Description

I needed a new system for my small Plex Library, and I've always wanted to build an SFF system so this is what I went for!

Case The case is astounding, an Asrock Deskmini A300. It's box was not much bigger than the package the CPU came in and physically holding it, I can feel it has some weight. The metal construction is solid and it seems to have plenty of ventilation, something required of a case this small. It's dimensions are nearly exactly the same as a standard ATX power supply and it comes with sticky rubber feet, which I attached to one side making it stand vertically for the minimum possible footprint. The included stock CPU is a bit flimsy and cheap looking, luckily I'd bought something a little more significant given that the CPU I had bought was a TDP than the one recommended for the stock cooler.

CPU / MOTHERBOARD Ryzen 5 3400G & Integrated A300 chipset board The integrated A300 motherboard slides out on a rail from the back of the system revealing easy access to the AM4 socket. It's a fully standard socket and so CPU installation was as easy as any other build. - As the board slides out of the case, there is no fumbling around getting into tight spaces as I had the board installed on its slide in tray right on my desk in front of me. The front IO connector did need to be inplugged, but this was standard affair and it wasnt too short of a cable that it wasnt possible - This CPU installation was so easy that made me wish for a full ATX/EATX case with a feature permitting the motherboard mount to be slid out on rails like a server cabinet big enough for one system. I expected to need to update my BIOS for the 2nd Gen APU to be installed but interestingly the BIOS installed was much more recent so an update wasn't necessary to boot and use the system.

Cooler I went with a NOCTUA NK-L9a. I wanted a reputable cooler which had precedent for working in this case given it's size. To install the cooler I needed to remove the stock mounting bracket, the necessitated me removing the motherboard from its bracket. This was straightforward as there are only 4 screws holding down the board. Now with the board in hand, I removed the pre-installed stock cooler bracket. It was however a little tricky getting the new cooler installed as its not possible to preinstall the screws or rear bracket. - I could have done with an extra set of hands here. Thermal paste which came with the cooler having being applied, I needed to hold the rear bracket and heat sink on either side of the board (also held) and screw in the fans from the rear side. This was uneventful after two screws where put in semi loosely as they held everything in place for me to apply the other two before tightening with even pressure. The cooling fan, which came already installed on the cooler plugged into one of two standard 4pin PWM fan ports on the board. - Had I the time or inclination, I would have liked to have made the fan cable much shorter as this is the only loose wire inside the system and its just long enough that it tries to get on top of the fan when the system is closed.

Storage The rear of the motherboard tray just barely has space for two sub 9mm height 2.5inch drives. - This ruled out any HDDs larger than 2tb as the larger sizes would be too hiogh to install on this system. - With the board still uninstalled from the tray, the two drives are installed onto the tray with standard drive screws. Included with the case are two short and sweet SATA (data and power) connectors. They fit the drives at one end and on the other end, a proprietary connector similar to a ribbon cable connector like you would see in a laptop. This connector feels loose and doesnt have an audible noise indicating it has been installed correctly other than some resistance when pulling on the plastic tabs attached to the cable for easy removal. Both of these cleanly routed through a hole in the tray purpose build for the drives. Of the three m.2 slots on the board (one reserved for a wifi card), I tried to populate one with a cheap SATA SSD boot drive. Unfortunately this was a mistake and I discovered something I have never heard of before! The board specifically doesnt support SATA drives in the m.2 slots, NVME only! - Luckily I had a 1TB Intel 660p at hand that wasnt being utilised in another system. - While yes QLC nand isnt the best quality, even this drive is overkill for the purposes of a Plex server as anything stored on it wouldnt likely to be overwritten thousands of times. - I opted to keep it in the system after remembering the infuriatingly slow system performance of a HDD only system, even with Windows 10. I used the m.2 slot in the back of the board so that adding another one later would be more straightforward.

RAM 2x8gb Corsair Vengeance 2666mhz CL18. I cheaped out a bit here on the RAM rather than going for a SODIMM with better speeds and latency like a 3200mhz cl16 Gskill kit I would rather have purchased. Regardless, this is still more than sufficient for a PLEX server so I don't even expect to upgrade this in the future. It slotted in effortlessly in the same manner a full size system ram would be installed - There where no clearance issues whatsoever between the ram, cooler or any other system component.

IO The Rear IO is threadbear at best, For display we have a Displayport, HDMI and a VGA port. (not bad considering the size of the system). A Gigabit ethernet port, with 2x USB type A ports. One 3.0 and one 2.0. - Theres a socket for the included power cable with its on cable 100w PSU brick. (It's not too big, smaller than some laptop power bricks). There are mounting holes 2x not included accessories, One for a Wifi antenna which can be purchased separately. As well as another for optional 2.5mm rear audio and microphone in. Popping this cutout would be a permanent so I have left it in as I wont be using WiFi. The front IO includes two USB ports, one USB3 type A and one Type C, as well as 2.5mm ports for both line in and out respectively. Theres one power switch, no reset switch. Side or top IO depending on your chosen orientation are cutouts for an non included optional accessory that would permit two additional USB Type A 2.0 ports.

Software Installing windows was standard affair, I opted to use windows because I am comfortable with the operating system and I plan on using the device as a HTCP as well as a Plex Server. For fun, I installed Doom (2016), Star Citizen and Elite Dangerous. At 1080p Low locked to 30fps, Doom was a surprisingly acceptable experience, as was Elite. - I didnt expect Star Citizen to load at all but incredibly, I was walking around Port Olisar at between 22 and 27fps. I have no intention of using this as a gaming system by any means however I will be keeping some low end favourites like Enter the Gungeon and Binding of Isaac installed for a cheeky game here and there. - Steam in home streaming is installed too in case I ever get the urge to play from my living room couch.

Overall the system does what its meant to do. Be a seen but not heard HTPC and Plex Server with no thermal constraints, with just enough storage to hold my small media library. - With a few prohibitively expensive NVME drives and a pair of 4TB 2.5inch SSDs, the max theoretically space this system can hold is 16TB, however if my humble library ever gets that big, ids be more likely to run a dedicated low power file storage NAS and have this system doing the transcoding for those high bitrate 4k files I have here and there.

Comment if you have any questions!

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Comments

  • 3 months ago
  • 2 points

Very nice SFF build! Amazing you can get all that for $540.

Thanks for the posting and nice write-up.

Thumbs up from me. Enjoy!

  • 3 months ago
  • 2 points

Ok, this is impressive

insert so tiny meme

  • 3 months ago
  • 1 point

It lit boi.

I would've just used the M.2 and not dealt with the extra wiring that comes with physically larger drives, but that's it.