Build It: Half-Height Gaming PCs For The Living Room

PowerColor’s half-height Radeon HD 5750 launched a quest to build a tiny gaming PC. But things didn't work out the way we planned. We ended up building two half-height machines capable of cranking out playable frame rates, and put them both to the test.

Tiny nettop HTPCs are great for playing back HD video, but they aren’t able to tackle demanding games at high resolutions because they lean too heavily on integrated graphics. We've always been intrigued by the possibility of a tiny PC that can handle media playback in addition to late-night frag fests, so when PowerColor introduced a half-height flavor of its Radeon HD 5750, we got excited about the possibility of squishing significant graphics power into a tiny PC.

With 700/1150 MHz core/memory speeds, PowerColor's Radeon HD 5750 runs at AMD's full reference specification, despite its half-sized PCB. The only physical feature that betrays its power within is a dual-slot cooler.

We’re well aware of powerful gaming PCs that use the small cube form factor, but we want to see if we can push the size limit even harder. Can we build a machine capable of gaming at 1080p as small and thin as the new, slimmer Xbox 360?

We know that smaller systems require careful planning. Even when we put our System Builder Marathon machines together, we run into compatibility issues--and that's with full-sized ATX platforms. The smaller you go, the more complicated things can get, though. What we didn’t know--until we tried--is that a successful half-height build can be far more involved than you might otherwise imagine.

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  • Redsnake77
    Good article. I've been tempted for some time now to try a similar build. Just need to convince the misses that I 'need' it.
  • Anonymous
    Good article.
    Would have been nice to know if there were any issues with over heating in the Moneual case. I'm curious as I'm thinking about this case of an HTPC build and was hoping I could avoid using noisy 40mm fans