FTZ01

If you want a no-holds-barred extreme PC without the bulk, this system is the one for you! This system might be dwarfed by standard towers, but it can absolutely go go toe-to-toe with them. And amazingly, there is virtually no price premium for getting a system of this caliber down to a portable size, making this PC a pretty good value too.

For February 2019, this build gets a massive upgrade, moving to Intel's fire-breathing Core i9-9900K eight-core, 16-thread processor. It's an absolute beast, and to keep it adequately cooled in this system, we've come up with an innovative semi-custom setup, using the excellent Noctua NH-L12S slim cooler enhanced with a second fan, namely Scythe's ultra-slim SlipStream fan. This will keep your 9900K humming along as it feeds data to the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 8GB video card this build is spec'd with. This combination will provide mind-blowing performance while operating within the thermal limits of an ultra-compact PC (we're still not confident that running an RTX 2080 Ti 11GB, the most power-hungry GPU ever released, makes sense in this build).

Also on board are the class-leading Samsung 970 Pro 1TB solid-state drive, 32GB of high-speed DDR4-3200 RAM, and a 700W Platinum-rated power supply. Topping it all off is the ultra-slim, ultra-sleek SilverStone FTZ01-E case, featuring an aluminum unibody design. It truly stands out in terms of aesthetic appeal. To learn how to build up this system, check out one of our reader's great write-ups in The Gallery.

Want to see how it's evolved over time? Then check out The Archive! To support continued development of this guide, please use the Amazon links we provide in the guide. Not only do we have dedicated links for the US, Canada, UK, and Germany, but we've also set up link conversions for our readers in France, Italy, and Spain - just click on the main US link to see our component picks in your regional Amazon storefront!

The $2,500 Ultra-Extreme Mini-ITX PC - February 2019

    CPU:

    Intel Core i9-9900K

    The Core i9-9900K is the new ultimate gamer's chip. It offers eight cores and 16 threads of processing power and can be overclocked to 5GHz, providing simply unbeatable performance when it comes to gaming.

    The Guru's Tip:

    To manage the heat output of this power-hungry CPU (it pulls 140W at stock settings!), we've come up with a semi-custom cooling solution, which you'll read about more later in this guide!

    Motherboard:

    Gigabyte Z390 I AORUS Pro WiFi

    This tiny board truly has it all: a 7 power phase design, top-of-the-line Realtek ALC1220 audio, dual full-length M.2 slots (one in front, one on the rear of the board), seven USB ports (including a true Thunderbolt 3 Type-C port), Intel wired networking, 802.11ac wireless networking with Bluetooth, DisplayPort and HDMI.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Avoid the Asus Z390I motherboard - it will not work with this build, as the heatsink shroud is too large to fit any low-profile coolers over it. That's a serious oversight from Asus in terms of product testing.

    Video Card:

    Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2080 Windforce 8G

    You want 4K gaming capability? The 2080 will bring it! Released in late-September 2018, it edges past the previous king-of-the-hill, the GTX 1080 Ti, despite lower power use. Note that most RTX 2080 models will not fit in this build - they are too wide (2.5-3 slots wide). This model sticks to the standard 2-slot form factor.

    The Guru's Tip:

    The RTX 2080 offers slightly better performance in most games versus the GTX 1080 Ti, while also adding Ray Tracing capabilities for future game releases.

    Memory:

    Corsair 2x16GB Vengeance LPX DDR4-3200 Black

    To get the most out of your Core i9-9900K, you want high-frequency DDR4 memory. For the Ultimate ITX Gamer, we go with high speed DDR4-3200 in a 2x16GB configuration, which gives you both tremendous speed and mind-blowing capacity. 

    The Guru's Tip:

    This is in fact the tallest RAM kit that will fit in this build - please don't go with RGB-lit modules, as they will not fit under the CPU cooler.

    Solid-State Drive:

    Samsung 970 Pro 1TB PCIe M.2

    For an extreme ITX build, nothing less than the best PCIe drive will do, and the benchmark by which all others are judged is the 970 Pro 1TB. Samsung has simply blown the competition out of the water with this drive. And thanks to a massive price war in the SSD market, this drive has already dropped $100 since its release!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that you'll need a jeweler's-type screwdriver to install this into one of the motherboard's M.2 slots, and we recommend you use the top-mounted slot for better cooling.

    Case:

    SilverStone SST-FTZ01S-E

    This awesome case from SilverStone brings equal doses of style and class to the ITX arena. Featuring an aluminum unibody frame and an ultra-slim profile, it looks better than any other ITX case on the market. It even comes with two slimline 120mm fans, which we recommend you install above the video card as intakes. One comes pre-installed on the CPU side, but will not fit over the CPU cooler we recommend.

    The Guru's Tip:

    While silver looks stunning, this case is also available in matte black.

    Power Supply:

    SilverStone SX700-LPT

    While the case recommended above can actually squeeze in an ATX power supply, a smaller SFX-class unit is a much better fit. Our pick: the awesome Platinum-rated SX700, which is incredibly powerful and incredibly-quiet. Read all about it in our hands-on review!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that you'll need to use the SFX-to-ATX adapter listed below to mount this small power supply in the case.

    Adapter:

    SilverStone RL-PP08B Bracket

    This is the adapter you'll need to fit the power supply listed above in the FTZ01-E chassis.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Once you've mounted your PSU in the case using the adapter, we know you'll thank us for saving you the headache of trying to squeeze an ATX model in!

    CPU Cooler:

    Noctua NH-L12S

    Keeping a CPU cool in a compact case is always a challenge, but this awesome air cooler is up to the challenge.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This fan is 70mm tall, leaving just 13mm between it and the case side panel above it. And you know what you're going to slip into that space? The SlipStream fan listed below! It will greatly increase the cooling capacity of the NH-L12S.

    Fan:

    Scythe SY1212SL12M Slip Stream 120 mm

    Scythe has been in the fan business for decades, making some of the most award-winning models on the market. And with its slim Slip Stream, it offers the only 12mm-thick fan on the market, which makes it a perfect fit for this build. Attach it as an exhaust fan to the side panel above of your SilverStone case to help pull more air through the Noctua CPU cooler, effectively making it a "push-pull" setup. This is what's required to keep a Core i9-9900K cool in this system!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This is the ONLY fan on the market that will actually fit in this build. Do not buy any other "slim fan", as they are all 15mm thick, and will not fit in this build!

    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 is the USB 3.0 version of W10, which loads in under 5 minutes!

Optional Components

    Case:

    SilverStone RVZ03B-ARGB

    Want a lot more flash from your extreme ITX PC? Then go for the addressable RGB version of SilverStone's RVZ03. Built on the exact same frame as the FTZ01-E, it trades the latter's aluminum cladding for a steel exterior with a brilliant multi-LED RGB lightstrip embedded in the front panel, which can be controlled via the motherboard we recommend!

    The Guru's Tip:

    The difference between addressable RGBs and standard RGBs is that each LED in a given strip can display a different color at any given moment. The way motherboards typically control this is to display a moving rainbow or gradient down the strip, rather than cycle through the rainbow one color at a time.

    The 35-inch Widescreen Monitor:

    AOC Agon AG352UCG6

    Get the most out of your new gaming rig with this sweet high-refresh rate G-Sync monitor from AOC. Offering a huge 35", 3440x1440 panel running at up to 120Hz, this is the ultimate ultra-wide. And with G-Sync, you don't notice any hitching or lagging, because the frames displayed will always sync with the frames delivered by the GPU.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that there a number of other widescreen monitors top out at a resolution of 2560x1080. We advise you avoid them, as that vertical resolution (1080p) is simply too low for a high-end monitor.