This article continues the topic of assembling computers in compact cases and will focus on assembling mid-range PCs in a Slim Desktop case. The presented prices are valid for the city of Surgut at the time of publication.
The task of assembling MediaCenter is to become a home entertainment center, and for a moderate 55,000 rubles. Taking this budget into account, it was decided to abandon the motherboard with a built-in wireless adapter in favor of a motherboard without one. A “regular” motherboard will cost less, and the savings will be shared among other components.
A Wi-Fi / Bluetooth adapter, if the need arises, can be purchased separately. When choosing a wireless adapter, it is advisable to give preference to devices made in the form of a PCI-E expansion card – something like TP-LINK Archer T5E . But USB “whistles”, especially inexpensive ones, for all their compactness and ease of connection, often do not meet the expectations of the buyer: either the network falls off every five minutes, then the network speed is several times lower than the declared one.
When it comes to desktop cases, it’s like you’re going back 30 years, when computers only had 640 KB of memory, and they were booted from floppy disks of practically the same size. Of course, modern desktops are not like that anymore. The filling of desktops has changed, their appearance has become more stylish, thinner models have appeared – Slim Desktop. However, “thinner” is a relative concept, since some cases like Slim Desktop can easily accommodate standard ATX power supplies, and not their stripped-down versions. It is this case that will form the basis of the MediaCenter assembly . The reason is simple: standard power supplies are the most common, so there will almost never be problems with the selection of the one needed for a particular assembly.
Another requirement for the case for the MediaCenter is the presence of a full-fledged five-inch bay for installing an optical drive. You will have to refuse cases with slots for ODDs with slot loading or a special cutout for a tray – not every drive will fit there, and I would not want to limit myself in the choice. Even though the internal ODD in this assembly is optional for the media center, the ability to install it should be present. With the optical drive installed, your Slim Desktop PC will look more like a regular DVD or Blu-ray player.
Few models meet these requirements, but we will make our choice in favor of the SilverStone Milo ML-04 [SST-ML04B] . The estimated price of this building is 8150rubles (at the time of this writing, ML-04 was not available for sale). Its volume is slightly more than 16 liters, but inside it there is room for an ATX power supply (but no longer than 140 mm), and for a standard five-inch optical drive, and for a couple of HDDs, coupled with an SSD. This roomy “box” allows the installation of motherboards up to the microATX form factor. But a video card or other expansion card can only be installed with a low-profile one, no more than 74 mm high. It should be noted that the full-size horizontal slot on the rear panel is intended for installing a reobass or a bracket for additional I / O ports, and not for expansion cards.
For efficient cooling, the Milo ML-04 accepts up to four 80mm fans on the right side wall. Unfortunately, the “turntables” themselves are not included in the kit, which, considering the price of this case, is not too far-sighted on the part of the manufacturer. On the other hand, this makes it possible not to be limited to a solution from the manufacturer, but to organize the cooling in the most optimal way.
The Milo ML-04 front panel contains: 5.25 ”bay, 3.5 mm mini-jack audio connectors, two USB 3.x ports, power and reset buttons, power and disk activity LEDs. The front panel is closed by a special aluminum front door, due to which the body looks much more aesthetically pleasing. However, the front panel itself is plastic (the body itself is made of steel) and looks pretty cheap. Therefore, from an aesthetic point of view, it is better to keep the aluminum door closed – of course, if you do not need constant access to the front panel components. The power button and LED indicator are accessible even when the front door is locked, and in addition, the power indicator brightness can be adjusted with a special lever.
The Milo ML-04 case supports up to four fans, but only a few microATX motherboards have four connectors. In the MediaCenter assembly, we will limit ourselves to only two, but which ones! It will be a pair of quiet Arctic Cooling F8 PWM PSTs priced at RUB 599 apiece. But the main thing in them is not the declared maximum noise level of 22.5 dB, but the presence of a double connector 4-pin male / 4-pin female, thanks to which, if necessary, it will be possible to easily add a couple more 80-mm “turntables” to the system by simply connecting them to those established earlier. In this case, there is no need for additional connectors on the motherboard.
Once again, only the integrated graphics will be responsible for displaying the image in the MediaCenter assembly , and, as you know, AMD has the best integrated graphics. Therefore, we choose a motherboard based on socket AM4. Other selection criteria: the classic triple of VGA + DVI + HDMI video outputs, the microATX form factor (fortunately, the case allows), the B450 chipset, one PCI-E x16 slot (why do we need two if none will be used). And no built-in wireless adapters!
The ASUS PRIME B450M-A II motherboard has become a real boon in today’s build. It offers four RAM slots instead of the usual two, high-speed USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports, an M.2 SSD connector, and a USB BIOS Flashback with an activation button on the rear panel – functionality that is not always present in more expensive motherboard models – and all this for a modest 5250 rubles. ASUS ‘proprietary feature – USB BIOS Flashback – will help you update your motherboard BIOS even without a processor installed! This feature is usually only available on high-end gaming motherboards (such as the CROSSHAIR or MAXIMUS series), so it is quite unexpected and pleasant to find it on a budget board like the PRIME B450M-A II.
The last build involved processors with four cores and four threads. This time we need a processor with four cores, but already eight threads. Taking into account the fact that we are betting on a productive “build-in”, the only and uncontested option is AMD Ryzen 5 3400G , which has a powerful integrated graphics RX Vega 11. The price of this APU in the OEM configuration is 18,599 rubles. It is worth noting that the Ryzen 3 3100 + GT 1030 bundle, which is close in capabilities, will even cost a little more.
It’s time for performance tests – let’s see how the Ryzen 5 3400G and its integrated Vega 11 graphics behave in games. Why gaming tests? Because game tests give a much more realistic load on system components than naked synthetics.
Despite the lack of overclocking and memory operating at a base frequency of 2933 MHz, this APU does a good job in games – 40-60 fps – albeit at low graphics settings and at 720p resolution. Undemanding toys like CS: GO run fine on medium settings in Full HD, but a heavyweight like Cyberpunk 2077 still remains practically unplayable even with minimal settings, which is quite expected.
This situation changes with faster memory, as the onboard graphics use some of the RAM as video memory. The author of the following video used 3466MHz memory with reduced timings, which allowed him to get outstanding gaming performance at 1080p and medium-high settings. At the same time, some traditionally resource-intensive options – shadows, post-processing, effects – remained at a low level, but the result is still impressive.
Based on this video, it can be argued that the Ryzen 5 3400G is the true king of gaming without a discrete graphics card. And for typical tasks of a home media center, its capabilities are even more than enough.
CPU cooler and thermal interface
SilverStone Milo ML-04 case allows installation of a processor cooler no more than 70 mm high. If a cooler of such height is installed, there will be no free space between the upper part of the cooler and the upper case cover, which is not good. Therefore, the real limitation on the height of the processor cooler is 65-66 mm. Thanks to the active cooling inside the case and the fact that the Ryzen 5 3400G is not particularly hot, a simple, moderately quiet cooler that fits in height is suitable for building the MediaCenter . Let’s add a Zalman CNPS80G Rev.1 cooler with a declared noise level of 25.3 dB to our assembly . The price of this model is 670 rubles.
Unfortunately, the Zalman cooler does not come with thermal paste, so you need to purchase it separately. Alternatively – Prolimatech PK-2 ( 399 rubles for 1.5 g).
Video / Graphics
“Build-in” Vega 11 gives a good reason to save money on the purchase of similar performance graphics cards GT 1030 or RX 550:
Although “discrete” (especially RX 550) works fine in old games like GTA V, in newer games like the notorious Cyberpunk 2077, the advantage is already on the side of integrated graphics.
We will complete our assembly with two strips of RAM, 4 GB each – a total of 8 GB. Any inexpensive DDR4 memory with a frequency of 3000 MHz is suitable , for example, this set: Goodram IRDM X [IR-X3000D464L16S / 8GDC] worth 3599 rubles. This memory is not in the QVL-list of the PRIME B450M-A II motherboard, but the memory from Goodram is just good budget memory, which cannot be said about the same Radeon R7.
If eight gigabytes of memory turns out to be insufficient over time, we still have two free slots, which will allow us to easily increase the amount of “RAM” in the future.
We act according to the same scheme that was used in the MediaCube assembly : solid state for the OS and the necessary software, hard for movies, music and everything else.
The popular SATA SSD Samsung 870 EVO with a capacity of 250 GB will act as a solid-state drive . Samsung-branded drives are renowned for their reliability and durability, and there is nothing to add here. The price of Samsung 870 EVO is 4950 rubles.
The hard drive for “everything else” should be large enough (3 TB) and quiet (5400 rpm). As usual, we will rely on the products of the Western Digital brand, which offers us two suitable models at once – WD30EZRZ (CMR) and WD30EZAZ (SMR). Which one to choose, there is no difference for our purposes, but to make it quieter, let’s opt for the model without the “tiled” WD Blue [WD30EZRZ] notation . Such a disk will cost 6399 rubles.
Power Supply Requirements: ATX Form Factor, 400W Power, 80 Plus Bronze Certification, Non-detachable Cables. The Milo ML-04 case sets another limitation – the block length should not exceed 140 mm, which significantly reduces the list of applicants. But there are no requirements for the number of SATA, Molex and PCI-E connectors, because by and large, in this assembly we need only two SATA connectors, which are available in any modern power supply unit of such power.
It was decided not to save on the power supply – the budget allows, therefore we cross out the simplest models from the list, to which questions may arise. From what remains, the most optimal choice in terms of price-performance ratio is be quiet! SYSTEM POWER 9 400W costing 4050 rubles. This is a completely reliable power supply with quality stuffing, a quiet cooling fan and good reviews.
The total cost of building MediaCenter is ((18599 + 670 + 399) + 5250 + 3599) + 0 + (4950 + 6399) + (8150 + (2x 599) + 4050) = 53,264 rubles. We have met the declared budget.
In general, we have got a good mid-range multimedia computer in a compact case, so the task can be considered completed. Until new builds!