Small HTPC Build

16. December 2017 17:19 by Cameron in   //  Tags: , , , , , , , ,   //   Comments

I recently have had the itch to build a small PC that can fit in my entertainment center. This is mainly so I can play games that require wired controllers without having to provide 30ft long USB extension cords to my main desktop. To fit this need, I considered getting an Intel NUC based on the new Apollo Lake Atom processor, but ultimately I decided on an HP Pro 6200 SFF PC. The Intel NUC in the cheapest configuration isn't well suited for all of my current needs. I would have needed a NUC with an i5 or better for decent performance in more graphically demanding applications.

I bought the HP from eBay for a small $30! The original purchase from eBay included an Intel i3 2100 clocked at 3.10GHz and 8GB of DDR3 RAM. I just had to purchase a hard drive separately and then the computer was ready to use! This was an incredible deal which I couldn't pass up. After receiving the PC, I installed my 1TB HDD, upgraded the CPU to an Intel i5 2500 clocked at 3.30GHz, and installed an ASUS NVIDIA GT 1030 2GB low profile GPU. In total, the build cost me about $150 which is just a little more than the Intel NUC I had originally considered.

I wanted the PC to be powerful enough emulate everything from Atari to Wii/PS2/PSP so getting the GT 1030 was a must. I didn't get great performance on the Intel HD 2000 alone. It is important to note that if you're going to do this yourself, you need to consider power consumption and that these OEM PCs don't have standard upgradeable ATX or ITX PSUs. The HP Pro 6200 has a 240W PSU which is below the NVIDIA recommended 300W for a GT 1030. However, I haven't had any issues where the PC struggles with power delivery. The specs for the GT 1030 indicate that the card draws around 30W and my i5 draws around 95W. This leaves ~100W for the other components which should be sufficient. Because the GT 1030 is a low power card, it is also important to mention that it will only run at PCI Express x4 speeds, but this is plenty for light gaming, emulators, and video streaming. If you need full x16 speeds, you should consider building a mini ITX PC or micro ATX PC instead.

The advantage to going the route of old OEM PCs instead of starting from scratch is that you have less costs to get a base PC up and running. To build a similar configuration from scratch, it would easily cost 2-3 times as much, but you do have more options on CPU/mobo than OEM.

I still maintain my primary desktop PC for gaming/work that requires a beefier GPU, but this is a nice secondary PC that fits my needs for multimedia within my entertainment center. I will be creating some captures from the HP soon demonstrating performance of this build in terms of light gaming, Steam in-home streaming, emulators, and video streaming.

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