Purpose: high-end gaming + other demanding computing tasks with an occasional need for easy portability. It doesn't need to look flashy, it just needs to work well.
Thoughts on each component and how they work together are as follows:
A very well laid-out case with adequate ventilation. Everything in here was a tight fit, but there's just enough room to make it all work with a little trial and error. It breathes better than I thought it would as well, with generous open meshes all over the case and the PSU assisting the outward flow.
Hands down, the sexiest BIOS I have ever seen. There are tons of features, it's easy to use, and it has plenty of overclocking options. The board itself has just about everything you'll ever need in a powerhouse mini-ITX build, save for perhaps a M.2 SSD connector. I would not recommend air cooling the CPU in a build like this due to the layout of the board. There are simply too many tall pieces, like the "Impact Power", audio module, RAM, and ATX power cables that would likely get in the way of good airflow unless you get a larger case.
Lives up to its performance reputation and overclocked like a charm. Easily found my way to 4.5GHz with a modest voltage bump to 1.36V. There's more voltage headroom here which could lead to higher speeds if desired, but I don't want to push temperatures too much further at this point. I suspect that with a little more tweaking that 4.6 should be attainable.
At the time of this build, this site could not verify compatibility with the above case. I can answer definitively that yes, it does fit with a very minor modification to the case. All you have to do is bend two tabs on the underside of the top storage/optical drive tray. I have included a picture for reference. This removes one of the SSD mounting options, but you still have 1-3 more to work with depending on what other components are included. Additionally, the coolant lines are a bit long for the case and required a few extra zip ties to hold out of the way of the PSU. Once it's fitted though, it does a great job of keeping the overclocked i7-6700k at reasonable temperatures. With ambient temperatures around 25C and heavy gaming/productivity loads, it does a good job of keeping the i7's temperatures below 70C.
I was slightly disappointed that I couldn't quite hit its rated latency numbers (15s instead of 14s) even with a voltage increase (1.4v), but I did at least find some consolation in it running successfully at DDR4-3066 with those latencies. The corners of their heatsinks are a little sharp as well, so be careful with your fingers, wires, and coolant lines around them. If nothing else, they look cool and have nice beefy heatsinks.
After reading a few reviews, it seems that this one runs a bit cooler than the other popular GPUs, which I figured would be a good fit for this build. Using MSI Afterburner, I was able to reach approximately 1950 MHz core and 5375 MHz (effective) memory at 108% power without touching the voltage/frequency curve. Running fans at 80% keeps the card in the low-mid 70s under stress testing loads. That said, it's a little noisier than expected once the fans get above 60-70%, but that might be mostly attributable to being right up against the side of the case. There's also a very small amount of coil whine as well, but it's not very noticeable on anything outside the heaviest stress tests, especially once the fans kick in. As for fitment, there weren't any problems, but I don't think I'd want to try and fit anything longer in this particular build.
I chose this to make use of the motherboard's faster U.2 interface (over 4x read and 2x write compared to SATA III). Unfortunately, Intel 750 Series is the only option and a bit pricey as well. Still, it's blazingly fast and came with a good quality matching cable. This was an easy fit into the case's side/vertical mounting location.
This may look like overkill since these components definitely don't need 750W to work, but it makes more sense when one stops to consider heat and efficiency. With this case layout, the PSU fan will be helping to extract a decent amount of heat, so keeping it under-stressed AND in its most efficient load range (40-60%) should help maximize its ability to aid in cooling. Its fan is easily the most quiet one in this build. The provided modular cables are plentiful, but in a cramped build like this one, their generous length required some creative routing to stow away the excess. There isn't a whole lot of room between this and the optical drive.
Nothing out of the ordinary here. It works as expected, but it's still another component taking up valuable room in a small case. Cable management would have been much easier if I went with an external optical drive instead.
1 Year Update: I'm still enjoying this PC. The only problem I've encountered so far was a CPU failure of unknown cause about two weeks after build. I was able to exchange it for a new one at its place of purchase (Micro Center) and the system has been problem-free ever since. The only other noteworthy change has been to relocate the optical drive to an external enclosure for the purpose of improving airflow (particularly for the GPU) via better cable management (read: stuff excess cable into that space). The whole system still runs a bit on the warm side, but all well within spec. I may attempt to modify the case at some point to see if there are further improvements to be had, but it's still gaming just fine, so I'm in no rush.
Great gaming performance and easy to overclock. Mine is running 4.5 GHz at 1.36v. There's some more voltage headroom there, and by extension, a faster speed likely available, but I just don't want to push it too much further temperature-wise.
Fitted within a Cooler Master Elite 130 Mini-ITX case. Was very easy to attach securely to the CPU and Motherboard. The coolant lines are a little stiff, but had just enough play in them to route where I needed. Does a good job of keeping an overclocked i7-6700k cool. I have yet to see much worse than high 60s during heavy gaming with ambient around 25C.
Excellent BIOS with tons of tools and options to work with. As for the physical content of the board, it has just about everything needed for a powerhouse Mini-ITX build. The only noteworthy absences are USB 2.0 and M.2 ports. Instead it's just USB 3.0 and SATA or U.2 respectively.
These are rated at DDR4-3000 and 14-14-14-34 at 1.35v, but the best I could manage was DDR4-3066 (increased after the following latency was confirmed stable) and 15-15-15-35 at 1.4v. Regardless, they still look good and have nice, beefy heatsinks. Just mind the heatsink corners, as they're slightly sharp.
This series of SSDs is pretty much the only option for U.2 out there. It's remarkably quick though, being capable of more than 4x read / 2x write speeds compared to SATA III. Came with the appropriate cable, though you'll still need to attach on a SATA power lead.
In spite of living in the shadow of more popular vendors like EVGA and ASUS, this too is a very solid card. It reportedly runs a little cooler than most factory OC'd 1080s, which made it a good pick for my Mini-ITX build.
It performs very well right out of the box but can still reach a decent overclock with ease. Using MSI afterburner, I'm able to hit around 1950 MHz core / 5375 MHz (effective) memory at 108% power without having to mess with the voltage/frequency curve.
In the tight confines of my small case, 25C ambient, and 80% fan speed, temperatures stay in the low 70s or lower under stress testing loads. That said, the fans get a bit noisy above 60-70%. There's also a small amount of coil whine, but it only shows up under the heaviest of loads and gets drowned out by the fans.
Great little case. It has just enough room to fit the latest high-end components, including a full-sized video card and closed-loop CPU water cooling. The generous amount of mesh openings all over the case do a pretty good job in aiding airflow as well. I'm having no issues keeping an i7-6700k (with Corsair H80i v2 cooler) and GTX1080 at reasonable temperatures, even with overclocking.
I didn't find any sharp edges inside, which was a big plus considering how much time I had to spend carefully routing cables around. This case will require a lot of patience and planning to make everything work well, but it's worth it if you want a solid small form-factor PC. The only significant thing I don't like about this case is the side case fan, which is a little lackluster in terms of positioning and quality. I'll probably be replacing it later.
Great modular PSU with 80+ Platinum efficiency. The modular cables are plentiful, generous in length, and have several connections available. Runs cool and quiet. Will even turn of its fan if it doesn't need it.
As with most optical drives these days, there isn't much to say. It does what it says on the box. Noise levels are acceptable. No issues.