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Build advice for ultra-compact media/gaming box


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#1

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 12:58 PM

Hey guys,

I'm moving overseas pretty soon, and I'm looking for a very compact & portable PC that I can take with me. I'll mostly be using it for playing movies etc, but I'd like it to be able to give decent (but not necessarily amazing) gaming performance once in a while as well.

My budget is around $1000-$1500, not including the monitor (which I'll get after I move) & keyboard/mouse (which I've already got). I'm interested in building a tiny PC just for the fun of it, but if it would be more cost-effective to get a laptop then I'll go with that.

It looks like there's only one ultra-compact chassis available, so let's assume we're starting with that. Could anyone help me out with a build?

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Edit--The template:
Budget Range: $1000-1500
System Usage - Most to Least Important:movies, daily use (internet etc), gaming
Monitor Resolution:let's say 1920x1080
Parts Not Required:keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, OS
Preferences: ultra-compact case
Overclocking: maybe but probably not
SLI or Crossfire: no

#2

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 01:15 PM

If you want to go that small you'd may as well just get a NUC.

You aren't going to get particularly good gaming performance without a dedicated card, and for that you're going to need a larger case. Silverstone have a few options, from the cube Sugos to their more console shaped RVZ01 (the only thing I can compare to is the old curvy Xbox360, it's around 15% larger). There's also some stuff from Jonsbo to look at if you like the cube cases.
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#3

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 03:31 PM

I don't recommend building a computer until after you've moved, as I see it as a lot of hassle, so a cheapo Windows laptop/tablet would be fine for daily use until you've settled in and bought locally. But if you want gaming performance in the mean time then I recommend getting a NUC with Intel's Iris Pro iGPU (Gigabyte Brix Pro or Mac Mini), or the Gigabyte Brix Gaming if you want to go graphics-crazy.
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#4

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 03:56 PM

Thanks, I think a Brix is pretty much exactly what I'm looking for. Is it worth getting the 4770 as opposed to the 4570?

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 04:18 PM

Not for gaming. If you're going to use if for video editing or something else that can take advantage of 8 threads, then sure.

Do note that the Brix/NUC are just the core parts. You'll need to add your own memory and storage.
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#6

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 05:49 PM

Yup, I'm thinking a Crucial MX100 256gb and this RAM.

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 05:54 PM

Yup, I'm thinking a Crucial MX100 256gb and this RAM.


SSD is fine, might be a pain to get the RAM shipped in from 'merica with import fees etc. Maybe get this? 1866mhz is unnecessary, btw.
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Posted 26 November 2014 - 06:01 PM

Yep, good choice of SSD. I'd go with the RAM that RealOxygen mentioned, or at least something similar. That means you'll be looking at a total of less than $1100, which is pretty reasonable. A laptop with a similar CPU and GPU would cost significantly more.

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#9

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 06:52 PM

SSD is fine, might be a pain to get the RAM shipped in from 'merica with import fees etc. Maybe get this? 1866mhz is unnecessary, btw.


You won't get stung with import fees for something that's $90, and RAM ships for $5-10.

Is it unnecessary? I know AMD's APUs benefit a decent amount from faster memory since the iGPU doesn't have it's own memory, so it uses the system memory instead. If Intel's iGPUs operate in a similar fashion I'd expect fairly similar results. You could get this 2133MHz stuff for $150ish. If speed isn't very beneficial then this 2x4 kit for $115 is your best bet.

It may be worth considering getting an mSATA SSD that connects directly into the motherboard, that way you're still got the drive bay slot for a mechanical 2.5" drive if you need storage space. They are more expensive though, and it's not the end of the world to connect up an external 2.5" drive via USB, especially if you're not planning to use much space anyway.
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#10

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 07:09 PM

Is it unnecessary? I know AMD's APUs benefit a decent amount from faster memory since the iGPU doesn't have it's own memory, so it uses the system memory instead. If Intel's iGPUs operate in a similar fashion I'd expect fairly similar results. You could get this 2133MHz stuff for $150ish. If speed isn't very beneficial then this 2x4 kit for $115 is your best bet.


It may give benefit, however the unit must support it, it costs more etc. so I wouldn't go there unless there was evidence pointing otherwise (which I couldn't find). Wouldn't get the 1333mhz RAM, as 1600mhz is the same price, and it's nearly 2015 lol. Couldn't find any 2x4gb kits, so just get two of these as I said above.

EDIT: Has anyone checked out if it needs DDR3L RAM? That's pretty important as it won't work otherwise.

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 07:16 PM

It may give benefit, however the unit must support it, it costs more etc. so I wouldn't go there unless there was evidence pointing otherwise (which I couldn't find). Wouldn't get the 1333mhz RAM, as 1600mhz is the same price, and it's nearly 2015 lol. Couldn't find any 2x4gb kits, so just get two of these as I said above.

EDIT: Has anyone checked out if it needs DDR3L RAM? That's pretty important as it won't work otherwise.


So 1866 is a waste of time compared to 1600, but 1600 is definitely worth it over 1333?

I've found Alphacity charge out the butt for shipping unless you're Auckland, so it'll come out as more expensive for a lot of people.

Depends on the model in question. Some take anything, some need low voltage stuff.
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#12

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 07:29 PM

I read somewhere that the Brix Pro needs 1.35V RAM, if that's what you mean. And I'll probably go for at least 1600mHz because I'm still way under budget anyway.

As for shipping, it seems like it'll be cheaper and easier to get this all off Amazon after I leave NZ, so shipping will almost definitely be free.

Edit: Actually I can get 2133 for slightly cheaper than 1866 even haha. But the latency is higher. Also it's probably pointless. But hey, there it is.

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 07:31 PM

So 1866 is a waste of time compared to 1600, but 1600 is definitely worth it over 1333?

I've found Alphacity charge out the butt for shipping unless you're Auckland, so it'll come out as more expensive for a lot of people.


1866 is a waste of money while 1600 vs 1333 cost practically the same. Plus there are compatibility issues on occasions, given not often.

There are plenty of other options for 4gb modules. I'm sure there is one with decent shipping rates. Here, here, here, here, here and here. A couple have good shipping options.

I know, should be checked out so no compatibility issues arise. Small form factor PCs often require low voltage RAM (as you would kinda expect).

I read somewhere that the Brix Pro needs 1.35V RAM.


Look for DDR3L RAM in that case :)
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#14

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 07:49 PM

1866 is a waste of money while 1600 vs 1333 cost practically the same. Plus there are compatibility issues on occasions, given not often.

There are plenty of other options for 4gb modules. I'm sure there is one with decent shipping rates. Here, here, here, here, here and here. A couple have good shipping options.

I know, should be checked out so no compatibility issues arise. Small form factor PCs often require low voltage RAM (as you would kinda expect).



Look for DDR3L RAM in that case :)


But it really isn't much different. 1600MHz is $5 or so more than 1333MHz, and 1866MHz is another $5 or so on top of that, in regular DIMMs at least, you can't really offer the same comparison with SO-DIMMs since the choice of high performance modules is limited to non-existent.

At a quick glance I don't think any pairs of those will ship outside of Auckland for the same cost or less than the 2x4 set. Not that it matters, since it's a 1.5 kit anyway. I still don't understand why on one hand you're pushing so hard for 1600MHz, while on the other you're saying speed doesn't matter.

And on that last point, it does matter. I found these results for memory speed with the iGPU on Intel's HD graphics. There's a decent increase in performance there, that'll only become more obvious with the more powerful Iris Pro GPU. They'll be pronounced further if you run at 1920x1080 instead of 1360x768, since as you increase in resolution, the reliance on memory increases. If you want to see similar patterns, but with more realistic resolutions and framerates, look at some benchmarks with AMD's APUs. Even the difference between the memory's base speed of 1866MHz and the OCed 2133MHz has a fairly significant impact on performance.
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Posted 26 November 2014 - 08:18 PM

But it really isn't much different. 1600MHz is $5 or so more than 1333MHz, and 1866MHz is another $5 or so on top of that, in regular DIMMs at least, you can't really offer the same comparison with SO-DIMMs since the choice of high performance modules is limited to non-existent.

At a quick glance I don't think any pairs of those will ship outside of Auckland for the same cost or less than the 2x4 set. Not that it matters, since it's a 1.5 kit anyway. I still don't understand why on one hand you're pushing so hard for 1600MHz, while on the other you're saying speed doesn't matter.

And on that last point, it does matter. I found these results for memory speed with the iGPU on Intel's HD graphics. There's a decent increase in performance there, that'll only become more obvious with the more powerful Iris Pro GPU. They'll be pronounced further if you run at 1920x1080 instead of 1360x768, since as you increase in resolution, the reliance on memory increases. If you want to see similar patterns, but with more realistic resolutions and framerates, look at some benchmarks with AMD's APUs. Even the difference between the memory's base speed of 1866MHz and the OCed 2133MHz has a fairly significant impact on performance.

Except that the Iris Pro has the eDRAM L4 cache or whatever it is called, which will help out a lot. I know it won't do everything by any means, but it probably means that the more powerful GPU won't make much difference with regards to memory bandwidth needs.

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 08:27 PM

But it really isn't much different. 1600MHz is $5 or so more than 1333MHz, and 1866MHz is another $5 or so on top of that, in regular DIMMs at least, you can't really offer the same comparison with SO-DIMMs since the choice of high performance modules is limited to non-existent.

At a quick glance I don't think any pairs of those will ship outside of Auckland for the same cost or less than the 2x4 set. Not that it matters, since it's a 1.5 kit anyway. I still don't understand why on one hand you're pushing so hard for 1600MHz, while on the other you're saying speed doesn't matter.

And on that last point, it does matter. I found these results for memory speed with the iGPU on Intel's HD graphics. There's a decent increase in performance there, that'll only become more obvious with the more powerful Iris Pro GPU. They'll be pronounced further if you run at 1920x1080 instead of 1360x768, since as you increase in resolution, the reliance on memory increases. If you want to see similar patterns, but with more realistic resolutions and framerates, look at some benchmarks with AMD's APUs. Even the difference between the memory's base speed of 1866MHz and the OCed 2133MHz has a fairly significant impact on performance.


'Nuff debate about clock speeds, I can't even find 1866mhz DDR3L RAM so it is irrelevant haha.

If you noticed in the benchmarks you provided (Cheers, I was interested!) there were clear diminishing returns on the 1600-1866 vs 1333-1600 so... kinda why I was pushing for one upgrade over the other. Seems to me that it would be cheaper to get a dedicated GPU than blow money on 2400mhz or thereabouts RAM just to get the iGPU usable!

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 08:45 PM

Except that the Iris Pro has the eDRAM L4 cache or whatever it is called, which will help out a lot. I know it won't do everything by any means, but it probably means that the more powerful GPU won't make much difference with regards to memory bandwidth needs.


Yeh, it's really hard to gauge since there isn't really much info about exactly how the memory and cache get utilised, and if it will have much of an effect or not. When you're already spending over $1K on it, I'd be tempted just to drop the extra $30 on the faster memory, even if it's only based on speculation based on similar components.

'Nuff debate about clock speeds, I can't even find 1866mhz DDR3L RAM so it is irrelevant haha.

If you noticed in the benchmarks you provided (Cheers, I was interested!) there were clear diminishing returns on the 1600-1866 vs 1333-1600 so... kinda why I was pushing for one upgrade over the other. Seems to me that it would be cheaper to get a dedicated GPU than blow money on 2400mhz or thereabouts RAM just to get the iGPU usable!


I did tell you high performance SO-DIMMs are rare to non-existant!

Well, I guess you can call me when there's a dedicated GPU inside a NUC, and don't link that stupid Gigabyte thing with the desktop GTX760 that overheats and throttles down to 400MHz after 10 minutes of gaming. It's a good point though, I remember a while back I saw people on here suggesting APUs for budget gamer rigs, I was curious, so I looked into alternatives and it turns out you could get an i3 and a dedicated card (7770, 650, something like that?) for only 10-15% or so more than a high end APU, giving you a more powerful CPU, more powerful GPU, more choice in motherboards, and a platform with better upgrade capabilities.
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#18

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 08:48 PM

Just looked at the Gigabyte site and it says "2 x SO-DIMM DDR3L slots (DDR3 1.35V) 1333 / 1600 MHz". Is this legit? Am I limited to 1600, or is that just them being weird?

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 08:52 PM

Nearly every motherboard will say that.

Those GSKill ones I linked earlier are in the supported list at full speed (the 2133MHz modules from Kingston are only listed up to 1866MHz).
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Posted 26 November 2014 - 08:53 PM

I did tell you high performance SO-DIMMs are rare to non-existant!

Well, I guess you can call me when there's a dedicated GPU inside a NUC, and don't link that stupid Gigabyte thing with the desktop GTX760 that overheats and throttles down to 400MHz after 10 minutes of gaming. It's a good point though, I remember a while back I saw people on here suggesting APUs for budget gamer rigs, I was curious, so I looked into alternatives and it turns out you could get an i3 and a dedicated card (7770, 650, something like that?) for only 10-15% or so more than a high end APU, giving you a more powerful CPU, more powerful GPU, more choice in motherboards, and a platform with better upgrade capabilities.


Must have missed it haha

Ah, he's worked me out. Guess I'll have to link this instead ;) You must see the reasoning with sinking so much money into the unit simply for the sake of form factor though.

Just looked at the Gigabyte site and it says "2 x SO-DIMM DDR3L slots (DDR3 1.35V) 1333 / 1600 MHz". Is this legit? Am I limited to 1600, or is that just them being weird?


If worst comes to worst your motherboard will underclock the RAM to 1600 or 1333.

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 09:21 PM

Ah, he's worked me out. Guess I'll have to link this instead ;) You must see the reasoning with sinking so much money into the unit simply for the sake of form factor though.


It's twice the size on the Brix Pro, but I'll let you away it.
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#22

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 09:23 PM

It's twice the size on the Brix Pro, but I'll let you away it.


With tech right now it's unrealistic to expect what you would like in a Brix form factor without it being that GTX 760 mess. That EN760 is still pretty damn small!

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 09:32 PM

Then I guess you're spending the $30 on that high speed memory :P
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Posted 26 November 2014 - 10:18 PM

Congratulations on this epic debate guys. :rolleyes:

As for the Brix, if you intend on using it as your primary machine I recommend getting an mSATA SSD instead, and then getting a larger 2.5" HDD for storage after you've moved. They cost about the same as 2.5" drives, are usually just as fast, much smaller, and relatively lighter. And if so, the Crucial M500, Intel 530, and Samsung 840 EVO models are all good choices.

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#25

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 11:30 PM

Guess I'll have to link this instead ;)


So the barebones version of this is actually cheaper than the Brix on Amazon, and it seems more powerful all around. Is there any reason I wouldn't get that instead? (Shipping isn't an issue and the form factor is small enough for my liking.)


re:mSATA, good idea, I'll keep that in mind.

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Posted 26 November 2014 - 11:57 PM

So the barebones version of this is actually cheaper than the Brix on Amazon, and it seems more powerful all around.


Looks to me like the Brix is $70 cheaper, or $100 if you wait for Amazon to get it back in stock. (link).

The CPU in the Brix is going to be a lot faster. Those mobile i5s are clocked fairly low, and are only hyperthreaded dual cores. Even though the iGPU in the 4570R is fairly snappy, even a mobile 760 is going to beat it, and with gaming being more dependent the GPU than the CPU, it'd probably be the better option.

Since you're waiting until you get to the States until you order, is there a reason why you couldn't just build a PC there since you won't be worried about carrying it in luggage?
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Posted 27 November 2014 - 08:43 AM

Just looked at the Gigabyte site and it says "2 x SO-DIMM DDR3L slots (DDR3 1.35V) 1333 / 1600 MHz". Is this legit? Am I limited to 1600, or is that just them being weird?

1600 MHz is the highest official speed. You can normally use faster memory, but it is considered overclocking. And even if you can't "overclock" it to the higher rated speed of the memory, as RealOxygen said above the worst that'll happen is it'll run it slower than the memory's rated speed.

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Posted 27 November 2014 - 09:16 AM

Looks to me like the Brix is $70 cheaper, or $100 if you wait for Amazon to get it back in stock. (link).


Oh, right you are. Never mind. I was looking at the 4770r by mistake.

The CPU in the Brix is going to be a lot faster. Those mobile i5s are clocked fairly low, and are only hyperthreaded dual cores. Even though the iGPU in the 4570R is fairly snappy, even a mobile 760 is going to beat it, and with gaming being more dependent the GPU than the CPU, it'd probably be the better option.


Which one are you ultimately recommending here?

Since you're waiting until you get to the States until you order, is there a reason why you couldn't just build a PC there since you won't be worried about carrying it in luggage?


Partly practical reasons (I move around quite a lot, often into small apartments) and partly I just like tiny stuff.

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Posted 27 November 2014 - 10:26 AM

Which one are you ultimately recommending here?


I believe he is recommending the Brix for more CPU horsepower for tasks like video/photo editing and a little more snappiness all around, and the Zotac for a lot more GPU horsepower than the iGPU, which will be a portable gaming beast.

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Posted 27 November 2014 - 11:55 AM

Partly practical reasons (I move around quite a lot, often into small apartments) and partly I just like tiny stuff.


Would something in an ITX case like the SG05 or RVZ01 still be too large? They're pretty compact and you can build a proper PC inside them, which is ideal if you want to be able to game well, since the iGPUs really aren't that great, and nor are the mobile chips unless you're getting the top-tier stuff. I'd imagine it'd come out a bit cheaper too.
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