I just completed my first gaming rig / desktop PC build in about 6-7 years. My last AMD build sat gathering dust in the corner after it was shorted out by a failed Antec PSU. Back then, I bought a lot of Steam games that I never played and wrapped up 5-6 years of MMORPG gameplay.
With the return of AMD in force to the builder scene, I waited for a second generation of CPUs / APUs and pulled the trigger on an ASU gaming rig / desktop PC featuring an AMD 2400G.
For this build, I needed to meet the following goals:
- $700 or less budget (oops)
- Mini-ITX footprint
- Just enough graphics oomph to play the following Diablo III and Starcraft II 3-4 year old Steam games, including most of the BioShock series and Elder Scrolls (never finished) ** Newer games like Elite Dangerous and Destiny 2
- Room to grow with a discreet GPU later
- Room to dual boot to Linux Mint or Ubuntu
I had originally wanted a new 8th generation Intel quad-core NUC, but when I realized how much I'd be paying for Thunderbolt support of an eGPU that I couldn't afford, I decided to tackle a mini-ITX build.
PARTS BUYING EXPERIENCE - B+
I purchased all of my components from Newegg.com. I used this website to find what I wanted in this build. I found pricing on Amazon.com to NOT be worth the PRIME shipping, and honestly, most of the Amazon parts weren't eligible for PRIME. Newegg.com's free shipping is laboriously slow, and paying from an iPhone using Apple Pay resulted in some problems with charges. Hence, the lower than A grade.
PARTS CONDITION - A
All the parts arrived without an issue, though I did have Ring video doorbell evidence of FedEx dropping the mini-ITX case from quite the height upon delivery. No damage, thankfully. My only niggle -- the jumper for shorting the CMOS on the ASRock board was missing.
BUILD EXPERIENCE - B+
I've worked with Shuttle XPCs when they were "the thing" for SFF builds, and I was used to some of the small wiring. I chose the case because of it's excellent room for future watercooling and discreet GPU expandability. In practice, however, I found that the mini-ITX build wasn't as "clean" because of the cheap components that came with the ASRock board and the Seasonic PSU.
The Seasonic PSU modular cables are VERY stiff, and so I have the man ATX12 (???) cable sort of floating in the middle of the case. The ASRock board includes rather stiff SATA6 cables as well, and I suspect I'll be replacing these with much more flexible braided cables in the future. Otherwise, the Fractal Design case was fantastic and just the right balance of "small" vs. "room to grow."
Re: the motherboard -- I'm an ASRock fan. Their software tweaking utilities for the CPU and RGB are meh, but at this price point and to include a USB 3.1 Gen 2 port, I'm pleased. Their UEFI BIOS (my first experience with one) is fantastic, though it could be a little better documented. Otherwise, a solid choice that saved me about $20 - $30 at the time of the build.
CONFIGURATION EXPERIENCE - B-
READ. THE. QVL. LIST. FOR. YOUR. HARDWARE.
If I'd done this, I'd have chosen the right memory. The G.Skill Trident Z RGB was the cheapest (at nearly $150) QVL rated (by G.Skill) 16GB memory kit for this board. I loved the G.Skill website because of this list -- I just wish I'd found it before blowing $110 on incompatible memory.
I purchased G.Skill RipJaws V memory to start at DDR4-3000 speeds, and those simply DO NOT WORK with this Ryzen CPU. Until I downclocked the memory to DDR4-2666, I could not boot to Windows 10 and install Radeon drivers. I lived with this for about 2-3 weeks until I found articles describing the advantages of both DDR4-2933 and DDR4-3200 with these Ryzen APUs.
The result -- a $20 loss on an RMA with Newegg.com, but a much better memory experience. The G.Skill Trident Z booted right up, went straight to the XMP profile for the memory speed and timings, and I've had not a single issue with the computer.
BONUS -- I get RGB lights. Whee! #sarcasm
OVERALL EXPERIENCE - A-
I love this new machine. The APU + motherboard + memory (2nd set) are everything I wanted out of a budget Ryzen APU build. I blew my budget by about $180 with the storage upgrades, but I have room to grow, and the machine is silent (at least to my uninformed ears). The Ryzen APU holds its own in the games that I had and the ones that've bought since the build. I've got plenty of room to grow in this case, and as soon as I rebound from the initial purchase price, I'll look into a discrete GPU to round out the build.
I acquired this motherboard for $120 or so from Newegg.com. At the time of this review, it's down to $80 or so with rebates. I think it could be a lower price point, but all mini-ITX boards with AMD B450 chipsets seem expensive relative to their microATX counterparts.
I purchased this board for a few reasons:
- USB 3.1 Gen 2 port -- the only brand that had one on its B450 boards
- Fewer legacy ports (still don't know why people have PS/2 ports)
- Strong reviews of both this and the ATX versions of the ASRock boards
- Quality of the UEFI BIOS
- Simplicity of the WiFi antenna
This board loses a star for the following reasons:
- Missing a jumper for shorting the CMOS
- Stiff angled SATA cables
- Mediocre supporting software for fan and CPU tuning / tweaking (afterthought)
- No onboard RGB lights for baked in decor (not critical, but ASUS offered it)
These are minor issues and I'd happily buy ASRock again.
This case is pretty big for a mini-ITX build. I have an Antec microATX case that's about 7 years old that is only slightly larger than this case. However, it IS perfectly equipped for handling water cooling hardware in a mini-ITX build. I love that I have room to grow into watercooling AND add a long discreet GPU later. The filters are easy to use, and the installation of the full size PSU plus the mini-ITX motherboard was relatively smooth. The fans are quiet and reported properly to the motherboard headers. I DO wish -- see other online reviews -- that the top grate had a filter so that removing the grate cover would permit more airflow. Otherwise, this is a fantastic case, and I will be shopping for Fractal Design again in the future.
I snagged this SeaSonic for $100+ before a $30 rebate with Newegg.com. SeaSonic has a really good reputation / review history, and I decided to get the best that I could afford. The package was massive -- so many accessories and bags and cable ties. I think the bags are a little bit much for something that will likely never be removed from your computer once it's built, and I'd love to see the sunk cost of those cute branded bags allocated to braided modular cables. The cables themselves are REALLY stiff, and I'm deducting one star for that. Otherwise, the PSU has performed admirably and I've got a lot of room to grow with a discreet GPU in the future.