Antec ISK 110 with stand

$300 mini-ITX Build

Mini-ITX build has piqued my interest for last few months. I love how small and portable it is. Living in a 2-bed  room apartment with a child can be pretty crowded so space is an issue in general. Back on 2010, I built a monstrous full tower gaming PC and  as time goes by, I started to dislike how bulky it is. It’s amazing how much my preferences can change so much after I got married and have a kid.

Our main bed room had a mid-tower PC that we use as a media player ie. HTPC for watching our favourite anime. Since I built it using some spare parts, it started showing its age. It barely plays 720p anime depending on the codec with some stutters here and there but no luck with 1080p nor 10-bit h.264 which is CPU intensive. My AMD 3700+ San Diego had served me well for 7 years and it’s time to let it go to the owner. I managed to sell it in Kijiji for $70 and the new owner’s planning to give it to his parents for basic purpose such as browsings and emails. Felt kinda sad but we need that extra space in our main bedroom.

Once I sold it, I started researching for my upcoming mITX build. It’s not easy to come up with a new mITX build due to many constraints. Few things to consider as below:

  • Case
  • CPU or Processor
  • Video Card
  • RAM
  • Power Consumption
  • Hard Drive
  • Heat Sink
  • Budget

Case you choose will dictate what parts you can put in there. It’s what will hold every parts together after all. I decided on Antec ISK 110  as it’s small and fits my need perfectly. The great thing about Antec ISK 110 is that it uses 90W power supply through a power adapter (similar to what you have for your laptop). It also has VESA mount so if you’d like, you can mount it on the back of your TV :).

As for CPU, you need to also ensure that your CPU can play 1080p easily and 10-bit. You can use this list as a reference. I think anything above 2000-2500 passmark should be safe.I decided to go with Intel Pentium Dual Core G860 LGA 1155 3.0 GHz. It has 65W TDP so our 90W power supply should be sufficient.

Since this is not a gaming build, dedicated video card is not needed and I can live with integrated video card.

For browsing, MS Office and media player, I  think 4Gb is more than but you prefer you can go 2x8GB RAM. Keep in mind that most mITX motherboard only has two RAM slots and each slot supports 8GB ram. I decided to go with 4GB to save little bit of money.

My main goal is to use as less power as possible. Antec ISK 110 and Intel Pentium Dual Core G860 are great for this build.

As SSD becomes more mainstream and its price drops a lot with in last year or some, it would make sense to use SSD for this build. You don’t need to buy 128Gb SSD. 32/64 Gb SSD should be sufficient. I have a spare 128Gb OCZ Vertex so it saved me some money from buying a new one.

With limited space on Antec ISK 110, I decided to go with stock heatsink since I don’t think heat will be an issue for such a low powered build.

Every time I come up with a new build, one thing that I always decide first is budget. How much are you willing to spend ? For this build, I told myself (and my wife) that it would be under $300.

Cost breakdown as below.

  • Antec ISK 110 ~$75
  • Intel Pentium Dual Core G860 ~$60
  • AMD performance Edition 4GB RAM (2x2Gb) ~$20
  • Asus P8H61-I R2.0 ~$75
  • OCZ Vertex I $0 (I have a spare)

Total is $ ~$230  (~$300 with 32/64GB SSD) before tax. Note that I bought above items from my usual vendor, NCIX.com, while they were on sale. If you are not in a hurry, I recommend to buy those items while they are on sale. In addition, since NCIX accepts price match, you should use price comparison websites, such as, shopbot.ca to price match at NCIX.

During idle, core voltage goes down to 0.960v and core speed goes down to 1.6GHz. This feature is called Enhanced Intel SpeedStep and it’s enabled by default on your bios. For mITX build , this feature comes in handy. Less clock = less speed = less head = longer CPU life span.

CPU Idle

At 35% load (VLC’s playing 1080p media file), core speed goes up to 3GHz and core voltage goes up to 1.044v. G860 can easily play 1080p.

CPU with VLC playing 1080p media file

Got any questions ? ask away by submitting a comment below.

  4 comments for “$300 mini-ITX Build

  1. cmorticum
    April 17, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Looks awesome, though I can’t say I would’ve chosen the same parts. I’m considering buying a cheap Steam box using that case, an AMD A10-5700K (65W), a Samsung 840 SSD, 8GB Corsair 2133 memory (1.5V), and an A85 mainboard with built-in bluetooth and wifi. All of this can be got for just over $400, and makes for a pretty sweet linux Steam system which does double duty as an HTPC. I have a similar system now but it’s mATX. Anyway, thanks for sharing.

    • April 17, 2013 at 8:32 pm

      I thought about using AMD APU series such as A10-5700K but I don’t plan to game with this build so I chose Intel built in with cheapest possible CPU to play 720p/1080p. NCIX does not have A10-5700 either so I scratched out the whole idea of APU build altogether. On the other hand, newegg.ca does have AMD A10-5700K.

      What motherboard are you planning to get for your build ? not many mITX APU motherboard out there as far as I am aware.

      • cmorticum
        April 18, 2013 at 10:42 am

        I was thinking of grabbing the MSI FM2-A75IA-E53. Asrock makes a couple of ITX boards as well but I have one of their FM2 mATX board and I’m not too happy with it. There’s some FM2 ITX boards out there sporting onboard bluetooth and dual-band wifi.

        • April 18, 2013 at 8:00 pm

          MSI FM2-A75IA-E53 looks solid (bluetooth and wifi). That’s a really good build for sub $400 + light gaming. Me likes :).

          I read that Asrock mITX Z77/H77 is pretty popular choice for mITX build but I never personally use any Asrock motherboard. I always go with ASUS for reliability.

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