How To Build A PC From $300 To $3000 [2]

Part 2 of this series is different from originally planned as I decided to take a little detour and look at if I could build a basic HTPC system in a small chassis for a modest cost. Most HTPC systems do not require a high performance spec and a $300 system as mentioned in part 1 would have ample performance capability.

The main differences in a HTPC system is that for small form factors, a mini-ITX mainboard and chassis are needed. There are some boards out there that have embedded CPUs as well. After a lot of consideration, I am reluctant to recommend an embedded CPU board because there is too much compromise between the low power spec of typical embedded boards and the performance needed to play video. Raspberry Pi and lower end NUC systems, and some mini-ITX systems with embedded CPUs, in my experience struggle to play video consistently. There are higher spec NUCs available that may be able to provide better video performance but the added cost somewhat outweighs the advantages.

Here are the key components of a mini-ITX based system with costings:

  • CPU: Pentium G 6400 – $105.48 (Ascent). The standard cooler included by Intel with this chip will fit into the suggested chassis, some other types of chassis might require a third party cooler.
  • Mainboard: Asrock H510M-ITX/AC – $171.35 (PBTech). Includes M.2 slot and onboard Wifi/Bluetooth
  • RAM – around $60 for 8 GB. This amount is more than sufficient for most HTPC applications, and you should get a pair of 4 GB DIMMs to utilise dual channel performance benefits.
  • Chassis – Inwin B1 – around $180 including a 200 watt PSU.
  • M.2 SSD: WD Blue 500 GB – $107.49 (Ascent)

This pricing totals a little over $600. Possible variations could include a regular SATA SSD if that form factor was needed for any reason. It’s unlikely for HTPC a regular HDD would be required. One issue with the mini-ITX boards is there may not be VGA or DVI outputs (the board shown has neither) so it may require DP & HDMI equipped displays.

Next time in Part 3 I’ll take a look at a midrange system around $1000.

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