In recent years the ITX trend has built momentum with PC enthusiasts realising that huge performance doesn’t necessitate a huge box. AMD’s Ryzen CPUs lend themselves to this form factor owning to their high performance and efficient architecture that makes them easy to cool. The Ryzen 3600XT is the latest and highest performance Ryzen 5 CPU with a boost clock that can hit 4.5Ghz. It retains the Zen 2 features of 7nm fabrication process, ‘Precision Boost’ technology and 6 cores with multithreading for 12 logical threads.
Using this high-performance CPU as the core of an ITX build, we can leverage its strengths to make a killer portable 1080p gaming rig that will also handle productivity tasks, streaming, general PC tasks and anything else you care to throw at it.
In this article we’ll pick out the best parts so that you can build an ITX Ryzen PC that has real impact despite its diminutive dimensions.
ITX build considerations
Planning an ITX build involves a holistic approach and more forethought than you might normally apply to a more forgiving ATX form factor build. With so few expansion opportunities it’s important to get features inbuilt from the outset to prevent headaches as your needs expand over time. It’s also very important to check component dimensions to ensure that the graphics card and power supply, as well as CPU cooling solution, are compatible with the ITX case you’ve selected and with one another. In this build, we’ve done the hard work for you and constructed a parts list that is compact, powerful and future proof.
Ryzen 5 3600XT ITX Build – The Parts List
At the heart of this build is AMD’s latest Zen2 CPU, the Ryzen 5 3600XT. This is a revision of the existing Ryzen 3600X with boosted clock speed. It’s an efficient CPU particularly when compared to Intel offerings but makes full use of a 95W TDP to squeeze extra performance out of the silicon. Using Precision Boost 2 the CPU can decide to boost to high clock speeds for extra performance but AMD stipulate that this process is aided by optimising the PC configuration to give the CPU the best environment to perform – they’re talking about thermal headroom and solid power delivery from the motherboard. This CPU is very well suited to gaming and productivity applications: it performs equivalently to the last generations Ryzen 2700X in video rendering and other multi-core tasks thanks to AMD’s improvement to the Zen architecture but maintains higher frame rates in games owing to better single-core speeds. We’ll describe how the rest of our parts decisions work together to get the most out of this fantastic CPU.
A big part of keeping the CPU running at optimal speeds is keeping it cool. The case we’ve chosen allows for a tower cooler but in this instance, we have chosen the compact NZXT M22 All-in-One cooler. This system incorporates a pump and radiator along with a 120mm fan. This configuration looks absolutely superb with NZXT’s ‘infinite mirror’ cold plate and addressable RGB. With so little room for visual flair in an ITX build a single part like this really sets off the entire look of the system, whilst providing excellent cooling capability for the CPU. It also acts as the system intake fan. Doing three jobs with one component: That’s part of the ITX build ethos.
The motherboard is the core of any PC but it’s vitally important in an mini-ITX build that it hits the mark in terms of features and expandability. Of course every mITX board is necessarily limited to 1 PCIe Slot for the GPU and 2 DIMM slots that we will immediately populate with dual channel ram. They also all have WiFi incorporated as there’s no space for an add-in WiFi card, In this case, it’s 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac via a Realtek RTL8822 chipset and Bluetooth 4.2.
This motherboard, the Asus ROG Strix B450-I Gaming, has a number of other features that earn it our recommendation for our 3600XT SFF build. Firstly there are 2 m.2 slots meaning that a second m.2 SSD, NVME or SATA is a breeze to install down the line. The Audio output is via a high-quality SupremeFX S1220A codec for high-quality sound. Meanwhile, a solid 6+1 phase configuration using 40 Amp power stages for the CPU core – more than capable of extracting maximum performance from the 3600XT whilst extensive heatsinking help dissipate the heat. The brushed aluminium aesthetic of this board lends a premium air and is consistent with the overall look of this build.
Focussed on gaming performance, we’ve opted for G.Skill Ripjaws V ram for this build. The speed rating of 3600MHz CL16 is optimal for Zen 2 CPUs, allowing the memory overclock to match the infinity fabric speed which in turn minimises latency across the CPU. This has a marked impact on performance.
This RAM kit represents the best value option for high-speed RAM. The pair of 8Gb sticks fully populate the two available RAM slots so if you’re planning on a more versatile workload for this PC you may want to consider opting for a 32Gb kit from the outset. In this case, the 32Gb Kit from G.Skill maintains the 3600Mhz speeds and tight timings and costs $150.
One of the limitations of small form factor builds is the limits on 3.5” storage bays for hard drives. Recent trends have seen small form factor M.2 SSD’s come to market that alleviate this issue and bring the advantage of speed.
The Western Digital Blue SN550 1TB is a fast NVME drive utilising high-speed TLC NAND memory and a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface to achieve 2,400MBps read and 1,750 write speeds along with exceptionally low latency. This drive can handle the Operating System and key programmes and games, whilst a second M.2 slot remains free for another NVME drive down the line when speeds and capacities rise and price inevitably drops. This drive performs excellently in day to day tasks and ships with a 5-year warranty for peace of mind.
We’ve opted for an RTX 2060 for this build for a combination of factors, with the AIB model being the EVGA KO Gaming. It’s a rock-solid 1080p high-FPS GPU that will handle AAA titles with ease and push high frame rates in more competitive titles, supported by the Ryzen 3600XT CPU. It’s even capable of good 1440p performance making it a versatile performer for a PC that’s likely to be used in a number of situations owing to its portability. They’re also relatively efficient meaning less heat and less noise which are both important attributes in a compact case. The Turing architecture gains you RTX cores to dabble in ray tracing and other features whilst an inbuilt ‘NVENC’ hardware stream encoder makes easy work of streaming your gameplay.
EVGA struck the value sweet spot when it announced their KO series of GPUs. With 6Gb GDDR6 VRAM and a compact but effective cooling solution, this is the Go-To aftermarket version of the RTX 2060 and it’s backed by EVGA’s 3-year warranty and well-regarded customer support.
Lian Li has a long-standing reputation for making high-end cases with fantastic build quality and close attention to detail. Their entry into the ITX market is the Lian Li TU150, a case designed to combine a small form factor with good component compatibility and versatility. It even sports a carry handle to enhance its claim to portability!
This case has enabled us to select powerful parts whilst keeping options open for upgrades. It’s not as restrictive as some of the smaller ITX options meaning that we’ve been able to select a high capacity cooler whilst GPUs can be up to 3 slots deep and 320mm long which expands the range of options when it’s time to upgrade. The cooling capability is also good with the GPU drawing fresh air from vents below, whilst the upper section of the case acts as a tunnel with fore-to-aft airflow drawing right through the system to keep everything cool.
Our suggested configuration is placing the NZXT radiator at the front of the case to ensure it draws cool air and we’ve specified a matched NZXT RGB exhaust fan at the rear: This clears the case compartment of hot air from the CPU radiator and GPU outwash.
The PSU market is still suffering the shake-up of COVID factory shutdowns in China and trade wars. The usual gold standard SFX PSUs, Corsairs Gold and Platinum products are scarce and overpriced right now. Thankfully they’re not the only options and with the TU150 case allowing SFX-L PSU’s we’ve selected the Fractal Design Ion 500W PSU.
Manufactured by Seasonic, This unit sports 90+ Gold efficiency rating and low noise operation. At less than 30dB(A) you won’t hear it over other components in the PC. Full modularity ensures you only use the cables you need which is essential when space is at a premium. And the supplied cables are both flexible and short to reduce cable management headaches in a small build. Finally, it comes with a 10-year warranty giving peace of mind.
Conclusion: Portable power in an affordable package
This build demonstrates how you can make the most of a small ITX case but maximise the performance available. Aimed at 1080p gaming, portable workstation use, and general-purpose computing this build will suit anyone who considers space a premium and portability essential.