Small Package, Reasonable Price, And Good Performance
It was fun building this svelte system worth around $500, and it performs really well given our space and cost restrictions. Chieftec's FI-01W proved to be a great little enclosure priced reasonably...in Europe. Here in the U.S., Winsis' WI-02 does the job just as nicely. Around $45 for a respectable-looking case and a decent power supply should spark some interest.
We really like the quick-release mechanism for the drives, and appreciate the ease of working with a removable drive cage. Six liters of internal volume aren’t a lot compared to the ATX enclosures most of us are accustomed to. But that's all we needed to attach cables, connectors, and drives securely (and without skinning any of our fingers). Heavy-duty build quality is also nice; there’s no bending the Chieftec chassis out of shape. Really, the only low point for us is the front-panel audio connector, which should have been a couple of inches longer. Any other critique is simply endemic of the mini-ITX form factor, or the result of paring-back that needs to be done on a product in this price range.
Compared to some of the quad-core chips from AMD, Intel's Ivy Bridge-based dual-core Pentium seems a bit expensive. But it combines low power consumption with consistently fast performance, and we needed both of those. MSI's B75IA-E33 motherboard similarly lends modest power use and an incredibly efficient layout.
If this story has you thinking about building a similar system, we can’t blame you. The finished product performs really well.
Want to go for it? Really? Well, here's a list of the components we used in today's project. For a few bucks more, you could even swap out the 1 TB hard drive for a fast 128 GB SSD, upgrade the cooling, or incorporate Blu-ray playback.
|CPU||Intel Pentium G 2120||$100||Row 0 - Cell 3||Row 0 - Cell 4|
|Cooler||Included Cooler||-||Xigmatek Praeton||$33|
|Memory||8 GB DDR3-1333 1.5 V||$40||Row 2 - Cell 3||Row 2 - Cell 4|
|Motherboard||MSI B75IA-E33||$110||Row 3 - Cell 3||Row 3 - Cell 4|
|Slim DVD Burner||Samsung SN-208BB + Slimline-to-SATA Adapter||$30||Upgrade to Blu-ray||$30|
|Hard Drive||Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.C 1 TB||$90||Row 5 - Cell 3||Row 5 - Cell 4|
|SSD||Row 6 - Cell 1||-||Crucial m4 128 GB||$120|
|Graphics Card||Sapphire HD 7750 Low Profile||$115||Row 7 - Cell 3||Row 7 - Cell 4|
|Case + PSU||Chieftec FI-01W (Winsis WI-02)||$45||Row 8 - Cell 3||Row 8 - Cell 4|
I demand a proper Mini-ITX case from the manufacturers!
I have a "Zero dB PC" as one of the next projects, complete based on a AMD APU (A10 5700). We should stay a little parity, all last Mini-PCs were AMDs ;)
The performance of a HD 7750 is wellknown and this little card is in the most cases the slower part. This is from the other project:
I would like to know why there is no real SFF love in the AMD camp for non APU's, I really want a new mATX mobo with 3 PCI-e slots, so I can do a tri-fire setup with LC in my mini P180, 2x7970's just are not enough. I also want to replace my aging 890gxm-g65 so I can OC my FX8350, this board has known issues with its power circuitry beyond stock (I would know, I have cooked 3 of them, 2 from trying to OC, and one from a long gaming session)
At the $500 price range, I've seen many laptops that perform similarly to builds like this.
The laptops also have the advantage of:
- screen (don't have to use)
- battery (for power outage)
One disadvantage with gaming laptops is that under load the little fan tends to be annoying. It would be really cool if you could easily plug in an external cooling unit that bypasses that fan.
INTERESTING BUILD, though I would strongly disagree with the "good enough for an HDTV" comment about the graphics card. It's a gaming PC. Just because it's hooked up to an HDTV instead of a monitor doesn't make it "good enough"; Far Cry 3 still won't run great.
I'd like to see a little more CPU and GPU processing power while keeping noise in check. Let's see what can be done with $700?