Building the mini-ITX Ryzen gaming PC
PCWorld’s guide on how to build a PC provides a step-by-step overview of hardware installation—but working in such a diminutive case requires much more forethought than full-sized builds do. We’ll talk about those unique quirks here.
As ever, I started by building out the motherboard. The Ryzen 5 1600 slipped right into the CPU socket after aligning the triangles found on a corner of each. The bundled Wraith Spire cooler simply screws into the stock Ryzen support bracket. Easy! (Plug the cooler into the motherboard’s CPU fan header now, before installing the motherboard in the case. Your fingers will appreciate it.) Because the Biostar Racing X370GTN packs only a pair of memory channels, I didn’t even need to check slot compatibility for the two sticks of Corsair Vengeance RAM. Just drop them in.
With that done, it’s time to dig into the case. After removing some screws on the rear of the SilverStone Sugo SG13 you can slide the top and side panels off in one fell swoop—they’re all made from a single piece of metal. Inside, you’ll find a bag of screws and other hardware tied to the frame, as well as a collection of cords snaking in from the front panel connections. Remove the tie from around those cords and you can pop the front panel off, too. Finally, there’s a storage bracket screwed toward the front of the top panel’s frame. Take that off as well to strip the case to its bare bones. You’ll want the wiggle room.
SilverStone’s manual says to install the motherboard first, but I respectfully disagree. That clutters up the cramped interior of the case. Install your storage and (optional, but you should really include it) case fan beforehand. Start with the SSD, installing it in the single drive location on the bottom panel of the case. The case fan screws easily into the front panel; we’d suggest making it an intake fan to blow cool air over the components inside.
If you want to install a hard drive or up to two more SSDs, use the storage bracket you removed earlier. Be warned: An SSD mounted to the bracket makes for a very tight fit if you use a larger 140mm case fan. Don’t reinstall the storage bracket yet.
Now it’s time to install the motherboard. Well, after inserting the motherboard I/O shield into the rear of the case. You don’t want to commit that common PC building mistake. Securing the motherboard is easy with the storage bracket still removed. Plug in your cables now, including the front panel connections, as the case is about to get real full, real fast.
Add the power supply before the graphics card, as there isn’t much space between the two. Screw the SilverStone ST45SF into its adapter bracket first, then STOP! Don’t install the power supply yet. You won’t be able to plug in the motherboard’s 4-pin power header if you do, as it sits right underneath the PSU. Slip that connector in first, then screw the power supply (via adapter) into the case, with the PSU exhaust fan pointing out of the case. There’s only a sliver of open air between the Wraith Spire cooler and the bottom of the SilverStone ST45SF, but it works just fine.
Fortunately the Sugo SG13 lacks clear panels, because cable management in mini-ITX cases gets ugly. After you’ve connected the power cables for your SSD and motherboard, just tuck the rest of the ST45SF’s cables wherever you find some room. Be sure not to catch them in the system’s fans! I snaked mine into the space between the power supply and the case fan, and worked some others over to the left side of the case, between the panel and where the graphics card will sit. If you have some extra budget, SilverStone also offers a version of this power supply with an 80 Plus Gold rating and modular cables—which means you only install the ones you need—for $90 on Amazon.
The graphics card is the final hardware you need to install. You’ll need to remove a bracket on the rear panel of the case that secures the blank plates (and eventually your graphics card’s video outputs) first. After that, you simply slide the graphics card into the motherboard’s sole PCI-E x16 slot. Most GeForce GTX 1050 Ti variants (including the EVGA GTX 1050 Ti we used here) don’t require any supplementary power connections from the power supply. Side note: If you opt for a larger, more powerful graphics card, you may need to install it by sliding it through the front of the case. The tiny GTX 1050 Ti has no problem dropping in the top opening though.
Tidy up any remaining cables, replace the GPU plate and storage brackets, then slide the exterior panels back on. You’ve got yourself a portable, hexa-core gaming rig! Install your operating system of choice and connect the mini-ITX Ryzen gaming PC to your peripherals and monitor.
Mini-ITX Ryzen gaming PC performance
Portability is only part of this tiny PC’s appeal. It’s got game, too.
To test the mini-ITX Ryzen gaming PC’s chops, we loaded it up with a variety of games from PCWorld’s various testing suites, testing each in DirectX 11 mode with V-Sync and GPU-specific features (like Nvidia Gameworks effects and AMD’s TressFX) disabled. We tested at 1920x1080 resolution.
The GTX 1050 Ti inside proved more capable than today’s gaming consoles, easily clearing the 30 frames-per-second barrier with all the visual bells and whistles cranked to High.
Heck, with the exception of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided—an especially demanding game included to see how this rig performs when you make it sweat—all of the games surpass 45 fps with High graphics settings. You could push most of the games closer to the hallowed 60-fps mark by dropping some visual options down to Medium. This rig could put in a strong showing at a LAN party. Because the build uses a solid-state drive, load times proved nice and speedy as well.
Overheating can be a concern with such small builds, and I was worried the abundant cabling and restricted airflow inside would cause temperatures to spike. Nope. SilverStone gave the Sugo SG13 abundant ventilation on all sides. This system runs a little hotter than a similarly configured full-size build would, but after gaming for over an hour straight, the CPU temperature maxed out at 72 degrees, and 57 degrees for the graphics card. That’s nothing to worry about whatsoever. (Think twice about overclocking a rig like this unless you spring for fancier liquid cooling, though.) You can definitely hear the fans spinning but they’re not excessively loud.
These gaming benchmarks represent stock performance, too. If you tried some of these seven tricks to maximize your Ryzen PC’s performance, your frame rate could soar even higher.
In the end, I’m very happy with this build. It’s one-sixth the size of most of the PCs lying around my office, it games with far more ferocity than consoles, and its 6-core, 12-thread Ryzen CPU makes the tiny rig a productivity beast. Sure, it’d be nice if memory and graphics prices weren’t outrageously inflated right now, but you won’t find a potent system this tiny at any big-box retailer. Building something you can’t find anywhere else with your own two hands feels incredibly cathartic—especially when a system this satisfying is the result.