Nettop and Mini-ITX Buyer’s Guideby Zach Throckmorton on April 22, 2011 2:00 PM EST
AMD Upgraded HTPC Nettop
|AMD Upgraded HTPC Nettop|
|CPU + Mobo||ASUS E35M1-I Deluxe (AMD E-350)||$204|
|Memory||Patriot 4GB (2x2GB) PSD34G1333K||$40|
|Case + PSU||Lian Li PC-Q09B + 110W PSU||$150|
|Storage||Samsung SpinPoint MT2 HM100UI 1TB 5400RPM||$94|
|Optical Drive||Sony Optiarc BC-5500H-01 BR-ROM/DVD-ROM||$90|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit||$100|
|Extra Software||CyberLink PowerDVD 11 Ultra||$100|
Our final nettop build is the AMD HTPC setup, which adds quite a few extra features into the mix. We’ve also upgraded the case to a more expensive option, so you can easily skip that if you prefer to keep costs down. Starting with the motherboard and APU, once again we’re using the AMD E-350, but this time we’ve selected the ASUS E35M1-I Deluxe. This is the most feature-rich Zacate mini-ITX board currently available. It features USB3 ports, an eSATA port, onboard wireless-N networking, DVI and HDMI ports, and an S/PDIF out jack. It’s also passively cooled by a massive heatsink, so it generates no fan noise. Unfortunately, all those extra features bump the price of the motherboard + APU up to $204, nearly $100 more than the ASRock E-350 board! We’ve used the same 4GB memory kit as the Intel system on the previous page, though E-350 is fast enough that the extra memory might prove more useful.
The case is another area where we’ve spent a large chunk of the budget. Lian Li builds beautiful cases, and the PC-Q09B is no exception. It’s well built and durable, but it’s also quite expensive. This specific case is attractive because it includes an external power brick, excellent ventilation, an anti-vibration kit for the hard drive, and comes with a slim optical drive adapter if you want to include a slim optical drive. We’ll be using a Blu-ray drive, so that’s a nice extra. Unlike the Antec cases, the Lian Li only supports a single 2.5” storage drive.
Since we’re building an HTPC, capacity wins out over performance this time, and we’ve selected the Samsung SpinPoint MT2 1TB drive. You can rip and save hundreds of hours of video to the drive, and this AMD solution has more than sufficient muscle to play all of your HD videos smoothly, so why not? Note that this is a non-standard 2.5” disk that’s 12.5mm thick, so it won’t fit in many laptops, but it works fine in mini-ITX cases. It was on sale at Newegg for just $80 a couple weeks ago, but now the cheapest price we can find is $94. If you’re willing to sacrifice capacity for speed, the largest 7200RPM 2.5” hard drives weigh in at 750GB, and you can currently find the Seagate ST9750420AS on sale for $90. Rounding out the package, we’ve again got the Sony BD-ROM and CyberLink PowerDVD Ultra adding $190 to the total cost.
This is obviously not a nettop designed around keeping costs down, but it’s more a statement of style and added features. At a total price of $778, many of you are probably already laughing, but keep in mind all the features you’re getting. This system provides plenty of storage and near-silent operation, two key elements of a good HTPC. If you want to go with the same case and components as the ION setup, you can get the cost down to $674, or you can skip WiFi and USB3 and just use the ASRock E-350 board. Then you’re looking at $580, or $390 without Blu-ray support—except we’ve already covered that option.
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ArnisR - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - linkAntec ISK 300(310)-150 series have internal PSU.
External PSU is for earlier sibling - ISK 300-65.
uncola - Sunday, April 24, 2011 - linkthis is correct, I noticed this mistake in the article too
-BubbaJoe- - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - linkThe M4A88T-I DELUXE motherboard is extremely capable.You can fit a 6-core AMD processor into it, and its currently the only AM3 ITX motherboard that has a full x16 pci-e slot. Add in eSATA, USB3, and built-in WiFi you got yourself a powerful little box.
I have mine paired with a 5770, 8gb of ddr3, and a Athlon x3 445 all in a Sugo SG-05 Able to play games such as BC:2 just fine. Very awesome little computer.
shamans33 - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - linkJust an FYI, M4A88T-I DELUXE onboard video does not do dual display because of limitations of 880g chipset on dual digital display output..
Andrew Rockefeller - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link"...check email, browse and shop on the web, occasionally remove red eyes from family photos, and type the occasional letter. From that perspective..."
Were you to build a cheap PC with that critera, I'd seriously concider Linux. You can then take $100 off the total for each build which is not an insignificant percentage especially when you talk about options to save $30 here and there. As much as I love and recommend Win 7, I'd expect Linux to provide a better user experience with the limited resources of these systems (the Atom and Brazos builds in particular, the i3 build may be OK on 7).
Although my computing/software needs exceed that which I can comfortably achieve with Linux, for the average Joe It's capabilities are well in excess of what they'll ever need. Unfortunately I wouldn't expect average Joe to be in here reading this.. but people who build systems for their less tech savvy loved ones are.
Gigantopithecus - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - linkHi Andrew - I couldn't agree more that a Linux variant is an excellent alternative to Windows 7 for basic computing needs, and I have built nettops with Ubuntu for friends. However, it's also been my experience that for less tech-savvy folks, Linux is simply not an option because they're not willing to learn a new OS. While you and I think the learning curve is shallow and no real obstacle, that simply is not true for many people (at least in my experience). FWIW older people who have little to no computer experience often learn it the fastest - a friend's 92 year old grandfather loves Ubuntu, possibly because he's never known anything else.
That said, Windows 7, like most other OS's, isn't particularly CPU intensive; it's much more dependent upon RAM. An E-350 with 4GB of RAM or even 2GB RAM works just fine, whereas my Phenom II X4 945 with 1GB of RAM installed struggles with Windows 7 (this is not its usual configuration - obviously the Phenom II with 8GB RAM runs W7 much better than an E-350 with 2GB RAM, ha).
lowimpact - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - linkI got really excited when I saw this article since I've been putting together my own mini-ITX build, but am puzzled that you haven't included a gamer box (or workstation buidl) in your lineup.
Here's a good start:
$120 Silverstone SG05BB w/450w psu
$100 Gigabyte GA-H67N-USB3-B3 Intel H67
$125 Intel e3-2100
$200 560 ti (5950's are too long)
$40 4GB G.Skill Ripjaws 1333
$40 500GB Hard Disk
$25 DVD Burner
$100 Windows 7 x64
Any reason you left something major like this out??
Andrew Rockefeller - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - linkI think the intention was to design systems to cover the needs of a typical user. The system you describe is somewhat niche. Although in your world a moderately powered gaming PC may be a high priority, it simply is not for the masses.
Don't get me wrong, I do appreciate your enthusiasm for your particular design. My taste is for the highest compute power whilst remaining passively cooled (Power/efficiency). I however recognise that my ideal results in a computer more powerful/expensive than the average person needs, but less powerful than what a power-user would want and can easily achieve by sacrificing form factor... niche.
Gigantopithecus - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - linkYep, the goal of this article was to cover nettop options. Jarred suggested adding a higher-end Intel mini-ITX system based on the i3-2100T CPU so we tossed that in there. I hope to have a mini-ITX gaming guide up soon as those are very popular with my younger undergraduate friends who live in dorms and small apartments.
lowimpact - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - linkYou also remember that intel graphics are bugged when it comes to playing back 24fps content right? What's the point of putting a blu-ray player in any of the intel builds if you can't watch movies without judder from adding a frame every 40 seconds? You wrote about this on your own site: