Yeah...Small-Form Factor Builds are Different...
Building a Small-Form Factor system is one of the major tech projects that I have been wanting to accomplish for a very long time. But it was always something. At times I was just too far out of touch with the PC parts industry and did not feel comfortable trying to figure out microATX and mini-ITX boards when I did not know my CPU lineage down pat and was not close to whatever AMD and nVidia were doing with GPUs. But last year I built two new gaming desktops, and was thoroughly back up to speed with architectures and compatibilities, so I felt ready to dive in. I also had a very clear requirement given my proclivity for game captures and streaming over the past two years, that truly warranted a SFF-solution. So I built one.
The unit, designated DT3, a designator that stands for DeskTop 3, with the numeral indicating what position it occupies in my digital hiearchy (superseded only by my two gaming PCs), is my Primary Multi-Media Production workstation, backed up by the now venerable HP Slimline 410-030 that used to be the primary for those duties. Sourcing parts was no easy task. I did a butt ton of research. Truth is, there were not a lot of choices for a MiniITX Kaby Lake compatible moboard, and the ones that were available (like two, maybe three), no one really liked. So I picked the one that seemed the least offensive, and hoped for the best. Recall that I received a bad Asus moboard last year when I was collecting parts for my primary gaming rig, so I was a bit anxious about this pick. I went with an ASRock H110M-ITX/AC, which is a MiniITX board that supports DDR4 and the LGA 1151 CPU socket-type. It only has two DDR4-2133 slots, but it does accomodate up 16GB sticks in each. I got excited when I saw that it had an M.2 slot, but the one on the motherboard is not compatible with SSDs, so I could not chuck in the 480GB M.2 SSD that I salvaged from the CyberPowerPC FangBook III earlier this year. I wound up using the 1TB Eluktronics 2.5" SSD that I took out of the Lenovo Y50 when I bumped it to 2TB of storage, and I also had a 2.5" 1TB spinning drive from previous salvage that I used as a storage drive.
It has an abundance of USB 3.0 ports which, as anyone who streams knows, is a big deal. I need the hi-bandwidth ports for some of my game capture cards, my webcam, and USB hard drives for when I am doing local capture. The HP410 only has two USB 3.0 slots and it is a constant issue. It has an HDMI port and a DVI port, which is not optimal. I would have preferred a DisplayPort or VGA connection. I paired the board with an Intel Kabylake Core i7-7700K CPU. The latter was arguably the fastest consumer chip on the market when I bought it. As long as you didn't get one from a bad batch (reports are there were some of these out in the wild), and took measures to keep it cool and fed it with a sufficiently large power supply. I had an eVGA 500W Power Supply as salvage from last year's primary gaming PC build first-attempt. And, with a great amount of difficulty, I was able to squeeze a 140mm ThermalTake Yellow fan into the front grill and a slot-installed 120mm Blue-LED fan, and used the Low-Profile version of the CoolerMaster ARCTIC Freezer 11 CPU Cooler on the CPU itself. I use the full-height version of this cooler in my Backup Gaming PC, and, after having had about 3 - 4 months of run-time with both under observation, I am thoroughly happy with CoolerMaster as a solutions provider.
Along with 32GB of PC4-17000 2133 MHz G.Skill RAM (which looks like it has heatsinks on the Amazon store page, but unfortunately doesn't), I stuffed all of these components into a SilverStone Technology Mini-DTX, Mini-ITX Small Form Factor SG13WB Black/White case. The whole kit looks wonderful when sitting on one of my black workbenches that I use for my workstation desks, especially when running and the two sets of Blue LEDs and the yellow from the ThermalTake fan illuminating a unique color-scheme...I get a small twinge of pride for how good it looks. Building a SFF rig is definitely a severe skill-set skew from years of build ATX-case machines and super-towers. The challenges are different, the space and maneuvering room are far more constrained, and the number of problems that I encountered that looked like there was simply going to be no solution for were more than my ATX average. And those are problems of fit in really small tolerance scenarios that you can't just throw money at.
That all being said, the rig was much less expensive than trying to buy a multi-media editing PC, and I would not trade the experience for anything. In fact, I have a plans to build two more, although I plan on using slightly larger cases this time. The machine's performance is far above that of the HP410, and my experiences in Elgato's Game Capture HD, AverMedia's RECentral 3, and OBS has turned streaming and local capture from a mind-numbing challenge into a wonderfully enjoyable experience. I encourage every PC-builder try out a SFF build at some point in their career, just to say that they've done it. Dare I say, it just feels good.