Micro ATX - Dev PC Build 2017
Posted on 21/07/2017 at 4:00pm by Daf

We are now approaching the halfway point into the 2017 Tranzfuser competition, at the end of which we will be exhibiting our our game ‘Unjust’ at EGX 2017. The space we have to work with for our setup is only 1.25m wide and this created a few problems for showcasing. As you may already know, Unjust is an asymmetrical online multiplayer game and this is where the first problem lies, how do you exhibit an online multiplayer game in 1.25m space with only a 1Mb connection?

The solution we decided to go with to be able to showcase Unjust as faithfully as possible was to add the time old gamemode; Splitscreen… Groundbreaking right!?
This meant we needed a PC capable of running 2 to 4 players in split screen mode while keeping a high frame rate but also ideally being small enough to fit in the small space we will have for it at the expo. The small size would also help for transportability, rather than carrying around one of our personal computers that are rather bulky and heavy.

In addition to being very handy for expo’s the we wanted the PC to improve our workflow by taking over the task of processing the daily builds of our game instead of one of our more “ancient” PC’s that was starting to show it’s age when asked to perform such tasks.

Given all these factors and our past experience at expo’s we decided to go for a Micro ATX build.

Here are the specs:

Case Kolink K6T
Motherboard Asus Prime H270M
CPU i7 7700k
RAM 16GB Corsair Vengeance (2400Mhz)
GPU 1070 Mini (4GB)
SSD 256GB Samsung 850 EVO
HDD 1TB Toshiba P300
PSU Corsair CP 500w Bronze
CPU Fan Noctua LH12

Here is why we chose these parts:

For the case, as explained before we decided on a Micro ATX. The model of the case however was decided because we were on a rather tight budget for a pretty high spec pc and so we wanted to save money wherever we could and we found this case for a very reduced price due to some minor fault to it.

The motherboard was mostly chosen to fit the other parts we had our minds on for the build, after looking at a few similar options we decided to go for this one because of it’s reviews.

The CPU was chosen for a few reasons, the first of which was that we wanted a 7th generation CPU, secondly the work we would be requiring from the computer would benefit from a higher number of cores. After looking for a CPU that fitted our requirements we were left with a few options, but once again through scrupulous research and comparison we decided that this one was the best option for its price.

One of the main bottlenecks on the build we were using for the daily builds up until now was it’s RAM, on top of this RAM is very handy when it comes to video editing which we have a lot of for the Tranzfuser competition as we are required to produce weekly vlogs. Here too we were somewhat limited by our budget but we were happy to decide on a generous yet modest 16GB of RAM.

Our choice of GPU went through some serious discussion as we had initially settled on a GTX 970 that would have probably been sufficient for our current needs. There was however a bit of a hesitation on this point as if we were to chose a GTX 1070 instead we would be opening ourselves to exciting new opportunities for future development into areas such as VR, the downside being that it was quite a little bit more expensive than our initial choice, which meant we had to reselect some of our other parts to accommodate for this price difference. In the end we found that the pro’s outweighed the con’s and decided to go for the GTX 1070 instead.

We absolutely wanted an SSD for the build as it speeds up many parts of the game builds and that was one of the main purposes of this machine. We had to settle for a 256GB one due to our budget and our choice of a 1070. When it comes to the model and make, the Samsung EVO was the obvious option in our minds.

Same as the SSD we had discussed getting a larger 2TB hard drive but ultimately the budget limited us to a smaller yet already large 1TB one. To be fair a 2TB drive would have been greedy but whatever the size of the drive we always seem to run out of space at some point and end up having to fight for space.

Once calculation the power requirements of all the parts we found that a 500w one would be plenty sufficient, Corsair was also the obvious choice for the team when it comes to PSU’s. Unfortunately again due to the GPU choice we had to settle for a non-modular PSU which made the build quite a little bit more fiddly.

Finally because the CPU did not come with a heat sink we had to buy one for it. Once again the choice of the make was obviously going to be Noctua for when it comes to heat sinks they may not be the most visually pleasing but they are by far the better option. The model however was chosen due to the size of the case and price of the part.

The build process:

Once all the parts arrived it was time to put the build together. We had expected it to take us about 2 hours as from experience when two of us built our own machines that was about how long it took, however the size of the build came with it’s own problems and complications that we had not anticipated and the build took quite a bit longer than anticipated.

We were surprised by the very small size and light weight of the case when it arrived. It was quite awkward to fit all the parts in the case and some pieces such as the case fans had to be taken out in order to be able to place some of the parts such as the motherboard. On top of the difficulty to place parts into the case in the first place it was very tough to reach certain parts to plug in wires and such once other parts were in place and this meant we had to take them back out after placing them sometimes several times.

When getting to the stage where we had to place the hard drives we encountered some new challenges, some of the wires coming off the motherboard were rigid and just so happened to be right where the hard drive screw points were. We explored a few options such as mounting the hard drive in another part of the case that was not initially intended for it but other parts of it got in the way, making it impossible to get the drive flush against it and so not providing the stability a hard drive requires. We ended up finding some screws in the heatsink’s unused AMD connection parts that were perfect for the job as they were much longer and had small plastic spacers that happened to be the perfect length to lift the drive up over the immovable cables that were in it’s way. This did however bring the drive rather close to the GPU’s fans and we fear it may cause some cooling issues, we will have to keep a close eye on the temperatures for a while and if this proves to be a problem we may have to find another point where we can attach the drive in the future.

The last problem we encountered was with the cable management, indeed the space in between the back cover and the motherboard plate was much smaller than we had imagined and this made us have to fiddle with the wires for a long while before finding how to place them in order to be able to close the case.

We documented the whole build process with a few GoPro’s and took pictures throughout the process so that you can enjoy seeing it for yourselves in a timelapse. Dafydd had to wear one of the GoPro’s on his head for a first person view of the build and it left quite the mark on his forehead when he finally took it off.

We did enjoy the build quite a bit though as well as the pizza that arrived while it was going on. We are also happy to announce that the PC seems to be working without a hitch and is even exceeding our expectations, both in performance and transportability.

We hope you enjoy the video we made to document this experience.