Want to set up the ultimate small form-factor Linux Gaming rig - any advice?

So, finally got enough saved to build a new modern gaming rig, and now I am researching components and other parts.

I wish to make a small form factor gaming PC running primarily Linux, but perhaps also having support for Windows in a VM environment through Looking Glass. This PC should be as small as possible due to easy portability. I would like to build this rig so I could easily transport it to a big e-sports event like DreamHack.

My current thoughts on hardware:

  • Smallest case I could find was the Lazer3D LZ7, mini-itx in general seems very appealing
  • AMD GPUs seems to be the best long-term bet, given the drivers are Open Source
  • Ryzen CPUs seem the most promising all-rounder at the moment, not to mention fewer problems with Spectre/Meltdown - the CPU is rarely the big bottleneck for gaming in either case
  • Budget of around $1000-$1300
  • Two monitors for coding and perhaps some hobby game development

[edit] And a preliminary hardware list, anything linked is seriously considered at this point, but nothing set in stone yet, will update this list as my research and thoughts develop:

Going with the AMD Ryzen does present another option as well. If possible I would love to be able to use Looking Glass in a Windows VM for those titles that absolutely refuse to play ball with Linux (League of Legends among others). Does anyone know if it is possible to run Ryzen APU on the host system while Looking Glass take over the discrete GPU card, and then switch back to the discrete card once the VM is done?

Would be thankful for any input that can be given, thanks for taking the time reading through this!

This is what I was wondering, a 2XXXG CPU with AMD GPU would be nice to use for pass-through / looking glass. I do wonder if @wendell has the parts around to test this or maybe already has tested? I’m not sure anyone else has.


There are not that many choices.
ITX AM4 boards are rare (14 according to PCPartpicker).
The ASRock ones (x370 and x470 don´t look bad)
MSi put a big block of aluminium on theirs link
Asus has the x370 and x470

Cooler wise, Lazer3D says 70mm clearance by recommends 60mm:
sorted by size

SFF and passthrough only work well together on intel, you’re gonna need an igpu, (on ITX) and raven ridge is buggy on linux ATM.

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@tkoham Hmm, so currently there are driver issues with passthrough on AMD systems? Is this an issue that is actively being worked on, because I can worst-case always dualboot until the issue is resolved. It is not the ideal scenario, but it is workable at least.

After some more consideration I think I will go with the RX 560, since those cards draw less power but are still quite good at what they do. Also, will not have heavy overheating issues in such a small case, and draws less power than a Vega56 or Vega64.

CPU if I am to go with AMD and a (future) Passthrough solution would of course be the Ryzen 5 2400G.

So with those two components, I would get a power draw of ~ 150W (80+65). Add in 50W for fans and USB peripherals, and I could go down to a 250W PSU with 85% efficiency. Of course, it would probably be better to put in a 400W PSU if I decide to go with a beefier setup later. Add in 2 SSD harddrives there, will add one 128GB for the system itself and one 512GB for /opt/ and /home/ (will probably solve it with one partition and bind mounting /home/ to /opt/home).

Thank you MazeFrame for the tips on Mobo and cooling, that C7 Cu seems to be a good solution for my use case.

BTW, my knowledge level on hardware is “I have built a few systems before but not an expert” which places me in the just-enough-to-be-dangerous range, so feel free to correct me if I say crazy stuff. As for Linux I have 15+ years of experience with (primarily Debian/Ubuntu) Linux being my daily driver at home (been running it on my laptop mostly).

Hmm, the Cryorig C7 Cu seems like adequate cooling.

From the motherboards listed, the Asus x470 motherboard seems to be the only one with support for two m.2 hard drives, if I am reading the specs correctly. It’s not a deal breaker, but if I can remove the need for SATA cables so much the better.

So, leaning slightly towards the Asus x470, but it does have other problems such as only one HDMI port (meaning I must have a graphics card for a 2 monitor display), so nothing set in stone yet.

If you can live without the APU this build is pretty damn sweet.

CPU: Ryzen 5 2600
Mobo: ASRock AB350 Gaming ITX
RAM: G.Skill Trident Z 16GB
Drive: WD Blue 500GB M.2
GPU: MSI Armor Radeon RX 580 8GB
PSU: Corsair SF 450W
Case: Dan A4 SFX / Loque Ghost S1

Price is roughly $1050 with the case.
I would argue those two case options are better than the one you linked, due to a more rectangular form they support full length GPUs while staying just as portable.

I like NCaseM1 if you want small form factor, allows for good gpu support but is cery compact still. Also allows for decent CPU cooler options (up to 240mm aio)

It’s quite a bit bigger tho at 12.6L vs the Loque at 8,2L and the Dan A4 at 7,2L

Yeah but you get better cpu cooling and better gpu support imo. Its still quite small and easily taken on trips if thats your thing. Removes tons of limitation while still being quite small

The Ghost S1 has top hat addons for radiators, but doesn’t seem like OP would be interested in something like that.

I consider the Ghost and A4 evolutions of the M1, if you’re gonna go small and portable, I would pick those over the M1.

Could also go Node 202 10.2L

There’s also the Dr Zaber Sentry although I think it’s hard to get your hands on one of those.

I like small form factor, but honestly there is diminishing returns going to the maximum small levels, is op only interested in small as possible?

It would seem so, also the case he linked is 7,1L, but it isn’t a good design IMHO due to the square form factor.

Easy portability is like anything 15L and below imo

Depends on how thicc you are.

Honestly if he is trying to do esports events there is a point where frames > ever so slightly smaller

@wertigon what is the biggest you would go to gain more perf or is it strictly size?

His original build had a RX560, so I figured it wasn’t of the biggest concern.

Wouldnt laptop + egpu be an option could do looking glass still there are 6 core laptop cpus now