Armed with an EVGA Z77 Stinger, a Bitfenix Prodigy, and a load of Corsair kit, Mark sets out to build a small gaming rig with big performance.
With my mind made up it was time to choose the parts. I had intended to recycle a lot of stuff from my previous rig, but the limitations of Mini-ITX meant some things had to be replaced. Unlike other builds where you might start with what motherboard and processor you want, a lot of what you can do with Mini-ITX is defined by the case you choose. There are a lot of Mini-ITX cases to choose from these days, but few are geared up for high-performance computing. Many are designed to sit under a TV, or attach to the back of a monitor, giving you little room for long graphics cards or multiple hard drives.
After running down the options there were really only two cases that had the space I needed to house an adequate amount of kit: Silverstone's SUGO range and BitFenix's Prodigy. The Silverstones are small, Shuttle-style cube cases, which come with the added bonus of an included power supply. However, while they will fit a full-length graphics card, there's not a lot of room for much else. There's space for only two 2.5" drives, and only one 3.5" drive. Plus, water-cooling isn't really an option, at least not without extensive modding.
The Prodigy was the obvious choice for my needs. Not only does it support a vast array of cooling options thanks to multiple fan mounts, but it also supports a lot more drives--up to nine if you aren't using a long graphics card. In my opinion, it looks a lot better too. Other great features include support for full-size ATX power supplies, which are ideal if you need the extra power for overclocking, plus there's lots of room inside for big CPU heatsinks, should you wish to use one. The only issue you might have with the case is its size: it isn't the smallest Mini-ITX case out there, but compared to something like the 650D, it's positively tiny.
For the CPU I decided to reuse the Intel Core i7 2700K from my last build. Intel's new Ivy Bridge chips do have the added benefit of support for the new, faster PCIe 3.0 standard, as well as slightly lower power consumption, but for me its performance boosts weren't quite enough to consider splashing out on a whole new CPU. I did, however, need to get a new motherboard. There isn't a whole lot of choice when it comes to Mini-ITX, particularly in the performance category.
Gigabyte makes a value-orientated range, but even on the Z77 model, overclocking support is weak at best. That left ASRock's Z77E-ITX, and ASUS's P8Z77-I Deluxe. Both have received rave reviews for their performance, especially ASUS's board, which--with its unique 10-phase power Digi+ VRM daughter board--should overclock like a champ.
But just when I thought I'd made my mind up, enthusiast favourite EVGA released its take on Mini-ITX with the Z77 Stinger motherboard. I've had some experience with EVGA's graphics cards and most notably its monster SR-2, dual Xeon motherboard that we used to build the Greatest Gaming Rig on GameSpot. Both times I was impressed with the build quality and performance of its devices. And--from a purely superficial point of view--the understated black and red colour scheme was way more appealing than the neon blue of the ASUS.
The EVGA Stinger has a similar feature set too, including four SATA ports (two 3G, two 6G), support for up to 16GB of 2133MHz DDR3 RAM, 7+1 Phase PWM, two e-SATA ports, and up to six USB 3.0 ports. What's missing is the included WiFi card, which is a disappointing omission at the board's higher price of £160, though there is a Mini PCI-e slot on the motherboard for adding one yourself.
The rest of the rig was an easy shop. For the GPU I settled on an Nvidia GTX 680--a bump over the 570 I used last year--and for cooling I decided to reuse Corsair's excellent 240mm radiator H100 liquid cooler, which performed brilliantly for me over the past year. Some things, however, had to be replaced. The RAM, which was originally 16GB spread out over four sticks, had to go. With only two slots it had to be replaced with two 8GB sticks, for which I went with Corsair's mean-looking performance-tweaked 1866Mhz Dominator Platinum RAM.
The PSU posed its own problems. While Bitfenix's Prodigy case supports full-size ATX PSUs, it only supports those with a maximum length of 160mm. That meant the Corsair 850HX I'd been using wouldn't fit. Instead, I replaced it with a fully modular Corsair AX 750 PSU, and paired it with a red braided cable kit to match the motherboard. For storage I went with a Corsair Neutron 240GB SSD, rated for 555 MB/s sequential read and 370 MB/s sequential write, and one of Samsung's new 840 Pro SSDs, which are rated for 540 MB/s sequential write, and 520 MB/s sequential read.
The Corsair would be used for storing the Windows OS, as well as a few key programs and games that I played often. The Samsung, with its superior write speeds would be used for a Hackintosh partition (that is, installing Mac OS X onto standard PC hardware), on which I do most of my audio and video work. I don't store a whole lot of media on my rig--a 4TB home server handles those duties--so I went with a pair of single platter, 500GB 7200RPM Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.D drives.
Here's the total list of parts including prices:
Case: Bitfenix Prodigy White - £64.99 ($79.99)
Motherboard: EVGA Z77 Stinger - £160 ($199.99)
CPU: Intel Core i7 2700K @3.5Ghz - £200 ($329.99)
RAM: 16GB Corsair DDR3 Dominator Platinum, PC3-14900 (1866), CAS 9-10-9-27 - £150 ($154.99)
Cooling: Corsair H100 - £90 ($100)
PSU: Corsair AX750 - £126 ($169.99)
Cables: Corsair braided PSU Cables - £52 ($59.99)
Fans: 4x Bitfenix Spectre 120mm White LED - £22 ($46)
SSD One: Corsair Neutron 240GB - £167 ($189.99)
SSD Two: Samsung 840 Pro - £184.99 ($269.99)
Hard Drives: 2X 500GB Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.D - £70 ($113)
GPU: Nvidia GTX 680 2GB - £360 ($469)
Total: £1646.98 ($2182.92)
Would like to point out an inaccuracy in the article:
"The Silverstones are small, Shuttle-style cube cases..... there's not a lot of room for much else...water-cooling isn't really an option, at least not without extensive modding."
Actually the exact opposite is true. My Sugo SG05 is so small that it's impossible to fit any decent sized air cooler in there, the PSU is directly above the CPU socket giving only around 70mm clearance. In fact the ONLY thing that will fit is water cooling. I have an Antec Kuhler 620 in mine, but I've seen photos on Google Images where people have crammed in the considerably larger Corsair H70. Eg http://img.techpowerup.org/110130/2011-01-30_17-32-15_533.jpg
@phase4illini Yes Fractal with it's Node, Lian Li has a couple of cases like the Q25 as well as Silverstone and Coolermaster. The Node BTW also allows for liquid cooling with the use of a kit like the H60 or H80.
@phase4illini I use a Sugo SG05. Fits pretty much any graphics card, I think the maximum clearance is 10.5". Ther are plenty of photos of people with geforce 680s in there.
It's a nice case, but for me the Bitfenix Prodigy completely misses the point, it's so big it's not really Mini ITX at all, it's micro ATX sized case that's only capable of fitting mini ITX motherboards.
Sorry about the double post... kept getting kicked to the Gamespot main page and didn't realize they were actually posting.
Why are people still buying the 680, when the 670 can EASILY OC to a much higher and still stable speed, while remaining significantly cheaper?
@UniversalPie I would go a step further, if you are playing at a 1080 resolution the 660Ti delivers the same gaming experience and with some overclocking gets close to the 670.
Despite what I said before, this article is about showing how cool a Mini-ITX rig can be as many people think getting huge towers is still the way to go which to be quite honest isn't really required anymore unless you're an enthusiast who likes to have multiple GPUs and custom water loops. It definitely wasn't a post for a budget build either so mentioning that he has wasted money is quite irrelevant as this isn't a budget PC article. This case compared to alot of full tower cases and mid tower cases is actually ALOT smaller in real life and it does allow you to place your PC onto your desk instead of the floor etc. That said this case is also one of the wisest choices for a mini-ITX rig because of it's PRICE and it's capability of being able to fit high end hardware and custom water loops, sure it's a bit bigger than some mini-ITX cases but it can damn well fit alot more hardware in it. The people complaining need to do a little bit more research. Another thing is no having more than 8GBs is NOT a waste of money for one you can avoid disgusting memory leaks from some of the newer games and also have page filing off on your hard drives to allow more space on your SSD etc. ALSO there is this thing called RAMDISK that's currently out which allows you to use your RAM as a storage device which is light years faster than any SSD on the market. With all the hater comments it's likely the people complaining will be the ones who will actually eventually waste money on building a new system as they clearly don't know shit.
@random-flip Flips I would disagree about one of the wisest choices, in fact after building in one I fail to see what all the hype is about. I will grant it has the most cooling options but that is about all. The Node 304 allows for liquid cooling and a large number of drives as well. In fact the build in this article could be done in a Node easily with the exception that the H100 would need to be switched to an H80 or H60.
I will go further the Prodigy has an unstable footing, the case has a tendency to rock side to side and the "feet" will slide on about 75% or better of desk surfaces. The Prodigy is a wide open case for basically building a full tower PC in an mITX design but to say it is wisest choice is wrong.
Waste of money in my opinion.... But if you have a lot of cash to spend i guess it is understandable
16G? RAM is a waste of money having 8 GB RAM is more than enough and instead of a GTX570 you should have used your money to buy at least a GTX 660 Ti (it is a way faster solution from the 570 and especially for DirectX11 gaming)
I see nothing wrong with someone doing an upgrade on their PC and showing off what they did...if your proud of what you've built show it off! Personally I needed more space, I got tired of desktop PC's and went with a Laptop gaming rig. This was the first time I ever did this before so I was a little sceptical about the level of performance I would get. I got the third generation I7 2.4GHz CPU overclocks itself up to 3.4 GHz, 32gigs of DDR3 1600MHz system memory, a GTX 680m video card which works hand in hand with the CPU, sound blaster X-Fi sound card I also got a 750GB HD & a 250GB HD. My laptop came with a 17.3 inch display with a screen res of 1920x1080 I really want to upgrade to a SSD hard drive but I'll just have to wait on that as I have already spent over $2500 on this custom built laptop. I don't post this info because I'm trying to show off, I do it because I'm proud of my rig and gaming or video editing or whatever I want to do I can do all at maximum performance. That's the way us PC gamers are, we like to build and in some cases buy the most powerful rigs that we can get...if you are a hater because you can only afford that piece of crap game console well that's your problem not mine I will be playing all my games at maxed out detail settings. Go get a job and save your money like the rest of us...my father tought me a long time ago "if you want nice things in life then you have to be willing to work for them" so don't be a hater, save your money by your own PC or build it and then you to can share your build with the rest of us.
Great Read. I was looking something for myself to build my very own compact power house. This looks great and I'm looking forward to build a similar one. Thank you Mark !!
A lot of poor young kids commenting in here with nothing but hate.
You people should have some respect for someone who worked hard to buy what they can afford. This man did his research and decided build something with passion rather than just buying something off the shelf. Sure, he may not have modded it but he certainly made something more unique than most of you users on Dell or HP desktops.
I spent $3k on my setup. You going to persecute me too? I'm on 3 monitors, you jealous yet? If you answered yes to eaither of those, you need to get a real job and a life. I went to college and worked my ass off to be able to afford the things I have.
I have no respect for people who hate out of jealousy.
@bigelf72 true that brother!!! fucking online haters these days :@ i actually like this article and in fact i might actually do exactly the same cause its helpful.
respect for you man, it seems like im not the only normal fucking guy left on the internet :))))
what is this article about really? showing off? Anyone knows you can build any pc imaginable with unlimited resources. what about article that explains how to build PC more powerful than PS3 with half a price
@puukusa PC gaming is huge and building a PC is a huge part of it all. PC gamers like me find this interesting? If you aren't interested in the article then don't click on it just to post a hate comment.
@realguitarhero5 which part of my comment is exactly hateful?
I'm giving my much valued reader feedback.
You probably live rainbowland where everyone gets a "good job" pat on the back even if it's the extreme opposite of compliment received. But if you aren't interested in realistic feedbacks don't scroll down to comments just to post a hate reply.
"Downsizing" Hahaha who are you kidding. That is one huge chassis. Also, SFF PC is a gimmick. In the end of the day, it still functions as a bulky desktop PC and completely lacks mobility. It's only for those with a stomach for this niche hobby.
I f you want to have dual boot two ssd are the easiest chocie for install the OSX and Win7 or 8. Other way you must be a unix guru. Th 16 gb of RAM are needed if you want you system ton RUN molecular dynamics simulations!
Why do so many people hate this article. Sure, he went way overboard with his specs, but these were his preferences. Also, if you read the article till the end," That's a success in my book, and it gets even better for non-gaming tasks like video and audio rendering where the SSDs shave a lot of time off critical tasks. You can of course build a rig for a lot less money, depending on your needs, and hit similar levels of performance in games. This Mini-ITX rig wasn't the easiest thing to build, and there were compromises to be made, but for me, it's now my perfect PC: small, compact, and extremely powerful, all while looking fantastic. I can't ask for much more than that." Thanks for the article Mark :)
@nojumplmao then STFU and no oneneeds to know you crappy opinion, this article was 4 pages long, you shouldve realised by the first page that this was bad and left the page asap, this guy is a genius, first he knows how to spend money in the right way. SECOND he knows how to build the right PC more than you do. So he is smarter than you FINANCIALLY and TECHNOLOGICALLY.
@nojumplmao Very rude and disrespectful.
The motherboard chosen is unnecessary so is the second HDD and SSD. The i7 is also a big waste of money for gaming since an i5 has the same core speeds and will perform all the same in games while costing you $100 or so less, there is no point in having the H100 Corsair unless you want to overclock as well so only that smaller fraction of people who overclock would find any use for that extra $100 plus. He could've built this system with a standard H61 motherboard and i5 3570, intel stock cooling and 8gb ram sticks with a decent PSU and a GTX 680 and be able to play games with no bottlenecks for about $700 or more less.
hahah what! 16GB at $154, 2 SSD's and 2 HDD all for a total of $2000+ wtf? whats the point of this any idiot can do this with that kind of money, All this is is bragging/wasting money.
somebody that puts 16gb ram in their gaming rig, and a 750psu for a gtx 680 just wants to waste money on purpose...so rather show som realistic well valued builds instead of such nonsense
i don't know, but you save money down the road if you would just invest in a higher powered psu for future upgrades, never know when you would want to go SLI or CFX. I have dual GTX 670 and running a Seasonic 1250 psu. The extra power makes for a smoother/cooler running psu than pushing 700w on a 750w psu. My take. If you got the money go for it.
@Nemesis788450 Actually he said he'd do video/music editing on it as well so the ram is justified. And some games particularly where multi-boxing is concerned with multiple clients open, the more ram the better.I don't know much about the PSU but I'm fairly sure my 750W is the limiting factor to output power for 2x overclocked 6950s in my rig. But as you say, 750 for a single GPU is overkill.
i built a mini rig too...with the fractal 304...i think most of the stuff you use is just way too expensive...i will pay half that with going for the best value parts and be able to buy a new rig in 3 years...besides, the prodigy case does not only look bad but is also way to big - you can find micro atx cases of that size...and i would also be very hesitant with overclocking especially in a high price rig, it just doesnt make sense, you might get issues with a to weak psu (size issues) or with heat...and even if you can pull it off, it will lower the life expecantcy of your parts which than makes no sense to buy the high end stuff in the first place...i went for an overclocked gtx 670, a i5 3550, a gygabyte h77 board and an ssd and i guarantee you i will be able to play everything on max/high for the next 2-3 years when i will replace it anyway, and all that for half the money you spent
That system is still too big... Try a large shoe box sized Mini iTX build I got myself for x'mas:
ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe
Intel Core i7-3770K
EVGA GeForce GTX 690
G.SKILL Trident X Series 16GB
SAMSUNG 840 Pro 256GB SSD
SAMSUNG 840 250GB SSD
Dell UltraSharp U3011
@lunner Thats the best u can ever get!!! congratulations bro! just a question, your monitor has a 2560x1600 resolution, do games actually have a (2560x1600) settings??? or is the maximum for game setting 1980 x 1080??
@abdullaxboxThanks. Yes I play all modern games, such as GW2, BF3, FC3, etc; in 2560x1600, Only thing I would change is the refresh rate, 120Hz would be nice.
@lunner oh ok kool! im about to order my parts right now and hopefully have a built pc by next week. im getting the gtx 690 and about the same processor as yours. the only problem i have now is that im really stuck between 2 monitors:1. 1920 x 1080 that runs @120 Hz 0r2. 2560 x 1600 @60hz which one do u recommend for me?? i am an first person shooter gamer, and like playing BF3, crysis, COD etc... is 60hz-120 hz realy a big difference?? thanx budyy
@lunner the only this i would change is case arch mini mobo maximus gene 5 and water cooling h100
@arkadiyk I would like the Maximus Gene 5, but it is micro ATX. The Silverstone SST-SG08B can only fit Mini-ITX.