The compact 6.7 × 6.7-inch Mini-ITX motherboard form factor has been around for two decades, and has been fairly common for several years now. But while most other types of tech have continued to shrink, most of us are still building PCs in bulky towers with full-size ATX motherboards. But here in 2021, this simply isn’t necessary anymore for most people. Mini-ITX boards and cases are growing in popularity, and personally I believe this smaller form factor will–or at least should–overtake ATX within the decade.
The days of multi-GPU SLI or CrossFire gaming rigs are over. Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and high-end audio are all built onto the most motherboards these days. Multi-terabyte M.2 SSDs are the size of a finger, and cloud services and NAS take care of most mass data storage. So, most PC builders just don’t need a large ATX system anymore, especially with as many great Mini-ITX motherboards that are currently on the market.
Sure, there was a time when Mini-ITX meant trading performance for compactness, requiring small components, like compact graphics cards. And while opting for a small-form-factor SFX power supply is still mostly a requirement, almost every ITX case that arrives on the market these days will happily support massive, full-length triple-slot graphics cards that often dominate our best graphics card list.
So, there’s a good chance the best PC build for you isn’t a big PC. Below are our top five picks for the best Mini-ITX cases you can buy today. But first, a few tips to consider before searching out the best Mini-ITX case for your next build.
- Triple check your parts compatibility: When building in the best Mini-ITX case, compatibility becomes an issue more often than in bigger cases, so you’ll want to spend extra time planning your build around the case. The best strategy is to start with the case you want, and then find parts that fit accordingly.
- Ensure adequate cooling: Especially in small cases, cooling can become an issue due to limited fan and radiator support. If you’re building a mid-range system, this isn’t much of an issue as most cases can deal with that kind of thermal workload. But if you’re building a high-end PC with a high-TDP CPU and GPU (and especially if you’re going to overclock them), it may be worth looking for a case that supports 240mm or 280m AIOs and an extra intake fan.
- Double Check PCIe 4.0 Support: Many of the best Mini-ITX cases use PCI-Express riser cables so that the GPU doesn’t have to be slotted directly into the motherboard. But, although PCIe 4.0 cables are on the rise, not every Mini-ITX case comes with one, or they may cost extra. When installing a modern graphics card and a motherboard that has PCIe 4.0 support, it may be worth the extra outlay, especially if you plan on upgrading your GPU again a few years down the road.
- Follow your heart: At the end of the day, the best Mini-ITX case for your build depends a lot on what you like. Mini-ITX cases come in all sorts of weird and wonderful designs and shapes, so there are plenty of styles to choose from. Take the time to look at all your options and choose one that best fits your needs and aesthetic taste.
The Best Mini-ITX Cases You Can Buy Today
Lian Li’s Q58 blew us away. This is a 14.3-liter Mini-ITX case that costs just $130 in its base variant, and it packs great looks, excellent cooling potential, and a flexible internal design.
The basic frame is made from steel, and each side houses half-glass, half-perforated steel panels. The front and the top plate are made from fancier aluminum, altogether giving the case a very premium look and feel. The GPU can draw fresh air straight from the side, but you can still see its pretty RGB through the glass, and you can squeeze a 280mm radiator in the case’s roof.
But, the case can be reconfigured to sacrifice some AIO and storage options in favor of fitting an ATX power supply, which is a great way of achieving some cost savings, in combination with opting for the plain PCIe 3.0 riser cable. Throw another $30 in, and you’ll get a PCIe 4.0 riser cable, ready for RTX 3000 and RX 6000 graphics cards. There are few things not to like about the Q58.
Read: Lian Li Q58 Review
When iBuyPower said that it would be opening the Revolt 3’s chassis for purchase as a standalone chassis, we were excited. And now that it’s here, we’re quite impressed. The Hyte Revolt 3 is a compact ITX case that doesn’t cost much at $129, but offers a wonderfully practical design with plenty of mesh, two click-away headphone holders and a carrying handle that sits flush into the top when you don’t need it. Of course, the build quality isn’t quite top-notch at this price. It’s all just painted steel, but the paint finish is nice and with its sleek, tidy looks, will fit in well in almost any gaming setup.
Internally, the Revolt 3 can also house almost any Mini-ITX system you throw at it, with room for large GPUs, up to a 280mm AIO, two 2.5-inch SSDs and one 3.5-inch drive. Better yet, its layout meanst it doesn’t need a PCI-e riser cable, so you won’t have to worry about reduced bandwidth on an RTX 3000 or RX 6000 series graphics card.
The only real catch to this chassis is that it relies entirely on the AIO for airflow. But in testing, we found that this setup is perfectly adequate, even when we threw our high-TDP i5-11600K and RTX 3080 Ti graphics card at it.
Read: Hyte Revolt 3 Review
The Evolv Shift 2 stands out at first glance for its towering, small footprint design and beautiful anodized aluminum panels. Priced at $100 for the mesh version and $110 for the variant with TG and an addressable-RGB fan, it easily earns a spot on our Best Mini-ITX PC Cases list.
With a small footprint and beautiful finish in both the tempered-glass and mesh variants, the Evolv Shift 2 is perfect as an SFF PC for use in the living room, or moving around the house wherever you need it. The easily accessible top IO makes plugging devices in a breeze too. Building in it was tight, and came with the typical frustrations associated with Mini-ITX systems, but I still managed a build within about 3 hours, and the end result was well worth the effort. The overall size is a bit bigger than most Mini-ITX cases would be, but the tempered glass side panels do wonders for creating systems to show off, though keep in mind that its single-fan radiator support may be too thermally limiting for some systems.
Read: Evolv Shift 2 Review
Cooler Master’s NR200P Max is an excellent, ready-to-go chassis that comes from the factory with a powerful 850w power supply and 280mm liquid cooler. Top that with the inclusion of both mesh and glass side panels, a PCIe 4.0 riser cable, PSU cables and AIO tubes that are fit to length and pre-routed, and the NR200P Max is extremely simple to build in and an easy recommendation for those looking for simple setup.
All you need to bring is a motherboard, CPU, graphics card, memory, and a boot drive, letting you focus on the important things. The only real catch to this case is that its paint and finish are a bit boring. But with the glass panel showing off your fancy internals, we doubt you’ll mind. And if you do, paint it!
Read: Cooler Master NR200P Max Review
It’s been a common complaint that Mini-ITX cases are expensive. And if there’s one chassis that makes this statement true, it is the Louqe Raw S1. But this is a Mini-ITX case to gawk at. From its elegant design to its thick, one-piece aluminum outer shell, the Louqe Raw S1 is more of a work of art than a case.
However, you can fit a PC in here. There’s no AIO support, nor air filtration. So yes, there are sacrifices, but it offers among the easiest build processes – chances are you’ll be done building within the hour and have a very tidy end result. It will also happily fit huge triple-slot graphics cards, despite its ultra-compact 12-litter frame, and with a fancy ‘Cobalt’ PCIe 4.0 riser cable, there’s hardly a thing about this case that isn’t ultra-premium. It even has a carrying handle.
Just keep in mind the case’s $330 price point and limited availability.
Read: Louqe Raw S1 Review
If there’s one case to give an honorable mention to in the Mini-ITX world, it’s the NCase M1. This is a Mini-ITX case that was designed by the community and produced by Lian Li in 2013. This case arguably jumpstarted the Mini-ITX category, as the motive behind its conception was that the community was dissatisfied with all the ITX options that were on the market at the time, and so sought to create something better.
And create something better, they did. The M1 case has since gone through a plethora of design changes to get to Version 6.1 that you can buy today, but the essentials remain: tons of radiator and cooling support, great materials, and a compact, 12.7-liter form factor. Look around, you’ll see that there’s a huge community of fans who to this day still admire the NCase M1. We’re right there with them.