Question HTPC GeForce Now Build

Jan 14, 2020
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I have been doing some testing with Nvidia's newly launched GeForce Now streaming service at home and I've come away extremely impressed. So much so that I am going to let go of my dreams to build a full-blown mini PC for my living room and see if I can build a cheap and cheerful streaming PC instead. Ideally, this PC would be dirt cheap to build now and would allow me to fully utilise the GeForce Now service while also being able to run some simple games natively. The reason I'm not going completely bargain bin cheap with this build is because I want to leave some upgrade paths to pursue later, should I feel like it.

For those who don't know, GeForce Now by Nvidia is a streaming service akin to Google Stadia and Microsoft's Project xCloud that allows users to stream their own game library to a PC, TV or Android device in 1080p60. Use of the service is free for 1 hour at a time, or about €5,- a month if you want full, unrestricted access without login queues. Paying for the service also gives you access to ray tracing-enabled graphics cards, whereas the free version does not. Both tiers are otherwise identical in terms of tech specs.

I've been playing some games on my laptop through this service over 5Ghz WiFi in my living room and the experience was beyond my expectations. Sure, being able to play some Civilization VI like this is great and all, but I played some faster paced Path of Exile as well and found the service to be perfectly suitable. I now want to build myself a little HTPC that will live under my LG C9 OLED and stream games in 1080p60 to my beautiful display. I know a compressed image blown up to a 55" screen is not going to look perfect, but I will usually be sitting about 3 meters from the screen so it shouldn't be too obvious from that distance.

So, what am I looking to build? At first I was going to build around an old AMD Athlon A8-9600 processor I still keep in my drawer, but I quickly realised that no modern B450 or X470 motherboard would accept the chip. Because I don't want to build a PC consisting of entirely obsolete hardware, I decided to do away with that idea and build around a Ryzen 3 2200G instead. It's still not cutting edge tech and I don't need it to be, but I will be able to swap in another processor down the line if I feel like it. The 2200G of course is a quad-core CPU with integrated graphics, meaning I won't need a graphics card to output a display signal. GeForce Now basically doesn't require graphical horsepower to run, so this CPU will do just fine.

The build is going to look like this:

PCPartPicker Part List

CPU: AMD Ryzen 3 2200G 3.5 GHz Quad-Core Processor (€93.95 @ Azerty)
Motherboard: Asus PRIME B450M-A/CSM Micro ATX AM4 Motherboard (€135.60 @ Newegg Netherlands)
Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-2666 Memory (€75.95 @ CD-ROM-LAND)
Storage: Gigabyte 256 GB M.2-2280 NVME Solid State Drive
Case: Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L MicroATX Mini Tower Case (€44.95 @ Megekko)
Power Supply: be quiet! System Power 9 400 W 80+ Bronze Certified ATX Power Supply (€49.45 @ Azerty)
Total: €399.90
Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
Generated by PCPartPicker 2020-02-22 08:26 CET+0100

Please be aware that the pricing of these parts is nonsense. I am getting the 2200G used for about €65, which is a fair amount cheaper than the €90 it currently retails for. Cooling will be taken care of by a spare Wraith Prism cooler I have in storage. The Asus PRIME B450M-A is a cheap, no-frills motherboard with plenty of fan headers and 4 memory slots that goes for about €65 as well. Memory is just plain Corsair Vengeance DDR4, a decent middle ground between price and performance. It might even overclock a little. The Ryzen 3 2200G won't take memory faster than 2933Mhz so going all out here makes no sense to me. I went with a small NVMe drive for fast boot times and the Gigabyte model was the cheapest drive I trust. The CM Masterbox Q300L is a terrible case but it's cheap, it looks alright and is small enough to live inside my TV cabinet. Airflow won't be an issue because the PC will barely generate any heat to begin with. Lastly, a simple be quiet! power supply rounds out the build. It's cheap, it works and it's semi-modular. Perfect for my needs at this price point.

Total cost of the system: around €340 with the used processor and shipping.

Potentials upgrade paths would be slotting in a faster processor, adding a graphics card like the GTX 1650 Super or GTX 1660 Super, expanding or replacing the RAM, adding more fans or a non-standard CPU cooler etc. Lots of opportunities to improve on this system in the future, which is a big part of why I went B450. The motherboard isn't going to allow for any high-end overclocking, but if you just want to run your system without meddling with it too much it will work perfectly well.

So tell me, what do you think? Would you do anything differently or do you have any tips to share?
 
Feb 17, 2020
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You're buying 16gb RAM, which is all the gaming PC should need for its lifetime (unless you branch into exceptionally niche stuff). I'd argue it makes sense to get faster RAM now, as it's an investment.

The R3 2200G can easily do more than 2933MHz RAM, it just requires use of the appropriate XMP profile. Much like if you look at an i7 9700k, it only says 2666MHz but obviously supports far faster RAM. Go with 3200Mhz or 3600MHz depending on pricing.

The B450 motherboard looks outrageously expensive via Newegg and is 60€ cheaper via the same merchant you had listed for the gigabyte SSD, with loads of other options in the 80€-85€ range on partpicker NL, amazon.de, etc

Also the gigabyte SSD seems out of stock - the Adata SX6000 is fine if you need a cheap NVMe SSD. The SX8200 is 970-Evo class and only a few € more than the SX6000 on partpicker NL.

Consider a different case.

That Cooler Master is DIMENSIONS (L X W X H) 387 x 230 x 381mm (apparently) and is only a micro ATX case.

The Fractal Meshify C is an ATX case and is only:
"Case dimensions (LxWxH) 395 x 212 x 440 mm"
"Case dimensions - with feet/protrusions/screws 413 x 217 x 453 mm"

Obviously your mobo is only micro ATX, but it gives you more clearance between the GPU and the PSU, and so more airflow around the graphics card. Even if you don't install a GPU as low down as in the photo, many mid-range GPUs come with shorter, taller heatsinks rather than the longer 2-slot profiles (e.g. this kind of thing). So less of the GPU would be 'free' from the PSU, and you'd have less space between them. You don't need to buy one of those, but you are limiting choice.

Or perhaps you might buy a 4k TV and decide to get a beefier GPU for 4k gaming which has a nice, big heatsink, who knows.

Also it has more storage drive bays (game storage, ripped media collection).

The point is it gives you a lot more options, while sporting a very similar footprint and taking up very little more space.
 
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Kaamos_Llama

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Jan 31, 2020
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If you want to slot in a better CPU down the line I'd recommend a better mobo. Its got pretty much the worst of the worst VRM setup you can get according to this resource. It would work fine for the current setup, but I'd look to get something with a better power delivery system, for longevity and future upgradeability.

I'm not sure how prices are where you are but I'd check out some of the other MATX options from that list and pick one from a higher tier. Otherwise, eh, looks O.K, perhaps faster RAM as @Oussebon suggests if it doesnt break the bank, and the case is always going to be subjective.
 
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Jan 14, 2020
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You're buying 16gb RAM, which is all the gaming PC should need for its lifetime (unless you branch into exceptionally niche stuff). I'd argue it makes sense to get faster RAM now, as it's an investment.

The R3 2200G can easily do more than 2933MHz RAM, it just requires use of the appropriate XMP profile. Much like if you look at an i7 9700k, it only says 2666MHz but obviously supports far faster RAM. Go with 3200Mhz or 3600MHz depending on pricing.

The B450 motherboard looks outrageously expensive via Newegg and is 60€ cheaper via the same merchant you had listed for the gigabyte SSD, with loads of other options in the 80€-85€ range on partpicker NL, amazon.de, etc

Also the gigabyte SSD seems out of stock - the Adata SX6000 is fine if you need a cheap NVMe SSD. The SX8200 is 970-Evo class and only a few € more than the SX6000 on partpicker NL.

Consider a different case.

That Cooler Master is DIMENSIONS (L X W X H) 387 x 230 x 381mm (apparently) and is only a micro ATX case.

The Fractal Meshify C is an ATX case and is only:
"Case dimensions (LxWxH) 395 x 212 x 440 mm"
"Case dimensions - with feet/protrusions/screws 413 x 217 x 453 mm"

Obviously your mobo is only micro ATX, but it gives you more clearance between the GPU and the PSU, and so more airflow around the graphics card. Even if you don't install a GPU as low down as in the photo, many mid-range GPUs come with shorter, taller heatsinks rather than the longer 2-slot profiles (e.g. this kind of thing). So less of the GPU would be 'free' from the PSU, and you'd have less space between them. You don't need to buy one of those, but you are limiting choice.

Or perhaps you might buy a 4k TV and decide to get a beefier GPU for 4k gaming which has a nice, big heatsink, who knows.

Also it has more storage drive bays (game storage, ripped media collection).

The point is it gives you a lot more options, while sporting a very similar footprint and taking up very little more space.

Crikey, you are quite right about the RAM and RAM speeds. Evidently I wasn't yet fully awake when I cobbled together the build this morning and wrote this post. It's good to see that the 2200G can actually go up to 3200Mhz, I will likely see if I can find a nice kit rated at those speeds on the cheap.

I should probably have mentioned when I wrote this post that I had given myself a budget of about €250-300 euros to build this streaming PC. With the above parts list I already went over by about €40 and that's with a used processor, so it's likely that the actual build is going to end up costing about €400 after I've made some improvements. I like building cheap and cheerful PCs, but I'm not the type to buy the absolute cheapest parts just because I can. I find that going one price tier above that usually provides the best value for money.

Also, don't pay the PCPartPicker list's prices any mind. Those don't seem accurate at all and I actually use a Dutch website called tweakers.net to calculate build prices including shipping. If you click the link and then click the list that says 'HTPC' you can actually see the parts I chose. Excluding the CPU, I'm currently looking at about €285.

I hear you about the Meshify C, it's a great case and one that I have personally built in before. At about €80 here in the Netherlands I simply consider it too expensive for the purpose of this build. The Q300L is a garbo-tier case, but it's built to lay on its side (the orientation I'm looking for here) and is cheap while still ticking all the boxes I need. I can get it new for about €36, which is a steal.

There won't be any real need for storage drives because I will probably stream 95% of the games I play on it. It will be hooked up to a 4K set but I don't see this build ever playing 4K games natively. Perhaps if GeForce Now ever adds a 4K option to their service I might go that route.

If you want to slot in a better CPU down the line I'd recommend a better mobo. Its got pretty much the worst of the worst VRM setup you can get according to this resource. It would work fine for the current setup, but I'd look to get something with a better power delivery system, for longevity and future upgradeability.

I'm not sure how prices are where you are but I'd check out some of the other MATX options from that list and pick one from a higher tier. Otherwise, eh, looks O.K, perhaps faster RAM as @Oussebon suggests if it doesnt break the bank, and the case is always going to be subjective.

Valid point about the motherboard's VRMs. I actually keep that very list on tap whenever I select parts for a Ryzen build, but given that I've allowed myself only a very limited budget to work with it's probably the best I can do at this price point. It's a very feature-rich board if nothing else. I like the Asus AI suite for some automatic fan-tuning and stuff, but I will happily agree that there are many better boards out there. Hopefully it will do fine for a 2200G at stock clocks, or pretty much any stock Zen+/Zen 2 chip for that matter.

Remember, we're only streaming a 1080p60 video feed here, the PC will not really be breaking a sweat. The only reason I'm keeping future upgradeability in mind is because I just like to tinker. And who knows, at some point I might want to sell it on.
 
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Kaamos_Llama

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Valid point about the motherboard's VRMs. I actually keep that very list on tap whenever I select parts for a Ryzen build, but given that I've allowed myself only a very limited budget to work with it's probably the best I can do at this price point. It's a very feature-rich board if nothing else. I like the Asus AI suite for some automatic fan-tuning and stuff, but I will happily agree that there are many better boards out there. Hopefully it will do fine for a 2200G at stock clocks, or pretty much any stock Zen+/Zen 2 chip for that matter.

Remember, we're only streaming a 1080p60 video feed here, the PC will not really be breaking a sweat. The only reason I'm keeping future upgradeability in mind is because I just like to tinker. And who knows, at some point I might want to sell it on.
I'm sure it will do just fine for that chip and that use case. Local pricing here (Finland) I can get boards with better power delivery then the Asus for ~€20 euro cheaper so I thought it worth mentioning :)
 
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Kaamos_Llama

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Asrock B450M Pro 4
Asrock B450M Steel Legend
Gigabyte B450 Aorus M

These are cheaper using the prices from Jimms. According to the VRM tier list the Asus B450M-A is 'Garbo' tier (weak components, no heatsink). Theres really not many worse, and at Jimms at least those 3 are cheaper and have better bones.

Whether they have all the I/O and mcguffins you want I dont know. But I would have thought if the build is so bare bones you wouldnt need very much in the way of anything.

Of course I'm trusting the list, if I was buying for myself I would dig further into product reviews and forums but thats the direction I would take.
 
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