The Itty Bitty Gaming PC

The parts for the itty-bitty gaming PC.

The parts for the itty-bitty gaming PC.

I’ve attempted to build small form factor gaming PCs over the years — anyone remember the tiny boxes Shuttle sold, complete with proprietary motherboards and power supplies? Those never lasted long, mostly because the anemic PSUs would eventually fail trying to deliver power to high end CPUs and graphics cards. Today, we’ve got a plethora of mini-ITX motherboards, making it easier to build tiny, but full-featured PCs. I’ve built several PCs using mini-ITX motherboards, but none have been particularly small due to relatively bulky cases.

Last Fall, Intel began shipping its Skylake desktop processors. Roughly a month later, AMD shipped its Radeon Fury Nano graphics card, a 6-inch GPU powerhouse. I realized that combination would make a potent, small,  gaming PC that I could actually build. I looked around for ultra-compact mini-ITX case designs, and settled on the Silverstone Milo ML07, based on the company’s earlier Raven RVZ01. The ML07 can theoretically house a full-length graphics card, but seemed a better fit for something smaller, such as the Fury Nano. Let’s look at the full build list, based on pricing as of February, 2016 (prices exclude shipping and taxes, if any):

Item Cost
CPU Intel Core i5-6600K (3.5GHz base clock/3.9GHz boost, 6MB L3 cache) $255
CPU Cooler Corsair H55 Quiet Edition sealed liquid cooler $80
CPU Fan Scythe 12mm $12
Motherboard Gigabyte Z170N-Gaming-5 (Z170 chipset) $155
Memory 16GB Corsair low-profile DDR4-2400 $95
Case Silverstone ML07 $70
PSU  Silverstone SF500-LG 500W SFX form factor $95
Graphics XFX Radeon Fury Nano $540
SSD Samsung EVO 850 SATA $330
Optical Drive Panasonic UJ-265 6x slot-load, slimline Blu-ray burner $80
OS Windows 10 Home OEM $99
Total $1,811

Gathering the parts proved simple. The XFX Fury Nano needed to be backordered, but filling the order took only an extra week. I flipped back and forth on the optical drive; leaving it out would simplify the build, and save $80, but ended up installing it anyway. The Gigabyte motherboard offers somewhat higher end features than many mini-ITX motherboards, including an M.2 SSD slot, USB 3.1 port, and 802.11b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi.

Gigabyte Z170N-Gaming-5 Motherboard

Building the PC proved to be as challenging as I expected. The main problem with building a PC into a very small case is parts installation order. It’s easy to get stuck, then have to disassemble everything and start over.  It’s definitely more challenging than building a PC in a standard mid-tower or larger case.

Tomorrow: building the itty-bitty gaming PC.


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