Big Power, Small Size

You don’t have to go big to go big performance. Our MicroATX build will show you how.

Though the mindset that a small PC is a slow PC is fading, there are still quite a few readers out there that believe the size of your components will indicate how well they perform. That couldn't be further from the case, and this week we decided to build a small, but not tiny, PC to showcase that small can be beautiful too!

Below you will find a complete list of parts and components used in our build – but let me say right off the bat, to help alleviate as much vitriol in the comments as possible, there are quite a few ways you could build this system to either get a lower price, or higher performance, or quieter design, etc. Our selections were based on a balance of both with a nod towards expansion in a few cases.

Take a look:

  MicroATX Gaming Build
Processor Intel Core i7-4790K - $334
Corsair Hydro Series H80i - $87
Motherboard Gigabyte Z97MX-Gaming 5 - $127
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws X 8GB DDR3-2133 - $88
Graphics Card EVGA GeForce GTX 970 FTW - $399
Storage Samsung 250GB 850 EVO - $139
Western Digital 2TB Green - $79
Case Corsair Carbide Series Air 240 - $89
Power Supply Seasonic Platinum 860 watt PSU - $174
OS Windows 8.1 x64 - $92
Total Price $1602 - Amazon Full Cart

The starting point for this system is the Intel Core i7-4790K, the top-end Haswell processor for the Z97 chipset. In fact, the Core i7-4790K is a Devil's Canyon part, created by Intel to appease the enthusiast looking for an overclockable and high clocked quad-core part. This CPU will only lag behind the likes of the Haswell-E LGA2011 processors, but at just $340 or so, is significantly less expensive. Cooling the 4790K is Corsair's Hydro Series H80i double-thickness self contained water cooler.

For the motherboard I selected the Gigabyte Z97MX-Gaming 5, a MicroATX motherboard that combines performance and features in a mATX form factor, perfect for our build. This board includes support for SLI and CrossFire, has audio OP-AMP support, USB ports dedicated for DACs, M.2 storage support, Killer networking and more.

We went with the EVGA GeForce GTX 970 FTW, an overclocked-out-of-the-box card that offers great cooling, low noise and is low enough profile to fit inside the case without issue. The GTX 970 offers a lot of gaming power for under $400, though you could jump over to the AMD side and pick up a Radeon R9 290X for $300-350.

Our system memory comes from G.Skill in the form of 8GB of DDR3 running at 2133 MHz, leaving you plenty of room for overclocking and tweaking. We are powering it all with a Seasonic 860 watt Platinum power supply - honestly a bit overkill for the components but allows you to run the system in a nearly silent mode when fully loaded and leaves plenty of room for another graphics card should you want to upgrade down the road.

Storage in our build is a combination of a 250GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD along with a 2TB Western Digital Green hard drive for long term storage. The 850 EVO is one of the fastest SATA SSDs on the planet and launched at a very aggressive price point - perfect for the goals of this build!

All of this goodness gets contained inside a Corsair Carbide Air 240, one of our favorite small form factor cases. Because of the dual-chamber design you get a shorter case than even your normal mATX cases, though you do gain a bit of width (don't we all...). The result is an incredibly clean, compact and, in our case, white system that only needs a copy of Windows 8.1 to finish it off.

Do you feel the excitement?

I'm curious to see what you guys would build for your own systems with a similar budget and similar goal. Feel free to post us your builds from in the comments below!