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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  • StardogChampion - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    A link would be helpful: http://outsidethestb.blogspot.com/2011/02/dc-psu-m...

    Leave a comment with contact info if interested or drop my the HTPC forum on AVSForum.com and find me. I build them to order.

    It's a crazy hobby, isn't it?
    Reply
  • FullHiSpeed - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    "the case is 7.5” tall"
    http://www.thermaltakeusa.com/Product.aspx?C=1419&...
    Dimension (H*W*D) ... 5.12 x 8.66 x 13 inch
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    Fixed... Amazon appears to have the wrong dimensions (or they used the box dimensions). Anyway, 5.12" is still about 1" taller than the other cases. Reply
  • kenyee - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    I'm looking for something that would work w/ MythTV w/o using a separate audio cable...

    Bummer that none of these can do 3D Bluray yet...that means you still have to have an external Bluray player :-P
    Reply
  • hnzw rui - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    The Core i3-2100T does 3D. Just not sure about Linux support. Reply
  • shamans33 - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    There's a lack of direct comparisons between different cases and PSUs.

    I build quite a few mini-itx systems and this "guide" doesn't cover AMD high end offerings, common pitfalls in building mini-itx systems, noise, actual temperatures, heatsink clearance, actual power usage, alternative PSU choices, many mini-itx case choices, etc.

    Furthermore, accessories are not even discussed and there isn't an emphasis for including wireless capabilities in the system.

    This guide reads like an advertisement and doesn't have the really essential information people need to decide what parts to get.
    Reply
  • Gigantopithecus - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    I'm sorry you feel that way, shamans33. The primary goal of the guide was to describe the components available for building a nettop, i.e. systems that take up little physical space and use low-power components.

    Having built many mini-ITX systems, I'm not exactly sure what you're referring to? The Atom and Zacate boards all include heatsinks that will fit in any of the mentioned cases, which should be obvious from pictures of the products. The extremely low-profile stock i3-2100T heatsink fits in the Thermaltake case recommended in that specific system. Temperatures have never been an issue for me in these cases and configurations, so I didn't think that warranted elaboration. As for alternative PSUs - again, these all come with integrated PSUs or external power bricks, and we recommended alternatives to the stock Thermaltake case's PSU. Others commented on inconsistent case choices - we presented five mini-ITX cases that we've used many times and have been more than satisfied with. This article was not supposed to be an exhaustive list of mini-ITX cases... As for actual power usage, narrow ranges are given, and we pointed to more in-depth articles on Anandtech that give exact figures.

    As for accessories, including wireless, a nettop is just like any other desktop PC. You get the accessories to go with it that you want, and I didn't think those were within the scope of this article. Wireless is a good example - it's not like USB WiFi adapters are new and exciting technology...

    I tried to describe what these systems can do, what they can't do, and pointed out where to go if you want to find out more about exact capabilities. I honestly have to wonder if you read the entire article. :P
    Reply
  • shamans33 - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    I'll give you some examples...
    In-win BP and BQ series cases
    880g and 890gx amd mini-itx motherboards
    High end AMD CPUs
    M350 case with PicoPSU
    Low profile, high performance CPU heatsinks
    Single slot low-profile pciex cards (because of space restrictions usually).

    Mini-itx systems often have functional roles that are different from typical desktops and would have a different set of recommended accessories: wireless keyboards, esata/usb3 docks, etc.

    Here's one system spec I recently built:
    BP655 - $40
    Zotac 880G - $115
    2x2GB DDR3 - $40
    AMD X3 450 - $80
    500 GB HDD - $40
    OS - $100

    Total: $415

    12.20" x 3.90" x 10.40" (Far smaller in every dimension than your final option)
    200W PSU
    1x 80mm fan.
    Wireless-b/g/n
    Gigabit ethernet
    USB3
    Sata3

    You can even pair a 5.25" optical drive with a 2.5" SSD and a 3.5" 2 or 3 TB HDD.

    You could call it a nettop buyers guide. But I wouldn't call it a mini-itx buyers guide.
    Reply
  • shamans33 - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    Another build I've done in the past:
    M350
    SILVERSTONE NT07-775 90mm CPU Cooler
    Intel E5400
    Zotac 9300G
    PicoPSU-80
    2x2GB DDR2
    750GB HDD
    DVD-RW slot drive

    At-wall power usage: 27W Min. 35W Average. 45W Peak.
    192 x 210 x 62mm , 2.5L
    Reply
  • ET - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    I agree. I would have preferred an article about mini-ITX cases that doesn't have all the other fluff, and can provide comparison of heat performance and other details. Reply

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