VR-Ready ASUS ROG Manta Mini-ITX LAN PC

March 14, 2016 | By Chris Stolze | #NZXTBUILDS

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Hi there, I’m Chris! I’ve been building PC’s for myself and my friends/family (and breaking numerous hardware warranties) since 2000. My passion for PCDIY and the satisfaction I get from every build I complete keeps me hooked to the point of near-obsession.

Why Manta?

Well to be honest, I’ve been really wanting to see a case manufacturer do something interesting with the mini-ITX form factor for a while. When I first saw pictures of the NZXT Manta come out of CES this past January, I knew that it’d be something special. All the creature comforts of a larger chassis: custom liquid cooling support, full-size GPU and PSU support, etc., but in the much more manageable mini-ITX form factor.

The Hardware

Cool, quiet, VR-ready. Those were the goals I set out for the build in terms of hardware capability. For the heart of the build I choose the ASUS Republic of Gamers Maximus VIII Impact Z170 mini-ITX board. Featuring a dedicated daughter card for enhanced power delivery among a host of set and forget features like 5-Way Optimization for accurate fan control, power management, and auto overclocking, I knew it’d be the way to go for a system that’d last a long time in terms of hardware capability and quality.

The brain of the ROG Manta is an Intel® Core i5-6600K clocked at a respectable 4.3 GHz using the auto-tuning feature of the board, providing more than enough CPU-brawn to power through 1080p editing. The graphics muscle is provided by an ASUS GeForce GTX 970 STRIX card, meeting the recommended spec for VR experiences from the likes of HTC and Oculus, while tackling traditional gaming at 1440p at “very high” settings with respectable framerates.

For RAM, I needed modules with decent density while maintaining a low profile. For the ROG Manta, I chose 2 modules of Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4. In the final build, they’re clocked at 2400MHz and provide a total of 16GB for the system to play with. Storage is provided by dual Kingston HyperX Savage SSD’s in RAID 0, giving me close to 500GB of super-fast storage to load games on. I also had a license for Windows 8 Pro which I installed and upgraded to Windows 10 Pro so I can take advantage of DirectX 12 for future games.

While still optional, I felt that building a custom liquid cooling loop would be the way to go for this system, and I really wanted to see how the Manta would cope with a truly beefy EK Water Blocks EK-XLC Predator 240 unit with both the i5-6600K and GTX 970 in a loop. For the CPU block, I swapped out the stock EK-Supremacy MX for a custom ROG edition Supremacy MX from Performance PC’s while the GTX 970 was cooled by an EK-FC970 STRIX acetal/nickel block and back plate that I had from a previous build for a stealthy look and full-coverage cooling performance. For the custom ROG graphic on the chassis, I chose to go with red vinyl. Vinyl is a very easy material to work with and if you have access to a vinyl cutter, it’s an extremely fast way to customize your system.

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

Type Item Price
CPU Intel Core i5-6600K 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor $244.99 @ Amazon
Motherboard Asus MAXIMUS VIII IMPACT Mini ITX LGA1151 Motherboard $238.99 @ Amazon
Memory Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-2400 Memory $79.99 @ Amazon
Storage Kingston Savage 240GB 2.5″ Solid State Drive $89.99 @ Adorama
Storage Kingston Savage 240GB 2.5″ Solid State Drive $89.99 @ Adorama
Video Card Asus GeForce GTX 970 4GB STRIX Video Card $325.99 @ Amazon
Case NZXT Manta (Black/Red) Mini ITX Desktop Case $139.99 @ Amazon
Power Supply Antec HCG M 850W 80+ Bronze Certified Semi-Modular ATX Power Supply $89.99 @ Newegg
Operating System Microsoft Windows 10 Pro OEM (64-bit) $124.86 @ B&H
Case Fan Thermaltake CL-F038-PL12RE-A 40.6 CFM 120mm Fan $14.89 @ OutletPC
Case Fan Thermaltake CL-F038-PL12RE-A 40.6 CFM 120mm Fan $14.89 @ OutletPC
Case Fan Thermaltake CL-F038-PL12RE-A 40.6 CFM 120mm Fan $14.89 @ OutletPC
Other EKWB EK-XLC Predator 240 $199.99
Other EKWB EK-FC970 GTX Strix Nickel+Acetal GPU Block $124.49
Other EKWB EK-FC970 GTX Strix Backplate (Black) $34.49
Other EKWB EK-ACF Fitting 10/16mm Nickel (x4) $25.96
Other EKWB EK-AF Angled 90-Degree G1/4 Black (x2) $13.98
Other EK-Supremacy MX CPU Waterblock – Custom Modded Plexi – ROG $82.95
Other EKWB EK-Tube ZMT Matte Black 15,9/9,5mm (3m RETAIL) $17.49
Other EKWB EK-Ekoolant EVO CLEAR (concentrate 100mL) $9.99
Prices include shipping, taxes, rebates, and discounts
Total (before mail-in rebates) $1998.79
Mail-in rebates -$20.00
Total $1978.79
Generated by PCPartPicker 2016-03-14 13:39 EDT-0400

The Build

I did an initial build with everything on stock cooling (I did use a NZXT Kraken X31 120mm AIO unit I had on hand for quick testing of CPU’s, which came in handy since unlocked Intel 6th gen CPU’s don’t come with a stock air cooler). Everything went swimmingly so I gave myself the greenlight to go for the complete build with the custom loop.

NZXT isn’t joking when they say that the Manta supports custom liquid cooling. The sheer amount of space you have to play with for a custom loop gives you a significant variety of potential loop configurations. Since I wanted the ROG Manta to act as my LAN system, it needed to be easy to maintain while providing the performance of full custom loops, so I went with the EK-XLC Predator to consolidate my pump, reservoir, and radiator into as compact of a space as possible. I’m happy to report that the EK-XLC Predator 240 fits (rather snuggly) in the front of the NZXT Manta without modding the chassis!

Performance

But Chris, how does it perform? Glad you asked! Let’s first revisit my goals for the build: cool, quiet, and VR-ready. Now that we have those goals back in mind, let’s take a look at some quick benchmarks I ran on the ROG Manta.

ROG-Manta-VRTest

As you can tell from the Valve VR benchmark utility, the ROG Manta is indeed VR-ready (which was to be expected since I aimed squarely at the recommended spec for VR). Thanks to NZXT’s spectacular CAM software, you can see that the system stayed cool with the CPU hitting up to 47C and GPU up to 38C, all while the system stayed at a low hum thanks to the fan curve I set to manage both the fans and pump. Now for more benchmarks!

ROG-Manta-FireStrike

The ROG Manta ran Fire Strike beautifully, scoring close to 9500 (average score being around 9450), passing the 9271 mark for a VR-ready system, coming up close to a system I ran last year with a GTX 970 and Core i7-980X that scored a 9960.

ROG-Manta-RealBench

Another benchmark I run to test system stability and performance is ROG RealBench, which runs a battery of tests for multiple aspects of a system like heavy multitasking, encoding, etc. The ROG Manta landed a score of 93954, placing it among good company in the leaderboards.

Thanks for Bending the Rules

I want to congratulate the team at NZXT on producing an amazing chassis. The NZXT Manta is absolutely stunning and was a dream to work with. They set out to bend the rules with the Manta and clearly did, utterly smashing through my expectations and delivering a mini-ITX chassis with capabilities that you’d expect to see in a much larger form-factor. Thank you so much for letting me share my experience with you and from one PCDIYer to another, keep on building!

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Chris Stolze

Chris Stolze

Channel Marketing Specialist at ASUS North America
Chris Stolze

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