MiniITX gaming builds have been all the rage on SPCR lately, my contribution uses the Jonsbo U2 case
- the even teenier version of the U3 MicroATX/MiniITX Lawrence reviewed in September
QuietPC & Scan are the only dealers I'm aware of selling these in the UK, nominally under the Cooltek brand. I understand across the pond Newegg sell them under the Rosewill brand.
Much of what Lawrence's review notes about U3 case holds true for the U2 case. They are very similar cases, but with a three crucial differences:
The U2 is smaller - dropping MicroATX support, shaving 4cm off the height, and 3.7cm off the depth for total dimensions of 208mm(W), 319mm(H), 233mm(D). Which results in a ~15.5 litre case - yet still one which can take a full size ATX PSU, a decent sized tower cooler, a couple of hard drives (albeit 2.5"), a respectably sized graphics card and two 120mm case fans.
Yep two 120mm case fans - that's the other big difference - the U2 case has a front mounted standoff serving as a mounting point for either a 3.5" hard drive (if you choose not to mount on the floor) or a front case fan. There's no direct intake path for this fan however, rather the standoff space creates a vacuum in the void which sucks in air from the side vents. Undoubtedly not as ideal as a direct path, but with such a small case the path from the side vents to the void behind the front fan is only about an inch long.
Front panel PCB has migrated from the bottom left on the U3 to the bottom right on the U2 - this allows for much tidier cabling and crucially doesn't get in the way of delicate docking of graphics cards - something Lawrence mentioned in his U3 review, and something I'm supremely grateful to have not had to deal with whilst assembling the even smaller U2.
This was an upgrade rather than a complete fresh build. New bits, other than the U2 case are:Motherboard:
Asus H97I-Plus MiniITX - the H version of the Asus Z97I-Plus board SPCR have been using in their gaming MiniITX builds of late. I figured I didn't need the extra gubbins Z gives (wireless, bluetooth, overclocking) they would suck an extra watt or two, be extra components to break, and extra drivers to load up. And the H is a bit cheaper of course.CPU:
Intel i5-4460 Haswell - not fussed about overclocking, so no need to spend money on the K version.Memory:
2x4gb Kingston HyperX Fury DDR3 (1600 something, CL10 I think? - main selling point is the modest sized heat spreaders).
Bits recovered from previous builds (and hence may no longer be available):PSU:
beQuiet StraightPower E9-480 modular - fitted with ample room (that room subsequently used to wodge cables).Case Fans:
2xFractal Define Mini stock fans - my old Nocturas were beginning to warble so pulled these from my bits box - they're *very* good as stock fans go. Range from ~350 to ~1100 RPM, one of them is silent up to ~600, the other I can just start to pick up at ~500.CPU Heatsink:
Coolermaster Hyper212 Evo - yay, same mounting bracket that worked on my previous 1156 board works on the new 1150 board just fine.CPU Heatsink fan:
beQuiet ShadowWings PWM 120mm fan - range of ~290 to ~1600 RPM and again silent up to ~550, unnoticeable when gaming up to ~1100 and, well as to be expected when running at full tilt.Storage:
2.5" Samsung 830 SSD (128mb) and 2.5" Seagate Momentus XT Hybrid (750gb) - hard drive mounting issues are covered well in Lawrence's review of the U3 case, it's the same here with the U2. I put both in the bottom, and this likely doesn't help the graphics card gulp down any more air. 2.5" drives have around half an inch headroom before they hit the graphics card. Perhaps
the second case fan on the U2 induces a bit more negative pressure, allowing a teensy bit more air into the case. When we're all running M2 drives this won't matter of course. On the subject of M2 drives, worth noting the U2 has extra long motherboard standoffs, allowing good clearance for rear mounted M2 drives.Graphics card:
Asus Radeon HD7770 DirectCU 1gb - this, this was problematic. It just fits. Just. This is a ~23.5cm card - modern day comparisons like the Asus Strix GTX 750TI at ~ 19.5cm should go in much easier. Jonsbo recommend a maximum length of 22cm.
One thing I miss from the Fractal Define Mini - that case padding wasn't just for show. I'd forgotten how completely it masked the spin-up/spin down & seek noises coming from the platter based 750gb apps drive. The Seagate remains a very quiet 2.5" collection of platters, I'd just become used to it being a silent collection of platters. I'm also just beginning to pick up the faintest hint of idle fan noise from the PSU and GPU, which again were masked in Define Mini.
The upside of a new motherboard however is FanXpert2+ - such a user friendly way of keeping fans under control.
Having been on all day, a dozen tabs open and doing regular office work, temps are currently:CPU
The CPU fan is spinning silently at 340rpm, both chassis fans are off (I've set rear to start up at 35c and front at 40c)
Time for a couple of internal shots I think:
Bottom of CPU fan just brushes top of first memory stick, otherwise clearance very good.
Getting the a 23.5cm graphics card in requires first the removal of the card's backplate, pre position this in the slots but don't screw it down yet, you'll need to lift it up a little to meet the graphics card as you pirouette the card into place. Remove the rear case fan (you'll need the angle to swing the card in), make the graphics card the first thing you plug into the motherboard and plug in the card's extra ATX power midway through the positioning spiral (there's no way you'll get the angle to plug them in before hand), lift up the GPU back plate to meet the card as you make the final descent, screw it back together & lock in place. Apply plasters to skinned knuckles, and apologise to the cat who, to be fair, was only trying to help and really didn't deserve to learn all those new swear words.
Overall I'm extremely impressed with the U2 case. I'd go so far as to say if you're going to be using a MiniITX board the U2 is demonstrably better than the U3, thanks to the extra fan placement options and better placement of the front PCB. Like the U3 it's not a quiet case in and of itself - it won't mask that final barely perceptible squeak, rattle and whine like a Fractal Define will, but fill it with quiet components and you can make damn near silent gaming PCs these days.
It's a 15.5 litre
case that takes a full size ATX PSU, a tower cooler, two 120mm case fans, a couple of hard drives and has room for a very respectable graphics card. That's pretty much my holy grail.