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I'm building a Totally-Awesome-Do-It-Yourself-Steam-Machine-Which-Also-Plays-Other-Media - Part 1




Hello friends,

before my ambitious and equally mysterious "DDB"-Project finally starts (soon!), I want to write about an other long-awaited venture of mine. Some weeks ago I purchased one of those fancy Lightpacks which was meant to be working with my already built Home-Theater-PC on my TV. The Lightpack should have provided me with a smooth ambilight-ish touch when watching movies or TV-series at night - so far for the plan. Said PC was strong enough to play video-content at 1080p and maybe some less demanding games (or with other words: games either super-indie oder super-old for the most part). What I had to learn though was, that mentioned PC was not quite up for the challenge and denied a service beyond a stuttery unpleasant playback, when the lights were on. My BFF at that time (he still is, and will ever be, you know it, duder!) had no such problems with his setup. Why, you ask? He simply had something called a "Totally-Awesome-Do-It-Yourself-Steam-Machine-Which-Also-Plays-Other-Media" (or short: TADIYSMWAPOM, patent pending). You want that, too? Well, you are in the right place here, come on in...

When I realized that my super-old media-computer (birth on January 2013) couldn't handle even this little extra-effort, the idea was born that I - one day - will also build a machine like that one of my friend. The setup was meant to fulfill the following purposes:

  • it must not have any problems with playback of 1080p video content, even with activated Lightpack
  • it should be powerful enough to play the newest games up to at least early 2015 at 1920x1080 resolution and high settings without stuttering
  • it should allow easy overclocking without too much effort put in
  • it has to have enough opportunities for future upgrades (discspace- and performance-wise)
  • it has to be controllable with a gamepad
  • it should be silent enough to enjoy even quiet content
  • all together, it shall not make me a poor man
Especially the last point is important to me, because my actual gaming-PC is one of the louder kind. I mean, it is blasting sometimes, it ain't funny. Also, with more and more games joining the gamepad-posse, it makes even more sense to have such a PC hooked right to your TV and to enjoy the games with a controller in the hand from the comfort of your armchair.

So, yesterday, the first step happened: I went on a shopping.spree on the internet and took all the parts I would need to accomplish my goal. And since I have a nice little blog, I thought I could write it all down, maybe it'll help someone in a comparable situation. In this first article, I simply want to tell you, which items I have chosen (and why). A big shoutout goes of course to my buddy Julius who gave me advice and tips on what to buy! I mostly took what he got, but also made an adjustment. So, here we go!

First in the list: the tower, which will be the home-sweet-home for all the awesome other parts. I decided to go for the model "Define R4 Black Pearl" by the swedish guys of Fractal Design, a midi-tower.



The Define-Series of that company focuses on noise-reduction and therefore it ensures that the TADIYSMWAPOM will be a very silent one. Ialso like the black, simple design and that it has plenty of space for HDDs, SSDs and large graphics cards. Additionally there are two 140mm fans included, again, silence is king, especially when it comes to an entertainment-platform. So much for the tower. On to the next.

The Mainboard MSI Z87-G45 Gaming
(intellectual property of
The mainboard will be the "MSI Z87-G45 Gaming". For its decent price (around 100 EUR) it has a lot of features. The chipset is a Z87 and it has a 1150 CPU-socket (which we will need). The RAM is stored in up to 4 DDR3-slots and the board also has 3 PCIe-slots. So if I want to upgrade the system in the future, I could use either NVIDIAs 2-Way-SLI-system or AMDs 3-Way-CrossfireX-system as a multi-GPU-solution. Nice-to-have, I presume. It has one S/PDIF Toslink Out for sound (it is that optical one, you know?). This one I'll need for my wireless headset when playing or watching at night, since my AV-Receiver has no optical output, sadly. The board also supports Fast Boot, a mighty feature for a system which is supposed to be up and running within seconds, when someone wants to get some entertainment done quickly! Together with some overclocking-features, it seems like a decent mainboard for my purposes.
The graphics card MSI R9 280X Gaming
(intellectual property of


Next stop is the graphics card. Since I prefer the silent treatment, the "MSI R9 280X Gaming" seemed like the perfect choice. Considering tests, the card stays relatively quiet, even when games are played. Additionally it delivers a very good quality/price ratio and should work just splendidly with the aforementioned MSI-motherboard. Since it also has two Mini DisplayPorts there is even room for some 4K-action in the future.And hey, it has just the same design as the mainboard and will look awesome in the windowless midi-tower, trust me!



Let's get to the core of the system, or shall I say to the four cores, heh! The CPU of my fabulous TADIYSMWAPOM will be an "Intel Core i5-4670K" with 3.4 GHz on each core (on turbo-mode 3.8 GHz). Considering my very positive experiences with Intel-CPUs in the past, I think I won't have much trouble with that one either! And since this Haswell-processor has an open multiplicator, there is even some room for relatively effortless overclocking in the future.

Another important part is the internal memory: I placed my bets on 8GB of Crucials "Ballistix Sport XT DDR3-1600 DIMM CL9". It is a kit with two 4GB modules, so I can easily buy additional 8GB, when needed in the future. Last but not least, the power for all that has to come from somewhere. In this case, it will be delivered by the "be quiet! Pure Power L8-CM 530W" power supply, a very silent and efficient one. Now, only one thing is missing: a hard drive. But that one will be scavenged from my old home-entertainment-PC for now. In the future, it sure will be replaced by a good SSD, of course for better speed and less noise.

That's it so far, the order is out and I am waiting for the big delivery. When all is ready, you will hear from me again, with pictures of the assembly, performance tests, setup of Steam and XBMC and so on. So keep on visiting my site for updates the following days and follow me on twitter @dccay.

In the comments you can post your opinion considering my setup-plans or questions. Would you do some parts different? I'm looking forward to your thoughts.

Read you guys soon!











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