THE MINI MAESTRO PC
Maximum PC|September 2021
When it’s not about gaming, what can you get on a budget?
SAM LEWIS

SMALL FORM FACTORS are one of our favorite things in the mysterious depths of the tech industry. Year after year, hardware is condensing and we’re getting more punch from smaller devices. Yes, we all dream of having a monster machine as part of our setup, capable of rinsing everything we throw in its direction and giving NASA a run for its money. However, there is something intriguing about Mini-ITX builds that we just can’t escape from. Having a smaller rig can give you a cleaner setup and more room (obviously), and they look pretty neat, too, in our professional opinion.

It seems as though Mini-ITX systems are nothing but positive news, but that isn’t necessarily the case. GPUs such as the impossible-to-grab 3090 cards, for instance, are generally too big for these chassis, so we probably have some waiting to do before we can get cards that powerful in this format. Along with size restrictions on the GPU, there is the overall awkwardness of putting one of these rigs together. It goes without saying that PC building can be a tricky business that makes you want to scream out loud when things go awry. So, if that’s a regular occurrence in a normal ATX build, putting together a mini system is never likely to be a bundle of laughs.

We decided to rise to the challenge and build a machine that is more than capable of decent gaming performance and reasonably affordable, all bundled up in a compact ITX case. So, turn the page to see what develops out of our love of small form factors. –SAM LEWIS

MOTHERBOARD

ASUS ROG STRIX Z490-I GAMING MINI-ITX

WWW.ASUS.COM

Although not recommended for the latest-generation Intel CPUs, this last-gen Z490-I will be more than good enough for our build with a little BIOS update. Yes, this is tedious, and if you can get your hands on a newer Z590-I mobo, go for it, but with a little patience, it’s worth the effort. With Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 connectivity, support for up to 64GB DDR4 memory across two slots, and two M.2 slots, both supporting SATA and PCIe 3.0 x4, it’s still pretty future-proof. Looking this sleek, too, it’s a good choice.

RRP: $299

Street price: $299

CPU

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

RELATED STORIES

Dell XPS 17: The ultimate content creation laptop

With a giant screen and thin profile, the Dell XPS 17 is perfectly built for content creators on the go.

10+ mins read
PCWorld
October 2021

WHAT IS DDR5? THE PC'S NEXT–GEN MEMORY, EXPLAINED

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE PC’S NEXT RAM STANDARD.

6 mins read
PCWorld
October 2021

Windows 11 to launch on October 5

The start of an exciting fall for PC users.

2 mins read
PCWorld
October 2021

OWC THUNDERBOLT HUB: FINALLY A SIMPLE WAY TO ADD MORE THUNDERBOLT PORTS TO A MACBOOK

Thunderbolt 3 was an amazing improvement in simplicity, despite the confusion that came with it and the transition from USB 3.0 over USB Type A, Thunderbolt 2, Mini DisplayPort and the like.

4 mins read
Macworld
October 2021

Intel changes its manufacturing language as it moves to angstroms

Intel claims that by 2025 it will return to “manufacturing leadership.”

7 mins read
PCWorld
September 2021

HP Laptop 14-dq2020nr: A Limited Budget Laptop

You probably know that HP’s Pavilion brand is for consumer PCs priced and positioned below its upscale Envy and Spectre lines. But Pavilion is only the second-lowest rung on HP’s notebook-PC ladder. Its budget laptops have no brand at all, just a generic family name: “HP Laptop.”

7 mins read
PC Magazine
September 2021

How to start up your M1 Mac from an external drive

It’s not as easy as it used to be, as it likely requires that you purchase new hardware.

4 mins read
Macworld
September 2021

WILL THE BATTLE FOR CPU SUPREMACY PUSH THE RIVALS TOGETHER?

For years, neither company has been able to claim absolute victory. But as Amazon, Apple, Google, and other tech giants design and manufacture their own processors, will AMD and Intel circle their wagons?

10+ mins read
PC Magazine
August 2021

Ask: Tech Support & Techsplanations

Like any new technology, we have much to learn about the working life of SSDs in M1 Macs. Alarming reports of rapid wear must be tempered against use. Take any low–end Intel Mac with limited memory and work it hard with high use of virtual memory, and its SSD wears out faster. Unlike rotating hard disks, which can keep spinning for a decade or more if you’re lucky, the more your Mac writes to an SSD, the shorter its life.

10+ mins read
Mac Life
July 2021

Apple iMac 24–inch (2021)

The all–new iMac 24–inch is an incredible machine to behold, but it has some limitations

10+ mins read
Mac Life
July 2021