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The size of a PC used to be a solid indicator of its performance. The general rule being that the more massive a PC was, the more likely it was for it to house some monstrous hardware.
As technology advanced, though, size stopped being so relevant. And there’s no better proof than taking a look around – chances are your current smartphone is more powerful than the PC you had 10 years ago. While fitting comfortably in your pocket.
That doesn’t mean size is not relevant at all. Big rigs are still around today, as enthusiast-grade hardware usually requires a lot of space and tremendous cooling systems. However, for the casual user that doesn’t need the ultimate hardware. A build doesn’t necessarily have to be big and bulky to be powerful of the mini ITX case, and small form factor (SFF) PCs are the perfect example.
Looking to jump on the SFF PC bandwagon, but don’t really know where to start? You’re in the right place: we put together a list of the smallest mini-ITX cases that can house a GPU, allowing you to get the best mix of size and performance.
If you’ve never heard of NFC Systems or the S4 Mini, that’s because the company is a very small one and the case in question is not yet readily available, being in pre-order state at the time of writing. Be that as it may, the S4 Mini is one impressive case: with an interior size of 324mm x 203mm x57mm and a volume of only 4.3L, the case still offers enough space to fit an 8-inch dual-slot GPU (enough for a GeForce GTX 1070 Mini), dual 2.5” storage drives, a CPU cooler with a maximum height of 40mm and two 120mm fans. Power-wise, the S4 Mini can use a Pico or HDPlex PSU.
A decent airflow is ensured by the vented sides of the case, with a small downside being the fact that, due to the fairly large cutouts, the internals might be somewhat visible. You shouldn’t worry much about that, though, as the case is more bound to attract attention with its sleek design and its anodized aluminum front panel.
Dubbed as “first truly console-sized gaming PC chassis”, the Dr Zaber SENTRY is a crowd-funded project destined to close the gap between consoles and gaming PCs. With an internal volume of roughly 7 liters, the SENTRY is considerably larger than the NFC S4 Mini, but able to fit more hardware.
Its highlights are the uses of SFX/SFX-L power supplies, which broadens the range of PSUs you can opt for and, more importantly, the GPU clearance of up to 305mm – enough to fit a GTX 1080 Ti or other fairly larger GPUs featuring stock or aftermarket cooling solutions. In terms of storage, the SENTRY can accommodate 2 x 2.5” drives on a central rail between the motherboard and the GPU, with additional bays available in the GPU encasing if a small form-factor GPU is used.
The specs of the SENTRY look quite impressive, but they also have a price tag to match – the case is expected to be available at a mid-range price, and the waiting time might be a significant one, as crowd-funded projects are not exactly renowned for timely shipping.
Another crowdfunding success comes in the form of the DAN Cases A4-SFX, a minimalistic case that proves that SFF systems can be suitable for gaming. To stand up to the claim, the DAN Case A4-SFX features an unconventional design that puts the motherboard and the graphics card back to back to optimize cooling and space – after all, the A4-SFX has a volume of only 7.2 liters.
The main advantage of this configuration is its cooling potential: since both components face a side panel, they each get direct access to air intake. With GPU support of up to 306mm and a maximum CPU cooler height of 48mm, the A4-SFX can accommodate a wide variety of high-end graphics cards and CPU coolers, resulting in a cool and blazingly-fast system.
The A4-SFX is compatible with SFX and SFX-L power supplies, and comes with 3 storage bays: 2 x 2.5” bays at the bottom (one obstructed if you go with SFX-L PSU), and another 2.5” bay in the front.
The SilverStone SG05 might be a few years old models, but it provides exceptional value and features for its price, so it was impossible not to include in our list. Despite its small size (the case has a volume of 10.8 liters), the case can fit a CPU cooler of up to 82mm in height, has room for a 120mm fan in the front, and has 254mm worth of length reserved for the video card.
Aside from its storage bays (1 x 3.5” and 1 x 2.5”), it even features room for an optical drive (a slim version, of course), which is quite a rare feature for this size. The supported power supply format is SFX, but here’s the great part: the case comes with an included 80-Plus certified 300W power supply, so that’s one less thing to worry about.
Building upon the success of the SG05 and the following models, SilverStone’s SG13 is one of the company’s most popular options in terms of SFF cases. Taking advantage of every inch of space available (which is not that much, considering the fact that the case has a volume of 11.5 liters), the SG13 offers some neat features: ATX power supply support, 266mm maximum GPU length and 3 x 2.5” bays.
While CPU cooler height is limited at 61mm, the case is optimized for 120mm/140mm AIO systems, which is always a neat feature to see in a mini-ITX case. To highlight the AIO-support, the SG13 comes in two versions: one with a solid front panel, which provides a slightly reduced airflow but improves silence, and a mesh version aimed at users that opt to go with air cooling and need a better airflow.
Last update on 2021-07-30 at 13:19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API