4 of the best cases for a Mini-ITX gaming PC in 2017
Building a gaming PC using a Mini-ITX motherboard is a great way to build a powerful yet compact machine. There are some fantastic Mini-ITX cases out there, some better suited to a gaming PC than others. We've rounded up 4 of the best, taking into account their flexibility, size, water cooling support and aesthetic design.
If you'd like to skip straight to our picks for the best Mini-ITX picks, see the table below. Otherwise, read on for some more information about what Mini-ITX, despite its small size, is capable of!
|Case Name||Approx Price||Buy/View|
|NCase M1||£130/$185||Buy Read Review|
|NZXT Manta||£102/$139.99||Buy Read Review|
|Silverstone RVZ02||£76.99/$69.99||Buy Read Review|
|Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX||£87/$69.99||Buy Read Review|
What is Mini-ITX?
Mini-ITX is the smaller cousin of the most commonly used PC form factors, ATX and Micro-ATX. In comparison to the larger variants, Mini-ITX motherboards have fewer RAM and PCI-E expansions slots. Mini-ITX builds also often take more planning and care when selecting the components to use, as many cases only support GPUs and CPU coolers up to a certain size. This is particularly true if you're planning on doing any kind of water cooling.
Why use Mini-ITX for gaming?
Traditionally Mini-ITX cases were cramped, difficult to work with and suffered from greatly restricted airflow which made them less than ideal for the often heavily overclocked, pushed to the limit components that make up many gaming PCs.
The capabilities of Mini-ITX motherboards have come on significantly in recent years however, and the latest products from the top manufacturers like ASUS, MSI and Gigabyte have all the features a gamer would expect from a larger ATX or MATX board, meaning a Mini-ITX gaming PC can be an impressive powerhouse contained in a comparatively small form factor.
Advanced overclocking capabilities, numerous SATA connections and support for the latest data transfer and internal expansion technologies like USB 3.1 and M.2 are now common features on Mini-ITX boards.
Along with these advancements, the manufacturers of Mini-ITX cases have also been making great strides in improving support in their products for larger graphics cards and CPU coolers, allowing gamers to make the most of their high performance components.
Another benefit of small form factor gaming PCs is that they are far more portable than full sized machines. Some case manufacturers even design their cases with built in handles, in order to make them easier to move around on a regular basis.
Mini-ITX PCs are particularly great for LAN parties, being compact, portable and generally much cheaper to build than an equivalently powered gaming laptop.
Is water cooling viable in a Mini-ITX case?
Yes! Along with support for high end (i.e. hot and power hungry) components, many of the latest Mini-ITX cases have great support for water cooling. Even in the most compact designs you'll usually find space for at least one decently sized radiator which allows the use of an AIO (All In One) water cooling solution, such as the Corsair Hydro Series H100i CPU Cooler.
Some of the larger case designs allow for full custom loop water cooling systems, with space for multiple radiators and a reservoir.
The best Mini-ITX cases for gaming
With many gamers now shifting to Mini-ITX the market for cases has become increasingly busy, making choosing your perfect case more difficult. Some are more suited to compact gaming PCs than others, and below are four of the cases that stood out most for us.
Price: around $185 / £130
Buy on the NCASE website
After a very successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign in 2013, the first production run of the 12.6 litre NCASE M1 was well received by reviewers and professional system builders alike.
Since then production of the case, which is made out of high quality aluminium and manufactured by Lian Li, has continued in limited runs with each year bringing incremental improvements to the end product.
Thanks to the incredible care and attention to detail put into the design, the NCASE M1 offers huge flexibility whilst remaining one of the smallest Mini-ITX cases around. With support for a wide range of components and water cooling options, the M1 is the case of choice for many enthusiast builders looking to fit as much performance into as small a package as possible.
The main downsides to the M1 are its high cost and often limited availability between production runs, which only occur every 8 months or so. Also, because the case is shipped straight from the manufacturer, if you're outside of the United States you'll have to factor in any additional import charges and taxes that may have to be paid before you take delivery.
The good & bad:
provides huge flexibility
room for 240mm radiator
high quality aluminium build
can use either SFX or full sized ATX PSU
accommodates large graphics cards
supports taller CPU coolers very small and portable high cost
limited availability and production runs
extra import costs outside of US
Price: around £102 / $139.99
Check Price / Buy
NZXT has a reputation for building high quality cases, and their ITX offerings are no different. With that quality though comes a higher a price. The Manta is a mass production case from a major manufacturer, so while its not quite as expensive as the more bespoke NCASE M1 it is still towards the upper end of the scale.
The Manta's striking design incorporates curved outer panels, which not only look cool but also provide more room inside for better cable management. Due to the smaller size of Mini-ITX cases keeping cables tidy and out of the way is often one of the most challenging aspects when building a system.
The Manta has a separate PSU compartment and can fit two 280mm radiators for those of you wanting to go for some extreme water cooling.
For a supposedly small form factor PC case, the Manta isn't isn't actually that small and in fact its dimensions are not far off some of the smaller Micro-ATX cases that are available. Its larger size in comparison to many other Mini-ITX cases does mean that fewer compromises need to be made when choosing components that will fit inside, however.
The good & bad:
superior cable management
separate compartment for PSU
supports dual 240mm radiators
high build quality
a little on the large size
Price: around £76.99 / $69.99
Check Price / Buy
The Silverstone RVZ02 is a striking, slim tower Mini-ITX case which still manages to provide enough room for large graphics cards and the mid-sized SFX-L PSU variant.
The case can be placed either vertically or horizontally, providing adequate airflow in both orientations thanks to large dust-filtered vents on either side. Cleverly, the case is split into two compartments to try and prevent too much heat exchange between components, one contains the GPU and the other the motherboard and PSU.
Naturally in such a compact case there are some compromises. Firstly, only low profile CPU coolers are supported and any form of water cooling would be out of the question. The mounting point for 3.5inch HDDs is also located in the GPU compartment, which means if you install a larger drive there is only enough room for a short graphics card.
The outer panels of the case are plastic, and build quality is not as high as on some of the more expensive Mini-ITX cases. That being said for what it is the RVZ02 does provide pretty good value for money, and there are very few cases of this size that can boast better features.
The good & bad:
very compact size
maintains reasonable air flow
can be placed vertical or horizontal
supports large graphics cards
little room for any water cooling
only supports low profile CPU coolers
cheaper plastic outer panels
Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX
Price: around £87 / $69.99
Check Price / Buy
Phanteks cases are well known for having some of the best water cooling support available, and the Enthoo Evolv ITX is no exception. Ample space is provided for a rear mounted 120mm radiator and a 280mm radiator on the inside of the top panel, allowing for full water cooling of both the CPU and GPU if so desired.
The case is a little on the large side, however if you're serious about water cooling then you'd be hard pressed to find a better case that was meaningfully smaller. Despite being one of the cheaper mid-range cases around, it also includes an enormous 200mm front mounted intake fan.
The Enthoo Evolv ITX comes with neat features like PSU segregation and a bracket which fits over the end of the GPU. This bracket not only helps to hide the power cables, but provides an additional mounting point for a 2.5inch SSD. Other brackets for things like water cooling pumps are available as well, helping to make good use of a space that would otherwise be largely wasted.
The good & bad:
included 200mm intake fan
great for water cooling
good build quality and moderately priced
not the smallest Mini-ITX case around
The Mini-ITX form factor is no longer limited by its size. As well as better support for traditional CPU air coolers, water cooling is now certainly a viable option for both the CPU and graphics card. Mini-ITX motherboards support all the latest and greatest features that their larger cousins do, allowing the use of high end components that were previously reserved for larger cases.