I've been thinking about building a small gaming computer again

Everyday I sit next to my computer, i just look at the tower in disgust. It is so big and ugly. I want to build a small gaming computer. About 4-5 years ago I looked into it once before but it didn’t seem like the idea was ready. Small computers were hard to build, noisy, and had heat problems. Have things changed?

For one, I don’t need an optical drive anymore. Few of us rarely do. Routing cables around the drive bay cage was half the problem of putting together a small system. Is there a case that doesn’t even have the bay? Maybe even a case that only supports a 2.5 inch drive bay but still has room for a decent video card?

Just throwing some thoughts out there.

No doubt some hardware whiz can advice you better on this, but based on my experiences, you are likely to run into one big problem: the graphics card.

Graphics cards nowadays are just monsters. I was shocked when I upgraded the graphics card in my PC last year (October) to find that the even mid-range graphics cards could barely fit into the PC I built in February 2009. In fact, I had to return the ATI5850 card that I initially bought - I simply could not make space for it in my PC cabinet (one of these, which I - at least - wouldn’t consider small). Assuming the current trend continues, the next time my graphics card burns out, I will probably need to buy a bigger case.

If you can make do with a weaker graphics card, though, it might be doable, though.

If you just don’t want something portable like a laptop (because that’s where this path led me,) you could look into the micro-ATX or mini-ITX stuff. Essentially, think along the lines of “somewhat portable,” and small.

If you put it out of sight, you won’t have these issues!

I agree that it seems the biggest question mark here would be what kind of graphics card you could get for the form factor. If you can get a card that you’d be happy with, then go for it.

Mini ITX form factor mobo with a SG05 case apparently is the smallest form factor to fit a real sized video card for gaming last I looked this year.

How small is “small?” MicroATX? MiniITX? A proprietary SFF like the Shuttle boxes? The smaller you want it, the more you constrain your build options. Likewise, what’s your budget for this? As others said, the video card will be the biggest constraint on size; even a lot of budget video cards are dual-slot (sometimes inexplicably so, IMHO), which is wider than most small cases can hold (to say nothing of length).

The SFF Gallery thread linked for some pics.

SG02F case is kinda wide and takes microATX (I had one last year) if you wanna go microATX instead of mini ITX.

This links to a WoW newsite, but they run a decent column called Computers-Setup of the Month about building your own system using 4 pricing tiers, complete with links and prices to the items.

It’s worth taking a look, just scroll past the patch info.

There are a ton of links and possible builds now with Mini ITX setups.

My Windows Home Server blowing up yesterday has compelled me to build 2 cube systems, one to file serve and one for light gaming:

  1. Going to put an i3 2100 and mid-range GPU into this Silverstone SG05 case for gaming.

Need to buy:

  1. case with 450w psu ($120)

  2. CPU and heatsink ($120+30)

  3. SODIMM DDR3 RAM ($50 for 8gb)

  4. mobo ($150)

  5. Going to put this $112 Gigabyte AMD APU into an Antec 65W PSU case like wumpus did.

This cube can be $200 when I reuse DDR3 (6x2GB DIMMs) I have lying around along with spare 40GB SSDs.

I’m surprised how well the i3-2100/i5-2500 stacks up against my i7-930 in reviews.

HTPC gaming cube build:

$110 CPU: Intel i3-2100 3.1 GHz
$120 case: Silverstone SG05 w/ 450w PSU
$040 CPU heatsink/fan: Scythe Kozuti
$150 mobo: Asus P8H67-I
$150 GPU: Palit GeForce GTX 550 1GB
$050 RAM: 8GB Corsair SODIMM

Here’s the size compared to a 360 controller:

Damn that is a nice case. I like that.

Not mine, but this guy seems to have put some smoked glass/plastic in front of the fan grille up front.

This is a full computer (sans KB/monitor) at $620 that is that small? For serious?

That is extremely doable for me, and convenient for NYC moving. I must have it!

edit: Would I need a copy of Windows to install on it? And does it have slots for plugging in ethernet cables or what have you for internets? AKA wtf do I do to go from a box of parts to a functional machine with limited effort? I haven’t needed to upgrade since like 03, so I have no idea!

Well…I left out the hard drive cost since I have extras I’d repurpose.

A slim optical drive costs $30-70 as well but I don’t use any discs anymore. The Asus mobo for $150 really is jam-packed with features.

If it wasn’t a gaming computer, you could get away with an even smaller one that’s much more powerful than a typical nettop/netbook, using Jeff’s HTPC build: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2011/03/revisiting-the-home-theater-pc.html

I went with a HD6850. I’ll see how it fits.

So I’d need to add in an HD? What cost conscious HD would you recommend that would fit in there? I also don’t use CDs/DVDs, so not having them is zero problem so long as there’s a way to get the OS on there.

It has a 2.5" bay and a 3.5" bay.

I’m going to put a 2.5" 128GB SSD to boot Windows and a 2TB Green ($70) 3.5" HD.

If SSDs are too expensive, you can probably get away with a WD Scorpio Blue (Black costs a bit more if you want 7200rpm vs the 5400rpm) 1TB 2.5" laptop sized boot drive or 500GB if cooling is paramount.

Otherwise a single 3.5" 2TB green drive is enough for most people.

I think a single 2tb drive would be far more than I need or am used to. And at like 75 bucks that’s a steal. It’s fine with just that, right? There’s no need for a second drive? And I do need to purchase/have an OS as well, correct?

Yeah I have free/cheap licenses from MSDN/work/MS employee store I can leverage so I didn’t factor in Windows cost either.

Is this for gaming at all?

You can get cheaper $100ish or sub $100 mini ITX boards that don’t have the price premium of Asus (heck Asus makes a non-Deluxe version of the same board with fewer bells and whistles) and you can do with a cheaper or non-existent video card…or even a smaller case depending on what your plans are for the cube.

You could use the stock CPU fan the intel chip comes with to save $40 on an aftermarket.

Looks like all the 2tB green 3.5" drives (Seagate, Samsung, WD) are $79.99 regular on newegg.com for example.

I’m planning to play vidya games on it, but as I’m playing Civ5/Dragon Age/Stalker/Shogun 2 on an 03 machine I’m fairly confident I don’t need a super whizz bang product. So I prefer something I can cart off wherever at my convenience.

And this seems A) cheap B) conveniently sized and C) far more powerful than my current thing, so it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for.

If it’ll boot off a usb then I’ll probably buy it today and put it together over the weekend or whenever.

edit: How risky is buying an open box thing on newegg?