It’s smaller than a regular desktop, but no less powerful, and it's perfect for some tasks. Here's part three of John Gillooly's guide to Mini-ITX PCs
[This extract is taken from the September 2010 issue of PC Authority magazine.]
Power and cooling
When you get to desktop hardware the picture changes quite significantly. You need sufficient power to run high-wattage processors and drives, and you need enough airflow to to cool all the hardware crammed into a case much smaller than it was designed for.
You'll need a Mini-ITX case capable of supporting a proper desktop ATX power supply. These are actually becoming quite common nowadays, and while it does increase the size of the overall system compared to a Flex-ATX based one, it allows you to tailor the PSU to your needs (we covered choosing an ATX power supply in last month's System Builder).
One thing we suggest is a modular PSU. These are made by a range of manufacturers and have removable cables for powering video cards and storage. This helps minimise cable tangle, which in turn helps airflow and cooling inside the case.
Ensure that the heatsink you will be using will fit inside the case. Intel's stock cooler should be sufficient for most, thanks to its low profile design. Just make sure that it isn't too close to any cables - Intel's relatively open fan design can catch on wires when it is crammed into a small form factor case.
Your storage options will be determined by your choice of case. At the bare minimum expect room for a single hard drive and optical drive. A lot of cases will require notebook-style slimline optical drives and 2.5in hard drives, while others will happily accommodate the standard 5.25in optical drives and 3.5in hard drives.
|A Mini-ITX case on show at Computex this year|
The Lian-Li PCQ-08 that we used in PC Authority's PC vs Mac feature last month actually features six 3.5in drive bays in addition to a single 5.25in optical drive bay. While this is an impressive number of drives (and opens up the possibility of using the case as a Mini-ITX server box) you need to be aware that each drive is a heat source, and multiple drives will multiply the heat.
If you are going to cram multiple drives into a Mini-ITX system, make sure that the case has enough fans to keep internal airflow up and the hardware running smoothly.
...Read the rest of this article in the September 2010 issue of PC Authority magazine.