When building most PC’s, you can create your parts list, determine what kind of build you are going for, and even easily estimate the power of your theoretical system. With ITX small form factor builds, you really cannot plan your build until you have selected your case, and even then you must proceed in a specific order to reach a complete and satisfactory build: You want WiFi 6? Then you have to get a current gen (X570 for AMD) motherboard because you cant do PCIE add-ins. Do you want to run a 2080 Ti? Then cases with built-in power supplies, limited space for GPU’s, or terrible airflow will limit you. You see my point.
All of these considerations in mind, there is a trifecta of attractive elements to Mini ITX builds that draw many an enthusiast to build their next PC in an ITX frame: Incredible portability, minimal desk space requirements, and the raw sex-appeal of fitting cutting edge powerhouse components in a minuscule package.
With Zen 2 CPU’s now on the market, you can put a 12 Core, 24 Thread CPU in a package comparable to an Xbox One! Along with a slew of new ITX cases hitting the market, there has never been a better time to build an ITX PC for your next build!
In this guide, we will build what we think is the best price/performance 3900X build in a mini ITX system!
Ultimate <$2000 3900X ITX Build – The Parts List
|PC Case||Streacom Mini DA2||$240|
|CPU||Ryzen 9 3900X||$489|
|Graphics Card||Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT||$420|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte X570 I AORUS Pro WiFi||$220|
|RAM||Micron Ballistix LT 32GB (2x16GB) 3200MHz||$157|
|CPU Cooler||Be Quiet! Dark Rock TF||$90|
|Boot Drive||Samsung 970 Evo||$90|
|Mass Storage Drive||Intel 660p 2TB||$185|
|Power Supply||Corsair SF600 80+ Gold||$117|
|Case Fans||Noctua Redux 120mm PWM||$14 (each)|
PC Case: Streacom DA2
There are many, very exciting, groundbreaking ITX SFF cases flooding YouTube and Reddit right now from your favorite content creator showing off the next generation of ITX cases, but the problem is that they are not readily available to the public. When I set out to do this build I knew I wanted either the Dr Zaber Sentry 2.0 or the Loque Ghost S1. Much to my dismay, neither can be purchased readily as of the time of writing this article. This new crop of cases have pushed what is possible in small form factor builds from absolutely minimal size (7L) to actual good airflow, and premium, minimalistic aesthetics, though it Is hard to put all of those in one package.
I was happy to find, however, that one case that embodies all of these properties in one sleek and surprisingly versatile package: The Streacom DA2 mini ITX chassis.
This all-metal enclosure comes in at just 17L, and while that sounds like a lot, it is only a few cm longer, and a few taller than its 7L futuristic brethren, but without as much compromise. In the DA2, you can have a full length, beefy GPU’s, two intake fans on the top, bottom, and each sides, up to a 240mm radiator for liquid cooling (YES, you can even do a custom loop in this thing!), up to a full-sized ATX PSU, and up to a 144mm air cooler. Yes, this case is ITX, but you will not feel cramped building in this thing, and your components will think they are in a well-ventilated mid-tower with its 2,000 precision cut holes on each side panel and mesh-ventilated top and bottom!
The DA2 is highly versatile, thanks to its one-of-a-kind rail system. You have entire control over how you set up your PC inside thanks to the ability to mount up to 6 3.5” drives AND 8 2.5” drives if you wanted to build a NAS in here. Additionally, the case just has that premium aesthetic that has many comparing it to an iMac with its aluminum housing and elegant ventilation holes, and with just a USB-C and headphone jack for front IO, it seemingly leans in to its Mac inspiration. (I’m looking at you, 12” Macbook!
CPU: Ryzen 9 3900X
This entire build was created with the goal of making a small form factor monster PC with the only 12 core, 24 thread consumer desktop CPU on the market: The Ryzen 9 3900X. This CPU can hang with the 9900K in gaming chops, while mopping the floor with it in productivity tasks and efficiency. The 3900X also enjoys the ability to be used with your choice from 3 generations (and counting) of motherboards, runs cooler than its competition, and offers unbelievable upgrade potential, with at least the 3950X later this fall and most-likely Zen 3 next year all being potential upgrade paths for any 3900X build, whereas the Intel counterpart offers no upgrade path going forward.
GPU: Sapphire Pulse 5700 XT
For a build of this quality, deciding on the GPU was actually quite difficult. Do you go all out and get a 2080 Ti? Or even better, the Titan RTX? Why not! Not really. Those cards, while powerful beyond reason, simply do not make any sense from a value proposition. The 2080 Super, while marginally better than the vanilla 2080, is still barely an increase in performance over the now two-year-old 1080 Ti, and $300 more than the 5700XT. No, indeed the value currently lies entirely with AMD at every price range.
The 5700XT offers comparable, and sometimes even better, performance than the $100 more expensive 2070 Super. While it lacks hardware-accelerated ray tracing, the handful of games that support it carry a heavy performance penalty for turning RTX on without an accompanying visual improvement worthy of such a degradation in performance. At $400 for reference models and roughly $420 for after-market models with vastly superior cooling and acoustic performance. We selected the Sapphire Pulse 5700XT because of its excellent cooling and acoustics at a marginal $20 increase over the reference model.
Motherboard: Gigabyte X570 I Aorus PRO Wi-FI
For our 3900X ITX build, we wanted a case that allowed maximum performance. Why, then, would we stop short for the motherboard? While you can technically put a 3900X in a two-year-old A320 board (No one should do this, FYI), that would severely limit our 3900X and the system as a whole. The truth is that only the latest X570 platform has the necessary VRMs to handle a fully unleashed 3900X in the ITX form-factor. We now have 8 and 10 phase VRM on the newest X570 boards, PCI-E Gen 4 (More of a bonus than a must-have) and the fastest in connectivity between Wi-Fi 6 and even Thunderbolt 3 on some boards!
While at first, I thought I would have many options, the reality is that out of all the announced ITX X570 boards announced months ago, there are only two that are readily available now, in August, well over a month after the X570 platform and Zen 2 launched! Those boards are the Asrock Fatality ITX X570, and the Gigabyte X570 I Aorus PRO Wi-FI.
This board, here on out called simply “Aorus X570,” has an 8 phase VRM, two high speed PCI-E 4.0 m.2 slots, Wi-Fi 6, 4 USB 3.0 (or higher) USB A connections, and two USB 3.1 (one USB A and one USB C), and support for up to DDR4 4400 out of the box! The Asrock board was in the running, but it lacked enough USB A ports, and the mounting bracket was Intel, not AM4 with very limited no-zones around the CPU socket leading to limited cooler capacity. It does have a 10 phase VRM solution and Thunderbolt 3 though, so if you are concerned about either of those and the previously stated issues don’t bother you, this might be the board for you as it is the same price as the Aorus X570.
CPU Cooler: Be Quiet! Dark Rock TF 220W TDP
To cool our 24 Thread, 105W beast of a CPU, we could liquid cool in the case we have chosen, but given the airflow pattern and options available, an air cooler with airflow pattern utilizing the ventilated side panel of the case is optimal. Any liquid cooling option would implement a radiator, limiting airflow by increasing resistance and decreasing overall airflow. Our goal here was to create maximal airflow in the DA2, and for this, we believe the best option on the market is the Be Quiet Dark Rock TF. With a 220w TDP, 6 heat pipes, dual heat-sinks, dual high-performance quiet fans and an airflow rating of 67.8 CFM, the Dark Rock TF will keep our 3900X nice and cool, and do so quietly while utilizing the well-ventilated side panels on the DA2.
RAM: Micron Ballistix LT 32GB (2×16) 3200Mhz
In 2020, 16GB of RAM is the bare minimum for a gaming PC, but the 3900X is not a CPU you buy simply for gaming. It is a productivity powerhouse and 32GB of RAM is no longer going to cost you an arm and a leg. Not to mention, in an ITX board you only have two DIMMS, so unlike a board with 4 DIMM slots, you can’t just buy a 16GB kit and add another down the road, so starting off with 32GB is the best way to start.
The best 32GB kit for the money at this moment is the well-liked, highly overclockable Micron E-die Ballistix Sport LT 32GB 3200Mhz kit (2x16GB). It is an incredible bang for your buck, and with almost certain ability to overclock to at least 3600Mhz with tight sub-timings (we recommend DRAM Calc by 1ismus), you can ramp up your 3900X’s infinity fabric to its maximum guaranteed speed of 1800Mhz which offers optimal performance for the 3900X, and at $157 at time of writing, this is an absolute steal.
Boot Drive: Samsung 970 Evo
This was an easy choice. Though PCIE 4.0 drives are available and would work with our chosen motherboard, current NVME PCIE 4.0 drives are not saturating the PCIE 4.0 bandwidth, and while incredibly fast, are not offering enough real-world improvements over good PCIE 3.0 NVME drives to earn our recommendation. You will see no difference in boot speeds, game load times, or download speeds by sticking with PCIE 3.0 drives for years to come. With that being said, the Samsung 970 Evo is the best overall performer of PCIE 3.0 NVME drives, and it has an outstanding warranty and support from Samsung, including the wonderful Samsung Magician software for drive cloning among other things. While a boot drive could easily be as small at 120GB, we believe that 500GB is a sweet spot, allowing your OS and your most-played games to be on this ludicrously fast drive, offering the best possible boot speeds and load times in your favorite games. While other brands may offer lower prices and similar (if not quite as reliably fast) performance, in a high-end system, peace of mind and reliably lightning-fast responsiveness win out over slightly cheaper offerings from ADATA, Crucial, Sabrent, and others.
Mass Storage: Intel 660p 2TB NVMe SSD
The age of the Hard Drive is dead. Even SATA SSD’s are quickly becoming irrelevant, with NVME drives and SATA drives both hovering around $100/ TB from a litany of brands these days. Therefore, on a build of this quality and price-bracket, an all-NVME system is highly ideal. While the Intel 660p 2TB NVMe SSD may not be the fastest drive in down when running synthetic benchmarks, it performs incredibly well in real-world applications like game loading, downloads, and general mass-storage uses. Its QLC NAND is nowhere near as fast as the MLC on the boot drive we chose above, it will handle game storage/loading extremely well. At $185 at time of writing for the 2TB model, we feel this is the absolute best option for this build, especially considering that by using two NVME drives, we no longer have to mount any 2.5” or 3.5” drives, eliminating SATA cable usage and decreasing cable clutter.
Power Supply: Corsair SF600 80+ Gold
While there are several options in the SFX power supply scene, Corsair’s reputation for reliability won out here, though as long as you go with a reputable brand with an 80+ certification, you really can’t go wrong here. We chose Corsair’s SF600 80+ Gold power supply as it mixes reliability, full modularity, premium flat black cables, and excellent efficiency. At our system’s higher-end budget, 80+ Gold is the minimum we would recommend for both its efficiency and reliability. When picking your power supply you never want to max out your PSU’s power draw, so we went with the 600W unit as our build is rated to consume around 450 watts, hitting our PSU at a sweet spot in its power/efficiency curve.
Case Fans: Noctua Redux 120mm PWM
While any decent case fans will do the job, at roughly $15 per fan, these Noctua Redux 120mm PWM fans with their clean grey aesthetic are an excellent ven diagram between price, performance and appearance are an easy recommendation. As for how many fans and where to locate them, for the Streacom DA2. Two fans on the bottom of the case for intake to the GPU are highly ideal, and you can place two fans on each of the other three panels, depending on how you arrange your case with the Streacom DA2’s modular adjustment rail system. Your mileage may vary, but a highly positive air pressure with maximum intake would be ideal in this case. Also, the more fans you get in here, the lower the speed you can run them for a cool and quiet PC. Keep in mind that you may need a PWM fan hub/splitter if you want to use more than the three fans for which our ITX motherboard has fan headers.