$409 Cheap Bastard's Mini-ITX Gaming HTPC Build - August, 2014

By Published August 12, 2014 at 3:09 am
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Additional Info

  • Price: 409
  • Physical Size: HTPC / Mini
  • Purpose: Home Theater, Silent PC
  • CPU Preference: AMD

The new school year is upon us, and there's not much better time to build a PC that will enable both school-related tasks and also some light gaming. We put together a budget build that will not only allow the user to write those essays and build PowerPoint projects, but also play games like League of Legends, WoW, SW:TOR, and many other games that do not demand a great deal of power from the GPU. For only $414, you get a great PC that should be ideal for the student gamer.

This DIY gaming PC build guide aims to assemble a cheap, ultra-budget LoL and schoolwork system for under $500. As a bonus, a mini-ITX form factor ensures potential for use as an HTPC build or living room gaming PC / future DVR replacement.

$409 DIY AMD Budget Gaming HTPC Build - August, 2014

Gaming Parts List Name Price Rebates/etc. Total
CPU AMD A8-6600K $100 - $100
Memory Team Vulcan 2x4GB 2400MHz $80 Free Shipping $80
Motherboard ASRock FM2A88X-ITX $95 -$11,
Free Shipping
$84
Power Supply EVGA 500W PSU $40 -$5,
Free Shipping
$35
HDD WD Blue 1TB 7200RPM $60 Free Shipping $60
Case Thermaltake Core V1 ITX $50 - $50
Total   $425 -$16 $409

OS & Recommended Extras

Add-on Parts List Name Price Rebates/etc. Total
Optical Drive LG External Optical Drive $25 Free Shipping $25
CPU Cooler CM Hyper TX3 $20 -$5,
Free Shipping
$15
Video Card MSI GTX 750 Ti 2GB $150 -$10 $140
SSD Crucial MX100 256GB $112 Free Shipping $112
Operating System (Disc)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit $100 Free Shipping $100
Gaming Headset Plantronics GameCom 780 $60 - $60
Mechanical Keyboard Thermaltake Poseidon Z $70 - $70
Gaming Mouse Logitech G500s $50 - $50

How to Build a Gaming Computer - Step-by-Step Tutorial

APU

AMD A8-6600K ($100): This Richland APU is a bit dated, but for the purposes of a back-to-school / light gaming build, it's the most friendly on an ultra-thin budget at its price and performance. What you get here is a quad-core APU with a max CPU speed of 4.2 GHz, with integrated Radeon HD 8570D graphics on the chip. The 8570D comes with an 844 MHz core clock and relies upon system RAM for memory transactions. It only has 256 SPUs, but this will be fine for watching high-quality videos and light gaming; games that go well with the 8570D include SimCity, LoL, WoW, SW:TOR, and other games that do not require a more powerful GPU, as the Crysis and Battlefield series games do. This is the best option for the budget-minded.

Have $70 more to spend? We strongly recommend you pick up the A10-7850k APU. This APU is based on the more modern Kaveri architecture with 12 total cores (4 CPU + 8 GPU), a max turbo frequency of 4.0GHz and 2 x 2MB L2 cache. The integrated R7 series graphics is the best integrated chip available on the consumer market today. With 512 SPUs, you theoretically get twice as much computational output as the A8 linked above. You should be able to play most games out at medium to high settings, but may struggle with titles that require a lot from the IGP -- like the impending Far Cry 4.

Kaveri nets you the newest innovations, like HSA and hUMA, making this APU an investment for the future.

Aftermarket CPU Cooler (Optional)

We strongly recommend that you pick up an aftermarket heatsink. At this budget range, we would suggest buying something like Cooler Master's Hyper TX3 for $15 after MIR. Keep in mind that height will be a concern with the case (below, 140mm limit), and the TX3 just barely clears that limitation. Our usual recommendations are too large to fit in the case.

Memory

Team Vulcan 8GB 2400MHz RAM ($80): Because we're going with an APU in this build, we have to utilize faster RAM since the integrated graphics will rely on it. We've opted for 2x4GB of 2400MHz DDR3 RAM for $80. RAM prices have risen recently and, as we reported a few weeks ago, it looks like it'll keep going up from here. Team Vulcan has been a reliable upstart thus far, and 8GB at 2400MHz makes for a great baseline in this build.

Motherboard 

ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+ MoBo ($84): We decided to go with an mITX motherboard for a true small form factor (SFF) / HTPC build. This wonderfully small board from ASRock is jam-packed with just about everything you should require from a gaming motherboard at this price.

First off, builders get the latest chipset (Bolton D4) from AMD that comes with features supported by potential Kaveri upgrades in the future. It only has two slots for memory that can be overclocked up to 2400MHz, and can fit up to 32GB of dual-channel DDR3 RAM if planned accordingly (you won't find 2x16GB sticks, though). The board also comes with a single PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot in case you want to install a discrete GPU in the future, though PCI-e 3.0 won't be utilized by the card (can't saturate that throughput yet) or the CPU (unless upgrading to Kaveri). Six SATA 6Gb/s connections are also present on the board.

Other extras are included that aren't normally found in motherboards, like WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and onboard USB 3.0 headers. Then you get the usual rear panel ports like VGA, DVI, HDMI, USB 2.0 and 3.0, and one eSATA port. This is a great motherboard and should last you a good while with all of these features. On-board wireless also makes life easier in an HTPC environment.

Power Supply

EVGA 500W 80 Plus Certified PSU ($39): For this build, we went with this 500W PSU from EVGA. EVGA is a respected company when it comes to video cards and has expanded into boards and PSUs, and so far, they've done a good job at high-end power supplies. This power supply will meet all of your needs without the larger risk of taking out your system like some of the cheaper supplies have been known to do. 500W is more than enough for this build and gives room for a dGPU going forward; other features, like over-voltage protection, under-voltage protection, over-current protection, and short-circuit protection are also present. You also get a 3-year warranty, which is comforting to have for any component. This PSU is not modular, but paired with the right case (below!), this shouldn't be a big concern since the PSU compartment is separated from the rest, automatically hiding the cables from view.

HDD

Western Digital Blue 1TB 7200RPM HDD ($60): Once again, we've sourced a great deal on a 1TB HDD at $60. This drive provides a large starting capacity from a respected company in the storage environment. At 7200RPM, builders get a moderately fast drive with a 2-year limited warranty.

You also have the option to forego the HDD and pick up this Crucial MX100 256GB SSD for only $112. With the superior performance of an SSD compared to an HDD, this would be the greatest upgrade in performance for the smallest price increase. Then you could either pick up the HDD in addition or add it later as a storage drive.

Case

Thermaltake Core V1 Extreme mITX Cube ($50): This is my favorite part of these builds. I love picking out new cases that offer something different and innovative -- it helps keep the build concepts fresh in appearance, in the very least.

Here, we've selected the Thermaltake Core V1 Cube, and for the price you get a fairly versatile mini-ITX case. The placement of the power/reset, USB 3.0 ports, and A/V jacks has them positioned on the left hand side, allowing the entire front panel to serve as a mesh for the huge, pre-installed 200mm intake fan that will allow for superior cooling (and low noise) in a small form-factor build.

There is no external drive bay, so if you require an optical drive, you would have to pick up an external optical drive. Even though this case is small, it does allow for the installation of larger air cooling heatinks -- just check the 140mm height limitation (or ask for help) before purchase. The interior is divided into two compartments: the motherboard sits on top and the power supply and internal drive bays are situated below. This would allow for easier cable management to hide unused cables and secure the cables you do use. Because the motherboard sits horizontally, Thermaltake installed a clear panel on the top with the option to switch the clear panel to the side if preferred. As far as air cooling, this case only comes with the one 200mm fan installed in the front, but you can take that out and install a 140mm or 120mm fan, which would enable you to mount a form factor-appropriate CLC water cooler like the Corsair H60 or NZXT X31. You also can install 2x80mm rear fans, though they'd be noisy. 2 expansion slots are present for larger dGPUs

External Optical Drive (Optional)

LG USB 2.0 Ultra Slim External Optical Drive ($25): Since the case we linked has no space for an optical drive, you'd have to grab something like this LG drive if CDs / DVDs are a concern in the future. We'd recommending installing the OS via USB device.

Summer break is over for many of you (in perpetuity - how sad...) and almost over for the rest. Building a new system that's capable of school-related tasks and light gaming makes for a fun start back.

Please visit our forums for any questions or concerns, or feel free to post a quick question below! Until next time!

- Michael "Mikagmann2" Mann. 

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