Steve's Feedback:

I'm very excited since although I've been a PC technician for decades (since 1985) in the past I've always just done the Compaq, Dell, and Gateway type online limited parts options kind of computer order. Anyway I wanted to publish my build's parts list... in case this is of use to others making a first time build too. P.S. Thanks Ari for all your help and opinions while I was thinking everything through!

The Finished System

Built: March 2016

This sweet-looking mini-PC comes from Steve, who started with our $2,000 Ultimate Gaming ITX PC Buyer's Guide, as published in February 2016, and customized it to truly make it his own! While the case and components looked great from the start, he added custom lighting strips and fans to really make his system one-of-a-kind!

Below is the parts list for Steve's PC:

  1. CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K
  2. Motherboard: Asus Z170I Pro Gaming
  3. Video Card #1: EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB Classified
  4. Memory: G.Skill 2x8GB TridentZ DDR4-3200
  5. SSD: Samsung 850 Evo 250GB
  6. Hard Drive: Western Digital Blue 1TB
  7. Case: Phanteks Evolv ITX Black
  8. CPU Cooler: Thermaltake Silver Arrow ITX
  9. Power Supply: EVGA Supernova 650 G2
  10. Fans: 3x Phanteks PH-F140SP-BK 140mm Case Fan plus Phanteks Y-Splitter
  11. Lighting: BitFenix Alchemy 2.0 Magnetic Red LED Strip
  12. Keyboard: Corsair Gaming K70 
  13. Mouse: Corsair Raptor M45
  14. Operating System: Windows 10 USB

Steve clearly had in mind a very high-end PC with this parts list, and while many systems of this caliber would use liquid cooling, Steve wanted to go with a more traditional air cooling steup. As it turned out, this was a bit tricky. While the Phanteks case had plenty of headroom for a tall 140mm cooler, ITX motherboards aren't typically setup to accommodate such coolers, due to the tight spacing between the CPU socket, RAM slots, onboard heatsinks, and the PCIe slot. So Steve took it upon himself to scour the Internet for the very best cooler that could fit in this system, and he found it in the Thermaltake Silver Arrow ITX. To read  more about his quest, check out the multi-page forum thread he started that details all his findings!

Here's his thinking on why he went in this direction, despite the challenge:

Personally I'm afraid of water cooling my own PC, although it is very popular these days... [going] water cooled or not is really a personal choice you have to weigh.

Inside View

In terms of his core components, he went with basically the fastest gear you can cram into an ITX rig: the Intel Core i7-6700K quad-core processor, EVGA's hot-clocked (and well-cooled!) GTX 980 Ti Classified, and a pair of DDR4-3200 sticks from G.Skill. Backing all these components up is the very best power supply pick for an ITX system, the Supernova G2 from EVGA. Frankly, EVGA has the power supply market wrapped up... there's practically no reason to consider any other PSU manufacturer!

Of course, Steve wanted ot make this system his own, and he did so by upgrading the cooling and lighting on his Phanteks case. Phanteks has taken the case market by storm with its cutting-edge Evolv and Enthoo lines, with unmatched modularity, clean styling, and high-quality fans. That being said, with the Evolv ITX, Phanteks has kept the cooling simple, going with a single 200mm intake fan, allowing the users to choose how to set up the rest of the cooling to their liking. Well, Steve pulled that big spinner out and replaced it with dual 120mm intake fans to really pull the fresh air into the case, along with another 140mm spinner in the rear. We think this is a very good idea when choosing an air-cooled CPU; with a liquid cooler, the radiator and fan would be mounted in that location and would serve the same purpose. To "light up the night", Steve added a magnetic LED strip from BitFenix, which addes a truly premium look while being very easy to install.

One thing to keep in mind when setting up "extreme" cooling in an ITX system is the limited number of fan headers most ITX motherboards have. The Z170I Pro Gaming from Asus is actually above-average in that regard with its three headers, but once you load up the Phanteks case with an air cooler and three case fans, you've gone beyond what the headers can handle. So Steve picked up a cost-effective Phanteks Y-Splitter to allow the use of all those fans.

All right, one last shot of Steve's complete setup, which really shows off why ITX systems are the future of PC gaming:

System Running

Can you imagine a hulking ATX tower looking this good on his desk? We think not! The ITX format offers users the option to create a seriously-powerful PC that actually looks great sitting front and center in your workspace. It becomes something to show off and be proud of, rather than something you need to hide away.

We want to thank Steve for taking the time to contribute to the TBG community with this build and his extensive feedback in the TBG Forum. Thanks again, Steve!