PC Build: $1,200 Mini ITX 1440p Gaming PC

Thermaltake Core V1

Thermaltake Core V1

When putting this build together, I wanted to build a Mini ITX PC that can play almost any game at 1440p at 60 FPS with Ultra settings. I allocated a budget of $1,200 and picked parts accordingly.

This is a Haswell build, but I’ve provided alternative options for Skylake, at a slightly higher price.

Case:

case2

Thermaltake Core V1, $50

A small, affordable case that packs in all the features you’d want from a Mini-ITX case with ample ventilation and great modularity.

GPU:

980ti

EVGA NVIDIA GTX 980 Ti FTW, $650

I know, I know. You are asking the same question many others had. “Ray, why haven’t you gone for a blower-style GPU in a Mini-ITX build? Wouldn’t it heat the case up?” Not really. The case is divided into two separate compartments. One for the GPU and the other for the rest of the components.

The GPU compartment has two case fans directly in front of the GPU that will exhaust most of the hot air out. Blower style cards (like the stock 980 Ti) are loud and noisy by comparison. 

I would also like to mention that for some odd reason, EVGAs High-Tier FTW cooler is cheaper than their SC+.

CPU:

CPU

Intel Core i5-4590, $200

I chose the i5-4590 over the i5-4690K and the i5-4460. The 4590 is 5-10% faster than the 4460 for just ~$10 more. The 4690K is $40 more expensive than the 4590, but it would also require a Z97 motherboard for overclocking, as well as a beefier cooler.

I decided to go for Haswell over Skylake because it currently offers more bang for the buck. However, for a future-ready build where you might want to upgrade the CPU down the line, Skylake is better.

Skylake alternative: Intel Core i5-6500, $205

Cooler:

You can use the stock CPU cooler, but it is loud and hot. You can opt for a Cooler Master Hyper TX3 for $19.

Cooler Master

Cooler Master Hyper TX3

Motherboard:

mobo

ASRock B85M Mini ITX$60

This is a very barebones B85 ITX motherboard for an non-overclockable CPU. If you know you’ll want more features than what this provides, you might have to spend more money. You will also need to use a USB Wi-Fi adapter if you need Wi-Fi. However, this is very good for a pure gaming build.

Skylake alternative: ASRock H170M ITX/DL, $120

RAM:

ram

Low profile 8GB DDR3-1600, $43

All memory is practically the same. It makes little difference to the performance of your build. Capacity is what matters. Other than that, just pick one that is either the cheapest or matches the color of your build.

Skylake alternative: AVEXIR CORE 8GB DDR4-2400, $50

SSD:

ssdplus

SanDisk SSD Plus 120GB, $45

120GB SSD for $45? Sweet. Plenty of room for your OS and most-used programs.

HDD:

HDD

Seagate 1TB, $49

Lots of room for games and media files. Not sure that’s enough space? Get 2TB for a little more money.

Power Supply:

thermaltake

Thermaltake Toughpower 750M 80+ Gold, $80

A great PSU for the price, often available on discount for $55.

Case Fans:

Two Arctic F8 80mm temperature controlled fans, $18

These will help exhaust air away from the GPU and out of your case.

Closing Thoughts

This PC is a little gaming powerhouse, and should max out any PC game at 1440p resolution. For a slightly more powerful, smaller, different looking Mini ITX build, check out Orion’s sleek mini ITX gaming PC.

The total list price of this build on the day of publication was $1,221, but prices regularly vary. With a few discounts and rebates, you should be able to get it for less than $1,200.

Let us know if you have any questions or suggestions in the comments!

  • This build will get you a whole lot of performance for your money, and is a great build for 60 FPS gaming at 1440p.

  • Timothy Grundvig

    Did you already put this together? The Thermaltake case states that the video card can only be 255mm in length, but EVGA’s website states this video card as 266mm.

    I actually removed that case from my cart yesterday after reading the video card length specs, but I really like this case if that card actually fits I’ll be able to put my order in now.

    Thank you!

  • Mark Hayan

    This thing is sweet !

  • John Bramwells

    It looks a great build, and suitable for the living room. I can do it in the UK for 1100 USD by dropping to a GTX970 (it’ll be driving a Samsung UE40JU6400 and 1080p is quite sufficient for my 55 year old reactions and eyesight). Question: do I really need a 750W PSU? I’ll be running Elite Dangerous and Halo mostly, along with the odd bluray.

    • Matthew Zehner

      Yes, it is a good idea to get the 750W PSU! PSUs run best when you have a solid bit of overhead, thus making it run more efficiently and giving you room for upgrade potential.

      If you wanted to cut back a bit it would be possible, but not really recommended.

  • Krys Allen

    Do you happen to know how well this mini would work for playing the upcoming game “The Division”?

    • Matthew Zehner

      It’s hard to know for sure (since there aren’t benchmarks for the game out) but this build is designed to handle all modern games quite well. I would wager it could run The Division quite well!

    • Matthew Zehner

      It’s hard to know for sure (since there aren’t benchmarks for the game out) but this build is designed to handle all modern games quite well. I would wager it could run The Division quite well!

  • hiragii

    Are the AF120 fans supposed to be installed in the rear of the case? I have read the core V1 will only fit a couple of 80mm fans at the back.

  • Krys Allen

    Which “tier” would you say that this build would fall into?

    • Matthew Zehner

      It doesn’t fit clearly into one tier, as it is a more gaming-oriented build than those on the main tier list. It would fall somewhere between the Excellent and Enthusiast, depending on the situation.

  • hiragii

    I just wanted to comment that I completed my build in Europe based on this blog post, and it runs as smoothly as I expected 🙂

    I went the Skylake route and also did some small modifications, totaling around €1400:

    Intel Core i5-6600 3.3GHz Quad-Core Processor – 208,07
    ASRock H170M-ITX/DL Mini ITX LGA1151 Motherboard – 114,99
    Corsair Vengeance LPX 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR4-2400 Memory – 57,07
    Thermaltake Core V1 Mini ITX Tower Case – 46,92
    EVGA 750W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply – 112,36
    Cooler Master Hyper TX3 Evo 43.1 CFM CPU Cooler – 27.49
    Noctua NF-R8 redux-1800 PWM – 18.52
    Samsung 850 EVO-Series 500 GB 2.5″ Solid State Drive – 138.07
    EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB Superclocked+ ACX 2.0+ Video Card – 722.56
    Total: €1446.75

    • Matthew Zehner

      Awesome! We’re glad you are liking the build.

  • Payton Pg Liberto

    what would be the best operating system for this. im very new to this. this will be my first build. so if any one can tell me what os to use ill very much appreciate it.

    • Matthew Zehner

      I would reccomend Windows 10 for this system.

      • Payton Pg Liberto

        Also a budget monitor would be nice also any suggestion dont wanna go over 300