Reviewed: MSI Z97I Gaming AC & R9 270X Mini ITX - Practical Build Featured

Testing something designed for confined spaces on an ATX open air Test bench chassis just didn't seem right so we brought out the white Node 304 from Fractal Design and built a realistic small footprint rig. I then sat this beside the 40" Samsung LCD TV and got some gaming and movies in for a weekend. 

In terms of components, I used:

  • Intel i5-4670K
  • 2x4GB Corsair Vengeance low profile DDR3 1600 (Black)
  • Deep Cool Gabriel Low Profile CPU cooler
  • Fractal Design Newton White 1000W modular power supply (it was all I had and way overkill for this project)
  • Fractal Design White Node 304 Case
  • Corsair M65 Gaming Mouse
  • Logitech G35 Gaming Headset
  • Logitech G110 Gaming keyboard (old faithful)
  • 120GB Intel SSD
  • 750GB Seagate Barracuda 7200RPM Hard Drive
  • Windows 8.1
  • Connected to LCD TV via HDMI cable

The location of the headers around the board and primarily at the top edge made this a breeze to install in the Fractal Design Node 304. I was able to run most of the front panel cables under the board itself and then connect them to the headers with minimal cabling mess. I liked the 24pin power connector along the top edge as well because those cables can usually be a bit rigid and difficult to work with. The build took about 90 minutes to assemble and tidy the cables - if I wasn't making notes and taking photos, it would have probably taken closer to an hour. The Node 304 is also an easy case to work with and I like just about any excuse to bring it out for a build - smaller cases may present other challenges and have different thermal properties.

Video quality via HDMI was flawless and at 1080P the setup did not miss a beat. No matter what I played, there was no noticeable noise coming from the Node 304 - if anything, I could hear the hard drive on occasion. Note that the Node 304 case fans were set to the low speed of 5volts via the case fan controller and temperatures were still under 70 degrees for the graphics card.

The practical build was the last part of the review process so as I sat on the couch thinking about dismantling the grunty little Mini ITX build, I asked myself the question of "Would I like to own this?"

  • For my lounge room/TV? - Hell yes, it was a great setup for 1920x1080 and gaming from the couch was very cool. Movies played effortlessly via Plex or Windows Video and there was basically no noise coming from the rig itself.
  • For my desktop? Probably not... I game at 2560x1440 so I like the grunt of my SLI GTX 670 setup to keep up respectable frame rates. The small footprint, portability and quiet audio profile of the practical build is compelling and would make for a neat desktop rig well suited to 1080p gaming in a bedroom or study where space is at a premium.
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Last modified onWednesday, 18 June 2014 19:24

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