The rise of Steam, with it's massive expansion of the games catalog and unmatched yearly sales, convinced me I should get back into PC gaming. But I still have some unusual constraints, in particular that I want to fly my PC back to Wisconsin every year. Since airlines are charging through the nose for checked bags, I wanted to be able to fit it in a carry-on.
It turns out that there are almost no pre-made PCs that are physically small enough to carry-on, yet have a full-strength graphics card. Cyberpower's Syber line, and OriginPC's Chronos seem to be the best options, but there are a few others around. Naturally you end up paying a premium to have someone else build them for you, so I elected to build my own.
Since case size seemed to be the biggest constraint, I started there. There are a number of crowdfunded options including the NCase M1, Sentry, and DAN A4-SFX, but they tend to be quite expensive. From established manufacturers there are the Silverstone RVZ line and the Fractal Design Node 202. I went with the Node 202 because it's the smallest, and I don't like all the styling and LEDs on the Silverstone cases.
One can argue endlessly about what to put inside that case. In fact I did that until Luke and Glenn were sick of it. I also read about other builds using the case to figure out what fans and coolers would fit. The upshot is this parts list. Most of it can be modified freely - the key points are to save space by using an m2 hard drive, memory chips with no heat spreaders, and a low-profile CPU cooler.
- Assemble all the components outside of the case and get them to the POST screen before putting anything in the case. It's much easier to do when you're not working inside that cramped case.
- The m.2 hard drive slot on that motherboard is on the bottom.
- When putting the motherboard into the case, it's much easier if you take out the graphics card riser assembly first, despite what the directions say. That gives you easier access to the screws.
- The case directions neglect to mention one of the screws holding the graphics assembly in - I'll show it later.
- Be really organized about keeping track of which screws go where, especially the 4 different kinds of tiny black screws in the case. I did pretty well with this until the very end.