4GHz under most loads, giving it a big advantage over the outgoing Core i7-6700K (we've found it to be 10-15% faster out of the box!). Combined with the GeForce GTX 1070 video card recommended in this guide, this system will provide exceptional gaming or productivity performance. On the storage side, we recommend a speedy Crucial MX300 525GB solid-state drive, specifically in the M.2 format, which reduces cable clutter, along with a 1TB hard drive for data storage.

To see how this month's build compares to previous months, flip over to the Archive. You can also compare this build to all of our other builds on the PC Build Comparison Page. Feel free to post them in our Reader Forum. And if you decide to build this system, let us know so we can add your system to The Gallery!

The $1,400 Compact Micro ATX PC - May 2017

    CPU:

    Intel Core i7-7700K

    The brand-new Core i7-7700K, launched in January, is what makes this unimposing system a wolf in sheep's clothing! It offers tremendous processing power, with its Hyperthreading technology making it far faster in modern games and productivity applications. It comes clocked at 4.2GHz with Turbo to 4.5GHz, and can be easily overclocked another 10% or so. Note that for less intensive applications, you can easily substitute in the Core i5-7600K and save $100, although we view the 7700K as the better long-term investment.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This CPU does not come with a CPU cooler, so please remember to pick up the one we recommend later in this guide - you can't run it without one!

    Motherboard:

    MSI Z270M Mortar

    This mid-priced model offers tremendous value for the price. While the new Core i7-7700K can technically run in older Z170 boards, they require a firmware update, which any models that have been warehoused for any length of time probably do not have. And going with the Z270 chipset brings additional advantages as well, including better memory overclocking support and the latest RGB controller powered by MSI's Mystic Light system. This board also has cutting-edge connectivity, in the form of an M.2 SSD slot (the future of solid-state storage!) and a USB 3.1 Type-C connector.

    The Guru's Tip:

    While this board does not support dual video card configurations, that shouldn't be of concern to builders of mATX systems. Running two video cards back-to-back is very difficult, as overheating is nearly sure to occur. Trust us - we've tried it multiple times!

    Video Card:

    EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 SC Black Edition

    A few years ago, building a compact gaming system with a GPU as capable as the GTX 1070 would have cost another $500, and would have run hot and loud. Not so with the GTX 1070, GPU with unmatched efficiency. This version of the GTX 1070 features a quiet dual-fan heatsink, along with a big factory overclock.

    The Guru's Tip:

    To learn more about what makes the 1070 so great, read our hands-on review!

    Memory:

    Corsair 2x4GB Vengeance LPX DDR4-3000

    This fast DDR4-3000 kit will unleash the full potential of the Core i7-7700K chip and cutting-edge Z270 platform. And in a 2x4GB configuration, you get dual-channel operation along with more than enough capacity. Just remember to enable the XMP profile in the motherboard's UEFI to take full advantage of it!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that due to dramatic increases in DDR4 memory over the past few months, we've cut back from 16GB to 8GB, and reallocated the budget to other components. Luckily, because this system's micro ATX motherboard has four RAM slots, giving you plenty of room for upgrades down the line. ITX motherboards, by contrast, are always limited to two RAM slots.

    Solid-State Drive:

    Crucial MX300 525GB M.2

    This new model from Crucial offers an unbeatable combination of performance and capacity per dollar. Given that we're no longer recommending a hard drive for this system, the MX300's 525GB of solid-state storage will definitely come in handy, and the M.2 format means you'll have fewer cables to deal with in your case.

    The Guru's Tip:

    You'll need a jeweler's screwdriver to install this drive, which slots right into the motherboard.

    Hard Drive:

    Western Digital Blue 1TB

    To provide a lot more capacity at an affordable price, we recommend the WD Blue, a fast, reliable 7200RPM-class drive. Combined with the M.2-style SSD above, you'll have a total of 1.5TB of capacity.

    The Guru's Tip:

    The KL06 case can fit one 3.5" drive, which sits at the bottom of the case. By going with an M.2 SSD and a 3.5" hard drive, you can remove the huge 8-bay 2.5" drive cage entirely!

    Case:

    SilverStone SST-PS07B

    SilverStone's KL07 builds on the pioneering micro-ATX SilverStone cases that have come before it, including the amazing TJ08-E that we previously reviewed. It uses an inverted layout to provide exceptional CPU cooling, and features a vented front panel and two front-mounted 120mm fans, which together allow for tremendous direct-path airflow through this compact case. While cube-shaped cases are all the rage, the truth is that the standard compact tower format is actually far more efficient for purposes of both cooling and minimizing total volume. Despite its small dimensions, this case can hold any video card plus a tower-style CPU cooler and high-end power supply.

    The Guru's Tip:

    If you use the data drives recommended in this guide, you can fully remove the large hard drive cage in this case, allowing for better overall airflow. The 3.5" hard drive will fit in the bottom bay, and the M.2 drive of course slots into the motherboard.

    Power Supply:

    EVGA Supernova 550 GS

    While this system can use standard ATX power supplies, its compact dimensions mean that the smaller the PSU, the better. So we recommend using the Seasonic-designed 550 GS from EVGA, which is only 150mm in length, ensuring that there won't be any issue fitting it into our recommended case. It features Gold-rated efficiency, fully-modular cables, and enough power (and PCIe cables) to support any gear you could pack into this system.

    The Guru's Tip:

    EVGA offers the best power supplies at every price point, along with the best customer service!

    CPU Cooler:

    Arctic Freezer i32

    Offering tremendous cooling capacity in a compact design, this 120mm tower cooler is a perfect match for this build. It easily outperforms every cooler in its price range.

    The Guru's Tip:

    The i32 is tuned for quiet operation, and in fact has an optional mode that shuts off the fan during low loads to eliminate noise completely.

    Optical Drive:

    LG 24x DVD Burner GH24NSC0B

    It's cheap, and will easily fit in this build, so there's no reason not to add this LG 24x DVD burner.

    The Guru's Tip:

    LG is the last remaining major manufacturer of DVD drives!

    Operating System:

    Microsoft Windows 10

    Windows 10 was a big step up from Windows 8.1, and the new Anniversary update released in the summer of 2016 made it better than ever!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Because this system has an optical drive, we go with the less expensive DVD-based version of Windows 10.