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Custom PC
A Custom PC for the Kitchen

Introduction

Sometimes bigger and faster are not always better. When I build a high performance system I use a big case and a power supply that can keep it together as I reach for that 4 GHz barrier. It's not always easy to change the channel and look at things in a completely opposite way.

Creating small systems can be quite a challenge. Sure, you can slap together a barebones and have yourself a smaller system but what if you want something even smaller? Most barebones XPC systems have about the same footprint as a conventional one. If you want something smaller and are not in the mood to put out the cash for a notebook, you need to use some imagination.

Building special purpose systems can be very gratifying. It's not about how fast; it's how small in my case. If you are undertaking this kind of project you probably have experience building standard systems and have a fair amount of unused components lying around. Since this kind of system rarely needs the horsepower of gaming rigs, putting together a small system can be quite inexpensive.

I had been using a 400mhz laptop in my kitchen and I wanted to replace it with something more up to date. It's role: browse the web, email, type the odd letter and play MP3's. I wanted something that wouldn't take much counter space and would make use of some components I already had.

Kitchen PC

Decision Making Process & Components

My first plan was to build it inside a top compartment of a breadbox. I looked at VIA Mini-ITX motherboards like the EPIA-M10000 which are only about 6 " square and cost much more than micro-ATX AMD boards. I did find that some companies like MSI and ASrock have boards which are 9.6" x 7.8" and with the AMD Sempron 2300, I could get a motherboard and CPU for half the cost of the VIA solution. It all came together when I noticed my Benq FP547 LCD monitor had 4 threaded holes (M4) in the rear for mounting. When I realized that these mounting holes could be used to attach a motherboard tray, my plan came together.

The AMD Sempron 2300 was my price / performance CPU choice and ASrock K7S41GX was the motherboard I went with based on the SiS741GX chipset. This chipset comes with the SIS256E GPU, which has a 256bit 3D and 128bit 2D engine, with shared memory of up to 64MB and MPEG I/II hardware acceleration support. The CPU choice was easy since I wasn't looking for gaming performance but the motherboard was not. The layout is important since it would be mounted to the back of an LCD monitor, the connectors needed to follow the game plan.

The MSI K74MA-L board needed to use the P4 connector but the ASrock required the ATX power connector only. In addition the ASrock has 4 heat sink mounting holes if you want to use aftermarket components. I already had the rest of the components like the SPI 180w PSU, 512Megs Infineon DDR333 memory, Maxtor 80 gig IDE hard disk and Benq 15" monitor. The speakers are from a portable CD player and are battery powered. The keyboard is a Benq Desksaver and the mouse is a Labtec optical wired version. I purchased a 2 x 4 nailer to hold the momentary push switch and wiring including LEDs I got from an old case.