The Dream Mini-ITX Build

Like many of you we waited patiently for Intel to release their new 3rd Generation Core series of 22nm Ivy Bridge processors and the Intel Z77 Express chipset before building a new system. The new processors and chipsets are the latest and greatest hardware available for the popular mainstream socket LGA1155 platform.  The Intel socket LGA1155 platform has been around since January 2011 and has had three major chipset revisions (P67, Z68 and Z77) since being released and supports two Intel microprocessor architectures (Sandy Bridge & Ivy Bridge). This platform is what we would consider mature as it has been around for over a year and has all of the major bugs worked out.  The new Intel Ivy Bridge processors are symbolic in the sense that they are likely going to be the last new microarchitecture used on this platform. Intel will be moving over to Haswell processors in the first half of 2013 and that move will bring a new socket to market (LGA1150).

If you are looking to build an Intel PC right now, there is no reason to wait as nothing worth waiting for is coming out that we are aware of in the months to come. Intel, AMD and NVIDIA have all released new architectures in the past several months, so now is the time to build!

We wanted to build up an Intel Ivy Bridge powered Small Form Factor (SFF) PC and we thought we'd show you what we came up with.  Our dream mini-ITX system should be:

Nothing too farfetched, but being able stuff all that in a mini-ITX case is going to be the challenge.

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We spent pretty much the entire month of April 2012 putting together a parts list for what we think will become the dream PC for SFF enthusiasts.

Legit Reviews Mini ITX Dream PC Parts List:

As you can see, we have assembled a list of hardware that we feel will make for one amazing PC that comes in at just under $2600 before shipping. You can easily get this build under $1500 by changing the storage drives used and the processor, so don't freak out by the price tag of all these parts! Your build will likely be different than this!

Talk is cheap in life, so we aren't just going to give you a list of parts that should work together.  We went out and got all these pieces of hardware and will walk you through building this exact system and then will show you how it performs!

Cubitek Mini Ice - Mini-ITX Case

The toughest part when building a Small Form Factor (SFF) system is finding the right case. Building a computer isn't a cheap endeavor and since Mini-ITX cases aren't that popular it is often a pain in the butt to find the right case for your needs. A couple months ago we received an E-Mail from a company called Cubitek and was introduced to their new Ice Series of cases. We looked at their product portfolio and came across the Mini Ice (model CB-ICI-B104) and it stopped us dead in our tracks. The Cubitek Mini Ice is an aluminum enclosure that measures just 9.06" x 12.33" x 14.29" (WxHxD) and is priced at $169.99.  The thing that caught our attention with this case is that it supports top and bottom mounted 140mm fans and had ample room for a dual-slot video card that is up to 13.38" in length. 

Cubitek Mini Cube ITX Case

This case is a little larger than some of the mini-ITX cases out there, but it looked like it would be able to fit the water cooler and full sized video card that we wanted to use.

Cubitek Mini Cube ITX Case

When the Cubitek Mini Ice arrived it exceeded our expectations and was exactly what we were looking for. The case has a minimalistic look to it, but we are tired of case windows and a bunch of flashy designs.

Cubitek is a brand new company that just started selling cases last month and the case we were sent was hand built.  The build quality by Cubitek was pretty solid, but we did notice some small issues that will be resolved before this case starts selling online. For example, the top fan grill was higher on one corner than the rest, the side panel mesh cover had small dents in it and we noticed some small ripples in the aluminum on the top.

Cubitek Mini Cube ITX Case

Inside the case we found that Cubitek placed the fan filter above the fan that was exhausting hot air from the case. Cubitek said this is a requested design feature to keep dust from falling into the system when it is not in use. You'd think the mesh fan grill would do that already, but you never know.

Cubitek Mini Cube ITX Case

The back of the case has a spot for a standard sized power supply and two hose pass-throughs for water cooling tubes.  We aren't sure how someone would mount an external water cooler on this case, but we have plans on using those holes for something else.

Cubitek Mini Cube ITX Case

The Cubitek Mini Ice has the power and reset buttons located on the front of the case with LED lights for power and hard drive activity below that. Along the top edge you'll find two SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, two High-Speed USB 2.0 ports and gold plated headphone and microphone audio jacks. With four USB ports on this mini-ITX case, you are sure to have enough ports! 

Cubitek Mini Cube ITX Case

Inside the Cubitek Mini-Ice we see that this enclosure has room for four 3.5-inch drive bays and that one of them has a 2.5-inch adapter inside that will hold two 2.5" Solid-State Drives (SSDs) or standard notebook hard drives. The Mini-Ice comes with one 140mm fan screwed to the top of the chassis that is oriented to exhaust hot air out of the case. This clear 3-pin fan has four blue LED lights on it and is rated to move 49.05 CFM at 21.35 dBA. Our plan is to remove and throw away this 140mm fan and place a self-contained water cooler at the top of the case and use some high static pressure fans on the top and bottom of this case in order to move some air!

Optical Drive Issues - Slimline Optical Drive Needed

DVD Burner Depth Issue

The first issue that we ran into with switching out the top fan for a 140mm water cooler is that we wouldn't be able to run an optical drive. A standard optical drive is 180mm or 6.7" deep and that was just too large for this case. As you can see in the image above, a standard 180mm deep DVD burner actually blocks part of the fan. We scoured the web looking for the shallowest depth optical drive that we could come up with and the best we could do was the ASUS DRW-22D1S. It measures in at 146x165x41 mm (W x D x H), which means it is 6.5-inches deep. Obviously, that isn't going to work either.

Samsung Slim-DVD Burner

We didn't want to give up our optical drive, so we went with a slim optical drive that is intended for use in notebook computers. This was a win-win situation for us as we can now use an adapter and fit our memory card reader and the DVD burner in a single 5.25" drive bay.  Since the Cubitek Mini ICE only has one 5.25" drive bay, this is the only way to get everything we needed into this Mini-ITX case.

Samsung Slim-DVD Burner

Here is a shot of the Samsung 8x Slim Internal DVD Burner SN208BB ($23.99 plus shipping) sitting in the StarTech Slim Optical & 3.5-inch Bay adapter ($26.99 plus shipping). It's odd that the StarTech adapter costs more than the optical drive, but there aren't too many choices and this adapter is made from really thick steel.

Shallow Depth DVD Drive Solution

The price was worth it in the long run as we were able to go from 170mm (6.7") deep to just 140mm (5.5") and that is exactly the amount of space that we need to fit a 140mm water cooler inside our enclosure!

Slim DVD Screws

We need to point out that when you buy an OEM slim optical drive that it does not come with the mounting screws and the StarTech adapter also doesn't include them.  We were lucky and found some small screws that were a perfect fit in our treasure trove of left over parts.

Slim DVD Screws

It should also be noted that you need a special cable adapter to use a slim optical drive in a PC and for that we went back to StarTech as they carry Slimline SATA to SATA adapter cables ($9.99 plus shipping). As you can see there is quite a bit of planning involved to get a slim optical drive into a desktop, but when you are doing a special build it is worth the effort and extra cost.  By the time you add up all the parts we have roughly $43 tied up just to mount a $29 optical drive!

The CoolIT Eco II 140 & The Dremel

This main highlight of this build is that we wanted to water cool our Intel Core i7-3770K Ivy Bridge processor.  These new 22nm processors run a little hotter than the older 32nm Sandy Bridge processors, so we wanted something that could keep our processor nice and cool. Since Cubitek Mini Ice uses 140mm fans, we searched for a 140mm cooling solution.  We wanted to go with a sealed kit as we wanted this system to be maintenance free.

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We had a tough time finding a solution, but ran across the CoolIT Eco II 140, which is perfect for our build. CoolIT is no stranger to us here at Legit Reviews and we have been using their products since 2007 when we tried out The Eliminator. The bad news is that the CoolIT Eco II 140 is only available to system builders and not for retail purchase. CoolIT makes the Eco II series in 80mm, 92mm, 120mm, 140mm, 180mm and 240mm sizes, but the only size available for purchase is the 120mm version.  We could have used an adapter and gone with a smaller 120mm cooler, but we were dead set on using this cooler. After reaching out to our friends at Maingear we were able to acquire one. Maingear uses the EPIC 140 on their F131 gaming rig, so it should be overkill for our SFF build!

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The CoolIT Eco II 140 measures in at 140mm x 174mm x 27mm (HxWxD) and features both 120mm and 140mm mounting holes.

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We originally wanted to setup a push/pull fan configuration, but the two 25mm thick fans on the 27mm thick radiator was too tight of a fit as it was sitting flush with the power supply. We also quickly found out that the power supply was going to cause some serious issues with the water lines, as you can see in the image above.

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After rotating the water cooler 90 degrees we were able to run the lines over the power supply, but the lines were not long enough to go around the power supply and mount to the motherboard.

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Rotating the water cooler 180 degrees runs the tubing right into the motherboard, so the only direction we had left was to run the tubes down the hard drive cages.  It's a good thing we went with a slimline optical drive as there is no way this would have worked with a desktop model! We were able to screw the CoolIT Eco II 140 water cooler to the case, but the lines were under a ton of pressure as they were hitting the drive cage.

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The only solution that we could think of was to use a Dremel tool and cut out the chassis for the lines to properly fit. We used the ATI themed Dremel tool with some sanding bands to cut some nice circular holes in the aluminum frame.

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The end result didn't look bad and the water lines now run down the hard drive cage without any pressure on them. We've heard of people snapping off these hard plastic lines over the years, so this was a major concern of ours and we are glad that we were able to find a solution that isn't too tough!

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It also looks like the lines will easily bend and allow the waterblock to align properly with where the Intel LGA1155 socket will be. The big question we had at this point is if the SATA power and data cable could still fit on the optical drive. We also weren't sure if the water lines would run over the top of the Corsair Vengeance memory kit with the tall heat spreaders.

The ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe mini-ITX Z77 Motherboard

ASUS P8Z77-I DeluxeMotherboard

For this system build we wanted the best Mini-ITX motherboard that money could buy that used the Intel Z77 chipset and for that there was only one choice, the ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe! This motherboard runs $199.99 plus shipping and is unlike any mini ITX motherboard that you have ever seen before.

ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe

The ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe Mini-ITX motherboard might be small at just 6.7" x 6.7", but the ASUS engineers that designed this board weren't playing around.  This board is loaded with all the latest and greatest features and is an awesome overclocker. For starters, it uses the Intel Z77 Express chipset, which is the latest and greatest chipset with native USB 3.0 support and designed to work perfectly with Intel Ivy Bridge processors.  You then have a two DDR3 slots for dual channel memory and the board supports up to 16GB and has BIOS options for up to 2400MHz! You then have wireless LAN thanks to a WiFi IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n wireless card and hard wired LAN with an Intel 82579V Gigabit controller!

ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe

When it comes to the rear I/O panel the ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe Mini-ITX has pretty much everything that you need. We have four more USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort video outputs, a single Optical S/PDIF out, two eSATA 3Gb/s ports, three audio ports and, of course, the wireless antenna mounts. The two black buttons next to the audio ports are the Clear CMOS button and the BIOS recovery button.  The only thing that we wish this board had was two Display Port connectors.  The reason for this is that you can run three independent monitors off Ivy Bridge processors with Intel HD 4000 and 2500 graphics, but you have to run two of them off DisplayPort connectors.  We haven't seen any Z77 motherboards with two DisplayPort connectors on them, so you can't use this feature even though Intel is touting it as an option.  Ivy Bridge processors only support DisplayPort 1.1, so you can't daisy chain the monitors with the one port.  We tried that for fun and it didn't work out well.  We have been told that Intel's next generation processor (Haswell) will support DisplayPort 1.2, so only one connector will be needed. 

ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe

Since we are using the CoolIT Eco II water cooler we need to put the retention bracket on the back of the motherboard. This is done by adjusting the mounting holes to the proper position for them to lineup with the holes in the motherboard.

ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe

Once they are lined up you can screw in the metal standoffs and then you just tighten the waterblock down with some thumbscrews.  The one thing that we hate about these water kits is that they don't include any insulating washers that go between the motherboard and the standoff. This is a recipe for disaster if you ask us, and while the directions say don't make them tight, we are sure some people have cut the trace routes on their board by installing this water kit.

ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe

We picked up some thin paper washers that allow the standoffs to be tightened down a bit and ensured that we wouldn't be gouging into our motherboard. You don't have to do this, but it's advisable.

ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe

The next thing you need to do is install the ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe motherboard. To do this you just need to pop in the rear I/O shield and put the motherboard standoffs in the case. The ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe only has spots for two screws due to how the board is designed.  The top two screw holes are being used to hold down the DIGI+ VRM riser card, so all you get are the bottom two mounting points. We were a little concerned by this, but we aren't hanging a big CPU Cooler off the board and the rear I/O panel ports help keep the board in place anyway.

ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe

We installed the top 140mm static pressure fan and then popped off the protective LGA1155 socket cover that was protecting all 1,155 pins that are there.

ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe

Installing the processor is a painless task that requires lifting a lever, aligning the processor the right direction and closing the lever back down to lock it into place. Our Intel Core i7-3770K Ivy Bridge processor was brand new, so we didn't need to clean it off.

ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe

We were going to use some aftermarket thermal compound, but at the very last second decided to use whatever was pre-applied to see how it performs.

ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe

We then tightened down the four thumb screws in a crisscross pattern and the motherboard, processor and water cooler installations were complete!

HyperX 480GB SSD & Vengeance 16GB 1866MHz DDR3

When it comes to storage drives and computers, the only choice for an enthusiast is to go with a Solid-State Drive (SSD). The hard drive still has a place as a secondary storage drive, but the SSD is the way to go for your primary drive. The ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe has two SATA III 6GB/s ports on it, so we wanted to use a SATA III SSD and we wanted to have the fastest thing out there, so we started looking at SandForce SF-2281 powered SSD's.

Kingston HyperX SSD

The drive of choice for this build was the Kingston HyperX 480GB SSD. This drive is rated at up to 540MB/s sequential read and 450MB/s sequential write, which is spectacular. The 4KB Random read is rated at up to 75,000 and the 4KB Random write is up to 47,000 IOPS.  This is a bad boy drive with plenty of storage space.  We've used plenty of sub 120GB SSD's in the past and nothing is more annoying than having a full scratch disk if that is the only drive in the system. The Kingston HyperX 480 isn't for the faint of heart, though, as it runs $669.99 shipped. We could have gone with the new HyperX 3K drive that uses 3K PE (Program/Erase Cycle) rated Flash that costs only $589.99, but we wanted to go with the longer lasting 5K PE NAND Flash memory used in the original HyperX drives. We've had several SSD's fail over the past couple years, so we don't want to save a buck and have it haunt us down the road.

Kingston HyperX SSD

The Kingston HyperX 480GB Drive that we went with had the HyperX Upgrade Kit and it is well worth the extra $10 over the standard kit. You get a USB 2.5-inch SATA drive enclosure, cables, a mounting bracket, a screwdriver, screws and backup software! All this will likely come in handy down the road.

Kingston HyperX SSD Installed

We installed the Kingston HyperX SSD into the 2.5" drive bracket that comes with the Cubitek Mini Ice.  This drive adapter has wheels on it, so you can roll it in and out of the case and it's held in place by a side bracket that is removed. We aren't going to be using four 3.5" drives in this case, so we installed the drive adapter at an angle to show off our HyperX SSD!

Corsair Vengeance 1866MHz Memory Kit

When it comes to memory we wanted to run 16GB and to our surprise not everyone makes 16GB (2 x 8GB) memory kits right now. We are building up this system to be over the top, so we had to have something higher than 1600MHz as well as with decent timings. We recently looked at a memory kit on Ivy Bridge and conducted a performance analysis from 1066MHz to 2800MHz on a Z77 chipset motherboard and found that 1866MHz memory with CL9 timings for $199.99 was very impressive.  After looking around we found the Corsair Vengeance 16GB (2 x 8GB) 1866MHz CL9 memory kit, and it is exactly what we wanted.

Corsair Vengeance 1866MHz Memory Kit

It runs at 9-10-9-27 timings with a 1T command rate at just 1.50 Volts! It also features the mean looking Vengeance heat spreaders, has an Intel XMP profile to easily setup and is backed by a lifetime warranty. Hard to go wrong with that combination!

Corsair Vengeance 1866MHz Memory Kit

The Corsair Vengeance heat spreader is pretty tall, so we were concerned that it might interfere with the water cooling tubes, but it wasn't an issue. The water tubes came close to hitting the heat spreaders, but go right around them. 

Bottom 140mm cooling fan

Now that all the critical components were installed we turned our attention to some of the little things before putting the power supply in. This case came with a place to mount a 140mm fan in the bottom, so we did that.

Slimline SATA Cable

The Slimline SATA adapter cable that we were using barely fit, but it made it and was able to fit between the memory modules and the water cooling tubes!

Bottom 140mm cooling fan

Someone at Cubitek must have been sleepy on the assembly line as three of the front panel wires were labeled as power switches. We also noticed that the front panel connector wires were an astonishing 27 inches long in a case that is just 14 inches deep.

Bottom 140mm cooling fan

After tracing each wire back we were able to get all the Cubitek Mini Ice wiring done and had no other issues getting it all together.

Bottom 140mm cooling fan

Taking a step back and looking at what we have done up to this point, we have to admit that we are happy with how the build is turning out. When you see how small the motherboard is compared to the SSD, you can get a good feel for how big this entire system is. The bad news now is that we need to install a power supply. When we do that it will cover pretty much the entire motherboard and is going to create a wiring nightmare.

2TB WD Caviar Black HDD & EVGA GeForce GTX 670

WD 2TB WD2002FAEX Hard Drive

Western Digital says their Caviar Black series (7200 RPM) of 3.5-inch hard drives are ideal for power computing applications such as multimedia, video and photo editing, and maxed out gaming computers. That sounds like just the drive we need to store our videos and photos, so we went with the 2TB model with part number WD2002FAEX. This drive features the SATA III (600 MBps) interface and 64MB of cache, so we'll be able to take full advantage of the functionality of our Intel Z77 Express chipset and get some nice read and write speeds with this drive.

WD 2TB WD2002FAEX Black Series

We went with the WD Caviar Black 2TB OEM version that comes with nothing more than just the bare drive in a plain box. This is all we needed as we got SATA cables with the ASUS board and the Cubitek Mini ICE comes with special mounting hardware to install it into the case.

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To get the drive installed in our case we just needed to install the special roller wheels and roll it right into one of the open hard drive slots and plug it in. It was very easy and the roller wheels are a nice touch.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 Video Card

We wanted to run an NVIDIA Kepler (GeForce 600 Series) in our system and while the GeForce GTX 680 and GeForce GTX 690 would have been able to fit, we opted for the GeForce GTX 670 as the performance on this card is impressive and it is more affordable with prices starting at $399. We went with the EVGA GeForce GTX 670 2GB Superclocked , which retails for $419.99 under part number 02G-P4-2672. This card has been factory overclocked on both the core and memory, so it should run our games just fine.

EVGA GeForce GTX 670 Superclocked Features:

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 Video Card

The EVGA graphics card uses the NVIDIA reference design for the PCB and the GPU cooler, but has been dressed up a bit to look unique. Besides adding several stickers to the plastic fan shroud, EVGA also changed out the standard exhaust bracket for a high-flow version that reduces noise and lowers temperatures. 

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 Video Card Fit

The EVGA GeForce GTX 670 SC was able to fit just fine in the Cubitek Mini ICE even with the optional lower 140mm case fan installed that is 25mm thick. You can also see the Western Digital 3.5" desktop hard drive installed in the drive cage just above the Kingston HyperX 2.5" Solid-State drive.

Cosair AX 650 - 80 Plus Gold PSU

For this build we had pretty specific requirements that we put in place for the power supply. We wanted a power supply that was around 650 Watts and fully modular to reduce clutter and improve airflow inside the case. We also wanted a very efficient power supply, so that meant at least 80 PLUS Gold rated. To be 80 PLUS Gold certified it means that the power supply must be at least 90% efficient at 50% load and 87% efficient at 20% and 100% load. Fortunately for us, the list of fully modular power supplies that are 80 PLUS Gold certified isn't that long!

Corsair AX650 power supply

The Corsair AX650 power supply is one of the highest-quality mid-wattage power supplies on the market today and it met all the requirements we had when it comes to the power supply needed for this build.  The Corsair AX650 is fully modular, 80 PLUS Gold rated and comes backed by a 7 year warranty. 

Corsair AX650 power supply

The Corsair AX650 PSU has a single +12V rail that is rated at 54A, which is more than plenty for our build. With the Intel Core i7-3770K and EVGA GeForce GTX 670 Superclocked video card in the system we figured power usage will be around 200-250 Watts at full load. This means that we will only be using 7-35% of the power supply's potential, which has both pros and cons.  The pro is that we have plenty of room to grow, but the cons are that we are below the power supply's peak efficiency range (50%) and the fan will never kick on.

Corsair AX650 power supply

The fan in the Corsair AX650 only kicks in when the ambient temperature reaches a certain point or the PSU hits a 50% load rating. We'll never be close to that, so this power supply will be basically fanless and never make noise in our system!

Corsair AX650 power supply

The Corsair AX650 Professional Series Gold PSU measures 150mm(W) x 86mm(H) x 160mm(L), but for some reason would not slide into the Cubitek Mini ICE the way it was supposed to. We contacted Cubitek and they had this to say:

"Our Product Manager confirmed to that this mini-ITX case was not designed for such PSU with large fan grills. Even mini-ITX cases from competitors (e.g. Lian Li) do not support such large PSU for sliding in and you can't find anybody complaining about it. Supporting this PSU format does not make sense to us as the case would get too big. Hope you can understand our design reason and won't take this as negative point, buyers just have to be aware what components to buy for a mini-ITX case." Cubitek PR

The ATX Standard has been around since 1995 and ATX power supplies generally have the dimensions of 150mm(W) × 86mm(H) × 140mm(L) with common mounting layout of four screws arranged on the back side of the unit. This Corsair PSU model is a little longer, but has a fan grill that sticks up a little bit. Corsair doesn't put the extra fan grill height into their dimension specifications for some reason, so we will pass the blame along to them. Most power supplies will fit into this opening.

Corsair AX650 power supply

We installed the PSU bracket on the back of the case and mounted the power supply like normal and it fit fine, albeit very tight. There really is no place to hide the wires in this case, so we tucked them the best we could below the video card and to the left of the fans. We could have put them below the power supply and above the motherboard, but we wanted to keep that area open so some air could flow over the board.

AFT Pro-37U USB 3.0 Media Card Reader

AFT PRO-37U

With all the digital content that is being created each day we wanted to have a media card reader that would be able to handle a wide variety of memory formats without the need of adapters. We originally wanted to run a SuperSpeed USB 3.0 media card reader, but the ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe Mini ITX motherboard has just one internal USB 3.0 header and we were using that for the two USB 3.0 ports on the front of the Cubitek Mini ICE computer case. There aren't many 3.5" internal USB 3.0 enclosures on the market, but we ran across the Atech Flash Technology (AFT) PRO-37U on Newegg and it looked like it would work even though our internal USB 3.0 ports were filled. 

AFT PRO-37U Media Card Reader

The AFT Pro-37U comes with the media card reader, two USB 3.0 cables, mounting screws and a USB 3.0 20-pin adapter. The adapter converts two regular USB 3.0 ports to USB 3.0 20-pin internal headers.  Our idea with this kit is to install it in our 5.25" adapter and run the cables out the back of the case through the water cooling ports and in the rear I/O panel. This isn't what we would normally do, but we really want USB 3.0 support on the media card reader!

AFT PRO-37U Media Card Reader

The AFT Pro-37U fit perfectly in the StarTech Slim Optical & 3.5-inch Bay adapter!

AFT PRO-37U Media Card Reader

The one thing that didn't fit was the USB 3.0 cabled that attached to the media card reader as they were hitting the 140mm fan on our water cooler. We used a razor blade and sliced off a bit of the connector and they then fit fine.

AFT PRO-37U Media Card Reader

Check that out!  We have managed to fit a DVD Burner and a USB 3.0 media card reader into a single 5.25" drive bay!

AFT PRO-37U Media Card Reader

We routed the two USB 3.0 wires through the Cubitek Mini ICE and out one of the water cooling line holes and then plugged them into a pair of the USB 3.0 ports. The extra cable was pulled out and cable tied off to keep things nice and tidy.

Benchmarks, Temperatures & Power Consumption

This article is about building an amazing SFF system and we thought about not including any benchmarks, but we figured some would be nice for you to see to give you an idea of what this exact system is capable of. We ran benchmarks both with and without the EVGA GeForce GTX 670 installed in the system as not everyone will need to run a discrete graphics card!

Windows Experience Index Score

The Windows Experience Index Score was a 5.8 on the system without a video card as the graphics were being run on the Intel Core i7-3770K Ivy Bridge processor with Intel HD 4000 Graphics.

Windows Experience Index Score

With the EVGA GeForce GTX 670 2GB Superclocked video card installed the Windows Experience Index Score jumped up to 7.8!

3DMark11 Benchmark

With the system running Intel HD Graphics 4000 we were able to score P801 on 3DMark11 with the performance preset!

3DMark11 Benchmark

With the EVGA GeForce GTX 670 Superclocked card in the system this score jumped up to P8649, which is more than a 10x improvement in graphics performance!

Sandra 2012 SP4 memory bandwidth

We used the Sandra 2012 SP4 memory bandwidth benchmark to check out how the Corsair Vengeance 16GB 1866MHz CL9 memory kit was performing with 9-10-9-27 1T timings. We were happy to see it was doing really well with over 24GB/s of memory bandwidth!

Crystal Disk Mark

The primary drive in this system is the Kingston HyperX 480GB SSD and we are seeing over 500MB/s sequential read speeds and right at 300MB/s sequential write speeds. These are very impressive performance numbers and this system feels fast in part due to the use of a SATA III SSD like this.

Crystal Disk Mark

The Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB Hard Drive (WD2002FAEX) also scored well with a sequential read speed of 140.5MB/s and a sequential write speed of 137.4MB/s! With the primary drive being an SSD and the secondary drive being a performance 7200 RPM hard drive, the overall user experience is amazing.

Windows Boot Racer

The system felt fast, so we used Boot Racer to see how fast our system was turning on. From the time the OS started to load it took just 6 seconds to get to the logon screen and 11 seconds to get to the desktop! The Kingston HyperX SSD is really fast and the system responsiveness is unreal.

Power Consumption

One of the goals of this build was to have a new small form factor system that was very power efficient, yet powerful. The performance of this system is nothing short of amazing, so you can imagine we were happy when we also saw great power numbers. Without a discrete graphics card in the system we were using just shy of 35 Watts at idle and peaking at 117 Watts at full load on Prime 95! With the EVGA GeForce GTX 670 Superclocked video card installed in the system we were idling at just over 50 Watts and peaking at 216 Watts in the first game test of 3DMark11. The power consumption of this system is so low that we were never able to get the fan on the Corsair AX 650 Power Supply to turn on as we were nowhere near 50% load.

Temperature Testing

With the two 140mm fans running on high we found fairly impressive temperature numbers as well despite the cramped case with hampered airflow. We really didn't see a temperature difference in the system with the video card installed.  The CoolIT ECO II 140mm water cooler did a great job of keeping the Intel Core i7-3770K Ivy Bridge processor cool. We found the system would idle around 31C and peaked just above 61C! This is with the fans running at 100%, so if you lower the fan speeds down you'll raise the temperature a bit.

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

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Building a Small Form Factor Mini-ITX computer can be challenging, but it is worth the extra work as the end result can be amazing. We managed to stuff a ton of enthusiast grade hardware into a PC case that measures just  9.06" x 12.33" x 14.29" (WxHxD)! We did our homework and planned this build out more than a month in advance to ensure we wouldn't run into any problems. We still ran into a few minor issues here and there, but at the end of the day it all worked out and the system came out just how we wanted it to. Our dream mini-ITX system was supposed to support five key features.

It looks like we succeeded and were able to get every one of those features into this build!

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Legit Reviews Mini ITX Dream PC Parts List:

Our build ended up costing just north of $2500, but you can go much higher or lower than that depending on what parts you use. If you do not want to use a discrete graphics card or an SSD you could quickly shave more than $1000 off the price of this build.

Mini-ITX Build Guide

At the end of the day we hope that we showed you how far small form factor solutions has come and what you can do with one. Full tower cases have their purposes, but if you can get away with a Mini-ITX solution it is the way to go these days. The amount of space you save is amazing and, to be honest, we didn't have to give up any features or performance! That was a big deal to us and our benchmark performance numbers show that. This mini-ITX 'Dream PC' that we built today scored P8649 in 3DMark11 with the Intel Core i7-3770K quad-core processor and the EVGA GeForce GTX 670 2GB Superclocked video card. The same video card on one of our systems running the Intel Core i7-3960X processor on an Intel X79 motherboard with 1866MHz of CL9 memory scored P9002! That is just a 4% performance difference on the fastest platforms that money could buy.

Legit Reviews would like to thank ASUS, Corsair, Cubitek, EVGA, Kingston, Maingear, Western Digital and Atech Flash Technology for making this review possible today. We wouldn't be able to bring you great articles like this without the support of companies like them.