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12 Mini-ITX chassis preview: compact quality

Mini-ITX has existed for years now as form factor, but a more recent phenomenon is the appearance of more versatile and capable motherboards in this size. Those make it possible to assemble your own compact computers, if you can find the right chassis of course. More and more Mini-ITX cases are being released for a variety of end users, so Hardware.Info picked out 12 very different ones to get a lay of the land.

It's starting to become quite difficult to think of a good reason for needing one of those large full ATX chassis. Only the most avid gamers using two double-slot graphics and overclockers with extensive watercooling setups can really take advantage of all that space, even using the huge E-ATX form factor. But all other users don't need all that space. A while ago we already tested quite a few micro-ATX chassis, and in this article we are going even smaller.

Mini-ITX motherboard measure only 17 cm x 17 cm and therefore don't require very large cases.

There is a lot of variety among motherboards with this form factor. It ranges from very basic models with Intel Atom or AMD E-450 to very advanced motherboards with the Intel Z77 chipset and room for a PCI-Express x16 expansion card, full-size memory modules and all the connectors and overclocking features you know from ATX boards.

The same variety can be found among Mini-ITX chassis, they come in all shapes and sizes. In this we included a cross-section of the current Mini-ITX market. It starts with very compact models that don't even fit low-profile expansion cards, and ends with chassis that can take even a double-slot graphics card, a standard size optical station and a normal ATX power supply. A unique chassis is the Bitfenix Prodigy, which more resembles micro-ATX models, and uses the available space for a full-size CPU tower cooler and lots of hard disks.

Different manufacturers also have quite different design philosophies. SilverStone emphasises compact design, which often requires small form factor PSUs and slimline (notebook) optical drives, which often results in very efficient chassis. Cooler Master with its Elite 120 is at the other end of the spectrum, balancing small size and the use of standard components.

The Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced Mini ITX is on sale at Ebuyer with a 500W Elite PSU for £53.38 and £34.99 without the PSU.

The majority of the chassis in this test fall under the cuboid category. These include the Chenbro SR30169, Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced, Fractal Design Array R2, Lian Li PC-Q03 and PC-Q15, Silverstone Sugo SG07 and Thermaltake Element Q. There are some more unique models as well. The Antec ISK110 is very flat, and the ISK300-150 isn't much higher. The Chieftec BT-02B is also very compact, the Bitfenix Prodigy larger, while the Silverstone FT03-Mini is very small and vertically-oriented.

Check out the rest of this Mini-ITX group review here.