Building an ITX Rig
As we have discussed we are going to do a build series this year and we are starting today with why we made the choice of doing an ITX system. When most people think of a computer they thing of a large box sitting next to or under their desk. I look at my wife’s desk right now and see a full tower case sitting under it and I myself had a full tower system sitting on a table next to my desk for the last year. Doug has a full tower sitting on a table next to his desk and both of his boys have mid towers setting next to and under their desks respectively. The tower case is the typical DIYer go do design.
The reasons for that are many but the primary ones are well known to us all. Larger cases are easier to work in. You do not need to squeeze components in, there is a lot of room. This also prevents bumping of knuckles and gives more room for air flow. Larger cases also give us more component options. You can fit in more in the way of multiple video cards, large cooling setups, tons of hard drives and so on. Bigger just means more room to spread out.
However bigger also means more space taken from your work or play area. A quick look under Lisa’s desk shows that she has lost almost 30% of her foot space under the desk. The tower will typically not fit on a desk shelf or the desk itself except in the case of the largest desks. This means losing some of the floor space around the desk and if that is limited can create some interesting issues. The worst is having the computer under the desk and it get inadvertently kicked. Also bigger cases are harder to fit into the rooms décor. Yeah I know some of the hardcore geeks out there are laughing but if you are married and your wife is not a tech head she is not going to want a large computer case with a ton of LEDs setup in any public room.
There are smaller ATX styles (ATX is the basic computer style/size) and you can actually get down to a pretty small system but still bigger than can be easily put anyplace you would like, some thought would have to go into putting the system in, such as a really large shelf, or even again a loot at floor space.
ITX has been around for a while and is actually used more often than people realize. The problem with ITX was that we had to give up a lot for the reduction in size. Well not anymore, there is an ITX build movement working through the enthusiast and DIY crowds and manufacturers are starting to take notice. We now have access to ITX cases ranging from tiny, just a motherboard and hard drive, to being large enough for water cooling. (Still smaller than a typical case) We have motherboards that allow us to make use of high powered gaming video cards, RAIDs and even overclocking.
ITX however also gives us a lot of flexibility, we can now use ITX builds for anything from a basic web browser / work machine to a file server or even a full gamers rig. The small cases allow us a wealth of options on where we can put these computers. They are small enough in most cases to fit on a shelf or even on a desk next to your PC, no more using up floor space or needing to add a table just for the PC. Also many of these cases come with a very subdued look, they look good on that shelf, desk or even in the living room setup in the entertainment center.
It is this flexibility in the space requirements and ability to make use of it in any room environment that drew me to this build style. For purposes of our build we will be focusing on building a full gaming rig. When we are done we will have built a system that can play most games at 1080 resolutions at very high detail levels. This means you will able to enjoy your gaming experience on your computer monitor or your large screen TV and the computers small size will make it fit where ever you need it.
While our build goal is a gaming rig we understand not everyone wants that kind of system. This means we will be talking about other build options as we work through your choices for each component. So even if you are not looking for a gaming rig, there will be something for every level of PC builder. With that in mind we will dive right in next week and begin by taking a look at three ITX cases and talking about picking an ITX case in general.