When considering a PC build, you must think about form factor. If space is a major issue, then there are different options available to system builders. ITX and MATX are both small form factor (SFF) motherboard sizes and typically have the misconception that smaller equals less power. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and most modern SFF motherboards pack the same technologies as their bigger ATX brother. Current SFF motherboards can even offer good overclocking performance with adequate cooling. Today I will be piecing together an MATX system with a focus on Enermax parts. Enermax Technology Corporation was established in 1990 and has grown into all areas of PC hardware and peripherals. This system build will focus on showcasing Enermax while maintaining an SFF profile. If you’re looking to get out of the console space, any gaming PC can beat any current gen console, but as technology grows so does the performance you get with each improvement. With an SFF system, you can even replace your console entirely with it’s smaller footprint.
With complete system builds you have to keep in mind everything you need on top of your new shiny rig. You have to consider an OS (Operating System), and peripherals. You can always recycle your old parts, but check out guides on the best gaming mice, monitors, and keyboards as well.
For this current system, an H270 chipset will be used. If you configure your system correctly and optimize air flow you can easily get good overclocking performance out of an SFF PC, but the H270 chipset utilized in this system does NOT support overclocking, and only Z-series motherboards currently have that capability. There are some other drawbacks like less PCI-E lanes and lacking a few Intel technologies like Smart Response. A major reason to consider this board would be if a person does not care about overclocking and if you want to keep temperatures down in an SFF build. They are also typically much less expensive and does offer excellent performances without overclocking.
Also, H270 does allow compatibility with Intel’s new Kaby lake CPU or last gen Skylake. The H270 chipset will have support for solutions like NVMe and Intel’s yet to be released Optane memory modules.
I will do my best to keep current links for these parts and prices, but some of these items are new and hard to find in databases like from the PCPARTPICKER website.
|CPU||Intel 7700K||348.89 @ Amazon|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte GA-H270M-DS3H MATX LGA1151 Motherboard||$87.99 @ Amazon|
|Memory||Patriot Viper Elite 16GB 3000MHz DDR4||$127.99 @ Amazon|
|Storage||SanDisk 240GB Z410 SSD||$85.49 @ NewEgg|
|Video Card||Gigabyte AMD RX 460||$118.99 @ Amazon|
|Case||Enermax Steelwing Red||$149.99 @ Amazon|
|Cooling||Enermax LIQMAX II 120S||$59.99 @ Amazon|
|PSU||Enermax REVOLUTION SFX 550W||$114.99 @ NewEgg|
Other items not listed here to consider are case fans and other peripherals. This build showcases red Lepa CHOPPER fans. I didn’t list the fans in the total because parts like this are things that can easily be swapped out.
The entire system theme for this build is red, which is why the Steelwing red case used is perfect, and of course, the LEPA CHOPPER advanced red fans. Fans are a great way to add extra cooling and performance to your PC. It can also help aesthetically for your build.
The CHOPPER fans are great case fans and offer a patented modular frame wit ha halo ring design. When looking for case fans you have to consider your motherboard layout and thankfully the Gigabyte board used offers plenty of 4pin PWM fan headers. PWM offers variable controlled fan speed so your system isn’t always running the fans at 100% RPM, which can be really noisy.
Unique features of Lepa CHOPPER fans:
- Patented modular frame with LEPA logo halo ring design to increase 30% airflow
- Unique quad-ring LED pattern creates 30 different lighting effects
- Dynamic lighting mode to meet your visual desire
- PWM speed control for the perfect balance between performance and silence
- Patented Barometric Oil less (BOL) bearing for long lifespan and silent spinning and removable fan blade for convenient cleaning
The 7700K is one of Intel’s latest processors which offers great performance for any enthusiast system. Compared to the 6700k the 7700k isn’t a huge upgrade but if your building a new PC it offers the best performance to date. Ryzen has since been released but the benchmark numbers for AMD have been all over the place. In my opinion, Intel still reigns supreme but at what cost.
CPUs have become very limited in expansion due to the reality of physical space and die of the CPU. Extreme CPUs exist with some offering 10 or more cores, but many people don’t even take advantage of the 4 core parts still. Gaming has a sweet spot, and if gaming is your thing, then a 4 core part will suit your needs just fine.
For this particular system, overclocking doesn’t pertain. This is because of the H270 chipset but should be a consideration. You also may want to consider getting a cheaper non-k series CPU because the K series are meant for overclocking. What this can do for you is allow for future Z series motherboard upgrades with overclocking support. While today, 5GHz isn’t unheard of, you will want to consider the amount of heat the CPU will add to your overall system temperatures. This is where your cooling choices will matter and the amount of air flow your case fans can provide. Most games, unless they are CPU bound, will see negligible differences in a higher overclock, but overclocking your CPU is a great way to get more for free out of your system. If you’re interested in Intel overclocking guides to check here.
The 270 series is Intel’s latest chipset which offers more PCIe lanes and better support for NVMe drives. It also provides support for Intel’s new technology called Intel Optane. This MATX board from Gigabyte offers builders a low profile design with a clean black look. This is ideal because it generally matches almost all PC parts being darker. The board also features the Smart Fan 5 app that can ensure users have the best cooling performance with little noise. Five different thermal sensors offer PWN control and are also liquid cooling friendly.
One of the most critical features of a motherboard is the system bios or UEFI. Gigabyte offers an enhanced BIOS interface with Smart Fan 5 control and all the latest enhancements that come with the 270 chipset.
The GA-H270M-DS3H also offers a high quality onboard audio design and can deliver realistic sound for professional gamers. This will ensure multi-channel audio is signal free and give your games the best possible audio.
You also have newer technologies like SATA Express which can provide up to 16 Gb/s rather than SATA 3s 6 Gb/s. There is also fast m.2 slots for NVMe storage which can get up to 32 Gb/s.
Features of the GA-H270M-DS3H:
- Supports 7th/ 6th Generation Intel® Core™ Processors
- Dual Channel Non-ECC Unbuffered DDR4, 4 DIMMs
- 2-Way CrossFire™ Multi-Graphics Support
- Dual NVMe PCIe SSDs in RAID 0 Support
- Ultra-Fast M.2 with PCIe Gen3 x4 & SATA interface
- Intel® Optane™ Memory Ready
- Triple display interfaces including High Definition Multimedia Interface
- High Quality Audio Capacitors and Audio Noise Guard with LED Trace Path Lighting
- GbE LAN with cFosSpeed Internet Accelerator Software
- Smart Fan 5 features Multiple Temperature Sensors and Hybrid Fan Headers
- GIGABYTE UEFI DualBIOS™
- APP Center Including Cloud Station™ Utility
RAM is one of those parts like the motherboard you have to pay close attention to. If you’re looking for the best you want DDR4 and a high-speed kit with low latency. Generally, for gaming speed can play a more important factor than quantity, but only to a certain extent. Depending on what you’re doing 32GB could be overkill for most users.
Most modern gaming systems have a sweet spot of 16GB running in dual channel. 8GB can be okay for most games but at the comparison of cost, 16GB is really affordable. 32GB is more important if you’re getting into the server space, video encoding, or video production.
Unfortunately for H270 overclocking isn’t support and even if you buy a higher rated kit you are limited by the CPUs memory controller. In this instance, the 3000 MHz kit will run up Intel’s 7700Ks 2400Mhz speed. Because this is a K series CPU you will be able to support overclocking and higher RAM kits in the future if you upgrade to a Z270 motherboard.
RAM overclocking and speed will have more of an effect when it comes to overclocking. If your spending in the 3,000- 4,000 dollar range for your PC then you will want high-speed ram to feed your expensive CPU. When it comes to pure gaming performance try and find a good kit for your budget as RAM is in high demand right now and getting more expensive. DDR4 which is used in this system build is getting hard to find and more expensive due to the increased demand of PC enthusiasts and phone manufacturers. The Kingston kit used here is plenty enough for multiple chrome tabs and a perfect smooth gaming expTheence. The 3000MHz kit will have a big impact on overall overclocking performance and keep your systems running really smooth for a long time.
Now that Vega is on the horizon AMD is starting to come back on top for performance. AMD has shaken up the CPU market and soon the GPU market. Ryzen has proven to a compelling option against Intel’s latest $1000 chip for half the cost. The RX 460 is no exception and is an excellent choice to combat against Nvidia’s GTX 1050 Ti.
You have to consider what size monitor and what resolution your games will run at. If you’re typically running games at 1080p (192×1080), then a Geforce 1050 TI or RX 460 is an excellent choice. If you are running higher resolutions all the way up to 4k then you will want to consider a more power GPU to push those pixels.
The Gigabyte RX 460 offers:
- 4GB 128-Bit GDDR5
- Boost Clock 1212 MHz
- 1 x Dual-Link DVI-D 1 x HDMI (Gold Plated) 1 x DisplayPort (Gold Plated)
- 896 Stream Processors
- PCI Express 3.0 x8
This GPU is plenty suitable for competitive games like Overwatch and also has a custom Windforce cooling solution with a 2x fan design.
Power supplies provide critical power to your PC, and it’s important to find one wit ha good rating. The included Platimax PSU is 80 Plus Platinum certified, and that means the PSU is 90% efficient 100% of the time. Typically using lower rated PSUs are fine for gaming and can also save you some money. I generally look for Gold certified, but Bronze is an option if you want to save even more money. The lower the standard, the less efficient the PSU is at 100%. Also, pay attention to what capacitors are used. You want to typically see that 100% 105°C Japanese electrolytic capacitors are used for the best quality. This is typically common to see crappy capacitors on a cheap PSU with unclean power.
In this build, the 550W is more than enough to power this SFF system. The thing that sets this build apart is the red Steelwing case as it actually requires a little SFF PSU. The difference here is SFX or SFF PSUs are smaller than standard ATX PSUs and take up considerable less space. Some SFF cases allow ATX PSUs which is nice, but if your looking for the best compact size most of these case types require an SFF PSU. This SFX PSU is only 100mm in depth offering it a compact design but still provide high system performance.
Features of the ERV550SWT:
|Dimension||100(L) x 125(W) x 63.5(H)mm|
When considering system storage for best performance, you should be looking at an SSD. Prices of SSDs have come way down and is an excellent way to add performance to a slower PC. Most people will typically buy an SSD for their OS volume and then use a mechanical hard disk as a secondary drive.
The Z410 is high-performance and power-efficient SSD. The Z410 can outperform HDDs by a factor of 24 and speed up systems times dramatically. This particular drive uses SLC cache which computers to a better overall performance with the drives built in TLC NAND. You can expect up to 535 MBps Read, and 440 MBps Write.
The best features of the Z410:
- SSD performance and battery-savings to everyday PCs without sacrificing capacity
- Half a terabyte made affordable
- Enables a lean BOM cost while increasing performance and reliability for desktops and laptops
- For IT departments ,reduces TCO of computer systems and improves end user experience
- Improved responsiveness and storage reliability with an SLC cache, and host write analysis algorithm
- Lowest average power consumption
- Low power with DEVSLP support, allows for fan-less designs and meets green legislation requirements
The Steelwing case used for this system was picked for its fully compact design and red accent lighting. You can choose between a red or green version fo this case.
The most important things to consider when selecting a case is size, cable management, and PSU placement. The Steelwing offers a unique design but does require the individual Enermax SFX PSU. One of the best features of this case is size but actually, offers a tempered glass side panel. Tempered glass in the new premium look for case manufacturers, and most have implemented this design across a magnitude of different popular cases.
The Steelwing specifications:
|Dimensions||D387 x W176 x H300mm|
|Material||Aluminum, Tempered glass|
|M/B Type||Micro ATX, Mini ITX|
|I/O||USB 3.0 x 2, HD Audio|
|Front HDD Bracket||1 x 3.5″ HDD or 120mm liquid cooler/fan|
|1 x 120mm Red LED fan (Pre-installed)||1 x 120mm Green LED fan (Pre-installed)|
|Rear HDD Bracket||1 x 3.5″ HDD, 1 x 2.5″ SSD/HDD|
|PSU||Standard SFX Type (Optional)|
|Maximum Compatibility||VGA Card Length: 290mm|
|CPU Cooler Height: 80mm|
Try and keep in mind when using small cases like this the compatibility of your CPU cooler and what clearance levels there are for your GPU. The Steelwing offers 290mm of clearance and can support the latest GPUs.
Building a mini PC like this has its ups and downs. You have to consider every part to keep up with your expectations and your budget. If you have the time and money its always better to custom build your PC and tailor it to your needs. When it comes to gaming, it’s important to put your money into your GPU and if you only want the best then make sure you understand what that means for you. With all these system parts, this system builds totals $1300 Dollars. This PC is one of many systems that will be showcased at the Enermax booth at PAX east 2017.