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AMD Llano APU System Build: Mini-ITX for HTPC and Gaming

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: AMD

The Rest of the System

Cooler: Zalman CNPS8900 Quiet and Slim

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While you could use the standard cooler that comes with the A8-3870K if you are trying to save money, I would recommend this Zalman cooler that is a bit quieter and still low profile to avoid any issue with the power supply location in our Lian-Li chassis.  This will also allow you to push the performance of the APU if you decide to go down the overclocking route with your unlocked K-series part.

Memory: Corsair Vengeance 2 x 4GB DDR3-1866

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Despite looking for some of that AMD-branded memory, the best product we came across was a set of 4GB modules from Corsair in the Vengeance line running at 1866 MHz.  Why is that important?  As we have seen in the past, GPU performance actually does scale with memory frequency so sticking with DDR3-1333 memory is leaving performance at the door.  And since we found this 8GB kit for under $60, it’s an easy upgrade selection.

SSD: OCZ Agility 3 120GB

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The Agility 3 SSD uses the SandForce 2000 controller but uses slightly slower flash memory, but not to a point that average user would realize it.  The Agility 3 is pretty low cost as well coming in well under $1.00/GB (and as of this writing is an absolute steal at $69 after rebate!).  And while you won’t be able to use the 120GB SSD alone if you planning on doing a lot of gaming or home theater recordings, it will definitely improve the perceived speed of your Llano build!

HDD: Samsung 2TB EcoGreen F4

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After getting your operating system on the SSD, you’ll definitely want to add on a larger mass storage hard drive for your games, for recordings from your DVR and more.  Enter the Samsung 2TB EcoGreen F4 hard drive and its 2TB capacity.  There are lots of different brands and models of hard drive and if you don’t want to fall into the Samsung camp, feel free to pick up a new Western Digital or Seagate option. 

Because the Lian-Li case has enough space for it, you might also consider doubling up on your storage drives and running them in a RAID-1 array for a bit more security.

Power Supply: Corsair Builder Series 430 watt

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Okay, here’s the deal: to run the A8-3870K, the ASUS motherboard, Corsair memory, OCZ SSD and single hard drive, you aren’t going to need much power.  Corsair has a Builder Series of power supplies that are low cost and no frills, but get the job done.  Though I do wish it had modular cables to ease with cable management, it doesn’t have enough clutter back there to be a huge deal. 

Closing Thoughts

Putting it all together is pretty simple and if you have any experience building PCs you shouldn’t have any problem getting our mini-ITX rig assembled.  The only issue is that sometimes installing hardware in a small form factor case can cause some spacing issues (and possibly some cuts on your hands), the Lian-Li case is built well enough (and spacious enough) to avoid that for the most part. 

Without a discrete GPU to install, you really only have an APU, heatsink, memory and storage to worry about – then installing your Windows operating system (or Linux if you swing that way).

The total cost on our build clocks in at just under $700 – not cheap by any stretch but getting an SSD in addition to the cost of a higher end case and cooler really makes this better than your average budget build. 

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If you haven’t checked it out yet, I would really recommend you check out a new PC parts pricing and building site – PCPartPicker.com.  By using this URL to the build that I created based on our article here, you can edit and add/remove parts as you wish, get the best prices from any number of vendors in any number of countries, and then share your work with others.  It also provides some great information like the cost of your total system build over time, seen below:

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So, again, my build based on this article can be found right here: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/cPY1

What do you think about our SFF / Llano build?  What would you change?  Let us know in the comments!

July 24, 2012 | 11:53 AM - Posted by mig029

I think i'll hold off my HTPC build until the new FM2 boards and Trinity launches. It feels like I have been waiting forever for Trinity.

July 24, 2012 | 12:18 PM - Posted by Rick (not verified)

i would scrap the llano parts out of the system!! i would go i3 2100 (89 at MC), h61/67 mini itx mb (65-90 NE) and a amd 7750 gpu (100 NE). the cost would be a little bit more then a llano build, but it would be a lot faster.

July 24, 2012 | 12:36 PM - Posted by Dogg3 (not verified)

Personally, I'd make the jump to a 2120 for a few dollars more and a 7770. Totally you'd end up paying 650-700, but if you're riding the price:performance scale, I think mine would rank higher. If you want to increase the price a bit, I'd then jump to a 7850, but that's a large jump in price.

July 24, 2012 | 12:41 PM - Posted by Dogg3 (not verified)

Also, if this is a LAN box, I'd ditch the SSD and downgrade to a 500GB - 1TB HDD. I need storage space more than I need loading times.

If this is going to be a LAN box, I don't need more than that, and if it's a HTPC, I wouldn't need the large HDD, so I'd buy a 120GB SSD, and forgo the HDD.

July 24, 2012 | 01:20 PM - Posted by Rick (not verified)

i agree, being a lan box i would spend 200 on a ssd instead of 85 on a ssd and 115 on a hdd. storage is for network devices.

July 24, 2012 | 01:53 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Why not both?

http://zipmeme.com/uploads/generated/g1339470507343576102.jpg

July 25, 2012 | 10:40 PM - Posted by Dogg3 (not verified)

To keep cost down. The SSD isn't really going to be needed because chances are I'm not loading games off of the SSD.

July 24, 2012 | 03:31 PM - Posted by djotter

I think this is a nice all-rounder build, I have something similar for my HTPC but just a generation or two back and lower power (think E-350), did you have any clearance issue with the power supply and CPU heatsink? Or any cooling problems as the cooler and PSU will be fighting for the same air in close proximity?

July 24, 2012 | 07:48 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I haven't seen an Asus F1A75-I Deluxe on sale anywhere for months.

The Asrock board is a poor substitute, it's cheap but it's not good. Lack of a usb 3.0 header was the deal breaker for me.

July 24, 2012 | 08:16 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I normally use a NTA 350 to build my lan boxes. I'm more leaning to the new ARM solutions.

You should checkout htpcbuild.com for some cool software guides. ;)

July 24, 2012 | 08:17 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

http://htpcbuild.com

July 27, 2012 | 06:44 PM - Posted by aparsh335i (not verified)

No FPS charts ?? :)

August 6, 2012 | 09:26 PM - Posted by Thordrune (not verified)

I went with a Micro ATX Llano HTPC build a few months ago and have been happy with its performance. It was a nice step up from my previous E-350 machine, which is now working nicely as my stepmom's primary PC. I'm also using the same heatsink that Ryan picked and can't recommend it enough.

Other parts that I used:
Silverstone Grandia GD-05 case (looks like an A/V receiver, excellent ventilation/positive air pressure)
460w Seasonic fanless PSU (I would have gone with the 400, but Newegg had the 460 for less)
Asus F1A75M-Pro motherboard
8 GB G Skill Sniper DDR3-1866 (I don't recall seeing the Corsair then)
128 GB OCZ Octane SSD

Mini-ITX builds rock too, my old E-350 was one. It was quite fun to cram everything into such a small area.

One thing with the case fan on the Lian-Li: most LED-equipped fans I've come across have the LEDs near the mounting holes on the edges of the fan, with wires leading to each one. It's easy to cut the wire and disable the LED. If you don't want a lit-up fan, nor want to buy another fan to replace it, try that.

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