Small form factor (SFF) builds are becoming quite the thing nowadays, and a lot of conventional ATX, mid-tower builds are now looking at sizing down and building smart and powerful systems in mini-ITX enclosures. With more and more highly capable, easy-to-use and sleek mini-ITX cases under 20 litres volume (to be technically called a SFF build), there has never been a time to embark on your first SFF build, or perhaps upgrade your current mini ITX system with a new enclosure.
In this guide we will show you our favorite mITX cases currently available in 2020, and why these will be suitable for any type of builder – novice or seasoned.
|Dancase A4-SFX V2||7.2L|
|LOUQE Ghost S1 MKII||8.1L|
|Fractal Design Node 202||10.2L|
Dancase A4-SFX V4 (7.2L)
If you’re part of the small form factor (SFF) builder community then this mini ITX case needs no introduction – the Dancase A4-SFX is the king of SFF enclosures – and with the release of the most recent version (V4) now is a better time than ever to get this SFF case.
Coming in at just 7.2L volume, this is one of the smallest PC cases that can house a discrete full size graphics card, of up to 295mm in length and 2-slot in width. CPU coolers are compatible of up to 48mm, with the Noctua NH-L9i being the SFF builders community cooler of choice.
The A4-SFX is certainly one of the most expensive and premium SFF cases on the market, and is known to be a typical case for high end, powerful ITX builds – such as with the RTX 2080 Ti or i9-9900K commonly featured in the A4-SFX. The original version of this case only featured one case fan mount which means cooling is limited but still sufficient but planning for airflow needs to be considered to ensure a build with decent thermals. The newer version, the V4, has added additional fan mountpoints to give the A4-SFX better potential for cooling and improving thermals.
The differences between the new A4-SFX V4 compared to previous versions such as the A4-SFX V3/2/1 are listed below:
- New 92mm fan mountpoint underneath the motherboard
- PSU raised 5mm to have more space for a 92mm AIO cooler
- USB 3.1 gen2 Type C on the front panel
- New 120mm mountpoints above motherboard for 120mm AIO
- Changing hard drive bracket to allow for 15mm thick drives
One of the best PC cases money can buy – should you end up with this case we recommend reading our guide on the recommended parts for Dancase A4 SFX builds, or perhaps like the design of this and want a cheaper alternative, here is a guide to some Dancase A4-SFX alternatives.
LOUQE Ghost S1 MKII (8.2L)
Although not the smallest ITX case, the LOUQE Ghost S1 it possibly is our favourite mini TIX case despite the $245 retail price and notoriously lengthy delivery times – we’ve been waiting 3 months for our order to arrive!
The Ghost S1 comes in at 8.2L volume and features a similar layout to the A4-SFX, and supports GPUs of up to 305mm – so even beefy 2080 Ti’s will be able to fit in this ITX case! CPU cooler support is greater than the A4-SFX, too, with coolers up to 66mm of height being able to fit in the enclosure – and specifically for this case the Scythe Big Shuriken 2 is known to be a great cooler pairing with the Ghost S1.
If you want to go AIO or liquid cooled, the Ghost S1 offers ‘top hats’ and the ability to expand the case to fit large radiator setups. Take note that if you want to install top hats and AIO cool the Ghost S1, the volume of the case will begin to approach that of the NCase M1 – so if thats the case you may also want to consider this SFF case – which is known as the best mini-ITX case for airflow and watercooling.
Our guide to the best PC parts for LOUQE Ghost S1 builds can be found here, where we go into detail the top PSUs, CPU coolers and case fans to pair with the LOUQE S1 enclosure and get the maximum performance out of this high-performance SFF case.
Sliger SM550 (9.7L)
The Sliger SM550 is one of the newest and hottest SFF cases on the market in 2020, and comes from the same guys who make the Cerberus X – the smallest ATX case on the market. Despite only being available for a short period of time, many SFF builders from reddit’s /r/SFFPC community have posted impressive build logs and thermals with the Sliger SM550 – and hence it gets our recommendation for a great ITX case to consider.
Available in three different colours, this 9.7L volume mini-ITX case can fit dual slot, full length GPUs of up to 310mm in length, and CPU coolers of up to 55mm in height. There is plenty of room for cooling, with two fan mounts for 120 x 25mm fans to drive down thermals and create a ITX case with good airflow.
The Sliger SM550 is manufactured in the USA and build quality has been noted to be exceptional, as well as feature sets – including a front panel I/O with USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type C, Type A, 2 audio jacks and a neat side panel to show off your SFFPC components.
At $180, the Sliger SM550 is priced competitively and offers a cheaper mini-ITX alternative to the Ghost S1 or Dancase A4-SFX – which are priced on the more premium end.
Update: Sliger have recently announced two more ITX cases to their lineup which are slightly larger in volume, and may appeal to those who want a little more internal space than the SM550. These two new announced cards are the Sliger SM570 (13.9L) and SM580 (15.9L) – check out the official page linked to view more information about these two gorgeous mini ITX cases for SFF builds.
Node 202 (10.2L)
The fourth entry on our ITX case list, the Fractal Design Node 202, is the best mini ITX case for HTPC/console-style setups. Featuring a more flat design that can be tucked away under a TV console – the Node 202 is popular option amongst SFF builders since it is good value ($80), 10.2L in volume (small) and fits 3-slot graphics cards of up to 310mm in length and CPU coolers of up to 56mm in height – with the Scythe Big Shuriken 2 rev.B being our recommended CPU cooler for the Node 202 to give the best thermals for this case. It is important to note that many CPU cooler setups with this ITX case, including the Shuriken 2, means you will have to opt for low profile RAM to allow for the cooler to fit.
We also have a guide recommending the top PC parts for Node 202 builds – should you want to build with this case.
NCase M1 (12.6L)
The NCase M1 is known as the OG SFF case that really helped drive the SFF builders community to where it is today – originating from a highly successful
This $195 case allows for graphics cards of up to 317mm in length and 3-slot in width – so really any card you throw at it, it should fit. Most impressive is that the NCase M1 allows for CPU coolers of up to 130mm height, more than double of what is capable in the Dan Case A4-SFX.
Cooling wise, the NCase M1 is able to fit a 240mm radiator in the enclosure for
If you want to go AIO, we have been told that fitting the NCase M1 with the Arctic Accellero II and 14S will create one of the best quietest SFF builds possible. We go into more detail about the best-matched components for NCASE M1 builds here – for maximum performance and cooling potential with the NCASE M1.
If the NCase M1 sounds like the best SFF case for you – then we have a dedicated guide to the best components for the NCase M1 that may interest you. It can be found here.
Cougar QBX (19.9L)
The final case on our list is the Cougar QBX coming in at 19.9L (just under the 20L definition of what is ‘small form factor’) and is generally regarded by the SFF community as the best budget Mini ITX case on the market. Retailing at just the $50, the Cougar QBX presents a great option for budget SFF builders who want to try their hand at perhaps their first mini ITX build – without breaking the bank.
Although not constructed of the highest quality materials that you may see on the Ghost S1 or A4-SFX, the Cougar QBX still provides great thermal performance and component compatibility – supporting graphics cards of up to 350mm in length and CPU coolers of up to 105mm height – and even being able to support ATX form factor PSUs! The best suited CPU cooler for the Cougar QBX from builders is the Cyrorig M9, and offers fantastic value just like Cougar QBX for its performance.
Since this is
Read our guide on the recommended components for the Cougar QBX here.
FormDWorks T1 V1.1 (9.48L)
The FormDWorks (Sidearm) T1 V1.1 is not only one of the best SFF cases on the market, but potentially one of the best PC cases overall thanks to its entirely CNC machined aluminum construction, anodized finish, and fine mesh side panels. Such intricate design and tight tolerances in a unit with such modular assembly options make the T1 an exceptionally compelling pick. So compelling that you’re likely to be hard-pressed to even get your hands on one, as their pre-order cycles are still few and far between and sell out almost instantaneously despite its $230 price tag.
With solid black, or black and silver contrast color options; the T1 can be configured as an open-air case/test bench to accommodate even a Noctua NH-D15 or ultra-thick 120mm radiator for liquid cooling, or as an enclosed unit to fit either a dual-slot 312mm GPU and up to a 70mm CPU cooler, or a triple-slot 312mm GPU and up to a 50mm CPU cooler/pump block. You also have space enough on the top or bottom of the T1 for 2x 120mm fans for an air-cooled system, or a 120mm (<30mm thick) radiator for a liquid-cooled one.
The build quality here simply cannot be overstated, as the aluminum struts that form the structure for the internal sandwich layout, and the side panels that bring everything together are incredibly light and durable. CNC machining, regardless of the kind of product that uses it, is quite stunning, and we can only hope it’s a trend that perhaps gains a lot more traction throughout the PC case market as a whole.
NZXT H1 (13.6L)
One of the most recent SFF PC cases introduced to the market is the NZXT H1. What sets this enclosure apart, aside from its incredibly small square footprint, is the integrated 650W 80+ Gold rated PSU and 140mm CPU AIO cooler, as they’re the reason why the H1 costs $350. Not only are the PSU and AIO cooler included with the case, but they also come pre-installed and have their cabling pre-routed alongside the GPU riser card, making the H1 arguably the most straightforward PC case to build in, period.
With options for a black or white cover panel, the H1 also supports up to 305mm 2.5 slot GPUs and 2x 2.5” storage drives, not to mention however many M.2 NVMe SSDs you’re able to install on your motherboard of choice. NZXT also has you covered by a 3-year warranty for the case, riser card, and AIO, and a 10-year warranty for the PSU.
As time goes on and companies like NZXT continue to innovate, new PC builders have it so good that it’s hard not to view them as just a little bit spoiled. When you factor in the cost of an AIO cooler and 80+ Gold rated power supply, especially nowadays, the NZXT H1 is a steal, and perfect for anyone looking to make the actual build process for their new PC that much easier… Which might be why you’ll have to sit on a pre-order for a while, as the H1 is consistently out-of-stock!
Thor Zone MJOLNIR (9.7L)
Possibly the most interesting SFF case out there right now: the “minimalistic – but not boring – PC case,” Thor Zone MJOLNIR. The MJOLNIR, or Thor’s Hammer, is yet another “sandwich” layout SFF case, but with an exciting twist. The MJOLNIR has two main sections machined out of solid aluminum blocks; an inner “core,” the internal frame where you install your components, which then slides into a striking outer shell. The shell has zero branding, thick walls, ample airflow with ventilated side panels, or the option for a much more slick look with tempered glass side panels. Additionally, the core can also double as a fully functional test bench if kept outside of the outer shell!
With Steel, Black, and Stealth Grey color options: the Thor Zone MJOLNIR comes with an included Gen4 GPU riser card and supports up to 2x 2.5” storage drives, a 51mm CPU air cooler, or 120 / 240mm CPU AIO coolers, and GPUs up to 334mm in length, and 159mm in height. Thor Zone also offers two different models, the MJOLNIR S and MJOLNIR R for $300 and $350, respectively, the only difference being pre-installed RGB lighting on the MJOLNIR R.
As of yet, Thor Zone has only had one release cycle for their initial prototype, where you’ll need to sign up to their mailing list to receive the announcement for the full release. Like with most independent/crowd-funded PC cases over the past few years, we can definitely expect improvements over the first version, as well as minimal availability despite the hefty price tags. If you’re at all interested in building your next PC in the MJOLNIR, be sure to leave them your email, and don’t miss out on the chance to pick one up ASAP.
Velkase Velka 3 (3.7L)
If you take the phrase small form factor seriously, then the Velkase Velka 3 might be your best bet. The Velka 3 is a shockingly tiny aluminum and steel case at under 4L and is the smallest PC case on the market that can accommodate a discrete GPU. However, hardware support is limited to memory modules up to 42mm tall, a 37mm CPU cooler, 1x 2.5” storage drive, and ITX specific GPUs like the MSI RTX 2060 Super AERO ITX, or the Gigabyte RTX 2070 MINI ITX. The Velka 3 also only supports FlexATX power supplies, though Velkase offers the option to include one for an additional $100. Further, due to the size and lower quality of the fan for most FlexATX power supplies, you may also want to consider picking up a Noctua NF-A4x20 to replace the stock unit for whatever PSU you decide to purchase. The newest iteration of the Velka 3 also features improved ventilation and silver trim along the edge of the front panel.
Forget “shoe-box” PCs; the Velka 3 is nearly pocket-sized and can be configured into a remarkably powerful and insanely portable gaming machine. If you’re up for a slightly challenging build process and have the patience to wait for the next restock, you’ll be rewarded with one of the smallest high-performance gaming computers money can buy.
Silverstone SG13 (11.5L)
It’s time to show our budget builders a little bit more love, and the best way to do so is with the Silverstone SG13 for only $60. While the SG13 series has the “worst” build quality compared to the rest of our list, it is by no means horrible, especially for only $60. Constructed from plastic, mesh, and steel, the SG13 can support up to 3x 2.5” storage drives, 61mm CPU air coolers, 120 / 140mm CPU AIO coolers, up to 150mm standard ATX power supplies, and GPUs up to 270mm in length.
There’s not terribly much to say about the SG13. If you’re interested in building an SFFPC, but you can’t bring yourself to spend hundreds of dollars on your case alone, Silverstone offers one of the best performing cases on the market at one of the lowest prices you’re likely to see for years to come. Just make sure you opt for one of the models with a mesh front panel for the best thermal performance in your new mini-computer!