First Go at a Mini PC

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First Go at a Mini PC

Postposted on Sun Nov 04, 2012 11:50 pm

Hi all,

So... built me plenty of "traditional" desktops... normal ATX form factor type stuff in a tower config. That said, my mother is looking for a really basic internet machine... looks like some form of nettop fits the bill.

Budget is about $500. No need to purchase a monitor that I'm aware of (extras around).

I've never done a bare bones before, always from scratch. What do I need to consider for a basic build like this?

Also... how the hell do I install an OEM version of Windows 8 on a device that lacks a DVD (in case I get something without one)? I see there's download versions of Win 8 upgrade, but I can't find a full one. Probably just being blind, my bad.

Thanks!
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Re: First Go at a Mini PC

Postposted on Mon Nov 05, 2012 1:05 am

You need to have access to a computer with a DVD drive and a USB drive of at least 4 GB.

Follow these instructions from Microsoft.
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Re: First Go at a Mini PC

Postposted on Mon Nov 05, 2012 1:40 am

Now...to the system itself. There are a number of nettop options. But you might be better off building your own mITX system. It will probably be a little bigger, but you will get more bang or the buck.

If you want the absolutely smallest case you can find, you could go with the M350. You can also get it with various power bricks. This model has a 150W power brick. You could also go with the In Win BP665 or Antec ISK 300.

There is a range of prices there for the case from about $50-100.

Then you would need an mITX motherboard like this ASRock board for $100. If you go with this 8GB kit for $40.

A 1 TB WD 7200 RPM drive is $70.

Just for pure longevity of the system, I'd recommend an Ivy Bridge i5. It pushes the power budget on those cases a bit being a 77W rated process, but the [utl=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819116504]i5-3570K[/url] does have the HD4000 graphics that really are a huge upgrade for Intel integrated graphics. That processor is $230 unless you have a Microcenter near you.

That's a very potent system for under $500 if you use the InWin case.

Now, that said, it is also overkill in the extreme for an internet machine. You can get by with an i3 or even one of the AMD options. The AMD options are less power efficient, but give much better integrated graphics. And graphics performance can be a factor in system longevity. Of course, any of the boards would support an add-in video card to extend system life, though the cases and power supplies that I have mentioned above would not.

I you have a Microcenter near you, you can get the i5-3570K and ASRock Z77E for an amazing combo price of $275. Unfortunately, they don't really have any mITX cases. But you can always order a case online. With that sort of head start, you can even cram in a small SSD boot drive if you like.
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Re: First Go at a Mini PC

Postposted on Mon Nov 05, 2012 1:45 pm

[SDG]Mantis wrote:You can get by with an i3 or even one of the AMD options.

I was going to say that an i3 would be decent for longevity since it has HT. As an internet/MS Office PC, I would start my recommendations at a Pentium G850 for $70 and go up to an i3-3225 for $130. (not choosing any 100+W AMD solutions here since its small form factor) An extra $60 is an awful lot to pay for hyper threading considering she probably won't use any of the other small advantages the i3's offer and 2 cores is plenty for what she'll be using for quite some time.

An AMD alternative would be an A8-5500 and mobo. (this would be my choice)

Make sure you decide on your case before ordering a hard drive. Most SFF cases only accept 2.5" notebook hard drives.
Last edited by DPete27 on Mon Nov 05, 2012 1:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: First Go at a Mini PC

Postposted on Mon Nov 05, 2012 1:51 pm

[SDG]Mantis wrote:You need to have access to a computer with a DVD drive and a USB drive of at least 4 GB.

Follow these instructions from Microsoft.


Perhaps a USB DVD drive could work as well, though I've never tried this.
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Re: First Go at a Mini PC

Postposted on Mon Nov 05, 2012 1:54 pm

Yeah, you'll need to get a disc image of the version of windows you have a key for, then use this. IIRC, Windows disc images are free of charge, its the license and the actual DVD that you pay for. If you have the windows DVD and an optical drive, you can make yourself a disc image using a program like IMGBurn.
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Re: First Go at a Mini PC

Postposted on Mon Nov 05, 2012 2:54 pm

Does your mother really need a Windows machine if she is only going to surf the Internet with it? If all she needs is a browser, I would consider something like a Chromebox or an iPad, unless she uses sites that aren't compatible with their browsers--way less maintenance on your part and nothing to get screwed up. I had some reservations about putting my Mom on an iPad two years ago when I did it, but it turned out to be a really smart move on my part. If I need to maintenance her router, I just stop by with my Win 7 laptop and do so. Otherwise, no maintenance whatsoever.
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Re: First Go at a Mini PC

Postposted on Mon Nov 05, 2012 3:12 pm

[SDG]Mantis wrote:A 1 TB WD 7200 RPM drive is $70.

For $60, you can get a 64GB SSD. Spend a little more and you can easily break 120GB.

That would give you a small drive (would better fit in tight quarters), and a fast one (greatly easing wait times on a minimal use machine). Unles you need a lot of storage, that's probably a solid choice, and even then, if there's little work being done, she should easily get by with an external hard drive for those needs.
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