ANTONY LEATHER’S Customised PC
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Mini-ITX cases need a rethink
There are some fantastic mini-ITX cases that cater for all manner of systems, but the performance gaming area of the market is currently coming up short. My grumbles began when Nvidia’s GTX 660 and 670 graphics cards began sporting deliberately shortened PCBs.
These cards meant you no longer needed a large case to accommodate them, or one that offered enough room to house a decent mid-range GPU. The situation has progressed even further since then, and currently, the GTX 960 and awesome GTX 970 are available in decidedly dinky variations, plus AMD has its new R9 Nano. The issue, however, is that very few (if any) cases take advantage of them.
It’s an issue that reared its head again when our columnist Richard Swinburne mentioned to me on Twitter that the awesome EKWB Predator all-in-one CPU cooler we reviewed last month was exactly the same length as a mini-ITX motherboard and an SFX PSU. Of course, with short PCB GPUs being the same length as the motherboard, there’s the option to make a case that houses all of this kit without wasting space. You don’t see this space optimisation with the latest mini-ITX cases, though, for several reasons.
While many cases, such as BitFenix’s Prodigy or Phanteks’ miniITX offerings, offer great water-cooling support, they also use standard ATX PSUs, which are mounted at the rear of the case as usual.
As a result, there’s often a huge gap at the front of the case, so the chassis ends up being larger than necessary. Even SilverStone – a strong supporter of the SFX PSU form factor – lacks the winning combination. The FT03 Mini sports an interesting use of SFX PSUs and mini-ITX motherboards, but it also supports GPUs in excess of 250mm and is one of the worst cases for water cooling available. Most small cube cases such as Parvum System’s X1.0 support large graphics cards too.
Likewise, Lian Li’s PC-Q07, which supports GPUs up to just 180mm long, still uses a space-wasting ATX PSU that’s annoyingly located over the top of the motherboard, obstructing access to it. The case also has practically non-existent water-cooling support, although on the plus side, it’s very short, with a depth of just 20cm. It’s a shame, then, that case manufacturers aren’t taking advantage of all the options – a full combo with an SFX PSU, mini-ITX motherboard and short GPU could be very small indeed.
That might sound like a niche build, but with AMD’s R9 Nano blazing a headline-grabbing trail for short PCBs, I’m hoping that case manufacturers will take some notice.
We don’t all need masses of space for graphics cards; many people don’t need more than an SFX PSU and miniITX motherboards are more popular than ever. It’s high time we got a case that takes advantage of all these new benefits – there are already plenty of projects that do so in the PC modding scene.
Small-PCB graphics cards have great potential for making tiny mini-ITX rigs, but few cases take advantage of them
While many miniITX cases from the likes of Phanteks offer great watercooling support, they also use standard ATX PSUs