SG13

This system is for builders who don't want to compromise on gaming capability even in a small system. It will easily fit an ultra-high-end video card and a standard ATX power supply. In fact, this system is just as fast as our full-size High-End Gaming PC Build, yet takes up barely 1/3 the space. That's perfect for gaming on the go, whether it's winning at the local LAN party or showing off the latest virtual reality title to your friends! In other words, despite its compact size, this is a totally legit high-end gaming PC, the equal of big towers that cost the same or more!

We rolled out the July 2017 edition of this guide early, as some unexpected market conditions have required us to radically change the build. In short, the entire world supply of GeForce GTX 1070 video cards has been bought up by cryptocurrency miners, meaning you, dear gamer, aren't going to be buying one! Instead, we've modified the build to incorporate the GTX 1080, which is significantly faster, but of course more expensive as well. As a result, this build now comes in around $1,600 rather than the $1,500 we target, but at least you're getting a much faster system! In addition to the GTX 1080, this system features a Core i7-7700K CPU, a cutting-edge Z270-based motherboard, 16GB of fast DDR4 RAM, and a 1TB hard drive backed up by 16GB of Intel's amazing Optane memory cache.

And guess what... you can learn exactly how to build this system by following our step-by-step Ultimate Mini PC Assembly Guide. Want extra reassurance? Then check out the fantastic set of photos and tips provided by one of our readers in The TBG Forum! Still have questions? Just post them in the Forum and we'll get back to you! We update this build every month, so feel free to flip over to The Archive to see how this build has changed over time.

The $1,500 Ultra-Compact Mini-ITX PC - July 2017

  • CPU:

    Intel Core i7-7700K

    For this build, we're going straight to the top: Intel's new Core i7-7700K processor. Running at a base clock of 4.2GHz, it boosts to 4.4GHz under a quad-core load, making it a solid 10% faster than its predecessor the Core i7-6700K, despite a similar price. It also has serious overclocking headroom - every 7700K processor should be able to hit 4.7GHz even with the cooling provided by this compact system!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Please take note: the 7700K does not come with a CPU cooler. You must buy an aftermarket model, and we suggest a great cooler for this build later in this guide.

    Motherboard:

    Asus ROG Strix Z270I Gaming

    This Z270 board offers all the best features of the Kaby Lake-based models. It includes the new premium ALC1220 audio, Intel Ethernet, RGB lighting, as well as dual-stream 802.11ac wireless networking. In addition, it offers DisplayPort and HDMI outputs, optical digital out, and eight USB ports, including a Type-C connector. It even has a USB 3.1 header, which can't be used with any current cases - talk about future-proof!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Only Z270-based ITX boards are guaranteed to support the 7700K processor. While Z170 boards can in theory do so, they need the latest firmware, and there's no way to know if they do until you try to boot them!

    Video Card:

    EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 SC 8GB

    The GeForce GTX 1080 is an awesome video card, and due to a quirk in its design, it's awesome for gaming, but pretty bad for cryptocurrency mining. In fact, it's 24% faster in games than the GTX 1070 we used to recommend for this build, which is now entirely sold out (or costs more than the GTX 1080 if you can find one in the grey market!). But take note: you can't use just any GTX 1080 in this build, as most custom-cooled models are either too long or too tall. This awesome, affordable model comes in at Nvidia's reference spec of 10.5" long, meaning it will slot right into the SG13 case with plenty of space to spare!

    The Guru's Tip:

    To learn more about how the GTX 1080 performs, check out our hands-on 4K benchmark shootout!

    Memory:

    Corsair 2x8GB Vengeance LPX DDR4-3000 White

    With the Skylake platform, you need to use DDR4 memory, and to get the most out of it, you want high frequency DDR4. Skylake responds more favorably to high-speed RAM than any previous platform, as we found in our recent DDR4 benchmark analysis. So we go with this awesome 2x8GB DDR4-3000 kit. Keep in mind that ITX motherboards only have two slots, so you'll be maxed out with two sticks. Luckily 16GB is the sweet spot for a high-end gaming rig!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Believe it or not, the price of tech gear sometimes go up, and this is unfortunately the case with RAM. It has gone up in price by about 40% since mid-2016, due to supply shortages that are likely to continue for many months. We update the RAM selection for this build regularly to keep up with the best high-end values.

    SSD Cache:

    Intel Optane Memory Module 16 GB

    With the rising price of standard SATA-based solid-state drives, we're going to take advantage of an innovative new product from Intel: ultra-high-speed Optane cache. When combined with a traditional mechanical hard drive, it provides SSD-like responsiveness and much higher capacity per dollar. Just note that it only works with Intel 270-series motherboards.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This M.2 drive is easy to install, fitting into the motherboard's top-mounted M.2 slot similar to a stick of RAM. Just note that you need a jeweler's-type screwdriver to affix the tiny screw.

    Hard Drive:

    Western Digital WD10JPVX 1TB 2.5" Drive

    For your bulk storage, we go with a laptop-class 2.5" drive from Western Digital, which is quiet and efficient, and with 1TB of capacity, will be plenty large for a big media or game collection. And with the boost provided by Intel's Optane cache, it will also be ultra-quick!

    The Guru's Tip:

    While this system does have support for a single full-size 3.5" hard drive, we recommend a smaller 2.5" drive to avoid the cable clutter unless you know you need more space than a 2.5" drive can provide.

    Case:

    Silverstone SG13

    The SG13 is the smallest ITX case available from any major manufacturer. There are smaller "kick-started" cases out there, but they often come with a whole lot of "gotchas." The SG13, on the other hand, is supported by the very biggest name in the ITX industry, SilverStone. At under 12 liters, it's truly tiny, but packs a big punch!

    The Guru's Tip:

    We published a full hands-on assembly guide for this case - check it out to get up and running on your build!

    Fan:

    Arctic F12 PWM 120mm Fan

    The SG13 case does't include a fan, and while you can in theory run it without one, with the powerful components in this system, we strongly recommend you pick up this fan to install in the SG13's front fan mount.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that while the SG13 case has a cutout for a 140mm fan, you can't install a fan larger than 120mm and still have room for a full-size video card.

    Power Supply:

    Silverstone SX500-LG

    Just because we're using an ITX case that can theoretically fit ATX power supplies doesn't mean we actually want to fill this little case with a big fat box and lots of cables. So we instead recommend this SFX-L unit, which is a lot more compact, allowing for better airflow and cable management. It's fully modular, offers Gold-rated efficiency, and at 500W, has more than enough power to support this system, which will only draw about 250W at load! The benefit of that 500W rating is that you could drop a Titan-class GPU in this system down the line and still have more than enough power.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This model comes with an SFX-to-ATX adapter bracket, but it's not the one you'll need to actually make this system fit together. See below for the correct one.

    Adapter:

    SilverStone RL-PP08B Bracket

    This nifty little component is what allows you to fit both an SFX-L power supply and the powerful NT06-Pro cooler into the SG13 case. Due to its large offset, it places the power supply all the way at the top of the case, making room for your CPU cooler.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Remember, the power supply comes with a similar bracket, but it's not the same, and will not work with this build.

    CPU Cooler:

    SilverStone NT06-Pro

    The SG13 case has limited clearance for coolers, and we go with the most powerful one that will fit. This 120mm-based model maximizes cooling potential while optimizing size, and we confirmed it will work with the low-profile Corsair RAM we recommend. To see for yourself how it fits, check out our hands-on Assembly Guide.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Because we recommend the use of an SFX-L power supply with a custom bracket, you can actually use this awesome cooler - equipping the system an ATX power supply would require the use of a much smaller cooler.

    Operating System:

    Microsoft Windows 10 Flash Drive

    Windows 10 wipes away all the bad memories left behind by Windows 8, improving enormously on the user interface, and bringing with it some important performance tweaks under the hood.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This flash drive version of Windows installs in just a few minutes, and given that you can't fit an optical drive in this PC, the DVD version of Windows wouldn't be of much use!