Nano Nine-Sixty was conceived as a small, quiet, low-cost computer, capable of gaming in full HD at reasonable settings. The final build achieved everything I set out to do, running very quiet on its stock cooler, even when pushed.
Actually, I didn’t start with the idea of building a mini-ITX system at all: I was just planning to upgrade an old Athlon X4 system with a new motherboard and processor, reusing the Antec 300 case and other components. However, the old Antec 300 case was tired and dusty, and had always been noisy, so a new, quieter case seemed a better bet than trying to refurbish the old case with new fans etc.
It's funny how things come together: I loved the look of the Nano S when I first saw it, and spotted the Asus B150i Pro Gaming on a £20 cash-back promotion from Asus. It's a great board with many of the features of the Z170 version for a fraction of the price - £61.82 after cash back. I had the perfect base for my new build.
As this was a low-cost build, I decided on the i3-6100 processor as there was a big jump in price going for an i5. The i3 is a good match for my Asus GTX-960 - the only component transferred from the old build, along with a Samsung 840 EVO SSD. In the end though, I picked up an i3-6320 for £110 on Amazon - £11 more than the i3-6100, but I thought the 4MB cache and 3.9GHz clock speed were probably worth the extra. I used the stock cooler, again to keep the cost down, but it turned out to be perfectly adequate and quiet.
My clean install of Windows 10 went smoothly using the Windows 7 key from the old build. It activated without any problem.
My version didn't have WIFI, but only cost £61.82 after cashback. This is a really well-designed Mini-ITX board with many high-end features: SupremeFX audio, Intel 1219-V LAN, M.2 socket with 4xPCIe 3.0/NVMe, Fan Expert 2+ and so on. Unusually, there is a Water Pump header in addition to CPU and Chassis fan headers. All have selectable PWM or DC control. I used the Water Pump header for the front fan
The layout is excellent with all major connectors on the back edge. The PCIe socket is well clear of the memory slots and the CPU socket has plenty of clearance all round. Be aware though that the M.2 socket is on the rear of the board and not accessible when the board is installed.
The LED lighting was quite restrained but no doubt will appeal to some.
Low profile, looks good and works well
It's the sweet spot for 1080p gaming. Runs very quiet - the fans hardly ever come on.
Beautiful design and even better looking in the flesh than it looks in pictures. Build quality is excellent, although the stock fans are quiet rather than silent. There is a worrying lack of clearance between the graphics card and the power supply - only about 5mm. This doesn’t seem to be a problem in my case, but I was careful to choose a power supply that was only 140mm deep. If I hadn’t already had the Asus Strix GTX 960 I would have chosen a blower style card. A second 140mm front fan can easily be fitted if necessary.
The SSD mounts, particularly those behind the motherboard, are problematic if your power supply has the usual right-angled SATA power connectors. You really need a straight connector. Cable routing requires some thinking about and I can’t help thinking that the case has been compromised for the sake of accommodating custom water cooling which I’m sure only a small minority of users will install.
This was the cheapest power supply (I paid £44.89) that met my criteria of 140mm deep, modular (semi modular at least) and reasonably quiet. It looks good and works well. The main cables are a bit bulky and stiff, but all the connectors fitted easily
I was able to clean install Windows 10 Home using the Windows 7 key from a previous build. My understanding is that if you upgraded to Windows 10 from a retail version of Windows 7, you can transfer the licence to a new computer up until 29 July, 2016. After that, you will still be able to transfer Windows 7 but not Windows 10.