AMD Llano APU System Build: Mini-ITX for HTPC and Gaming
A selection of parts
AMD is without a doubt going through some very tough times with massive personnel issues as well as some problems with products and profitability. But that doesn’t mean the current product line from AMD is without merit and that you can’t build a great system for various environments, including those users looking for a mainstream and small form factor gaming and home theater PC.
While preparing for Quakecon 2012 we needed to build a system to take on the road for some minor editing and presentation control purposes. We wanted the PC to be small and compact, yet still powerful enough to take on some basic computing and gaming tasks. I happen to have some AMD Llano APUs in the office and thought they would fit perfectly.
If you are on the hunt for a small PC that can do some modest gaming and serve as an HTPC, then you might find our build here interesting. And while it isn't nearly as exciting as building a Llano PC while blindfolded - it's pretty close.
Case: Lian-Li PC-Q08B
This Lian-Li mini-ITX case has been a favorite for small form factor builds in the community for quite some time though it does have a relatively high cost. The aluminum chassis is light yet pretty sturdy and we have actually used our case for several different purposes over the last couple of years. The large front panel fan has a blue LED that you might find annoying but otherwise the case offers some impressive features.
The case includes space for a single 5.25-in optical drive and room for six (6!!) internal 3.5-in drives that allows for a ton of room for storage expansion if your HTPC really starts to grow.
The power supply will be installs hovering over the motherboard so you’ll see we chose a custom, low profile cooler.
CPU: AMD A8-3870K Unlocked Llano 3.0 GHz APU
We had an AMD A8-3870K APU sitting here just itching to be put to work and this task was exactly the purpose that the APU was built for. With four cores running at 3.0 GHz and an unlocked overclocking capability, this part will perform perfectly well in all of our CPU-based tasks including modest video editing and productivity tasks.
For our mainstream gaming purposes, the integrated Radeon HD 6550D GPU will give us the ability to run at 1920x1080 resolutions with good image quality settings, of course dependent on each gaming title. To take to Quakecon, where performance and speed in multiplayer gaming is perhaps more important than pure image quality, the A8-3870K provides a perfectly good platform without the need for a discrete graphics card.
Motherboard: ASUS F1A75-I Deluxe Mini-ITX
To go with our mini-ITX chassis we went with the ASUS F1A75-I Deluxe motherboard based on the AMD A75 chipset, the highest end offering for the Llano platform. With this board you basically get all the goods a user could need but in a smaller package. You’ll find a pair of DDR3 memory slots, four SATA 6G ports, 8-channel audio, Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11n WiFi, USB 3.0, HDMI, DisplayPort and quite a bit more.
In terms of allowing for overclocking capability, tweaking ability in the BIOS/UEFI, the ASUS motherboard is pretty much top of the line. We have heard some people mention that the availability of this board is shrinking – another alternative is the Asrock A75M-ITX. Both will cost you $90-110; about the same a standard full-size ATX motherboard. You have to pay for the compressed form factor!