Instead of bigger and shinier, many at-home professionals and gamers are realizing the benefits of the small form factor PC case. With a smaller footprint than traditional PC towers and comparable performance specifications, the mini-ITX case is PC hardware’s newest revolution. Some can be carried with minimal effort from place to place, while others simply take up less desk space at home.
Table of Contents
- The SFF PC Case Gear Table
- Best Design: The LOUQE Ghost S1 Mk III
- Best Size to Performance Ratio: The Dan A4-SFX v4.1
- Best Component Compatibility: NCase M1 V6.1
- Best Ultra-Small: Velkase Velka 3
- Best Console Style: The Skyreach 4 Mini
- Best Case on a Budget: The Cougar QBX
- Best in Gaming: NZXT H1
- Best in Show: The FormD Sidearm T1
That said, gamers, developers, designers, and more are all asking one simple (yet not so simple) question: which case is the best? In the interest of a holistic answer, we at Good Gaming Gear are taking a deep dive into the best small form factor mini-ITX cases in a variety of categories.
For a more condensed version of this article and a quick glimpse into the products we’re reviewing, check out our gear table below.
The SFF PC Case Gear Table
|SFF PC Case||Volume||Relative Cost||Chassis Orientation||Compatibility Rating||Thermals Rating|
|LOUQUE Ghost S1||8.2L||High||Horizontal||7/10||Cool – Warm|
|Velkase Velka 3||3.9L||Low||Vertical||6/10||Cool – Warm|
|Skyreach 4 Mini||5L||Average||Versatile||7/10||Cool|
|FormD Works Sidearm T1||9.5L||Average||Horizontal||9/10||Cool|
Best Design: The LOUQE Ghost S1 Mk III
- Sleek design
- Pre-installled Cobalt TWINAX PCI-e RC260 GEN 4+
- TopHat accessories to customise space requirements (small, medium, and large).
- Designed for optimal airflow in a small space.
- Heat sink now up to 66mm.
- Increased blade cut out to support any motherboard M.2 positioning.
- No front IO.
- Slightly larger footprint and volume compared to competitors like the A4-SFX.
- Premium materials and design mean a premium price.
- TopHats come separately, adding onto that price tag.
- Inconsistent availability, need to pre-order
A Swedish company with its roots in old school PC engineering, LOUQE has taken a modern PC tower and stripped it of absolutely everything unnecessary. The Ghost S1 mini-ITX case is the result of that process, an example of what you can produce if you shirk all the trappings of modern PC culture in favor of a functional, breathable enclosure.
Milled from a single block of aluminium, the enclosure’s panels come together into a beautifully seamless and minimal design, perfect for any home office setup. Crucially, the performance hiding beneath the understated exterior is far from minimal. The Ghost S1 is an 8.2 litre case sporting a dual-slot GPU, with the mark III supporting taller GPUs and wider motherboard IO support than its predecessors. A unique feature of this case is its interchangeable TopHats allowing for more space and the potential cooling systems. Depending on your workload requirements, you can opt for a larger or smaller TopHat that can maximize your airflow or even accommodate an AIO water-cooling system. The builders recommend equipping it with Noctua’s NH-L12 “Ghost S1 Edition” air cooler for whisper-silent, highly efficient cooling, and we can’t help but agree.
Best Size to Performance Ratio: The Dan A4-SFX v4.1
- One of the smallest footprints in the game.
- Supports full-sized GPUs (144mm height from the bottom of the PCIe-Slot).
- Plastic shielding for all unbacked GPUs.
- Standard IFX motherboard compatible.
- No RGB illumination, difficult to tell when it’s turned on.
- SSD mounting system can be tough to remove.
- Airflow can restrict overclocking at high levels on the GPU.
For the size-to-performance ratio, the award goes to Dan’s A4-SFX. This was a crowdfunded project, and somehow one man named Dan has managed to outdo some giants in the SFF PC case industry. For small form factor builds where size and performance are equally important, you can’t look past this case. Here’s why.
The goal with the A4-SFX was to create a small form factor case that could support high-end standardized components while remaining smaller than all its competitors. At 7.25 litres, this case has accomplished that goal and more, far outstripping the other companies on this list. It’s important to note that Dan didn’t just create a smaller case; he condensed a mid-size PC tower into an efficient, portable, high-powered enclosure. The A4-SFX was created using a sandwich layout where the full-sized GPU behind the mini-ITX motherboard, enabled using a PCIe extender. Depending on the size of your power supply, up to two HDDs or SDDs can be neatly slotted into the build. Incredibly, this configuration allows for dedicated air streams over the GPU and CPU, allowing gamers and creators alike to pull as much performance from their components as they please.
Best Component Compatibility: NCase M1 V6.1
- Good balance of compact size and price in the SFF market.
- Runs silent with multiple fans.
- V6 features a cut-out in the frame to make GPU installation easier.
- New GPU support bracket for 2 – 2.5” slot cards.
- Potential to run dual 240mm liquid cooling radiators in an SFF case
- Large price tag in compensation for quality.
- Not as easily portable as some others, built more for compact desktop life.
Another crowdsourced beauty has emerged from the ranks this year: the NCase M1, a “desktop you can actually put on your desk”, according to its creators. While the 12.7L enclosure certainly isn’t the smallest, the larger size of this case gives the M1 the best component compatibility on the market today.
This case was built under its supporters’ watchful eyes after many comments on its previous iterations. After being brought to life, and moulded in their vision, it’s been met with incredible satisfaction. The one thing coveted by every contributor to the project? Compatibility. And that is what they got. While the M1 is built for a mini-ITX motherboard, that’s where the downsizing stops.
This build has insane cooling, using top-down CPU coolers with 120mm or 140mm fans or an internally mounted AIO radiator of up to 240mm. Custom water-cooling loops with a slim 240mm radiator slot in beautifully if you so desire, and the 317mm dual-slot GPU support is nothing to sneeze at either.
One notable change from the V5 is an extended mesh on the side panel to facilitate better exhaust airflow for the GPU, which was a gripe many consumers had about the previous version.
Best Ultra-Small: Velkase Velka 3
- Almost ridiculously small, but with incredible performance for its size.
- Easily portable.
- Vertical chassis reduces overall footprint.
- Comes with 600W power supply.
- Riser cable needs to be purchased separately, bringing up the total cost.
- Build process can be difficult, ensure you access the user’s manual online.
- The tiny case can make cable management a hassle.
If we’re discussing SFF cases, we must award a Best in Size prize.
In the small, “able to throw it in your backpack”, carry-it-with-one-hand category, there is no one who can compete with Velkase. The Velka 3 is a revelation, presenting something refreshing and unique to a PC community desperately searching for something new. This 3.9L case just barely outsizes a standard ATX power supply, and the vertical configuration provides a tiny footprint suitable for any at-home setup.
In addition, the design of this case is nothing to sneeze at. Sand-blasted aluminium, black steel frame, a minimalist design language, and an illuminated power button make this a versatile beauty. The 2.0 version took Velkase’s consumers’ feedback into account, dispensing with visible screws and making the case easier to assemble.
Despite its diminutive size, this enclosure can house the components required to construct both a comprehensive workstation PC and a rip-roaring gaming rig for when the sun goes down. Able to house a 175mm GPU like the MSI RTX 2070 Aero and CPU coolers like the Noctua NH-L9, you’ll have no trouble building a pocket-sized PC with all the power of an ATX cage.
Best Console Style: The Skyreach 4 Mini
- Clean design and high-quality.
- Lightweight and durable for maximum portability.
- Custom flexible, ultra-compact PCIe riser for vertical GPU installation.
- The ideal tiny LAN rig.
- Power button must be purchased separately.
- Can’t support full-length GPUs.
- High price for compact build.
The war between console gamers and PC gamers has waged since the dawn of time, with each side citing the various benefits of their chosen gaming platform with righteous vigour. While the Skyreach 4 Mini isn’t a solution to that particular battle, it certainly does bring those sides closer together.
The Skyreach 4 Mini has been crafted as a console PC case meant to house a computer with the size and portability of a console, but the customizability and power of a PC. This 5L console-style case weighs a mere 1.1KG but comes with a folded GPU layout and modular components, allowing mod-enthusiasts to construct a PC that performs to their exact specifications. Superior venting invites workers and gamers alike to cram as much performance as they possibly can into the case, supporting dual slot GPU sizes up to 215mm (for superior graphics).
You can also enjoy exterior customization via Skyskins to help the console blend into your home’s workspace. Choose any skin, from wood grain to comic-inspired. Keep in mind that the Skyreach 4 Mini comes in two options, the Silver R6 and the Black R5. While functionally identical, they use different PCIe riser cables to facilitate good cable management.
Best Case on a Budget: The Cougar QBX
- Cost-effective small form factor PC case.
- Fantastic airflow and cooling capabilities.
- Can host an ATX power supply instead of SFX.
- Supports full-size dual-slot GPUs with no problem.
- Easy cable management with mindful routing cut-outs.
- Only just makes it into the mini-ITX case category at 19.9L.
- Lower quality materials.
- Internal front IO stands out.
Looking for high performance and a small footprint on a budget? The Cougar QBX is for you. Something we see a lot as PC enthusiasts who covet SFF cases is the unfortunate inversion of price and size. That is: the smaller the case, the higher the price. It can be very hard to find a small form factor PC that fits easily into your home office when the budget for the case alone can reach into the hundreds, so what is there to do?
The Cougar QBX is a $50 SFF case that many have called the NCase M1’s cost-effective rival in terms of compatibility. The 19.9L ITX enclosure outsizes all other cases on this list, but if you can get past its larger size, you can enjoy the benefits of a larger SFF frame. House GPUs up to 3530mm in length and host up to five storage drives (one 3.5-inch HDD and four more 2.5-inch HDD/SSD slots).
One thing to note is the incredible cooling capabilities of this SFF case. Aside from the airflow created by cantilevered side panels, the dimensions of the case offer enough room for up to seven fans (80mm to 120mm). If your tastes trend more toward water cooling, the Cougar QBX has been designed for compatibility with water cooling radiators of up to 240mm.
For anyone getting newly acquainted with a work-from-home lifestyle, or for any gamers seeking an SFF case that can handle their existing components, the Cougar QBX is the answer.
Best in Gaming: NZXT H1
- Vertical 13.6L chassis leaves a tiny footprint.
- High-quality materials and easy assembly.
- Comes with PCIe riser cable, gold rated SFX power supply, and AIO cooler pre-routed.
- Gorgeous design language.
- Integrated liquid cooler allows for impressive heat management.
- High price (as it includes pre-determined components).
- Only sold in a kit, which may irk some customizers.
- No exhaust fans, which impacts on thermals.
- Front panel isn’t ventilated, so can’t cycle air from an open-air GPU out.
This one is for the gamers; for the people who work hard and play hard, the ones who work until the sun goes down before firing up their RGB peripherals and going to town on a new campaign. The NZXT H1 is a beautifully crafted vertical chassis rendered in SGCC steel and tempered glass. With a tiny footprint and a gorgeous aesthetic, this is a welcome addition to any gaming enthusiast’s collection, regardless of size.
The H1 isn’t just a cage; it’s been built from top to bottom with the versatile gamer in mind. NZXT made this case easy to assemble and disassemble for a streamlined building process, not to mention the integrated power supply and AIO cooler make assembly a cake walk. Dual-slot GPU support comes with the case’s 187mm width, and the PSU cables come pre-routed for building ease. While this case does retail at $349, it’s important to note that you’re not just buying the case. The rig comes with a built-in 650-watt SFX gold-rated power supply, a PCIe 3.0 GPU riser cable for easy vertical mounting, and a custom 150mm AIO cooler. All these elements allow for fantastic compatibility for high-end gaming components.
Even something as gargantuan as the Asus 3090 TUF Gaming will be able to fit in here (the NVIDIA 3090 Founders Edition is just a bit too big) keep in mind you might need to upgrade your PSU and expect it to run hot! An excellent guide has been created by MattVanAndel over on Reddit covering the full NZXT H1 case RTX 3080/3090 GPU compatibility.
Best in Show: The FormD Sidearm T1
- Competes with ATX cases in terms of performance.
- Compatible with 2-slot or 3-slot GPUs, a unique feature in small PC cases.
- Sub-10L case has a tiny footprint.
- Mesh side panels allow for minimal aesthetic, good cost, and optimized airflow.
- Case comes flat-packed, so assembly is comprehensive.
- Premium quality means a premium price.
Finally, we come to the best of them all. The Sidearm T1 from FormD Works is the best ITX PC case on the market today. This sub-10L masterpiece is aimed at those building high-end SFF systems. As such, it often outpaces ATX cases in the market with its no-compromise approach to performance and quality. The T1 transitions seamlessly from workstation to gaming identities, making it the ideal purchase for anyone in need of a high-quality setup that can move on a moment’s notice.
The case is constructed from CNC aluminum that has been sand-blasted and anodized, and the quality here is evident from the moment you open the assembly package. For everything from day-to-day work to intensive gaming, this case has the compatibility to suit. In addition, the high-end finish is a gorgeous addition to an at-home setup without taking up too much space.
A major selling point of the case is its adaptability. You can easily configure the internal composition depending for a dual-slot or tri-slot GPU build. Dual-slot builds open the door for an enhanced CPU, while the tri-slot GPU supports incredible graphics and GPU-weighted processing. Supreme ventilation allows the T1 to house a powerhouse build of either type with no issues, and that is why we love it so much.
Have a recommendation of your own? Let us know what we’ve missed in the comments below.