Small Form Factor Buyers’ Guide

by Zach Throckmorton on 5/25/2011 10:30 AM EST


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  • Simozene - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    I am currently in the market for a small NAS box and was debating on whether to buy a 2 drive model or build my own FreeNAS system. I think it would be useful if you guys did a similar guide for building a low power FreeNAS system that supports 2 to 4 hard drives as it becomes very difficult to figure out what parts to select in such a system. Reply
  • chrone - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    yeah need a guide too, especially when using ubuntu as the NAS OS. Reply
  • obsidian009 - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Save yourself some time and headaches -- pickup an inexpensive Synology NAS like a DS211j, a couple hard drives and be done with it! I agonized over the details of building my own NAS for months -- ended up doing the Synology and have never looked back! Reply
  • dcollins - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    Just want to second the Synology NAS recommendation. I used two of their boxes at work and absolutely love them. Excellent web GUI and 90% of a full linux system if you ssh to the box. If you want to be able to install new software, try to get one of their Intel Atom based boxes because there is more software available in the repository. For me, that meant being able to install python for scripting.

    Great boxes with excellent online documentation through their wiki.
  • Simozene - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the suggestion. The DS211j seems to be exactly what I need for a small home NAS. I doubt I could build a small and power efficient system for under $200 anyways so it is probably not worth the effort to go with FreeNAS. I would still like to see a NAS building guide on Anandtech though; as another reader pointed out a FreeNAS box that supports more than 2 hard drive is often a fraction of the price of the retail counterpart. Reply
  • StormyParis - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    I'd go with an element Q case, replacing the PSU if silence is paramount. These fit up to 3x3.5" HDDs (on in the 5.25" slot), then any Atom MB, preferably a very simple one without ION, single core is enough if you do neither RAID nor encryption. I just built one such, except it doubles as an HTPC, so I went the Windows route, with an AMD E-350 whch is both overkill and a pain (FreeNAS ?) for a pure NAS. I got one internal 3TB drive for it, and an external one for backups. I'd rather start off with a single large drive and be able to add another one later on. Reply
  • iahawkeye - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    I completely agree and am in the same boat. I've been planning on building a small NAS box based on FreeNAS or some flavor of Linux for a while now, but I have little to no experience in selecting parts for such a PC. I'm also completely new to Linux and have been wanting to branch out, so a walk through or guide on this topic would be awesome. Reply
  • 'nar - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    I went with a HP MediaSmart, mostly because I couldn't find a box that took 4 hard drives and was so small and easy to swap drives with, FreeNAS not-with-standing. I'd love a guide as well, but that is predicated on there being any suitable devices that actually exist.

    Mediasmart has been discontinued now, and I really need a simple workgroup backup/storage device.
  • sullrosh - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link Reply
  • kepstin - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    I have one of those; It's a nice case, but the included fans are quite noisy. I keep mine in the basement, so it's not a real issue for me... Reply
  • chaoticlusts - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    you could have a look on the freenas forums and such if your curious, I've built a freenas box though it's not small cause I wanted to be able to put a lot of HDD's in there (got 8 atm)

    requirements vary drastically depending on what your doing with it, if your running a RAID setup then there's bugger all requirements really...but if your going with FreeNAS you really should be running ZFS in which case you need a little bit of cpu power (though still a low budget celeron or similar is fine, just don't reuse and old single core that might be pushing it) actually in the end you can get bottom range components for basically everything the couple of bits you should *not* skimp on is PSU (never skimp on that) get a decent amount of RAM (4-8GB) doesn't need to be fast though just a decent quantity and obviously get the case your happy with..

    FreeNAS can be a bit of a headache to find your way around if your not used to FreeBSD or similar but once you learn it's damn easy and saves you *tons* of money over a dedicated NAS box (not to mention ZFS is far superior to standard RAID) I think my box cost me about 300-400 total not including HDDs....a 8 drive dedicated NAS would probably cost a few grand normally without HDD's...

    course this does all depend on how much storage you people pointed out...if you only need a little a NAS might be overkill :)
  • 2korda2 - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    +1 on that.
    Been looking at Synology 411 series, but not sure the J-series is enough. '+' costs a lot more.
  • JFish222 - Saturday, May 28, 2011 - link

    I have to agree. I would love to see this discussed.

    While there are a number of inexpensive NAS appliances out there, there is only so much you can do at the lower price points(based around arm cores).

    Having advnaced media streaming/transcoding, wan side access (even providing vpn support) etc are where custom boxes pay off.

    Expecially if you want more than 2 HD's or want to push hardware RAID 5 (cheap adaptec cards on ebay "raid adaptec sata" < $20)

    The only issues become time and effort. Would never knock an off the shelf system, but I'm far to interested in going beyond what an ARM core can offer at a price point I'm able to afford.

    Though I'm still researching, projects like Amahi are attempting to make this even more of a "user friendly" process.
  • chrone - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    really love this SFF part, unfortunately there's very limit component choice sold here in indonesia. :( Reply
  • StanFL - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    I built a WHS box based on the Apex case used in the Budget SFF. Dual core Atom mini ITX board with four SATA ports. By foregoing an optical drive, I shoehorned three 3.5" hard drives in it. I can add a fourth hd if necessary with a Esata bracket occupying the lone expansion slot. It's a nice little low power box thats been running 24/7 for nearly a year now. Reply
  • EddyKilowatt - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Same here, WHS on Atom mobo (from Intel) in the Apex case. 18 watts at idle. Just two 1 TB green drives for me though... so far they're about half full.

    I didn't expect full benchmarks on each build in this article, but a couple of basic numbers and an idle/loaded power reading from a Kill-A-Watt would've been nice. Great article anyway, though, keep 'em coming.
  • Shadowmaster625 - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    I have a sempron 140 running at 800 MHz @ 1.1V. The cheapo $20 motherboard I am using will not let me take the volts any lower... But anyway the point is this thing surfs the web and plays youtube videos just fine. It has no fan. I took the fan off the stock hsf. I ran rthdribl all day long and the core temp reads just 68. lol. The main cpu thermal sensor reads 52. Reply
  • dagamer34 - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    I recently built a SFF HTPC and this was my setup:

    Case: Thermaltake Element Q case w/ 220W PSU: $70 from Micro Center
    CPU: Intel Core i3-2100: $99 from Micro Center
    Motherboard: Gigabyte H67-USB3-B3: $110
    Video Card: AMD Radeon HD 6570 1GB DDR3: $70 from Amazon
    Memory: 4GB Corsair DDR3 1333Mhz RAM (CMX4GX3M1A1333C9): $41 from Amazon
    SSD: OCZ Vertex 2 60GB: $110 from Micro Center
    HDD: old 120GB HD from Apple MacBook Pro
    AMS Dual SATA Enclosure (DS-112SSBK): $20 from Newegg
    Antec Veris Elite IR Receiver: $59 from Amazon
    OS: TechNet Subscription

    I got a separate video card because of all the post-processing that the card can do, as well as correctly outputting 23.976 fps video.

    I'd also argue that any serious HTPC needs to have the cost of an IR dongle included. No one should be using a mouse and keyboard.
  • StormyParis - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    I really think the review would be a lot more informative if you did two things:

    1- differentiate by function: Netttop, NAS, HTPC, Gaming. You're kinda doing it now, but still not fully.

    2- include ready-made PCs, and give more choices for components.

    Case in point: I recently replaced my micro-ATX rig with 2 mini-itx ones:
    - a NAS/ HTPC, in an ElementQ case with an aftermarket PSU. This allows 3x3.5" HDs, one can be a DVD/BR instead, in the size of a shoe box.
    - a VESA-mounted Nettop in an M350 case. (T-3410 would have been much cheaper)

    Both with the Asus passive E-350 motherboard, which is surprisingly adept in the nettop: it drives 2 screens, one can run full-screen SD video while I play Civ4 on the other.

    I think you're going overboard with the CPU power, too, except for the gaming rig.
  • vnangia - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Wouldn't something like the PC-Q08 be a better choice for a NAS? That plus either the Zotac H55/H67 or DTX D510 gives you the ability to put in six drives easily stock, and possibly eight with a cheap addon card and a 5.25-3.5 adapter. Reply
  • fujii13 - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Thanks. This is the first time I've seen the PC-Q08. Might be exactly what I'm looking for for a SFF All in one HTPC and NAS with 4+ drives. I only wish they'd nix the 5.25 drives and make it a little smaller. Reply
  • Forrest319 - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    I built a Zacate based HTPC yesterday. Using the same antec case they used for the intl HTPC in this article. I'm happy so far. Reply
  • vnangia - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Hi Zach, thanks for the write up, but I've got to say, your choice in cases for the SFF HTPC leaves something to be desired. I'm not sure whether you're going for a certain budget (don't see any such considerations in your text), so perhaps consider some alternative cases, especially in place of the Lian Li.

    Some inexpensive suggestions:
    -Thermaltake's Element Q - $80 and nicely takes the stock AMD cooler and the full-wattage Core i stock cooler as well. The smaller T/S 2011 Core i cooler leaves even more space.
    -Compucase's ITX200A - a $50 case that leaves $30 to spend on a Big Shuriken or a Kozuti.

    If money is no object, then there's the Luxa case and a couple of others as well. I agree there aren't nearly enough good ITX cases, but the Lian-Li seems the worst of all worlds - there's no way you're going to be putting that in a media cabinet.
  • ganjha - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    One more case I'd like to suggest., the In-Win BK6**. I built hundreds of budget computers in those cases (BK623) and it's a decent option when you factor in it's size and that it can accommodate a µATX motherboard and includes a 300W SFX powersupply that is pretty quiet. Not a particularly reliable PSU in the long run, but does it's job.

    I see it's available at Newegg for $60.
  • Gigantopithecus - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    The BK6s are nice cases - but their PSUs are in my experience unreliable, and I'm personally willing to make less money if it means I'm less likely to hear about a problem with a customer's computer! Reply
  • vnangia - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    I think if you're going up to the mATX size cases, the Silverstone ML03B works really well - relatively compact for a mATX case, and a ITX or DTX fits in there with much less difficulty. Reply
  • Gigantopithecus - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Perhaps not in a traditional, horizontally-oriented media cabinet, but many of my customers do not have traditional media cabinets (if they have cabinets at all!), and the Lian Li I suggested works well for them. I should have made that clearer in the article, though, so your criticism is certainly understandable!

    I've used the Element Q before and found it very plasticky with an underwhelming PSU. However, I agree that it is spacious and a good budget choice. I wanted the case selections in the article for the HTPCs to be a marked contrast.

    I have not used the Compucase ITX200A, and will be ordering one of those soon, as that looks an intriguing piece of hardware - thanks!
  • vol7ron - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Forgive me for saying, but isn't the Home Theatre portion of HTPC missing in this review?

    I would think that streaming/decoding digital TV via cablecard would be one of the basis of my HTPC. I'm looking at the mobos and the features and there isn't any incentive in getting the HTPC vs getting the gaming, or other alternative.

    Am I wrong?
  • Gigantopithecus - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    No. The article should have explicitly described that since most mini-ITX boards do not have a PCI nor PCIe x1 slot, you are limited to USB interface TV tuner cards if you will be using one with an HTPC. Forwarded to Jarred...

    As for incentive vs the gaming systems, HTPCs need less CPU power and at this point, they generally don't need discrete GPUs.
  • dagamer34 - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    And any PCI-Express board fully in spec should be able to let you stick a PCI-Express x1 card into a PCI-Express x16 slot and have it work fine. Reply
  • Gigantopithecus - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    "Should" being the operative word - in my experience, up-plugging is hit and miss - more hit than miss, but still enough misses that I'm hesitant to recommend doing so without strong qualifications and very specific card/board pairings (none of which are appropriate for this guide). Reply
  • medi01 - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Very strange choice of components in general. Reply
  • fujii13 - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Some of us aren't looking to have a separate HTCP from our NAS and/or server and would prefer it to be all in one box. I'm currently running Windows 7 as my head, but have Remote Desktop hacked to allow multiple simultaneous logins and the second login is doing all of my downloading/renaming/organizing of my media mostly automatically without disturbing the login that's running on my KURO. Unfortunately I'm stuck with a crappy USB 2.0 enclosure and have no way to upgrade.

    What options do we have for SFF computers that also house 4 hard drives?
  • jrs77 - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    The statement, that an Sugo 05 is noisier because of the plastics etc is totally wrong. Additionally the new version of the case gets shipped with a 450W PSU instead of the 300W one allowing for more decent hardware.

    My current rig: Sugo 05-450, i5-760@stock, GTX 460, 4GB DDR3-1333, 120GB SSD, 500GB 2.5" HDD. The CPU-cooler is a Prolimatech Samuel 17 with an 120mm Akasa Apache PWM. The fan in the front is a Scythe S-Flex 800 and the PSU is turned upside-down and draws air from the top-grill in the cover.
    Or you can use a Corsair H60 to cool the CPU and get rid of a second 120mm fan there to reduce noise even more.

    There's nothing noisy about this case... nothing at all and it is the smallest case you'll find to house a full setup... 11 litres... and you can even put a 6850 or similar into the case with ease.

    The LianLi Q8 is overrated there!
  • Gigantopithecus - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Don't get me wrong - I really like the Sugo 05 - but I simply disagree with you in regards to its noisiness and overall build quality. I think both the Sugo 05 and Q8 are excellent cases - I simply prefer the Lian Li when the budget permits. Reply
  • floobit - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    This comment is one vote for encouraging Anandtech to have higher writing standards. This article has a conversational style, and generally lacks professionalism. I want to be able to forward articles like this to professional peers without fear of seeming uneducated by association. This sentence is especially cogent:

    "Second, because they are small, they are also less massive." (p. 1).

    Thank you.
  • Darknite39 - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    I don't necessarily view a slightly conversational article in a negative light, but that ridiculous sentence caused me to do a double-take. Reply
  • Gigantopithecus - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    You're welcome.

    How often have you heard people complain about their mid and full-size towers simply weighing too much? When describing the advantages of a SFF, I think it's worth explicitly stating that smaller systems weigh less than larger systems. In my experience customers and friends, especially older individuals, often really appreciate having a computer that is physically easy to manage.

    As for the rest of your criticism, the point of the guides I've written for Anandtech is to detail a selection of components that work well together to perform a specific task. It is not to give detailed technical specifications of individual components (other articles on this site often do that). My guides are starting points for readers interested in researching different types of computers with suggestions for builds. My writing style reflects how I speak with my customers, friends, and colleagues about PCs, so I'm at a loss when you state that this article "generally lacks professionalism."
  • Mr Perfect - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    It looks like Zach is using "massive" to refer to weight, with that odd sentence boiling down to "Second, because they are small, they are also less heavy.". I know AT has some international writers, so it's worth pointing out that in the States, massive is used to describe volume. The sentence reads to us as "Second, because they are small, they are also less big.". You can see the confusion. Reply
  • cjs150 - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    If you want an HTPC that will allow you to rip Blu-rays at 100 fps then fine go with intel i3/i5 but if all you want in an HTPC is stream, play blu-rays, rips some music, watch TV then the suggestions from Anandtech are just plain wrong.

    A simple HTPC should be built along following lines

    1. Passive Zacate board (ASus do one)
    2. 4 Mb low voltage memory.
    3. 64g SSD
    4. 2.5" HD but in a silence box (Scythe do a nice one)
    5. Case is tricky - check out the cases from Wesana. New company to me and look rather nice - totally fanless is possible with something like Morex 3500 but it is a bit plasticky
    6. Power supply. Pico-ITX is the way to go, but they really need to produce 24 pin version in less than 150 W, this is a company that needs to refresh its product a bit
  • Gigantopithecus - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    I completely agree, which is why I clearly stated "AMD’s Zacate platform (discussed in our last guide) is far less powerful than an i3-2100T system, but keep in mind that it is sufficient for most HTPC tasks."

    That is, already covered.
  • MrTeal - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    As of yesterday Intel released the new Sandy Bridge Pentium chips, and Newegg has stock on at least the G620. The 620 might not be that appealing, but the G620T looks identical to the i3-2100T other than the 300MHz drop in CPU clock. For $50 less, it might be a pretty good downgrade. Reply
  • beginner99 - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    Yeah just saw them too. The G620T looks really nice for a NAS or HTPC. Extra CPU power compared to zacate can be useful in a NAS (RAID). Also Zacate MBs are pretty expensive where I live especially the ones with a usable amount of SATA ports (more than 4) meaning price wise a G620T won't cost much more.
    For a NAS the main problem is a decent case. This mean small but space for at least 4 hdds. Chenbro ES34169 looks cool but very expensive...
  • max40watt - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    I suppose this is more in line with the Nettop article, but I built a delightful mini itx AMD Fusion e-350 based desktop in an old NES console a little while back. I've been using it mostly for htpc use (netflix and hulu over boxee software controlled via an iphone) but it's also proven to be fine for light gaming.

    I was worried about the heat inside of the Nintendo, but so far it doesn't seem to be a problem.
  • Drag0nFire - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link Reply
  • Avlor - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Another great case for small form factor PCs in CoolerMaster Elite 100. It looks ok-ish, provides reasonable options for storage and will accommodate mATX boards despite being similar in size to that by Foxconn. Reply
  • Aikouka - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Zach, I recently rebuilt my server with a Core i3-2100t in an ASRock P67 Extreme6 motherboard. I actually used the stock heatsink/fan (HSF), which I normally don't do. I figured that it couldn't be too bad, right? I knew it'd probably be a little warmer. However, what I was very surprised about is how noisy that stock HSF is. I can literally hear my server from a room away, but my HTPC (Core i3 540) using a Thermaltake SlimX3 is fairly quiet (still audible within a few feet).

    To be fair... I'm not 100% certain that it's only the stock HSF's fault and not the motherboard doing a poor power management job. I told the motherboard to allow the CPU to go up to 50C, but it seems to never get that high, which makes me think it's not reducing the power properly.
  • Gigantopithecus - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Bizarre! I wouldn't call the stock i3 HSF silent, but the one I have in my music box up in my loft is inaudible ~10ft away with music at lower volume settings. Something is up with either your particular HSF or your board's regulation of its juice. Also, remember to check basics like having the HSF plugged into the HSF header and not having the HSF plugged into the chassis fan header (with the case fan plugged into the HSF header). I've done that before. :p Reply
  • Onus - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    I built a gamer in a PC-Q08R last year (slide show of build on YouTube under user "jtt283"). I also used a 550W Truepower New. The CPU is an i5-650, on an ECS H55H-I. Initially I used a HD4850, which exhausted its heat. I switched that for a GTX460, and noticed a definite (though not hazardous) increase in temps, that also increased CPU cooler noise but not intolerably. I would be perfectly willing to use an even more powerful GPU, but it would have to be another that exhausts its heat. The fact that it will mount more drives than the mobo has ports means I may very well repurpose this machine as a backup server for the other PCs in the house. Reply
  • Bobsy - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Hi, just wanted to say this is a great article. For people who do not work in the field (building computers all day long), it's a great starting point for more research if desired, or a great shortcut for someone who just wants to get the job done. Very professional and well written. Thanks. Reply
  • shamans33 - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    I think there are problems with the component selection and they gimped the AMD platform in so many unnecessary ways such as: $136 400W PSU paired with a dual core cpu for the SFF HTPC. Why would someone need a $136 400W PSU.....really.........Can't we find a cheap ATX PSU where the fan does not spin in a reasonably wide temperature range?

    I'm not 100% sure but I think the AMD SFF HTPC can run on the PSU of the Antec ISK 300-65 (or similar) as well.

    The Intel platforms are more thought out while the AMD platforms tend to sport "alternative parts" that don't make sense together.

    In addition, there's a large emphasis on noise and power requirements (which is good) but where's the case fan or cpu heatsink recommendations (which is bad)?

    If heat is such a problem with SFF Gaming systems, why not add a Coolit ECO ALC on a case that sports a 120 mm fan (and has enough clearance around it).

    Again Anandtech uses the term "Buyer's Guide" loosely. They should call it an Introduction. This article CANNOT be taken seriously.
  • shamans33 - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    I'd love to see what load temps are for the AMD SFF HTPC considering that case fans weren't added.

    Makes me think that the cpu heatsink fan would spin faster, negating the benefit of a "silent PSU".

    Other than temperatures, you need to post idle and load power usage to back up your claims.
  • Gigantopithecus - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    I dismissed the silent SeaSonic PSU as a boutique item when Anandtech reviewed it but after trying it out, I was very pleased with its performance. While it is not cheap, it's worth mentioning. Yes, we can find cheap ATX PSUs - see the other builds.

    The AMD SFF HTPC will NOT run on the ISK 300-65's PSU. The system loads at higher than that model's rated output. The system using a 7200rpm 3.5" HDD + 7200rpm 2.5" HDD instead of the guide's suggested SSD + 5400rpm 3.5" HDD loaded around 95W. Its idle draw was in the high 50s.

    As for your other question, load temps on the AMD SFF HTPC measured in February (60F ambient, I don't run my heat in the winter) were in the low 100s (i.e. 100-109F), so 40+ degrees delta vs ambient. At that temperature, the stock HSF is certainly not quiet. However, that system is not going to run at load as an HTPC often (if ever), and its operating temperatures were about 20 degrees over ambient, which for typical 'room temperature' is less than 100F, and at that temperature, the stock HSF can barely be heard across a room, and not at all during a movie.

    Your point about fan recommendations is noted.
  • shamans33 - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    One thing you might want to mention is that ASUS M4A88T-I Deluxe does not support dual display. This is a big deal for some people. Reply
  • Spazweasel - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    Once again, the low-profile question arises. For gaming purposes, what is the best low-profile card?

    Powercolor made a low-profile 5750, but it's discontinued, and I can't find it for sale anywhere.
    Palit makes a low-profile 450 GTS, but it has a reputation for running very hot and very loud. It is also quite long (by SFF standards).
    There are a few 5670 and 6570 low-profile cards available, but they're a little on the lightweight side for gaming.

    The best answer would be the promised 6670 low-profile card, which AMD has a reference design for, but which nobody seems to actually be making. Does anyone know whether low-profile 6670s are actually being made by anyone? I've checked a few major manufacturers, but haven't seen any 6670 in that form factor.
  • StormyParis - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - link

    I guess it's on to a Silverstone Sugo, there's a handful of choices depending on legth of card. Reply
  • SquattingDog - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    THIS - have been having major difficulties coming across a 6670 low profile - none of my suppliers are stocking them - curious if anyone knows of ANY brands which are actucally doing them? Reply
  • Sharro - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    C'mon, not talking about Shuttle in this is ...sort of a crime...looking at all these boxes I do not see where they excel some of Shuttle models in any task...

    A pitty.

    All the best,

  • jrs77 - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    Shuttle uses their own mainboards, which is kinda against the premisse of switching components at will. Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    Shuttle is sort of a crime. >_< Proprietary motherboards, weak PSUs, old last generation components(or at least, the last time I bothered looking at them). Reply
  • hsew - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    I'm lost here. What purpose does an overclocking chip do on a platform that can't overclock? Reply
  • Gigantopithecus - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    Resale value, plain & simple. Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    One person posted a build and mentioned that with the K series graphics, plus the ability to overclock the graphics, he was able to keep from using a discreet GPU in his HTPC. It would also give you options if you later wanted a Z68 board. Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    The 2500K and 2700K are the only desktop chips that have twelve shader units instead of six on Sandy Bridge. It's an asinine distinction Intel made, but if you want a competent IGP you have to go for the K series. Reply
  • jo-82 - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    are quadratic Mainboards imho, like miniITX with 17x17cm. It would be mouch nicer to get mobos with 23x13cm. Reply
  • shamans33 - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    it's for backwards compatibility with motherboard standoffs Reply
  • rhyscathym - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    What does the quality of HD playback look like on this machine? It would be great to see this system run through media playback benchmarks.

    Also, will this system support the Audio decoding that a distinct video card such as the ATi 5770 provides?
  • Mr Perfect - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    Thanks for doing this article, it's great to see serious ITX machines getting some recognition.

    Now if anyone would bother releasing a Z68 mITX board, I can get on with building something that will outpace even the nicer gaming rig in the guide here.
  • e36Jeff - Thursday, May 26, 2011 - link

    I know they are not the easiest to find, and they do run a bit more, but AMD does have a 250e(as well as a 245e, 240e, and 235e) that is exactly the same as the 250 you had selected, but uses 20W less. seems it would be a better fit for the HTPC or the alternative CPU for the gaming rig. Its extra price would, however, likely rule it out for the budget build. Reply
  • MadAd - Saturday, May 28, 2011 - link

    My friend bought his ancient 10 yo PC around for a fix up, after explaining how every part in the box was pointlessly obsolete, I did have to pause and say, well you could use the ATX case again.

    Isnt it time to move on? Sure there are smaller boards and cases to buy, but as a standard ATX is like the old dog that still barks at the movements in the yard but should have been put to sleep years ago.

    What was it keeping the standard alive? Motherboards certainly dont need to be that big, hardly anyone uses more than 1 or 2 optical drives these days (infact do we need an optical format going forward anyway? but thats a different discussion), HDDs are not limited to 3.5" anymore and theres NAS boxes springing up if we do need more of either of those, e-sata one of those next to it, perfect expansion system.

    Video cards can still be full height and length, and provision can be made for multiple slot boards- but other than that, its the PSUs that arent changing shape and are hard to find smaller, but if a new standard was bought out they would be remade, without having to pay out the wazoo for 1U type kit

    Time for a change?
  • abhicherath - Tuesday, November 22, 2011 - link

    Well, the HTPC rig for AMD recommends an Athlon X2 with a 400 watt PSU.I'm pretty sure you could put an Athlon X3/X4 or even a Phenom in there. I may be wrong though.... Reply

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