Make Your Own Living Room PC - Yolrp 1

As I promised, today I will present the first possible configuration of your own living room PC (if you don't mind, I am going to call it Yolrp 1 in short:) ). The main assumptions were: size (max 35x28x10 cm - comparable to Xbox One), price (to 375 Euro), and performance in games (min 50fps in Tomb Raider, 720p, at medium graphic details).

While building a PC (not only Yolrps) many people treat computer case as an add-on, the less important part of it. However, it needs to have appropriate size to fit the motherboard etc., provide proper airflow to cool down all components and finally it has to look nice.

Don't get me wrong - I don't want to convince you to buy a high-end case just because it has two more fans or a built-in fan controller. But if you want a good PC, it need at least a good case.

To fit the first assumption I decided to search for a mini-ITX case. It wasn't easy to find a good one to a nice price but after some searching I've found Chieftec Flyer FI-01. Size? 265 x 90 x 270 mm. It will easily fit under the TV and it also comes in two versions - Black (FI-01B) and White (FI-01W). I was bored that everything under my TV (BD player, Satelite decoder, audio amplifier) is black so I picked up FI-01W. Price? You can find it for about 60 to 65 Euro. Not bad when you add a built-in 200W AC.

So we have the box. What's next?

Cases of that size have one significant problem. It is hard to fit in a good graphic card - even if you pick a low-profile one it is easy to overheat it. Fortunately there is a solution - APU.

For many years AMD has been working on making integrated CPU graphics that have enough power to handle AAA games. Of course they will never (for sure not in the nearest future) be as good as typical Radeons or GeForces but every generation brings them one step forward. That's why as the "heart" of our Yolrp 1 I will use one of the newest AMD APU.

I have to mention here that new consoles are also using AMD APU processors. In my "console" I will use AMD Kaveri A8-7600 APU. It have a built-in Radeon R7 with GCN architecture and new sound support technology - TrueAudio. It also has one big advantage - user can choose if they want it to be a standard 65W processor or an energy-efficient 45W (which of course works slower, but then our PC is almost completely silent). Price - about 120Euro.

OK, we have a GPU, but what about RAM for it?

This is the biggest (but unfortunately not only) problem with Kaveri. It doesn't have access to, typical for additional graphic cards, fast GDDR5 memory. To perform graphic tasks it uses DDR3 RAM from the motherboard that simply isn't able to provide the same level of throughput.

The best way to avoid this bottleneck is to use DDR3-2133 RAM, unfortunately its price would be against the second assumption, and we still have some things to buy.

Unfortunately, I don't have slower RAM around so I've changed it's timing in BIOS (to 1333 MHz, 1600 MHz and 1866 MHz) and compared results:

The decision is simple - we have to pick 1866 MHZ RAM to meet the third assumption. From my own experience I would choose Kingston KHX1866C9D-3K2/4GX - it has A really good price-performance ratio. The price - about 50 Euro.

Now final element - the Motherboard.

Since I have already decided to use the mini-ITX size and A8-7600 APU we don't have much choice. Our motherboard needs a FM2+ socket and it would be nice if it had an integrated WLAN module and/or a headset amplifier. The only motherboard that meets my expectations is ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+.

It have everything that we need - USB 3.0, HDMI out and in and - what is really nice for device that will be also part of home cinema - 8-channel sound card with optical S/PDIF.

Don't repeat my mistake!

When everything was set in its place and lay on a shelf near my desk I saw the hard drive... Mini PC cases have this problem that it is hard to change or put in the hard drive once the motherboard and APU cooler have been inside. Fortunately, I've managed to open front of the case and somehow put it inside without breaking anything. I've picked up a simple Seagate Barracuda ST1000DM0003 - cheap 1TB drive that have enough storage space for over a dozen of big games, some movies and music.

No, I didn't forget about DVD-drive. I just don't use it. Most of games are now distributed digitally and even boxed versions need to download huge updates just after activation so I did not see the need to put DVD or BD drive inside this tiny machine. Maybe someday I will add it as an upgrade, but not today:) Many of you may have problems with installing OS without DVD but don't worry, I will show you how to set up an OS and prepare Yolrp to use in next post on Monday.

I've got one last question for you - Yolrp 1 is a catchy name but is quite hard to spell - do you have a better idea how to name this PC?