FTZ01

If you're looking for a no-holds-barred extreme PC in a sleek, compact chassis, this is the one for you! This system might be dwarfed by standard towers, but it can easily keep up with them thanks to its extreme components. 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 April 2019, this build continues to feature Intel's ultra-fast Core i9-9900K eight-core, 16-thread processor. It's an absolute beast, and to keep it adequately cooled in this system, we're recommending 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 at full boost. Also on board is Nvidia's awesome GeForce RTX 2080 8GB video card which will provide excellent performance in any game today. With that said, after conducting our own thermal testing of a compact GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB video card that will fit in this case, we are now confident in recommending an optional upgrade of this build to the RTX 2080 Ti - you'll see the specific card to use later in this guide. 

But being "Ultra-Extreme" doesn't begin and end with the CPU and GPU. That's why this build also features the class-leading Samsung 970 Pro 1TB PCIe 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 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 a fantastic write-up by one of our readers, published in The Gallery. By the way, if you decide building a high-end PC isn't for you, don't worry, we have you covered: featured in this guide is our top pick for an ultra-slim pre-built PC, the MSI Trident X, which at 10 liters is positively tiny! Just scroll down to learn about this fantastic new option in the Small Form Factor market!

Want to see how this guide has 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 - April 2019

The Pre-Built Option

    The Ultimate Slim Gaming PC:

    MSI Trident X Plus 9SE-062US

    Say you want all the power of our DIY build, but just aren't quite ready to take on the considerable challenge of building it yourself. Well, we've got the solution for you: pick up MSI's new Trident X Plus mini PC! Featuring the same Intel Core i9-9900K eight-core CPU we recommend below, along with an MSI (of course!) GeForce RTX 2080 Ventus 8GB video card, it has what it takes to push games to the max. Also on board are 16GB of DDR4-2666 RAM, a 512GB PCIe-based solid-state drive, a 2TB hard drive, and a 650W Gold-rated power supply.

    The Guru's Tip:

    At just 10 liters in volume, this system undercuts the DIY build below by 4 liters, not surprising given that it's a bespoke case, which also sports a very slick hinged tempered-glass side panel!

The Build-Your-Own Option

    CPU:

    Intel Core i9-9900K

    The Core i9-9900K is the ultimate gamer's chip, making it the perfect pick for this build. 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. 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! 

    The Guru's Tip:

    Due to massive production shortfalls, Intel processors have been sold out for weeks at Amazon. If you see it in stock, don't hesitate to grab it!

    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:

    MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ventus OC 8GB

    You want 4K gaming capability? The 2080 will bring it! Released in September 2018, it edged 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. Learn what makes this drive so dominant in our recent hands-on review!

    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 FTZ01S

    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 and connect them to the motherboard using the included fan splitter (one fan comes pre-installed on the CPU side, but will not fit over the CPU cooler we recommend). And while the silver color looks stunning, this case is also available in matte black.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that we've switched our recommendation from the newer FTZ01-E to the original FTZ01, for one main reason: the FTZ01 does not require an adapter to use the SFX-class power supply that is appropriate for this type of build. The FTZ01 also has the advantage of accommodating a slot-loading Blu-Ray drive, although these have mostly vanished from the market.

    Power Supply:

    SilverStone SX700-LPT

    The case above can use either 100mm-long SFX or 130mm-long SFX-L power supplies, and for the best combination of cooling and noise levels, you definitely want to go SFX-L. Our pick: the awesome Platinum-rated SX700, which is incredibly powerful and ultra-quiet, thanks to a very effective zero-fan mode.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Read all about this PSU in our hands-on review!

    CPU Cooler:

    Noctua NH-L12S

    Keeping a CPU cool in a compact case is always a challenge, but this exquisitely-crafted slimline cooler from Noctua exemplifies the very best of the best in compact cooling design. You can read more about it in our shootout review!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This cooler is 70mm tall, leaving 13mm between it and the case side panel above it. And you know what you're going to slip into that space? The 12mm 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

    Video Card:

    ZOTAC Gaming GeForce RTX 2080 Twin Fan 8GB

    We've had a lot of readers asking us if they can equip this system with the fire-breathing RTX 2080 Ti GPU, which is a full 30% faster and pulls an additional 50W over the RTX 2080 recommended above. After testing the EVGA RTX 2080 Ti in our own ITX test bench, we can confirm that it's a go - you are cleared for take-off! But you can only use reference-sized models, as all larger models are over two slots wide and won't fit. We've listed the best-priced such model here.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This card adds about $500 to the price of the build (unofficially making it the "$3,000 Ultra-Extreme Mini-ITX PC"!), but otherwise, nothing else has to change. Just substitute it in for the RTX 2080 and you're all set. The case and power supply can both handle the heat! Given that everything else in the build is already maxed out, there really is nothing faster you can build in the ITX format!

    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. It trades the FTZ01'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! Just note that you'll need the SilverStone PP08 SFX adapter to mount the recommended power supply in its ATX PSU bay.

    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:

    Acer Predator Z35P

    Get the most out of your new gaming rig with this sweet high-refresh rate G-Sync monitor from Acer. 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.