There is something special about a good Mini ITX build. Overpowered gaming PCs have their advantages, but there is something about a purpose-built system, which is no more or less powerful than it needs to be, that warms the cockles of the heart.
The rig that you see pictured above (and in the gallery below) is the work of Redditor DeFex. He wanted to build a completely silent computer, free of fans and moving parts. To do so, he got very, very creative.
DeFex’s system is based on the Intel DQ77KB, a Thin Mini ITX motherboard that packs a couple of key features that make it especially well suited to media center duties: 1) it comes with 4-channel Intel® High Definition Audio (Intel® HD Audio); and 2) it uses its HDMI port for both video and audio out.
Aside from that the board itself is not that remarkable. It supports Core i7, i5 and i3 processors; offers two 240-pin DDR3 DIMMs (up to 1600/1333 MHz) for up to 16GB of system memory. Internally it has two 6.0 Gb/s and two 3.0 Gb/s SATA ports. Externally there are four USB 3.0 ports, two of which support high-power charging. Should that prove insufficient, there are five USB 2.0 ports, which are less useful as they come by way of internal headers.
It also features a PCI-E 2.0 x4 connector, PCI-E full-length mini and a PCI-E half-length mini. DeFex plans to use one of the minis for a WiFi card.
DeFex didn’t get too specific about his processor choice, just that it was a 65W Intel Core i5 Ivy Bridge. With the passive heat management system he is employing, the choice makes a lot of sense. At 65W, the amount of heat that it generates should be manageable (especially when the whole case is a heatsink) and it offers a lot more functionality than an i3 or Atom. While processing power isn’t all that important for a media center PC, nobody likes slow load-times.
No moving parts means no conventional hard disk. DeFex opted for a 128GB number from SuperSSpeed. It is noteworthy in its use of SLC memory, which costs more but massively extends shelf life.
What I loved about the system is that the case really is one giant heat sink. At 7.280″ Wide x 10″ Long , it is just the right size for the motherboard and the SSD. DeFex tapped holes for the standoffs and made a 1.5” aluminum puck of precisely the right thickness to allow it to make contact with the heatspreader of the CPU.
The heatsink, in case you were wondering, came by way of heatsinkusa.com.
Putting it All Together
Getting all of the components to work is easy enough, getting them all to work and look good is an entirely different animal. DeFex used a MakerBot 3D printer to print his spokes and stands – which made for a striking finished product that he capped off nicely with a sheet of Plexiglas up top.
I always have mixed feelings about see through cases (they look great but attract a lot of dust), but with no moving parts, the dust issue ought to be a moot point.