Beyond Atom: Exploring Performance ITX Solutions

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The Silverstone SG05's exterior is actually one large 3-sided panel that slides off after 4 screws have been removed. Once the panel is off, you get access to the innards from three directions. Installing hardware into a small for factor chassis is a bit of a pain due to the cramped conditions and the Silverstone SG05 is no exception. 


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In order get to as much access as possible, you will first need to remove the power supply. Once the power supply is out, you get relatively easy access to the inner surfaces.

The hard drive and optical drive are the easiest to install as they are the most readily accessible. The motherboard is a bit more difficult and it's best to install the CPU, cooler, memory and expansion card first, before sliding the assembly into place as one piece. Luckily the Silverstone SG05 has no sharp edges, since you will be messing around, sliding your hands along the metal chassis quite a bit.

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When considering what type of cooler to use in any small form factor case, and especially a tiny ITX case like the SG05, it is very important to make sure you pick a cooler that will fit in the limited vertical clearance available. In order to make room for a full-height expansion card, Silverstone had to locate the power supply directly above the processor socket. This severely limits the available headroom. While the stock cooler from Intel and AMD would fit just fine, you might run into problems with many after-market solutions.

According to Silverstone, there is enough space for a CPU cooler up to 3.07 inches (78mm) in height. That means you won't be able to fit a conventional tower coolers like the Thermalright Ultra-120 or Zalman CNPS-9900. However, low-profile coolers like the Thermalright AXP-140, Zalman CNPS 8700 will work just fine.


Silverstone NT-06 installed in a SG01

An interesting solution would be to use Silverstone's own NT-06 Lite cooler. At 3.07 inches (78mm) this cooler is exactly the right height to fit perfectly into any SG-series chassis. When installed in the SG05, the cooler would be nearly touching the power supply, and the power supply's fan would provide cooling for both units. This is a very space and noise efficient solution which is very popular with the other SG-series chassis like the SG01. However, we're concerned about the heat output from the CPU being sucked into the power supply, which may lead to issues down the road from heat stress.


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The included 300W power supply offers a decent array of connectors. You have your typical 24-pin motherboard connector, a 4-pin ATX12V connector, three SATA power connectors, two molex connectors and a single floppy power connector. The power supply also has a single PCI-E power connector. Overall, this should be enough for most builds, but the single PCI-E power connector may be a problem with some video cards so a molex-to-PCI-E adapter might come in handy. The lack of an 8-pin ATX12V connector shouldn't be of concern since ITX motherboards don't use them.

   
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While the Silverstone SG05 is can easily fit a full-height video card, length might be an issue. The SG05 is a very small chassis and it might not be long enough to fit the biggest video cards, despite that Silverstone has reserved the entire left side of the chassis to the expansion slot, with absolutely nothing in the way. According to the official spec, the SG05 will fit graphics cards up to 9" (229mm) in length.

Silverstone provides the following compatibility list:
  • ATI Radeon HD 4850/4830
  • NVIDIA GeForce 9800GT
  • NVIDIA GeForce 9600GT/GSO
  • NVIDIA GeForce 8800GS/GT/GTS
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250

 

     
Radeon 4870
Radeon 4850
GeForce GTX 280

We attempted to install several video cards we had in the lab to get an idea of what would fit. First we tried a Radeon 4850, which should fit according to Silverstone. Sure enough, we had no issues getting it to fit inside the SG05, with nearly an inch of extra clearance. Next we tried a Radeon 4870, which is slightly longer. While it did fit, it did so just barely. This would be a problem since the PCI-E power connectors on most video cards, including the one we used for testing, is located at the vertical edge of the card. While the Radeon 4870 fits, there isn't enough room to hook up the power. However if you had a Radeon 4870 card with PCI-E power connectors located along the top edge, you might just be able to use it in the SG05.

As you can see in the image above, the GTX 280 didn't have the slightest hope of fitting in the SG05. While we don't have a photo, we also tried a GTX 260, which was also much too long. Overall, it seems like the Silverstone's list is pretty accurate.
 

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Thanks for the comment bigbird. I couldn’t agree more. A little helpful information never hurt anybody!

 

 

 

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Good little write up. I wouldn't mind building a ITX rig one day. I really like that Zotac board.

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That's actually pretty cool. I might just go with an ITX mobo for my car PC build I want to do soon, as it would make a lot of sense.

That's a topic I think should be covered more, actually. Car PCs would be great for integrating with the onboard computer.

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