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Silent, But Deadly: Build Your Own Gaming-Ready 0 dB PC

Hard Choices: Motherboard And CPU

Choosing a Motherboard and CPU

We narrowed our choices down to two AMD Trinity-based APUs and a Socket FM2 motherboard. The APUs proved to give us the best balance between an all-around build intended to handle a variety of tasks, including light gaming. We did try an Ivy Bridge-based Pentium on one of Zotac's motherboards, expecting efficiency to seal the deal. However, graphics performance simply wasn't ample for what we wanted to do.

Thus, APUs were our only remaining option, so we picked the A6-5400K and A10-5700. According to AMD's specifications, both chips have 66 W thermal ceilings. In reality, though, the A6-5400K never reaches 66 W. The A10-5700 does, making a noticeable difference in trying to keep our system cooled passively. In the end, we're able to get both APUs cooled without a fan, but the A10-5700 cuts it close.

You may decide the A10 isn't the best choice, particularly in a warmer climate. If you do want one, we recommend adding a fan that kicks in when it's needed (we'll talk more about that shortly). First, though, let’s see how our two picks slot into AMD’s current line-up of desktop APUs:

APUCoresBase Clock FrequencyMax. Turbo Core  FrequencyGPUShadersGPU Clock FrequencyL2 CacheTDP
A10-5800K43.8 GHz4.2 GHzHD 7660D384800 MHz4 MB100 W
A10-570043.4 GHz4.0 GHzHD 7660D384760 MHz4 MB65 W
A8-5600K43.6 GHz3.9 GHzHD 7560D256760 MHz4 MB100 W
A8-550043.2 GHz3.7 GHzHD 7560D256760 MHz4 MB65 W
A6-5400K23.6 GHz3.8 GHzHD 7540D192760 MHz1 MB65 W
A4-530023.4 GHz3.6 GHzHD 7480D128723 MHz1 MB65 W

Motherboard: MSI FM2-A75IA-E53

We picked a mini-ITX motherboard instead of an mATX board on purpose. Mainly, a smaller form factor keeps the case's insides as open as possible.

The enormous CPU cooler we're using makes connecting all of the cables somewhat of a challenge, though. In a couple of pages, we'll give you a brief guide for installing the motherboard; doing this in the right order is important.

MSI FM2-A75IA-E53 Technical Specifications
CPU (Maximum Supported)AMD A10/A8/A6/A4 Series
ChipsetAMD A75
DDR3 MemoryDDR3 1066/1333/1600/1866/2133
Memory Channels2
DIMM Slots2
Memory (Maximum Supported)32 GB
PCIe x161
PCIe GenerationSecond-Gen (1x16)
SATA 6Gb/s4
Trusted Platform Module (TPM)1
USB 3.0 Ports (Rear Panel)2
USB 2.0 Ports (Read Panel)4
Audio Ports (Rear Panel)3+Optical SPDIF
VGA Maximum Shared Memory (MB)2 GB
Form FactorMini-ITX
Dual Graphics SupportYes (HD 6570, 6670)