If you’re like me, then you like to leave your PC on at all times. I’ve found out over the years that this can be quite expensive. A couple weeks ago I put together a green gaming machine for my living room that would double as a console option for my kids. I plug our Xbox 360 controllers in and have an entire Steam library at my fingertips.
Because of the energy efficient parts I chose, it uses very little energy when gaming and even less when idle or streaming from Plex. Whether you’re looking for a secondary option for your TV or simply want a small form factor gaming PC as your main rig, this one does the job well.
A Value Green Mini-ITX Gaming PC Build for Energy Efficiency
While the average cost of a kWh is just around 12 cents here in the U.S. outside it can be quite crippling. Add that with the fact that many PC gamers like to leave their gaming PCs on at all times, and you’re paying a lot more to run your machine than you might know. Even my green, which cost around $425, costs around $50 a year to run. On a machine built for efficiency that’s steal nearly 1/8 of the total cost each year. With energy costs only going up, energy-efficiency should be a consideration for all savvy gamers.
Energy Efficient Processors From Under $200 to $100
The i3-4130T is the obvious choice for me here. With a TDP of just 35W and an operating frequency of 2.9GHz, you get the right combination of energy savings and performance. Hyper-threading allows it to act as 4 cores when you need it for rendering or multitasking and for a price of around $110 it falls within our budget. For an i5 option consider the i5-4570T. I’ve seen it as low as $165 and it has Intel’s Turbo boost technology which allows it to go from 2.9GHz all the way to 3.6GHz when you really need it.
|CPU||i3-4130T||The i3-4130T has a low TDP of just 35W. For an upgrade, consider the i5-4570T.|
|Graphics Card||Gigabyte GeForce GTX 750 Ti||The 750TI has a low TDP of 60W. An upgrade from here would be the R7 370 but at additional cost and energy usage.|
|Motherboard||ASRock H97M-ITX||Cheap, reliable, and includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0|
|Power Supply||Corsair CX 430M||Modular, durable, and 80 Plus Certified|
|Case||Cooler Master Elite 120||This great little case is on rebate this month.|
|Storage||Western Digital Caviar Green||The Caviar Green drive offers up to 40% energy efficiency and in doing so prolongs the life of the hard drive as well.|
|Ram / Memory||2x4GB Corsair Vengeance 1600MHz Ram|
A Good and Energy-Efficient Graphics Card Under or Around $100
If you look at performance numbers, value, and TDP, the graphics card that will jump out to you at this price point is the 750Ti. It runs at a low 60W TDP. Compare that to its AMD competitors in the R7 360 at 100 watts and the R7 370 at 110 watts and you can see why I chose it for this build. The 750Ti is also considered the console equivalent GPU. For 10 to 25% more performance you can go with the R7 370 for about $40 more; however, keep in mind it has nearly twice the TDP.
Benchmarks for the 750 Ti
Wondering what kind of performance you can expect out of the 750 Ti? Here’s a look at a few benchmarks provided by Anandtech.
Bioshock Infinite 1080p Ultra Quality: 60.8
Battlefield 4 1080p Medium Quality: 74.8
Crysis 3 1080p Medium Quality + FXAA: 49.9
Total War Rome 2 1080p High Quality + Medium Shadows: 87.8
Results: As you can see above the 750 Ti does fine in 1080p if you’re willing to run it in medium or high quality in today’s latest games. For $100 graphics card, it’s not bad. Digital Foundry also tested the 750Ti in 1080p for the Witcher 3 in mostly medium settings with Nvidia Hairworks Off. Had the changed the texture and water quality to medium I’m sure they could have gotten even more frames.
Find a Good 80 Plus Modular Power Supply for Cheap:
As we’re going with a mini-ITX build it makes a lot of sense to go with a modular power supply here. Getting rid of cables from the case will ensure proper airflow and cooling. Going with anything but an 80 Plus certified power supply also seems like a waste and especially with all of our power-savvy components. While I’m personally using a gold certified power supply for my build, this budget only allows us to go with something bronze rated.
That being said, if you find something like the Corsair CS550M on rebate, then you’ll probably be able to get it for around $50. Otherwise, go with something like the CX 430M. It’s still power efficient and semi-modular and should be more than sufficient for the max load of around 149 watts that this build will pull.
A Good H97 Mini-ITX Motherboard for the Money
For this build, I feel like the ASRock H97M-ITX is the ideal budget board this month. After rebate, it’s around $65 on Newegg and it has the ruggedness and quality that you’d want. What’s more is that it has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. I recently purchased this board for my build and had no problem with it.
Technical specifications include up to 16GB Dual Channel DDR3 1600MHz memory, 5 x SATA 6Gb/s, 1 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 Slot (PCIE1: x16 mode), Realtek ALC892 Audio with 7.1 Channels, 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, 1 x D-Sub, 1 x DVI-D, 1 x HDMI, x RJ-45 LAN Port with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED), 4 x USB 3.0 Ports, 2 x USB 2.0 Ports, an optical port, and your basic audio jacks. Setup is simple and ASRock includes a 3-year parts and labor warranty.
A Cheap Micro or Mini-ITX case
This month I really like the Cooler Master Elite 120 Mini-ITX case. It has a mail-in rebate that makes it as much as half off. At $25 it’s a solid option and keeps the small form factor we’ve aimed for. If it’s not on sale, consider something like the Xion Micro ATX case. It’s cheap and includes a front 120mm blue LED fan. The Fractal Design Core 1100 would also be a solid choice.
Since we’re going for an energy efficient build I’m recommending the Western Digital Caviar Green 1TB drive. It reduces power consumption up to 40% and thus increases its lifespan as well. While it’s not in the budget, you may want to consider an inexpensive solid state drive to store the OS and some of your favorite programs or games. The Kingston SSD 120GB V300 is around $50 and would be ideal for the task.
Memory / RAM
For this build, we’re going with 8GB of Corsair Vengeance Ram. It’s cheap, durable, 1600MHz, and is on sale this month. If you’re building a similar PC, you’ll want to find something on sale as well.
Overall, this power efficient PC is not only cheap to run but also great at playing games. With Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and its small form factor you’ll find it’s useful to have in a variety of areas of your house.