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

Manufacturer: AMD

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

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Continue reading our AMD Llano APU Build article!!

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

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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

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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!

Video News

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?

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 for some cool software guides. ;)

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

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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