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Suggestions on how to build a DIY Mini-Computer


connda
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I've been looking at Mini Computers on places like Lazada. 
I need a bare bones system (with built in ethernet/wireless and a mid-range 8th or 10th Gen Intel processor, normal I/O devices for USB and graphics connections HDMI or DVI) that I can add 16 to 32 GB RAM and a 1 TB SSD Drive.  I neither want or need hi-end graphics.  Normal graphic is all I need.  I'll be using it running some form of Ubuntu as the base OS and Virtual Box with two or three VMs (no more than one VM working in tandem with the Linux OS at a time.  It gives me a VM testing platform.

I've been away from IT for a loooong time and the mini computers are new to me, but the form factor is something I like.  Was was thinking about building a destop from scratch before I knew this new Mini Computers existed.

Anyone have recommendations for configurations.

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'Building' it merely entails fitting the RAM, SSD, M2 and then the OS.

I have had NUCs and they are good, either an Asus or one of the Chinese ones with Ryzen 7 next time.

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You seem to already know what you want. Building a mini is much the same as any other size just with cooling and part size fitting being more tedious. Since you want integrated graphics instead of a gpu and just a mid-range cpu it shouldn't be too difficult.

 

I would say for anything with computers right now if money is a concern and you don't need it immediately you should probably wait because pricing is still coming down from the pandemic and a bunch of releases are coming up within the next 6 months. (AMD Zen4 and RDNA3, Intel 13th Gen and ARC, Nvidia RTX 4000 series, Apple M2, etc) Basically everything is rolling ahead a generation soon which should push prices further down across the board.

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you can buy cheap "mini pizza box" that are about 3 years old for less than 3,000 THB in the usual IT places, with brands like HP

 

don't bother doing it yourself, more expensive

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Intel NUC, small, compact, reliable.

 

Over the years I build hundreds of desktop computers. 25 years ago that meant maybe 20 different parts. Now it's a NUC, RAM, M.2, done. For a "normal" computer that's all you need.

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5 hours ago, KannikaP said:

'Building' it merely entails fitting the RAM, SSD, M2 and then the OS.

I have had NUCs and they are good, either an Asus or one of the Chinese ones with Ryzen 7 next time.

I bought a Chinese one on Alibaba it fried after a few months. Now I run an ASUS PN-51 and would recommend either that or an Intel NUC 11.  The NUC is fanless so likely better.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, fdsa said:

this is exactly what I had in mind and mentioning above, bought a couple of those, they even auto-activated a free version of Win10 Advanced with the OEM Bios

Edited by GrandPapillon
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The main factor IMO is if you need to travel with the kit. NUCs are good but need monitor, keyboard, quite cumbersome to organise away from home.

 

If travel is required I would go for a laptop with upgradeable memory and SSD,  if staying all the time at home full desktop is better. Depending on the tests you want to do it would be easier to add extra cards or drives later if needed.

 

I've had setup with test VMs on laptops for ages, the most important thing is to have enough memory. If you don't have enough memory and the box starts swapping, it may run some of the fanless boxes quite hot.

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7 hours ago, connda said:

I've been away from IT for a loooong time and the mini computers are new to me,

We don't call 'em mini-computers anymore 🙂 I should know I worked on 'em for nearly twenty years but were replaced by the high-end workstations (e.g. from Sun, Apollo, HP etc) and nowadays a cabinet is chock full of boards each one a machine (PC equivalent)  in its' own right and nowadays it's all VMs anyhow. 

 

Good luck!

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, OneMoreFarang said:

Over the years I build hundreds of desktop computers. 25 years ago that meant maybe 20 different parts. Now it's a NUC, RAM, M.2, done. For a "normal" computer that's all you need.

In the university (late 80s) I was building and selling computers buying parts from  the big thick computer shopper, just a few years ago to that MIchael Dell has already set the trend  in his dorm room and taking orders overs the phone. Soon, lots of my competitions arrived in the dorm rooms. By the time we graduated we were spamming and selling computers in usenet groups. While Dell went on to become a billionaire we all headed to Silicon Valley for jobs. 

Now about the the OP's post. NUC is the easiest mini computer one can build. You can buy a bare bone box of your desired  CPU and then add your memory  and hard drive to complete it. I built one during my covid stay in Thailand to run some AI simulation that required at least 64GB of memory. It was not easy to find the bare bone boxes of 11 th generation intel i5 (could not find an i7 mostly i3s) CPU  but I found one and then added memory and an NVMe M.2 hard drive. I forgot the total cost but it was a little less than a custom built large box computer at Tucom that I first inquired (my requirement was 64GB of memory and a MB that will accept 64GB memory). I did not need a very large hard drive. 500GB was enough for me. The prices may have gone down now. Never hooked up a monitor to the NUC. I used my laptop's remote desktop (X2Go), keyboard and mouse to log into it. It was mainly used for long running Neural Network training simulation, freeing my low powered laptop to surfing online, facebook etc. 

Edited by Onerak
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Posted (edited)

Deleted

Edited by connda
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17 hours ago, GrandPapillon said:

you can buy cheap "mini pizza box" that are about 3 years old for less than 3,000 THB in the usual IT places, with brands like HP

 

don't bother doing it yourself, more expensive

I have three requirements though:
Min 8GB RAM; Min 500GB SSD but 1TB would be better; A good mid-range CPU.  So I'm open for recommendations of CPUs in a NUC.

My Aspire 3 has an AMD A4-9120 Dual-Core that simply can't handle running my Linux OS plus Win10 in a VirtualBox VM.  While Win10 does it's housekeeping in the background my CPU is almost always pegged at 100%.
Also eventually we'll be forced over to Win11 and my system doesn't cut the minimum hardware requirements.

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14 hours ago, vinci said:

why not just buy a cheap laptop

That is a option.  But my laptop spends 99% of it's time connected to an external display.  The laptop I have now will become my secondary backup system.  But I don't rule it out, the small form factor NUC have me interested as my eyes aren't getting any better with age and the NUC often support mult-monitors.

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I poked around on Lazada.
I found a Intel i7 NUC for 13K.  Then started looking at their options. 
Add 8 GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD and the price was 22K.

I know adding 8GB of RAM plus a 512GB SSD drive doesn't add 9K to the price of a unit.  So buying a bundle isn't the way to go.  Now that I know what I'm looking for.  I also discovered NVMe M.2 SSD Hard Drives.  I didn't know they existed.  That looks to be the way to go with a hard drive.

Any recommendations on common types of RAM that will fit in a NUC?

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why would you need 8GB High Performance RAM, just take standard 4GB RAM, works perfectly fine with Win10 and my CPU never reach 100%

 

there is a small glitch for RADEON video cards if you have one your laptop that can take your CPU to 100%, it's easy to fix, it's a bug.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, connda said:

I poked around on Lazada.
I found a Intel i7 NUC for 13K.  Then started looking at their options. 
Add 8 GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD and the price was 22K.

I know adding 8GB of RAM plus a 512GB SSD drive doesn't add 9K to the price of a unit.  So buying a bundle isn't the way to go.  Now that I know what I'm looking for.  I also discovered NVMe M.2 SSD Hard Drives.  I didn't know they existed.  That looks to be the way to go with a hard drive.

Any recommendations on common types of RAM that will fit in a NUC?

Intel have a site recommending RAM, but basically ANY DDR4 RAM will do the job. And get TWO x 4GB, or 8GB as opposed to ONE 8 or 16 so that it works in dual mode.

Edited by KannikaP
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8 hours ago, connda said:

I poked around on Lazada.
I found a Intel i7 NUC for 13K.  Then started looking at their options. 
Add 8 GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD and the price was 22K.

Yeah at those sorts of prices if you just care about value and aren't attached to the NUC form factor, Advice has a full desktop Ryzen 5 5600g, 16g ram, 480g ssd for 18k new with ~3 year warranty on parts.  Just doing a quick search of Lazada, Shopee, Advice, Jib, Banana, Invade, Facebook Marketplace I didn't see any really good value NUCs with the specs you want. Aliexpress seemed a little better at least if you're willing to go through the shipping and maybe 7% vat tax.

 

In the US it was a lot easier to get cheap refurbished NUCs but I don't see a similar market shipping from Thailand.

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6 hours ago, GrandPapillon said:

why would you need 8GB High Performance RAM, just take standard 4GB RAM, works perfectly fine with Win10 and my CPU never reach 100%

 

there is a small glitch for RADEON video cards if you have one your laptop that can take your CPU to 100%, it's easy to fix, it's a bug.

I'm running multiple OSs via virtual machines

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6 hours ago, GrandPapillon said:

why would you need 8GB High Performance RAM, just take standard 4GB RAM, works perfectly fine with Win10 and my CPU never reach 100%

 

there is a small glitch for RADEON video cards if you have one your laptop that can take your CPU to 100%, it's easy to fix, it's a bug.

Both the Intel NUC and ASUS PN-51 recommend 32Gb RAM to run 4 monitors. Not that you need to but 8Gb is way under powered these days and would soon require and upgrade. The price of 16Gb RAM is very cheap these days. The same goes for SSD's. 1Tb nvme drives are quite cheap.

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1 hour ago, ozimoron said:

Both the Intel NUC and ASUS PN-51 recommend 32Gb RAM to run 4 monitors. Not that you need to but 8Gb is way under powered these days and would soon require and upgrade. The price of 16Gb RAM is very cheap these days. The same goes for SSD's. 1Tb nvme drives are quite cheap.

Yeah I think people are a bit confused, the initial post already said they were shooting for 16-32gb of ram and weren't going to run more than one VM instance at a time with Ubuntu as the host OS. They said the VMs are a testing platform but it seems they just want a good price, capable machine and like the small form factor of a NUC/mini pc. It doesn't sound like they're just looking for the cheapest option available regardless of specs or standing up a homelab server.

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1 hour ago, recom273 said:

This caught my eye the other day.

That is interesting. I'd be looking into it if they were for sale and shipped here but apparently not even selling yet. $100 is a really nice price for an N6000 barebones sbc though especially when you consider what pi's are going for these days.

Still though n6000 is about half has powerful as OP's minimum requirement (~8th gen i5) and this board doesn't have some quality of life things they'd probably want like built-in wifi or a case.

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On 6/9/2022 at 3:36 PM, GrandPapillon said:

why would you need 8GB High Performance RAM, just take standard 4GB RAM, works perfectly fine with Win10 and my CPU never reach 100%

unfortunately 4 GB RAM is not enought for the modern Web, and even Windows 10 alone. I believe your system is swapping hard thus lowering the overall performance and the lifespan of the SSD. Check the size of C:\pagefile.sys file while browsing the Web.

 

 

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9 minutes ago, fdsa said:

unfortunately 4 GB RAM is not enought for the modern Web, and even Windows 10 alone. I believe your system is swapping hard thus lowering the overall performance and the lifespan of the SSD. Check the size of C:\pagefile.sys file while browsing the Web.

 

 

nope, not even close. Swap file is 256MB and no swapping, full 4GB used

 

Win10 dramatically changed the way it manages RAM and swap, not like before

 

I have limited my SWAP to 256MB on 4 partitions, and never swap above 1GB

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