Inspired by the Holiday sales, I decided to put together a quiet, clean, small Mini ITX build to handle any current game at max settings at 2560×1440. Total build price: $1,750.
It’s a little more expensive and harder to put together than a comparable full-sized build, but it turns out gorgeous and powerful.
Intel i7-4790K, $330
The i7-4790K is still the best gaming CPU around. The newer i7-6700K offers minimal benefits for an increased price, and uses newer, more expensive DDR4 RAM. Both are good options, but the 4790K is easily the better value.
Cheaper alternative: For even more value but slightly less performance, go with the $240 i5-4690K.
N0te: if you do go with an i7-6700K or other Skylake CPU, you will need to get a socket 1151 motherboard and DDR4 RAM.
Corsair H60, $50 after $10 rebate
Closed loop watercooling will help maintain low temperatures in this small Mini ITX case with constrained airflow. The H60 will fit in the 120mm radiator spot of the In-Win 901, and is nice and quiet. The larger H80 would have to be mounted on the outside of the case.
Nvidia GTX 980 Ti, $630
The reference 980 Ti has an excellent blower-style heatsink, and of course the fantastic performance of the 980 Ti. This blower heatsink will work well in the small, low-airflow Mini ITX case, and this particular blower heatsink avoids the normal downside of blower heatsinks: hairdryer level noise.
Cheaper alternative: GTX 970 for $290. You will lose about 30% gaming performance, but will still be able to handle most games very smoothly at 2560 x 1440 at high settings. The normal GTX 970 blower coolers will be louder too. Search eBay to find one of the original 970s with the same great cooler as the 980 Ti.
ASRock Z97E-ITX/ac, $120 after $10 rebate
This motherboard has everything I want: Overclocking support, decent AC1150 audio, USB 3.1, an M.2 socket on the back, and built-in 802.11AC Wi-Fi. I would prefer it in different colors, but for the price I can’t resist this one.
16GB DDR3-1600, $65
This unknown branded RAM looks nice, and has the same RAM chips inside as anyone else: Micron, Samsung, or Hynix. 16GB is more than enough, although would come in handy for video editing or running multiple VMs. Most people would be fine with 8GB.
Cheaper alternative: 8GB for $30.
The fastest consumer SSD. Ridiculous performance, measured in GB/s.
Cheaper alternative: 500GB Crucial BX100 for $166. Absolute measurable performance is much lower than the 950 Pro, but it doesn’t feel much slower in normal everyday use.
Corsair RM650, $60 after $20 rebate
The newer RMi and RMX series are better, but the RM is now an excellent value, as prices have fallen. This is still an excellent quality, modular, efficient (80+ Gold), reliable, stable power supply that will be silent at idle and quiet under load.
In Win 901, $140
Arguably the most attractive Mini ITX case. Excellent build quality. A bit cramped and limited on airflow, but that is unavoidable when building Mini ITX. Check out the NCase M1 for a slightly roomier case of equally high quality, with more cooling options including space for a 240mm radiator. You will want to get fans for both fan locations: one 120mm, and one 92mm.
You’re going to want as much airflow as possible in the cramped Mini ITX case, without making things too noisy. The Corsair AF120 is an excellent balance of airflow and low noise. LED versions in different colors are available.
92mm Nexus, $8
This one is less important than the 120mm fan, but will still help. Nexus makes high-quality, quiet fans.
Hard Drive (optional):
Personally, I’m not even bothering with a hard drive in my build, as the 512 GB SSD is enough for me. But this build has space for a few hard drives, if you want the extra storage for media.
Cheaper alternative: Seagate 1TB for $48. You can save $20 if 1TB is enough extra space.
Total Price: $1,750
Using the recommended cheaper alternatives, you could get a powerful Mini ITX build for $1,100. It will still have great performance for an even better value.