While many of us are content with traditional desktop tower PCs, there are those who have been pushing for a more compact and quieter alternative.
One of the pioneers of small computing, VIA Technologies, developed the Mini-ITX form factor over a decade ago in 2001. Although VIAís solutions were too underpowered for daily usage, over the next few years motherboard manufacturers were able to adapt more powerful AMD and Intel platforms to use along the tiny 170 ◊ 170 mm (6.7 ◊ 6.7 in) Mini-ITX motherboards.
Subsequently case manufacturers provided support with a range of creative Mini-ITX solutions such as the Lian Li PC-Q25, which we reviewed and awarded a couple of years ago. Considerably smaller than traditional ATX and Micro ATX computer cases, the PC-Q25 not only supported the latest Intel Core i7 processors, but it also allowed for a PCI Express x16 dual-slot graphics card. An impressive feat no matter how you measure it.
But what if you want to go even smaller? That's where Thin Mini-ITX motherboards come in.
Thin Mini-ITX motherboards are similar to standard Mini-ITX as they still measure 170 ◊ 170 mm, except they are not as tall. Whereas standard Mini-ITX boards measure 35mm tall and are designed to be used with standard coolers and memory modules which can take the total height to over 50mm, the Thin Mini-ITX format dictates that no board should be taller than 20mm (25mm with I/O shield).
Yet the Thin Mini-ITX format is more than ultra-low-profile motherboards, itís an entire ecosystem that requires new cases and memory, favoring laptop SO-DIMM modules over the standard desktop DIMMs.
The idea behind the Thin Mini-ITX format, besides the obvious which is to create seriously compact computers, is also to allow for DIY all-in-ones (think of little PCs you can attach to the back of your monitor). Having that said, we don't fully intend to go the all-in-one route in this article, but are aiming to build a powerful Thin Mini-ITX system that can be used in the office or at home as a media PC.
So, to recap, this is our goal: extremely compact, powerful, and near silent operation, as in no-moving-parts silent. For less than $700 including a 256GB SSD, we believe you'll love what the final product will look like.