Compact cases can been difficult to build in at times. Over the years I have built a lot of small form factor PC’s. From my original low power builds, to my more recent S4 Mini builds, I have always found myself making some sort of compromise, typically using low power CPU’s and GPU’s.
I wanted to build a compact system that didn’t have any of the performance limitations normally associated with small form factor builds. For me this meant a top of the line overclock-able CPU, with at least a GTX 1080 level GPU.
The system also needs to stay relatively quiet. There is nothing worse then a crazy loud PC sitting on your desk annoying you all day.
I quickly realized that the biggest issue became finding a case that was both very small, and also capable of cooling high end components. I looked at a ton of different case options, finally settling on the Lazer3D LZ7. The LZ7 stands out because it offers a crazy amount of ventilation and airflow, in an ultra compact form factor. It also has 70mm of clearance for CPU coolers in its stock configuration, which is much more than typical small form factor cases.
Next it was time to select the rest of my components. I wanted parts could handle high end games, and rendering duties without breaking a sweat. I also need a decent amount of fast SSD storage for video files and games.
I chose the Intel Core i7-8700K and Gigabyte GTX 1080 Mini. The Gigabyte 1080 Mini is the most powerful sub 9-inch graphics card available on the market today. Zotac makes a mini 1080 and 1080Ti, but they are slightly longer, preventing them from fitting in cases like the LZ7 or original S4 Mini.
The 8700K is a 6-core 12-thread overclock-able beast. It is currently the best processor on the market for gaming, and handles rendering tasks with ease as well. Check out the full component list below.
|CPU||Intel Core i7-8700K|
|RAM||32GB Corsair Vengeance DDR4 3000MHz|
|GPU||Gigabyte GTX 1080 Mini|
|Motherboard||Asus ROG Strix Z370-I|
|HDD||1 x Samsung 960 EVO 256GB|
2 x Samsung 850 EVO 500GB
1 x Intel 600p 256GB
|PSU||Corsair SF 450|
|CPU Cooler||Noctua NH-L12S|
You may see 4 hard drives and be confused… understandably so. Due to my unique storage needs this is the best configuration for me. I use my drives in the following configuration.
|Samsung 960 EVO 256GB||Boot Drive/Program Installs|
|Samsung 850 EVO 500GB||Premier/After Effects Files & Media|
|Samsung 850 EVO 500GB||Steam Game Library & Local Media|
|Intel 600p 256GB||Adobe Scratch Disk & Browser Downloads|
This is not a typical setup, but it works really well for me. Separating the media, and cache files helps maximize performance in Adobe programs. Installing all of my games on their own SSD also makes it easy to reinstall windows. Something I do pretty regularly.
Case Size Comparison
The Lazer3D LZ7 is an ultra compact case. It is in the shape of a cube. Its much smaller than the Phanteks Evolv shift case pictured. The S4 Mini on the right is about 1/3 of the height, but longer and wider.
Building this system in the LZ7 was pretty simple. All the components fit perfectly as if they were custom made to fit inside this case. For the full build process and details check out the video below.
For more information, and complete information on the build process, watch or read my review of the Lazer3D LZ7 Mini-ITX Case.
I had more fun bench-marking this system than any other I have built in the past. For testing I pushed the system to its limits. I overclocked all three of the main system components. The system clocks were set to the following for all tests.
|i7-8700K||5.0GHz – 1.36v|
|GTX 1080 Mini||1943MHz|
|Corsair Vengeance LPX||3000MHz|
With every component overclocked I was able to get some truly impressive scores on both CPU and GPU tests. Its incredible how much performance you can fit into this tiny case.
Synthetic CPU Benchmarks
The 8700K at 5GHz flew through my suite of CPU test, scoring in the 99th percentile in most cases. Asus’ Z370-I BIOS makes overclocking a simple process. The system was stable throughout testing.
Synthetic GPU Benchmarks
|CINEBENCH OPEN GL||182.11|
143.7 avg fps
The GPU was almost as impressive as the CPU. Posting some really high scores across the board. I saw a noticeable bump in performance from my test scores in the old system featuring a non K i7-8700.
Gaming Frame-rates (1440p)
|AVG FPS||MAX FPS||1% LOW|
|Batman: Arkham Knight||121||170||80|
|Shadow of Mordor||125||194||95|
|Metro: Last Light||120||219||84|
|The Witcher 3||85||101||63|
All gaming benchmarks were run at 1440p. Every title tested was able to hit 60fps comfortably. With this configuration you can even game at 4K in some titles depending on graphic settings.
CPU Temperatures (5GHz)
About 95% of the time I run this system at 5GHz. For rendering I created a second overclock profile in the Asus BIOS that lowers the clock speed to 4.7GHz.
While the system was stable at 92C, I don’t want to hit those temperatures consistently. The chart below shows the temperatures for the secondary rendering profile.
CPU Temperatures (4.7GHz)
GPU Temperatures (1943MHz)
The noise levels were very completely manageable. At idle, the system is whisper quiet. Its audible when gaming or rendering, but not loud to the point that its annoying. You don’t need headphones to cover up the sound coming from this PC like some compact systems I have had in the past.
System Power Draw
Using a 450 Watt power supply may not seem like enough on paper to power these components, but it is. Even at 100% load on the CPU and GPU you will still have a significant amount of headroom. Below you will find the avg wattage pulled from the wall for each CPU/GPU state.
I set out to build an ultra compact, but powerful PC. What I ended up with was even more impressive then I thought it would be.
The Lazer3D LZ7 is an incredible case. The flexibility it offers in such a small footprint can’t be beat. Being able to run an 8700K at 5.0GHz with an overclocked GTX 1080 Mini is simply amazing.
This build has become my do everything portable PC. The only question is, how will I top this build.