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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RE: Small build
by Wondercool on Sun 10th Nov 2013 13:24 UTC in reply to "Small build"
Member since:

+1 for this. Similar build here:

This is from 18 months ago:
- Case: Silverstone SG05BB-450 140 euro
- RAM 8GB 40 euro
- CPU cooling (fan) 10 euro
- Motherboard ASRock Z68M-ITX/HT 100 euro
- CPU Intel Core i5 (sandy bridge) 180 euro
- GPU ADM 6870 150 euro
- 64Gb SSD 80 euro
The case comes with a 450 watt PSU, enough for most modern GPUs.

This is around the 700 mark, depending on shipping and if you need keyboard, mouse, screen and disks. I had most of them.

It plays all games HD on almost the highest settings fluently. It's small enough to fit in a suitcase (I shipped it like that on a 12 hour flight!).

Building it was tricky as there is almost no room left for the 3.5" disk. In the end I used a 500gb 2.5" laptop disk for the data.

I would build a similar PC these days, except I made one big mistake: the noise level of the GPU is way too high.I would research my GPU better and/or I would find a watercooling solution for the GPU.

IMHO the biggest problem in making the PC smaller is the 11" length of the graphics card. I wish the motherboard makers + GPU makers could sit together to make some sort of joined up device without losing the performance.

Edited 2013-11-10 13:35 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: Small build
by chandler on Mon 11th Nov 2013 01:01 in reply to "RE: Small build"
chandler Member since:

Well, the "joined up device" would be integrated graphics, which has its own substantial tradeoffs. Maybe Kaveri will finally get the formula right, but I'm not holding my breath.

The other option is of course a gaming laptop running with the lid closed...

Reply Parent Score: 1