Gamer PC and fanless PC

Well since I’m buying all this equipment and we’ve settled on Apple for most of our computing needs, there are still that aren’t being met. First is the really small (think AppleTV size) box that is really an open PC with Linux so I can learn that development world and then the massive Gamer PC like those I saw at Pax Prime running Windows. Fact is that I could never get Windows running on our iMac (2009) and right now the world needs lots of graphics performance. Plus we have a spare room that is free for gamers, so what to get.
For the really small PC, there is the mini-ITX form factor. John and Bob told me at a $500 box called the fit-PC PC2-i. Wow it is small. Looks like a router but has an Atom Z550 and 2GB of memory and a slot for an SSD Drive. What a cool device. Also has dual gigabit Ethernets and HDMI output. Lots to play with here. But there are quite a few choices:

  • FIt-PC fitPC2-i. Got this thing as an experiment. It is really small and has two gigabit ethernet jacks, hdmi, 3 USB ports. Wow that is a lot of power. Comes with the Z550, 2GB of ram and can fit any 2.5″ drive. The main things about it are that it is small and really, really hot. Like cook an egg hot. Probably because of the atom processor, I’d guess. Also, its networking is pretty out of date. Just 802.11g
  • Logic Supply LGX AG150. This comes in both Atom Cedar Trail (the latest processor) which is dual core and that’s pretty cool, plus a single gigabit port and wifi. You can get a second port by using one of those USB to Ethernet adapters. Most importantly, theoretically, this thing could decode X.264 video in real time, so it would be a nice MediaPC. In testing though while its decently fast at 2GB, it is not going to run 1080p high definition videos anytime soon. Sad since the average ARM chip can do that without a problem.
  • Anand himself did a homebrew mini-ITX creation which actually looks pretty good as a general purpose small (it does have a fan though) computer. And interesting approach in that he uses an Intel DH77DF mini-ITX board and a declocked to 1.6GHz Sandy Bridge dual core Pentium G850 so it is quiet and uses much less power. It has a micro-SATA slot, so it is perfect for a small SSD drive and that takes up very little room and a low profile DRAM made by AMD and put it into an Antek ISK110 case. The result is something fanless that draws 23 watts and has just about every output under the sun. HDMI, USB, Ethernet.

For the gamer PC, this is way more complicated as making another home brew system would be wonderful. It’s been five years since I built a system and I’m hankering to pick components. So on to Tom’s Hardware and Anandtech to see what is cooking:

  1. Multiple GPUs. That seems to be the order of the day. The latest motherboard allows three (?!!!) natively. 
  2. SSD Drives. Everyone just uses these so things are really quiet and fast these days

I’ll update this as I go through the lists, but cool times! I tried configuring a PC on cyberpower.com and literally couldn’t even understand the information so some education seems like it is in order. So off to Anandtech and Tom’s Hardware where I learned:

  • Lan PC. For most humans the mini-ITX is all the computer you need. And the mini-ATX format is for the true gamers. A good example is the Origin Chronos ($1.5K) which is about the size of my old ShuttlePC lunch pail computer and perfect for LAN parties where you set up a LAN and kids can game. It is out. It is $1500 for a over-clocked 4.3GHz (!!!?) quad core with a 60GB SSD and 1TB backing hard drive.
  • Gaming PC. iBuyPower Erebus GT also has great ratings (see Anandtech) and is more expensive at $2.5K but which blasts all the benchmarks and is actually custom cooled. It uses the fastest single GPU from AMD Radeon HD.
  • Quiet PC. These are AMD PCs which are designed to be ultra quiet. 
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