Articles: Cases/PSU

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We hope this roundup has given you an idea of what trends and problems there are in the world of compact mini-ITX systems. It is hard to name a winner or loser among the tested products. Each of them is good in some specific usage scenario. For example, the InWin IW-BM648 will make a good office or simple home computer. Its main advantage is that it allows using an ordinary, not slim, optical drive but there is one serious problem. Installing an optical drive into it prevents you from using a large CPU cooler. Even the boxed coolers supplied by Intel for its low-end CPUs won’t do. On the other hand, if you don’t need a DVD drive, you can assemble a computer with a dual- or even quad-core CPU in this enclosure just as we did in our test.

As opposed to the InWin, the Foxconn RS-224 permits to install both a good cooler (not a Shuriken, but a large enough cooler for effectively coping with a quad-core CPU) and a DVD drive thanks to an adapter that takes the drive’s cables away from the fan’s impeller. As a result, this system case can make a good foundation for a media center with an optical drive as well as for a good home computer with an entry-level graphics card.

The Cooler Master Elite 100 allows installing a DVD drive and a full-featured CPU cooler, too. But the drive has to be of the slim form-factor (like the ones installed into notebooks). Besides, the Elite 100 allows using more popular and cheaper mainboards of the micro-ATX form-factor while being comparable to most competing mini-ITX models with its exterior dimensions. On the downside of the Elite 100 is that you cannot use even low-profile expansion cards with it and that the power supply’s fan produces an irritating whistle. Still, this system case may be interesting for people who want to build a super-compact computer with a fast processor and a DVD drive simultaneously.

The Silverstone Sugo SG06B and the SuperPower Mustiff MX31 come from a different category of system cases. These cubes are designed for building compact, yet fast gaming systems. The former offers broader opportunities and looks better but the latter is cheaper and supports two 3.5-inch HDDs. Thus, their applications differ: the Sugo SG06 may be interesting for users who want to have a fast graphics card whereas the Mustiff MX31 for those who want a few terabytes of disk storage. And one more thing. We don’t have any complaints about the quality of the SilverStone product, but you should buy a high-quality power supply for the SuperPower (its bundled power supply is too bad and cannot be recommended for use with a gaming configuration).

We hope we have proved that a fast computer can be assembled in a compact system case. If you don’t have any room for a gigantic full-tower, there are interesting alternatives for building an office or home computer (even a full-featured gaming station with a good graphics card and CPU) in a system case that can easily fit into a bookshelf.

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