Building a quiet, simple, and tiny gaming PC is no longer a challenge left to the most talented of modders -- with mini-ITX motherboards, IGP and APU processors that have strong integrated graphics chips, and the low-power consumption of SSDs, we can throw together a system capable of gaming, media playback, and can fit in any space for dirt cheap.
This system was built against our $800 Intel variant (which offers a dedicated video card - something this one doesn't have), but if you're looking for a more traditional gaming desktop, give our $558 budget build a look over.
Our objective here is to build an ultra-small, portable, gaming / HTPC for specific uses on a budget. Using AMD's Llano APU, we can combine reasonable graphics processing with a decent processor for medium-spec'd gaming.
Here's that list we all love:
|HTPC Parts List||Name||Price||Rebates/etc.||Total|
|CPU / IGP||AMD A8-3870K APU (COMBO 1)||$120||-$13, Free Shipping||$107|
|Memory||G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB 1333MHz||$44||Free Shipping||$43|
|Motherboard||ASRock A75M-ITX (COMBO 1)||$90||Free Shipping||$90|
|SSD||Kingston HyperX 3K 120GB SSD||$120||-$30, Free Shipping||$90|
|Optical Drive||Samsung DVD burner||$24||-||$24|
|Case & PSU||SilverStone Sugo SG06 + 300W PSU||$120||-||$120|
Optional Add-ons (pick and choose as budget allows)
|Add-on Parts List||Name||Price||Rebates/etc.||Combined Total|
|Blu-Ray Drive||Plextor BD (remove the samsung drive)||$70||Free Shjpping||$545|
|Operating System ||Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium||$100||Free Shipping||$645|
AMD's A8-3870k Llano APU ships at 3.0GHz with some room for overclocking (as it is an unlocked CPU) and has a powerful enough (6550D) integrated GPU to output StarCraft 2 on medium settings at 1680x1050 resolution with a resolute 68FPS (source), not to mention its ability to run Civilization V on medium-low settings and even Battlefield 3 on low settings at the same resolution.
For a budget media center PC that's also capable of gaming, it doesn't get much better than this without springing for a dedicated video card and case (like the Silverstone SG08) that accommodates it.
We snagged 2x4GB of PC3-10666 memory (1333MHz) for a clean $44. The RAM is fully compatible with the motherboard (natively supporting 1333MHz and has some overclock potential) and will be more than enough for any gaming done on the rig.
G.Skill's Ripjaws series memory has worked well on dozens of our builds in the past, and their cool design fits our needs for this tiny system perfectly.
AMD's weak-spot in mini-ITX computing is its limited motherboard options - a snare that Intel doesn't have to worry about. With such a limited selection of FM1-socketed mini-ITX motherboards available, we ended up picking ASRock's A75M-ITX board, affordable at $90 with free shipping.
The board suits 1333MHz memory natively, but can clock up to 1600MHz or higher (though we don't recommend going much higher than that without first asking us about it). The board only has two memory slots, as is standard in mini-ITX boards, and can fit up to 16GB of memory should you decide to go with single 8GB sticks. It's also equipped with SATA III (6Gb/s) ports, so our below SSD will get its full usage.
After reviewing the 240GB version of Kingston's new-ish HyperX 3K SSDs, we found ourselves impressed with the company's affordability and quality design (we also posted a recent interview with Kingston about their company philosophy).
The HyperX 3K SSD is fast, low-power consuming, and reliable - the fact that it's currently bundled with a $30 rebate makes it an obvious choice.
This slim (laptop-sized) internal CD/DVD burner can do what we need it to do when it's used, and that's about all we expect from optical drives in this era of digital media. If you're looking to use this system as a media PC, grab this external blu-ray drive for $45 more instead.
Case & PSU:
300W seems so low compared to what we're used to in gaming rigs, but it's ample for such a minimalistic build as this one. Silverstone's Sugo SG06 case comes ready with 300W of power, a front-mounted 120mm fan to push a little air through the case, and enough extras to meet your media center's requirements. The case is even compatible with some aftermarket heatsinks, so that's always a nice bonus.
Keep in mind that this is a mini-ITX form factor case, so it glides into almost any space at 11.25" x 8.6" x 7".
Let us know if you have any questions about this build or would like help customizing it in the comments below! Our forums are always open to in-depth questions and more personalization of the builds, too.
-Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke.