Gadgets and Software

Rating Best Mini ITX Case (For Any Budget)

Less than a decade ago, people didn’t have a lot of options when it came to computers. For the most part, power and performance were directly proportional to size and weight, so the choice you had to make if you were in the market for a computer was whether you wanted something fast, powerful, and high-performance in a heavy, chunky form factor, or something lighter and more portable, but with barely enough performance and hardly any power to performing heavy processing, let alone gaming. Lucky for us, gamers and non-gamers alike, technology has come such a long way that we can fit powerful computers on the insides of pockets, and desktop PCs have reached an unprecedented performance to size ratio where desktop PCs don’t have to weigh over 50 lbs.   

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This 2018, power and portability have melded so much together that we’re at that point where it’s become possible to take our desktop computers with us wherever we go. Introducing the mini ITX: a minimal, very portable motherboard form factor that allows small desktop computers to have competitive power and performance. Mini ITX motherboards can fit into mini ITX cases that powerful, but more portable, versions of the traditional tower desktop pc.

This technology is hardly new, and mini ITX motherboards have been around for quite some time, with plenty of desktop PC models sporting mini ITX over the years. However, in recent years, the mini ITX has gained a surprising following, and with more and more mini ITX cases being designed and developed to cater to just about every style and size preference of the massive market for the mini ITX.

But with all the options available to discerning PC enthusiast, we understand that choosing the best mini ITX case for you – for your needs, your preferences, and your budget – could be a daunting task. That’s why we came up with this list rating best mini ITX cases for any budget. We evaluated dozens of the reportedly best mini ITX cases available to the modern consumer and handpicked what we considered to be the best of the best mini ITX cases of 2018. We took a lot of things into account – size, style, power, portability, price; you name it, we thought of it, and we took it into consideration when coming up with this list of the best mini ITX cases for any budget.

What to Look For

Before you press on to our top picks for the best Mini ITX case for any budget, we prepared a short list of the things to consider and to look for when you’re in the market for the best Mini ITX case of 2018. During our evaluations, we decided that the most important things to look at in a mini ITX case are:

Style

We’ve mentioned before in our guide to Choosing the Best Full Tower Case (For Any Budget) that choosing your PC case, the piece of hardware to house, secure, and safeguard all of your PC’s components, is a deeply personal choice. The style is one of the most important things to consider when you’re in the market for the best Mini ITX case of 2018. Mini ITX cases come in a dizzying range of shapes and sizes and colors, but for the most part, style is a purely personal choice that we urge you to consider. The bottom line is this: if you’re going to be building a PC with handpicked components and fans, and maybe fancy RGB lighting systems, then chances are you’re going to be looking at your mini ITX case for years to come; so it’s important to make sure it’s at least nice to look at.

Price

You won’t have to shell out as much cash for a Mini ITX case as you would a full-tower case – it’s a smaller form factor, meaning fewer materials, less cost, and ultimately, lower price. However, that doesn’t mean that all Mini ITX cases are priced the same, nor does it mean they all serve the same purpose. Mini ITX cases come with different features, different build quality, and therefore, different prices. For the best Mini ITX cases in our list, expect to shell out anywhere between $50 to $150.

Source: flickr.com

Size

If you’re in the market for a Mini ITX case, chances are you’re looking for something small, light, and portable. In that case, the Mini ITX is the perfect choice, but it doesn’t stop there. Some people might opt for the smallest Mini ITX case money can buy, while some want a case with a little girth and heft, aiming for just a little smaller than a mid-size tower case. Mini ITX cases come in different sizes, too, that’s why we’ve included Mini ITX cases that range from super small and thin enough to fit in your bag, to borderline tower cases with a bit more portability than their larger cousins.

Build Quality

One thing everyone wants to make sure of when they’re in the market for the best mini ITX case for any budget is to achieve the feeling of getting the best bang for their buck. You don’t want to shell out a considerable sum of money for an ITX case that was shoddily built, and neither would you want to cheap out and get the cheapest Mini ITX case you can lay your hands on and find out later on that its total product lifespan was a grand two week because of the fact that it’s made of cheap plastics. Build quality is the most important factor to consider if you want to make sure you’re getting the best value for your money, and that’s why build quality and durability were one of our top criterion in mind in the making of this list of the best Mini ITX cases for any budget.

Other than style, price, size, and build quality, most Mini ITX cases perform differently based on the components you put into them.

 

Our Top Picks for the Best Mini ITX Case for Any Budget

NZXT H200i

The NZXT H200i dominates this year regarding the best Mini ITX case money can buy. A smaller version of the crowd favorite NZXT H700i tower case, this H200i comes with the form, function, and stellar build quality of its tower counterpart, except that its more streamlined and condensed to support only Mini ITX motherboard to deliver everything that is so great about the H700i in a smaller, lighter, more portable PC case.

Source: flickr.com

The Good

The H200i from NZXT is an excellent, minimalist case that has plenty of space for high-end PC builds. It’s got a lot of the features and capabilities that make its older brother, the mid-towerH700i, one of the best pc cases available, and they all translate consistently well into the NZXT H200i. The NZXT Smart Hub and CAM Smart Device allows for easy component management, so not only is installation on the small H200i a lot easier and more streamlined than on other Mini ITX cases, but it is also a lot easier to monitor performance to make sure your PC and all of its components are running optimally and in perfect harmony. The CAM Smart Device also allows for fast and easy configuration of the H200i’s built-in RGB lighting system, as well as digital monitoring and control of the cooling fan systems, so you can regulate and configure them to run in different modes that are optimal to your specific and current needs.

The NZXT H200i is pretty small, but despite its size and portability, it can support large GPUs and has enough space for custom liquid cooling systems. With the NZXT H200i, PC enthusiasts get a high-end PC case that’s small and light with a sleek, minimalist design and robust capability to support high-powered builds and configurations.

The Bad

The NZXT H200i looks fantastic on paper, and even though it’s a excellent sleek-looking high-end PC case that we believe is just the perfect balance between size and power, there are a few things that we wish it did better. The proprietary software that comes with the NZXT H200i, the CAM Smart Device as mentioned earlier, is handy and super cool when it works. The problem is that quite a few users have trouble actually getting it working. It’s definitely not a deal-breaker, and even without using the CAM Smart Device you get nice static white lights, and the fans running in Silent Mode by default. Without the problems with the proprietary software, we think the NZXT H200i would be perfect. Luckily, a lot of users can get by without it, or install it once to set everything up the way they like it, and forget about it for the rest of their lives. It’s a minor issue, and doesn’t make the NZXT H200i any less deserving of the top spot and highest rating best mini ITX case.

The Verdict

At $130 list price, the NZXT H200i is a top-notch high-end PC case to house powerful components and optional liquid cooling solutions in a small form-factor. A lot of Mini ITX cases compromise a lot to be able to get a PC case that’s as small and sleek as this case, but the NZXT H200i delivers excellent features and capabilities to deliver unprecedented value and quality for high-powered PC builds in such a small case.

 

Phanteks Evolv Shift/Shift X

Phanteks is best known for the Enthoo Pro full-tower case, but its line of Mini ITX cases is something that we think deserves a look. The Phanteks Evolv Shift is unlike most of the Mini ITX cases you’ll see in this list or any other list, because of its unique tall and slim design that makes it one of the best Mini ITX cases for any budget.

Source: flickr.com

The Good

Phanteks is famous for building reliable and high-quality PC cases, but this year, it blew everyone away with the Phanteks Evolv Shift and the larger Shift X. The Evolv Shift comes with a unique design – instead of following with the trend of smaller, wider box-type cases that you’re likely to see everywhere in the Mini ITX market, the Evolv Shift features a small footprint and tall, slim build. Apart from looking very, very cool and sleek, the Evolv Shift can be placed anywhere, standing or on its side in multiple orientations. The Evolv Shift looks great on your desk, in your living room, besides your home theatre, or in a line-up alongside your favorite consoles. 

Another thing that makes the Phanteks Evolv Shift one of our favorite Mini ITX cases is that all four side panels can be opened to give unprecedented 360-degree access to your build and configuration, making installation, upgrading, and modification a PC builder’s dream. The Phanteks Evolv Shift comes with two tempered glass panels so you can peer into your case to see the premium PC build you put a lot of hard work and dedication into, not to mention the fact that no matter where you put it, the Evolv Shift looks sleek, clean, and compact from any angle.

Mini ITX cases are expected to provide some form of cable management built-in, especially because space is a premium in small-form-factor cases, but the vertical design and layout of the Phanteks Evolv Shift make cable management an absolute breeze. The compact design of the Evolv Shift makes no compromise regarding power: its ready to support a full-sized GPU in a vertical layout.

The Bad

There’s really only one bad thing to say about the Phanteks Evolv Shift, and it’s that you can only pair it up with a smaller SFX power supply, so you’re probably not going to have enough juice flowing around to power a super high-end PC build. But in no way does that mean you’re disabled. The Phanteks Evolv Shift is still an excellent PC case, and with SFX PSUs getting better and better by the day, soon you won’t have to make any compromises and outfit your Mini ITX PC with all of the components you can fit in it. But until then, you’ll have to keep your power consumption to something that an SFX PSU can accommodate. There are plenty of excellent, high-quality SFX power supplies out there, and Corsair PSUs always come highly recommended. But with SFX, you’re getting a much smaller PSU with not as much power with the possibility of getting pretty loud when strained.

The Verdict

At $100 list price, the Phanteks Evolv Shift is the sleekest and most stylish Mini ITX on our list, with a unique vertical design and slim features. The compact design sacrifice nothing regarding performance, as the Evolv Shift can accommodate full-size graphics processors and is intelligently designed to maximize the space available, with intuitive cable management and adequate cooling. You can only outfit the Evolv Shift with an SFX power supply unit, but for the excellent design, excellent quality, and smart layout, we think it’s a worthy compromise.

 

Fractal Design Nano S

For PC builders looking for a little bit more room to work with without compromising size and portability, we have the Fractal Design Nano S. The biggest Mini ITX case on our list; the Nano S is an excellent PC case and the latest and greatest iteration of the Fractal Design’s Nano product lineup.

Source: flickr.com

The Good

Fractal Design’s Nano S is built specifically for PC enthusiasts who want the small form factor of a Mini ITX case but are hesitant to give up the space and capability of larger mid-tower or full-tower pc cases. Enter the Nano S: small, compact, and portable, but designed for big builds.

The Nano S is the Mini ITX rendition of Fractal Design’s Define series of PC cases which are all tailored to provide quiet operations, featuring patented vent design and built-in sound dampening so that even the most potent builds can run smooth and silent. The Nano S delivers on a lot of the Define Series promises excellent sound dampening, user-friendly cable installation and management, great cooling solutions, and compatibility with full-size, desktop-class components.

The Nano S, despite its capability and roomy internals, looks sleek and compact, doing justice to its name as a Mini ITX case. Style is in no shortage on the Nano S, with a great brushed aluminum finish to add to its already premium feel, and tempered glass panels to let PC enthusiasts stare at their hard-earned PC build in a showcase. The Fractal Design Nano S also has enough room to support some liquid cooling options, making it perfect for big builds and high-power components.

What makes the Fractal Design Nano S stand out is the intuitive and super easy maintenance design. Novice PC builders and enthusiasts may not realize, but veteran PC builders understand the importance and critical role of proper maintenance on any system – but with small form-factor cases such as Mini ITX, maintenance plays an even more important role. With the Fractal Design Nano S airflow and detachable dust filters, maintenance is easy and less time consuming, so you can make sure that your system is running at optimal performance.

The Bad

The interiors on the Fractal Design Nano S are designed pretty well – for the most part. What we didn’t like though, was how the GPU slot and the PSU slot were situated pretty close together. Generally speaking, the three components are expected to increase the most in temperature while under strain are the CPU, the GPU, and power supply unit, or PSU. While the Fractal Design Nano S does a great job of everything else – from cable management to size, performance, style, and design – we feel that this is just poor placement that means you’ll have to shell out a little bit extra for a more effective cooling solution than you would have otherwise needed. Luckily, the Fractal Design comes with great cooling options, so despite the placement, the Fractal Design Nano S remains one of the best mini ITX cases for any budget, and the absolute best mini ITX case for more prominent and higher-powered PC builds.

The Verdict

At $70 MSRP, the Fractal Design Nano S offers excellent value and quality for a bigger Mini ITX case that can accommodate full-size components to deliver desktop-class power and performance in a smaller form factor than traditional tower PCs. With great features like built-in cable management, sound dampening, and a stellar sleek aesthetic, the Fractal Design Nano S component layout shouldn’t be too big an obstacle to keep you from the power and performance you expect from your PC. If you’re in the market for a Mini ITX case with plenty of elbow room for bigger, more powerful builds, then the Fractal Design Nano S is for you.

 

Silverstone ML08

We mentioned the Fractal Design Nano S to cater to PC enthusiasts looking for a Mini ITX case to house their big builds, but on the opposite side of that spectrum lies people who put small size, lightweight, and portability at a premium above all others. For those such PC builders, the Silverstone ML08 comes in a super small, super thin, super portable, and super sleek exterior without compromising the power and performance within.

The Good

The Silverstone Milo ML08 is a console Mini ITX PC case that looks more like the latest slim gaming consoles like the Sony PlayStation 4 or the Microsoft Xbox One than it does an actual PC system, but we count that to the Milo ML08’s advantage, not disadvantage. The Silverstone Milo ML08 is a very small, very slim PC case, and at first look, you’ll probably wonder if it can house a motherboard much less the rest of your PC components.

Space is definitely at a premium on the Silverstone Milo ML08, but with the intelligent layout and excellent cable management, the Silverstone Milo ML08 makes great use of the space available. The case itself is very modular, so a lot of components and parts can be easily accessed and removed for repair, maintenance, or upgrade. Despite its small size, the Silverstone Milo ML08 is a very modern and robust case that can accommodate higher-end and higher-powered PC components, and features an excellent cable management solution so that while there’s not a lot of space in there, to begin with, no space is wasted, and every part of the PC case is put to good use.

Source: commons.wikimedia.org

While it’s the smallest and most portable Mini ITX case on our list, the Silverstone Milo ML08 makes no compromises regarding raw power, capable of supporting a large graphics processor including several of the full-size Nvidia GTX 10 series GPUs. The internals on the Silverstone Milo ML08 is equally excellent, featuring a high-quality PCIe bridge for extended functionality.

The Silverstone Milo ML08 features a sleek design, with aesthetics and design themes resembling top-notch gaming consoles and high-end servers. People who buy the Silverstone ML08 can take full advantage of the Mini ITX case’s lightweight and super portable size and shape with the built-in carrying handle. The Silverstone ML08 also supports SFX and SFX-L power supplies, so you’re not too limited when it comes to your PSU.

The Bad

The Silverstone Milo ML08 doesn’t come with any fancy cooling solutions – in fact, it doesn’t feature any built-in active cooling at all. However, despite this strange design choice, the Silverstone ML08 doesn’t seem to be worse off because of it. Top-notch internal layout design and excellent airflow in the Silverstone ML08 keeps everything running smoothly and at a cool enough temperature for comfort. However, with higher-powered builds – especially if you’re aiming for a powerful GPU – you’ll want to opt to for more robust cooling, which, thankfully, is an option available to you on the Silverstone Milo ML08.

The Verdict

At around $80, the Silverstone ML08 is a great PC case, especially for PC enthusiasts who like to emphasize the “Mini” in Mini ITX. Delivering great performance and support for high-powered components despite its size, the Silverstone “Milo” ML08 made it to our list of the best Mini ITX cases of 2018 and is the reigning king of the best and most portable mini ITX case.

Thanks for reading! We hope you were able to find the Mini ITX case that’s right for you. Take a look at our other articles if you need help choosing the best full tower case, and check back often to see the best comprehensive reviews on the latest and greatest in consumer tech.

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