Author Topic: TBG's $1,250 Slim Gaming Mini-ITX Build  (Read 27601 times)

Ari Altman

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Re: TBG's $1,200 Slim Gaming Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #150 on: April 13, 2018, 01:00:21 PM »
Hi Ari,

Would you mind taking a look at a part list and answering a few questions for me?  If you can make some affiliate links for the parts, I'd like to use them to support the site (though for budget reasons I'll probably acquire parts in stages).

Here's the parts list I'm considering:

Case: Silverstone FTZ01S (might already have a link for this from another forum post)
MOBO: ASUS mini-ITX Z370
CPU: Intel 8600K (is there an AMD alternative I could use here?)
Cooler: Noctua NH-L12S OR be quiet! Shadow Rock LP
RAM: Corsair LPX 16GB 3000 or 3200 (whichever is cheaper)
GPU: ??? (please help, more info below)
SSD: Samsung 960 EVO 500GB
PSU: ??? (again, please help)
Optical Drive: Blu Ray/DVD player

I'd like to use this machine to play games in my living room on a 1080p tv.  I'd also like to be able to watch BDs and DVDs without being stuck with the region restrictions that are baked into my current BD player.

Can you give me some advice on the NH-L12S vs the Shadow Rock LP?

As for GPUs, given that I'm limited by my display to 1080p at 60Hz, do I stand to gain anything by going beyond a GTX 1060 6GB card?  Second, is a blower style card preferable for a small case like this one?

Finally, I hear great things about both Corsair and Silverstone's fully modular SFX PSUs.  How should I pick between the two companies?

Thanks in advance for all your help. The little STX machine I built from your guide is still going strong, and I've been wanting to do another build for living room gaming ever since.  You got me hooked!

Welcome back to the TBG Forum, bensrichards! Glad to hear your SFX experience has got you interested in building an ITX machine!

You've picked out some really good parts there. The SilverStone FTZ01S is a truly premium case option. You are going to really like it in terms of its fantastic aesthetics. I also think you're going in the right direction with the 960 Evo, which has dropped in price recently, making it a serious bargain in terms of price/performance. As for RAM, Corsair's Vengeance 3000 is typically $15 less for 16GB versus the 3200 kit, and I don't think there's a reason to spend extra on what's really a nominal performance difference (the tighter timings of the 3000MHz kit make it perform similarly).

Now, as for the coolers, I really like the L12S, which happens to be sold out at the moment. It's a truly modern design, and I think it surpasses the be quiet! model. I like what be quiet! is doing, and spent a lot of time with them at CES 2018, but I do think they are sort of playing catchup with Noctua. Note that you can't mount either of these coolers with the case's side-mounted fan in place above the motherboard, but the Noctua is overall a better fit at 70mm versus 74mm for the be quiet!.

Now, you say you're gaming on a 1080p TV, but that may change. I definitely wouldn't go lower than a GTX 1060 6GB, even if it's slight overkill for 1080p/60hz. The best deal right now is this PNY XLR8 model, which comes factory overclocked and offers a nice cooler.

The power supply is easy: go with the Corsair SF450. Unlike the SilverStone, it has silent operation at low wattage, which I think is very helpful for HTPC use. The SX500-G is better as a high-end gaming PSU.

Note that with this slim chassis, you need a slimline blu-ray drive, and SilverStone is one of the only vendors that offers one with its SST-TOB03. It's a bit expensive, but you probably figured this out already. To get movie playback, you'll want to pick up PowerDVD 17. The issue is that it's still locked down by region, which is really a legal issue, not a technical issue. Not sure you can get around this, but I'll have to leave it to you to explore!

If you wanted to buy this part-by-part, my advice would be to get the case, CPU, motherboard, RAM, SSD, OS, and cooler, and hold off on the blu-ray and graphics card, which together represent 1/3 cost. You don't need either to get the system up and running, as the motherboard has built-in video. While AMD has some very impressive CPUs (including the latest Ryzen 2000-series processors, which I'm currently testing for the big April 19th release!), I like the Core i5-8600K for this build.

As always, thanks for using the affiliate links here to buy the gear. You can find them all in this post, but if you need any others, please let me know.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2018, 01:04:56 PM by Ari Altman »

bensrichards

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Re: TBG's $1,200 Slim Gaming Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #151 on: April 16, 2018, 05:41:00 PM »
Thanks for all of this, Ari!  I just pulled the trigger on the case and the 960 EVO.  I figured both of those are a little longer in the tooth than other components, and unlikely to have as many price fluctuations.  I'm really psyched for the case.  I know I paid a premium, but I really wanted it to feel substantial.  I'm also hoping I'll be able to use the case for a while even as other components get upgraded.

I will confess, I did not realize the ASUS Z370 ITX board had reached the $200 mark.  Do you think I would be losing a lot if I went for AsRock's cheaper Z370 board (not the Fatality one)?  I thought it was cool that the ASUS board has a heat sink for M.2 drives, but I'm not sure it's $50 (or more) worth of cool!

Thanks for your help!

Ari Altman

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Re: TBG's $1,200 Slim Gaming Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #152 on: April 16, 2018, 08:16:18 PM »
Thanks for all of this, Ari!  I just pulled the trigger on the case and the 960 EVO.  I figured both of those are a little longer in the tooth than other components, and unlikely to have as many price fluctuations.  I'm really psyched for the case.  I know I paid a premium, but I really wanted it to feel substantial.  I'm also hoping I'll be able to use the case for a while even as other components get upgraded.

I will confess, I did not realize the ASUS Z370 ITX board had reached the $200 mark.  Do you think I would be losing a lot if I went for AsRock's cheaper Z370 board (not the Fatality one)?  I thought it was cool that the ASUS board has a heat sink for M.2 drives, but I'm not sure it's $50 (or more) worth of cool!

Thanks for your help!

Glad to hear you've started picking up some of your components. In terms of motherboards, yes, the Asus Z370I has jumped in price a bit lately. With the AsRock Z370M-ITX, you lose out on USB 3.1 Type C, DisplayPort out, and the high-end ALC1220 audio. Why not split the difference and get the Gigabyte Z370N? It has the heatsink shield, USB Type-C, and ALC1220, along with DisplayPort. The only thing the Asus really has on it is a better UEFI interface.

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Re: TBG's $1,200 Slim Gaming Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #153 on: April 26, 2018, 02:31:58 PM »
Hey Ari,

Quick question about the SST-TOB03 optical drive: the pictures on Amazon show that as a tray loaded drive, but the FTZ01 looks like it requires a slot-loader.  Am I missing something?

Assuming I need a slot loader, am I right that the SST-SOB02, and the Panasonic UJ-265 and UJ-267 are pretty much my only options (pretty sure the SOB02 is actually a UJ-265 with some bundled accessories?

Thanks as always for your help!  Parts are trickling in now (the cooler and psu just came back in stock on Amazon and are on their way to me now).

Ari Altman

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Re: TBG's $1,200 Slim Gaming Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #154 on: April 26, 2018, 04:02:01 PM »
Hey Ari,

Quick question about the SST-TOB03 optical drive: the pictures on Amazon show that as a tray loaded drive, but the FTZ01 looks like it requires a slot-loader.  Am I missing something?

Assuming I need a slot loader, am I right that the SST-SOB02, and the Panasonic UJ-265 and UJ-267 are pretty much my only options (pretty sure the SOB02 is actually a UJ-265 with some bundled accessories?

Thanks as always for your help!  Parts are trickling in now (the cooler and psu just came back in stock on Amazon and are on their way to me now).

Ben,

Yes, you are right - good catch. I forgot that before SilverStone switched to tray loaders with the RVZ02 series, they used slot loaders they used with the Z01 cases. That means you do need the SST-SOB02, which may be discontinued, or alternatively the Panasonic UJ-267. Now, one look at the prices should probably give you pause...

Depending on what you really want out of your AV setup, I'm going to toss a different idea out to you - rather than use your HTPC for discs, get a dedicated player. I know that means things won't be quite as well integrated, but I think you'll have a better overall user experience going with something like this Sony 4K UHD Player. Not only will it integrate more easily with an AV receiver and not require additional software to run, but it will also support 4K discs, which you'll never be able to do with either a slot-loading or tray-loading model outside of a full-on 5.25" desktop drive.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2018, 04:04:30 PM by Ari Altman »

bensrichards

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Re: TBG's $1,200 Slim Gaming Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #155 on: April 30, 2018, 01:21:51 PM »
Thanks for the confirmation, Ari.  I'm not quite sure what I'll do for an optical drive at the moment.  My plan right now is to go ahead and build the system without any optical drive, and then reevaluate what my needs/wants are.  I have a rarely used Sony BD player now (maybe 6-7 years old) that only gets pressed into service to watch a small collection of BDs that aren't available anywhere for streaming.  We stream pretty much everything else.  If I ditch the BD plan for the htpc, I'll stick a DVD drive in there instead though; the idea of having that slot on the case but no drive behind it doesn't sit well with me (just my personal neuroses  :o).

A couple more questions for you:

(1) Is there a way to power on my system with my Harmony Elite remote?  It looks like FLIRC and Inteset both make IR receivers for htpc use, albeit with very different installation methods.  I'm not looking for extensive control features.  I just want to make a "play PC" activity for the Harmony to turn on my TV and PC and choose the input on the TV.  Do you know if either FLIRC or Inteset or both can make that happen?

(2) Am I correct in thinking that there are no Z370 mini-ITX motherboards with TPM chips or TPM headers?  This is actually related to my OS choice between Windows 10 home vs pro.  The only reason I can see that I might want pro would be for the bitlocker function.  However, my research leads to me to believe bitlocker won't be a particularly elegant and effective encryption solution without a TPM.

As always, thanks for your help and the effort it takes to keep this forum up and running!

Ari Altman

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Re: TBG's $1,200 Slim Gaming Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #156 on: April 30, 2018, 02:31:20 PM »
Hey again, Ben.

I totally understand not wanting to leave that drive bay empty, but the most cost-effective solution to filing it is most definitely going with SilverStone's slot-loading DVD burner! You get to experience that cool slot-loading functionality (where the disc disappears into the PC!) without having to spend a ton of money.

As for turning a system on via remote, the short answer is that it can't be done with FLIRC, as far as I know. But it can be done with another device: SilverStone's ES02-USB remote power switch. It's incredibly cool, and I've tested it myself to confirm it works. The reason it's superior to every other solution is that it actually replicates the physical power button on your PC, plugging into the power button header on the motherboard. But it does end up causing some clearance problems on ITX motherboards. It requires a USB 2.0 header for power, and sticks up quite far, so it can get in the way of coolers or video cards, or even hit the top of a slim case. But I think in your build, it should be fine.... depending on which motherboard you go with...

Which brings us to the subject of TPM headers. I'm assuming you were looking mostly at the high-end gaming boards, which don't have the header. But many other ITX boards do.

For example, the AsRock Z370M-ITX/AC - here's what the spec sheet says:

Quote
1 x TPM Header

You could also go with the new Gigabyte H370N WiFi. Here's what the spec sheet says:

Quote
1 x Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header (2x6 pin, for the GC-TPM2.0_S module only)

You would lose overclocking with that board (of both the CPU and RAM), so the AsRock may be the better option.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2018, 02:33:55 PM by Ari Altman »

bensrichards

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Re: TBG's $1,200 Slim Gaming Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #157 on: May 05, 2018, 07:06:57 PM »
Thanks for pointing out those other ITX boards with TPM headers.  You're absolutely right that I was looking at gaming boards like the ASUS ROG Z370I when I was looking for TPM headers.  I surveyed the landscape a bit more closely after reading your post, and I found out that the MSI Z370I Gaming Carbon Pro AC has a TPM header and most of the other features I'd like in a board (overclocking ability and USB 3.1 gen 2).  I'll have to mount my M2 drive on the back of the board, which wouldn't be my first choice, but it looks like I'll have to compromise somewhere on board features and that seems like a pretty minor compromise.

Anyway, could you make an affiliate link for the MSI board?  Once I have the board I will finally have enough parts to start building.

Thanks!
-Ben

Ari Altman

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Re: TBG's $1,200 Slim Gaming Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #158 on: May 05, 2018, 10:02:35 PM »
Thanks for pointing out those other ITX boards with TPM headers.  You're absolutely right that I was looking at gaming boards like the ASUS ROG Z370I when I was looking for TPM headers.  I surveyed the landscape a bit more closely after reading your post, and I found out that the MSI Z370I Gaming Carbon Pro AC has a TPM header and most of the other features I'd like in a board (overclocking ability and USB 3.1 gen 2).  I'll have to mount my M2 drive on the back of the board, which wouldn't be my first choice, but it looks like I'll have to compromise somewhere on board features and that seems like a pretty minor compromise.

Anyway, could you make an affiliate link for the MSI board?  Once I have the board I will finally have enough parts to start building.

Thanks!
-Ben

Good catch on the MSI Z370I Gaming Pro AC. There's your link!

It's a bit of a drawback that the M.2 slot is on the back, but if the board otherwise has the features you want, it's a fine tradeoff.

bensrichards

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Re: TBG's $1,200 Slim Gaming Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #159 on: May 16, 2018, 07:47:02 AM »
Hey Ari,

Just wanted to send you a big thank you for your help in talking through the parts for my living room gaming pc.  I got it up and running this past Sunday night without too much trouble.  The FTZ01S looks great, and has a great sturdy feel.  I will say that the instruction manual leaves a little to be desired.  For instance, the manual says very little about which screws to use where.  Not something I couldn't figure out, but it didn't help that the list of screws in the parts list didn't match up with the screws provided.  Strangely, there was also no explanation of how to connect the two part riser card.  It wasn't hard to figure out, but I thought it was an odd omission given that it's a specialty component for the case.  Anyway, none of these were insurmountable obstacles, but a slightly better manual would be a welcome addition to the case.  The only real installation problem was the support bracket for the gpu.  The screws are a bit too short, and thus it's very hard to get any engagement.  I did eventually get them to hold, but I'd guess I only have one or two threads of engagement.

I came away most impressed with Noctua.  The NH-L12S felt like the most premium component that I worked with, and their instructions and materials provided were excellent.  I ended up trying the heatsink in all 4 different orientations before settling on heat pipes towards the I/O shield.  The fan does touch the tops of the Corsair LPX memory, but only just barely, and since the pressure is straight down into memory sockets I figured it wouldn't be as big a deal (as opposed to having the heat pipes put lateral pressure on the DIMMs).

MSI did a nice job with the board, and their TPM chip (purchased separately) was a very easy solution to implement.  Almost plug and play (almost because you do need to enable the chip from the BIOS, but the option was easy to find).  I understand now why the M.2 drive goes on the back.  The TPM header is occupying the real estate on the board where most m-ITX boards put a top side M.2 drive.

I encountered a bizarre Amazon glitch with the Corsair PSU.  Amazon sent me a Corsair SF-450 box with a Silverstone 450watt SFX psu in it.  Not sure what happened on Amazon's end other than they sent me a botched product return from someone else.  With the right Corsair psu in hand now, I have no complaints.

Anyway, I'm loving the system so far.  I fired up a few games that I had been playing on my little STX system with the Intel HD 630 integrated graphics and it's so much more fun to be able to crank the settings all the way up (remember, my display is a 1080p TV, so 1080p at 60hz is the upper limit on what my gpu has to output).

The DVD/BD drive is still on hold.  Haven't quite decided what I want to do in that regard yet.

Thanks again for all your help, Ari!

-Ben

Ari Altman

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Re: TBG's $1,200 Slim Gaming Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #160 on: May 16, 2018, 09:00:22 AM »
Hey Ari,

Just wanted to send you a big thank you for your help in talking through the parts for my living room gaming pc.  I got it up and running this past Sunday night without too much trouble.  The FTZ01S looks great, and has a great sturdy feel.  I will say that the instruction manual leaves a little to be desired.  For instance, the manual says very little about which screws to use where.  Not something I couldn't figure out, but it didn't help that the list of screws in the parts list didn't match up with the screws provided.  Strangely, there was also no explanation of how to connect the two part riser card.  It wasn't hard to figure out, but I thought it was an odd omission given that it's a specialty component for the case.  Anyway, none of these were insurmountable obstacles, but a slightly better manual would be a welcome addition to the case.  The only real installation problem was the support bracket for the gpu.  The screws are a bit too short, and thus it's very hard to get any engagement.  I did eventually get them to hold, but I'd guess I only have one or two threads of engagement.

I came away most impressed with Noctua.  The NH-L12S felt like the most premium component that I worked with, and their instructions and materials provided were excellent.  I ended up trying the heatsink in all 4 different orientations before settling on heat pipes towards the I/O shield.  The fan does touch the tops of the Corsair LPX memory, but only just barely, and since the pressure is straight down into memory sockets I figured it wouldn't be as big a deal (as opposed to having the heat pipes put lateral pressure on the DIMMs).

MSI did a nice job with the board, and their TPM chip (purchased separately) was a very easy solution to implement.  Almost plug and play (almost because you do need to enable the chip from the BIOS, but the option was easy to find).  I understand now why the M.2 drive goes on the back.  The TPM header is occupying the real estate on the board where most m-ITX boards put a top side M.2 drive.

I encountered a bizarre Amazon glitch with the Corsair PSU.  Amazon sent me a Corsair SF-450 box with a Silverstone 450watt SFX psu in it.  Not sure what happened on Amazon's end other than they sent me a botched product return from someone else.  With the right Corsair psu in hand now, I have no complaints.

Anyway, I'm loving the system so far.  I fired up a few games that I had been playing on my little STX system with the Intel HD 630 integrated graphics and it's so much more fun to be able to crank the settings all the way up (remember, my display is a 1080p TV, so 1080p at 60hz is the upper limit on what my gpu has to output).

The DVD/BD drive is still on hold.  Haven't quite decided what I want to do in that regard yet.

Thanks again for all your help, Ari!

-Ben

Ben, great to hear you got everything figured out. Too bad about that power supply mix up. Did you buy it from Amazon Warehouse? Those are indeed returned goods, but if this came as a new product, I may reach out to both SilverStone and Corsair to let them know this happened. It's not good for either of them.

As for the SilverStone and Noctua instructions, you are right on the money. I've talked to SilverStone before regarding its manuals, which are not very good. Noctua, on the other hand, justifies its high prices with simply amazing instructions and packaging. No one else is even close!

By the way, this writeup is so thorough that I'd like to add it to the TBG Gallery. While I no longer have time to write these entries myself, you've already done the hard work, so I can just paste it in. All I'd need would be three photos of your system - inside, outside, and on your desk/cabinet. You can e-mail them to theguru@techbuyersguru.com if you're interested.

bensrichards

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Re: TBG's $1,200 Slim Gaming Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #161 on: May 16, 2018, 10:00:19 AM »
I did actually purchase it from Amazon proper, not Amazon Warehouse.  I double-checked my order just now to confirm as much.  Thus, I'm a bit miffed with Amazon since I certainly believed I was purchasing a new never-opened product.  Please do let Corsair and Silverstone know if you think they'd be interested.

I'll e-mail you some pictures of the system later this week for the gallery.  I was good about pictures at the start of the build (box shot, empty open case, motherboard assembly), but I put the camera down when I got to the latter half of the build because things were getting much more difficult as the case filled up.  I'll snap a couple of the full case and it's final placement on our entertainment center and send them along.

Next time you talk to Noctua let them know I'll gladly keep paying a premium for the better instructions and hardware!  I have zero problem with paying for that stuff because I think it really is value added.

-Ben

Ari Altman

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Re: TBG's $1,200 Slim Gaming Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #162 on: May 16, 2018, 11:42:14 AM »
I did actually purchase it from Amazon proper, not Amazon Warehouse.  I double-checked my order just now to confirm as much.  Thus, I'm a bit miffed with Amazon since I certainly believed I was purchasing a new never-opened product.  Please do let Corsair and Silverstone know if you think they'd be interested.

I'll e-mail you some pictures of the system later this week for the gallery.  I was good about pictures at the start of the build (box shot, empty open case, motherboard assembly), but I put the camera down when I got to the latter half of the build because things were getting much more difficult as the case filled up.  I'll snap a couple of the full case and it's final placement on our entertainment center and send them along.

Next time you talk to Noctua let them know I'll gladly keep paying a premium for the better instructions and hardware!  I have zero problem with paying for that stuff because I think it really is value added.

-Ben

There's actually another Noctua product review being published on TBG in the next few days, and the quality of the product and manual are going to be a main topic of discussion. Noctua simply makes the best stuff. Not always at the best price/performance level, but the quality is amazing.

I look forward to seeing your PC build photos!

Ari Altman

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Re: TBG's $1,200 Slim Gaming Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #163 on: May 20, 2018, 07:06:38 AM »
For anyone interested, here's the Gallery profile of bensrichards' awesome new Slim Gaming PC!

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Re: TBG's $1,200 Slim Gaming Mini-ITX Build
« Reply #164 on: October 02, 2018, 04:48:16 PM »
Do you have to worry about the SSD overheating?