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Small form factor PC

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Hi all, I'd like to have a go at building a small desktop, after using laptops for the last few years. I've taken apart a few desktops before, and am generally proficient with computer hardware, howev…
the dandy p Avatar
6y, 3m agoPosted 6 years, 3 months ago
Hi all, I'd like to have a go at building a small desktop, after using laptops for the last few years. I've taken apart a few desktops before, and am generally proficient with computer hardware, however I've never actually built my own PC.

I would like it to:

1. Be as small as possible (micro ATX)
2. Be as quiet as possible
3. Be more than capable of handling HD content
4. Be up to most everday-day computer tasks

I'm not concerned with gaming as a rule, but would like a motherboard capable of taking a decent graphics card (just incase I wanted to upgrade in a year or so's time), however integrated graphics capable of stutter-free HD content is a must. Likewise I have various external drives (both optical and HDD) lying around, as well as monitors and keyboards.
Thus am I correct in assuming that I will need:

A micro-ATX case
Micro-ATX motherboard, with compatable PSU
Memory

Would any kind soul be able to suggest decent models of the above, and the sort of price range I should be looking at?
the dandy p Avatar
6y, 3m agoPosted 6 years, 3 months ago
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Comments/page:
#1
No kind souls out there?
banned#2
Probably a bit too clever for peeps on here.

My advice? Buy a Macbook Pro and save yourself the hassle.
#3
JonnyTwoToes
Probably a bit too clever for peeps on here.


Meh.

To be honest I am not quite sure what the OP is asking, for example:
1. Be as small as possible (micro ATX)


M-ATX is pretty big compared to ITX type boards which are perfectly capable of 2/3/4.

Have you looked in to these Shuttle instead Dandy? There are quite a few companies/retailers out there selling barebone SFF items which you may find easier to get hands-on with.


Edited By: PhearFactor on Nov 23, 2010 19:42
banned#4
#5
I have built several mini-ITX based PCs so can offer what I have learnt.

Firstly, the case and location of the PSU is vital. Due to the small sizes of the cases I have found issues with the location of the PSU on certain cases (eg. Aplus models and some CIT models). The problem is that the PSU fan blows warm air downwards which isn't such a problem. However, fitting a board with a CPU that requires a fan causes problems since the location of the PSU is directly above the CPU and with the limited height of the cases, there is literally several millimetres distance between the PSU can and the case fan. Overheating inevitably occurs. Needless to say, fanless CPUs are only suitable for such cases. Other case manufacturers such as those made by Antec, have a more intelligent design with the PSU strategically mounted at the front of the case.

In the event you do choose a case where the PSU fan would conflict with the airflow pushed out by the CPU fan,. it is more advisable to use an external PSU. Rather than a standard ATX or mini ATX PSU performing the DC to DC conversions, a separate DC to DC board fits internally and this is fed by an external AC to DC adaptor. The advantages are less heat is generated and more room is provided inside the case. 150W DC to DC with a suitable adapter should be sufficient to run a low power AMD x2 260 CPU, a couple of 5400 rpm hard drives and an optical drive.

A board with the AMD 785 chipset is more than capable of decoding the major HD CODECs but I do not believe that PAP decryption is built in for outputting a stream for HD sound (PAP is much alike HDCP usage for blu ray movies). This may not be an issue if you use analogue outputs since the CPU can decode the blu ray HD sound (True HD and DTS Master) before outputting via analogue channels but many would prefer a digital stream and let a separate receiver perform the task. Another capable GPU for HD decoding would be Intel's G45 series and nVidia's 8400. nVidia's offering does support PAP decryption (I am led to believe) so you can output HD sound through a receiver rather than through the computer's analogue ports. Either way, the sound quality would be the same to all intents and purposes (same bit rate, sampling rate, etc) but the advantage of using a receiver is that it performs the decoding rather than the computer doing the job.

As you have specified quietness within your criteria, then a 150W DC to DC board with an adapter would be suitable as these PSUs are fanless. Unfortunately, the CPU would require a fan if you choose something mid-ranged. Of course, you could use Atom CPUs without fans though but you will need to ensure the GPU of the Atom board can fully decode the popular HD CODECs.

If you are using micro-ATX components, you may still get away with a 150W fanless DC to DC board as the power source but you should use low powered components such as 5400 rpm 2.5 inch hard drives (or SSD drives) and slimline laptop optical drives.

Also, be aware that if you buy a cheap case fitted with a 150W PSU, then I strongly urge you to bin the PSU and replace it with a cheap higher rated one or a more expensive similarly rated one. Of course, if you will be using a Core i7, you will require higher rated PSUs and those quiet DC to DC boards I mentioned will be out of the question since they do not provide enough ooomph for something like a Core i7.

Edited By: ElliottC on Nov 23, 2010 22:32
#6
Mini-itx is smaller than micro atx. I bought one for my server, mainly because it came with an atom processor for a reasonable price. I stuck it in a large case though as I needed space for my 6 hard drives.

Am planning on building an htpc soon so will be probably using mini itx again, not looking forward to my oversized hands being in such a small case though!
#7
sancho1983
Mini-itx is smaller than micro atx. I bought one for my server, mainly because it came with an atom processor for a reasonable price. I stuck it in a large case though as I needed space for my 6 hard drives.Am planning on building an htpc soon so will be probably using mini itx again, not looking forward to my oversized hands being in such a small case though!

Yep. The OP did specify as small as possible and also specified micro ATX within the same sentence so was possibly not aware of mini ITX. It's difficult to define "small as possible" though since there are standards that are even smaller than mini ITX.

After so many difficulties with a small case, I am reverting back to micro ATX in future!

Edited By: ElliottC on Nov 23, 2010 23:09: .
#8
MicroDirect have a Core-2 ready Shuttle for the right side of £100:
http://www.microdirect.co.uk/Home/Product/47111/Shuttle-barebone-PC-system-SG41J1-PLUS-DDR3-Intel

Certainly worth a look.
#9
Thanks guys, certainly enough stuff there for me to look through, seriously, cheers all for your suggestions!

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