While TBG typically provides a full writeup for each Gallery profile, Ben provided such a thorough description of his PC building experience that we're just going to publish it in full. What follows are all Ben's words!
Built: August 2017
This was my first time building a PC, and the STX board was really appealing for that reason. Backing up a bit, I was looking to replace an Asus Chrome Box that I use as a home office terminal. There’s a Citrix Receiver app for Chrome, and my ChromeBox could drive two monitors, so it made a decent machine for telework since none of my files or applications were being stored locally. The number one selling point was that it was absolutely tiny, followed closely by the low price. However, Chrome OS just never grew on me. It’s fine (great even) for web browsing, but felt so limiting for everything else. Ultimately, the lack of application support drove me to look for a Windows machine to replace it.
Originally I was going to go for a NUC loaded up with a bunch of RAM and a big SSD, but was worried about the cooling situation with the NUC sporting an i7 processor. Around the same time I found TBG, and read your suggestion that it was possible to build a screaming STX machine that would be only a little bigger than a NUC, but cost less. I enjoy building things (bicycles and wooden furniture typically), so the STX option was actually more appealing to me than the NUC option. I read up a lot on SFF computers for a while, ruled out an ITX build due to the additional size, complexity, and cost, and then ordered my parts for the STX build. Here’s what I used:
- Motherboard: ASRock H110M-STX (only option that I had confirmation for Kaby Lake and 2400 speed DRAM support)
- CPU: Intel Core i7-7700 (I followed ASRock’s guidance here and skipped the i7-7700K which exceeds the recommended TDP for the mobo; also and more importantly, the K series doesn’t come with the Intel stock cooler)
- Case: SilverStone VT02 Mini-STX (likes it better than the Desk Mini chassis from ASRock)
- Power: SilverStone AD120-STX (TBG recommendation all the way!)
- Memory: Kingston HyperX 2x8GB DDR4-2400 (shortly after my forum post seeking alternative RAM options, Kingston released the 2x8GB version of this RAM, and despite what Amazon says, it shipped immediately for me)
- Storage: Samsung 960 EVO 250GB (most of my component choices are for speed, even if it’s a little silly for this build; here I would have loved to use a 960 PRO SSD, but it doesn’t come in a 250GB version, and I couldn’t swallow the price for the 512GB variant)
- Wireless: Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265
- Extras: Porjet M.2 Antenna (linked in the TBG guide)
The build was 85% smooth sailing. For a first timer, I got caught up installing the RAM, which required much more pressure to seat than I was expecting. The antenna wires were also a huge pain to connect to the wireless card, though not for the reason I expected. I was able to snap both wires on with the edge of a fingernail and didn’t need my pliers. One terminal was rather loose though, and it was a delicate procedure to bundle the excess cable and insert the wireless card without that wire coming unattached. The wireless card didn’t immediately come alive either on the first handful of boots. I eventually gave up on it and hooked up to a wired connection, and was then able to locate and update the drivers for the wireless card. No problems from that point on.
For kicks I’m including a side by side comparison of the ChromeBox and my STX build. There’s obviously a big size difference, but as you can see from the shot of my desk, the STX is still more than tiny enough to sit unobtrusively on a shelf. Right now it’s running two Dell P2217H displays at 1080p.
All in all this is probably a “high-end STX build.” There’s obviously room to go a little more premium, as neither the memory nor the storage is maxed out, so this certainly isn’t an “ultimate” build for this form factor. In the future I’ll be watching to see whether micro-STX mobos and MXM graphics cards make it to market, as that’s an avenue I’d like to look into for a SFF gaming rig.