We embarked upon this article with one goal in mind: to build the sweetest ITX system possible. Truth be told, it's not our first attempt, and we know what it looks like to miss the mark. Back in 2014, The Tech Buyer's Guru brought you "Project ITX," which we somewhat humorously dubbed the "Smallest, Fastest, Quietest PC Ever!" Of course, that was really meant to be tongue-in-cheek, as you can't have all three, but you can certainly give it your best try! And while Project ITX was small, fast, and quiet, it wasn't without its problems, the most significant of which were serious fitment issues with standard off-the-shelf parts. Well, nearly three years have gone by, and we decided that we'd give it another go.
The main cause of concern in Project ITX was in fact the SilverStone SG08-Lite case, which suffered from significant design flaws that made building a high-performance gaming system in it nearly impossible. We were very honest at that time regarding our concerns, and we went straight to SilverStone to tell them how concerned we were with a case that we believed was basically out of spec. Luckily, SilverStone took it all in stride and they were all too happy to provide a few pieces of choice gear for our second go-round at building the Ultimate Mini PC. No, it's not Project ITX, because this time it's not a project, it's a fully-vetted solution! We're going to show you exactly how to build your own massively-capable, incredibly-compact, and yes, very quiet gaming PC.
By the way, we want to address one concern we have about the ITX case market over the past few years. Many of our readers have come to us asking about unique cases offered on Kickstarter, like the NCase M1 or the Dan Cases A4. Here's our take on these imaginative, custom-made products: they're absurdly expensive and uniquely full of pitfalls. Yes, we've seen the flashy marketing material, and it all looks super-cool. But because we've been hands-on with more than a few ITX cases, we know that throwing together a Photoshopped promo image to generate seed funding and building a workable ITX case are not one and the same. Folks, we strongly recommend you stay away from these cases unless you simply want to make a donation to these small companies because you like their grit and determination. Don't do it because they promise you the world (i.e., the smallest, fastest, quietest PC ever...)
With that being said, here are the very much off-the-shelf parts we used for this build:
- CPU: Intel Core i7-7700K
- Motherboard: Asus Z170I Pro Gaming (current version is Asus Z270I ROG Strix)
- Video Card: Nvidia Titan X Pascal 12GB
- SSD #1: Samsung 850 Evo 500GB
- SSD #2: Toshiba OCZ Trion 150 960GB
- RAM: Corsair Vengeance 2x8GB DDR4-3000
- Case: SilverStone Sugo SG13 (thank you to SilverStone for providing this review sample)
- CPU Cooler: SilverStone NT06-Pro (thank you to SilverStone for providing this review sample)
- CPU Fan Low-Noise Adapter: Noctua NA-SRC7 (thank you to Noctua for providing this review sample)
- Thermal Paste: Noctua NT-H1 (thank you to Noctua for providing this review sample)
- Case Fan: Arctic F12 PWM 120mm (thank you to Arctic for providing this review sample)
- Power Supply: SilverStone Strider SX700-LPT (thank you to SilverStone for providing this review sample)
- Power Supply Bracket: SilverStone RL-PP08B ATX to SFX (thank you to SilverStone for providing this review sample)
- Operating System: Windows 10 Flash Drive
All told, the retail value of these components was just over $2,600 at the time of publication. As built, this system is most similar to the configuration currently listed in our $1,500 VR-Ready Mini-ITX PC Buyer's Guide, but with a Titan X Pascal substituted for a GeForce GTX 1070, along with an upgraded cooler and power supply.
It's important to note that in our Do-It-Yourself Buyer's Guides, we always take a few steps back from the most extreme options, because we won't risk our readers encountering an unexpected clearance issue or cooling limitation. When we want to recommend something really over the top, we build it ourselves first. That's the lesson we learned with our Project ITX, which in the end turned out to be something that didn't quite meet our standards for recommending to our readers. As you'll see, we came within a razor thin margin of meeting the same fate with the Ultimate Mini PC, but thankfully, this time it's something we will recommend to our most intrepid readers!
OK, with that out of the way, let's move on to the building process!