A few contributing factors motivated me to finally pull the trigger on this little budget gaming build. My fiancé’s laptop was really showing it's age at about 8 years old, even as just a web-surfing/netflix machine for our small apartment living room. Not only that, but my Dell XPS 630i from when I started college in 2008 recently started freezing/shutting down with no warning, and hence, showing it’s considerable age as well. Due to this, I'd been taking my laptop back and forth from work constantly as it's the only thing capable of playing games decently with it's GTX 960M (her laptop has onboard graphics, my old desktop has a GTX 550 ti). This worried me, as I'm planning on biking to work through the Minnesota winter this year for the first time, and I feel like I'll be falling more than usual, so I don't want to endanger my laptop any more than I have to. Finally, I've also been able to get the fiancé into some local co-op games recently, and we've had a lot of fun with those ( Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, Cook, Serve, Delicious, etc.) so I wanted something to be able to keep playing those, while also satisfying my desire for Dark Souls 2, Skyrim and Xcom. However, being a graduate student (#PoorLifeChoices) I did not have a lot of cash to throw around, so I wanted to keep the budget to $700 or below.
Actually building it was an adventure, and I actually loved every minute of the 5 hour process. After getting the pin polarity mixed up on the power button/reset button pins (the arrow means + lead on two-pin cables for the Elite 130 case, for anyone interested), placing the HDD on the bottom mount position, making it impossible to plug in SATA cables on the motherboard, and I think plugging the peripherals Molex power cable into the motherboard incorrectly, resulting in un-responsive fans (I'm still not 100% sure what that other end is supposed to plug into), I had a working PC. Cable-management was a bit of a beast, as I anticipated, but I'm glad I at least shelled out for the semi-modular power supply, because I think it would have been a lot uglier (and congested) otherwise. I'm more concerned here with airflow than with any aesthetic considerations, as you can't really see much of anything through the case. I ultimately went with the Cooler Master Elite 130 because it had an optical drive port, where many other mITX cases did not. Then, it all came down to dimensions, as the 15" depth was just right for the shelf, and it was not too tall for the 12" shelf above it.
The build is small, to fit like a media center for netflix and web-surfing on our entertainment shelf, but packing some decent graphical and processing capabilities for more demanding games as well. I'm very, very happy with everything about this build right now. Though I went just a little over budget on paper (I have a $15 rebate still coming for the power supply, but then there's tax, too) I'm quite satisfied with what I got for the money, and the experience of doing it this first time made it even more worth it! I'll post more reviews as I get to actually testing the system.
Fantastic mITX motherboard to work with and performs well for the price.
Definitely limits your CPU cooler height significantly with how the power supply is mounted, and the cable management can be really tricky, but all in all I loved building in this case, and it fits my build well.