There was a time when going with an ITX chassis was similar to trading compactness for lower performance. But the increase in demand for compact PC parts has put mini ITX cases back into the game. But are ITX PC cases good for gaming builds? And do these compact PC cases deliver the same performance as standard ATX cases? Here’s what we know so far.
Yes, a mini-ITX chassis can be a good option for gaming as long as it is able to hold a full-length graphics card, a bulky CPU cooler, enough fan mounts, and a standard-sized power supply. If you are planning to install high-end components, then make sure there’s enough headroom inside your ITX case for fresh air to circulate properly.
What is a Mini-ITX PC Case?
To understand this in a better way, we will refer the Mini-ITX case to a mini-ITX motherboard. The mini-ITX motherboard is the smallest configuration measuring 70 mm x 170 mm and is relatively meant for building computers that consume less space on your desk. This type of motherboard can easily be installed in a mini-ITX PC chassis.
In simple words, a mini-ITX PC Case offers you limited resources to install third-party PC components. For example, you can install multiple graphics cards on a standard ATX motherboard due to the availability of extra PCIe slots. But in the case of mini-ITX boards, there’s only one PCIe x16 slot on which you can install your graphics card.
So mini-ITX PC cases can easily are natively made for small motherboards. The I/O panels on a mini-ITX and standard ATX PC case are the same. But there are as limited PCI Express panels on a mini-ITX PC case as there are on a regular PC case.
And behind all this is the different sizes of the motherboard that these two form factors are able to accommodate.
Factors to Look for in a Mini-ITX PC Case for Gaming
If you have made up your mind to go with a compact PC case, then here’s what you need to look at:
You don’t want to end up shopping for a mini PC case that is unable to accommodate your full-length graphics card. Look for a case that has enough headroom to easily fit in beefy gaming hardware.
It’s better to search for a PC case first and then look for the parts that can fit in that chassis. Look at the instruction manual to find out the hardware dimensions that your PC case can support.
The beefiest component one could end up installing in a mini-ITX case is the graphics card. CGDirector has written a detailed guide to find out if your graphics card would fit in your case or not.
Also, if your graphics card is longer than your mini case, then it would be difficult to install it. So, you have to measure the width and length around the PCI Express x16 slot to get a better idea.
Also, sometimes it’s difficult to fit bulky CPU coolers inside a PC case with cramped space. Some liquid CPU coolers with heightened heatsinks can exceed the width of a small PC case. Such liquid coolers can only fit in full-size PC cases only.
So, look for a mini case that is spacious in terms of width and height to easily accommodate any regular-sized gaming hardware.
Mind the Cooling:
Limited cooling is the downside of many small form factor PC cases available on the market. And if your mini case comes with limited fan mounts, then this may result in building a lot of heat inside your case.
So, it’s better to look for a mini-ITX case that comes with enough fan mounts to pull in and pull out more air.
During our research, we came across Tomshardware which states that the mini ITX cases should have 240mm or 280m AIOs on them for better airflow.
But honestly speaking, even 120mm fans can make a lot of difference in cooling if they are mounted in the right position.
It is highly recommended to look for a case that has at least two intake fans at the front and one exhaust fan at the back. We’ve written an entire guide on improving airflow, so don’t forget to check that out.
Design & Aesthetics
When it comes to shopping for a PC case, go with the one that you find attractive. Everyone has his own preferences, so take your time to go through various designs available on the market.
Modern mini-ITX PC cases come with eye-catching aesthetics making them the right choice for gaming builds. Silverstone SG13 is one of the most attractive cube-shaped mini-ITX PC cases with a tempered side glass panel and plenty of mesh at the front for rapid airflow.
Similarly, the Hyte Revolt 3 is the most compact mini PC case with a wonderful design and top-notch build quality.
No matter what design you choose, make sure you don’t compromise on the airflow. Sometimes, a great-looking PC case isn’t that great at pushing more air inside your PC case.
Therefore, look for a PC case that promotes high airflow without breaking your bank account. Personally, we’ve found the modern mini ITX PC cases more decent and appealing as compared to the ATX cases.
Some mini-ITX PC Cases to Consider for your Gaming Build
We won’t be going into detail here, but here’s a quick look at some of the most recommended mini PC chassis for gamers:
Phanteks Evolv Shift 2
The Phanteks Evolv Shifts 2 consumes very little space on your gaming desk. It comes with an addressable RGB fan and tempered side glass panel to show off your build.
There is a handful of useful I/Os at the top of this case to plug in headphones and other needful devices. On top of all, it’s an affordable mini ITX case for gamers who are eager to put a bigger graphics card in a tight space.
Lian Li Q58
The evolution of Lian Li products in a short time is nothing less than a miracle. We have just one word for the Lian Li Q58 mini-ITX case, and that is “Pure Masterpiece”. For years, I myself have been searching for mini PC cases that combine aesthetics with higher cooling, and here we have it now.
Lian Li Q58 is half steel and half glass, giving you the freedom to make it look the way you want it. You can install a 280mm fan at the top of this case to draw more air inside. Spoilers! you can fit in a bulky power supply and graphics card within this case without any hassle.
SilverStone Mini ITX Case
Nothing looks cooler than a mini PC case blooming with RGB lights at the front and sides. SilverStone makes this wish come true with its spacious mini-ITX chassis. This tiny case supports 120mm or 140mm single fans for tremendous cooling.
Moreover, you can fit a regular-size graphics card within this case without any alterations. It’s the cheapest mini ITX case to get without putting a hole in your wallet.
Mini-ITX PC cases are a great alternative to go with if you are low on space. Modern ITX chassis can easily accommodate a regular-sized graphics card, CPU cooler, and ATX power supply. Just put your focus on compatibility and airflow whenever you shop for a mini PC case.
Will a Mini-ITX fit a 3090?
The Nvidia RTX 3090 is a triple-slot graphics card, so you’ll need a mini-ITX case that allows enough headroom room for installing triple-slot cards. Small form factor cases like Lian Li TU150 or Lian Li Q58 can easily accommodate an RTX 3090 graphics card.
Do Mini ITX cases decrease gaming performance?
If you install high TDP components inside a cramped PC case without proper airflow, then you can expect lower performance. The overheated components will not be able to deliver the kind of performance they do in an optimal temperature range.
But if your mini PC case comes with better airflow, then it won’t affect the performance of your graphics card or CPU. Therefore, your gaming performance would be affected.
Hi, this is Masab, the Founder of PC Building Lab. I’m a PC enthusiast who loves to share the prior knowledge and experience that I have with computers. Well, troubleshooting computers is in my DNA, what else I could say….