Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 9th Nov 2013 18:44 UTC

The recent news, pictures, and reports about the prototype Steam Machine got me thinking. Since the SteamOS platform is a simple x86 computer, without the kind of restrictions that regular consoles come with, you can simply build the prototype Steam Machine today. However, the big issue is that Valve has done some magic to make sure that the hefty processor and videocard are properly cooled in the tiny prototype enclosure.

For years now, I've been looking for a way to build such a powerful PC in such a tiny package. The problem is that building such a small, powerful PC yourself is not easy - especially not for someone like me, who doesn't have the time to keep up with the honestly irresponsibly large amount of options available in the processor, videocard, cooler, and case markets. It's a mumble-jumble of version numbers, and in the case of video cards, cooling designs, card lengths, and god knows what else.

So, I have a simple question. Say I want to build a small, powerful gaming PC like the Steam Machine prototype, using off-the-shelf parts, for a reasonable price (I would say EUR 600-800). It needs to be properly cooled and as silent as possible, and it needs to be a small console form factor - so a small, horizontal case. Building a powerful, cool gaming PC in a tower is easy. Building it small and console-like, however, is not.

So, if you were to build something like that, which components would you pick? I might - no guarantees! - take up the advice given here and actually build it, if I can justify the spending. Even if I don't - it seems like a nice exercise for the PC builders among us. The laptop, smartphone, and tablet explosion has pushed custom PC building to the sidelines, but I still think it's an incredibly fun and satisfying activity - and if you're good enough, it is, most certainly, an art.

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Comment by _txf_
by _txf_ on Sat 9th Nov 2013 22:05 UTC
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If you're looking to match or be in competitive range of the specs of the steambox you're looking to spend half/third of your cash (600€/800€) on the graphics card.

In terms of cost ratio I imagine it will go something like: 0.4 gfx, 0.2 cpu, 0.1 mobo, 0.1 PSU, 0.1 Ram, 0.05 box (if you're not too fussy). the extra 0.05 is wriggle room between PSU and mobo.

These ratios assume that you're not going for gaming components (excepting the graphics card). In my opinion gaming components tend to be overpriced unless you're planning things like overclocking etc.

Another thing to bear in mind is to keep the quality of the PSU relative to the Graphics card power. a 600W PSU should be alright if you're buying from a brand like Corsair, but if you cheap out you're going to have a bad time (soon if you're unlucky and later if luck holds).

Edited 2013-11-09 22:11 UTC

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