Cheap mITX build

Sn0_Man

Gawd
Joined
Mar 23, 2012
Messages
778
Hi all,

I'm looking at putting together a SFF PC for my technically challenged grandparents. Their 7+ year old P4 is locking up now so its time for them to upgrade and I figured why not give them a nice small tower.

1. What will you be doing with this PC? Gaming, Photoshop (or other intensive programs), Overclocking, Web browsing, strictly HTPC/Playback, etc. (If you have multiple things you want to do with the system, make sure you rank them from most important to least important).

Web browsing, email, word processing, some light video playback eg. Youtube

2. What's your budget? Are tax and shipping included in this budget? Is your budget flexible? Is cost a driving factor in component selection?

The budget is flexible, but the cheaper the better. Sub $500 ideally for the parts I will list. I can afford anything, but obviously I'm looking to save as much money as possible while doing it right.

3. Where do you live? Do you have any big B&M (brick and mortar) computer chains nearby (e.g. Microcenter, Fry's, etc)?

I live in Calgary, Canada. Nearby the best store available is MemoryExpress. Beyond that, I'm comfortable with most major e-tailers.

4. What exact parts do you need for that budget? CPU, RAM, case, etc. The word "Everything" is not a valid answer. Please list out all the parts you'll need.

I need:

Case
Mobo
CPU
RAM
DVD Drive
possibly wifi card


5. If reusing any parts, what parts will you be reusing? Please be especially specific about the power supply. For reused parts, list brands, model #s, and, if applicable, firmware revisions.

I'll be reusing a Crucial m4 128GB SSD so hopefully that should cover them (they dont have much in the way of bulk storage so I'm hoping to dodge a regular HDD)

6. What specific features do you need in a motherboard? RAID? Firewire? Crossfire or SLI support? USB 3.0? SATA 6Gb/s? etc. Which is more important, size of the system or having the particular feature? Make sure you indicate *required* vs. *wanted* for each feature you list.

Required:
DDR3 Support

Wanted:
Sata 6Gb/s
WiFi

7. What resolution output do you need? 1080p, 720p, DVD quality, etc for HTPC or list Vertical/horizontal resolution for non-HTPC SFF rigs. Do you need multiple monitor output?

Single monitor 1080p should be plenty, the plan is to utilize onboard graphics.

8. Does this system need to fit into a particular space? Think entertainment center shelves, closet space, rackmount, etc.

Nope, just the smaller the better. I have a particular case that I'm rather enamoured with but I could probably be convinced to change my mind.

9. How comfortable are you with custom case design/modification and electrical wiring? What tools do you have (Screwdrivers/Leatherman, Drill, Dremel, Metal snips, Soldering Iron, Bending Brake, CNC/Welding machines/Plasma cutter, etc...)?

I'd really rather not do much in the way of mods, but I have screwdrivers, drills, soldering iron etc available if I really have to.

10. How important is the noise/silence of this sytem? HTPCs typically want to be quiet while all-out SFF gaming rigs don't care

I'd like to keep it quiet, but absolute silence is not required.

11. How mobile does this system need to be? Need a carrying handle or carrying straps? Is weight important (carry-on bag, etc)? Water cooling quick disconnects, etc?

Light is good, but I don't anticipate it weighing enough to cause an issue no matter what I do here.

12. Do you already have a legit and reusable/transferable OS key/license? If yes, what OS? Is it 32bit or 64bit? Remember that OEM copies of Win7 have issues with new motherboards

Oh yeah, I'll need to buy Win7 Home Premium OEM with the mobo I suppose. My local B&M store carries it but I'm not sure what the sale restrictions are on the OEM version?

13. When do you plan on building/buying the PC? Immediately, in a couple weeks, 3-5 years?

ASAP (hopeful deadline: Entirely assembled by May 5th)

For starters, I really like this case: Link

Most of my questions revolve around motherboard/processor combinations. The cheapest SB i3 costs $130 which is more than I was really hoping to pay. Llano A6 APU's cost closer to $70, which is much more attractive. However, I can't find a reasonable mITX motherboard supporting the FM1 socket for less than about $150, which entirely negates any savings the processor would get me. So I'm thinking of sticking with a cheap i3, and grabbing a cheap mobo. Something like This processor and This MoBo.

Sorry for the immense wall of text. Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks!
 

vipz

Gawd
Joined
Apr 11, 2005
Messages
818
Zacate would be significantly slower than an i3 or A6.

OP, have you considered the SB Pentiums? They're closer to $100 and only lose HT and some clock speed from the i3, I believe.
 

Sn0_Man

Gawd
Joined
Mar 23, 2012
Messages
778
Why not just pick up a cheap Zacate board & stick in there?

I didn't know Zacate existed. TBH I'm only somewhat knowledgeable about high-end hardware since I did a lot of research for my $1700 build, so I don't know anything about cheap processors, especially performance/$ sweet spots. If you care to link me a decent Zacate mITX board that you think would work for word processing, email, browsing and maybe some slightly more demanding stuff (not really any gaming though) I would be quite grateful.


Zacate would be significantly slower than an i3 or A6.

OP, have you considered the SB Pentiums? They're closer to $100 and only lose HT and some clock speed from the i3, I believe.

I hadn't looked at that, I just assumed that Pentiums were ancient haha. The only ones that I can find are G620 for 70+shipping, G850 for 93+shipping, or (even older gen?) G6950 for 100 locally. Any reccomendations there?

Again, I really appreciate the input from both of you, Thanks!
 

vipz

Gawd
Joined
Apr 11, 2005
Messages
818
The G6950 is 1156 and won't fit in any Sandy Bridge mobos.

Both the G620 and G850 should be plenty for your intended usage. The G850 is clocked slightly higher and supports faster RAM, but I doubt anyone would be able to tell the difference (~10%) in practice.

I would not bother with Zacate unless the user is willing to tolerate netbook level performance: http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/406?vs=328
 

Sn0_Man

Gawd
Joined
Mar 23, 2012
Messages
778
Alright. One more question: The case that I'm looking at has a 120w PSU. That should be enough but there is another version with a 60w PSU. It occured to me that if I purchased an i3 2120t (the key being the "t" on the end) which has a TDP of 35w I could then use the smaller power supply. Would 60w be enough to run an i3-2120t + 8GB ddr3 + an SSD + a slotloading DVD drive?

Thanks!
 

Igor99

n00b
Joined
Feb 1, 2012
Messages
29
As some else says, the SB Celeron and pentimento CPUs are quite good. You might look at tehreviews on Newegg for the different models.

For the motherboard, consider the new H77s. I think they have built in WiFi, which you mentioned wanting.
 

vipz

Gawd
Joined
Apr 11, 2005
Messages
818
I don't know, but I'd lean toward to the 120W unit unless the price or space saving is significant.
 

Dangman

Ninja Editor SuperMod
Joined
Dec 15, 2005
Messages
46,062
Alright. One more question: The case that I'm looking at has a 120w PSU. That should be enough but there is another version with a 60w PSU.
What case are you looking at?
It occured to me that if I purchased an i3 2120t (the key being the "t" on the end)
The i3 2120T really isn't worth it. The low TDP is achieved by substantially lowering the clock of a regular Core i3 2120. As such, the i3 2120T will perform around the level of the Pentium G850. At full load, the G850 won't use that much more power than the i3 2120T, 3W at most.

So might as well go for the G850 over the Core i3 2120T: Similar performance, similar power usage, yet is $42 CAD cheaper.
Would 60w be enough to run an i3-2120t + 8GB ddr3 + an SSD + a slotloading DVD drive?
!
Yes. And yes it will be enough for the G850 as well. But it would be a tad close. I'd go with the 120W version if within budget,
 

Sn0_Man

Gawd
Joined
Mar 23, 2012
Messages
778
120w Case: http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811321018

60w version: http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811321015

Its really not a big deal, I was just wondering. Also it was mentioned that the G850 would support "faster" ram than the G620. I didn't see anywhere where it clarified what speeds would be supported? would 1600Mhz see any gain over 1333Mhz (or 1066?). I wouldn't be interested in overclocking the memory in a build like this, for what that is worth.
 
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Machupo

Gravity Tester
Joined
Nov 14, 2004
Messages
5,280
The Apexi MI-008 isn't a great case, but you won't have any issues with heat if you're planning on going with a lower power processor.

Here is a combo for the case/psu/h67 (has both sata 6G and USB 3.0) mobo for $128: http://www.newegg.ca/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.869795

Here is a G620 for $70: http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819116399

4GB DDR3-1333 for $19: http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820226216

DVD Burner for $16: http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827151244

Now, that totals up to $243, so hopefully tax/shipping won't be too much! :D


options:
- 8GB of ram for $18 more: http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820226191
- G850 processor for $23 more: http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819116397
- i3-2120 processor for $52 more: http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115077
- at these power loads, you could also get a pico-psu (for ~$40) if the psu in this case freaks you out :)
- couldn't find a USB wifi dongle, but I bet you can source one locally

i'm sure there's more out there :)
 
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DesertCat

Gawd
Joined
Jun 14, 2006
Messages
565
To throw out a suggestion that may cause a re-think, you may want to consider one of the D2700 atom boards. The latest Cedar Trail ones are dual core with hyper threading, have 1080P capable integrated graphics, and the D2700 takes only 10W. Though the standard Intel chipset only has SATA 3Gbps, Jetway has a board that includes the chip for two SATA 6Gbps connections. It also includes a mini pcie slot so a person could potentially add a Wifi card that way. The trick is that you would either want to drill and add external wifi antennas or use internal wifi antennas (example: http://www.amazon.com/Tyco-Wifi-Blu...0LE8/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1335287967&sr=8-2 )

Alternatively, that board has a standard PCI slot, so you could also add the WIFI with a standard PCI card. Depending on your case, though, you might need to find a wifi hard that is half height in order to fit the case. That slot would not, however, be available on the Habey cases you list.

If I was building a "granny box" right now, I would seriously consider this board: http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813153239

That gets you the motherboard and processor (and graphics) for $159. Note the board uses SO-DIMM memory, so you wouldn't be able to use regular desktop memory. Really not that big of a deal if you are buying new.

Edit: Note that you would want to buy a 32-bit version of Win7 for this. Apparently CedarTrail atom processors are capable of 64-bit but Jetway does not have it enabled in their BIOS.
 
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Sn0_Man

Gawd
Joined
Mar 23, 2012
Messages
778
I'm sorry if I ruin this for anyone, but the 120W case sort of resembles a clown :D

The 60w one has the same white DVD cover but its not installed in the picture... It fooled me at first which was why I was more interested in it. Now that I know that they are the same I'll stick with 120w.

Besides, I think it looks good... :D
 

vipz

Gawd
Joined
Apr 11, 2005
Messages
818
The 60w one has the same white DVD cover but its not installed in the picture... It fooled me at first which was why I was more interested in it. Now that I know that they are the same I'll stick with 120w.

Besides, I think it looks good... :D

You could always spray paint it :D

(Ah, looks like the cover is only for a slot-loading slim drive.)
 
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