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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.