Author Topic: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling an Extreme Gaming ITX PC  (Read 12167 times)

Ari Altman

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jsgiii74

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling an Extreme Gaming ITX PC
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2016, 05:13:48 AM »
Hey Ari:

I'm glad I found this site. I haven't rolled my own PC in about 10 years, and thought it would be fun to put a small PC together (having cleared this with my wife--don't laugh.)  In any case, I appreciate your meticulous consideration of the small builds you've put together on your site. 

I am considering stepping up the GPU on your high end mini-ITX build (the most current with the Fractal Design Core 500 case).  I absolutely understand your recommendation for an external exhaust 980 ti card for temperature management and because of the EVGA step-up program.  The 06G-P4-4992-KR seems to not catch a break on price though.

So, is there any other 980 ti card (perhaps ACX 2.0+, etc) that perhaps could work in your mini-ITX build without burning the box up? Maybe some fan/size placement tweaking?  I'd like to stick with EVGA brand and the FD 500 case.   The prices for anything other than the rear exhaust card seem to be coming down a lot faster.  I defer to your judgment on this one! 

Thanks again for a great site! So glad I found it!

Ari Altman

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling an Extreme Gaming ITX PC
« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2016, 07:29:48 AM »
Hey Ari:

I'm glad I found this site. I haven't rolled my own PC in about 10 years, and thought it would be fun to put a small PC together (having cleared this with my wife--don't laugh.)  In any case, I appreciate your meticulous consideration of the small builds you've put together on your site. 

I am considering stepping up the GPU on your high end mini-ITX build (the most current with the Fractal Design Core 500 case).  I absolutely understand your recommendation for an external exhaust 980 ti card for temperature management and because of the EVGA step-up program.  The 06G-P4-4992-KR seems to not catch a break on price though.

So, is there any other 980 ti card (perhaps ACX 2.0+, etc) that perhaps could work in your mini-ITX build without burning the box up? Maybe some fan/size placement tweaking?  I'd like to stick with EVGA brand and the FD 500 case.   The prices for anything other than the rear exhaust card seem to be coming down a lot faster.  I defer to your judgment on this one! 

Thanks again for a great site! So glad I found it!

Welcome to the TBG Forum, and welcome back to the world of PC building. I think you'll find that things have gotten a whole lot better over the past ten years!

So, yes, generally I have found open-air coolers underperform in ITX cases. But the Fractal Design Core 500 is different and better. Fractal realized what so many other manufacturers had failed to see previously: small cases live or die by how fast hot air can be exhausted. With its 140mm rear-mounted exhaust fan and fully-vented top panel, the Core 500 can spit out hot air very, very quickly.

You can feel free to go with the EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB SC ACX, but I would highly recommend that you give the Core 500 a helping hand by equipping it with a second Fractal 140mm exhaust fan mounted in the top panel. The EVGA ACX cooler, like most open-air coolers, exhausts most of its hot air out the top of the card. In a case with a solid top panel, this can spell doom for CPU temperatures, but the Fractal allows all that hot air to escape before it hits the CPU cooler, and a fan placed above the CPU area will really help move that heat out quickly.

Good luck with the build - you'll love this system!
« Last Edit: April 16, 2016, 07:33:16 AM by Ari Altman »

farmer

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling an Extreme Gaming ITX PC
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2016, 11:06:11 AM »
Ari,

I second my appreciation for your site.  I've found lots of good informative reading here, and you've done an excellent job sharing your extensive knowledge.  I've had my eye on the Core 500 for some time, so I read this article very closely.  My question is whether the Noctua NH-U14S would fit on the Asus Z170I Pro Gaming motherboard in the Core 500?

According to Fractal's website, the Core 500 will accomodate a 170mm CPU cooler, and the U14S is 165mm.  However, in the article you say that the Arctic Freezer i32 is "about the biggest cooler" that will fit in the Core 500, and the i32 is only 150mm tall.  Fractal also says a 160mm PSU will fit, but as you say "positively must use a power supply that's 150mm long or less", so then I also have to doubt about Fractal's claim of 170mm cooler compatibility!  In "The $2,000 Ultimate Gaming Mini-ITX PC Build", you mention that the NH-U14S will work with the Z170I Pro Gaming motherboard, so that's 2 of the 3... but will they together also fit in the Fractal Core 500? 

All the other components in your Core 500 build I can agree with, but I'd much prefer Asus and Noctua, so if those will work in this case, I'd be all set!

Ari Altman

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling an Extreme Gaming ITX PC
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2016, 03:17:09 PM »
Ari,

I second my appreciation for your site.  I've found lots of good informative reading here, and you've done an excellent job sharing your extensive knowledge.  I've had my eye on the Core 500 for some time, so I read this article very closely.  My question is whether the Noctua NH-U14S would fit on the Asus Z170I Pro Gaming motherboard in the Core 500?

According to Fractal's website, the Core 500 will accomodate a 170mm CPU cooler, and the U14S is 165mm.  However, in the article you say that the Arctic Freezer i32 is "about the biggest cooler" that will fit in the Core 500, and the i32 is only 150mm tall.  Fractal also says a 160mm PSU will fit, but as you say "positively must use a power supply that's 150mm long or less", so then I also have to doubt about Fractal's claim of 170mm cooler compatibility!  In "The $2,000 Ultimate Gaming Mini-ITX PC Build", you mention that the NH-U14S will work with the Z170I Pro Gaming motherboard, so that's 2 of the 3... but will they together also fit in the Fractal Core 500? 

All the other components in your Core 500 build I can agree with, but I'd much prefer Asus and Noctua, so if those will work in this case, I'd be all set!

Welcome to the TBG Forum, and thanks for your careful reading of the ITX articles!

Here's the deal: when building ITX, you can't go by specs. They'll lead you astray. Yes, the Core 500 has 170mm of headroom. But that's not what matters in an ITX system. You're going to run into your RAM , video card, or motherboard heatsinks long before you hit that big a cooler. Luckily, the Noctua NH-U14S will fit on the Asus Z170I, which I know because I've tested it. If you use Corsair Vengeance LPX RAM, you won't even need to raise the fan position, which you can do with that cooler but not with most others.

While I didn't try this combo in the Core 500, I'm fairly confident it will fit, because the last thing that matters is height and width, and the Core 500 is fine there.

Note that you can fit a 160mm power supply, but depending on your video card and the modular power cables you need to use, your video card won't fit. So much for specs! Luckily the EVGA GS power supplies are great units and just 150mm long.

By the way, I view the build you're considering as the ultimate dream ITX build. You're using my favorite ITX case, my favorite ITX board, and my favorite cooler, bar none.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2016, 08:42:52 PM by Ari Altman »

farmer

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling an Extreme Gaming ITX PC
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2016, 05:47:14 PM »
Awesome, thanks Ari!

Honestly I was gunning for the Maximus VIII Impact, but having a hard time finding compatible air coolers.  It seems like most Impact builders are very justifiably going with AIO liquid coolers.  I considered that route but I have no experience with liquid, and benchmarks I trust show little difference as I'm not an extreme overclocker.  I trust Noctua.  And as you point out, the Z170i has just about everything the Impact does and should be a solid contender.  Additionally, the U14S will work but not on the Impact due to the massive sound and power daughter-cards.

For PSU my only requirement is that it's made by Seasonic.  I would go for the X650 which is 160mm, but the EVGA Supernova you use (also made by SS) looks to be solid and at only 150mm I can feel more comfortable about getting it into the Core 500.

Thanks again so much for these excellent guides!

-- andrew farmer

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling an Extreme Gaming ITX PC
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2016, 01:28:23 PM »
I just stumbled upon this site and have been reading here for the last several hours... Great stuff, Ari... appreciate it.

Long-time PC computer enthusiast and gamer since @ 1993.... My current motherboard/CPU is from April of 2011, and most of the other components have been updated over the last 5 years or so. This time I want to 'go small' as to the form-factor/case size. I currently have the Corsair 600T case... awesome, but so big/heavy....a PITA to move around.

I'm hoping to build a new rig by late 2016/early 2017. I would be doing it now but for a failed root canal tooth/infection, with a necessary extraction and then implant coming up over the next several months. (@ $3,500 or so... Ouch, as they say in the dentist's chair).

At this moment, I'm leaning to the Asus, either the Maximus Impact 8 or the Z170I Pro Gaming. I will not do SLI. So, the components I should be able to put into the new rig are...  The SSD, video card, sound card (if I get the Z170 MB), (sounds like the the Corsair HX850 PS won't fit), and that's it?

Keep up the great posts, folks..... thanks again.

Brian in RI/USA
« Last Edit: April 25, 2016, 01:33:31 PM by Jury-Pool-Reject »
Mini-ITX-Ncase M1 | Asus Z170i | i7-6700k  | Noctua C14 | 1080-FE | 1TB SSD | 16GB Corsair -3200 | Corsair SF600 | Monoprice 2.0 speakers | uDAC5 | Sennheiser PC360 | 27" Acer XB271HU | Seagate 2TB  
"The truth is rarely pure and never simple."   -Oscar Wilde

Ari Altman

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling an Extreme Gaming ITX PC
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2016, 01:47:09 PM »
I just stumbled upon this site and have been reading here for the last several hours... Great stuff, Ari... appreciate it.

Long-time PC computer enthusiast and gamer since @ 1993.... My current motherboard/CPU is from April of 2011, and most of the other components have been updated over the last 5 years or so. This time I want to 'go small' as to the form-factor/case size. I currently have the Corsair 600T case... awesome, but so big/heavy....a PITA to move around.

I'm hoping to build a new rig by late 2016/early 2017. I would be doing it now but for a failed root canal tooth/infection, with a necessary extraction and then implant coming up over the next several months. (@ $3,500 or so... Ouch, as they say in the dentist's chair).

At this moment, I'm leaning to the Asus, either the Maximus Impact 8 or the Z170I Pro Gaming. I will not do SLI. So, the components I should be able to put into the new rig are...  The SSD, video card, sound card (if I get the Z170 MB), (sounds like the the Corsair HX850 PS won't fit), and that's it?

Keep up the great posts, folks..... thanks again.

Brian in RI/USA

Thanks for the positive feedback, sorry to hear about the dental troubles!

So, by the end of the year, there will be slightly different parts to choose from. If you'd like to get started on building the system now, I can give you an idea of what would make the most sense, otherwise just check back in when you're ready to build and you can get all the updates.

fowlscotch

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling an Extreme Gaming ITX PC
« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2016, 04:31:35 AM »
Thanks for the really great guide here - I've been thinking about building my own system for a while, but I never quite got over the intimidation factor. This may finally push me to give it a shot!

One question and pardon the ignorance - Could I take the list of components and simply swap in the Core i7-6700K CPU? Or would that in any way require a change up in the other components? And in your opinion - worth the extra $$ for an "average" gamer?

thanks!

Ari Altman

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling an Extreme Gaming ITX PC
« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2016, 08:57:38 AM »
Thanks for the really great guide here - I've been thinking about building my own system for a while, but I never quite got over the intimidation factor. This may finally push me to give it a shot!

One question and pardon the ignorance - Could I take the list of components and simply swap in the Core i7-6700K CPU? Or would that in any way require a change up in the other components? And in your opinion - worth the extra $$ for an "average" gamer?

thanks!

Welcome to the TBG Forum, fowlscotch!

Great question about swapping CPUs. As long as it's pin-compatible, any CPU can be used in this system, as it has the power and cooling for it. That means all Skylake processors, including the Core i7-6700K. Just don't try something crazy like stuffing a Core i7-5820K in here - it won't fit!

For a casual gamer, the 6600K is definitely more than enough. It's even good enough for an extreme gamer! That being said, certain CPU-intensive games will run better on a 6700K. TBG is preparing a round-up right now of Intel's best gaming processors for current-gen games, but our 2014 round-up will at least give you some insights on when a Core i7 can pull ahead.

Jury-Pool-Reject

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling an Extreme Gaming ITX PC
« Reply #10 on: May 10, 2016, 07:16:25 PM »
Ari...

You told one of the posters above to get a second top fan for his Fractal Core 500 case build. But, you told me you thought I didn't need it... I forgot why... Maybe because I am getting the Corsair H75 AIO cpu cooler for it?
Mini-ITX-Ncase M1 | Asus Z170i | i7-6700k  | Noctua C14 | 1080-FE | 1TB SSD | 16GB Corsair -3200 | Corsair SF600 | Monoprice 2.0 speakers | uDAC5 | Sennheiser PC360 | 27" Acer XB271HU | Seagate 2TB  
"The truth is rarely pure and never simple."   -Oscar Wilde

Ari Altman

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling an Extreme Gaming ITX PC
« Reply #11 on: May 10, 2016, 07:33:55 PM »
Ari...

You told one of the posters above to get a second top fan for his Fractal Core 500 case build. But, you told me you thought I didn't need it... I forgot why... Maybe because I am getting the Corsair H75 AIO cpu cooler for it?

That's right - he wanted to run an open-air GTX 980 Ti in his system using an air-cooled CPU. That setup would lead to the CPU area getting quite hot, so I suggested an additional exhaust fan. With a liquid cooler, not only will the CPU run much cooler, but the radiator fan will also act as a second exhaust fan.

fowlscotch

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling an Extreme Gaming ITX PC
« Reply #12 on: May 22, 2016, 01:31:45 PM »
Reporting back from a successful mini-ITX build! Thanks for the fantastic guide. I went with stock components, swapping in the i7 processor for some future-proofing, and the ASUS Z1701 motherboard noted as an option in the guide for better layout - and agreed, it makes the SATA cabling so much simpler.

My only hiccups were due to my complete novice status at building a system, so I spent some quality time with YouTube getting comfortable with the little things (like how to put thermal paste on, install the processor, etc).

One small piece of advice to anyone who doesn't plan on using a HDD or Optical in this Fractal Core case: take out the drive tray housing at the start, it makes cable management and last-minute motherboard/connection adjustments VASTLY easier. You can always bolt it back in later if needed. For optical I had a USB Apple Superdrive already that works great once you install the drivers, for the rare times I plan on installing off DVD (yay Steam). And for now I just went with the 500gb SSD, which fits into the case like a glove and has plenty of room for my needs today - and the case supports adding up to 2 more with relative ease for the future. Given that, I just popped the drive housing out and gave myself tons more room to stuff the power cables in, route cabling, and fix a last minute issue (power button connector came loose post build - see below).

Also for pure build rookies out there - use the ASUS Q-connector cable that comes in the box for your front panel connections. I kind of missed this in the build process, as it's never really mentioned in the instructions or this guide. Without it, the individual wires tend to sit lose and can get easily pulled off when you're playing with cabling. Once I sorted it, everything worked like a charm.

I can share in-process photos if you like, but looks great, tidy and compact under my small desk (the wife approves as its a shared front den very visible to guests) but with room for expansion (extra SSD's, etc). Runs games beautifully so far, and insanely quiet even with all four fans going under a gaming load - essentially silent on idle with just the case fan going.

Thanks again for the guide and your help!


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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling an Extreme Gaming ITX PC
« Reply #13 on: May 22, 2016, 02:15:14 PM »
Congrats, fowlscotch!!
Mini-ITX-Ncase M1 | Asus Z170i | i7-6700k  | Noctua C14 | 1080-FE | 1TB SSD | 16GB Corsair -3200 | Corsair SF600 | Monoprice 2.0 speakers | uDAC5 | Sennheiser PC360 | 27" Acer XB271HU | Seagate 2TB  
"The truth is rarely pure and never simple."   -Oscar Wilde

Ari Altman

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling an Extreme Gaming ITX PC
« Reply #14 on: May 22, 2016, 02:55:53 PM »
Yes, indeed, congrats fowlscotch!

Good tip on removing that drive cage. Builders sticking with 2.5" drives should definitely take your advice.

Glad the wife approved. That's the beauty of an ITX gaming system....everyone can appreciate it!

If you'd like your system featured in The Gallery, just send along three or four photos of your build to theguru@techbuyersguru.com and it will be up soon!
« Last Edit: May 22, 2016, 02:58:05 PM by Ari Altman »