Four High Powered Mini ITX Systems
Thanks to Sebastian for helping me out with some of the editorial for this piece and to Ken for doing the installation and testing on the system builds! -Ryan
Update (1/23/16): Now that that AMD Radeon R9 Nano is priced at just $499, it becomes an even better solution for these builds, dropping prices by $150 each.
While some might wonder where the new Radeon R9 Nano fits in a market that offers the AMD Fury X for the same price, the Nano is a product that defines a new category in the PC enthusiast community. It is a full-scale GPU on an impossibly small 6-inch PCB, containing the same core as the larger liquid-cooled Fury X, but requiring 100 watts less power than Fury X and cooled by a single-fan dual-slot air cooler.
The R9 Nano design screams compatibility. It has the ability to fit into virtually any enclosure (including many of the smallest mini-ITX designs), as long as the case supports a dual-slot (full height) GPU. The total board length of 6 inches is shorter than a mini-ITX motherboard, which is 6.7 inches square! Truly, the Nano has the potential to change everything when it comes to selecting a small form-factor (SFF) enclosure.
Typically, a gaming-friendly enclosure would need at minimum a ~270 mm GPU clearance, as a standard 10.5-inch reference GPU translates into 266.7 mm in length. Even very small mini-ITX enclosures have had to position components specifically to allow for these longer cards – if they wanted to be marketed as compatible with a full-size GPU solution, of course. Now with the R9 Nano, smaller and more powerful than any previous ITX-specific graphics card to date, one of the first questions we had was a pretty basic one: what enclosure should we put this R9 Nano into?
With no shortage of enclosures at our disposal to try out a build with this new card, we quickly discovered that many of them shared a design choice: room for a full-length GPU. So, what’s the advantage of the Nano’s incredibly compact size? It must be pointed out that larger (and faster) Fury X has the same MSRP, and at 7.5 inches the Fury X will fit comfortably in cases that have spacing for the necessary radiator.
Finding a Case for Nano
While even some of the tiniest mini-ITX enclosures (EVGA Hadron, NCASE M1, etc.) offer support for a 10.5-in GPU, there are several compact mini-ITX cases that don’t support a full-length graphics card due to their small footprint. While by no means a complete list, here are some of the options out there (note: there are many more mini-ITX cases that don’t support a full-height or dual-slot expansion card at all, such as slim HTPC enclosures):
|Cooler Master||Elite 110||$47.99, Amazon.com|
|Lian Li||PC-O5||$377, Amazon.com|
|Lian Li||PC-Q01||$59.99, Newegg.com|
|Lian Li||PC-Q03||$74.99, Newegg.com|
|Lian Li||PC-Q07||$71.98, Amazon.com|
|Lian Li||PC-Q30||$139.99, Newegg.com|
|Lian Li||PC-Q33||$134.99, Newegg.com|
|Rosewill||Legacy V3 Plus-B||$59.99, Newegg.com|
The list is dominated by Lian Li, who offers a number of cube-like mini-ITX enclosures that would ordinarily be out of the question for a gaming rig, unless one of the few ITX-specific cards were chosen for the build. Many other fine enclosure makers (Antec, BitFenix, Corsair, Fractal Design, SilverStone, etc.) offer mini-ITX enclosures that support full-length GPUs, as this has pretty much become a requirement for an enthusiast PC case.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | October 28, 2015 - 02:48 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: micro-atx, enclosure, corsair, case, Carbide 88RR, carbide
Corsair has introduced a new enclosure that delivers solid looks, a roomy internal layout, and a low $49.99 MSRP.
Image credit: Corsair (via TechPowerUp)
The Carbide Series 88R is a micro-ATX enclosure that offers plenty of room for cooling inside, with dual 120 mm fan mounts up front and on top of the case along with the 120 mm rear fan. There's a 5.25" bay as well for your optical drive needs, and while the open layout doesn't leave a ton of room for storage there is still space for a pair of 3.5" hard drives - with mounts for two SSDs as well.
With 383 mm of GPU clearance even the longest graphics cards will fit, though CPU (up to 150 mm) and PSU (up to 160 mm) support is reduced compared to the typical mid-tower. The Carbide 88R measures 378 x 198 x 440 mm (HxWxD), and weighs 3.65 kg.
Image credit: Corsair (via TechPowerUp)
The $49.99 price point is very attractive, and the Carbide 88R looks very good for a budget offering with a nice brushed finish front panel and a large side window to show off your build. So when can you buy one? Availability, sadly, was not announced.
Introduction and Features
Thermaltake is expanding their Digital Power Supply (DPS) lineup with the introduction of the new Toughpower DPS G Series, which includes six models ranging from 450W up to 1050W. We will be taking a detailed look at the Toughpower DPS G 850W PSU in this review. Note: the new DPS G Series is a new line and is different than the Toughpower DPS 750W/850W/1050W models, which use the basic DPS App software. All DPS G Series power supplies support Thermaltakes new comprehensive suite of Smart Power Management (SPM) software. Thermaltake has also introduced four DPS G power supplies in their Smart Series, the Smart DPS G 600W/650W/700W/750W
Thermaltake’s new DPS G Series power supplies incorporate an embedded digital controller, which enables them to communicate with the Smart Power Management software to monitor and record various functions of the PC and power supply. Some of Thermaltakes competition (notably Corsair) has offered “digital” power supplies for some time. Even though Thermaltake may be coming a little late to the party, they appear to have done their homework and continue to expand the software, which now includes a full suite of digital monitoring, recording and analysis software to support the Toughpower DPS G Series power supplies.
(Courtesy of Thermaltake)
The Toughpower DPS G 850W power supply features fully modular, flat-ribbon style cables, 80 Plus Gold certification for high efficiency, is Haswell and ErP Lot ready, and supports multiple graphic adapters with six PCI-E connectors.
Thermaltake Toughpower DPS G 850W PSU Key Features:
• 850W continuous DC output (up to 50°C)
• Embedded digital controller communicates with Thermaltake’s SPM software
• 80 PLUS Gold certified, at least 90% efficiency under 50% load
• Fully modular cables for easy installation
• Flat ribbon-style, low profile cables for a clean installation
• Single high-current +12V output (70.8A/249.7W)
• Dual ball bearing 140mm fan for reliability and long life
• High-quality Japanese made electrolytic capacitors (105°C)
• ErP Lot and Haswell ready
• NVIDIA SLI ready with six 6+2 pin PCI-E connectors
• Active Power Factor correction (0.99) with Universal AC input
• Safety Protections : OVP, UVP, SCP, and OPP
• 7-Year Warranty
• MSRP for the Toughpower DPS G 850W: $199.99 USD
Subject: Cases and Cooling | October 22, 2015 - 04:08 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: mini-itx, fractal design, core 500
For those building an HTPC or who prefer a tiny system to a full sized ATX build, Fractal Design is a common choice for a case maker. Their newest is the Core 500 Mini-ITX case, measuring 250x213x380mm (9.8x8.0x14.4"), with a single 5.25" bay on the front, up to six internal drives mixed between 3.5" and 2.5" and a front panel with two USB 3.0 and headphone and microphone jacks. The Tech Report liked the spartan exterior but did have some problems when installing components in the system, the all-in-one liquid cooler they used had issues fitting and larger GPUs will also prove problematic. On the other hand with a $60 price tag the case is much less expensive than other mini-ITX cases and if you plan your components carefully you shouldn't have issues fitting them into the Core 500.
"Fractal Design's Core 500 is the company's take on a Mini-ITX case that stays compact while making room for big radiators and graphics cards, along with plenty of storage. We poked around and put our Casewarmer test system inside to see how the Core 500 measures up."
Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:
- Thermaltake Suppressor F51 Mid-Tower Case Review @ Neoseeker
- Nanoxia Deep Silence 5 Rev. B @ techPowerUp
- SilverStone Fortress FTZ01 Mini-ITX @ Benchmark Reviews
- Silverstone Raven RVZ02B-W & SX500-LG @ Legion Hardware
- Noctua NH-D15S CPU Cooler Review: How the Best Got Better @ Modders-Inc
- Scythe Ninja 4 @ techPowerUp
- Noctua NH-C14S CPU Cooler Review: Balance Through Asymmetry @ Modders-Inc
Subject: Cases and Cooling | October 20, 2015 - 08:00 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Silverstone, RVX01, rv05, raven, mid-tower, enclosure, case, 90 degree motherboard
There's a new version of the Raven mid-tower enclosure on the way, and while it still offers a premium look this new model will be priced to move with a projected price of just $80.
The SilverStone Raven RVX01 still features a 90-degree inverted motherboard design, with the I/O facing the top of the enclosure as with the current RV05, a layout that provides excellent cooling power from fans that blow hot air upwards from the floor of the case. No less than 3 of SilverStone's 120 mm "Air Penetrator" fans are pre-mounted at the bottom of the RVX01 (up from two 180 mm fans in the RV05), so there should be no shortage of cooling power. It will be interesting to see how noise might be affected by the smaller fan size, thought on their high setting the RV05's 180 mm fans were among the loudest I've tested.
The new Raven case features the same aggressive, angular styling as before, again with a 5.25"-free design that offers only internal drive mounts. But where the current Raven only offered a single dual-3.5" bay along with a pair of 2.5" SSD mounts behind the motherboard, this new version has 4 bays that can be used for 3.5" or 2.5" drives. While the drive total will be the same the option of up to 4 3.5" drives will definitely appeal to some, as the previous design was rather restrictive when it came to storage.
The Raven RVX01 is scheduled for a November 2015 release.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | October 15, 2015 - 09:46 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: PC-18, mid-tower, Lian Li, enclosure, case, aluminum case
Lian Li has announced a new mid-tower enclosure for the North American market, and the PC-18 has a decidedly retro style.
Dual 5.25-inch external optical drive bays? Boxy styling? Bare metal interior? The hallmarks of a 1990's case are here with Lian Li's new PC-18 mid-tower, but there is an interesting addition to a classic design with a hinged radiator bracket in the center of the enclosure.
The PC-18 uses this bracket to support up to 360 mm long radiators, though for a CPU I can see how the installation process for a self-contained system (depending on hose length) might be a bit tricky considering the hinge is on the right side, and closing the bracket blocks access to the CPU.
No rear exhaust fan opening? Retro.
For a GPU, on the other hand, I could see how the bracket's central positioning and hinged mount would make installing a card like AMD's Fury X really convenient.
Here are the full specs:
- Model: PC-18 A/B
- Case Type: Mid Tower Chassis
- Color: Black or Silver
- Material: Aluminum
- Expansion Slot: 7
- MB Type: ATX, Micro-ATX
- External drive bays: 2x 5.25"
- Internal drive bays: (HDD bay) 3.5" HDD x3, 2.5" HDD x1; (Remove HDD rack) 3.5" HDD x2 or 3.5"/2.5" HDD x1
- System Fans: (Front) 120mm x2; (Top) 140mm x1; (Side) 120mm x3 or 140mm x2
- I/O Ports: USB 3.0 x2, HD Audio
- PSU Type: ATX PSU
- Maximum VGA Card length: 285 mm (410 mm with HDD bay removed)
- CPU cooler height: 160mm
- PSU length: 160mm
- Dimensions: (W) 210mm (H) 452mm (D )490mm
- Net Weight: 5kg
The Lian Li PC-18 carries an MSRP of $149.99 and availability is listed as "coming soon".
Subject: Cases and Cooling | October 8, 2015 - 02:38 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: reeven, ouranos
The previous models of Reeven we have seen reviewed were for SFF systems, the Steropes and Brontes. The Ouranos that Modders-Inc recently reviewed is somewhat larger, though nowhere near the mass of the serious coolers which Morry prefers. It stands at 143x161x95mm (5.6x6.3x3.7") and weighs just over a kilogram at 1030g. The design allowed for the heatsink to be installed in any orientation without interfering with RAM or components close to the socket and the adjustable fan speed lets you chose your own balance between noise and cooling performance. Read on to see the full review.
"There was a time when the prevalent design philosophy for CPU cooler design was "the bigger, the better". That is no longer the case as users now look for smarter implementations that are much more convenient and functional than simply brute-force cooling. Smaller coolers present the advantage of better compatibility with various components so the latest generation of large CPU …"
Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:
- EK-XRES DCP 4.0 PWM combo @ HardwareOverclock
- Swiftech H240-X AIO CPU Cooler @ Modders-Inc
- Deepcool GamerStorm Captain 240 @ Kitguru
- Antec P380 Full Tower Review @ NikKTech
- Streacom F12C @ techPowerUp
- be quiet! Silent Base 600 Window Mid-Tower Chassis @ eTeknix
- BitFenix AEGIS mATX Case Review @ Neoseeker
- be quiet! Silent Base 600 (Windowed) @ Kitguru
- Cougar MX200 Case Review @ Hardware Secrets
- Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX Mid-Tower Chassis @ eTeknix
- Silverstone ML06-E Mini-ITX HTPC Case @ Benchmark Reviews
New Components, New Approach
After 20 or so enclosure reviews over the past year and a half and some pretty inconsistent test hardware along the way, I decided to adopt a standardized test bench for all reviews going forward. Makes sense, right? Turns out choosing the best components for a cases and cooling test system was a lot more difficult than I expected going in, as special consideration had to be made for everything from form-factor to noise and heat levels.
Along with the new components I will also be changing the approach to future reviews by expanding the scope of CPU cooler testing. After some debate as to the type of CPU cooler to employ I decided that a better test of an enclosure would be to use both closed-loop liquid and air cooling for every review, and provide thermal and noise results for each. For CPU cooler reviews themselves I'll be adding a "real-world" load result to the charts to offer a more realistic scenario, running a standard desktop application (in this case a video encoder) in addition to the torture-test result using Prime95.
But what about this new build? It isn't completely done but here's a quick look at the components I ended up with so far along with the rationale for each selection.
CPU – Intel Core i5-6600K ($249, Amazon.com)
The introduction of Intel’s 6th generation Skylake processors provided the
excuse opportunity for an upgrade after using an AMD FX-6300 system for the last couple of enclosure reviews, and after toying with the idea of the new i7-6700K, and immediately realizing this was likely overkill and (more importantly) completely unavailable for purchase at the time, I went with the more "reasonable" option with the i5. There has long been a debate as to the need for hyper-threading for gaming (though this may be changing with the introduction of DX12) but in any case this is still a very powerful processor and when stressed should produce a challenging enough thermal load to adequately test both CPU coolers and enclosures going forward.
GPU – XFX Double Dissipation Radeon R9 290X ($347, Amazon.com)
This was by far the most difficult selection. I don’t think of my own use when choosing a card for a test system like this, as it must meet a set of criteria to be a good fit for enclosure benchmarks. If I choose a card that runs very cool and with minimal noise, GPU benchmarks will be far less significant as the card won’t adequately challenge the design and thermal characteristics of the enclosure. There are certainly options that run at greater temperatures and higher noise (a reference R9 290X for example), but I didn’t want a blower-style cooler with the GPU. Why? More and more GPUs are released with some sort of large multi-fan design rather than a blower, and for enclosure testing I want to know how the case handles the extra warm air.
Noise was an important consideration, as levels from an enclosure of course vary based on the installed components. With noise measurements a GPU cooler that has very low output at idle (or zero, as some recent cooler designs permit) will allow system idle levels to fall more on case fans and airflow than a GPU that might drown them out. (This would also allow a better benchmark of CPU cooler noise - particularly with self-contained liquid coolers and audible pump noise.) And while I wanted very quiet performance at idle, at load there must be sufficient noise to measure the performance of the enclosure in this regard, though of course nothing will truly tax a design quite like a loud blower. I hope I've found a good balance here.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | October 5, 2015 - 02:29 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: air cooling, enermax, ETS-T40F-W
Have you recently bought a white motherboard and a matching case to go with it? Are you now bemoaning the fact that your cooler just isn't matching rhe Storm Trooper vibe that you have going on in your case? Enermax has a solution, the ETS-T40F-W cooler, 610 grams of glowing white cooling standing 139x93x160mm (5.5x3.7x6.3"). The Thermal Conductive Coating does seem to work effectively, though the cooler is not among the best that [H]ard|OCP has reviewed. They also recommend running the fan at low speed as high speed does not increase the cooling as noticeably as it increases the fan noise. Then again, at $50 and being the only coloured cooler on the market does place it in an interesting niche market.
"Enermax comes to us with its new compact size model, the ETS-T40F-W CPU air cooler also referred to as the "Fit" series cooler. This model is decked out in its best Storm Trooper white garb which is actually what Enermax calls its "Thermal Conductive Coating." Do the Fit's dual 12cm fans have what it takes to make a good CPU air cooler?"
Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:
- Building your first Custom Designed Watercooled PC: KitGuru TV
- EKWB EK-XLC Predator 240 Pre-filled CPU Xpandable Liquid Cooler Review @ NikKTech
- Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX @ Modders-Inc
- Silverstone SG12 Micro-ATX @ eTeknix
- Antec GX505 Window SC Mid-Tower @ Benchmark Reviews
- Streacom ST-F12CS Aluminium ATX HTPC Chassis @ eTeknix
- StarTech 25U Open-Frame Server Rack Cabinet @ Phoronix
Subject: Cases and Cooling | October 5, 2015 - 09:01 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: wall mount, thermaltake
Personally, I would like to see at least an option for plexiglass on the perimeter. I feel like some might want a bit of protection from things like sneezes, or rogue squirt-gun blasts. The “case” is basically a plate with a clear acrylic pane in front of it. It can stand upright, be rotated horizontally, or even screwed into a wall if you want to show off a custom liquid coolant loops or something.
Interestingly, Thermaltake is providing “3D Printing Accessory Files”. I somehow doubt that this will be the CAD files required to lasercut your own Core P5 case, but it's designed to allow makers to create their own accessories for it. As such, this sounds more like guides and schematics, but I cannot say for sure because I haven't tried it... and they're not available yet.
The Thermaltake Core P5 will be available soon for an MSRP of $169.99, although it's already at a sale price of $149.99. This could be just a pre-order discount, or a sign of its typical price point. We don't know.