Build log: we put together a muscular Breadbox

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As a system builder, Mini-ITX systems represent one of the more intriguing frontiers of the PC for me these days. Where ATX PCs are largely a solved problem (at least if you’re building from our System Guides), Mini-ITX boxes still require careful parts selection and a high tolerance for frustration when those parts don’t go together as expected. That difficulty makes the payoff from building a tiny-yet-powerful system all the sweeter, though.

The Mini-ITX system—or Breadbox—I’m building today is especially sweet. I got to select some of the finest parts from the folks at Gigabyte, OCZ, EVGA, G.Skill, and Logitech to put together a powerful system that’d be equally at home in a dorm room, home theater, or anywhere else a big ATX mid- or full-tower just wouldn’t fit.  This system is also my first crack ever at installing a custom liquid-cooling loop in a PC. Read on to find out how it went, or take a look at our build log video:

Core components

CPU: Intel Core i5-6600K

The theme of my take on the Breadbox might be best described as “power without excess,” and Intel’s Core i5-6600K CPU fits that mantra perfectly. This chip has four Skylake cores clocked at 3.5GHz base and 3.9GHz Turbo speeds, and its unlocked multiplier might let us wring out even more clock speed with some tweaking. 

Generally speaking, Skylake chips give us higher performance and efficiency compared to similarly-specced Haswell CPUs. More importantly, the accompanying Z170 platform gives us a wealth of PCIe 3.0 lanes for connecting storage devices like M.2 PCIe SSDs and other high-speed peripherals.

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z170N-Gaming 5

Gigabyte’s GA-Z170N-Gaming 5 motherboard will serve as the foundation for the Breadbox’s Core i5-6600K and its other bits. This tricked-out board comes with lots of stuff I like to see in a Mini-ITX mobo. Built-in wireless networking and Bluetooth 4.2 support, courtesy of an Intel wireless card, mean we don’t have to waste precious USB ports adding those features. Gamers who don’t mind plugging in an Ethernet cable will probably enjoy the board’s Killer E2200 NIC and its potentially beneficial software suite.

This board’s Realtek ALC1150 codec should produce high-quality analog audio, and an Intel Alpine Ridge-powered USB 3.1 Type-C port means this board is ready for high-speed connectivity with next-generation peripherals. Gigabyte even sneaks in an M.2 slot on the back of the board with four lanes of PCIe Gen3 connectivity for next-gen SSDs.

One thing I would have liked to see on this board is more fan headers. One CPU fan header and one system fan header just don’t cut it for an enthusiast-class system these days, even for a Mini-ITX box. Fan splitters and a Fan Mate can help, but for a motherboard fan control addict like myself, more headers are the only true answer. Still, this is a sweet-looking, feature-packed board that I’m happy to have powering my Breadbox.

Memory: G.Skill Trident Z 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4-3000

No PC would be complete without RAM, and G.Skill provided me with a Mercedes of a kit for this build. Skylake CPUs officially demand DDR4-2133 at 1.2V, but we can do better. Feast your eyes on a 16GB kit of the company’s Trident Z DDR4-3000 memory.

It’s rare that I get excited about the aesthetics of a RAM kit, but these Trident Z sticks deserve to be called eye candy. The classy black-and-silver aluminum heat spreaders rate a cut above the average DIMM, and some subtle fins and a red stripe on the top of each stick should draw attention to our build’s RAM slots without searing the eye. These DIMMs demand to be held and examined, and it’s a shame they’ll be mostly obscured in a Mini-ITX build.

Like I said, I’m not usually one to recommend more expensive RAM than run-of-the-mill kits, but these Trident Z sticks are just nice. Look how well they fit in with the aesthetic of the black-and-red GA-Z170N-Gaming 5:

15-16-16-35 timings are nothing to sniff at in a 3000 MT/s kit, either, and XMP 2.0 support should let us set up our system to support this kit’s faster speed (and 1.35V power requirements) in the motherboard’s firmware with just a couple clicks.

Graphics: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 970 GV-N970IXOC-4GD

Since the Breadbox is a small-form-factor system, I sadly don’t have room for a pair of GeForce GTX 980s or something similarly crazy. Gigabyte does have a stubby GTX 970 in its parts catalog, though, and that’s the card I asked them to send me. Like the Core i5-6600K, the GTX 970 gives us plenty of performance without going overboard.

This 6.6″ (168 mm) card is perfect for mini-ITX systems like my Breadbox, and its modest thermal and power requirements comport with the needs of compact systems. Despite the single-fan cooler, Gigabyte still gives this card a nice push to 1101MHz base and 1241MHz boost clocks (as long as you enable the right checkbox in the company’s OC Guru II utility). Unlike bigger GTX 970s, this card only needs a single eight-pin power input.

 

Core components, continued

Storage: OCZ Vector 180 480GB and Vector 180 960GB SSDs

I’d have been happy with a single SSD as a system drive in this Breadbox, but OCZ answered my call with two of its Vector 180 SSDs: one a 480GB drive, the other with 960GB of space. 

Not only do we have over a terabyte of solid-state storage to work with in the Breadbox, the Vector 180 just so happens to be one of the faster SATA SSDs you can buy today. Check out our review for more info. I doubt I’ll ever notice the storage subsystem limiting this system’s overall performance. With that much capacity to work with, I don’t have to worry about adding slower, noisier mechanical drives to this PC, either.

Case: EVGA Hadron Hydro

EVGA may be best-known for its graphics cards around these parts, but the company also happens to make cases, motherboards, several lines of power supplies, and more. The company’s Hadron enclosures seemed like a natural fit for the Breadbox. These two cases—the Hadron Air and the Hadron Hydro—both include niceties like a built-in 80 Plus Gold PSU, room for slot-loading optical drives, and two 120-mm fans.

Had I been building with a locked Skylake CPU, the Hadron Air would have been my first choice. The Core i5-6600K is going to need a substantial heatsink to let me fully realize its overclocking potential, though, and despite its other virtues, the Air doesn’t have a ton of room for tower-style CPU coolers. Liquid cooling of some kind was the obvious answer to that problem, so I went with the Hadron Hydro for the Breadbox. The Hydro version has a compartment above its twin 120-mm fans for a 240-mm radiator.

EVGA earns points for giving the Hadron twin storage sleds with mounting provisions for both 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives, but the drive cage is riveted in place. That choice makes this enclosure less flexible than it could be. Considering the Hadron first appeared in late 2013, I’ll forgive its rigid configuration—we need both of those drive sleds, anyway.

The Hadron’s sleek piano-black front panel should look right at home in any setting, but I’m less pleased with the bare steel and brightly-colored cables visible inside. For the $170 builders will pay for the Hadron Hydro right now, the black finish should extend inside and out, and a modular PSU would be preferable. To be fair, few of those unpainted surfaces will be visible with a system inside the case.

Builders will need to be careful around the Hadron’s side window. While I’m a fan of windowed cases for their aesthetic benefits, the transparent plastic used on the Hadron is quite soft. Even light polishing with a microfiber cloth left prominent scratches in the window’s surface. Given how readily case windows attract dust and fingerprints, the choice of material for the Hadron’s window isn’t ideal.

CPU cooler: EVGA Hadron Hydro custom liquid-cooling kit

Here’s where my Breadbox gets a little wild. Normally, I would turn to a closed-loop liquid cooler for overclocking the CPU in a Mini-ITX system, but EVGA just so happens to make a complete custom liquid-cooling kit for the Hadron Hydro case. This kit includes a pump, radiator, fittings, tubing, coolant, and a CPU water block.

This is the first custom water-cooling loop I’ve ever laid hands on, but EVGA’s kit seems reasonably priced and of high quality. The included radiator is far thicker than that of any closed-loop liquid cooler I’ve ever used, and it could probably keep a small engine cool, never mind my Core i5-6600K. All of the included fittings feel like chrome-plated brass.

Despite my inexperience with custom liquid-cooling hardware, this $140 kit (and the included instruction manual) made me feel pretty confident in my ability to put a loop together without causing leaks or shorting out any expensive hardware. One could probably even add a graphics-card water block to the loop later, too. Like the Trident Z RAM in this box, a full custom liquid loop isn’t strictly necessary, but it sure is nice.

 

Peripherals

Keyboard: Logitech G410 Atlas Spectrum

For my day-to-day work at TR, I need a keyboard with the full 104-key layout many know and love, thanks to our extensive reliance on Excel. Once I’m off the clock, though, I’m happy to ditch the numpad for a so-called “tenkeyless” board. I’m already a happy user of Logitech’s G502 Proteus Core mouse, so it only made sense to give some of the company’s other gaming peripherals a try.

Enter the G410 Atlas Spectrum. This gaming keyboard would earn those stripes simply for the fact that it lets me get to my mouse without creating an awkward wrist or shoulder angle. That narrower width isn’t the only distinctive thing about this keyboard. Logitech uses its proprietary Romer-G switches under each of the G410’s keys. Unlike the feathery, linear Cherry MX Red switches in my daily-driver Corsair K70 RGB, these switches combine a fairly light weight with a tactile bump that feels a tad crisper than the MX Browns in my now-retired Kinesis ergonomic board. 

The Romer-G switches felt a tad weird after such a long time with the linear MX Reds in the K70 RGB, but I quickly warmed up to them. Each keystroke feels positive thanks to the tactile bump. Each key is also individually backlit, and somehow, Logitech’s RGB LEDs seem more vivid than other RGB lighting I’ve seen. That may be because each Romer-G switch has an LED right in the center of the switch post, combined with some kind of lens on top that may serve to focus the light better. As a result, it seems like more of each LED’s photons are directed up and out of the key cap.

Cherry’s MX RGB LED switches use an LED mounted toward the top of each translucent switch housing, and that housing then serves to diffuse the light both around and up through the key cap. That’s a cool effect in itself, but I prefer the more focused, vivid light from the Romer-G switches. No, the Cherry and Logitech switches aren’t functionally different from one another, but if you’re obsessed with the quality and intensity of light like I am, Logitech’s approach simply looks better.

Each of the G410’s LEDs are individually customizable in Logitech’s Gaming Software utility. The company also includes several baked-in animation effects for the folks who just want to see scrolling rainbow patterns on their keyboards without any effort.

A couple other touches on the G410 make this board feel worthy of its “gaming” label. Its four large rubber feet mean it won’t slide around your desk at all, even during regular typing. Logitech also includes a slide-out dock in the base of this board that can hold a phone running the company’s ARX Control software. This app can display at-a-glance info about custom key and button profiles on all of the Logitech hardware connected to a given PC, and it can also display system stats like CPU and RAM usage. Neat.

Mouse: Logitech G502 Proteus Core

For the Breadbox’s mouse, I figured: why mess with what works? I already use Logitech’s own G502 in all of my day-to-day computing, so I’m happy to pair another one with this system. The G502 has Logitech’s trademark dual-mode scroll wheel on board, along with buttons for on-the-fly DPI switching, back and forward buttons, and a “sniper” button that temporarily drops the mouse’s DPI when extra precision is needed. The G502’s optical sensor can be set to track at resolutions anywhere from 200-12,000 DPI in 50-DPI intervals, though I prefer a saner 800 DPI for general-purpose mousing.

All of those buttons can be assigned to dozens of different functions in Logitech’s Gaming Software utility, and if the baked-in button settings aren’t enough, Logitech gives owners the ability to assign simple keyboard shortcuts and more complex macros to the G502’s buttons. I just wish the light-up “G” logo on the palm rest was backlit with an RGB LED. The single-tone blue light starts to look out of place if you play with the lighting settings on the G410 keyboard at all. Yes, this is a minor complaint.

Gamers can customize the G502’s mass to taste, as well, thanks to an included pack of weights that can vary the mouse’s base weight by up to 18 grams. Even better, these weights can be placed toward the front or rear of the mouse to vary its center of gravity. I personally like to use two of these weights toward the rear of the mouse to counteract the hefty scroll wheel mechanism’s mass.

Headset: Logitech G633 Artemis Spectrum

I already keep a relatively high-end, open-back stereo headset hooked up to my main PC at all times, so I was curious to see how Logitech’s $150 G633 Artemis Spectrum compared to that pair of cans for the Breadbox.

Unlike my stereo headset, the G633 bristles with programmable buttons, customizable RGB LED lights, and whiz-bang audio-processing tech. In its most fancy mode of operation, this headset plugs into a PC with a USB cable, and its onboard settings are all managed using the same Gaming Software utility as the G410 and G502. Those LEDs may not be necessary, but they do look neat.

The biggest love-it-or-hate-it feature of the G633 is going to be its 7.1 surround sound emulation. I’m personally not a fan of this technology in general, since it’s always made me nauseous after a while. Before that issue kicked in with the G633, though, I felt as if I was more immersed in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive than I do with stereo cans. The 7.1 emulation sounded pretty natural to my ear, sea-sickness aside, and audio felt far more “positioned” than it did with a plain old stereo signal.

The G633 can also be put into a plain stereo mode, and that’s how I used this headset for most of my time with it. Overall, I’ve got nothing but praise for the G633’s sound quality. While open-backed headphones might sound “airier,” the G633’s closed design provides tight, deep bass and remarkably detailed treble response. Those characteristics are useful in games, where the G633 reproduces explosions, gunfire, and the crunchy sound of footsteps with aplomb. I also liked listening to a wide range of music on this headset, although I might dial back the mids and highs a bit for non-gaming sources.

The only shortcoming of the G633 is its relatively sensitive microphone. Skype callers could easily hear me typing while I used this headset. If you use a loud  keyboard or you’re a heavy typist, the G633 will probably pick up that noise. On the upside, the mic is automatically monitored through the G633’s earcups, so you can hear yourself speak while calling out commands in games or Skyping.  Swinging the mic out of the way automatically mutes it, too.

 

Putting it all together

Mini-ITX systems can be a challenge to build, and this Breadbox was no exception. It’s never quite clear how well various combinations of parts are going to interact with one another in a Mini-ITX case, no matter how much careful spec sheet comparison you do.

The starting point for any custom liquid-cooling loop is the radiator. The Hadron Hydro provides us with a separate compartment at the top of the case for the radiator in the EVGA liquid-cooling kit, and those parts all fit together great.

Once the radiator was in place, I began working down to the eventual position of the CPU socket. EVGA’s liquid-cooling kit includes some spiffy chrome extensions that bridge the gap between the radiator’s ports and the hose grommets on the back of the Hadron Hydro, so I installed those next.

From there, EVGA instructs builders to mock up the CPU water block and tubing. However, one of the first steps in the included manual is to install the water block on the motherboard—a procedure I’d already completed. After some chin-scratching, I decided to forge ahead by installing the motherboard (with CPU and RAM on board) with the water block attached. Installing the mobo before sealing, filling, and testing the loop was a risky move, but I was confident in the water-tightness of the included compression fittings and my mechanical aptitude.

Installing the motherboard also let me mock up the loop with greater precision than I would have had by winging it with a water block that was free to move around the case. That precision proved to be quite important. The short tubing run from the outlet of the water block to the radiator extension proved challenging enough to measure and cut without creating kinks, but the run from the pump outlet to the water block proved even more difficult.

The pump’s out-of-the-box configuration uses two hose barbs at a 90-degree angle to the water block ports. With this arrangement, the CPU water block’s inlet was too close to the pump’s outlet to connect a hose without creating a kink. Even though the instruction manual doesn’t mention it, EVGA apparently foresaw this problem and included some extra 90-degree fittings in the kit. I installed one of those 90-degree fittings on the pump’s outlet and used it to point the hose barb at the water block. With that extra fitting between the hose barb and the reservoir, I was able to cut a length of hose that could connect the pump to the water block without kinking.

The final piece of the loop I needed was the connection between the pump’s inlet and the second radiator extension at the rear of the case. This hose run also creates an extreme angle with the corresponding fitting at the pump, but EVGA includes an anti-kink spring for this hose that prevents the tubing from collapsing. I had relatively little trouble cutting and fitting this hose.

With the loop properly fitted, the only remaining task was to fill the system with the included coolant. I took exceptional care not to spill any of the liquid on the motherboard or components below—hello, lots of paper towels—but in less restrictive cases or systems, I would strongly recommend removing the motherboard and other components before adding coolant. This is not a process that rewards impatience.

After triple-checking each and every fitting for tightness, I slowly added coolant, ran the pump for a few seconds with EVGA’s included short for the 24-pin ATX power connector to prime the system, and repeated this process until I had a full reservoir. I then ran the system for short intervals, “burping” it from the reservoir fill port to get as much air out as possible. With that done, I ran the pump for a few hours with the system off to check for leaks. To my great relief, all of the coolant stayed in the loop.

With all that done, I installed the graphics card and SSDs, put Windows 10 on the system, enabled the XMP profiles for my DDR4-3000 RAM, and that was that. I had a complete Breadbox up and running. Though that may seem like a cursory description of the rest of my build, it’s really just a testament to how easy it is to get a modern system going. Gigabyte’s motherboard firmware made it easy to get to the settings I needed, and Windows 10 is easy and fast to install.

 

Mission complete

When I set out to build this Breadbox, I wanted to make a powerful, quiet system that wasn’t too over-the-top. For the most part, I feel like the parts I chose accomplished that goal.

Despite a couple of small quirks and a somewhat inflexible interior, I’m happy with the EVGA Hadron Hydro case I chose to house and cool this PC. This classy-looking case is a pleasure to look at, whether it’s sitting on my desk or near my entertainment center, and it’s just big enough to draw attention to itself without being overly large for a Mini-ITX PC.

I’m not sure I would recommend a custom liquid-cooling loop for every system, but EVGA’s pre-assembled kit goes great with the Hadron Hydro. My system’s Core i5-6600K reaches Prime95 load temperatures of just 50°C or so with this setup, and the hum of the pump is as loud as this system gets under CPU load. Next time I build a full-size PC, I might have to spend some time thinking about a complete liquid-cooling loop to go with it, just because of how neat it looks.

Gigabyte’s GA-Z170N-Gaming 5 motherboard and bite-sized GeForce GTX 970 worked great for this system, and it turns out the motherboard can even control the Hadron Hydro’s duo of three-pin 120-mm fans—a rare and welcome feature. If Gigabyte let us key fan speed to CPU temperature rather than CPU load and threw in a couple more fan headers, this board would be just about perfect.

Despite its tiny size, the GeForce GTX 970 I chose can still drive many titles with a great deal of eye candy at 1080p or above. We can’t beat physics, though. A small cooler on a powerful GPU means this GTX 970 makes a fair bit of noise under load. By my measurements, the Breadbox hits about 50 dBA with a game running, and the graphics card fan is probably the single loudest part of the system. I also noticed the card couldn’t sustain its specified boost clock range at times despite the din.

Even so, this GTX 970 fits great in the Hadron Hydro, and with a game running in my living room, that fan noise was drowned out by my sound system with a game running. I still find it remarkable we can get a powerful graphics card like the GTX 970 into a system this compact, and its graphics performance far outweighs that of any game console.

I’m also quite happy with the speed of the OCZ Vector 180 SSDs serving as mass storage in this system. For basically any purpose, it’s hard to beat over a terabyte of solid-state drives working in tandem to store and shuttle bits. OCZ’s drives felt as lightning-quick in use as any other SSD-equipped PC I’ve used.

Logitech’s gaming hardware made playing my favorite titles a pleasure on the Breadbox. These highly customizable peripherals are all conveniently tied together in one utility on the software side. Logitech’s Gaming Software utility also makes it easy to manage these relatively complex programmable peripherals. Those who want to tweak each and every key will find the necessary tools to do that, while those who just want to watch the pretty lights blink can get up and running in seconds.

All told, this Breadbox was a lot of fun to build, and I feel like a similar system would make a great gaming machine for the space-constrained. Thanks once again to the folks at Gigabyte, OCZ, EVGA, G.Skill, and Logitech for letting me raid their catalogs to put this system together.

Comments closed
    • Kougar
    • 4 years ago

    As much as I like the idea of the Hadron Hydro case, I don’t understand how anyone can tolerate such a loud fan under sustained loads. Any kind of sustained load over ten minutes will cause that PSU to become incredibly loud.

    It’s a shame as the Hadron Hydro had some great concepts, and I approve of the pump/res and the copper-based radiator. But I truly have to question how long you’ve used this system if you can hear the pump noise but not the PSU fan. It’s a system that is only silent when sitting idle.

    • Srsly_Bro
    • 4 years ago

    The Logitech g502 mouse is amazing. It fits my hands well, unlike the horrendous corsair m45 brick edition. If you need a new mouse, buy this one.

    • Rageypoo
    • 4 years ago

    I have a mini-itx board, and I absolutely love it, but the memory limitation keeps me from completely enjoying it. 16gb might seem like a lot, but it does get full pretty quick if you’re multitasking as hard as I do. Unfortunately mine wont go above 16gb so despite it being incredibly reliable for me, I know i’ll have to replace it eventually, and hopefully by that time they will have a 32gb or better yet, a 64gb standard (wouldn’t mind 128gb tbh)

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 4 years ago

      It’s not hard to find [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=100007611%204814%20600521523%20600521525%20600531807%20600531811%20600327642%20600528731&IsNodeId=1&bop=And&Order=PRICE&PageSize=90<]2x16 GiB[/url<] of PC4-21300 memory. This allows 32 GiB in mini-ITX or 64 GiB with micro-ATX.

    • TomN
    • 4 years ago

    If you choose a case that big anyway, why not just add 1 liter of volume and go for the [b<]Fractal Design Node 304[/b<]? Then just fill it with: [list<] [*<]Asus Z170i Pro Gaming motherboard [/*<][*<]i7-6700k, clocked at a reasonable 4.6 GHz @ 1.37 V [/*<][*<]Noctua NH-U14S (reeeeally quiet, and does actually fit in the case, believe it or not!) [/*<][*<]2*8 Gb Corsair Vengeance low profile DDR4-2400 RAM (faster RAM doesn't really seem to give any benefit) [/*<][*<]512 Gb Samsung 950 Pro M.2 SSD (gets a bit warm but is insanely fast) [/*<][*<]Corsair CS650M modular 650 W PSU (short enough to allow max length GPUs in this case) [/*<][*<]Asus GTX 980 Strix DirectCU II (fast enough, somewhat "affordable", just unfortunately with a cooler that vents into the case) [/*<] [/list<] ...and you have a decent size machine that is both completely silent at idle and movie playback and powerful enough run almost everything at max detail with reasonable resolutions. Old school air cooled = easy, safe, cool, and no pump noise. For the more moderate power level of the build in the article, you could probably have made it much smaller...

      • DragonDaddyBear
      • 4 years ago

      I have that case and love it! BTW, you can put just about any PSU you want into the thing that fits and not impact the graphics card option. What limits the size of the graphics card is if you want 4 or 6 3.5″ HDD’s. Also, there is a mesh on the side of the case where the graphics card is so much of the hot air could leave the side. It has excellent airflow with the 120mm fan in the back, evo cooler, and 2x90mm fans in the front.

    • TheMonkeyKing
    • 4 years ago

    Okay…

    What I really want to see is someone (or maybe just me) post their “Grannie Box,” where we’ve all at one time or another, built a PC out of our hand me down or surplus or “outdated” stock just so we can clear out some space in the closet or be a step of ahead of the impending nagging from our significant other to clean this sh## up.

    So…how does it compare to those system guide boxes? All of them focus on the latest or nearly new parts. How does an AMD phenom ii x2 550 and a 7950 stack up to this breadbox? Sometimes when we build something to get rid of it, it is actually a pretty decent box.

    I would just like to see some numbers to back this assumption of mine.

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 4 years ago

      New: [url=http://www.silverstonetek.com/product.php?pid=533&area=en<]Fortress FTZ01S[/url<], i7-6700K, GA-170N-Gaming 5, 2x16G PC4-21300, 980Ti 6G -1: [url=http://www.silverstonetek.com/product.php?pid=303&area=en<]Temjin TJ08-E[/url<], i7-4770K, Gryphon Z87, 2x8G PC3-14900, R9-290 4G -2: [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811147166<]Line-M[/url<], i5-3570K, P8Z77-M Pro, 2x8G PC3L-12800, HD7870 2G -3: [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129041<]Mini P180[/url<], i7-2600K, P8Z77-M Pro, 2x8G PC3L-12800, HD7950 3G -4: [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129035<]NSK3480[/url<], A8-3850, F1A75-M Pro, 4x4G PC3-12800, HD6970 2G -5: [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129025<]P182[/url<], Ph-II X4 955, M5A99FX Pro r2, 4x4G PC3-12800, HD5850 1G -6: [url=http://www.newegg.com/product/product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129141<]P160S[/url<], C2Q Q9300, GA-X48-DS4, 4x2G PC2-6400, HD7770 1G -7: [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129066<]300 Illusion[/url<], Ph-II X3 720, M3A78-EM, 4x2G PC2-6400, GTX460 ¾G All are running Windows 10 just fine except for -5, which stubbornly fails to upgrade from 7.

    • Criscrh9
    • 4 years ago

    Problems with mini it’s case only one pci x16 Lane. Onboard audio chip sucks no dolby digital live. The Asus mini itx boards are much better.

    • xicat487
    • 4 years ago

    Long time reader but first time post. I just need to put my 2 cents in.

    With myself having just built a fully liquid cooled Silverstone Fortress Series FTZ01, this build as mentioned is very large for a MITX.

    With some minor changes these directions achieve better results with half of the footprint.
    [url<]http://www.silverstonetek.com/downloads/CASE/ML07_RVZ01_recommended_water_cooling_parts.pdf[/url<] My biggest gripe is with the motherboard. An ASRock Z170M-ITX/ac with SKY OC paired with the I5 6500 just blows the Gigabyte away. As readers of the Tech Report we expect better part selection, especially when it is liquid cooled.

      • Mr Bill
      • 4 years ago

      Nice set of peripherals coming off that backplane.

    • Phaleron
    • 4 years ago

    Something something… benchmarks… something something… giant case… something something… Overclock…

    • Wirko
    • 4 years ago

    Hey Jeff, after so much plumbing work you didn’t even bother to raise the CPU clock by a single hertz?

    • Voldenuit
    • 4 years ago

    I’m going to join in with the chorus that’s saying this rig is too big for mITX.

    Something like a [url=http://www.silverstonetek.com/product.php?pid=607<]Silverstone ML08[/url<] would have made a lot more sense for mITX.

      • Johnny Rotten
      • 4 years ago

      Agreed, although I am more partial to the Fractal Designs Node 202 myself…

        • Voldenuit
        • 4 years ago

        That’s a nice-looking case.

    • cmrcmk
    • 4 years ago

    [quote<]...Mini-ITX boxes still require careful parts selection and a high tolerance for frustration when those parts don't go together as expected.[/quote<] [quote<]This system is also my first crack ever at installing a custom liquid-cooling loop in a PC.[/quote<] Glutton for punishment much?

    • spugm1r3
    • 4 years ago

    I have to say, I’m a little disappointed in EVGA’s effort on the cooling kit. For a kit designed for the case, it feels more shoe-horned than custom built. A quality design would have put a port out of the top of reservoir, instead of the front, and would have lined up the ports on the back of the case better. This would drastically reduce the case clutter and allow you to see more of the components, which is the point of a windowed case.

    One other criticism, their insistence on carrying the blocky design elements of the case to the reservoir and fittings feels more like the parts were designed in isolation, rather than together. It might have worked on the back of the case if the fittings were parallel and of a similar length; instead they are more reminiscent of a Dodge Neon with a bolt-on spoiler than a fine-tuned racing machine.

    A final note, the thing about putting the kid gloves on “custom-build” components, the end result should be difficult to screw up, not just difficult.

    • Platedslicer
    • 4 years ago

    Ulamog of the Infinite Gyre?

    • NarwhaleAu
    • 4 years ago

    Loved the MTG card – bonus points for card selection.

    It would be great to get a comparison shot in the real world – it is hard for me to work out just how small that case is.

    Thanks for the hard work!

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 4 years ago

    I’ve never really understood the fascination of liquid cooling CPU’s and not the GPU. An OC’d CPU consumes approximately 1/2 of the power of a high-end graphics card at the stock clocks. The graphics card at load in my system consumes more power than the rest of it combined! It’s the one component that I would be concerned with pushing heat out of the case and not recirculating it.

    It’s been a while since I’ve built a liquid cooled system, but when I moved to a setup with the GPU I think I dropped the internal system components at least 5C (the hard drive was more but Raptors were all the rage then).

    The build log was great, BTW. I’d totally go down this route in the future if I had the time and/or money for it. I just don’t understand going custom-ish loop and stopping at NOT including the GPU.

      • Pitabred
      • 4 years ago

      Seconded. I can get the AIO kits for the price of a good air cooler for the CPU, but if you’re making a custom loop of any kind, with a big radiator, you really should prioritize the GPU for cooling.

        • DragonDaddyBear
        • 4 years ago

        Well, if I’m going to roll an ITX build with liquid cooling I’m thinking I’d go with a small AIO cooler for the CPU and an AMD Fury X and skip all the hard work of cramming 10 pounds of stuff in a 5 pound chassis.

      • slowriot
      • 4 years ago

      The answer is obvious…

      All-in-one kits are sold primarily to an audience who doesn’t have the confidence to remove the heatsink from a GPU. The majority of custom loops I’ve seen incorporate the GPU. But the vast amount of water cooling these days is done using an Asetek-based kits.

      • Anovoca
      • 4 years ago

      It isn’t a matter of cooling efficiency but need and space. CPUs are more restricted on space than GPUs between vrm heatsings, RAM, and just the general location in the uper corner of the board for most cases. A simple flat heat pipe rack with three fans like on most hotclocked GPUs just won’t fit on most boards.

      Then there is a matter of CPUs don’t come with a heatsink preinstalled which means you either install the pos stock cooler yourself or pay extra and install an AIO yourself, eitherway you have to do the work. Not so with a GPU.

        • DragonDaddyBear
        • 4 years ago

        I think the lack of space on the GPU is actually supportive to my position. A water block is significantly smaller than a GPU. There is a current case of HSF vs LC and that is the Fury vs Fury X. The length of the non-X card is much longer.

        I acknowledge your point of the stock HSF and installing an AIO. However, the point I wanted to make is if you roll a custom loop, an undertaking not designed for beginners (unlike AIO coolers), then you shouldn’t stop at the CPU. In my opinion it defeats the entire point of building a custom setup (or, in this case, a kit that is comprised of “custom build” components).

    • tanker27
    • 4 years ago

    Pretty nice. But…..that Killer NIC, NO THANK YOU! I would much rather have a Intel one. I currently have a Killer on my G1 Sniper M5 and it is wonky at best, but better than Intel no way josé! And the comment about its software suite being “potentially beneficial”, riiiight. It’s not.

    • TravelMug
    • 4 years ago

    Hmm…have to join the group that says this does not look like a thought out build, but more like a project to put a bunch of available parts together into some working PC and describing them like in a promo material.

    In addition the writing style is very American (as in US). Maybe this is not obvious to the US readers, but it should be for everyone else. The article is about a build, the object itself, but the wording is full of “I” and “my”. As in too much of it even though it may be your PC at the end. Reads or sounds weird. In fact, I just watched a YT video yesterday and after a short while I simply read this in the guys voice in my head:

    [url<]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpXhSrhmUXo[/url<] Coincidentally that build from the video also seemed to make little sense.

      • MDBT
      • 4 years ago

      That may be related to the notice at the top of the first page of this article where it states that this is sponsored content.

        • slowriot
        • 4 years ago

        He was too busy criticizing the article to read it all.

          • TravelMug
          • 4 years ago

          I’ve read it, hence the comment about the style as well which seemed unusual for TR that I’m reading since it’s inception.

          The fact that it is a sponsored article does not mean that the build makes sense as it is described or positioned in the article. Quite a few of the other people commenting here seem to agree with that. If the parts were given, it should not say there was selection involved. If there was selection involved then it wasn’t the best selection.

            • slowriot
            • 4 years ago

            I’m sorry, but some of the posts criticizing the parts selection here were made by people who couldn’t even bother to properly compare case sizes. Forgive me for not agreeing with said posters. Or from others who criticize the presence of Wi-Fi without realizing that virtually every Z170-based mini-ITX motherboard has it. Or the posts about watercooling which is entirely personal preference. Or the criticism of the motherboard even though right now that Gigabyte board is by far the most consistently reviewed option for Z170 ITX, because a lot of the other’s currently have some pretty weird issues. I know, I just bought 3 of the damn things trying to find the right one (thank you Amazon return policy).

            There’s no problems with the build part selection. This is one of the smaller mini-ITX cases that can handle full sized cards. Maybe they could only get some parts for free and DID have to select others. Do they really need to spell out the acquisition process of every last piece here? This is a build log, not a build guide. It’s not trying to convince you to out and get these specific components. It’s just a run down of someone’s new rig and some bits about how it went together.

            As for writing style… honestly… whatever. You didn’t like it, I did. I like Jeff’s style, personally.

    • RdVi
    • 4 years ago

    I built something similar for my GF for an xmas present.

    Main differences were:
    – Lower end ‘wifi’ version of the same mobo
    – Ncase M1
    – Air cooling, Noctua NH D9-L
    – M.2 SATA SSD (850Evo)
    – Silverstone SFX-600wG PSU
    – My old Gigabyte Radeon 7950

    Boot speeds are damn fast, like just under 10 seconds to desktop. Temps are actually fine considering she doesn’t need the thing overclocked (now, anyway). It’s summer here and the relatively small HSF keeps the CPU at 55C in AIDA and the GPU stays at 65C in furmark. Glad I didn’t go overboard on the CPU cooling. Running CPU and GPU loads at once is the only time the air coming from the sole 92mm exhaust fan is actually properly warm. I was pretty worried about using a GPU cooler that doesn’t exhaust, but hey, it turned out okay enough. I was surprised. I could even put my 290X in the thing with the way it’s going when I move on to something new. I’d probably put the power limit to -20% if I did just to keep heat and noise down though., which I don’t think would be too bad since the monitor is only 1080p/60Hz. Obviously something like a 970 would be better but for a hand me down card it should work well all things considered when the time comes.

      • dragosmp
      • 4 years ago

      nice build

    • terminalrecluse
    • 4 years ago

    The writing seems borderline news release-y.

    “the realtek … should give good analog audio…” said nobody ever.

    And did you even OC the chip, and to what speeds?

      • Walkintarget
      • 4 years ago

      Have you tried out a board with the Realtek ALC1150 yet ? Its damn near the Xonar DGX in its audio quality. The edge still goes to the Xonar, but I was impressed coming from an older Reaktek ALC888.

    • Convert
    • 4 years ago

    Wut? The case is huge and the GPU is loud. This build makes no sense other than “I had some cool parts so I put them all together”.

    [quote<]Mini-ITX boxes still require careful parts selection and a high tolerance for frustration when those parts don't go together as expected.[/quote<] Not really. Usually the only part of concern is the dimensions of the aftermarket CPU cooler. I think anyone who builds ITX systems on an even semi-regular basis will tell you the real frustration is trying to plug everything in with giant meat hands. Sometimes it's like putting a ship in a bottle. Oh and a custom PSU with a tiny little fan? Yeah, no thanks. Come on Jeff. [quote<]both include niceties like a built-in 80 Plus Gold PSU[/quote<] Said no enthusiast ever.

    • spiritwalker2222
    • 4 years ago

    Too bad they can’t fit an M.2 onto a Mini-ITX board

      • Convert
      • 4 years ago

      They can and do, they go on the back of the board.

        • JustAnEngineer
        • 4 years ago

        My latest gaming PC build uses the same Gigabyte [url=http://www.gigabyte.com/products/product-page.aspx?pid=5529#ov<]GA-Z170N-Gaming 5[/url<] motherboard. I'm running an [url=http://pcpartpicker.com/parts/internal-hard-drive/#S=240000,10000000&t=0&f=122042,122060,122080&sort=a7&page=1&i=38,37,36,35,85,83&X=0,50611<]M.2 SSD[/url<] on mine.

    • tu2thepoo
    • 4 years ago

    I was looking at that gigabyte motherboard, and some of the newegg user reviews said that the wifi is especially flaky. Some of the reviews said that the wifi module loses signal in a known-good room, others said that it caused some kind of unacceptable lag (pauses in gameplay rather than increased ping) when used. Were you able to test the wifi out to see?

    • TwoEars
    • 4 years ago

    Really cool little system but I would have picked something like this for cpu cooling instead:

    [url<]http://www.amazon.com/Noctua-Low-Profile-Cooler-Retail-Cooling/dp/B009VCAJ7W[/url<] [url<]http://www.hardwareheaven.com/reviewimages/noctua-nh-l9i-cooler/noctua-nh-l9i-cooler_install2.jpg[/url<] Should be enough to keep the cpu cool as long as you don't crazy with the OC'ing. And then you can pick a smaller case and really get the most out of that form factor.

    • south side sammy
    • 4 years ago

    I like bread!

      • Walkintarget
      • 4 years ago

      Sourdough for a sandwich

      Rye with butter for breakfast

      Onion roll for a bread bowl

      Feel free to offer up your bread suggestions.

      • Wonders
      • 4 years ago

      Yep, there’s a sock for that:
      [url<]http://www.sockwizard.com/i-love-bread-socks.html[/url<]

    • SnowboardingTobi
    • 4 years ago

    immature post of the day:

    every time I read “hadron”… in my head it gets translated to “hard on”

    sorry… but it just does. imagine my shock when I first read about the large hadron collider. omg, why would they make them collide?!?!

      • Wonders
      • 4 years ago

      Hey, what happens between consenting quarks in an excited state — even though we may find in it a certain strangeness — is a fascinating world unto itself of tops and bottoms drawn close by a strong force, which together form hadrons. The precise technical term would in fact be “raging hadrons,” if I recall correctly.

    • DPete27
    • 4 years ago

    ACK! look at the SUPER tiny fan on that included power supply! …No thanks.

    • Redocbew
    • 4 years ago

    That sounds like a pretty typical experience in ITX watercooling. There will be fun with cables, and fun with tubing pretty much no matter what.

    • chuckula
    • 4 years ago

    Awesome cooling Jeff!

    • southrncomfortjm
    • 4 years ago

    Would be nice to have a pic of the case with something to give us an idea of its size. Those pics make it seem like a regular sized atx case.

      • Chrispy_
      • 4 years ago

      Despite my scorn it’s still reasonably small compared to full ATX cases, it’s probably not a lot different to the mATX Silverstone TJ08-E which has room for a 200mm fan, full-sized ATX PSU and about four times as many PCIe slots/drives.

      I always judge relative case size by the IO shield since that is constant no matter what.
      The IO shield plus the double-wide card slots for graphics is also the width of your typical shoebox case so you can immediately see that this this is roughly twice the volume of your typical Sugo05 or Coolermaster Elite equivalent.

        • Peldor
        • 4 years ago

        This case is 13.98″ x 6.65″ x 12.13″.

        The Cooler Master N200 micro ATX from the last system guide is 14.90″ x 7.90″ x 17.50″.

        The Corsair Carbide 200R full ATC from the last system guide is 16.90″ x 8.30″ x 19.60″.

        In most situations, I’d rather just have the space of the uATX but this is a space saver.

          • EndlessWaves
          • 4 years ago

          [quote<]I'd rather just have the space of the uATX but this is a space saver.[/quote<] Except it isn't, you can get Micro ATX cases that take full height expansion cards that are smaller than this, such as the Sharkoon CA-M: [url<]http://www.sharkoon.com/product/1679/CAM[/url<]

    • Chrispy_
    • 4 years ago

    It’s a nice build Jeff but I thought the point of the Breadbox was to be small?

    Despite being mITX, the EVGA Hadron case is pretty damn huge. “Compact” and “240mm radiator” shouldn’t go together in my rulebook, especially when the thing that needs the most cooling real-estate is the GPU, not the CPU.

    Having been building shoebox mITX cases since the first shuttle XPC clones arrived, what you need to keep a small powerhouse build cool and quiet is an externally vented card like the reference 970/980/Titan cooler. There are cases far smaller than the EVGA Hadron that allow for longer GPU’s with more cooling area whilst also permitting tower coolers or full ATX PSU’s.

    Silverstone are the obvious candidate for dinky builds with a huge array of options ranging from traditional layout to downright obscure (RVZ01 and variants) but CM, TT, Fractal and others all offer plenty of much smaller Breadbox cases than EVGA and don’t obstruct the entirety of the GPU intake side with a huge, expensive, unusual-form-factor PSU.

      • bhtooefr
      • 4 years ago

      For that matter… the Hadron Hydro is claimed at 18.2 liters (including any protrusions). It actually can take a 10.5″ GPU (so, anything Nvidia makes with a reference cooler), but I digress.

      The NCASE M1 is at 13.5 liters including protrusions (although not including reservoir), and it can take longer GPUs than that, it can take a 240 mm radiator too, it can take either dual 2.5″ or a 2.5 and a 3.5″ HDD underneath the GPU, with a 120 mm radiator it can take two 3.5″ HDDs on the side panel, it can take two 2.5″ HDDs on the front inside of the case, it can take either another two 2.5″ HDDs or a slot-load optical in between the case front and the front cover, it takes SFX power supplies instead of 1U Flex-ATX… (But, it’s more expensive and doesn’t include a PSU.)

      • DrDominodog51
      • 4 years ago

      Or you could use a Shuttle XPC. Newer Shuttle XPCs support mITX motherboards also.

    • auxy
    • 4 years ago

    Putting wi-fi on a gaming-oriented motherboard… ;つ_`)

    Also, needs more Fury Nano. At least you’d have 4GB of VRAM! Hohoho. ( *´艸`)

      • geniekid
      • 4 years ago

      Whatever happened to the Nano review?

      • derFunkenstein
      • 4 years ago

      Since the motherboard doesn’t have a ton of slots, it’s nice that everything you could ever need is available on the board. This is the same motherboard I used to shrink my big system into a mini ITX build. The board itself is nice. I don’t use the Wi-Fi, but I do use the Bluetooth (which is on the Wi-Fi card).

        • oldog
        • 4 years ago

        Which case did you stuff your stuff into?

          • derFunkenstein
          • 4 years ago

          A Corsair 380T, which makes the EVGA Jeff used look like a NUC.

            • oldog
            • 4 years ago

            In Bumblebee colors I would think. But yeah, a bit on the large side for my tastes.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 4 years ago

            I went for the Stormtrooper look, but the Bumblebee getup would look good, too.

      • slowriot
      • 4 years ago

      Why wouldn’t it include wi-fi? It’s on every mITX gaming board for a reason. People use it. Maybe you don’t want to but well… who cares? Honestly. It’s an Intel chip so it will work decently. It’s not like they didn’t include a NIC, though I would prefer Intel for that too.

        • auxy
        • 4 years ago

        People who game on wi-fi deserve to be beaten severely about the head and shoulders with a clue-by-four.

          • Anovoca
          • 4 years ago

          Correction, people who game pre ac-wireless era. A dedicated gaming rig with ac wireless has no issues provided you are only gaming and not heavily downloading anything. With most m-ITX use cases, this will never become a problem.

          Besides, wireless speeds might not exceed cat6 but they are faster than the average internet connection, which makes them fast enough to not be a bottleneck for most gamers.

            • auxy
            • 4 years ago

            I dunno why you think the bandwidth matters. It has nothing to do with data throughput, it’s all about latency. Unless you can set up beamforming and have an uninterrupted signal (read: almost nobody who uses wifi), even Wireless-AC is going to have packetloss and higher latency than regular old 100BASE-TX. It’s a [b<]FACT[/b<]. Gaming on Wi-Fi is fine for some MMORPGs, or other games which have centrally-hosted servers, where the only person's experience you're crapping-up is your own -- as long as your connection is at least good enough to not drop all the time -- but when you're playing something like Warframe, which is peer-to-peer and has player-hosted servers, it is NOT ACCEPTABLE.

          • slowriot
          • 4 years ago

          This might blow your mind but… my motherboard has wi-fi and… I only use it occasionally! I know, totally crazy how I am able to selectively use a feature when it makes sense but not pointlessly complain about it when I don’t. Or heck, my motherboard even includes onboard audio that I’ve never used. I didn’t even create a post to complain (and judge others) about it because I don’t know… I realize the vast majority of people don’t care about the perfect audio experience and find the onboard audio useful.

          It doesn’t take much critical thinking to understand why manufacturers include these features. They clearly have appeal to a wide audience, an audience that may not include you or me. So what’s the freaking point complaining about it? It’s obvious why it’s there.

            • auxy
            • 4 years ago

            Are you stupid? You write reasonably well so I assume not. Let’s try again:
            [list<][*<]Thesis: online gaming on wi-fi is awful and inconsiderate for others. [/*<][*<]Gigabyte makes motherboard specifically targeted at gamers and includes wi-fi. [/*<][*<]Including wi-fi on the gaming-targeted product may give the purchasers -- again, gamers -- the idea that it's OK to game on wi-fi, which is bad.[/*<][/list<] That wasn't so hard, now was it? (´・ω・`)

            • slowriot
            • 4 years ago

            LOL!

            Literally every mITX + Z170 chipset motherboard sold on Newegg except 1 model from EVGA includes wi-fi. It’s like an entire industry and the vast majority of gamers understand gaming over wi-fi really isn’t that bad except you.

            • JustAnEngineer
            • 4 years ago

            My mini-ITX gaming PC is normally connected to a gigabit ethernet cable when I am at home. However, when I carried it to another location, the on-board WiFi worked satisfactorily.

            • NTMBK
            • 4 years ago

            Not all gaming involves multiplayer, you know. :\

    • djayjp
    • 4 years ago

    Nice build but why not an externally/enclosed venting GPU card…? Not enough space for such a powerful gpu?

    • Anovoca
    • 4 years ago

    I don’t understand the reasoning behind the orientation of that drive cage.

    For one, HDDs tend to live a lot longer when they sit horizontaly. Secondly, with the L shape joints on the sata ports, it takes up a lot of extra room to bend the cables up and around where as with a horizontal cage the cables could have been much shorter and fed directly up to the drives from where they exit the PSU. Since the PSU is standard for that case they could have even made a nice little plate for them to run along and cut the cable length to exact size.

    • jihadjoe
    • 4 years ago

    Would’ve been nice to include the GPU in that water loop. It is after all the component that produces the most heat in that system.

    • dodozoid
    • 4 years ago

    Major message:
    ITX systems are all messy and crowded

    I feel much better now about tiny PC I have built for my GF. I thought its just my lack of skill what makes it look so stuffed.

    anyway, nice PC, Jeff

      • Anovoca
      • 4 years ago

      m-itx can look as clean as anything else if that’s what you are going for. this is not a case that tries to make things look pretty. There are 0 cable manament runs, a giant HDD cage with outward facing cables, and a non modular supply.

        • Chrispy_
        • 4 years ago

        Yeah, mITX is easy to make clean but this case is a dog, to put my opinion bluntly.

        [list<][*<]It's huge for what it offers in terms of drive bays and ventilation per cubic <imperial/metric unit> [/*<][*<]The drive cage is in an awkward location and oriented badly for both cabling and airflow [/*<][*<]The PSU is practically bespoke which means expensive + limited alternatives [/*<][*<]The long PSU completely blocks off the GPU's intake side, where other cases would have an intake vent. [/*<][*<]The radiator on top is both comically large and an ugly afterthought with external 'hosing'[/*<][/list<] Maybe I'm using harsh wording but all of those points are fact even if my attitude towards them is opinion.

          • Anovoca
          • 4 years ago

          Nope, you hit it right on the head. I only give a little credit to EVGA in that they aren’t really a case mfg. Taking that into account this case is impressive as a concept; however, I am sure Corsair, NZXT, or Phanteks could sit with this design for 5 minutes and make it 100x better.

        • Inkling
        • 4 years ago

        You may have a point, but I’ve built several SFF systems in Shuttle boxes and Silverstone Sugo enclosures, and they’ve all been a chore to fit everything in its place and do smart cable routing. I supposed there might be some recent options that have these sorted better, but physics are a thing.

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