System Builder Marathon Q3 2015: AMD Mini PC

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All the talk about the ''path less travelled" and you still couldn't ditch the optical drive (in favor of a better psu).
Aside from that its nice to see an AMD platform in ITX.
This is what I wanted. Comparing different systems at the same price. And 800$ is a good pick for the price. But what I actually want to see is a comparison of

Intel CPU & Nvidia GPU system
Intel CPU & AMD GPU system
AMD CPU & Nvidia GPU system
AMD CPU & AMD GPU system

at the same price at the same time


Feb 20, 2006
All the talk about the ''path less travelled" and you still couldn't ditch the optical drive (in favor of a better psu).
Aside from that its nice to see an AMD platform in ITX.
The ODD wasn't Eric's choice, it was an editorial requirement.
From the article
My first submitted part list didn't include an optical drive and my chosen GPU had a $20 instant rebate. This allowed me to fit a 240 GB SSD and SeaSonic modular power supply. Management told me I had to include an optical drive. My case didn't have a 5.25" bay, meaning I'd have to get a more expensive external drive or a different case.

Speaking of which, it is about time 'management' recognise that ODDs are no longer mandatory. I built a machine 5 years ago with an ODD and have used it only 3 times in those 5 years, and those occasions only because I couldn't be bothered to go downstairs to get my keys with their attached USB stick. On one of those occasions I had to take an external ODD with me as my friend didn't have any ODD of his own!

Aside from all that, Eric, this is a really great SBM experiment and your writing style is a pleasure to read. Thank you.


Aug 5, 2009
is there any way to move to videos/audio that you make 100% yourself, so that we can run our current systems through the same tests? i'm assuming there are a number of people here who would live to bench their system against these to see what an upgrade would cost them.

also, on the optical drive front, i see no reason not to include one.
if you want to talk music, depending on the band, its cheaper to buy used cd's than it is to buy the songs individually, and its far cheaper to buy a used dvd/bluray than to even rent a movie or tv series, some exceptions can be made if you have netflix dvd/bluray delivery, but even than, a 4 disc or 6 disc season would cost you something like 5-8$ to rent and likely the same to buy and have it shipped for free.

personally, i have a bluray burner that i use quite a bit, and i have a dvd drive that till it broke was almost constantly used... its hooked up to an IDE cable, and the last time i messed with one of those the computer wouldn't go passed the bios anymore... so i dont take it out just because i dont want my computer to screw up in a way i dont know how to fix...

lets also say you want to legitimately buy games, you can get in box on the pc games for cheaper than digital most of the time, and when a game goes on sale digitally, you can get them used on the pc for cheaper, though you probably won't line up with the eula if you go that route.

i would at the very least love to see a drive bay case in all builds like this, but the drive itself does not need to be there, a decent compromise or in the case of you absolutely do not want to have an internal drive space, than make an annotated price that shows what it would cost to hook one up... i believe an external sata ide interface is able to run dvd/bluray drives along with hdds (i had to get one when 2 of my external drive cases failed on me, cheaper getting one 20$ thing opposed to 2 cases, one for each interface.
As I said, regularly I disagree with the "no ODD" crowd. You're right in that they're not always a hard requirement. However I've had enough requirements for them in the last three years that I'll still include one in my personal builds. But, also as I said in the article, I always have a flexible budget where adding an extra $20 isn't out of the question.

In terms of the first version of the Munchkin, I asked management if I could just include a regular internal drive ( even though the case couldn't fit it ), and just say the user would have to use it from the bench before the case was closed up. They wouldn't go for it. ;)

Thank you. I know I tend to get a bit verbose, but I wanted this to be kind of like a narrative.
This was kinda my idea when Joe and I designed the bench suite used for the $60 mboards. Everything used there was free and freely available so everyone else could run the same thing to compare their system. Joe has modified it for his uses as he has basically come to own that review segment.

The problem with it is that it's largely made up of synthetics. Synthetic benches are great for hardware testing because they can be more strenuous and use every new feature and instruction set. That means they can show off strengths and weaknesses better.

However, for the SBM we also want to use real-world software to get real-world-applicable results. That means we use things like MS Office, Adobe Creative Cloud, iTunes, and code compilers. You could run the same tests on your machine, but you'd have to have the exact same software as well as the same project files and such. I don't think it's some super Tom's Hardware secret exactly what we use, we just don't want to host a 200 GB image that contains the files and instructions how to use it.

As I said, for myself I usually use an ODD. However, I will recognize that not everyone wants or needs one. If you're fortunate to have a good internet connection, downloading games and software isn't a problem. Someone who lives in the boonies and doesn't have a fat pipe, or that has a metered connection, doesn't want to deal with 20GB downloads. With the Munchkin as a LAN box, I didn't think an ODD was necessary. Ten years ago when I was going to LANs more regularly, sharing a game disc to get everyone a copy so we could all play it was common. If you go to a LAN party now, most files will be shared over network or via USB stick.

I don't agree with the idea that every SBM case must have an external bay. Getting an external USB ODD is easy enough for those cases and machines. An external drive also has the benefit of being portable so you can share it among all your home computers.
I do feel compelled to comment on the Corsair CX. Personally I would have risked the untested ARC, under the theory that "the orc that one hears (the CX) is worse than the orc that one fears (the ARC)." With that out of the way, this article was a pleasure to read, and the limited comments we made back and forth did not reveal what an outstanding analysis we would all get to read. Whether anyone would build a PC like this or not, the value of the data point it has provided is undeniable. Very well done.
I'm not crazy on the CX either. If this was in a system that was constantly drawing 400W, I'd be a little worried. But the PSU has it's own air intake to keep it cool, and it doesn't go above 60% load so I think it's fine.


Aug 26, 2011
When you are building a LAN pc, can we have a same priced laptop in there to compare the performance. Many of us use laptops regularly and would like to know where they stand compared to desktops.


Oct 6, 2006
I am extremely proud of this build as I built almost the exact same system but with a micro-ATX motherboard and a GTX 960 for my daughter. The 860k, when coupled with a higher level cooling solution will fly. I have always been an AMD fan, and I love the FM2+ format. My HTPC is a FM2+ APU. My work machine is an AMD FX-6300. Storage seems to be the crippling factor in this build. Personally I'd have gone with a 120GB SSD for the system load and a 500GB 7200RPM HDD for the rest of the stuff. I did that on my daughter's machine and it makes not a whit of difference for gaming and all the world for loading up Windows. All in all though an excellent build! I bequeath unto you several chocolate chip kudos!
I fuly understand you. I used to have a laptop that was my primary gamer as well and it visited many LAN parties. The problem is you can get a wide-variety of laptops in the same price range, so getting one that's representative of what the majority wants is difficult. And more simply, I don't have an $800 gaming laptop available to me. Not only that, but we don't always go for a gaming-centric build in the SBM, so it wouldn't be used all that often if I did have such a laptop.

This idea really doesn't make a lot of sense, however. As I said in the article, the total cost of an 860K and a "higher level cooling system" exceeds the cost of an i3-4170 or FX-6300, both of which are much more capable chips. The i3 doesn't need any aftermarket cooling, and even the 6300 can be OC'd a bit on the stock cooler. If you're on a mATX or larger platform and you're willing to spend $110+ on CPU and cooling, I see no reason why you would consider the 860K

I too would prefer a SSD in here. As I said, originally it was supposed to have a 240GB SSD as the only internal drive, then the end user could attach any external storage they wanted over the eSATA. However, after changing the system and getting the rest of the parts, I only had ~$50 left for storage. That's not enough for a SSD and spindle drive.

Samuil Munis

Jul 19, 2013
This was painful to read. Everytime I saw a gaming graph something inside me screams ... the 970 is sooo bottlenecked .
I get why such articles are made , it wouldn't be interesting to read if everything was totally sensible . Still please for the love of god do not give advise to people that don't know any better , to go and buy an amd cpu and pair with a 970 + class gpu ... .Sorry to say this but at the present day going with any amd cpu in a certain price range , its just not smart .
Here is hoping for "zen" to be good enough to compete ...
Please show me one place I recommended someone else do this. Just one. It's okay. I'll wait.

Sir Jun

Jun 25, 2015
There's a typo in the System Comparison Components chart. In the Q1 2015 $700
Budget Gaming PC column, in the storage drive row it says "uses sustem drive". I'm pretty sure you meant system drive.
The author said himself that this was not a system he'd build, even saying it might be for nothing other than the data points it would generate. For that reason, I didn't even howl too much about the PSU, which need not last in order for this PC to fulfill its purpose.
This build is a LOT more balanced than one Paul tried a few years ago, pairing a Celeron with a flagship GPU, aimed specifically at "Ultra" gaming. It performed abysmally at almost every other task, and was nothing anyone would recommend, but it too was an interesting data point because it was actually viable at its stated purpose.



I totally would have gone for that too, optical drives are becoming useless more and more each day (and this is coming from someone with a rather large media collection). Especially now with Windows 10 shipping on USB drives, why even bother?
Because not everyone is in your situation. I understand why a lot of people think they're a waste of money and don't want one. But it doesn't make sense to ditch them altogether just as it doesn't make sense to force every machine to have one. Whether or not a machine includes an ODD, including future SBMs, should be determined if it makes sense in that particular machine and situation.


Former Staff
Bull feces. The reason not explained in this article for including the ODD was that the winner is receiving his system disassembled and unloaded with a Windows DVD. Done. We can drop the ODD when the DVD goes away. That will probably be when we do the Win 10 upgrade (and that will probably be Q1 2016).

I know I'm going to get down votes for telling things the way they are rather than telling people what they want to hear, but I'm OK with that :)



I've built a couple of itx builds, firstly in a silverstone sugo SG06 then in a CM elite 120. It probably wouldn't fit in the budget but my advice when building in these cases is choose small components even when larger will fit.

for example using a silverstone SFF modular PSU with the included adapter plate in the CM case gives you so much more room to work with it's worth it for the convenience alone.

I would suggest the itx version of the 970 also except it may be a bad choice in terms of cooling, if not though it would also make working in that case easier



Yeah I agree, I think it would depend on the user's specific needs. Not everyone streams and people still hang onto their media collections because they don't want to buy new ones. If I were doing this build I would kill the mechanical drive - since they're so cheap now they can be added later, if we're building for space/performance I'd take out the mechanical drive and optical drive in favor of a 250GB SSD, since these can be had for less than $100 they wouldn't break the bank on a build of this budget.

i understand why you chose the corsair unit. but i gotta ask - were these following psus out of budget at the time of ordering?
xfx 550 TS,
seasonic s12g 450,
seasonic s12g 550,
seasonic s12g 650,
antec neo eco 520.
i've been tracking the xfx and the s12g psus' prices. both have been hovering around $80 and slightly less for months. since prices change everyday, i was wondering if that's what happened during ordering.

i am not worried about the load or the airflow ( about the psu), rather the internal components and their quality and performance. CWT is quite capable of building good psus, but it builds according to order and corsair puts the cx series in the entry level segment.

for a first time SBM article, very good job. i'd been looking forward to seeing an amd processor inside a small case as well as a blower type gaming card for quite some time. :)
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