Mini ITX PCs are famous among builders for being deceptively difficult and expensive to create. The unassuming, small stature of such builds may make them look like smaller projects than mid towers or full towers to newcomers—but the tight spaces in the cases, the higher temperatures of such close quarters, and the specialty parts they sometimes require can balloon the challenge and the cost.
In this article, we take a look at putting together a tiny build for a modest price: building a capable Mini ITX small form factor computer for about $390, similar in price and performance to a larger low-end PC.
Who It’s For, and How We’ll Do It:
If shrinking the price were our only priority, then we could easily make further cuts (by using, for instance, an Athlon 200GE). But we want a result that is reasonably priced while still being as useful as possible for people. Thus, this build aims to balance its highest priority (lowering the cost) with its secondary priorities (limiting the challenge of building the PC, and keeping the performance as impressive as possible under the circumstances).
In the end, this build will be perfect for several types of builders on a budget: space-conscious users, folks who periodically have to relocate their workstation (or battlestation, as the case may be), and those looking to test the waters of small form factor building.
The secret weapons of this build will be the Cooler Master Elite 110 case (one of the few truly budget-friendly cases in the ITX lineup that doesn’t translate into unacceptable quality) and the R5 2400G CPU (with one of the best iGPUs ever made, which will allow us to get admirable performance without a discrete GPU). But there are also other key choices for hitting our price goal, such as the power supply and RAM. Let’s have a look:
The $390 Mini ITX Build:
CPU: AMD R5 2400G
Between the excellent iGPU negating the need for a low-end GPU and the low-profile Wraith Stealth Cooler included with the chip, this choice alone should make the process of building in the little case far, far easier than it would have been otherwise.
Motherboard: Asrock B450 Gaming ITX
Our needs for the motherboard in this build were simple: be a Mini ITX motherboard with native 2nd-gen Ryzen compatibility, and cost as little as possible. Asrock gets the gold star for being the company among the reputable mobo manufacturers who topped the list of meeting those requirements. And, of course, it has a PCIe x16 slot for the distant future in which you may end up considering squeezing a dedicated GPU into this machine.
Memory: G.Skill NT RAM (4GB DDR4-2400)
In theory, 4GB of RAM should still be plenty for just about anything that you want to do with a computer at this level, including gaming. But if you should ever find that you need or want more, not to worry: adding another of these 4GB sticks is one of the easiest upgrades that could be made to this system after it’s assembled.
Storage: Crucial BX500 SSD (240GB)
Yep, an SSD! Prices on these beauties have been steadily declining for the past few years, and now even a build explicitly aiming for a low overall cost can take advantage of the glorious speed that a solid state drive can offer. But if you’re a person who works with a large amount of data (and don’t mind adding a slightly larger object into this streamlined Mini ITX build), then you may consider substituting this part with a slower 500GB HDD at about the same price.
Power Supply: Rosewill Glacier (500W)
Definitely more Wattage than this build needs, but a great price for a semi-modular power supply—which means fewer cables to manage in the cramped interior of the Elite 110.
Case: Cooler Master Elite 110
As I said in the introduction, this case presents a unique opportunity for small form factor builders by being a budget Mini ITX case without throwing quality out the window. This should be a sleek, attractive container for the build, even providing (dare I say it?) room for upgrading.
With this build, you would have access to a solid little 1080p gaming PC, or a versatile tiny workstation, or a portable dedicated streaming PC to offload encoding onto, or a media server that could be tucked away in a living room—all for under $400 and in a Mini ITX form factor.
If you have any further ideas for ways to customize this build or to make it more specialized for a particular purpose, we would love to hear about them in the comments below!