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Walkthrough of mini PC build with pictures


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#1 jonuk76

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Posted 03 June 2017 - 01:15 PM

Hope this is OK to post here. This is a write up of a build for a new small form factor PC. This is to be connected to a TV to perform HTPC duties, and I may also load it up with some arcade and console emulators for vintage gaming. I wanted something that would give a significant performance boost over an old Acer Nettop PC I have been using, without being significantly larger, and without spending too much.

 

Parts

 

Motherboard/Case/PSU: Asrock Deskmini 110 Barebones PC with 120w external PSU

CPU: Pentium G4560 3.5 Ghz

Storage: Intel 600p 128 Gb NVMe SSD & 250 Gb Fujitsu 2.5" HDD recycled from old laptop

RAM: 8 Gb Crucial DDR4-2400 SO-DIMM 

OS: Windows 10 Pro 64 bit

 

The ASRock Deskmini 110 is a bare bones mini PC with a Socket 1151 motherboard. The motherboard uses the Mini STX form factor, which is in between Mini ITX and a NUC in size. It is small!  It supports Intel Skylake and Kaby Lake processors with a TDP of up to 65w.  There is no facility to fit a graphics card in this machine.

 

QfTdDXc.jpg k0iQWUS.jpg oMEGMTv.jpg

 

There are two M.2 slots (stacked vertically) one of which is specifically for a Wifi/Bluetooth card, which I do not have.  The other takes NVMe SSD’s only (note, incompatible with M.2. SATA devices).  This is connected to the CPU and supports full PCIe 3.0 x4 speed.  I am using an Intel M.2 SSD, which was relatively inexpensive.  While this is not one of the higher performing NVMe drives, it was cheap and potentially a little quicker than most SATA devices.  This is simply slotted in to the upper slot, and secured with a single screw, which is gently tightened.

 

xZJsiMf.jpg

 

On the underside of the motherboard tray, there is room for 2 x 2.5” SSD’s or HDD’s.  These are connected to custom SATA ports on the underside of the motherboard, which also provide power.  The cables supplied in the package are non-standard. You cannot use standard SATA data cables.

 

B1P13s5.jpg

 

The HDD (a 250 Gb model removed from an old laptop – this is an economy build) is secured with two screws, and the cable attached. The flat connectors on the motherboard were quite difficult to line up with the cable correctly, but got there in the end.

 

zfXgcyx.jpg

 

Back on top, the 8 Gb DDR4 SODIMM is installed in the first RAM slot. It uses laptop memory to save space.  It’s a tight fit, but goes in with some pressure applied.  The PC will accommodate up to 32 Gb of DDR4.

 

zKEzwRu.jpg

 

Now to the CPU installation. The lever is released, allowing the socket cover to lift up.  Note the pins on the CPU socket.  These are very delicate, and it is very important not to bend them.

 

nS8YcM6.jpg

 

The CPU is placed carefully in the socket, with the corner marking on the CPU lining up with the arrow on the motherboard. Double check the CPU is correctly lined up, and then the cover closed, and locked in place with the lever.  Thermal paste (Arctic MX2) is applied to the CPU.  If using a new boxed Intel cooler, it will have pre-applied paste.  I used more than I’d like here, but it’s not too bad. Any excess will be squeezed out of the way in any case.

 

BpiUYft.jpg

 

The cooler is attached.  Snap down the retention pins in a diagonal pattern.  Make sure they are fully through the motherboard holes.  NB this is a cooler from a 95w Core i5 I had lying around, which is slightly higher performance (has a copper core and potentially faster Delta fan) than the one supplied with the Pentium G4560.  But the stock all aluminium one would is just fine.

 

igmtiKc.jpg  2JyWWVQ.jpg

 

The motherboard tray is now slid back into the chassis, and screwed the four screws at the rear tightened. That is it! We just need to see if it powers on OK...

 

n40KaQP.jpg

 

All looks good.  And next step is to install an operating system.  The actual “build” part of this took me little over an hour.  It’s probably the easiest build I’ve ever done.  The lack of internal cables from the PSU to worry about is a serious bonus in a small system.  I think this is a good little system because you can do a more economic build like me, or you could install something like an i7-7700, 32 Gb and a 1 Tb Samsung 960 Pro for a very powerful little computer.


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#2 synergy513

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Posted 03 June 2017 - 01:57 PM

That is a sweet little getup. the first thing i think of is heat dissipation and dust prevention. htpc units stay on all the time, where is the hot air leaving after the hsf stirs it up?? maybe the same vent the fresh air came in?

 

i see the display outputs, pretty much all you need, the display port and the hdmi, and the vga for back-up.

 

the hd4600 is the last intel igpu i was aware of, i am sure they are going to get better until soon, the aftermarket video cards are relegated to distant heaps of rubbish, kind of like the old math co-processors from the 1980s before the 486s..

 

P.S. that is a great image of the TIM, could be used over and over as a guide, the topic is quite common..


Edited by synergy513, 03 June 2017 - 02:28 PM.

Moore's Law : 4d Graph in Progress


#3 jonuk76

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Posted 03 June 2017 - 02:33 PM

Thanks. Heat buildup hasn't been a problem. Air's drawn in through top and expelled through the sides, which also directly cools the SSD. Dust, yes, it's most certainly going to need occasional dusting, due to the amount of case vents and lack of any air filtering. I put it through it's paces by re-encoding some films using Handbrake h.264 which I think represents a maximum realistic load scenario. Core temps hovered around 50 degrees, with occasional spikes to 54. And that is on a reduced noise fan profile. Contrast with a typical laptop, which often are bouncing off the thermal limiter doing a task like that.

3D performance on the HD 610 graphics is not up to much. Think about similar to a 8800 GTX from way back when. But for Kodi etc. it's great. I did originally want a G4600 for its 50% better GPU performance but didn't want to pay it's 50% higher price!

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#4 synergy513

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Posted 03 June 2017 - 02:41 PM

Yes, the 3d isn't really a must have for htpc.  and your temperatures are optimum. maybe a nice little dust filter over the top vent and the unit is set for service.

 

what is the clock speed idle versus load of that cpu? my deduction is that a low idle clock is desirable


Edited by synergy513, 03 June 2017 - 02:43 PM.

Moore's Law : 4d Graph in Progress


#5 jonuk76

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Posted 03 June 2017 - 03:27 PM

Well I expected it to be 800 mhz but according to HWMonitor, the CPU is at a constant speed of 3.5 Ghz, even during idle.  I'll try to verify with some other software.  Power saving features of the CPU are enabled in BIOS.  Note there is no turbo mode on this CPU.

 

An intake filter is a good idea. In the past I've used improvised bits of material fixed around the air intake. I'll try to think of something!


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#6 synergy513

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Posted 03 June 2017 - 07:54 PM

excellent....something else came to mind just novel thought...ECC ram. like the servers use because they are on all the time  24/7, no reboot unless absolutely necessary..i don't see ecc equpped htpc s often.

 

a long time ago, i was kind of afraid to ever power down my desktop, fear of the thing not starting up again. i would just leave it running.  after a few days, the OS would do weird things, windows would disappear, errors popping up etc....then i would reboot, and viola, the OS and programs would be fine.  looking back, this would be an indication of the memory corruption that the ecc units are somewhat immune from...so if an htpc is left on for a few days running with no reboot, would errors start manifesting?

 

just a .02 pence concept, but a little debate can't be a bad thing


Moore's Law : 4d Graph in Progress


#7 jonuk76

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Posted 04 June 2017 - 12:03 PM

This isn't ECC in this build. Xeon's support it, but I think they also require a Xeon specific chipset.  Not sure.  The symptoms you describe sound like they could be some program consuming operating system resources or memory over time. https://www.pugetsystems.com/labs/articles/Advantages-of-ECC-Memory-520/

 

FWIW I used to run the old Acer for weeks at a time without a reboot (it was set to sleep when inactive) and that was running Kodibuntu, a cut down version of Ubuntu 14.04.  No problems generally.  It would eventually run into one requiring a reboot or at least logging out (restarting the X Window system).  The Acer was an ultraslim "nettop" running an Intel Atom CPU.


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