Performance

Side Angle

We know the performance of this system is going to be pretty good, given that it uses the fastest quad-core CPU on the market and the fastest GPU on the market. The real question is whether it can keep up with larger systems, and thus deliver on the promise of a true ultra-high-end gaming system in a small pacakge.

To find the answer, we decided to run it both stock and overclocked, and then compare it to a few ATX benchmarking systems we have on hand. The first is the system in our $2,500 Extreme 4K Gaming PC Buyer's Guide, which uses a Core i7-7700K and dual GeForce GTX 1070 cards in SLI. The second is the $5,000 Ultra-Extreme Gaming PC Buyer's Guide, running a Core i7-6900K eight-core CPU and dual GeForce GTX 1080 cards in SLI, which we ran fully-overclocked just to show the true potential of a full tower system.

In the table below, you can see how these systems compare in 3DMark Time Spy, an advanced DX12 benchmarking test.

Time Spy

The dual GTX 1070 system just squeaks by the Ultimate Mini PC at stock settings, but falls behind once the Mini machine is overclocked. Do keep in mind, however, that the 7700K in the big tower can be overclocked as well, and that it will hit higher speeds with the big cooling possible in a big tower. Furthermore, the GTX 1070 cards can overclock just as well as the Titan, so in the end, the full-size system will be a tad bit faster. And what of the overclocked, liquid-cooled eight-core system and its dual GTX 1080 cards? Its CPU is capable of 71% more flat-out performance, at least in CPU-limited scenarios, while the video card array is 34% faster than the overclocked Titan X.

Let's put this into perspective for a moment. The system we've profiled in this article is just 11.5 liters. The case we utilized for our $2,500 ATX Build is over 60 liters, and the case we utilized for our "Ultra-Extreme" system is over 70 liters. So while the ITX system does come with certain limitations, you've got to admit that it's packing a whole lot of power into an insanely-small form factor. And it costs just $2,600, meaning you really aren't paying much of a premium for fitting all that potential into a small package, thanks in part to the very reasonable price of the SilverStone case, cooler, and power supply.

Now there's another aspect of performance that's pretty important to a lot of users, and that's temperature and noise data. We've gathered that for you below, using the Combined Test in 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme, a 4K benchmark that seriously stressed the GPU, and puts a moderate load on the CPU - a lot like modern games.

PowerTemp

The power use of this system is really quite reasonable, but you can see that once overclocked, it could stress a less-capable power supply, especially given that the CPU is exhausting directly into the PSU intake. Luckily, the amazing SilverStone Strider 700W Platinum SFX-L unit we used has more than enough capacity and efficiency to contend with the stress and heat. With regard to noise, the system was certainly audible, with the sound of the Titan X Pascal's radial fan dominating the noise profile. Given how much heat it generates, this is to be expected, and no, we don't think a custom open-air cooler would work any better in this case, as the heat would be dumped directly on top of the video card, with nowhere to go. In fact, much of it would be trapped between the card and either the power supply or the SSD tray. Seriously, folks, you want that heat being pushed out of the case.

Note that while not shown in the graph, we measured idle noise to be 36 dB for both the stock and overclocked system, which is quite reasonable, if not entirely silent. Most of that had to do with the front intake fan being so close to our sound meter. In reality, accurately comparing sound measurements on a system this small is challenging; in a typical tower case, placing a sound meter at the base of the system in fact means placing it at least a foot away from any noise-generating components, but with the SG13 case, the fans are all right there, a few inches from the sound meter. So, to be clear, this is not an ususually-loud system, even if it "measures" loud versus an ATX tower.

The temperature readings we came up with were relatively impressive, especially for the GPU, which would run as hot or hotter in a full-tower ATX system. Its direct access to external cool air, both through the side vent and from the front intake fan, really helps it perform well in this little system. The CPU, on the other hand, was a bit stressed, and this is the trade-off when using a low-profile cooler that has very little breathing room, limited further by the noise reduction cable we fitted to its fan. To unleash a bit more cooling potential, we could have tested it without the noise reducer, but we felt that the balance of performance and noise we achieved with the system as built was about right. And yes, you can equip this system with a 120mm liquid cooler, which is what SilverStone recommends for high-end builders, but that too would come with trade-offs. First, it would be nearly impossible to fit the tubing in the system without risking crimping a hose or tweaking a seal, and furthermore, you'd have to either exhaust out the front, depriving the motherboard and back of the video card of any active cooling, or blow hot air into the system, which would probably be even worse. Basically, we're just not sold on liquid cooling for a system like this, and we honestly think it's best to just run a chip like the Core i7-7700K at stock speeds and enjoy a finely-balanced system. Getting a nice overclock on that Titan X is a whole lot more important for gaming, and the cool air provided by a 120mm intake fan helps greatly in that regard.

Final Thoughts

The Powerhouse

There's a special place in our hearts, and the hearts of many of our readers, for compact yet high-powered systems. Since this site was founded in 2013, we've made it one of our goals to have the most comprehensive coverage of Small Form Factor systems available, and we believe that's helped make our Mini ITX Buyer's Guides the most popular such guides on the Internet.

To inform our coverage of the SFF market, we've built up a lot of ITX systems over the years, and the Ultimate Mini PC is by far our favorite. It was surprisingly easy to build (as in everything actually fit, not something to be taken for granted), it's relatively quiet, and it's massively powerful. And it's just so darn small! As we hope we've shown in this article, there's in fact very little it cannot do, and amazingly, you don't need to pay a big premium to achieve big-system performance.

We hope you've found this guide useful... perhaps it will even inspire you to build your next PC! As always, to see our latest recommendations on PC component picks at price and in every form factor, check out our Do-It-Yourself Buyer's Guides, updated on a monthly basis to keep you up to speed on all the latest developments.

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