Compact Mini-ITX Case Round-Up

Today we're putting three compact Mini-ITX cases to the test: Cougar's QBX, ID-Cooling's T60-SFX and Lian Li's PC-Q10.

It has been quite a while since we stopped reviewing compact cases, but we're happy to announce that we've started reviewing them again. Over the next several months we'll be reviewing more than a dozen, starting with today's round up.

To get things ready for the new reviews, we put together a brand new test platform just for Mini-ITX and HTPC cases. Then we sent word to vendors that we're looking for review units to test. About two weeks later, one case after another came streaming in, and we ended up with a plethora, from various vendors including Corsair, Cougar, Deep Cool, ID Cooling, Lian Li and more.

For today's round-up we'll be reviewing cases from Cougar, ID Cooling and Lian-Li:

Specifications

MORE: All Case Content
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  • Onus
    Honestly I cannot say I liked this one. Yes, it provides good information on three specific cases, but is missing too much information to be useful as a "Round-Up." I would like to have seen a few more case styles tested, such as one of the InWin BP655 series, a Prodigy or Neutron, and one of the small cheap "breadbox" cases.
    Also, I know time is limited, but another fifteen minutes to install an additional fan in the QBX and test the author's otherwise reasonable supposition would have significantly increased the value of the information provided about that case.
  • jtd871
    If the 970 card that you used is that loud and/or annoying, I wonder why you didn't select a larger (although still within standard PCIe dimensions) dual-fan card, instead. Additionally, these cases are relatively large compared to the volume of the components, which is going to make airflow really challenging. The beauty of *really* small cases is that there is less extra volume for hot air to accumulate inside the case (but there needs to be lots of available ventilation for each of the components).

    I didn't read the write-up on the individual cases, but did you try setting the PSU as an exhaust to improve airflow?
  • JasonL265
    Was this an older article that was just publish today. They kept on complaining about Lian Li's more expensive price tag and even listed it as a con for the case. But the ID case is like $30 bucks more, and instead they say the ID case has a "decent" price
  • jjb8675309
    Would have been nice to see more budget oriented cases geared towards bottom dollar (apu) mini-itx builds.
  • cmiconi
    Quote:
    Was this an older article that was just publish today. They kept on complaining about Lian Li's more expensive price tag and even listed it as a con for the case. But the ID case is like $30 bucks more, and instead they say the ID case has a "decent" price


    The ID-Cooling case was selling for just above its MSRP of $79.99 back when the article was written. Since then the price has doubled on Newegg for some reason. Additionally, the charts in the article were made with the case's MSRP and not its current selling price.
  • cmiconi
    I also wanted to clarify some of the questions.

    The case selection of the round-up was intended to compare cases of a similar size. When we put out our call for cases, we got almost a dozen cases in two weeks, in all sorts of different designs (and more are still on their way). One thing we didn't get a lot of was budget cases. Once we get through reviewing most of the cases that came in, we might put together another round-up of 3-5 budget mini-ITX cases.

    The mini GTX 970 was chosen so that we didn't have to worry about the graphics card not fitting into any of the cases that we received. We did get some cases in which a regular size card won't fit. So, instead of testing with two different graphics cards, we can use a single card which helps to keep a consistent baseline for the test results across all of the cases.
  • 2Be_or_Not2Be
    What, no Silverstone cases? They have a good range of mini-ITX cases. The SG05 and the SG13 go for $30-45 USD on Newegg. Surely that's a nicely-priced budget case.
  • kyle382
    I have been waiting so long for SFF case reviews from toms. Thank you! I didn't even know about the ID cooling brand until I read this.
  • kyle382
    1396902 said:
    What, no Silverstone cases? They have a good range of mini-ITX cases. The SG05 and the SG13 go for $30-45 USD on Newegg. Surely that's a nicely-priced budget case.


    calm down there buddy...more will coming.

    ".. from various vendors including Corsair, Cougar, Deep Cool, ID Cooling, Lian Li and more."
  • jjb8675309
    879769 said:
    Once we get through reviewing most of the cases that came in, we might put together another round-up of 3-5 budget mini-ITX cases.


    That would be awesome. Looking for a $40-60 budget case right now.
  • mosc
    I would have really liked to see some discussion on the maximum graphics card dimension each case could hold. I'd like to get a small, reasonably priced case but I don't want to use a small graphics card. I think from an efficiency perspective having a "standard" size cooler on your GPU is important. Some of these little cases fit em, some don't. That's like... the single most important thing about these little cases we want to know. What fits and what doesn't. PSU's too.
  • jjb8675309
    1791229 said:
    I would have really liked to see some discussion on the maximum graphics card dimension each case could hold. I'd like to get a small, reasonably priced case but I don't want to use a small graphics card. I think from an efficiency perspective having a "standard" size cooler on your GPU is important. Some of these little cases fit em, some don't. That's like... the single most important thing about these little cases we want to know. What fits and what doesn't. PSU's too.


    Agreed, that information would be most useful.
  • cmiconi
    Quote:
    879769 said:
    Once we get through reviewing most of the cases that came in, we might put together another round-up of 3-5 budget mini-ITX cases.
    That would be awesome. Looking for a $40-60 budget case right now.


    I just happen to have two Silverstone cases sitting in my pile of items to be reviewed.
  • cmiconi
    Quote:
    1791229 said:
    I would have really liked to see some discussion on the maximum graphics card dimension each case could hold. I'd like to get a small, reasonably priced case but I don't want to use a small graphics card. I think from an efficiency perspective having a "standard" size cooler on your GPU is important. Some of these little cases fit em, some don't. That's like... the single most important thing about these little cases we want to know. What fits and what doesn't. PSU's too.
    Agreed, that information would be most useful.


    We list the maximum graphics card length in the table above. For future reviews I'll look in to adding a section for PSU size and CPU cooler size.
  • Crashman
    879769 said:
    Quote:
    1791229 said:
    I would have really liked to see some discussion on the maximum graphics card dimension each case could hold.
    Agreed, that information would be most useful.
    We list the maximum graphics card length in the table above. For future reviews I'll look in to adding a section for PSU size and CPU cooler size.
    If they can't be bothered to look at the table, you shouldn't feel obligated to lead them to it.
  • dbrees
    I would have really liked to see the NCASE M1 featured in this article. It is a little pricey at 185.00 USD, but I think it is one of the most modern cases out there.
  • RedJaron
    Remember people, before you ask, "Why wasn't Product X tested?" we can only test what is sent in. Sometimes vendors choose not to submit a product for review. And sometimes, as Chris says here, we have more coming.
  • Crashman
    570460 said:
    Remember people, before you ask, "Why wasn't Product X tested?" we can only test what is sent in. Sometimes vendors choose not to submit a product for review. And sometimes, as Chris says here, we have more coming.
    Eric's back! w00t!
    And the rest of you have no clue how BIG the next thing coming from HIM is!
  • beoza
    These are the type of cases I'm looking at for my mother's build. She doesn't need some huge case sitting on the floor or on her desk taking up loads of space. She just needs something small that only needs an entry level card like a 950 or 960.

    But one thing I would really love to see all case manufactures do is make that bottom dust filter removable from the front! I don't want to have to move the entire case and possibly unplug cables just to clean that filter, blend the handle into the front panel. Pulling them out the side is ok too, but the front is a better position since no matter where your computer is sitting you can remove that filter for easy cleaning.
  • kyle382
    :}
  • kyle382
    Quote:
    Quote:
    879769 said:
    Once we get through reviewing most of the cases that came in, we might put together another round-up of 3-5 budget mini-ITX cases.
    That would be awesome. Looking for a $40-60 budget case right now.
    I just happen to have two Silverstone cases sitting in my pile of items to be reviewed.


    I recommend the silverstone ft03 mini and lian li pc-q33 for review. Not budget cases :D
  • jadeite
    The whole reason people want mini-itx is because they want a small case. These cases are huge bloated boxes 13-17 liters in size. You can get micro atx cases well smaller than that. A properly designed mini-itx case is under 10 liters and still accommodates the biggest graphics cards. Reviews and specs need to start publishing the volume in liters of a case because it is a key buying factor. Cases like the Dan A4 do a really good job at compacting a case down to 7 liters for instance.
  • Crashman
    73343 said:
    The whole reason people want mini-itx is because they want a small case. These cases are huge bloated boxes 13-17 liters in size. You can get micro atx cases well smaller than that. A properly designed mini-itx case is under 10 liters and still accommodates the biggest graphics cards. Reviews and specs need to start publishing the volume in liters of a case because it is a key buying factor. Cases like the Dan A4 do a really good job at compacting a case down to 7 liters for instance.
    The only "sizes" that matter are length, width, and height. These things tell you whether a case fits into a specific location. Volume is only a "bragging rights" calculation: Because it doesn't tell you how wide, how deep, or how tall a case is, volume is meaningless to any real-world situation.

    Of course you could say that all of these cases are too wide, or too tall, because you don't think a Mini ITX case should have room for a full-sized graphics card or mid-sized CPU cooler. But then you're scratching off a big portion of the portable gaming market.
    And then you could point out that consoles are smaller, in which case you'd be starting the whole console-vs-PC debate rather than a size argument.
    Or you could be arguing for the placement of non-high-performance mini PCs, but the thing is that there's scarcely a reason to build a boring mini PC since so many cheap ones are being sold prefabricated. I had my Wife on a Brix until she knocked it off the table one too many times. If I were shopping for a Brix, I wouldn't even be looking at case articles.
  • ron baker
    Whats this ps2 power supply nonsense ? I ve heard of atx sfx and sfx-l never ps2 . Thats a playstation.
    Isn't the id case a ripoff of the q17 from lian li (which is itself just a gussied up q10)? Ask them for a q04 which is advertised on their site but nowhere to be found (in the UK). dont forget inwin, hadron etc.