The best part about starting with a barebones is they, in this case MSI, have already put half of the computer together for you. Starting out with the installation we already have everything completely wired, the PSU installed, the DVD drive installed, and the motherboard installed. Really what was left to do is the storage, CPU/heatsink, ram, and video card. I jumped right into the deep end of the Nightblade right away and installed the CPU then RAM. From there installing the heatsink wasn’t much of an issue as well. In my case I didn’t have to worry about installing the backplate for the heatsink but for everyone else there is more than enough room to get at the back of the case for your heatsink installation.
Before you install the heatsink though make sure you double check that you have all of the power and SATA connections you will need for the rest of your build. While there is still a lot of room with the heatsink installed, it is easier to get at the motherboard SATA connections without the heatsink in the way. In my case I didn’t have a problem at all because I had planned to pull one of the SATA cables from the already installed mSATA adapter. Once I confirmed that I was able to dig in and get the CPU fan hooked up and tighten it down.
As usual I went with a Kingston HyperX SSD for this build. The 240GB capacity is enough for everything I am planning on using it for. If this is going to be your only PC I would recommend putting in a platter drive along with an SSD just for the extra room. In my case I was planning on using this PC for streaming our LanOC event stream at our LAN and then as a backup for people who might need a PC when they come over and visit. Spontaneous LANs have been known to happen in the LanOC office and they are always the best LANs so I like to be ready. To install the drive I had to bust out the bright red sliders and the small bag of screws that came with the Nightblade. You have to put two small screws in each side then you can just slide the drive right into the drive cage on top of the PC. From there hooking up the power and SATA connections were easy because I had already double checked to make sure I had them right there. I will tell you what, that SSD looks great installed right there on top. It’s a shame we won’t see it at all once I reinstall the side panels.
It’s crazy to think that all that is left to be done now is install a video card. Installing the CPU, RAM, heatsink, and SSD took me at most 15 minutes. That included stopping to take photos. Before I install the R9 270X ITX card that I had planned on using in this build I did grab a GTX 780 just to see how well longer video cards are supported. As you can see there is still actually a few inches of room lengthwise. This will leave a little flexibility should longer cards come out (like dual GPU cards) or if your card has its power connections facing the end of the case. Speaking of the power cords, you get two 6+2 plugs so you can run anything small or large on the included 600 watt PSU. Just like with all of the other cables, the connectors were bright red, matching the rest of the build. Should you have a video card like the GTX 780 that has power connections facing up, there is enough room to fit them with the side panel on without putting any strain on the connections.
Our ITX card might be a LOT smaller than the Nightblade supports, but it is still more than powerful enough. Here are a couple shots of it installed. After seeing the GTX 780 in the same location it looks tiny.
With everything installed and hooked up there is still a lot of room to work in the Nightblade compared to most of the other Mini-ITX builds I have put together. Like I mentioned before, if you use a smaller heatsink like the Noctua the entire case will be open. As always, the more open space you have inside of a case the better potential cooling you will have.
Last but not least, before we can take the Nightblade out to a LAN we have to put the neoprene cover on the feet to make it easier to carry. I tried to carry it around without it and it’s not all that comfortable.