iBUYPOWER SBX "Steam Machine" Ships at $400 - We Think You Should Just DIY Instead

By Published October 09, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Everyone's making a home theater PC now. They've all entered the market, but we've seen names vary from “HTPC” to “Steam Machine” to “Mini Gaming PC.” They're everywhere: We recently reviewed Zotac's EN760 gaming box outfitted with the 860M, a ~$500 solution to mid-range gaming in the living room; Syber Gaming, a subsidiary of CyberPower, also has solutions shipping; Gigabyte has its Brix that we've spoken about; Alienware is making a mini PC for the living room, too.

After its CES debut, system integrator iBUYPOWER has officially launched its “SBX” entertainment system, a dedicated cross-breed of a console/PC for the living room.

The marketing text boasts a sustainable 60FPS for gaming at 1080p, as powered by AMD semiconductors. Four SKUs of the SBX exist, to include a barebones model ($400, no controller or OS), controller model ($460, includes Xbox 360 wireless controller), Windows model ($550 – controller + Win 8.1), and “Plus” model ($700 – 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD, controller, Win 8.1).


Case 1 x iBUYPOWER SBX Chassis
Processor 1 x AMD Athlon 740 CPU [SBX]
Memory 1 x 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 Memory [SBX] (Note: 1x4GB for barebones)
Video Card 1 x AMD Radeon R7 250X 1GB GDDR5 [SBX]
Motherboard 1 x iBUYPOWER FM2A78M+ ITX [SBX]
Primary Hard Drive 1 x 1TB 2.5" Hard Drive [SBX]
Internal Wireless Network Adapter 1 x 802.11ac + Bluetooth Combo [SBX]
Game Controller 1 x Xbox 360 Wireless Controller
Operating System 1 x Windows 8.1 + Office 365 Trial [Free 30-Day !!!] 64-bit
Monitor X
2nd Monitor X
Carrying Case X
Webcam X
Warranty 1 x 3 Year Standard Warranty Service
Rush Service 1 x SBX Pre-Order (Start Shipping in November)

The SBX resembles what most modern home consoles do – it's narrow and moderately tall, able to be positioned horizontally (like a set-top box) or stood vertically. The unit features a thin LED strip centrally, for those who want yet more lights in their lives.

It took some digging, somewhat begrudgingly, but we were eventually able to locate the SBX's specifications. All SKUs ship with AMD's Athlon 740 CPU – one of the lowest-cost, lowest-end CPUs on the market – and the Radeon R7 250X 1GB GPU. We're yet unsure if the GPU is user-serviceable. Memory included in the barebones SKU is clocked at 1600MHz for a single 4GB stick; the “Pro” uses 1x8GB stick at 1600MHz, which is plenty for gaming use cases.

Because Steam OS isn't ready for official inclusion on hardware just yet, the units ship either with no OS or with Windows 8.1, as the Alienware box and other competing mini PCs have done. You could theoretically turn the SBX into a “Steam Machine” by installing SteamOS on your own accord, but that'd be a user activity unsupported by IBP. Easily done, though.

Tearing it Down -- Impressive Price, but DIY Advantage is Overwhelming

Let's tear-down the specs of an SBX Raw (4GB RAM, 500GB HDD, $400) and build our own version of this, then compare cost.

iBUYPOWER is using the FM2A78M+ mini-ITX board for the SBX, likely supplied by ASRock That costs about $70. We know the CPU is AMD's quad-core Athlon 740 3.2GHz CPU, priced at ~$75. iBUYPOWER's site also advertises an R7 250X 1GB video card, priced at $68. A single stick of 4GB memory at 1600MHz costs us $37, using the HyperX Fury line we reviewed recently. Azza's Mini-ITX tower is pretty similar to what IBP is selling, so we'll just use that for the enclosure (we've got one for review and like it thus far) – that's $40. We know the HDD of the SBX Raw is 500GB, but don't know the RPM. I'd guess 5400RPM, but that's not good enough (in our opinions at GN), so we're going to opt for 7200RPM / 500GB at $51; you could go up to 1TB for $60, though.

Finally, we need a power supply. This is a system build, so it can't be externally-powered. Let's just opt for Corsair's CX430 – a relatively reliable PSU for low-end builds – priced at $20 after MIR right now.

And that's a system that's pretty comparable to the SBX, but potentially has some higher-end hardware in it; you'd also be building it yourself, of course, which is a potential downside depending on the user. You'd have to include the wireless AC adapter – probably one of the only very noteworthy additions in the SBX – so that runs you up another $50 or more.

The total cost for this build, done yourself, would be $411 with the wireless antenna, and you get stronger hardware in some instances. That's about the same cost as what iBUYPOWER is selling. Pretty impressive in terms of what IBP is offering – you'd expect a much higher mark-up for something built and shipped by another party. The price is $361 if you cut the AC card and favor ethernet instead.

As impressive as the cost is, I really don't like the hardware they've selected. The 250X is a 7770 – a good video card in its own right, but not something that'll play games at greater settings than low/medium (at very best) with 1080p resolution. Check our game benchmarks, look at the 7850, and assume a lower rank than that – that's where it'd stand. And at $75 for an Athlon 740, you're really better off opting for either Intel's G3258 at $70 (maybe overclocking it, which is easily done) or AMD's Athlon 760K at $80. You'd have to change the board for Intel, granted, which would do well as ASRock's H97M-ITX/ac board at $80, including wireless AC (which cuts the AC card requirement).

Going the Intel route, the cost is $366 – including AC, a better CPU, motherboard, and chipset. Put that extra ~$40-$50 you've just saved toward a GTX 750 Ti 2GB GPU ($130 over the $70 250X) and suddenly you've got a quality gaming system on a serious budget that'll pump high graphics to most titles. Still, the SBX isn't a bad consideration if buying for someone who won't build a system.

What a difference the DIY approach makes.

Still want it? Learn more here: http://www.ibuypower.com/Product/SBX

- Steve “Lelldorianx” Burke.

Last modified on October 09, 2014 at 4:48 pm
Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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