Jan 2, 2022

Phantom H1 - A mini-gaming PC

Happy New Year! 🎉🍾🍻

2022 marks a new year full of hope and opportunities.
What better way to ring in 2022 with a technology refresh, right? 😁

OK so 2021 has not been a great year for PC upgrades. Thanks to the pandemic and a confluence of factors, computer parts, especially graphic cards, are hard to come by. I've been hunting for a new RTX 3080 (or 3070) for over a year and still couldn't get it. 😔
Still, Black Friday brought some decent deals so I took the opportunity to upgrade my 3 year-old computer.

Did I need it? No, but it's fun to build and was a great project to undertake during the long holiday.

Actually, my current upgrade includes 2 phases. We're covering phase 1 in this post.
  1. New mini gaming PC - Move components out of my office/gaming PC to a new, mini computer connected to my big screen TV in the living room so I can game in 4K HDR.
  2. Upgrade office PC - Upgrade to an Intel motherboard and CPU on my office PC. It needs a refresh. I've been wanting to upgrade to a full-featured motherboard with front-panel USB-C connection. That was one big regret I had when building the old system.

A bit of history

The whole micro-ATX and mini-ITX form-factor never interested me until I saw the NZXT H1. That thing is so beautiful; compact, clean, modern, with a subtle sophistication to it. What's more is its quality build and great engineering. This case looks like a larger version of an XBOX Series X and comes in white, which perfectly complements my living room setup.

Needless to say, I fell in love when I first saw the H1, but the price of $349 was a little too much. It's actually a case, quality ITX (small form factor) power supply, and an All-In-One water cooler. Each of those components easily cost $100 so, I guess the price is justified. Still, it's a bit "too rich for my blood".

Thanks to the magic of Black Friday, NZXT put this case on sale for $180, then further dropped the price to $150. At this price, purchasing it was a no brainer for me.

Problem: mini ITX motherboards aren't cheap. They typically run north of $200 when my budget for a motherboard is around $120.
I can build both on Intel or AMD platforms as I can use a recently purchased an i7 10700K CPU ($150 from Microcenter) or a recently purchased Ryzen 7 5800X ($300 from BestBuy). Motherboard choices on ITX platform isn't great either. Luckily I came across another deal: Asrock B550 Phantom Gaming for $150. This thing has everything I wanted: front panel USB-C connector, 2 NVME slots (1 with heatsink), robust VRM, Wifi6, and RGB headers.

Component breakdown:
  1. NZXT H1 mini-ITX case, 650W power supply, 140mm AIO - $150
  2. Asrock B550 Phantom Gaming m-ITX - $150
  3. AMD Ryzen 7 5800X - $300
    Replaced with AMD Ryzen 5 5600X - $160
  4. EVGA GTX 1070ti SC - Re-used from old system
  5. Corsair Vengeance Pro 32GB DDR4-3200 - $130 (purchased 2 kits last year for my wife's video editing rig).
    Replaced with Crucial Ballistix 32GB DDR4-3200 for $90
  6. MSI Spatium M740 1TB NVMe Gen4 - $75
  7. 2 x 140mm NXZT AER-P static-pressure fan - $14. These are added to the rear panel for increased airflow.
Total system cost: $812 $639
This isn't a budget build but it is quite reasonable.
I excluded the price of the videocard but that could easily cost more than the entire system above. My little cousin was crazy and paid $1500 for a 3080ti!🤯

Future additions:
  1. 2nd NVMe drive on the back of the motherboard to add capacity.
  2. 4TB 2.5" HDD to add even more capacity.
  3. Add an RGB strip for fun. Might need to run in a diffuser channel for more class.
Here are some benchmark numbers (no overclock):
According to Passmark, this system is in the top 2% percent in the world. Not bad for a mini computer.

PassMark Rating

3/14/22 Update: I downgraded the CPU to a Ryzen 5 5600X since the 5800X runs too hot and loud for this mini-PC. The 5600X was on sale for $210 and I had a $50 off coupon so I got it for $160! This is almost half the already discounted price I paid for the 5800X. Since I wanted this mini-PC to be a gaming-only PC, downgrading to the 5600X was a no brainer at this price.
Turning on PBO helps boost CPU speed to about 4.7Ghz during load. I could OC past 4.9Ghz but there's not much value in doing so. The CPU now idles at a cool 35 degrees C (versus 56) and maxes out at 67 (versus 80).

My wife's PC will receive the 5800X since she does video editing and such.
I also swapped out the RAM for 32GB Crucial Ballistix 3200 since it is lower profile and will allow higher overclocking. The original RGB RAM was a bit too high and was pushing up against the CPU fan.

Here are the updated benchmark numbers:
It's a bit disappointing to see lower numbers across the board due to CPU downgrade but it's expected.
I'll overclock the RAM a bit to help boost some numbers.


Plays well with my KEF speakers

You can see a bit of that air gap at the top

Mod 1: 140mm static pressure fan

Mod 2: small magnets to create front air gap

Looking good while being benchmarked

System innards. Love the design.
Yes, that's the new, slightly downgraded PSU.

Can't believe so much fits into this little thing
There's a 2nd NVMe slot on the back for extra storage

Motherboard I/O Panel

ZEROSVN Tech Enthusiast