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For quite a while now I've wanted to build my house a media server that can serve the house's needs and more. So when my family needed a replacement for a fried Dell Inspiron, I jumped at the chance to work with new products in a build that would have a different purpose to my usual gaming and programming rig.

Components & Rationale
I based the components for the build around a new experience for me, which coincidentally were in-line with the needs of the pc:
  • mITX is a form factor that I've never worked with before, and a smaller form factor in general would suit the needs of the family study.
  • Quiet components were a must for a constantly operating server that would still be functional for basic browsing and office applications.
  • Due to the replacement being unexpected, it needed to be relatively cheap, so price/performance was an important factor in the partpicking process.
  • Low and efficient power consumption was also necessary for constant operation.
  • I've only ever built with Intel before, so I wanted to try AMD's cheaper options (I also couldn't really afford the Xeon E3 that I wanted).

So on those choices, I went for the cheapest parts I could find, as that was basically all I could afford. And while it would have been slightly cheaper for the components from different sites (Dabs, amazon, AriaPC, etc); the shipping from multiple sites outweighed the savings, so I bought all the parts I needed from good old OverclockersUK. Here's what I ended up with:
  • CPU: AMD Sempron 3850 1.3GHz
  • RAM: GeiL Black Dragon 4GB DDR3 1600MHz
  • Motherboard: MSI AM1I
  • Case: Cubitek Mini Centre
  • PSU: Corsair CX430M

I already had the storage solutions: A 2TB WD Black drive for the networked drive, and a 120GB Corsair ForceLX SSD for booting into Ubuntu and programs.

The Build
On the morning of delivery, I was up earlier than a kid on Christmas day. Building PCs is a joy unlike any other to me, and I only wish that I got to do stuff like this more often.



Only moments after being delivered, I had the boxes out of the packaging and on the build table. Because the build was <£150, I wasn't bothered about wearing an electrostatic wristband, but maybe I was just too excited to wait. I was surprised with the size of the mITX board box, the case and the cpu box; all were tiny in comparison to full ATX in a way that I couldn't have expected.



What was nice about the newer platform experience is that almost all manufacturers are using black PCBs, instead of the brown or green seen on Ivybridge and earlier boards. Even this RAM, being a mere £20 for £4GB, had a nice gold dragon set into the black PCB that would go nicely with the black motherboard, and would've made for a beautiful pc in a windowed case. Props to GeiL for making a stick of cheap RAM fit in with the sleek premium products of newer generations.



This was the last shot I got before my camera battery went flat, but I think you can see what the finished product looks like from the case alone. I'd like to note that cable management is non-existent in this case, but the modular PSU certainly gave me more breathing room.


Overclocking
The motherboard UEFI doesn't allow for much in the way of overclocking. It allows you to change the multiplier, but the 3850 has a locked multiplier between 8 and 13. I was able to push the base clock to 146MHz with a stable 1.23V, pushing each core to a maximum of 1.903GHz. Despite the similar voltage to 1300MHz, I was getting some crazy temperature readings from my digital thermometers that I placed against the motherboard and the stock CPU cooler (high 60's C while idle), so I've kept the clock at 1.3GHz. The RAM was easily overclockable to 2000MHz with no voltage or temperature increase, which provides a great performance in games as the APU uses RAM as VRAM, and I was able to push the iGPU clock speed from 450MHz to 725MHz, as the GPU cores still have locked multipliers, but are based on the CPU multipliers (I increased it from 8x 55MHz base to 13x). I'm happy with my chip, and for £26 it's a great little quad-core APU that can handle 1080p-60 gaming, albeit in HL2 and TF2, but I imagine with the framerates I was getting running LoL and some MMOs wouldn't be too far a stretch.


Benchmarks
Okay, so for benchmarking I was a little limited on Linux, as the system is running Ubuntu desktop 14.04. A lot of the software that I was using wasn't working correctly, both CPU-G and I-Nex were showing the wrong clock speed on all cores. I-Nex was showing the wrong voltage (in1 on LMSensors was correct), and both I-Nex and LMSensors were showing 34C on the CPU, where both PCI thermometer readings from the motherboard were around 13C idle, the same as the digital thermometers that I stuck in the case. Even with the thermometers on the CPU conduction material I didn't get anywhere close to 34. I'm very happy with the temperatures, which I achieved with the stock cooler overvolted, 2x Noctua 80mm exhaust fans, and I replaced the 120mm PSU fan with an exhaust-blower design fan similar to those found on graphics cards.

I ran Sysbench CPU-prime twice, back-to-back to provide the highest temperature I could under max CPU load, and as you can see my cooling solution works quite well, exhausting all the warm air out of the back of the case. Only a 7-8C temp increase under load makes me really happy, and it's even less in real situations. Below are before and during screenshots of Sysbench.





If you've come this far, thanks for reading about my experience with AM1, my first experience with AMD and ITX. I'll likely update this with gaming benchmarks in an effort to show how a £150 pc can outperform the "next-gen" consoles.
Edited by Blinky7882 - 7/16/14 at 9:05pm
    
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i5-2500k Asus P8Z77-V LX Zotac GTX 680 4GB Corsair Vengeance 8GB 1600MHz 
Hard DriveHard DriveMonitorKeyboard
WD Black Corsair ForceLX BenQ XL2410T Razer Blackwidow Ultimate 2013 
PowerCaseMouseAudio
Antec High Current Pro 1000W Antec Three Hundred Two Razer ouroboros Audio-Technica ATH-M50 
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CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i5-2500k Asus P8Z77-V LX Zotac GTX 680 4GB Corsair Vengeance 8GB 1600MHz 
Hard DriveHard DriveMonitorKeyboard
WD Black Corsair ForceLX BenQ XL2410T Razer Blackwidow Ultimate 2013 
PowerCaseMouseAudio
Antec High Current Pro 1000W Antec Three Hundred Two Razer ouroboros Audio-Technica ATH-M50 
  hide details  
Reply