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Micro ATX System Build - Recommendations Wanted

Last response: in Systems
January 2, 2012 12:30:56 AM

Heyas all!

I am working on a system build to replace my laptop. I have a great system at home, but I need something portable to take to work with me at the Fire Station -- I work 24-hour shifts every 3rd day.

The bulk of my use is gaming, MMOs in particular, and I don't play any FPSs. I currently use a Dell Inspiron 1720 and it has served me well over the past 3 years. I was able to play WoW at 1920 x 1080 reasonably well, but I have moved on to SWTOR and the 256 MB nVidia 8600GT video isn't up to the task.

I tried purchasing a G74SX-BBK8 from Best Buy for $1199, but I didn't like it at all, so I returned it.

After doing some research, I have decided to go with a custom-built Micro-ATX system. Yeah, I may have to carry a monitor around with me, but I am looking at possibly dual-purposing a 1080p TV -- I haven't decided yet.

Anyway, here is what I am looking at for components:

Item Description Vendor Qty Price

Case Thermaltake LANBOX Lite Black mATX Case CompUSA 1 $79.99
Power Supply Ultra X4 400-Watt Modular Power Supply CompUSA 1 $39.96
Mainboard ASUS M5A88-M AMD 880G AM3+ Motherboard CompUSA 1 $109.99
CPU AMD Phenom II X4 960 Black Edition CompUSA 1 $129.99
Memory CORSAIR 4 x 2GB CMX8GX3M4A1600C9(XMP) Newegg 1 $57.99
Hard Drive 500GB ST9500325AS (have) 1 $0.00
Optical Drive HP bd240i Internal SATA Blu-ray Combo Drive (have) 1 $0.00
Monitor Acer S230HL BMII 23" Monitor CompUSA 1 $139.99
Mouse Logitech M510 (have) 1 $0.00
Keyboard Razer Anansi (have) 1 $0.00


I am going to stick with the on-board ATI Radeon™ HD 4250 GPU to start out. If it proves to be insufficient for my needs, I'll upgrade it later.

Any feedback, recommendations or thoughts on the build would be greatly appreciated.
January 2, 2012 1:45:32 AM

dude build a llano based system
January 2, 2012 2:06:20 AM

Antec NSK1380 Black/ Silver Steel MicroATX Cube Computer Case 350W Power Supply $114.99

ASUS F1A75-M LE FM1 AMD A75 (Hudson D3) SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard with UEFI BIOS $89.99

AMD A8-3850 Llano 2.9GHz Socket FM1 100W Quad-Core Desktop APU with DirectX 11 Graphic AMD Radeon HD 6550D AD3850WNGXBOX $139.99

Crucial Ballistix sport 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 Desktop Memory Model BL2KIT51264BA160A $44.99

Total: $390

I think this build is price efficient, and you can still get another GPU to Crossfire with the Llano graphics.
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January 2, 2012 2:08:33 AM

Is this current price your budget, or are you willing to spend more? If you are, you can get a system with much better performance.

Case: I would recommend getting an mATX tower, it will have better cooling performance. The NZXT Vulcan looks like a good case, it has a carrying handle and internal mounts designed for people who will do a lot of moving around.

PSU: For an mATX tower, a normal ATX PSU will work. I know this one is a little more expensive, but you don't want to skimp on this part.

I would recommend going with a sandy bridge i3 CPU rather than the AMD. They actually have equal gaming performance despite the fact the i3 is a dual core while the Phenom is a quad core. You will be able to upgrade in the future to a quad core. The i3 also has much less power consumption which is good for a small system.

RAM: You can find a good 8GB kit for less money:

I would strongly recommend getting a GPU The integrated graphics (either the Radeon 4250 on the AMD board or the HD 2000 in the i3) will perform worse than the 8600m GT you already have. How much would you be willing to spend on a GPU? For a build like this I would spend $150, which means getting a Radeon HD 6850.
January 2, 2012 2:12:04 AM

This topic has been moved from the section CPU & Components to section Systems by Mousemonkey
January 2, 2012 2:35:41 AM

Thanks for the advice so far...

I went with the Phenom because I couldn't find any of the Llano CPUs on the TH charts. After setting up a spreadsheet with price/performance calculations, I found the 960 to be the best bang for the buck. I will do some research on the i3 and Llano and update my build shortly...

The memory I chose was off the QVL from ASUS for the board and was the best price.

As far as the Vulcan, I checked the reviews and found that the 200 mm fan is almost a requirement and it is a $40 custom part for the case, not a standard 200 mm fan. Also, I want to stay close to the "cube" form factor. I have had good luck with ThermalTake in the past. My choice was between the Lanbox Lite and the Armor 30.

The $500 - $600 price point isn't a fast and hard limit... just what I happened to get to. I don't want to spend a lot more than that, but I DO have some flexibility.

Well, let me get to work research and I'll update soon.

January 2, 2012 3:56:08 AM

OK, after doing some research, I have come up with the following:

I am not a big Intel fan, so I want to stay with AMD. Ideally, I would get a mainboard with a 900 series chipset but there don't seem to be any MicroATX boards out there with it.

Again, the memory is off ASUS's QVL and I thought it was a darn good deal.

As for the video, I'll either use the onboard 4250 or install the Radeon 6850 from my desktop and then upgrade my desktop.

I will probably work up an Intel-based build as well in order to do a comparison.

Thanks, again, for the input. Keep the comments coming!



OK, I have updated the graphic to show the Intel and AMD builds. Let me know what you all think.

January 2, 2012 5:00:04 AM

Thanks, Outlander_04. I think I came awful close with my i5 build. I like ASUS alot, so stuck with them on the mainboard. The memory is, again, on the QVL list for the mainboard, as is the CPU. I decided to go with the i5 2500K instead of the 2500 due to the difference in the Passmark ratings.

I have also decided to use this to replace my desktop system and just tote the machine to work each day. I'll use a USB 3.0 powered hub to connect all my peripherals. All I'll have to do is unplug the USB cable an HDMI cable and I will be off!

If I decide to go that route, I will utilize my Corsair 650 PSU, XFX Radeon 6850 and possibly my memory. This will drop about $30 off the cost, but I need to check and see if the RAM id on the QVL.

The rest of my parts (Crosshair Extreme, AMD 1090T and Thermaltake V9 Black Edition will probably go to my son.

Here is the updated build:


January 2, 2012 8:04:03 AM

Memory should be 1.5 volt [ or less]
January 2, 2012 8:22:47 AM

There's really no need to get the K edition if you don't intend on overclocking. OCing would probably be tricky in a micro build.
January 2, 2012 12:21:50 PM

Since you are getting an H67 board, there is no need to get a 2500k as the board won't even let you overclock it. I would stay away from Bulldozer, as it has questionable performance, and a higher heat output.
January 2, 2012 8:51:04 PM

Outlander: I went with the memory I selected because it is on the QVL for the mainboard. I have had bad luck using RAM that isn't on the QVL. I will look again for some 1.5v RAM.

kinggraves & fb39ca4: I went with the 2500K because the price was so close to the same as the 2500, the Passmark score is higher and I plan on going to a Z68-based board when I can find one.

Again, thanks for all the input. I am going to do more research today and update as soon as I can.

January 2, 2012 9:42:47 PM

The 2500k is identical to the 2500 except that it has an unlocked multiplier and can be overclocked

All performance scores will be identical ...till some one OC's the k
January 2, 2012 10:00:09 PM

Here is my latest build. I have changed the format a bit, saving the Excel worksheet as a webpage with links to the products:

Click the tab on the bottom of the page to see either the Intel or the AMD build.

Outlander_04: I took your advice and went with 1.5v RAM, but I still stayed with something that is on the QVL.

fb39ca: Took your advice on the case, despite the fact that the side fan is proprietary and costs $40. I will see if I can live without it.

hpdeskjet: Thanks for the advice, but I'm not thrilled with the Llano chips. I am going to update my AMD build shortly with a bulldozer-based system.

kinggraves & Outlander_04: For the small price difference and now that I am going with a Z68-based board, I think I will stick with the i5-2500K, unless there is a compelling reason NOT to.

The plan right now is to use stock cooling. However, I DO own a Corsair H50 watercooling system. Several of the reviews I have read on the case say there is room for a watercooling system. Anyone have any experience with this?

You guys have been really great with the advice/insight. Keep it coming!

January 2, 2012 10:32:21 PM

FYI, I am kind of stalled on my AMD build. I can't find a AMD 970-based uATX board. Anyone have any ideas on this?
January 2, 2012 11:01:42 PM

EScottH said:
FYI, I am kind of stalled on my AMD build. I can't find a AMD 970-based uATX board. Anyone have any ideas on this?

I don't think they make smaller than ATX boards for the 9xx mobos as of now. I probably would've swung towards the Llano starting off for the power in form factor, BUT now that you're just replacing your desktop with it and using it full time, I'd just head towards the Intel system and go for the extra power. A better CPU is more likely to benefit you in MMOs as well.