My last two HTPCs (home theater PCs) had been prebuilt Asrock machines like this one. I wanted to build my next HTPC because:
- I wanted to give my youngest daughter the chance to help build a computer at age 5. (My older daughter had helped build one when she was 5).
- It would be fun
- I wanted ability to swap out parts over time
Because it would be an HTPC, it would have to be quiet and low wattage. But because we'd recently discovered the fun of Steam gaming and purchased Steam controllers, I wanted something we could use to play simple games at moderate settings.
I started with the portable LAN build here at pcpartpicker and then downgraded to fit my needs. I sought some advice on the forums and found [this spreadsheet very useful(https://www.reddit.com/r/sffpc/comments/9cl1x0/spreadsheet_of_recommended_components_for_sff/).
The portable LAN build had a Gigabyte X570 AORUS PRO WIFI Mini-ITX motherboard, so I started there. As that build guide says "The X570 chipset was selected rather than the B450 chipset in order to bypass any BIOS update issues that would occur when combining a new Ryzen 3000 series (Zen 2) CPU with a B450 chipset." I really didn't want the hassle of doing a BIOS update. I also needed onboard wifi because of where it would sit.
From what's in the build guide, I downgraded the CPU from a Ryzen 5 3600 to a Ryzen 5 3400G to reduce cost a bit. Originally, I was keen on using onboard graphics and those on the Ryzen 5 3400G seemed good enough.
Next, I downgraded the case from that in the build guide to simplify. Didn't need the lights or built in 650W PSU. The Silverstone SG13 was attractive enough for the living room, had lots of raves, and was big enough for a noob like me to build in.
Inspired by Jeff Atwood and some small-form factor builders from YouTube (one, two) I was really eager to build with a Pico-PSU-160 instead of a regular PSU. I knew from a lot of research this PSU can handle over 200 watts (despite having 160 watts in the name) with a good power brick. It would also reduce heat, leave a lot of room for my clumsy hands, and provide flexibility in choosing a CPU cooler or adding a video card down the road.
Without a traditional PSU, GPU, case fan, or traditional drives (just one M.2 SSD that the mobo already has a tiny fan for), the thing was roomy as heck. I took out two pieces of drive mounting hardware I didn't need--such a good feeling.
I first built it outside the case to make sure everything works (as I learned in this video). Upon booting it up I wasn't happy with noise level of the stock cooler, so ordered a Noctua NH-L9a to replace it. Had used a Noctua in my other build so was pretty sure it would be quieter.
Running some PassMark tests, I was a bit bummed to see that the 3D graphics results with the onboard graphics were no better than those on the Asrock machine it was replacing (the Asrock had a small graphics unit soldered to the motherboard). So then it became a quest to find a video card that would increase performance relative to the onboard Radeon R9 M270X from the Asrock but without drawing a lot of power. Had to be careful not to overload the Pico-PSU.
After way too many hours of watching videos about graphics cards, I decided to go with a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti which according to this site would only add up to 75W, making the whole build have an estimated wattage of about 200. I went with Gigabyte because I'd heard a reviewer say it was really quiet, and because fit the case and because it matched the brand of the mobo. I almost considered a fanless one but I have to say, the fans are so quiet that I can't hear them switch on.
I measured temps and wattage when running the PassMark suite of tests. When idle, the system drew 40 watts, under load this got as high as 115 watts. The CPU idled at 29 degrees and went up to 63 degrees under load. The GPU idled at 40 degrees (once the machine is warmed up) and peaked at 63 degrees during the PassMark tests. Without the graphics card, the system got a 3D Graphics Mark score of 2065. With it, it was around 5600.
I love the machine. The only drawback is that there's a PSU sized hole in the back. It's not a cosmetic issue since it faces the wall. Though I consider this a completed build, to make it really nice I hope to add dust filters and fashion a plate out of plexiglass both to cover the PSU hole and accommodate the 4 pin connector to the power brick.
If any casemodders know how to do something like this, I'm all ears.
Quiet. Came with quality backplate, screws, paste, directions.
Fans are so quiet I can't hear them switch on. Performs as a 1050 Ti should.
Good value for money. Can remove mounting hardware you don't need. Manufacturer has good info on sizes of components.