Manta

This system is for builders who want a compact system, but simply aren't willing to sacrifice performance. This rig has all the power of our $2,000 Premium ATX Build packed into a compact, stylish case. While it's big compared to most Small Form Factor systems, it's dwarfed by standard towers, despite being able to go toe-to-toe with them. And amazingly, there is no price premium for getting a system of this caliber down to a portable size, making this build a pretty good value too. And in case you're wondering, it can absolutely crush any game available on the leading VR platform, the HTC Vive, making it a perfect companion for a new VR setup!

For January 2017, we move this build to the brand-new Intel Kaby Lake platform. That includes the potent Core i7-7700K processor, along with the feature-rich Z270 chipset. To allow a huge overclock for this system, potentially reaching 5GHz, we recommend the powerful Corsair H100i v2 240mm all-in-one liquid cooler. On graphics duty, we suggest the awesome GTX 1080 8GB, which offers enough power to make this ITX system a very serious gaming machine. To complete the build, we suggest 16GB of blazing-fast DDR4-3200 RAM and a 1TB solid-state drive, which allows you to skip old-school hard drives all together! We recommend powering up all this gear with a 650W Platinum-rated power supply, and wrapping it up in the ultra-premium NZXT Manta case, the most capable ITX case on the market! 

To see past month's builds, just flip over to The Archive. Interested in discussing this build? Then hop over to the Forum to post your thoughts!

The $2,000 Ultimate Gaming Mini-ITX PC - January 2017

    CPU:

    Intel Core i7-7700K

    There's no faster chip for gaming than the brand-new Kaby Lake-based Core i7-7700K. With a 4.2GHz base clock and Hyperthreading on board, it will make quick work of any game you throw at it. It actually operates at 4.4GHz with a quad-core load, and and can be overclocked to a minimum of 4.8GHz using the liquid cooler we recommend later in this guide!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Remember, the 7700K does not come with a cooler in the box, so an aftermarket cooler isn't option... it's required!

    Motherboard:

    MSI Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC

    The Pro Carbon is one of the very few H270 ITX boards available, and luckily it's also one of the very best we expect to see in this generation. It features the new top-of-the-line Realtek ALC1220 audio with Nahimic 2 processing, a full-length M.2 slot on the backside, Intel wired networking plus 802.11ac wireless networking with Bluetooth. In addition, it offers HDMI, DisplayPort, digital audio out, and six USB ports, including USB 3.1 Type-C.

    The Guru's Tip:

    As is always the case with new Intel platforms, ITX boards appear last. MSI is actually the very first manufacturer to release a high-end ITX board, and one of the very few manufacturers with any Kaby Lake ITX boards!

    Video Card:

    Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 8GB G1

    Nvidia has brought a new level of performance to the table with the GTX 1080. Despite higher performance than any previous-gen card, it uses far less power and has much lower heat output than previous-gen cards, which is great for an ITX build. This model offers a big factory overclock, an awesome custom cooler to keep things silent while maintaining maximum clockrates, along with LED lighting to add some bling to your build.

    The Guru's Tip:

    With custom-cooled models now at least as easy to find in stock as the Founders Edition, we're no longer recommending the FE, as it simply can't hold clockrates as consistently due to higher operating temperatures.

    Memory:

    Corsair 2x8GB Vengeance LED DDR4-3200 White

    With the Skylake platform, you need to use DDR4 memory, and to get the most out of it, you want high frequency DDR4. For the Ultimate ITX Gamer, we go with ultra-high speed DDR4-3200 in a 2x8GB configuration, complete with LED lighting!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Like all DDR4 memory, this kit will default to 2133MHz. Enable the XMP profile in the motherboard's UEFI to unleash this kit's full potential. In our recent Gamer's Bench investigation, we found that on the Skylake platform, DDR4 speed really does matter!

    Solid-State Drive:

    Samsung 850 Evo 1TB

    Going with an SSD-only system is now feasible, given how much SSDs have dropped in price over the past few years. So we go with the best high-end drive on the market, the 850 Evo, with a 1TB capacity. It has simply run away from every other SATA-based SSD on the market, making it the obvious choice.

    The Guru's Tip:

    We don't recommend using an M.2 drive with ITX systems, as the slots are located under the motherboard, which causes drives to overheat.

    Case:

    NZXT Manta

    This new case from NZXT brings unmatched style and function to the ITX arena. No, it's not exactly small for an ITX case, but it is high performance. It comes equipped with three 120mm fans, and has room for big CPU cooling radiators in front and on top. And its curved steel panels and side window give it a classy look that no other ITX case can match!

    The Guru's Tip:

    If red isn't your thing, just go for the Manta in a striking matte black or white on black finish!

    Power Supply:

    EVGA Supernova 650 P2

    Just because we're using a slightly larger ITX case for this build doesn't mean we want to fill it full of cables. So we go with a Platinum-rated fully-modular model, the perfect match for an ultra-high-end mini-ITX system. It offers all the quality of higher-wattage units, but with a size and power rating matching the needs of this machine. Given that you'll never be using a second video card in this system, you simply cannot utilize more than about 400W with this build under even extreme circumstances (seriously!). But assuming you want to crank it to 11, we're suggesting a 650W unit, just to play it safe!

    The Guru's Tip:

    EVGA's Supernova line simply has no competition in its price bracket. Like many higher-end models, it can even run fanless at idle!

    CPU Cooler:

    Corsair Hydro H100i v2 Liquid Cooler

    Keeping a CPU cool in a compact case is always a challenge, but Corsair's H100i v2 is most definitely up to the task. It's the best mainstream 240mm-class cooler on the market, and will keep your CPU temperatures under control while staying quiet.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Want to learn more about this cooler? Check our our in-depth review!

    Operating System:

    Microsoft Windows 10 Download

    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:

    While you can load this Windows 10 download onto any 4GB or larger flash drive you have available, we recommend using a fast drive, like this Transcend 8GB USB 3.1 model.