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AMD Zacate Budget Nettop

AMD Budget Nettop
Component Product Name Price
CPU + Mobo ASRock E350M1 (AMD E-350) $110
Memory Patriot 2GB DDR3 1333 PSD32G13332 $22
Case + PSU Antec ISK 100 + 90W PSU $73
Storage Seagate Momentus 500GB 7200RPM 16MB $60
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit $100
Total Price $365

Next up is our AMD variant of the budget nettop. We’ll start with the motherboard and CPU (APU) choice, the ASRock E350M1. AMD’s new Fusion APUs (Accelerated Processing Units) combine a dual-core CPU and DX11 graphics onto a single die. AMD refers to this as the E-350 for the dual-core model, and they call the GPU the HD 6310. We’ve already provided ample coverage of AMD’s new platform, and overall Brazos/Zacate is a much more pleasing solution than Intel’s Atom—or even NVIDIA’s ION. Really, there’s not much reason to go with the Intel Atom/ION systems in this guide over this budget AMD nettop unless you can find an Atom board on clearance somewhere. This ASRock board features an eSATA port, as well as VGA, DVI, and HDMI ports. It also uses regular desktop memory so make sure you get the correct type of RAM. We’ve selected a Patriot 2GB DDR3-1333 module, as 2GB is sufficient to run Aero and moderately multitask.

You could easily keep the same case, HDD, and DVDRW as the Intel system, but we’ve mixed things up a bit to provide some other options. This time, we’re going with the Antec ISK 100, which is my favorite mini-ITX enclosure. It includes a silent, high-efficiency 90W external power brick, a quiet but effective 100mm fan, four front USB2 ports, and space for two 2.5” hard drives mounted below the motherboard. Assembly is time-consuming, but the finished product is worth the effort in my opinion. Note that it does not have space for an optical drive, though you can always go the external drive route.

For storage, we’ve selected a Seagate Momentus 500GB 7200RPM drive. This is a drive that we’ve seen in dozens of laptops over the past year, and while performance is nothing like an SSD it will still get the job done. Unlike 3.5” drives, pricing is quite a bit higher, and the minimum ~$40 drives are usually 160GB 5400RPM models (or $45 for a 250GB drive). The choice of case thus ends up increasing the cost of storage, but we’re willing to make the trade in the name of style. You can choose a less expensive drive if you’re looking to cut costs, or perhaps if you want an optimal configuration you could buy a 60GB SSD for the OS and apps and add in a larger 5400RPM drive for mass storage, but that definitely wouldn’t be “budget” by any stretch.

With the selected components, the total system cost comes to $365, so for the added performance and flexibility over the Atom configuration you’re paying $37. If you use the same case and storage options as the Atom setup, the total drops to $355, making the difference just $27. This particular system is also slightly cheaper than the base mobo + CPU we’ll use in the higher-end Intel Atom + ION system, though the other component choices will bump the upgraded system cost up quite a bit. Considering that E-350 is a superior platform overall, the added price relative to stock Atom is worthwhile unless you’re sure you don’t care about Flash video support and other graphically intensive content. We’d prefer to give up hard drive space to afford the extra $27 relative to the base Intel setup, though.

The Budget Intel Atom Nettop Intel Upgraded HTPC Nettop
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  • codedivine - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    Great article. I also hope that AT will cover even more mini-itx and small form factor stuff in the future. I have been looking at compact gaming builds (which is different from the HTPC focus of this article) and reliable info is a little hard to gather on the topic. Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    I second the SFF gaming rigs. Almost every publication(not pointing fingers at AT here, this is across the board) have two classifications of users: gamers with a 50 pound full size ATX boat anchor, and light workload people with SFF Atom machines. There are plenty of people out there cramming i5s and i7s into DTX cases along with high end graphics cards, but they're only represented in forums. Reply
  • ggolemg - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    Bought the MSI E350IA-E45 AMD Fusion ITX Motherboard, paired it with a mechanical 7200 rpm hdd, 8GB patriot 1333 ddr3 ram, great little setup if you do *not* want to be able to view 720p streaming video. It is just absolutely worthless as a streaming HTPC for web video. Went so far as to move chrome/firefox's cache to ram to try and improve speed. Hulu is just ok, still stutters here and there, any other streaming sites are just about worthless at greater than 480p.

    My whole setup was ~$450 of wasted cash.

    Maybe I can overdo the cooling and overclock, that would be about the only way this could ever be used for what I want.
    Reply
  • metaltoiletry - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    I was scared of that happening when I built my HTPC a little over a year ago or so. After reading reviews I went for overkill.

    Zotac mini-ITX w/ wifi 9300 (integrated Nvidia 9300)
    4gb of DDR2
    Intel Q8200 with a Cooler Master Gemini (ii? I think and replaced the fan with a slim 120mm - otherwise it wouldn't fit in the case.)
    Silverstone Sugo (included efficient 300w PSU - maybe it's 350 - can't remember)
    Silverstone slim Bluray drive
    7200rpm HDD

    Everything works flawless, though, cost almost twice as much as your setup.
    Reply
  • hnzw rui - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    Built a year ago and have had no problems with the CPU not being fast enough. Granted, issues with 24p content exists, but that doesn't really affect me since my TV doesn't support 24p.

    Silverstone Sugo SG-05 w/300W PSU, $100
    Intel DH57JG, $120
    Intel Core i3-530, $100 (MicroCenter)
    Kingston 2x2GB DDR3 1333, $80 (RAM prices were still high back then)
    Scythe Big Shuriken, $35
    Western Digital WD10EADS, $70

    TOTAL: $505

    No optical drive, though. I stream everything from the media server or the internet (Hulu, Netflix, etc). If SSD's were cheaper back then, I'd have used one for this build.
    Reply
  • Gigantopithecus - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    How bizarre! All of the E-350 systems I've built handle 720p video via YouTube and Hulu full screened with aplomb; YouTube 1080p full screened also works smoothly. Hell even the Atom 525 with GMA3150 is sufficient for streaming 720p. I'd strongly recommend looking into driver-related issues - as well as which version of Flash you're using (update to 10.2). Good luck! Reply
  • qhoa1385 - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    weird, my set up can handle 1080p no problem
    my GIGABYTE GA-E350N-USB3 with 4GB 1333 Ram, 5400 drive can handle any 1080p i throw at it

    I'd say probably driver issues
    Reply
  • iuqiddis - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    As the folks before me have mentioned, you might have a driver problem. I have a lenovo x120e with AMD E-350, and it streams youtube 1080p and 720p perfectly. Reply
  • ET - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    The E-350 should be powerful enough for what you need. It's a matter of drivers and software. I've seen people report problems on E-350 and C-50 laptops and that were solved with updates and setting changes. Enough people are playing videos well on an E-350 that I see no reason why you shouldn't. Go to a good forum and ask for help. Reply
  • karhill - Monday, April 25, 2011 - link

    I've got that MSI E350 Zacate board in a Windows 7 64bit ITX machine (2GB ram) and it runs Hulu 480p just fine. It runs 720p youtube flash content without issues. It runs netflix content just fine. It runs 1080p youtube content 95% fine (an occassional stutter in high-activity scenes). Reply

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