Why You Should Not Build a Mini-ITX System
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Building a mini-ITX system nowadays has become more popular and exciting than ever before, as graphics cards, motherboards, and processors are getting more power efficient and getting smaller while maintaining the same or even more performance. But still, building a mini-ITX system poses a couple of challenges for builders, and here we list the reasons why you should not build a mini-ITX system.
Being able to carry a mini-ITX system easier than the standard ATX system while maintaining desktop performance is the strongest selling point of mini-ITX cases. But is it really portable? If you are just carrying the case and not with the monitor and the peripherals, yes it is really portable. But what if you need to bring with it the monitor and peripherals? Your baggage gets bulky, a real hustle packing those things especially the monitor. The solution is simple: buy something that is really portable, built for mobility – a laptop.
For the same or lower price, and components, you get the portability and mobility you need.
Among the motherboard form factors – ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX – the Mini-ITX has the least upgradeability options. Its RAM slots are limited to two (dual-channel), and PCI-E expansion slot is no more than one. Most ITX motherboards are limited to 4 SATA ports and a single M.2 slot, or sometimes none. For the same or cheaper price, ATX or micro-ATX gives you more upgradeability options with more PCI-E slots, RAM slots, more M.2 and SATA ports.
If ever you need to add expansion cards like a sound card, tv tuner, or a Thunderbolt add-in card, you won’t be able to do that with the ITX system. Your only option would be USB version of the expansion card which usually has reduced performance or less reliable.
The only thing that the ITX motherboards always has is a built-in wi-fi adapter. But you can get cheaper and yet effective PCI-E wi-fi adapter to add into your system since you have more PCI-E slots in ATX or micro-ATX motherboards.
Cooling is one of the main concerns in PC building. You don’t build a system and then left cooling out in the window. With ATX and decent micro-ATX, cooling and fan placement is way easier compared to mini-ITX cases. Some mini-ITX case only has a single front fan to pull air into the case and no exhaust fan. Yes, some don’t have an exhaust fan, it only relies on air vents around the case for air circulation. With the components placed closer to each other to fit inside a small case, heat accumulates faster and you want the heat to be pulled out of the case immediately. With ATX and Micro-ATX cases, it is not really a problem. Some mini-ITX cases have decent airflow from extra fans but costs more. Another thing that adds to the problem is the cable management. Because of the tight space, cables get in the way of air. A modular power supply can solve that problem but also costs more.
The last reason why you should not build an ITX system is putting the parts together. Building in an ITX case is harder and more challenging compared to ATX and micro-ATX system. You have to disassemble most of the racks to put the components and then put it back, and if you missed something, you need to disassemble it again. Some mid-tower ATX cases offer tool-less building where you don’t need tools to put the parts together and modular features to remove unused brackets and some parts to give space for other components. Building an ATX system is way easier than building a mini-ITX system.
With all that said, and you can’t resist buying and building an ITX system, we recommend the Fractal Design Core 500 or the Cooler Master Elite 130. You can still put high-end parts in there to have a powerful system that can match an ATX or a micro-ATX system.
The ATX system is just a couple of bucks higher, but that’s nothing when you have $800. It is totally worth it for the chance to upgrade by adding more RAM, additional expansion cards, or you decided to get a 240mm radiator fan. The mini-ITX system is totally fine. But for the same price, we will get the ATX system any day.