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.
Your reasons are not valid:
1. Portability – it is not only about portability. it is also to save desk space and aesthetic purpose.
2. Upgradeability – what do you want to upgrade? When you build an itx, you would expect it to be used as HTPC or an office workhorse. Even 5 to 6 years old Pentium/i3s are more than sufficient. No GPUs needed. 2 RAM slot is enough for anything. By the time 8GB or 16GB RAM isn’t enough, it’s time to change PC hardware anyway. And if you want to argue about gaming, then there is no point in Mini-ITX as it won’t be small enough, nor have expandable option for gamers.
3. Cooling – Yes, cooling will cost more, but not that much more if you know where to look. All you need is a low profile cooler. And you don’t need a super cooler, because you are not running a high-end CPU or do OC.
4. Building Challenges – I love a challenge. It is why i want to build one!
5. I don’t recommend the Fractal or CM Elite 130 or any CubeCasing at all. They are JUST TOO BIG. If you want to build a gaming PC, a Micro-ATX casing would be suitable for size, ease of upgrade, ease of installation. No point having a PC which is not small enough, yet not big enough for gaming purpose.
Purpose for ITX is to build the smallest PC possible and usually this will only means 2 purposes…either HTPC or Office PC for browsing an MS Office. And you should challenge yourself to build the smallest PC possible by removing the internal PSU and use a PICO ATX + External power brick combo instead.
Nowadays, i think we even have smaller form factor than ITX and it can only go smaller. And things just got more interesting!
With that said, LattePanda FTW!
Gaming from a Mini-Itx, um, heaps do it, not that hard, for you to generalise gaming is a bit wrong, you can even water cool a mini itx , dont sell the form factor short
Agreed in this day and age who wants a monster case its just not worth it. It takes a lot of space and its just not much faster than an ITX unless you need it to build a mega storage NAS there is really no point
And as far as portability there are some very small powerhouses built lately that will crush towers from 5 years ago. I have had an ITX pc for the past six years and my case is getting too big I am going smaller
there is no point to continue keeping the big cases anymore (Bitfenix Prodigy) just too large and that is small compared to some towers.
This is a terribly written opinion piece that does little in the way of justifying ridiculous claims. I suspect the author has never completed an itx build themselves, as this entire article would have probably read very differently.
I have a Cooler Master Elite 130, with a Z490I, 10700k OC@5.1 ghz, 16gb 3600mhz ram, and an Nvidia RTX 2070 Super fitting without problems. 120mm AIO for the CPU, no exhaust fans, and temperatures are super cool, I’m gaming top level and had no issues at all. This article is pure crap written by somebody that clearly never saw a Mini-ITX build IRL.
I have a mini itx case and am gaming with the near best components money can buy: lian li tu 150, 3080, r9 5900x, 32gb 3600mhz ram
So much dumb ITX worshipper assemble
So much ITX fanboys here,
80°C temp is that you called cool? Bulshit.
Is not your motherboard, it’s the case that matters to the cooling. mini itx can fit any larger cases. Also, there are good gaming mini itx gaming cases do well in cooling
Some weird-ass comments about ITX fanboy worshipping. Ummm… why knock these people that like their SFF builds? It works for them, and IDK how anyone would find out that 80C temp is being attained by anyone here. Of course nobody would dare call that as being a cool temperature. Damn. It’s really easy to build a decent mini ITX rig. Not everyone needs ATX or micro ATX. This article was trash because none of the aforementioned points are all that detrimental if you outfit your rig with decent components. Nobody needs a world-beater here.