Author Topic: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling a Gaming/HTPC Mini-ITX PC  (Read 16080 times)

Ari Altman

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TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling a Gaming/HTPC Mini-ITX PC
« on: December 09, 2015, 04:20:27 PM »
Comments or questions about TBG's hands-on guide to assembling a gaming/HTPC system? Post them here!

Schleckbaum

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling a Gaming/HTPC Mini-ITX PC
« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2015, 10:00:30 AM »
Once again, awesome feature Ari.

I've peppered you with a few questions over the last couple of months. I'm finally collecting components and was sad to see the bad news on the power supply (which I think I just ordered prior to seeing the article... DOH).

Anyway, are there other options out there that you might recommend for the $1.1K build that will fit the RVZ02B variant of the build? Noise is a huge factor for me and I'm worried.

On the good side, I was happy to see the amount of flexibility afforded to the graphics card. Any additional thoughts on over and above the GTX 960/970 cards recommended for standard $1.1K build?

THANKS

Ari Altman

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling a Gaming/HTPC Mini-ITX PC
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2015, 10:42:52 AM »
Once again, awesome feature Ari.

I've peppered you with a few questions over the last couple of months. I'm finally collecting components and was sad to see the bad news on the power supply (which I think I just ordered prior to seeing the article... DOH).

Anyway, are there other options out there that you might recommend for the $1.1K build that will fit the RVZ02B variant of the build? Noise is a huge factor for me and I'm worried.

On the good side, I was happy to see the amount of flexibility afforded to the graphics card. Any additional thoughts on over and above the GTX 960/970 cards recommended for standard $1.1K build?

THANKS

Glad you liked the feature - as always, it's a labor of love to dig deep into all the pros and cons of a complete system build, but hopefully this is more helpful than the standard glowing single-product review using a pre-release press sample (there's one RVZ02 review in particular that's just way out of bounds in this regard, feel free to google it, you'll find it quick, hint, hint).

Amazingly, I think the SX500-LG power supply is still your best option, because standard SFX models are loud all the time, not just in certain RPM ranges. I'm going to try to exchange this one for a replacement - could just be a manufacturing defect, as many but not all users have reported it.

As for video cards, I think you'll want to take a look at the GTX 980, assuming you're not interested in the 980 Ti, which worked just fine in this build. The GTX 980 is very fast and very efficient, much more so than competing cards from AMD in its price range (i.e., the 390X and Fury). And it supports HDMI 2.0, critical for use in a 4K HTPC setup. I use a GTX 980 in my personal gaming machine, despite having several 980 Ti cards laying around, because it's fast enough without being a power hog. That keeps things cool and quiet, perfect for a slim system like the RVZ02.

Marcus

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling a Gaming/HTPC Mini-ITX PC
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2015, 04:55:10 PM »
New to your site - looking good!
First off - thanks for such a detailed and practical breakdown of the Raven case and it's pros/cons. I was about to pull the trigger on this chassis as other reviews declare it a Second Coming - clearly not yet the case :P
To me - the case is the key factor as all other things rest on layout. I've been going back and forth on shoebox vs consol form factor vs micro itx - and all seem to have pros and cons. In the Rvz the issue about cabling and power supply (expensive and loud) almost negates all the other good which is a shame.
So - I'm trying to build the smallest, quietest, easiest, most efficient gaming box under $1000 US that can play most titles on 1080p starting with the lowly minecraft and go from there.
Where would you put your hard-earned time and money?

Ari Altman

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling a Gaming/HTPC Mini-ITX PC
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2015, 06:06:17 PM »
New to your site - looking good!
First off - thanks for such a detailed and practical breakdown of the Raven case and it's pros/cons. I was about to pull the trigger on this chassis as other reviews declare it a Second Coming - clearly not yet the case :P
To me - the case is the key factor as all other things rest on layout. I've been going back and forth on shoebox vs consol form factor vs micro itx - and all seem to have pros and cons. In the Rvz the issue about cabling and power supply (expensive and loud) almost negates all the other good which is a shame.
So - I'm trying to build the smallest, quietest, easiest, most efficient gaming box under $1000 US that can play most titles on 1080p starting with the lowly minecraft and go from there.
Where would you put your hard-earned time and money?

Hey there, Marcus, welcome to the TBG Forum!

Ah yes, indeed, those glowing reviews published months before the Raven was released that practically declared the Raven the "best case ever". Suspect, to say the least.

I've built a number of ITX gaming machines, and I think the best overall form factor is still the shoebox, in terms of giving you space not just for a hulking GPU, but also for a well-cooled CPU. But you have to be careful, because this case format has trouble providing sufficient airflow, even when all the components technically fit.

I think the most promising new case out there is the Fractal Design Core 500, and the reason is simple: it uses a fundamentally sound layout to provide ample airflow to all components. Many shoebox-style cases offer a big intake fan and nothing else (the Silverstone SG05 and CoolerMaster Elite 130), or alternatively a top-mounted fan and nothing else (the Silverstone SG08). The Core 500, which is nearly identical in size to the Elite 130 (and bigger than all the Silverstones) offers the best compromise - a huge 140mm rear fan, along with a full-size top vent for fans or radiators.

The truth of the matter with these small cases is that blowing a lot of cool air in the front doesn't help much when there's no place for the air to go - it either gets stuck on its way through components in the case, or there aren't enough exhaust vents to push hot air out. That's especially true if you're going to use an open-air video card - these models don't need intake air fans (they get their air through the side panel), they need huge exhaust flow, or they'll overheat your case quickly.

To hit your $1,000 mark, you can combine the Core 500 with the components from TBG's $1,100 ITX Buyer's Guide, substituting in the excellent and very compact EVGA 550GS power supply for the Silverstone SX500 model, and a standard Samsung DVD burner for the slim-line model. It comes in right at $1000 at today's prices, and you can save some more money dropping from 16GB down to 8GB of DDR4-2133 memory.

You could even use some of the money saved and apply it to a Zotac GTX 970 if you wanted more graphics horsepower without breaking the bank.

If you decide to go ahead with the build, definitely post back!

Marcus

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling a Gaming/HTPC Mini-ITX PC
« Reply #5 on: December 24, 2015, 01:24:00 PM »
Great - this is exactly the kind of advice I've struggled to find elsewhere Ari. Many thanks!
My build will begin in the new year, with my 10yr old along for the journey. I figure little hands and ITX will be a good combo once I file off those sharp edges.
Happy holidays all!
M

Ari Altman

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling a Gaming/HTPC Mini-ITX PC
« Reply #6 on: December 25, 2015, 07:51:02 AM »
Great - this is exactly the kind of advice I've struggled to find elsewhere Ari. Many thanks!
My build will begin in the new year, with my 10yr old along for the journey. I figure little hands and ITX will be a good combo once I file off those sharp edges.
Happy holidays all!
M

Great that you're building with your child. It's a fun and useful hobby for kids to get into at an early age! And yes, small hands are great when dealing with small cases!

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling a Gaming/HTPC Mini-ITX PC
« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2015, 07:17:08 PM »
Hi Ari, thanks for both the step-by-step build guide and the 12/9 $1100 mini-ITX gaming PC article.  I'd like to build a similar system, with the following component changes:
  • Case: Silverstone ML-08, same internal layout as the RVZ-02
  • CPU: i3-6100 for lower power consumption
  • GPU: Zotac GTX 750 Ti, also for lower power
  • RAM: 2x4GB only
  • SSD only, no HDD, no DVD
But here's the kicker -- I plan to lay it horizontally and place a 24" monitor on top, blocking about half of the air vent.  Do you think I can get away with that on such a low-power system, or should I place risers to offset the monitor base from the PC case?  Thanks for any thoughts or advice.

Ari Altman

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling a Gaming/HTPC Mini-ITX PC
« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2015, 07:52:57 PM »
Hi Ari, thanks for both the step-by-step build guide and the 12/9 $1100 mini-ITX gaming PC article.  I'd like to build a similar system, with the following component changes:
  • Case: Silverstone ML-08, same internal layout as the RVZ-02
  • CPU: i3-6100 for lower power consumption
  • GPU: Zotac GTX 750 Ti, also for lower power
  • RAM: 2x4GB only
  • SSD only, no HDD, no DVD
But here's the kicker -- I plan to lay it horizontally and place a 24" monitor on top, blocking about half of the air vent.  Do you think I can get away with that on such a low-power system, or should I place risers to offset the monitor base from the PC case?  Thanks for any thoughts or advice.

The Silverstone ML-08 is a nice pick for HTPC use. I would note that the vents actually protrude more from the case than with the RVZ02B-W, and that has me concerned that in a horizontal position they will end up very close to the desk surface, potentially cutting down on airflow even more. It should still come with 4 rubber feet to stand the case on, so it will work, but just barely. The Zotac GTX 750 Ti is a good choice given its very low power consumption, but you can also use the Gigabyte GTX 950, which offers vastly more bang for the buck in terms of gaming and HTPC use.

As for RAM, you can definitely go with Crucial's 2x4GB DDR4-2133 kit - it's plenty of RAM for most uses.

One thing I'll note about your plan to stack the monitor on top of the case - the ML-08 does not give you an even surface to stand the monitor on, so it may not work out that well. I'm not so concerned about the monitor blocking the vent (the components produce very little heat). Being able to actually place the monitor on top without the monitor falling over is a bigger concern. Furthermore, the case isn't cross-braced inside, so unlike cases designed for stacking, including dedicated HTPC cases, this one will sag and could cause your internal components to bear much of the weight. You'll want to have the video card side up to avoid this problem - placing the CPU side up will subject various components to undue stress. On the video card side, the side panel isn't close to any components and will simply sag onto the back of the motherboard mounting plate.

Just as another alternative, here's a case I'm testing and might write a review of soon: the Silverstone GD09. It's very compact for an ATX case (the smallest on the market in fact), and it has cross-bracing perfect for a monitor to stand on top. Obviously, it's much bigger than the ML-08, but not that much bigger (it's about twice the size). It would also take care of ventilation issues. If you must have the slim profile of the ML-08, obviously there's no comparison, but if you just want to stack a monitor on top, you may find that the extra height is actually helpful. The case also uses standard ATX components - you can easily substitute into your build the MSI H170 M3 and excellent EVGA 550 GS power supply.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2015, 08:15:43 PM by Ari Altman »

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling a Gaming/HTPC Mini-ITX PC
« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2015, 09:01:11 PM »
Thanks -- I was looking for a 4-inch monitor raise, and the GD-09 is 6.75 inches thick.  But I do see your points about a level surface and mechanical stability of the ML-08.  I'll think about it some more and write back later.

Ari Altman

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling a Gaming/HTPC Mini-ITX PC
« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2015, 10:16:14 PM »
Thanks -- I was looking for a 4-inch monitor raise, and the GD-09 is 6.75 inches thick.  But I do see your points about a level surface and mechanical stability of the ML-08.  I'll think about it some more and write back later.

In that case, you might find TBG's HTPC Build perfect for your intended uses. It's 4.1" high using the Silverstone ML04 case.

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling a Gaming/HTPC Mini-ITX PC
« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2015, 11:17:14 PM »
Wow, you have a build for everything!  Yeah, the slim HTPC build is really just what I'm looking for.  I'll probably go with the ML03 case for easy access to the front ports.  Thanks for the link!

unomasmuchote

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling a Gaming/HTPC Mini-ITX PC
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2016, 12:38:33 PM »
Site Noob here. Found your excellent web site while searching (ixquick.com) for small form factor htpc.  Great site!

I've already ordered the parts listed for The January 2016 Build version of the Gaming/HTPC Mini-ITX Build.  I made a few changes to your recommendations and am hoping you might comment on what problems I should look out for:


I'm looking forward to building what promises to be one very hot little box  :D

Again, thanks so much for all your research.

unomasmuchote

Ari Altman

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling a Gaming/HTPC Mini-ITX PC
« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2016, 01:38:04 PM »
Site Noob here. Found your excellent web site while searching (ixquick.com) for small form factor htpc.  Great site!

I've already ordered the parts listed for The January 2016 Build version of the Gaming/HTPC Mini-ITX Build.  I made a few changes to your recommendations and am hoping you might comment on what problems I should look out for:


I'm looking forward to building what promises to be one very hot little box  :D

Again, thanks so much for all your research.

unomasmuchote

Welcome to the TBG Forum, unomasmuchote!

That's going to be one very fast system!

So, just a couple of thoughts on your particular setup, as I have the RVZ02 right in front of me as I type this and check a few things for you:

(1) It looks like you ordered an EVGA GTX 980 with a backplate. It will most likely fit, but the backplate will come very close to some protruding bolts on the interior panel of the RVZ02. Just check for clearance before inserting the card; worst case is you remove the backplate, but it should be fine without taking that step.
(2) If you'll be using the two 2.5" SSD mounts plus an optical drive, remember that the Silverstone SX500's SATA power cables will not reach all three positions without a third party extension cable. You probably purchased one with the optical drive if you included one in your build, but just wanted to point that out.
(3) The memory will work, no problem at all! It may default to DDR4-2133 CAS 15, so to get a bit of a speed boost, make sure you enable the XMP profile to engage the CAS 13 timings.

Any other questions once the parts arrive, just post them here!

Entaum

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Re: TBG's Step-by-Step Guide to Assembling a Gaming/HTPC Mini-ITX PC
« Reply #14 on: March 28, 2016, 01:59:59 PM »
Thanks for excellent build! This was exactly what I was looking for.

One question: The suggested heatsink is no longer available at Amazon. I was wondering if this one would work instead (seems even smaller): http://www.amazon.com/Thermalright-AXP-100-Designed-HTPC-Systems/dp/B00IYSLD6K?ie=UTF8&keywords=Thermalright%20AXP-100&qid=1459191690&ref_=sr_1_3&sr=8-3

Also, I was wondering if you could give a little more details on the "tiny fins bending" that you did. I have no problem doing that, but just couldn't really visualize it on your pictures. :))

Again, thanks for the cool build guide!