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101 Comments

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  • Chloiber - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    You made a small mistake in the table of the AMD Upgraded HTPC Nettop (look at Case/PSU & Storage ;) Reply
  • hnzw rui - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    Perhaps you should have actually tested these systems prior to making your conclusion. While TDP of the i3-2100T is 35W, actual power consumption particularly at idle is very low. Depending on the specific motherboard used, assuming all other parts are equal, it's possible to get even lower idle power consumption from i3-2100T/H67 than a Zacate E-350 or Intel Atom/NM10. Frankly, even a regular i3-2100's power consumption wouldn't be too far off from Zacate and Atom. Reply
  • Gigantopithecus - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    I have actually tested these systems... Perhaps you missed this, "we instead chose the lower power i3-2100T that runs at 2.5GHz. Either can frankly run circles around the fastest of the other CPUs we’ve looked at, and while 35W is twice the TDP of the E-350, idle and lower load power shouldn’t be too much more."

    I have not been able to find a motherboard that idles as low as an E-350 setup with an i3-2100T (all other components being). That said, they do idle at only a few watts more (as the article clearly states). Under load, however, the 2100T systems I've assembled start pulling 10+ more watts from the wall. Obviously this is a small absolute amount of electricity, but it does represent a ~25% relative increase in power consumption. If you're aware of a mini-ITX board that paired with an i3-2100T idles at less than a Zacate mini-ITX board, I'd love to hear what it is!
    Reply
  • hnzw rui - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/cpu/display/core-...
    http://www.missingremote.com/review/intel-core-i3-...

    As for the i3-2100, at load (Linpack), it only consumes 5W more than the i3-2100T.

    In fairness, the Gigabyte board probably has higher power consumption compared to other E-350 motherboards.
    Reply
  • Gigantopithecus - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    There's no probably about it - the Gigabyte board they used in their comparison is one of the most power-hungry Zacate boards I've used. The MSI IS board uses 5-8W less at idle IIRC, dropping it below the 2100T's system idle consumption. Unfortunately, the 2100T by itself costs more than the less expensive Zacate board + APU combos. Reply
  • BforByron - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    Hey could you guys throw some of the results for the i3-2100T on your bench list. I'm gonna make an HTPC and i want to compare the i3-2100 to the i3-2100T with and without a discreet GPU. I'm thinking of adding a 5770 to it and want to see the overall idle and load power draw as well as some game marks Reply
  • Roland00 - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    Currently nvidia is making a newer version of their hybrid graphics that will use intel motherboards with nvidia graphic cards (H67 or Z68). The rumored name is "Synergy" and rumor has it will only need a h67 or z68 motherboard and a bios update.

    http://news.softpedia.com/news/Nvidia-Works-on-Its...

    Lucid also is making its own virtu technology. Which anandtech has talked about in the past. Supposedly you can get a beta of this software for free somewhere.

    If these technologies work as planned your cpu can use the intel graphics for normal desktop use and keep your gpu in idle, and crank up the gpu to full blast when you throw in a computer game.
    Reply
  • Out of Box Experience - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    Sandy's 35 Watt may indeed idle at a watt or 2 more than the other platforms but given the same battery in a mobile setup, wouldn't the Sandy get a lot more work done with that same battery?

    If so, then it would be more efficient than a lower powered system

    This would be a great RealWorld test for these Low power Sandy Bridge systems

    How much work can you get done on the same battery by booting up and running the workload after idling for 20 minutes or so

    Seems Realworld to me
    Reply
  • ET - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    I don't think it's a matter of efficiency as much as a matter of usage. If you're playing videos, the E-350 should be just as good as the i3. If you're doing video conversion, the E-350 isn't even in the running.

    Still, if you're just looking at idle power than the two setups achieve the same amount of work (i.e., zero work), so I'm a little baffled why you started your comment with a comparison of idle power.
    Reply
  • Out of Box Experience - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    Quote:
    "I'm a little baffled why you started your comment with a comparison of idle power."

    Me Too!
    Where the heck is that Edit function?

    I'd still like to see a "Fair" comparison of how much work you can do with a given amount of power

    But what would be "Fair" ?
    Reply
  • 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
  • prismatics - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    That Lian-Li case is $50 more than you have it listed. Is this a mistake or did Newegg change the price since you setup the link? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    Sorry, error in the table. I had the wrong labels on the Case + PSU and Storage lines (see first comment), and when I swapped the content around to fix that I missed the pricing information. So the table listed the HDD as $150 and the case as $94 when it was the other way around. Reply
  • obarthel - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    I enjoyed reading your article, especially since I'll be building a couple or more of those. The article was somewhat informative, but I would have preferred if you'd done a few things differently

    - review individual components, instead of randomly-matched systems. There's no specific reason to use any one case with any one MB, so why complicate matters ?
    - take advantage of that to be more thorough about each component's characteristics. ie, the Antec ISK 100 is **NOT** VESA-mountable, not even with an extra accessory, even though it looks like it could (should ?) be. Also, it's not always clear how big the cases are, whether they have internal vs external PSUs...
    - or, if you insist on the "whole system" approach, include a handful of worthy barebones, such as the Asus S1-AT5NM10E, Shuttle XS35/35GT, or the various Zotac models.

    In the end, I'd have liked a more conventional "System guide" approach, with maybe 3 use cases:
    - HTPC: very quiet, HDMI/DVI, good sound, internal optical drive, IR remote, Linux
    - NAS/Torrent server: 3.5" HD (or two), Linux
    - Desktop Replacement: VESA-mounted, Bluetooth
    - All of the Above.
    + a recommendation for a barebones PC instead of homebrew.

    Right now, I'm thinking about an Asus S1-AT5NM10E for my server (Case looks OK, has all the features I need and more, price seems unbeatable), and an Asus E-350 for my Desktop Replacement. Still looking for a VESA-mountable case with no optical disc to go with it.
    Reply
  • hnzw rui - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    >Still looking for a VESA-mountable case with no optical disc to go with it.

    Have you considered the Mini-Box M350? Caveat, you'd need to buy a PicoPSU but even the lowest model should be more than enough.
    Reply
  • obarthel - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    Thanks, that looks like what I'd want. I'm a bit confused about what I need in terms of PSU and adapter... and bothered by the price ! The case itself is very cheap and looks well designed, though. Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    Most (all?) pico PSU sellers list what each model needs as an AC brick, and sell bricks that work with the picoPSUs they sell. The cheaper models tend to be very picky, while the higher end ones can use almost anything. The difference is between taking 12V in and just making 3.3/5V, and taking 19V (common laptop brick) or car DC (varies significantly) and making all 3 voltages. Reply
  • 457R4LDR34DKN07 - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    This was a decent guide and made me consider building a less power consuming box for my ceton infiniTV4. I could only find 1 case designed for mini itx and a expansion slot the LUXA2 LM100. It might be worth waiting for a i5 2405S. Reply
  • monkeyman1133 - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    IMO, you should do a more apples-to-apples comparison across the different systems. Just browsing through quickly, my first reaction to the "AMD Upgraded nettop" is $778 for a nettop?? F that. But of course its a very misleading for a number of reasons.

    First is the unequal software costs included. Are you guys under pressure to include software costs in the price summary? OS cost is once thing, however, I think it makes more sense to exclude it from the "base cost" just like it is in the regular System Builder guides. What is worse and especially confusing, IMO, is when you include the cost for dvd/bluray playback software to only some systems.

    Another minor point is that the HDD/storage options and thus cost vary significantly from system to system. Storage options can really be chosen independently of the system, so not keeping this constant across the systems also really skews the comparison.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    We cover this discrepancy in the text on every page. For example, on the ION system: "Using the same case and components, the difference in motherboard choice makes this platform $10 more than the basic AMD E-350 setup, or $37 more than the stock Atom configuration."

    Really the motherboard/CPU and RAM are the only item that necessarily varies between builds -- well, that and I'd be very hesitant to try a shorter ITX case on the SNB system on the final page without confirming it will fit. We felt it would be more interesting to have multiple case options showing what's out there, discussing storage tradeoffs, etc.

    As for the software, there are limitations with most (all?) bundled Blu-ray software packages, and if you want the full HD experience you'd need to purchase additional playback software. We again make this clear in the text.

    Will some people just look at the bottom line and then leave? Perhaps, but then they're no longer "readers" of our site, are they? If all someone wants to do is look at a table or a chart and call it good (or bad), we can't really stop that and such a person is ultimately missing out on information that is readily available.
    Reply
  • iuqiddis - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    Another software option would be to get a DVDFab decrypting software for blu-ray playback. I've never come across a disc that it failed to decrypt. It runs as a driver; you can just open the bluray disc with VLC to view them. Reply
  • 7Enigma - Monday, April 25, 2011 - link

    Glad someone else pointed this out because this is exactly what I'm currently using on my desktop system connected to my bedroom TV. Work perfectly. Reply
  • Holly - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    Although getting a decent soundcard increases the cost of the machine a lot I am suprised and disappointed there was no proper sound card in any of setups. Frankly I have had lots of various mobos with integrated sound and have yet to find one that doesn't get left in dust when you compare with decent sound card... ofc, that's the case when you are not using $20 plastic speakers for your home theatre. Reply
  • numbertheo - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    Except for the budget Atom system, all of these setups have some kind of digital audio output. I would suspect that most home theaters have some kind of receiver, AV processor, or DAC already present. In my opinion, people willing to set up a full blown home theater have better options that a sound card.

    On the other hand, a test of the integrated audio would be nice since I have had problems with it in the past.
    Reply
  • haukionkannel - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    As numbertheo said, external DAC or similar system is most propably better alternative than sound card in these system. Arcam rDAC or something similar offer allmost hifi guality... ofcource they cost near 300$ so they allmost douple the prize of these systems... Reply
  • UrQuan3 - Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - link

    I'll second the request for soundcard testing.

    I've had trouble finding a *receiver* for much under $1000 that has a good D/A converter. On the other hand, a $100 soundcard outputing 5.1 analog to a $250 receiver often does very well. Much better than the same class of receiver using SPDIF.

    This surprised me, but it's very true.
    Reply
  • LeTiger - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    I've been using since last January

    Zotac Atom/Ion A-U $179
    Crucial 2gb DDR2-800 $55
    OCZ 30gb Agility $109 (boot drive)
    WD 1tb Green $55
    Samsung 750gb spinpoint $45
    Dangerden Tower $99

    Total: $542

    Works like charm. (unless you have an addiction to Photoshop)
    Reply
  • Aikouka - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    Hi Zach,

    About your last configuration... are you sure that the heatsink will fit properly? I have the same case with a Clarksdale build, and I actually ended up using Thermaltake's Slim X3 HSF ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8... ). The thing is, even with the X3, there's barely any room between the PSU and the HSF.

    What about using a PicoPSU instead? I haven't personally ever used one, but it should give room for significantly more airflow. The 35W TDP CPU should certainly help as well.

    The PSU in the ElementQ also has a very long ATX connector cable... it's actually too long in my opinion!
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    The stock HSF on the 2100T is very low profile, so it should work well. Other SNB CPUs might not fit without a different cooler. As for a PicoPSU, I don't think you'd want to do that with the Element case, simply because it already has the space for an SFX PSU. You'd end up with a big hole on the back. In other cases, though, it might be worth trying. Reply
  • Aikouka - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    I do agree that it is definitely low-profile. I am actually just finishing a build with an i3 2100T right now, and I pulled down my i5 2500k box to compare the HSF. I didn't even notice that there was a difference since I've never seen the stock HSF :P.

    The "big hole" is the reason why I haven't tried it yet, but I am assuming that someone has to make a "cover" for it that you can attach the plug to.

    My i3 HTPC (it's an i5-540) does run a little bit hot, but it's not a 35W TDP unit... I believe it's 70-something. I have read a few comments of people putting a fan in the side of the Element Q case to help with airflow as well.
    Reply
  • StardogChampion - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 - link

    "You'd end up with a big hole on the back."

    I make/sell backplates in the ATX and SFX12V form factor to plug that hole. They can have mounts for either type of picoPSU jack and for the ATX and 80mm case fan and the SFX12V a 60mm fan.
    Reply
  • 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
  • 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
  • ArnisR - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    Antec ISK 300(310)-150 series have internal PSU.
    External PSU is for earlier sibling - ISK 300-65.
    Reply
  • uncola - Sunday, April 24, 2011 - link

    this is correct, I noticed this mistake in the article too Reply
  • -BubbaJoe- - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    The M4A88T-I DELUXE motherboard is extremely capable.You can fit a 6-core AMD processor into it, and its currently the only AM3 ITX motherboard that has a full x16 pci-e slot. Add in eSATA, USB3, and built-in WiFi you got yourself a powerful little box.

    I have mine paired with a 5770, 8gb of ddr3, and a Athlon x3 445 all in a Sugo SG-05 Able to play games such as BC:2 just fine. Very awesome little computer.
    Reply
  • shamans33 - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    Just an FYI, M4A88T-I DELUXE onboard video does not do dual display because of limitations of 880g chipset on dual digital display output.. Reply
  • Andrew Rockefeller - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    "...check email, browse and shop on the web, occasionally remove red eyes from family photos, and type the occasional letter. From that perspective..."

    Were you to build a cheap PC with that critera, I'd seriously concider Linux. You can then take $100 off the total for each build which is not an insignificant percentage especially when you talk about options to save $30 here and there. As much as I love and recommend Win 7, I'd expect Linux to provide a better user experience with the limited resources of these systems (the Atom and Brazos builds in particular, the i3 build may be OK on 7).

    Although my computing/software needs exceed that which I can comfortably achieve with Linux, for the average Joe It's capabilities are well in excess of what they'll ever need. Unfortunately I wouldn't expect average Joe to be in here reading this.. but people who build systems for their less tech savvy loved ones are.
    Reply
  • Gigantopithecus - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    Hi Andrew - I couldn't agree more that a Linux variant is an excellent alternative to Windows 7 for basic computing needs, and I have built nettops with Ubuntu for friends. However, it's also been my experience that for less tech-savvy folks, Linux is simply not an option because they're not willing to learn a new OS. While you and I think the learning curve is shallow and no real obstacle, that simply is not true for many people (at least in my experience). FWIW older people who have little to no computer experience often learn it the fastest - a friend's 92 year old grandfather loves Ubuntu, possibly because he's never known anything else.

    That said, Windows 7, like most other OS's, isn't particularly CPU intensive; it's much more dependent upon RAM. An E-350 with 4GB of RAM or even 2GB RAM works just fine, whereas my Phenom II X4 945 with 1GB of RAM installed struggles with Windows 7 (this is not its usual configuration - obviously the Phenom II with 8GB RAM runs W7 much better than an E-350 with 2GB RAM, ha).
    Reply
  • lowimpact - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    I got really excited when I saw this article since I've been putting together my own mini-ITX build, but am puzzled that you haven't included a gamer box (or workstation buidl) in your lineup.

    Here's a good start:

    $120 Silverstone SG05BB w/450w psu
    $100 Gigabyte GA-H67N-USB3-B3 Intel H67
    $125 Intel e3-2100
    $200 560 ti (5950's are too long)
    $40 4GB G.Skill Ripjaws 1333
    $40 500GB Hard Disk
    $25 DVD Burner
    $100 Windows 7 x64
    ----------------------------
    $750

    Any reason you left something major like this out??
    Reply
  • Andrew Rockefeller - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    I think the intention was to design systems to cover the needs of a typical user. The system you describe is somewhat niche. Although in your world a moderately powered gaming PC may be a high priority, it simply is not for the masses.

    Don't get me wrong, I do appreciate your enthusiasm for your particular design. My taste is for the highest compute power whilst remaining passively cooled (Power/efficiency). I however recognise that my ideal results in a computer more powerful/expensive than the average person needs, but less powerful than what a power-user would want and can easily achieve by sacrificing form factor... niche.
    Reply
  • Gigantopithecus - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    Yep, the goal of this article was to cover nettop options. Jarred suggested adding a higher-end Intel mini-ITX system based on the i3-2100T CPU so we tossed that in there. I hope to have a mini-ITX gaming guide up soon as those are very popular with my younger undergraduate friends who live in dorms and small apartments. Reply
  • lowimpact - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    You also remember that intel graphics are bugged when it comes to playing back 24fps content right? What's the point of putting a blu-ray player in any of the intel builds if you can't watch movies without judder from adding a frame every 40 seconds? You wrote about this on your own site:

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/4083/the-sandy-bridg...
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    From the link you just gave: "How big of an issue this is depends on the user. Some can just ignore the judder, others will attempt to smooth it out by setting their display to 60Hz, while others will be driven absolutely insane by it."

    I'm guessing you're one of those that fall into the latter category. Most people that aren't HTPC enthusiasts probably don't even know there's a problem. Anyone using a laptop to watch Blu-ray for instance has to deal with various forms of judder caused by the 3:2 pulldown. Which is why we say, "You pretty much have everything you need for a decent HTPC...." Not a "perfect" HTPC, but a "decent" HTPC. Anyway, I'll make a note of the 23.976FPS issue in the article.
    Reply
  • JohnMD1022 - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    newegg shows 2 SFX 80 plus PSUs for $50 (300w) and $54 (350w) plus shipping. Reply
  • Zap - Sunday, April 24, 2011 - link

    If you were mentioning this because of the last system with the Thermaltake chassis, you need to be aware that it cannot take an SFX PSU that has a protruding fan, like the 300W Seasonic. Reply
  • gamefreakgcb - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    Specs:
    Antec ISK 300-150 mini-itx case (mentioned in this article)
    Gigabyte H67N-USB3-B3
    Intel i5 2500k
    2x4GB Corsair XMS3
    1x64GB SF-1200 Based SSD
    1x500GB 2.5" platter (pending)
    1x 5.25" slim DVD-RW (pending)
    Internal 150W PSU (included with case)

    The motherboard is the worst to pair with this case (all the headers i.e. sata, power, front panel, etc. are right next to the lone exhaust fan in the case), I have yet to play with undervolting the CPU, but stock everything (stock thermal paste with stock HSF and stock single exhaust) my temps reached as high as 80 with Prime95 and power draw never passed the 123 Watts at the wall (using the P3 Kill-A-Watt) and normal usage shows about 40 or so watts with light load (browsers with flash and the like, total idle is about 34 watts. I will get a chance to play with it tomorrow to see if I can bring the VCore down a bit, but the case is tiny, it fits vertically in the CD Tower Rack on my desk. It is very very snappy (even with a lone Kingston SSD, which I will most likely upgrade to an Intel 510 series), and fairly quiet (I do not need extreme silence). I would like reviews of some more mini-itx cases on this site though. I only accidentally stumbled upon this case.
    Reply
  • dagamer34 - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    I'd say ditch large hard drives in HTPCs and go with SSDs instead. A 60GB drive is $100-120, and in a truly networked home, most of your media should be stored on a server anyway. This way you get quick sleeps, resumes, and reboots, making it much closer to an embeddable electronic part than a PC. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    Resume (from sleep) is usually quite fast on Win7, and who really cares how fast a system goes to sleep? If you're putting it to sleep, you walk away and whether it's asleep 5 seconds later or 60 seconds later really doesn't matter. (Interesting note: I think part of the reason Win7 sleeps so slowly is that it usually does a "sleep + hibernate", so if power goes out it can still resume from the HDD image. At least, I have two systems that do that.)

    Anyway, we mention the SSD + HDD option on both upgraded systems. It really depends on what you plan to do with a system, and if you're mostly storing video for HTPC use the benefit of a $100 SSD upgrade is questionable. If you're using it as a general PC much of the time, by all means go for it. Personally, I wouldn't bother with an SSD unless I was already using a faster processor than Atom/Brazos, but I know some people want an SSD on any system they use.
    Reply
  • Xorg - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    The problem with all of these small form factor systems is NOISE. i have yet to use or see one that didn't sound like a vacuum cleaner under load. Reply
  • obarthel - Sunday, April 24, 2011 - link

    Passive Asus board in a passively cooled M-350 ? Optional quiet 4cm fan (whichever brand/model) if required ? Reply
  • AgeOfPanic - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    Nice article and a good introduction to some cool little hardware. I immediately started to pick out some hardware for a build of my own. Then I talked to my brother and I realized another option for for the budget Zacate system. Why not buy a netbook with almost the exact same hardware? That way, you are mobile and at home you just attach it to a larger screen.Costs a little more, but definitely expands the possibilities as well. The only reason to go with a nettop for me would be to have faster hardware, maybe based on Intel H55 or something. Reply
  • obarthel - Sunday, April 24, 2011 - link

    Very true that. We can get

    1- Netbook @400 euros incl. Windows. 11.6", 2Megs, 320Gigs E-350 MSI netbook. Windows license included. Portable, but not very elegant for Desktop, HTPC, or NAS use and possibly not too quiet. Only 1 internal HD, so no SSD, or get a large+expensive one to hold OS+Apps+Data, or a small one for OS+Apps and an external HD for data. Add +40 for 4GB RAM, +120 for 1TB HD, +100 for a 60GB SSD

    2- Homebrew @400 euros w/o OS (+100 for Windows) nor screen nor KBMS (+60 for MS ARC series), 4 megs, 1TB HD+ 60GB SSD, VESA-mountable M-350 case. Internal HD+SSC possible with the M-350 case (130 euros for case+PSU+picoPSU+VESA mount+2nd HDD bracket, though). Perfect fit for my needs, but expensive compared to the Netbook or...

    3- Premade Nettop @390 euros w/o OS (+100 for Windows) nor screen nor KBMS +60 again): Zotac ZBOX AD02 (E-350, no ram, no HD) for 250euros , and add 4MB RAM (+40) and 1TB disk (+100).

    So Netbook turns out cheaper if you want Windows, and the portability is nice. If you don't need portability, nor Windows, homebrew or premade are cost-competitive, especially if you don't care about keyboard and mouse or have extras lying about, and allow you to get exactly what fits your needs. In my case, I'd like to have an SSD since everybody says it makes such a huge difference, and I'd like to complete my move to Linux after a successful tryout on my current Atom Netbook (so I don't need portability, either)... SO I'm trying to convince myself that playing around building my own stuff and shelling out 130 for the M-350/PSU/picoPSU/mount and whatnot makes sense. Activating reality distortion field NOW....
    Reply
  • DNW - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    I no longer build my own PC's, so I am interested in a store-bought alternative. I will be using it is a dedicated HTPC, and it must have Blu Ray (I don't have a BR in my home theatre). What are my choices under about $500? Reply
  • Roland00 - Sunday, April 24, 2011 - link

    For that price range you won't find what you want without going refurbished or adding the bluray drive yourself. If you don't mind adding an optical drive it is quite easy to obtain. Reply
  • obarthel - Sunday, April 24, 2011 - link

    Zotac (Zbox, the one with the integrated BR drive) and Dell (Inspiron Zino HD 410) have small systems; Asrock too, but higher specs and more expensive. Reply
  • aviphysics - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    I would really like to see anandtech incorporating a comparison to commonly available prebuilt systems in these guides. Last year after a lot of searching I found that a pre-built acer SFF box was about $100 cheaper then the cheapest equivalent custom rig.

    I love building custom systems but a good reality check would be very nice.
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Monday, April 25, 2011 - link

    Exactly, once you get below $500 it is EXTREMELY difficult to beat a prebuilt system. And a simple reinstall of the OS removes all the bloat... Reply
  • CDew - Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - link

    I second that! I would love to see a system such as the Acer AR3700 used as a baseline for the Atom. It has a D525/ION (or ION 2 depending on whose specs you read), 2GB DDR3, and seems to offer the best possible Atom platform available today.

    How is that relevant to an article on building your own HTPC?

    If price and performance are the main factors in deciding on what to build, would anyone choose to build an HTPC if the best possible price/performance comes from a prebuilt system for $350? If you can build you own with better performance, then perhaps it's worth a bit of additional cost. But how do these Atom systems compare to a prebuilt Acer AR3700? We don't know.

    Unfortunately, in all the Brazos vs Atom articles that I have read, Brazos has a performance edge, but that's over Atom systems that seem to have lesser configurations than the Acer AR3700.

    Any chance that we could get an update with baseline prebuilt Atom and Brazos systems?

    Thanks!
    Reply
  • gfody - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    should've left the atom build out completely. it's worthless. Reply
  • obarthel - Sunday, April 24, 2011 - link

    Not really, for a NAS: performance is no issue, power consumption not really, but Atom is still good there, and, above all, Linux/FreeNAS support is better. Reply
  • AmdInside - Saturday, April 23, 2011 - link

    I used to have an Ion netop as a htpc and the performance is just too low. The reason for a htpc today insteadmof a internet device like apple tv or roku is to let you do a lot of other things and franks the cpu of the e-350 or atomis just terrible. I currently use a core i5 happily while my ion system lies lonely on the floor of my office. Reply
  • will2 - Sunday, April 24, 2011 - link

    My 'Nettop Guide' interest is in a smaller size of Nettop than those in your review, similar to the Revo 3610 launched over a year ago (Atom330+ION1), that consumed 21W average, 26W on foll load. What would be of interest is the same 7.1x7.1x1.2" volume or LESS, same mix of ports/WiFi, that has a more power efficient SoC able to run Linux or W7, that has in addition to the 2.5" HDD, a mSATA slot to run the Intel 310 SSD.

    The recently released SNB i7-2657 17W TDP would make an interesting choice if it were not for the fact SNB prices are way above the NETTOP market. So the AMD E350 18W TDP, (or, perhaps its imminent AMD replacement) for now looks like the only feasible candidate to make for a cooler running Revo style Nettop with improved performance.

    Regarding your "you could buy a 60GB SSD for the OS and apps and add in a larger 5400RPM drive for mass storage"; - I was thinking a small 32GB SSD should be more than enough to run Windows 7 + the Average mix of Apps for a Nettop/HTPC. Is there any reason you picked 60GB ? Also, any links to a discussion of SSD sizing for OS+Apps appreciated.
    Reply
  • obarthel - Sunday, April 24, 2011 - link

    The Zotac Zbox AD02 (AMD E-350) is 7.4 x 7.4 x 1.73". No mSATA though, and only 1x2.5" internal slot.

    The M-350 mini-itx chassis is 7.56 x 8.27 x 2.44, so a wee bit bigger a noticeably thicker, but it does allow you to build your dream PC (1155 mini-ITX MB, your choice of core i3/5/7 CPU, no PCIE card allowed except for one specific and outdated Intel board), and with the right CPU cooler allows you to stick in 2 x 2.5" HD/SSD, all the while modestly behind your screen. That case + doodads will set you back $130, though, since everything is extra (PSU, picoPSU, VESA mount, 2nd HDD mount).
    Reply
  • Zap - Sunday, April 24, 2011 - link

    Thermaltake Element Q for the high performance? Seriously? It would have been better off with the ISK300/310 from earlier. That Element Q is a rebrand of the Apex MI008 case, which is popular because it is cheap, not because it is good.

    Also, doesn't Zacate make Atom/ION redundant?
    Reply
  • uncola - Sunday, April 24, 2011 - link

    I thought that case looked familiar.. I'm about to upgrade from an old school avsforum recommended apex mi-008 intel e5200/zotac geforce 9300itxwifi mobo build to a new school antec isk 310/intel core 2100/asrock h67n mobo build Reply
  • ProDigit - Sunday, April 24, 2011 - link

    Where are the N550 processors in this test? Reply
  • Gigantopithecus - Sunday, April 24, 2011 - link

    The N550 is available almost exclusively in nettops AFAIK. I've never seen it available in a mini-ITX board aside from a few bizarrely expensive Jetway products. Reply
  • 7Enigma - Monday, April 25, 2011 - link

    Funny this article comes out as I just had this conversation with my dad. Their current system (used only for email/internet access/Skype) is over 6 years old and definitely feeling its age. Even with a fresh OS install it just has passed it's point of usefulness due to the P4 using a lot of watts with very low performance.

    My mom has a 3yr old Lenovo dual-core that other than the pathetic 5400rpm drive is significantly more computer at 1/3-1/5 the power consumption of the old P4 Dell system. My plan is to rip out the junk HDD and replace with an 80-160GB drive (likely an Intel G2 since ANY SSD upgrade will be like a new computer), slap on Win7 to replace the current XP on the Dell and Vista on the laptop, and have a desktop replacement that is really a notebook.

    I'll still use external keyboard/mouse/display, but essentially for under $200 (Win7 copy and SSD) the computer will be like new.

    Now I need to find out if there is a bios setting/hack for defaulting the display to the external VGA port instead of having to Function + F7 every time they boot the system.

    Thanks again for the article.
    Reply
  • vailr - Monday, April 25, 2011 - link

    Your hi-end system uses the Lian Li PC-Q09B.
    However, the included PSU seems (per comments on Newegg) to have the older 20-pin connector, not the current standard 24-pin connector. Although: Newegg's documentation & photos don't really show which version is included.
    Side note: Newegg also offers this same case in a red color, for $50 cheaper.
    Reply
  • twinclouds - Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - link

    I apologize if the same idea has been posted by someone else. It is impossible to read all 10 pages.
    I put together with i3-2100t in a small package. The case is an old Shuttle X70 case. I used a 80W pico-ATX power supply with a 60W brick adapter. The motherboard is an GA-H67N. The smart fan controls the fan speed well without much noise. Every thing works pretty well with no overheating problem. It is amazing that it is possible to put a full power (non-gaming) system together in such a small package.
    P.S. I don't know what happened to Gigabyte motherboards nowadays, though. They have two power off modes, one at <1W and the other at ~3W. The low power mode does not support WOL, which I want. Only the 3W mode does. It is a waste for the power off mode that consumes 3W. Not sure why Gigabyte cannot do better.
    Reply
  • Schafdog - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    I am happy that AT is taking this subjject up and hope it will be followed up on.

    I am wondering why no one, to my knowledge, can delivery a system with idle power of 10 watt while not limit to less powerful CPU, when apple can do it with the Mac mini. Since I am aiming for a NAS it needs more SATA ports than the Mac Mini, which will draw some more power.

    I know that apple uses laptop part, so is there any boards that I dont know about?

    The only I know, is fit-pc2i with a 5-10 watt usage, but this is only a Atom CPU. and doesn't solve the port issue
    Reply
  • djfourmoney - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 - link

    1) Silverlight 5 will support the AMD APU with Hardware Acceleration, this is important to those that use Netflix streaming.

    The beta is out and works....

    2) Some of these are completely new builds, others are using parts laying around. This is especially the case for those that work in the industry somewhere.

    No reason to spend $390 unless your adding TV Tuners...

    3) The USB 3.0 version of the AsRock is out and only $10 more.

    4) There are at least 5 quality cases for under $50 available

    If I wasn't beyond broke I would have bought one already. Maybe by mid-summer.
    Reply
  • nopantscat - Tuesday, May 24, 2011 - link

    I built an HTPC using the upgraded AMD build as my blueprint. The EXACT RAM kit in the article is not on the QVL list for that motherboard, and with that RAM the mobo does not POST more than 30% of the time. Reply

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