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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by Thom_Holwerda on Sun 10th Nov 2013 16:49 UTC
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So, I've been following some of the recommendations here, and I've got it down do this:

Any thoughts on the liquid cooling? Benefits vs. downsides?

There's no case here - I have a really good full-aluminium Lian Li case already, collecting dust because it isn't being used. I'd need to check if it has the space for the radiator/cooler from the liquid cooling system.

There's no way I can justify spending this amount of money right now (having just bought the iPhone 5S), but it does intrigue me that such a powerful system only costs a mere €700.

Reply Score: 1

RE: So...
by No it isnt on Sun 10th Nov 2013 19:09 in reply to "So..."
No it isnt Member since:

Like I said above, go for a Gold/Platinum rated PSU. The Corsair CX series is Bronze, which is less efficient, meaning it will transform more electricity to heat (possibly twice as much). You can probably skimp on the wattage when going up in efficiency.

Gaming under Linux means nvidia currently.

Cooling: I used liquid cooling in my old system, and a bigger Noctua heatsink in my current 4770K system. The great thing about liquid is that you don't need to put a heavy chunk of metal directly on your CPU, but it's neither quieter nor more efficient. However, you should easily get by with a 65W i5 4570S CPU, as even my four years old Phenom II 945 system could run just about any game.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE: So...
by _txf_ on Mon 11th Nov 2013 00:33 in reply to "So..."
_txf_ Member since:

If you're really interested in the most silent (barely) then keep the water cooling system. However, these days even the stock intel heatsink and fan makes so little noise it is barely noticeable. This is doubly true since you're going to be overclocking that cpu.

I would suggest you invest that money into the gfx card.

In regard to the gfx, whilst I definitely tend towards Amd cards (more flexible in esp. for things like gpgpu), if you're going to use steamOS then don't use AMD.

The open driver works, but it really isn't optimized for games. The closed driver is more optimized but still seriously sucks vs Nvidia.

Edited 2013-11-11 00:35 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE: So...
by Wondercool on Mon 11th Nov 2013 12:05 in reply to "So..."
Wondercool Member since:

That looks fine to me.

Personally I would not buy a 600W PSU unless your are planning on upgrading your GPU later.
Todays CPUs and GPUs don't need that much power anymore. Around 100watt for the CPU and around 200 for the GPU max. This is getting less every year as the die shrinks.

I would also not invest in a water cooled heating system. My Core i5-2500 rarely breaks out in a sweat, so the CPU fan revs at around 1000 rpm 99 percent of the time, nearly inaudible if your case is good.

You can also save on your CPU if you really want to, there are incredibly few games out there that are CPU bound. Most games are GPU bound.
If you replace your motherboard for an AMD FX6000 and don't use water cooling, you can save another 100 euro at least.

Edited 2013-11-11 12:07 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: So...
by Thom_Holwerda on Mon 11th Nov 2013 12:54 in reply to "RE: So..."
Thom_Holwerda Member since:

So a 400-450W would suffice? I do want modular, though, that sounds incredibly useful for proper cable management inside the case. I may opt for a case with a window, so that would look nice (I know, I know, don't judge me).

As for going AMD - any suggestions for motherboard/processor combination? I really wish AMD and Intel simplified their line-up.

Reply Parent Score: 1