Video Perspective: Building a High Powered MicroATX Gaming PC

Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: Various

Big Power, Small Size

Though the mindset that a small PC is a slow PC is fading, there are still quite a few readers out there that believe the size of your components will indicate how well they perform. That couldn't be further from the case, and this week we decided to build a small, but not tiny, PC to showcase that small can be beautiful too!

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Below you will find a complete list of parts and components used in our build - but let me say right off the bat, to help alleviate as much vitriol in the comments as possible, there are quite a few ways you could build this system to either get a lower price, or higher performance, or quieter design, etc. Our selections were based on a balance of both with a nod towards expansion in a few cases.

Take a look:

  MicroATX Gaming Build
Processor Intel Core i7-4790K - $334
Corsair Hydro Series H80i - $87
Motherboard Gigabyte Z97MX-Gaming 5 - $127
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws X 8GB DDR3-2133 - $88
Graphics Card EVGA GeForce GTX 970 FTW - $399
Storage Samsung 250GB 850 EVO - $139
Western Digital 2TB Green - $79
Case Corsair Carbide Series Air 240 - $89
Power Supply Seasonic Platinum 860 watt PSU - $174
OS Windows 8.1 x64 - $92
Total Price $1602 - Amazon Full Cart

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The starting point for this system is the Intel Core i7-4790K, the top-end Haswell processor for the Z97 chipset. In fact, the Core i7-4790K is a Devil's Canyon part, created by Intel to appease the enthusiast looking for an overclockable and high clocked quad-core part. This CPU will only lag behind the likes of the Haswell-E LGA2011 processors, but at just $340 or so, is significantly less expensive. Cooling the 4790K is Corsair's Hydro Series H80i double-thickness self contained water cooler.

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For the motherboard I selected the Gigabyte Z97MX-Gaming 5, a MicroATX motherboard that combines performance and features in a mATX form factor, perfect for our build. This board includes support for SLI and CrossFire, has audio OP-AMP support, USB ports dedicated for DACs, M.2 storage support, Killer networking and more.

Continue reading our build for a MicroATX Gaming system!!

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We went with the EVGA GeForce GTX 970 FTW, an overclocked-out-of-the-box card that offers great cooling, low noise and is low enough profile to fit inside the case without issue. The GTX 970 offers a lot of gaming power for under $400, though you could jump over to the AMD side and pick up a Radeon R9 290X for $300-350.

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Our system memory comes from G.Skill in the form of 8GB of DDR3 running at 2133 MHz, leaving you plenty of room for overclocking and tweaking. We are powering it all with a Seasonic 860 watt Platinum power supply - honestly a bit overkill for the components but allows you to run the system in a nearly silent mode when fully loaded and leaves plenty of room for another graphics card should you want to upgrade down the road.

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Storage in our build is a combination of a 250GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD along with a 2TB Western Digital Green hard drive for long term storage. The 850 EVO is one of the fastest SATA SSDs on the planet and launched at a very aggressive price point - perfect for the goals of this build!

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All of this goodness gets contained inside a Corsair Carbide Air 240, one of our favorite small form factor cases. Because of the dual-chamber design you get a shorter case than even your normal mATX cases, though you do gain a bit of width (don't we all...). The result is an incredibly clean, compact and, in our case, white system that only needs a copy of Windows 8.1 to finish it off.

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Do you feel the excitement?

I'm curious to see what you guys would build for your own systems with a similar budget and similar goal. Feel free to post us your builds from in the comments below!

Video News

December 31, 2014 | 10:17 AM - Posted by darknas-36

Here is the Link to my Current System I have Built

December 31, 2014 | 10:35 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Definitely less expensive than what we have in our build here, though probably a bit slower in most areas: CPU, GPU, SSD, etc. For a low cost option to get to 1080p gaming though, this is a great start!

December 31, 2014 | 02:47 PM - Posted by darknas-36

Thank you for the comment and I hope to upgrade in the near future when more money becomes available.

December 31, 2014 | 10:52 AM - Posted by YTech

An interesting build, Ryan. Pretty much similar to what I'd like to build for myself, plus a Blu-Ray Drive, however I am still debating if SLI would still be worth it (probably 2x 760 GTX due to cost of the 960/980 GTX).

One of the main challenges is finding a case that I like. The Corsair Carbide Series Air 240 is too bulky, but the height is right. Ideally I'd want an horizontal case so I can place it above my Receiver/Amp/HTS.

Building my own is another challenge by itself, due to lack of material and tools, but also my designs still doesn't seem right.

N.B. : "Video Perspective" I thought there was an actual video involved.

December 31, 2014 | 01:08 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Well that was dumb - there IS a video involved. I have no embedded it. :)

January 2, 2015 | 05:16 PM - Posted by CrazySurfaNZ (not verified)

Hey YTech, Check out the Caselabs Mercury S5, they're not cheap, but they are beautiful cases - really well put together, amazing flexibility, and really nice to work with.

They have the S5 in Micro ATX, S8 in ATX< and S3 in Mini Itx depending on exactly what you're after.

PCPer needs to review these cases, they're awesome :)


December 31, 2014 | 10:53 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)


Couldn't you have saved some money by going with lower wattage power supply? A 500W would be more than enough for this system. It's not like you're going to do 4 way SLI in a microATX build. lol.

December 31, 2014 | 01:05 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

You definitely could, maybe save as much as $80-100 really. Like I stated, this Platinum unit from Seasonic is very efficient and stays silent under full load with this hardware.

December 31, 2014 | 03:30 PM - Posted by Bill (not verified)

No doubt. An 860 watt "platinum" psu for a build like this is huge overkill. You could easily shave off over $100 just by going with a decent 600 watt "gold" psu. Honestly, unless you live in Hawaii where electricity is very expensive, platinum psu's never make sense anyway.

December 31, 2014 | 10:58 AM - Posted by Feitank

Isn't a bit overkill the i7? an i5 would do just fine.

December 31, 2014 | 01:06 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

"Just fine" - sure. But you could say that the GTX 760 was that as well. Just different strokes for different folks.

December 31, 2014 | 02:14 PM - Posted by Jesso2k (not verified)

I we're talking gaming, the difference between an i5 & i7 being absolutely no added frames vs a GTX 770 & 970 having what like 15+? Not really the comparison I would make and almost comes off as disingenuous. This has nothing to do with bigger kickbacks from your Amazon affiliate links does it?

December 31, 2014 | 04:58 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Or, maybe people use computers for more than just gaming? Maybe?

December 31, 2014 | 05:36 PM - Posted by Jesso2k (not verified)

Well you titled it as gaming focused and I re-read the blurb about cpu that doesn't really tell us anything. Maybe you guys can do up an article in the future about the the benefits hyper threading and why it matters to consumers, maybe?

December 31, 2014 | 06:20 PM - Posted by Jesso2k (not verified)

On a less passive agressive tone, I did watch the video which was well done. You mention transcoding at the end, do you think an i7 can help with shadowplay in anyway is it handled entirely by the gpu? Thanks

January 1, 2015 | 01:31 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Actually Shadowplay uses the GPU for transcoding so I don't think in that case it would make a difference. When using something like Wirecast or Xsplit it might help though.

December 31, 2014 | 11:28 AM - Posted by Jesso2k (not verified)

Ryan, can we see a report on what oc'ing a cpu and what hyperthreading can bring to the table for gaming?

Most everywhere states hyper threading doesn't help, nor does oc'ing outside of a small number of cpu intensive games, like world of tanks. As long as you have four Haswell cores, you should be good to go.

I just built a similar m-itx rig and saved money by going with an i5 4590 and an h97 board. I turned those savings around for a gtx 980 and I'd put mine up against yours anyday.

However it's the last deal of boxing day deals and I'm wondering how many activities an i7 could speed up over the i5 in daily life before the price jumps up again. The i7's 4.4 GHz boost clock does appeal to me even if I keep the h97 mobo.


December 31, 2014 | 11:57 AM - Posted by Daniel Nielsen (not verified)

Nice setup, since you did the review of the Carbide Air 240 i have really been wanting that case.

Personally right now im running a Corsair 350D, with a i7 4770K cooled by a Corsair H100i. Graphics are delivered by a MSI R9 290X Gaming. And RAM wise i threw 16GB of Corsair 1600mhz Dominators in it.

I really like the 350D case, but this Carbide 240 is just a quirky design that im very tempted to get it.

December 31, 2014 | 11:57 AM - Posted by Daniel Nielsen (not verified)

Oh forgot my motherboard, thats a Asus Maximus Gene VI.

December 31, 2014 | 02:14 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I have a Micro ATX build I'm currently running. My strategy is to go for the absolute lowest prices though buying used/refurb off Ebay and just wherever is cheapest.

Nvidia GTX 970 4gb 12/16/14 $297.00

Samsung 840 evo 250gb 12/19/14 $100.75

Logitech g930 headset refurb 12/23/14 $69.99

Dell e2715h monitor 11/30/14 $229.99

Crucial ddr3 pc3-12800 2x2gb 10/4/14 $47.12

Crucial ddr3 pc3-12800 2x4gb 9/2/14 $64.95

Intel i5-4670 quad core 1150 haswell 9/2/14 $219.99

Evga 600 watt 80 plus psu 9/2/14 $59.99

Silverstone ps09b micro atx case 9/2/14 $39.99

Gigabyte ga-h97m-d3h micro atx 1150 motherboard 9/2/14 $89.99

Samsung 840 evo 250gb 9/2/14 $118.99

Sonos play 5 used 5/17/14 $338.99

January 3, 2015 | 04:20 PM - Posted by AnonymousMouse (not verified)

Why the mis-matched RAM timings & stick capacities? Isn't that like dropping to your knees & begging for really funky performance problems?

December 31, 2014 | 10:07 PM - Posted by Kingkookaluke (not verified)

That's a neat little build there.

December 31, 2014 | 10:08 PM - Posted by Kingkookaluke (not verified)

Always go I7 dinks....Why would you not, except in a cheap laptop?

January 1, 2015 | 04:25 PM - Posted by PapaDragon

I would add a 144hz monitor to the cost, but that's just me. Great choices, nice looking system!

January 2, 2015 | 03:27 AM - Posted by serpico (not verified)

Here's my attempt at a similar build that I believe will offer very similar gaming performance but no overclocking/ multi-gpu support. It has intel i5 so it wouldn't be as good for other applications.

201.99 intel core i5 4570
49.99 Cooler Master N200 - Mini Tower Computer Case with Front
15 choice of 120mm case fan.
89 gigabyte GA-H97M-D3H
88 G.Skill Ripjaws X 8GB DDR3-2133 - $88
399 EVGA GeForce GTX 970 FTW - $399
110 crucial mx100 or sandisk ultra 2 or samsung 840 evo
79 Western Digital 2TB Green - $79
79 Seasonic s12g-550 550w (newegg)
92 Windows 8.1 x64 - $92

I tried to pick parts that generally had pretty good reviews. The PSU has a silver award from The mobo seems alright, I didn't find any indepth review of it. Since I didn't focus on overclocking I decided to save money and stick with stock cooling.

January 3, 2015 | 07:28 PM - Posted by Joker911 (not verified)

New article, Building a high power Mini-itx Gaming PC! LOL

Similar build but smaller (way smaller)

no expansion/sli
no water cooling

I jumped on the microatx bandwagon as i realized i never ran into scenarios that needed those extra expansion slots. After doing micro for a while they started making some powerful itx boards and i jumped all over the itx bandwagon, because smaller is definitely better but we currently pay a premium for that luxury and those components used to be so hot that cooling/airflow/case design was super important atleast the recent hardware has much lower tdp. Then I came to realize that due to hardware obsolescence i rarely expand upon my initial build and ive only ended up replacing parts. How often do you see the average consumer actually expand upon their initial build instead of upgrading parts? And if thats the case outside of crazy initial builds what point is there to atx anymore?

January 10, 2015 | 09:49 PM - Posted by MizzSpark (not verified)

I loved this build I have the 240's bigger brother though and went with an overall close to enthusiast build with the 980 not a Titan Black. But I really loved the ITX's and I would've build one had I not won the new X99 platform. So I had to go a bit overboard for it. But this is beautiful and I love my Carbide 540 Air and it's definitely an awesome case in the Micro-ATX 240 version.

April 24, 2015 | 07:34 AM - Posted by Anonymousity (not verified)

Why chose WD Green series, instead of Black, Red, Yellow whatever?

Any particular reasons of that?

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