I rarely have the chance to do an enthusiast build as I'm normally tasked with doing the cheaper PC builds, like the $475 Cheap Bastard's Gaming PC that we recently published. It's been a while since we've done an enthusiast build -- in fact, this is the first of its type this year. We decided it'd be a great time to see what we could do with a higher budget while retaining a small and versatile form factor. The goal was to build a small form factor PC that could do just about anything you typically required from a gaming or video editing rig; this could double as an HTPC for those who'd like a living room gaming machine.
I was able to fit a core i5-4670k, MSI Z87i motherboard, and GTX 770 all inside the extremely versatile Corsair Obsidian 250D mini-ITX case that we saw at CES. This $1100 gaming HTPC build can handle just about anything you throw at it, including gaming at max settings and video editing / game streaming tasks.
Many of you may not be familiar with Cryorig. They're a relative newcomer to the PC Cooling game and have only just started putting out CPU coolers; last fall they released their R1 Ultimate cooler that reportedly did reasonably well for an initial release. Now, they're venturing into the small form factor arena with the upcoming C1 Cooler. Cryorig makes some bold statements when it comes to performance and seem to have done their homework.
Despite all of our gaming coverage emerging from PAX East, we still made the rounds with our regularly-visited hardware manufacturers. Rosewill was among them, as always.
At CES 2014, I explained in a few camera discussions that mini-ITX cases were going to become a major trend for the year; the advent of Steam OS and Valve's impending Steam boxes only emboldens the expansion of home theater PCs (HTPCs), of which mini-ITX enclosures are a major component choice to consider. Cases are normally pretty low on the list of prioritized components, but when you're building small, there are suddenly a lot of concerns: Clearance for VGAs and coolers, CPU coolers, drives, and thermal challenges are all factors worthy of attention.
Rosewill had their Legacy line-up at CES, but most of the cases there were primarily uninteresting to our gaming-focused staff. PAX East brought the unveil of the Legacy W1, a mini-ITX case that floats toward a middle-size and makes room for larger components. Here's my video walkthrough:
Small form factor enclosures were huge at this year's CES. Last year we saw a few behemoths -- like the 900D -- but with the advent of "Steam machines" and boxes like the Brix Pro, mini-ITX is gaining traction in the marketplace. Some companies have always been in the space, others are riding the trendy wave; SilverStone is a good example of a manufacturer that's been present since the get-go, especially with their high-quality SG08.
Lian-Li is another that's been in the mATX/mITX game for a while. As with nearly all Lian-Li enclosures, the PC-TU100 is a fully-aluminum case with a brushed-like finish. All-aluminum materials lend to a 4 pound overall weight, aided by the small 6.3" x 10.8" x 9.5" dimensions. The case is targeted at those who move their systems around a lot -- LAN gaming is the easy example -- and is equipped with a handle, a single cooling fan, and enough space for a low-profile video card.
In this quick Lian-Li PC-TU100 case overview and unboxing, we'll look at the specs and primary uses for what is one of the lightest mini-ITX cases.
We briefly mentioned this PSU in a few posts around the web after our CES meeting with SilverStone, where the company showcased an external GPU enclosure. Finally, after a small CEBIT unveiling, we're allowed to post some information about the new SilverStone small form factor power supply.
While at CES, we were told that an SFX PSU following-up the company's 450W unit was in the works, and that "engineering advancements" might have pushed it closer to 600W; we were also told that 80 Plus Gold could be a possibility, but the company asked that we withheld information until a later date.
It's been a while since our last proper home theater gaming PC build; as Steam's Big Picture mode continues to develop, and with the impending arrival of Steam's Linux gaming platform, HTPCs now have more big-name support than ever before. This time, I wanted to put together an "enthusiast-class" HTPC, meant for those who want to play games on high resolutions with maximum settings and play around with overclocking, too.
Using several Cyber Monday & remnant Black Friday deals, we're able to put together a high-end gaming computer for relatively low cost. This $1028 HTPC build is best used as a DIY DVR or Big Picture gaming PC (for the likes of Assassin's Creed IV, Battlefield 4, Thief, etc.).
When I set-out to build this one, I struggled for a good ten minutes on one motherboard versus another... and ultimately decided to put together a list of components that I thought would be fun to build, not just functional. This system packs a couple TFLOPs of power in a small box and will run relatively quietly, so let's hit the list!
As Cable companies find themselves facing their impending obsolescence, we've seen a surge in interest for living room PCs that double as DVR replacements and gaming consoles; our original $357 gaming HTPC posts proved the affordability of these custom builds, but today we're out to prove their versatility.
Today's build makes use of Intel's i3-3220 dual-core IvyBridgeprocessor and accompanying discrete 2GB 7850 VGA, making for a significantly more powerful system than what integrated graphics (even the 7660D/G) can offer. For around $700, you end up with a small form factor gaming HTPC build that functions as a DVR and console replacement; the 7850 has been proven as a gaming-class card for mid-to-high settings and the i3-3220 performs admirably in nearly all gaming applications, perhaps with exception to Crysis 3 (which spawns more active threads and is fairly everything-intensive). More on CPU choice below.
Our regular "Mik's Picks" piece sees a break for Michael Mann this weekend -- I'll be filling in for the hardware sales. For this weekend's hardware sales, we've located sound-dampening case mod materials, an SSD, open air case, CPU, and Intel NUC.
A recent surge in fascination with integrated graphics processing technology may prove to be healthy for the hardware industry; as AMD (through Trinity) and Intel (through HD X000 IGPs) battle it out, these tiny systems have never been a more viable option for living room PC gamers. Aside from making excellent living room PCs and DIY / home-made consoles, the smaller builds we've worked with tend to be quiet and LAN party-friendly, which is great for the lite gamer who wants a discrete box.
In the coming weeks, we'll cover a wide range of HTPC topics (including video guides on how you can make the most of yours), with the goal of proving the viability of HTPCs as gaming platforms. But in preparation for those posts, we're kicking it all off with this: A review of SilverStone's SGUO SG08 HTPC case, which we'll be using for the ensuing articles. You'll find the video review below.
Our previous two HTPC build guides (a $475 option and $825 option) utilized Silverstone SUG-series, shuttle-styled cases. These cases are fantastic, but a bit pricey; in an exercise of price-slashing, we assembled a ~$300 HTPC with cheap-but-effective components. This worked out well, and as a result, we'll be posting several HTPC articles over the next month or two (based upon two different builds we did).
A video review accompnies this written review - see below for the embedded video.
This review will focus directly on the case of the cheap HTPC build. Cases are, for some reason, exceedingly difficult for me to choose; I've always debated heavily over case choice. This is, in part, because I'm a proponent of system style and like my computers to have an overarching theme. The theme of this system, though, was dirt cheap. APEX offers their DM-387 minimalistic case for somewhere in the range of $45 (it was on sale for $35 when we picked it up), so it fit the bill; it ships with a 275W PSU, even further accommodating the self-imposed price limitations.
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