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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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  • vol7ron - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    It's a good build, but for the price, I'm still not sold on the HTPC.

    I'm still looking for an HTPC to use as a DVR/PVR, at around the $300 mark. Basically, I think the market is in the home-builders TiVo/DVRs that have the ability to upgrade components and don't require monthly service fees.

    At $10/mo * 12 months, you're looking at renting them for ~$120/yr. So if I build it myself, I want the price to be under a 2-3 year rental (around the $240-360 mark).

    Does this make sense or am I the only one?
    Reply
  • Gigantopithecus - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    That makes perfect sense to me vol7ron! Simply put, it's difficult to assemble a system for $300 if you use all new parts and include $100 simply for the copy of Windows 7. However, if you're willing to look into free OS options like Ubuntu, it can definitely be done. MythTV is an excellent DVR/media center and my personal favorite open source (read: free) HTPC software. I've built a handful of the budget AMD Zacate nettop rigs that run MythTV and their users are very satisfied, at less than $300. Reply
  • lestr - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    As usual the critics second guess your every move without remembering this is YOUR porch and you are the big dogs on it. It's a guide not a granite obelisk. I enjoyed reading the various builds and results some readers presented. I, for one, am very happy this segment is addressed at ALL. The product mix, reasons for selecting - various cases, DVD/BD, memory and HDDs is more expansive than most guides. It shows that many options exist that a good number of readers may never have considered.

    Hopefully Llano will offer more than is available on Zacate.. dual channel memory, faster speeds, 6450 chip and more of those elusive mini-pcie slots for wifi AND SSD... I mean I CAN dream, can't I? Divorcing the electric co is a GOOD thing, isn't it?

    Since YOU brought it up... WHY hasn't Anand actually done a review of the better SFX PSU's? Seasonic, FSP and Silverstone all have 80+ and people are always fearful of PSU quality in low cost builds. You said it yourself...

    It would be nice if more readers chose to be positive and ADD to the information presented rather than waste time and space with nitpicking criticism. I wonder how many of them ever considered writing a guide? Keep up the good work.
    Reply
  • LeTiger - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    DangerDens's Tower 12 - Lan Rig edition would adequately fit the aforementioned: Photo Link is to the regular tower 12 sitting next to the "Lan Rig" tower 12.

    http://dangerden.smugmug.com/Cases/Tower-12-LAN-RI...
    Reply
  • ET - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    Why that particular version of software? I'm sure it's the latest and greatest, but it should be possible to buy fully featured software that's good enough and less costly. For example Corel WinDVD 10 Pro costs $40 on sale currently. It includes 5.1 and 3D support. Reply
  • ET - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    Also, just found about Roxio CinePlayer BD, and that's $50 as standard. Reply
  • Aikouka - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    I don't recall if I might have skipped over anything like this in the article, but did you consider mentioning that Windows 7 Professional might be desirable? The biggest reason why I put Professional on every machine (except for laptops) is because it has terminal services enabled. Now, I know what you're going to say, "aikouka... you can enable that in Home Premium with a quick little hack!" Yes, you're right... you can. You can also enable multi-user log-in as well as multi-session log-in. But hacking to enable features from higher-end versions is bad, right? :P

    Anyway, I usually do this for HTPCs because I tend to use DLPs and the idea of turning on the TV for a short test, driver/program install or updating is not exactly in my bulb's best interest :P.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    Because, like being able to join a domain for single signon, it's a feature only of value for a small fraction of users; and anyone who wants it can simply add the extra $xxx to the build price themselves. For home use, the only pro feature likely to be of value to a significant fraction of AT readers is the ability to use more than 16GB of ram; and that only matters in godboxes. Reply
  • Roland00 - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    The 2500t should also be mentioned, it is a very nice cpu with a low tdp (45w)

    4 cores, 4 threads
    running at 2.3 ghz with the following turbos 2.4 ghz (4 cores), 2.8 ghz (3 cores), 3.2 ghz (2 cores), 3.3 ghz (1 core)

    I personally went with the i3 2100t (dual core with hyperthreading 2.5 ghz) for my htpc but that was because the 2500t is kinda hard to find right now. It has a 1000k price of $216 or $89 more than the i3 2100t. That said I was shocked how fast this cpu combine with an ssd.
    Reply
  • 789427 - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    $229 for a zacate system with 500gb storage and 2gb ram.
    use Media center edition or Linux.
    Can we have some linux benches for Zacate displaying 1080p video?
    Does it bitstream?

    cb
    Reply

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