Testing Hardware (Mini-ITX), Revised

As I mentioned before, we're also changing the way we split the test platforms. As Micro-ATX systems can be competitive with full ATX systems in terms of performance, it makes more sense to lump those two together than to lump Micro-ATX enclosures with Mini-ITX enclosures as we've done in the past. The result is a Mini-ITX testbed that's a little bit more geared towards what one would expect to find in a Mini-ITX system proper.

Mini-ITX Test Configuration
CPU Intel Core i3-2120
(65W TDP)
Motherboard Zotac Z68ITX-A-E
Graphics Card Intel HD 2000 IGP

Zotac GeForce GTS 450 Eco (dedicated)
Memory 2x2GB Crucial Ballistix Smart Tracer DDR3-1600
Drives Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 64GB SSD
Samsung 5.25" BD-ROM/DVDRW Drive
Accessories Corsair Link
CPU Cooler SilverStone NT07-1156 with Cooler Master ThermalFusion 400
Power Supply SilverStone Strider Plus 750W 80 Plus Silver

The impetus behind the changes for the Mini-ITX testbed can seem a bit more nebulous compared to the ATX, but let's discuss our thoughts.

On the motherboard/CPU/HSF front, we wanted a motherboard that had a native USB 3.0 header, something still rarefied in the Mini-ITX market. Of all the Mini-ITX boards on the market, Zotac's was the one best equipped for our purposes and realistically is probably one of the most feature rich Mini-ITX boards available in general. The CPU is also fairly representative of how much power someone might try to cram into an enclosure, as Sandy Bridge continues to strike an excellent balance between performance and thermals. Finally, our old heatsink/fan just didn't really spin up or down in testing; this is a limitation of not only Zalman's implementation but also the old motherboard's fan control. Either way, the low profile heatsink from SilverStone should resolve the problem just fine.

Where graphics are concerned, the GeForce GTX 580 in our old testbed was simply too much card for a Mini-ITX review. Oftentimes it was too big for the enclosures we wanted to test in, and even if it could fit there are very few Mini-ITX users likely to use such a powerful and power hungry card. While a single-slot AMD Radeon HD 7750 would probably have been ideal for our revision, it was more difficult to obtain in the wild. Zotac offers a model of GeForce GTS 450 that does the trick, though: the 450 Eco uses DDR3 instead of GDDR5 and has reduced clocks, but it also employs a single-slot cooler, is a short card in general, and requires no external power lead.

The remainder of our testbed carries over from the previous page.

Update: We originally included an i5-2300 in the Mini-ITX testbed. However, before testing with it we opted to swap to an i3-2120 to allow for testing cases with dedicated power supplies that wouldn't be able to handle a 95W CPU but could handle a 65W CPU.

Before continuing on, we'd like to thank the following vendors for furnishing us with the hardware to revise our  testbeds.

  • Thank you to Puget Systems for providing us with the Intel Core i7-2700K and i3-2120.
  • Thank you to Gigabyte for providing us with the GA-Z68MX-UD2H-B3 motherboard.
  • Thank you to Zotac for providing us with the Z68ITX-A-E motherboard and GeForce GTS 450 Eco.
  • Thank you to Crucial for providing us with the Ballistix Smart Tracer memory.
  • Thank you to Corsair for providing us with the Corsair Link kit.
  • Thank you to Cooler Master for providing us with the Hyper 212 Evo heatsink and fan unit.
  • Thank you to Kingston for providing us with the SSDNow V+ 100 SSD.
  • Thank you to CyberPower for providing us with the Samsung BD-ROM/DVD+/-RW drive.
  • And thank you to SilverStone for providing us with the power supply and NT07-1156 heatsink/fan combo.
Testing Hardware, Revised Testing Methodology, Revised
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  • Coup27 - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    clicking "testing hardware (mini-itx) revised" takes you to the home page.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    It works for me. Can you refresh, clear cache, and/or try a different browser? If you're still having problems, please post details.
  • Coup27 - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    It happened earlier and seconds after the article disappeared and was scrubbed from the home page as well. It's back now so not really sure what was going on. Links are working now tho.
  • holotech - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    does the same for me.
    firefox, updated fully.
  • holotech - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    i lied, sorry, its working fine now.
  • Coup27 - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    I have a feeling the article was pulled and then reposted?
  • Impulses - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    Some cases really merit an extra testing round with an alternate fan configuration from what they ship with... Most enthusiasts often end up adding a fan or repositioning some, it'd add a lot of value to the reviews to allow for that.

    I know a lot of people are still gonna complain you didn't test the exact configuration they'd use or whatever, and you can't realistically test more than one alternative... But I still think it's worth thinking about, doesn't even have to happen for every review, just the ones that really merit it (particularly value cases that skimp on fans or highly customizable cases).

    I understand why doing this is a logistics nightmare but as long as everyone understand any extra testing is at the reviewer's discretion, I think it'd be a great addition. I know testing them only as they ship is fairer and more representative of the case's value, BUT I think a lot of enthusiasts view cases as an investment that lasts thru multiple builds, so value is really skewed by what you can ultimately do with it after $20-40 and several years later.
  • casteve - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    Congrats on the new test setup and the quieter living arrangements. If this trend continues, I expect you be living in an underground climate controlled man cave in a few years. :)
  • VampyrByte - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    I totally agree with using temperature deltas rather than absolute values. However, atleast in the 550D article posted alongside this one, I found it hard at first to source the value for the ambient temperature. This information should really be in the title of the graph somewhere.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, March 29, 2012 - link

    The ambient temperature will likely be slightly different for each case tested, so as the graphs get filled in with more data points we can't simply list one ambient.

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