Evolv

This system is for builders who want a compact system, but simply aren't willing to sacrifice performance. This box 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.

For November 2017, we continue to recommend the proven Intel Core i7-7700K, which is still unrivaled as a pure gaming CPU (Intel has announced, but not actually shipped, a more expensive follow-up). With 4 cores and 8 threads, along with a very impressive 4.4GHz Turbo clock speed under a full load, the 7700K will not let you down. Paired up with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB, specifically a dual-fan model from EVGA, you'll have a mini-system that can absolutely crush any game. To complete the build, we suggest 16GB of blazing-fast DDR4-3200 RAM, a 1TB SATA-based solid-state drive, and an excellent tower-style air cooler. You'll be packing your gear into the compact Fractal Design Core 500 case, and powering it up with a quiet, compact, and ultra-efficient power supply.

You can learn how to build this system by following our hands-on Extreme ITX Assembly Guide! 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 - November 2017

    CPU:

    Intel Core i7-7700K

    There's no better gaming CPU available today than the Core i7-7700K. It's a four-core, eight-thread processor that actually runs at 4.4GHz even under a full load, which makes it the fastest CPU ever released on a per-core basis. It will have no problem keeping up with even the most demanding games.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Intel has announced, but not actually released, a follow-up to this processor, the Core i7-8700K. We don't expect it to actually hit store shelves until late-November at the earliest, and it will come in at a much higher price (at least $50 more).

    Motherboard:

    Gigabyte GA-Z270N-Gaming 5

    This is currently one of the best ITX boards on the market. It features the new top-of-the-line Realtek ALC1220 audio, an M.2 slot under the board, built-in 802.11ac wireless networking with Bluetooth, HDMI, DisplayPort, and six USB ports, including a USB 3.1 Type-C port.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that this board will not be compatible with future Intel CPU releases, despite the same socket number (1151)

    Video Card:

    EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti SC2

    Nvidia has brought a new level of performance to the table with the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. It equals the original $1,200 Titan X Pascal released in the summer of 2016, yet costs $500 less. Now that's progress! And how fast is it? Just check out our new 4K benchmarks of the 1080 Ti! With that kind of performance, the 1080 Ti, launched in March, was clearly going to be in high demand for a long time, and indeed it's still sold out from day to day, so you may need to backorder it.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that most aftermarket 1080 Ti models will not fit in this system, as they are too tall, too wide, or both. This model is among the most compact 1080 Ti cards on the market, which allows it to avoid interference with the optical drive bay and power supply.

    Memory:

    Corsair 2x8GB Vengeance LPX DDR4-3200 Black

    To get the most out of this system, you want high frequency DDR4, and we're now recommending high-speed DDR4-3200 in a 2x8GB configuration. It will help eliminate any bottlenecks in getting data to your CPU!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that RAM prices have been going up at an astromical rate, nearly 20% per month over the past few months. It's the fastest price rise we've ever seen on a component, and it's going to continue for a while due to massive chip shortages.

    Solid-State Drive:

    SanDisk Ultra 3D 1TB

    The new SanDisk Ultra 3D is now the only 2.5" drive to consider at its pricepoint, with high-end performance and the most capacity per dollar of any SSD on the market. It uses SanDisk's cutting-edge 3D TLC NAND, allowing it to provide class-leading speed despite the reasonable price.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Fun fact: SanDisk is now owned by Western Digital, and WD markets this exact same drive as the WD Blue 3D 1TB in both 2.5" and M.2 form factors. If you want the sleekest build, you can go for the M.2 version, but it does cost a bit more money for the same performance.

    Case:

    Fractal Design Core 500

    This awesome case from Fractal Design may be affordable, but that doesn't mean it doesn't bring a whole lot of performance to the table. It has a silent 140mm exhaust fan, plus plenty of venting to keep air flowing. It's also one of the very few shoebox-style cases that can be equipped with a tower-style cooler, which means you can really crank up your CPU's overclock without worrying about overheating.

    The Guru's Tip:

    To learn how to build up your own system in this case, check out our Extreme ITX Assembly Guide!

    Power Supply:

    Seasonic SSR-750FX

    There's no better power supply on the market for this build than the new model from Seasonic. It's fully-modular, which means you'll only use the cables you need, and this system in fact needs very few. It of course offers Gold-rated efficiency (which means 90% at 50% load), and is backed by an incredible 10-year warranty.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that at 140mm long, this is the shortest ATX power supply you can buy, and it will make building a system in the Core 500 case much easier. While larger models will "technically" fit, they in fact don't fit very well at all!

    CPU Cooler:

    Cryorig H7

    Keeping a CPU cool in a compact case is always a challenge, but this awesome cooler from Cryorig will deliver the performance you crave. Despite coming in at a low price, it features an ultra-silent fan and exceptional performance, keeping up with many 140mm-class coolers while using a more compact 120mm frame.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This cooler's offset design will ensure you'll have no RAM clearance issues, which most other tower coolers suffer from in ITX form factors.

    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 comes on a USB 3.0 flash drive, allowing it to install in under five minutes, literally!

Optional Components

    Optical Drive (Optional):

    LG 24x DVD Burner (Opt.)

    While not strictly required, we're listing a DVD burner because it will fit in the case used for the system, which is actually quite unusual these days when it comes to ITX cases.

    The Guru's Tip:

    The motherboard comes with sufficient SATA data cables to support this drive. You won't need to buy extras.

    Case:

    Phanteks Evolv ITX

    For builders more concerned about style and ease of use than size, the Phanteks Evolv is the better overall choice for this build. Using a standard tower-style layout, it's much easier to build in than the Core 500, and arguably looks better too. The tradeoff is that it's much larger, so it needs about the same desk space as a micro ATX-based system.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that despite being larger than the Fractal Design Core 500, this case cannot fit an optical drive, so don't add the optional drive listed above if you decide to use the Evolv case.