Anything I should know before building first mini ITX?

By Row1 ยท 16 replies
Aug 14, 2012
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  1. I have built atx desktops, but am considering a mini itx. possib ly with one of those pico power supplies, and an intel 2120t for low power. this will just be for microsoft office stuff and web browsing. I am not a gamer. I understand there is often not a case fan, and if I use a ssd I think the whole thing should be ok with just the cpu fan.

    anything I need to know before getting myself into trouble?
  2. xcylent

    xcylent TS Booster Posts: 231   +17

    not really. just make sure that everything (mobo, CPU heatsink, GPU, etc) will fit comfortably inside the case.
    which case did you have in mind?
  3. Row1

    Row1 TS Guru Topic Starter Posts: 343   +13

    For case, just a cheapo. I am not worried about noise - the only noisy thing will be cpu fan. Should I look for a case that will dissapate heat better?
  4. Darth Shiv

    Darth Shiv TS Evangelist Posts: 1,813   +473

    Absolutely... passive and active cooled GPUs still need the ambient heat to be radiated or ventilated out somehow unless they run quite cold.

    My media centre has poor airflow and the stagnant air around the hard drive bays caused them to run quite hot so I had to pull one out and install hard drive coolers.
  5. Zen

    Zen TechSpot Paladin Posts: 861   +50

    Unless your the type who likes to deal will chronic over heating, performance decreases, computer crashes and internal component damage, than sure, be my guest, get a case that is a heat catcher! If your going to go cheap on a case that you suspect in a non-ventilator, you best beef up your cooling solution budget! Buy a couple more intake/exit fans, maybe drop a couple buck on some inexpensive PCI slot rear exhaust fans, maybe buy a better CPU cooling fan, something! Before settling on this cheap case, I'd vest the time in doing a little more research about them, maybe find one that will ventilate better.

    By the way, what is your budget on a computer case?
    misor likes this.
  6. Row1

    Row1 TS Guru Topic Starter Posts: 343   +13

    A 2120t is rated at TDP of 35 watts. a SSD has no moving parts.
    Let's get serious.
  7. Zen

    Zen TechSpot Paladin Posts: 861   +50

    Well a SSD drive may indeed have no moving parts, but the thing still has parts!

    So what ya going to do to keep the SSD drives non moving internal parts cool? How is that circuit board and ceramic chips supposed to stay cool? I don't care how you try to slice this, if the sucker plugs into power and has to operate on electricity to work, it therefore by the natural order of things is going to generate heat! But that's okay, that's alright, you want us to get serious, that's fine! But if it was me I wouldn't try and skimp on buying a cheap case with virtually no pre-installed cooling solutions. I don't know about you, but with me, no matter how much I think something is going to stay cool on it's own in a case, I still go a little out of my way as to make sure the thing has proper air flow and ventilation. That way the internal parts inside the computer case stay cooler, keep performance levels up, keep over heating to a minimum and more important.......the parts will last longer!
    misor likes this.
  8. xcylent

    xcylent TS Booster Posts: 231   +17

    To add to the 'suggested case' department, here's a few nice Mini-ITX cases that I think everyone would find agreeable.

    1. Bitfenix Prodigy

    great reviews. looks great. can fit huge GPU's, and a full watercooling loop. you can get this case in black or white for around $99

    2. Coolermaster Elite 120 Advanced


    not bad looking, and the ventilation is good. Smart design, too. You can pick this one up for around $59

    3. Silverstone TJ08-E


    arguably the most popular M-ATX/ Mini-ITX case in 2012. Great airflow, and looks quite nice too. Good Cable management. price is around $99

    4. Thermaltake Armor A30

    This one's more on the flashy/showy side of cases. I'm personally not a huge fan of Thermaltake, but those who've purchased this case seem to like it. can fit big GPU's. unfortunately, it's a little more on the expensive side, at around $119

    5. Lian Li PC-A04


    exceptional airflow/cooling. sleek design. good quality manufacturer. Air filters. Can fit any GPU. Is styled a little bit like the more conventional ATX tower style cases. This one's the most expensive of the bunch, at around $135

    The cases I've listed here all have great airflow, look nice, and will accommodate pretty much any components.
    Plus, they won't break the bank either. As Zen said, you can't completely disregard heat as a factor in the longevity/optimal performance of computer parts. Good cooling is crucial.
    I think you'll find at least one of the cases I mentioned agreeable :)
    good luck.
    misor likes this.
  9. Row1

    Row1 TS Guru Topic Starter Posts: 343   +13

    OK, for what I have declared thus far as far as this build: it seems that there are people who believe that if I get a cheap case, I will have malfunction due to overheating.

    Is anyone willing to put their money where their mouth is? It seems that the less I spend on a case, the more sure I am to have a build that freezes.

    Talk is cheap. If I avoid whatever bad outcomes might be in y'alls imagination, if I can document that I avoid it for some span of time, or through some stress test, will anyone defray my case cost? If I have heat problems as measured by infrared thermometer or internal thermocouple readings, I wll have to sacrifice what I thought I was saving going cheap versus a $100 case with carbon fiber?

    I am not in the best spot to suggest such a wager - it gets hot here where I live. I cannot cool my system by opening the window in wintertime.

    I have a sidelined Antec Sonata case gathering dust I could throw in to sweeten the deal.
  10. Zen

    Zen TechSpot Paladin Posts: 861   +50

    When scouting through my chief computer supplier, I only found one case that I thought might do the trick here.


    This mini computer case can be found at Fry', as displayed for $69.99 + tax + shipping, probably all of it will come to just bellow $100.00! If interested I'm going to provide a link to this case....

    There you go.............have fun! :)
  11. Row1

    Row1 TS Guru Topic Starter Posts: 343   +13

    this is interesting - an acrylic case with an lcd screen! It has a case fan, for those who think a 35 watt processor and ssd will overheat with only a cpu fan to blow things around.

    Attached Files:

  12. xcylent

    xcylent TS Booster Posts: 231   +17

    well looks like a nice find.
    I myself am not a big fan of acrylic cases, since they tend to make cable management and making things look neat, nigh on impossible :D
    plus, things look awfully cramped in there... maybe reconsider?
    I'd probably go with one of the cases Zen or I mentioned. they are built by quality manufactures, don't cost much, have great cooling/Cable management, and are built very solidly.
    if I were you, the TJ08-E would be my choice. It's an incredibly popular case, and with good reason too.
  13. Row1

    Row1 TS Guru Topic Starter Posts: 343   +13

    Update. I did get the very small Plexiglas or acrylic case. My young son and I had a nice time putting it all together. I used a G630T processor, which is a very low power regular processor, with onboard graphics. The stock cpu cooler is very quiet. The processor stays within its temp range, and so does the rest of this system - there is a small exhaust fan mounted to the bottom of the case.

    The MB I chose has worked out pretty well, with a couple limits. This is an Intel DH61DL with USB3. One problem was that the header for the front I/O button/reset button is very close to one of the two fan headers (it has cpu and case fan headers). I had to carve some plastic off of the cable to the on/off button to get those two to fit side by side.

    Also, the MB does not have wifi built-in, so you have to make a couple choices with a case this small. The MB does have a PCI-Express mini-card slot and there are wifi cards for this slot. They require a very small antenna lead to be clipped on, leading to an antenna mounted somewhere somehow. The case has one hole available, along with one for power supply connection (2.5 barrel connector). This looks small for an antenna, and I did not try that.

    Instead, we put a very small USB wireless transmitter in one of the 4 USB slots, and that works just fine.

    The clear, tiny case is cool - you can see everything. But the walls flex a little, since they can only be so strong when thin. A better design might have slightly thicker sides.

    We have 8 gigs of g-skill ram.

    The Windows Experience scores are all high except for graphics, as you would expect. Overall, a nice comp for th ekid.
    misor likes this.
  14. misor

    misor TS Evangelist Posts: 1,285   +243

    Row1, can you attach/post (inside) pictures of your finished mini-itx set? thanks.
  15. Obzoleet

    Obzoleet TS Booster Posts: 171   +9

    I built my first Mini ITX yesterday in a Bitfenix Prodigy and it was pure joy,

    Im not a very savvy builder but there are plenty of room to build in and good places to wire cables so it looks good inside the case,

    I havnt put an OS in it yet so I cannot confirm if it can find all the hardware, hopefully it does :p
  16. Row1

    Row1 TS Guru Topic Starter Posts: 343   +13

    --I will take a few fotos and post, soon. Mine is 8" by 7.5" and almost 3" tall, so it is quite small.
    misor likes this.
  17. Row1

    Row1 TS Guru Topic Starter Posts: 343   +13

    misor likes this.

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