Living Room PC – Finished!

Over the last week or so I’ve had the chance to finally put an end to my next-gen gaming woes, and finished my living room PC (or Steam box, for those who prefer the term). It was actually built a short while before, but Amazon managed to delay the delivery of my GPU by the best part of a week, so it just had my old GTX 460 in there to get Windows (8.1) installed.

Now though, complete with a shiny new GTX 760, it’s finished and housed under my TV!

I’ve not played too much on it yet, so it’s hard to say just how good or bad the performance is. I bought and installed Batman: Arkham Origins as it was the only one of the series I hadn’t played, and the first thing I did was to make sure the graphics (and phsyx) settings were ramped right up. It plays super smooth, like a buttered weasel, and looks amazing. I know it’s not the perfect show-off game, but it’s doing a good job for now.

Other than that I’ve been getting through Brothers (cheap on sale at Gamersgate) which is fantastic, Portal 2 which I’m very late to the party on, and a bit of CS:GO. I’ve got some others lined up, especially multiplayer sofa fodder for when my friends are over, but I’m tempted to wait for the Steam Summer Sale. Steam’s two big annual sales are usually big news and it’s possible to pick up a lot of good games for not a lot of money.

I’ve learned a lot as I’ve gone through the process, but here are my main tips for anyone considering building a PC to go under their TV to replace the PS4 or Xbox One.

  • Wireless – Some of this has gone great (Xbox 360 controllers), other bits not so good. I already had a Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse combo but came across a big problem when using it from the sofa. If I tried to use both together it gave me incredible lag, dropped frames and general poor performance. After a bit of Googling I realised I’m not the only person with this problem, it seems to be a combination of range (I was sat around 8-10′ away from the dongle) and the fact that most wireless peripherals work on the 2.4GHz frequencies. They tend to share that with things like wireless routers, baby monitors, mobile phones etc.Apparently there are some that don’t, and until I look into it more I’m just going to use a USB entension cable and carry on using my MX518.
  • Noise – Surprisingly, there is none. Seriously, it’s so quiet it’s almost disconcerting. Even under load the stock Intel cooler is almost silent, as are the fans on the MSI GTX 760. I had a reminder of just how quiet last night. I finished watching a film on Netflix and then fired up Steam to launch a game. I heard a noise and realised it was the sound of the HDD spinning up.
  • Speed – We all know how long your old desktop PC takes to start-up, and I’m very glad to say that’s a thing of the past. There are two things working in my favour here, and that’s have Windows 8.1 with its quick start-up option, and then having that OS installed on a SSD. Have a look at the video below, which is my PC booting from cold.

    It took a little while to get to Big Picture mode in Steam as it tried to update Steam first, which wasn’t typical on the one time I recorded it! Even so, you can see just how fast it gets from POST to desktop.

  • UI – If you’re making a console replacement it’s good to have the console experience, which means being able to turn it on and instantly access your games. With a gamepad. Thanks to Steam’s Big Picture mode and the excellent controller support, that’s exactly what I can do. As you can see in the video above, my PC boots straight to Big Picture.

All in all, I’m very, very happy with it so far. It’s quiet, small(ish) and plays games really well. It also does all that Netflix and HTPC stuff too, and very well. I’ll update again with some more pictures once  I sort out the cable tidying.

Any questions, leave a comment.

2 Responses

  1. Kirk says:

    I’d like to build a similar living room pc with the same parts. Can you go through some of the challenges you had putting it together, and tips on certain pitfalls in the sequence of assembly? Thanks!

  2. Adam says:

    Putting it together wasn’t too bad, the case has quite a bit of room compared to other mini ITX cases. The drive bays and cages all lift out which gives you more room, and the motherboard mounts are built into the case.

    I put it in in order Motherboard > CPU/Cooler > RAM > switch leads > sata cables > GPU > PSU. This gives you the most room at each stage and means you shouldn’t have any fiddly bits to do near the end. Just mount the drives in the bays and drop them into place, then attach sata cables and power.

    The best thing you can do if you’re trying to keep it cool and quiet is to make sure the cable management is good, try and tuck them all out of the way and tie them together. It’ll give you good airflow and stop cables clipping fans.

    Also try to get a modular PSU if you can, it means you only attach the bare minimum of power cables, keeping things neat in the case.

    Good luck!

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