Evolv

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 February 2017, we continue on with the brand-new Kaby Lake-based Intel Core i7-7700K processor, which offers the best performance of any quad-core processor ever released, and should be able to hit an overclocked 5GHz using the awesome 240mm liquid cooler we recommend. On the graphics side, we stick with 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 excellent Phanteks Evolv ITX case, which offers plenty of style and substance, along with an amazing price. 

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 - February 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 optional... it's required!

    Motherboard:

    MSI Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC

    This board features the new top-of-the-line Realtek ALC1220 audio, a full-length M.2 slot on the rear of the board, Intel wired networking, and 802.11ac wireless networking with Bluetooth. In addition, it offers HDMI, DisplayPort, digital audio out, and six USB ports, including a USB 3.1 Type-C port.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that Z270-based ITX motherboards are in extremely short supply, as manufacturers always focus on larger boards early in a new chipset's life cycle. We'll substitute boards in this guide to keep up with available supply.

    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 LPX DDR4-3200 Black

    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.

    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 Intel's recent platforms, 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 SATA 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:

    If you want only the best, step up to the new PCIe-based Samsung 960 Evo 1TB M.2 drive, which is up to 5x faster than the 850 Evo!

    Case:

    Phanteks Evolv ITX

    This awesome case from Phanteks brings unmatched style and function to the ITX arena at an incredible price. No, it's not exactly small for an ITX case, but it is high performance. It comes equipped with a front-mounted 200mm fan, and has space for multiple radiators on top and in back.

    The Guru's Tip:

    If you want a bit more style, just go for the Evolv in a red-on-black or the striking white finish!

    Fan:

    Corsair ML140 Pro

    Because the Phanteks case does not have an exhaust fan pre-installed, we suggest you add this 140mm fan to your build.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This fan uses magnetic levitation bearings, making it the most advanced fan on the market. Note that to utilize the magnetic feature, the fan must be run using PWM controls, as it requires a full 12V to engage.

    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 the best Platinum-rated power supply on the market, the P2 from EVGA. It's fully-modular model, which you definitely want in an ultra-high-end mini-ITX system. It offers all the quality of more expensive 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. It uses the very best designs from PSU OEM Superflower, offers the best prices, and provides the best service.

    CPU Cooler:

    Corsair Hydro H100i v2 Liquid Cooler

    Keeping a CPU cool in a compact case is always a challenge, but this awesome 240mm-class cooler from Corsair is most definitely up to the task. It will easily keep your CPU temperatures under control while also providing cooling for the rest of the system.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This cooler will connect to the motherboard in two ways: via a USB 2.0 header and a fan header, which provides for both power and control.

    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 version of Windows 10, on a USB 3.0 flash drive, will install in just five minutes!