AMD Zacate Budget Nettop

AMD Budget Nettop
Component Product Name Price
CPU + Mobo ASRock E350M1 (AMD E-350) $110
Memory Patriot 2GB DDR3 1333 PSD32G13332 $22
Case + PSU Antec ISK 100 + 90W PSU $73
Storage Seagate Momentus 500GB 7200RPM 16MB $60
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit $100
Total Price $365

Next up is our AMD variant of the budget nettop. We’ll start with the motherboard and CPU (APU) choice, the ASRock E350M1. AMD’s new Fusion APUs (Accelerated Processing Units) combine a dual-core CPU and DX11 graphics onto a single die. AMD refers to this as the E-350 for the dual-core model, and they call the GPU the HD 6310. We’ve already provided ample coverage of AMD’s new platform, and overall Brazos/Zacate is a much more pleasing solution than Intel’s Atom—or even NVIDIA’s ION. Really, there’s not much reason to go with the Intel Atom/ION systems in this guide over this budget AMD nettop unless you can find an Atom board on clearance somewhere. This ASRock board features an eSATA port, as well as VGA, DVI, and HDMI ports. It also uses regular desktop memory so make sure you get the correct type of RAM. We’ve selected a Patriot 2GB DDR3-1333 module, as 2GB is sufficient to run Aero and moderately multitask.

You could easily keep the same case, HDD, and DVDRW as the Intel system, but we’ve mixed things up a bit to provide some other options. This time, we’re going with the Antec ISK 100, which is my favorite mini-ITX enclosure. It includes a silent, high-efficiency 90W external power brick, a quiet but effective 100mm fan, four front USB2 ports, and space for two 2.5” hard drives mounted below the motherboard. Assembly is time-consuming, but the finished product is worth the effort in my opinion. Note that it does not have space for an optical drive, though you can always go the external drive route.

For storage, we’ve selected a Seagate Momentus 500GB 7200RPM drive. This is a drive that we’ve seen in dozens of laptops over the past year, and while performance is nothing like an SSD it will still get the job done. Unlike 3.5” drives, pricing is quite a bit higher, and the minimum ~$40 drives are usually 160GB 5400RPM models (or $45 for a 250GB drive). The choice of case thus ends up increasing the cost of storage, but we’re willing to make the trade in the name of style. You can choose a less expensive drive if you’re looking to cut costs, or perhaps if you want an optimal configuration you could buy a 60GB SSD for the OS and apps and add in a larger 5400RPM drive for mass storage, but that definitely wouldn’t be “budget” by any stretch.

With the selected components, the total system cost comes to $365, so for the added performance and flexibility over the Atom configuration you’re paying $37. If you use the same case and storage options as the Atom setup, the total drops to $355, making the difference just $27. This particular system is also slightly cheaper than the base mobo + CPU we’ll use in the higher-end Intel Atom + ION system, though the other component choices will bump the upgraded system cost up quite a bit. Considering that E-350 is a superior platform overall, the added price relative to stock Atom is worthwhile unless you’re sure you don’t care about Flash video support and other graphically intensive content. We’d prefer to give up hard drive space to afford the extra $27 relative to the base Intel setup, though.

The Budget Intel Atom Nettop Intel Upgraded HTPC Nettop
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  • DNW - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    I no longer build my own PC's, so I am interested in a store-bought alternative. I will be using it is a dedicated HTPC, and it must have Blu Ray (I don't have a BR in my home theatre). What are my choices under about $500?
  • Roland00 - Sunday, April 24, 2011 - link

    For that price range you won't find what you want without going refurbished or adding the bluray drive yourself. If you don't mind adding an optical drive it is quite easy to obtain.
  • obarthel - Sunday, April 24, 2011 - link

    Zotac (Zbox, the one with the integrated BR drive) and Dell (Inspiron Zino HD 410) have small systems; Asrock too, but higher specs and more expensive.
  • aviphysics - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    I would really like to see anandtech incorporating a comparison to commonly available prebuilt systems in these guides. Last year after a lot of searching I found that a pre-built acer SFF box was about $100 cheaper then the cheapest equivalent custom rig.

    I love building custom systems but a good reality check would be very nice.
  • 7Enigma - Monday, April 25, 2011 - link

    Exactly, once you get below $500 it is EXTREMELY difficult to beat a prebuilt system. And a simple reinstall of the OS removes all the bloat...
  • CDew - Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - link

    I second that! I would love to see a system such as the Acer AR3700 used as a baseline for the Atom. It has a D525/ION (or ION 2 depending on whose specs you read), 2GB DDR3, and seems to offer the best possible Atom platform available today.

    How is that relevant to an article on building your own HTPC?

    If price and performance are the main factors in deciding on what to build, would anyone choose to build an HTPC if the best possible price/performance comes from a prebuilt system for $350? If you can build you own with better performance, then perhaps it's worth a bit of additional cost. But how do these Atom systems compare to a prebuilt Acer AR3700? We don't know.

    Unfortunately, in all the Brazos vs Atom articles that I have read, Brazos has a performance edge, but that's over Atom systems that seem to have lesser configurations than the Acer AR3700.

    Any chance that we could get an update with baseline prebuilt Atom and Brazos systems?

  • gfody - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    should've left the atom build out completely. it's worthless.
  • obarthel - Sunday, April 24, 2011 - link

    Not really, for a NAS: performance is no issue, power consumption not really, but Atom is still good there, and, above all, Linux/FreeNAS support is better.
  • AmdInside - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    I used to have an Ion netop as a htpc and the performance is just too low. The reason for a htpc today insteadmof a internet device like apple tv or roku is to let you do a lot of other things and franks the cpu of the e-350 or atomis just terrible. I currently use a core i5 happily while my ion system lies lonely on the floor of my office.
  • will2 - Sunday, April 24, 2011 - link

    My 'Nettop Guide' interest is in a smaller size of Nettop than those in your review, similar to the Revo 3610 launched over a year ago (Atom330+ION1), that consumed 21W average, 26W on foll load. What would be of interest is the same 7.1x7.1x1.2" volume or LESS, same mix of ports/WiFi, that has a more power efficient SoC able to run Linux or W7, that has in addition to the 2.5" HDD, a mSATA slot to run the Intel 310 SSD.

    The recently released SNB i7-2657 17W TDP would make an interesting choice if it were not for the fact SNB prices are way above the NETTOP market. So the AMD E350 18W TDP, (or, perhaps its imminent AMD replacement) for now looks like the only feasible candidate to make for a cooler running Revo style Nettop with improved performance.

    Regarding your "you could buy a 60GB SSD for the OS and apps and add in a larger 5400RPM drive for mass storage"; - I was thinking a small 32GB SSD should be more than enough to run Windows 7 + the Average mix of Apps for a Nettop/HTPC. Is there any reason you picked 60GB ? Also, any links to a discussion of SSD sizing for OS+Apps appreciated.

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