Quiet Mini-ITX Gamer Build Guide

Do-It-Yourself Systems | Silent PC Build Guides
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MOTHERBOARD

There are many socket 1150 mITX boards to choose from. To narrow down the choices, we limited it to the Z97 chip, brands known to offer pretty good onboard fan control and a price under $200. CPU socket placement on mITX boards can be critical as the tight fit with smaller cases means a much tighter fit for CPU coolers. A cooler might fit with one mobo and case combo, but not another. However, all the Z97 board we considered seem to have similar CPU socket placement, close to center, though a bit close to both the "top" edge and the memory slots.

  • MSI Z97I Gaming
  • MSI Z97I AC
  • Gigabyte GA-Z97N-WIFI
  • Gigabyte GA-Z97N-Gaming 5
  • ASRock Z97E-ITX/ac
  • ASRock Z97M-ITX/AC

Prices for these boards vary in the US from a high of around $180 to a low of ~$120. Features vary somewhat, but given the small form factor to work with and the Z97 chip which dictates much of what is possible, base performance is unlikely to differ much. ASRock boards probably represent the best value, given their pricing, and they reputedly have good fan control We can't testify to this, as ASRock has been stingy with samples for SPCR. Ditto MSI, though their boards are considerably pricier and have a good reputation for fan control. Gigabyte is usually generous with samples for SPCR, but not in time for this round; their motherboard fan control is improving but they've been lagging behind both MSI and Gigabyte. Our choice ended up being the one we received in time for this build: ASUS Z97I-PLUS. It is also one of the best, on paper, among the bunch.


ASUS Z97I-PLUS comes with wireless LAN card and M.2 SSD card slot on the underside.

CPU

Intel came through on our request for more 1150 socket processors for these build guides. A CORE i5-4690K (3.9 GHz, 4-cores, 88W TDP) was chosen for this build. For all practical purposes, any of the following 4th Gen Core processors would provide similar performance. In gaming, it's usually the GPU which sets performance level.

  • Intel Core i5-4690S (3.9 GHz, 65W TDP)
  • Intel Core i5-4670 (3.8 GHz, 84W TDP)
  • Intel Core i5-4670K (3.8 GHz, 84W TDP, unlocked)
  • Intel Core i5-4670S (3.8 GHz, 65W TDP)
  • Intel Core i5-4570 (3.6 GHz, 84W TDP)
  • Intel Core i5-4570S (3.6 GHz, 84W TDP)
  • Intel Core i5-4590 (3.7 GHz, 84W TDP)
  • Intel Core i5-4590S (3.7 GHz, 65W TDP)

FYI, even though the S versions with their near-20W lower TDP looks attractive from a quiet cooling point of view, in practise, the thermal and acoustic savings is not usually notable. Our advice is to buy on price.


Core i5-4690k installed in the ASUS Z97I-PLUS motherboard.

 

CPU COOLER

Any number of coolers could work; it is a matter of choosing one that works well from the components available to us. Among effective coolers that aren't too wide (so as not to get too close to the graphics card) the best options we've reviewed are:

  • Coolermaster Hyper 212 Plus Universal
  • Scythe Mugen 4
  • Be Quiet! Shadow Rock Slim
  • Silverstone Argon AR03
  • Scythe Kotetsu

We chose the SILVERSTONE ARGON AR03 this time, another slimmer 120mm fan tower heatsink that provides good performance at a modest price. (See our Recommended Heatsinks article for a complete listing of all the reviewed CPU coolers.)


Silverstone Argon AR03 shown here on our CPU cooler test platform.



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