Author Topic: Project ITX: Building the Smallest, Fastest, Quietest PC Ever!  (Read 6456 times)

Ari Altman

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Want to share your thoughts on our wild journey to build the smallest, fastest, quietest PC ever? Feel free!

leang

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Re: Project ITX: Building the Smallest, Fastest, Quietest PC Ever!
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2014, 02:22:14 PM »
I really enjoyed reading this article. Having recently completed my own mini-ITX build (for an HTPC), I was interested in seeing your component list and process.

To offer a comparison, rather than full-fledged gaming, I built an HTPC and opted for a compromise between small/fast/quiet. But like you said, these goals are pretty much mutually exclusive.

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

CPU: Intel Core i3-4360 3.7GHz Dual-Core Processor  (Purchased For $151.19) - The HTPC was built with 75% home theater and 25% light gaming in mind and had no plans on overclocking. i3 draws less wattage than i5.
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-L9i 57.5 CFM CPU Cooler  (Purchased For $52.31) - Noctua CPU cooler for better performance and reduced noise.
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-H97N-WIFI Mini ITX LGA1150 Motherboard  (Purchased For $99.25) - Cheapest motherboard that had built-in wifi and bluetooth. Does not support overclocking, which wasn't a problem for me. Has front-panel USB3 support, but my case does not.
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory  (Purchased For $88.28) - 7 CAS and 1.5V.
Storage: Crucial MX100 128GB 2.5" Solid State Drive  (Purchased For $81.74) - SSD for operating system.
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 3TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive  (Purchased For $108.99) - HD for media storage. There's room in the case for a second HD so going RAID in the future might be a good option.
Video Card: MSI Radeon R9 270X 2GB Video Card  (Purchased For $174.79) - I think maybe a little overkill to pair with an i3, but went with it for two reasons. 1) Special short length version would make it a lot easier to fit in the ITX case. 2) It was on sale : ).
Case: Lian-Li PC-Q25B Mini ITX Tower Case  (Purchased For $137.78) - Oddly, the case is what I probably agonized over the most. I ended up splurging here to get a case I found more aesthetically pleasing, and making a few sacrifices. It had to be large enough to fit a modular PSU, and long enough for a decent GPU (moot with the shortened MSI R9 270X ITX that I got on sale). The case is a bit taller than other ITX cases, so it won't fit in cramped home theater consoles. No USB front panel (I ran a USB extension from the back of the case to the front to provide easy access for things like flash drives or gamepads). The included hard drive cage fits five 3.5" or 2.5" drives while the mounting rack on the floor of the case can fit an additional two 3.5" drives and one 2.5" drive. To clear up more space for components, airflow, and wiring, I decided to remove the cage completely, which required drilling out the eight rivets holding the cage in place. The two hard drives are mounted on the rack and out of the way.
Power Supply: SeaSonic 520W 80+ Platinum Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply  (Purchased For $152.94) - Another splurge for this platinum rated, fanless, and modular PSU. Generates NO noise but heat dissipation becomes paramount. It's intended to be mounted with the grill facing up, but I had to orient it side ways to fit in the PSU bracket. No problems as of yet.
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8.1 Pro (OEM) (64-bit)  (Purchased For $69.99) - Pro for some remote networking capabilities.
Case Fan: Noctua NF-S12A PWM 120mm  Fan  (Purchased For $18.95) - Front intake fan is 140mm. Noctua for added efficiency and noise reduction.
Case Fan: Noctua NF-A14 PWM 82.5 CFM 140mm  Fan  (Purchased For $22.95) - Top exhaust fan is 120mm. Noctua for added efficiency and noise reduction.

Total: $1159.16

Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
Generated by PCPartPicker 2014-08-08 16:24 EDT-0400

Removing the cage was a great move for my HTPC build, and freed up a ton of much needed space for bigger components, more wiring options, and better airflow. Anyone considering the Lian Li PC-Q25B should seriously consider it if they can get by with only two or three hard drives. Now that the build is finished, the only thing I find lacking is a front USB panel.

Just another take on small/fast/quiet mini-ITX build : ).
« Last Edit: August 08, 2014, 02:25:49 PM by leang »

Ari Altman

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Re: Project ITX: Building the Smallest, Fastest, Quietest PC Ever!
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2014, 04:34:38 PM »
I really enjoyed reading this article. Having recently completed my own mini-ITX build (for an HTPC), I was interested in seeing your component list and process.

To offer a comparison, rather than full-fledged gaming, I built an HTPC and opted for a compromise between small/fast/quiet. But like you said, these goals are pretty much mutually exclusive.

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

CPU: Intel Core i3-4360 3.7GHz Dual-Core Processor  (Purchased For $151.19) - The HTPC was built with 75% home theater and 25% light gaming in mind and had no plans on overclocking. i3 draws less wattage than i5.
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-L9i 57.5 CFM CPU Cooler  (Purchased For $52.31) - Noctua CPU cooler for better performance and reduced noise.
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-H97N-WIFI Mini ITX LGA1150 Motherboard  (Purchased For $99.25) - Cheapest motherboard that had built-in wifi and bluetooth. Does not support overclocking, which wasn't a problem for me. Has front-panel USB3 support, but my case does not.
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory  (Purchased For $88.28) - 7 CAS and 1.5V.
Storage: Crucial MX100 128GB 2.5" Solid State Drive  (Purchased For $81.74) - SSD for operating system.
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 3TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive  (Purchased For $108.99) - HD for media storage. There's room in the case for a second HD so going RAID in the future might be a good option.
Video Card: MSI Radeon R9 270X 2GB Video Card  (Purchased For $174.79) - I think maybe a little overkill to pair with an i3, but went with it for two reasons. 1) Special short length version would make it a lot easier to fit in the ITX case. 2) It was on sale : ).
Case: Lian-Li PC-Q25B Mini ITX Tower Case  (Purchased For $137.78) - Oddly, the case is what I probably agonized over the most. I ended up splurging here to get a case I found more aesthetically pleasing, and making a few sacrifices. It had to be large enough to fit a modular PSU, and long enough for a decent GPU (moot with the shortened MSI R9 270X ITX that I got on sale). The case is a bit taller than other ITX cases, so it won't fit in cramped home theater consoles. No USB front panel (I ran a USB extension from the back of the case to the front to provide easy access for things like flash drives or gamepads). The included hard drive cage fits five 3.5" or 2.5" drives while the mounting rack on the floor of the case can fit an additional two 3.5" drives and one 2.5" drive. To clear up more space for components, airflow, and wiring, I decided to remove the cage completely, which required drilling out the eight rivets holding the cage in place. The two hard drives are mounted on the rack and out of the way.
Power Supply: SeaSonic 520W 80+ Platinum Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply  (Purchased For $152.94) - Another splurge for this platinum rated, fanless, and modular PSU. Generates NO noise but heat dissipation becomes paramount. It's intended to be mounted with the grill facing up, but I had to orient it side ways to fit in the PSU bracket. No problems as of yet.
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8.1 Pro (OEM) (64-bit)  (Purchased For $69.99) - Pro for some remote networking capabilities.
Case Fan: Noctua NF-S12A PWM 120mm  Fan  (Purchased For $18.95) - Front intake fan is 140mm. Noctua for added efficiency and noise reduction.
Case Fan: Noctua NF-A14 PWM 82.5 CFM 140mm  Fan  (Purchased For $22.95) - Top exhaust fan is 120mm. Noctua for added efficiency and noise reduction.

Total: $1159.16

Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
Generated by PCPartPicker 2014-08-08 16:24 EDT-0400

Removing the cage was a great move for my HTPC build, and freed up a ton of much needed space for bigger components, more wiring options, and better airflow. Anyone considering the Lian Li PC-Q25B should seriously consider it if they can get by with only two or three hard drives. Now that the build is finished, the only thing I find lacking is a front USB panel.

Just another take on small/fast/quiet mini-ITX build : ).

Glad you liked the article, and thanks for sharing this build! Totally unique take on an HTPC. Lian Li makes some really sleek cases, definitely on the high-end of aesthetic design.

I assume that this case was originally intended for NAS use, given the huge hard drive bay. Reminds me a lot of the Bitfenix Phenom, although the overall fit and finish is probably a bit better on the Lian Li (and it's a bit smaller too).

Building mini ITX systems is a lot of fun, because no two are alike. That also means you've got to do a bit of trial and error. I do wonder how fanless PSUs function where their grills aren't oriented as the manufacturer intended. Luckily you won't come close to 520W with your build, so that very sweet Seasonic won't break a sweat. I'd guess you'll be at around 180W with a gaming load. :)
« Last Edit: August 08, 2014, 05:29:57 PM by Ari Altman »

bpawlak

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Re: Project ITX: Building the Smallest, Fastest, Quietest PC Ever!
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2014, 10:02:54 PM »
Hi,

Is this build ďfaster/better/better future proof/etcĒ than the build youíve presented here: "The Extreme Gaming Mini-ITX PC Build"?
Thanks!

Cheers.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2015, 08:31:46 AM by Ari Altman »

Ari Altman

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Re: Project ITX: Building the Smallest, Fastest, Quietest PC Ever!
« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2014, 10:21:02 PM »
Hi,

Is this build ďfaster/better/better future proof/etcĒ than the build youíve presented here: "The Extreme Gaming Mini-ITX PC Build"?
Thanks!

Cheers.

Great question!

The two builds are actually very similar. In fact, the system demonstrated in Project ITX has components nearly identical to the Extreme Gaming build. The big differences have to do with case size and the CPU cooler. Project ITX is much smaller, but is able to fit a large passive heatsink, which the Extreme Gaming system can't. The Extreme Gaming system is bigger and therefore much easier to build. It can also fit much larger video cards. In fact, any video card on the market should fit in it. Both can use liquid CPU cooling, by the way.

If you just want the fastest and most future-proof system, go with the Extreme Gaming build. If you want the smallest and quietest possible system, Project ITX is it.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2015, 08:33:39 AM by Ari Altman »

bpawlak

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Re: Project ITX: Building the Smallest, Fastest, Quietest PC Ever!
« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2014, 10:31:18 PM »
Thatís exactly what I wanted to know Ari, thanks!
For some time now Iíve been pondering whether I could plugin a eGPU via Thunderbolt to my Mabcook Pro Retina and enjoy that, but it just doesnít make sense.
Iíve seen dozens of builds and theyíre either big, expensive or just a big hassle to setup. So Iíve been looking around for some inspiration to get the most juice out of a small box.
Thatís where your guide comes into play :) Big thanks for writing it and taking the time to analyze the setup!
Anyways, I have to check the availability of parts youíve used in my region (EU) and that will probably be the deciding factor on which build to take.
I guess both can easily handle 2560x1440 gaming in decent FPS (I know thereís no easy answer to this)?

Oh, and one more thing - how do I connect it to my 2560x1440 27Ē monitor (Dell U2713HM)? Right now Iím using display port.
Thank you for all your remarks, much appreciated!

Ari Altman

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Re: Project ITX: Building the Smallest, Fastest, Quietest PC Ever!
« Reply #6 on: September 10, 2014, 10:11:00 AM »
Thatís exactly what I wanted to know Ari, thanks!
For some time now Iíve been pondering whether I could plugin a eGPU via Thunderbolt to my Mabcook Pro Retina and enjoy that, but it just doesnít make sense.
Iíve seen dozens of builds and theyíre either big, expensive or just a big hassle to setup. So Iíve been looking around for some inspiration to get the most juice out of a small box.
Thatís where your guide comes into play :) Big thanks for writing it and taking the time to analyze the setup!
Anyways, I have to check the availability of parts youíve used in my region (EU) and that will probably be the deciding factor on which build to take.
I guess both can easily handle 2560x1440 gaming in decent FPS (I know thereís no easy answer to this)?

Oh, and one more thing - how do I connect it to my 2560x1440 27Ē monitor (Dell U2713HM)? Right now Iím using display port.
Thank you for all your remarks, much appreciated!

Glad to be of help!

I actually use a Dell U2713HM as one of my test monitors, and the best way to connect to it is DisplayPort. Any modern high-end video card will have a DisplayPort connection, although some use the mini-DP standard, which requires an adapter. They do this to allow the use of two mini-DisplayPorts where only one full-size DisplayPort would fit. I would recommend the use of a GeForce GTX 780 (or the forthcoming GTX 970, releasing in a matter of weeks) as a minimum for 2560x1440 gaming. The Radeon R9 290/290x can easily handle the resolution as well, but the typical cards from that series are not ideal for the mini-ITX form factor due to their length, and because they use open-air coolers. I recommend externally-exhausting cards for small setups, and the 10.6"-long GTX 780/Titan/Ti reference design works best.

I am in the process of adding links to Amazon Germany to serve more of TBG's readers in the EU. You may have noticed that the links right now are for the US, Canada, and UK only. As you can imagine, it isn't possible to provide links for readers in every country - we have on average readers from 80 nations visiting daily!

smiller

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Re: Project ITX: Building the Smallest, Fastest, Quietest PC Ever!
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2016, 09:36:34 AM »
I'm curious why you wouldn't use the Silverstone 181 fan that has twice the airflow with less noise, their 600 psu that fits properly and even their nt06 pro cpu cooler that also fits and can easily cool the cpu. Otherwise, I really liked the discussion of gpu coolers. As a result, I'm going to purchase a blower 980ti as an upgrade to my hd-7790. I was going to get the evga with their 2.0 acx cooler. Thanks.

Ari Altman

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Re: Project ITX: Building the Smallest, Fastest, Quietest PC Ever!
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2016, 10:09:26 AM »
I'm curious why you wouldn't use the Silverstone 181 fan that has twice the airflow with less noise, their 600 psu that fits properly and even their nt06 pro cpu cooler that also fits and can easily cool the cpu. Otherwise, I really liked the discussion of gpu coolers. As a result, I'm going to purchase a blower 980ti as an upgrade to my hd-7790. I was going to get the evga with their 2.0 acx cooler. Thanks.

I'm actually quite familiar with Silverstone's proprietary 180mm Air Penetrator. I discussed its properties in my review of the Silverstone TJ08-E. While it is the factory-installed fan in the SG08, it is not included with the SG08-Lite that was used for the Project ITX article.

Why didn't I use the Air Penetrator that I have on hand? Simple: it's not that great for this application. It in fact is not quieter than the 140mm Rosewill Hyperborea fan that I used instead, and furthermore, due to its design, it is much more effective as a channeling intake fan than a high-flow output fan. While Silverstone would have you believe that setting this case up with the top fan blowing down is beneficial due to "positive pressure," it's detrimental to temperature. It doesn't work at all in this case due to severely-limited outflow capability in the lower-half of the chassis, and Silverstone does not market a 180mm fan to use in an exhaust application.

And the Silverstone 600W unit included with the SG08 is both louder and non-modular versus the EVGA 650GS that was eventually used in the build. It may "fit properly", but it does not fit well. Project ITX ended up with almost no cable clutter to speak of, while the SG08 ships from the factory with quite a mess of cables, most of which are not usable in a system of this size. This is what it looks like before you've installed any components:



And this is what the completed Project ITX looks like:





As for the NT06 Pro, yes, it will surely work, but so did the Cooler Master GeminII S524, which has the added advantage of a much lower price and much higher cooling capacity, enough to run the CPU cooler passively.

I hope I've answered your questions. You're asking why I didn't use an off-the-shelf solution, when the goal of this article was in fact to do something very different. Silverstone's factory setup is nice. Project ITX is nicer. But it's not quite as straightforward, so builders are of course welcome to use Silverstone's solution.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2016, 10:13:01 AM by Ari Altman »

oviano

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Re: Project ITX: Building the Smallest, Fastest, Quietest PC Ever!
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2016, 08:54:08 AM »
Hey Ari

I have a suggestion for a new "project ITX", if you haven't already got it covered.

I just built one of of these:

Silverstone SG13 case
ASUS Z170I Pro motherboard
Intel Skylake 6700K CPU
Corsair H75 AIO cooler
Samsung 850 Evo SSD
Nvidia GTX 980 Ti GPU
Silverstone ST75F-PT PSU

Everything *fits (no bending fins on this one hehe) and it's quite a decent amount of power in 11.5 litres.

All the best

Oliver

*I only fitted one of the two fans supplied with the H75, you'd probably struggle to fit the other one. I went with the fan pushing from the inside as there are no dust filters on this case.

Ari Altman

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Re: Project ITX: Building the Smallest, Fastest, Quietest PC Ever!
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2016, 10:57:57 AM »
Hey Ari

I have a suggestion for a new "project ITX", if you haven't already got it covered.

I just built one of of these:

Silverstone SG13 case
ASUS Z170I Pro motherboard
Intel Skylake 6700K CPU
Corsair H75 AIO cooler
Samsung 850 Evo SSD
Nvidia GTX 980 Ti GPU
Silverstone ST75F-PT PSU

Everything *fits (no bending fins on this one hehe) and it's quite a decent amount of power in 11.5 litres.

All the best

Oliver

*I only fitted one of the two fans supplied with the H75, you'd probably struggle to fit the other one. I went with the fan pushing from the inside as there are no dust filters on this case.

That's a fantastic build, oviano! In case you haven't seen it, TBG just put together a new high-performance ITX build, the Extreme ITX Gaming PC, that is faster and quieter than Project ITX, but not quite smaller. I'd argue that your system is smaller and faster, but not quite quieter. That's because you can never get all that quiet with liquid cooling, but to push the kind of performance you're likely getting in your SG13 case, you really do need to go with liquid. With ITX, there's always a trade-off, as Project ITX made clear!

By the way, your build would be a great addition to The Gallery. Even better than TBG trying to repeat the work you've already done! If you're interested, just send three photos to theguru@techbuyersguru.com!

Based on my experience with various SilverStone cases, I'd say the SG13 is the one to beat in terms of putting together a compact, ultra-high-performance system. I'd give it the nod over the similar-displacement RVZ02, as long as you're willing to go with a reference-length Nvidia-based GPU or the Radeon R9 Nano. All other high-end GPUs will not fit.

oviano

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Re: Project ITX: Building the Smallest, Fastest, Quietest PC Ever!
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2016, 11:27:59 AM »
Sure, I'll sort out three photos tomorrow for The Gallery.

All the best

err11cc

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Re: Project ITX: Building the Smallest, Fastest, Quietest PC Ever!
« Reply #12 on: April 06, 2017, 01:39:24 PM »
What is the smallest gaming PC that can possibly be built? I will utilize the budget king, Pentium G4560. Please match the other components to that CPU. For example, what would be the most optimal GPU matched to the CPU, so that perfect balance may be achieved (i.e., no bottle necks!). The last requirement is that the PC be as small as possible.

Thanks in advance!

EDIT: I plan to order all parts from B&HPhotoVideo.com.
So far, I have copied (except for the GPU and case, obviously) exactly the build that can be seen here.

Please recommend an appropriate Case (the more compact, the better), as well as a good-valued GPU that would go well with the G4560 (no future-proofing).
« Last Edit: April 06, 2017, 02:54:25 PM by err11cc »

Ari Altman

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Re: Project ITX: Building the Smallest, Fastest, Quietest PC Ever!
« Reply #13 on: April 06, 2017, 04:17:52 PM »
What is the smallest gaming PC that can possibly be built? I will utilize the budget king, Pentium G4560. Please match the other components to that CPU. For example, what would be the most optimal GPU matched to the CPU, so that perfect balance may be achieved (i.e., no bottle necks!). The last requirement is that the PC be as small as possible.

Thanks in advance!

EDIT: I plan to order all parts from B&HPhotoVideo.com.
So far, I have copied (except for the GPU and case, obviously) exactly the build that can be seen here.

Please recommend an appropriate Case (the more compact, the better), as well as a good-valued GPU that would go well with the G4560 (no future-proofing).

For that processor, you'll want to use the SilverStone ML09 and a low-profile GTX 1050 Ti. Check out the High-End Home Theater Build Guide and flip down to the ML09 description for tips on getting the right gear.

oviano

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Re: Project ITX: Building the Smallest, Fastest, Quietest PC Ever!
« Reply #14 on: April 07, 2017, 01:01:46 AM »
In terms of the absolute smallest case while still fitting in a full size graphics card it's well worth checking out the DAN-A4.

I built two of these recently, and it's a really fantastic case.

It will apparently be a few months before any more are available to buy (I got mine via Kickstarter), but it's very very good if you are willing to wait.