Description

I built this machine to run Plex, Netflix, YouTube, Steam, Battlenet, and UPlay from the couch in the living room. The goal is to have good-enough gaming performance, while keeping the system cool in a poorly ventilated TV console cabinet. It also needs to fit in aesthetically with the other console devices such as the DVR and cable modem. This build was going to have some challenges right out of gate with the thermal conditions expected. I ran into one issue, that is hopefully temporary. The Crucial MX300 SSD does not seem to be compatible with this motherboard. I checked the compatibility list and sure enough, the MX100 and MX200 are there, but the MX300 is nowhere to be found. I normally take these compatibility lists with a grain of salt, but this time I paid for it as the M.2 SSD was not detected at all. I ended up putting Win10 on the 1TB 2.5" HDD I pulled from a laptop that I upgraded earlier and it will have to do for now. I reached out to MSI for support and will keep an eye out for BIOS updates so this drive will eventually be supported.

Part Reviews

CPU

Great budget CPU for Gaming. 3.7GHz Skylake with 2 cores and 4 threads is fast enough and powerful enough for the needs of a console killer or media streaming rig. The low TDP of 51W means less heat is being generated as well. The CPU comes with a stock cooler, but I personally hate the the Intel stock coolers and opted for a Cryorig C7. Startup at 27 degrees, up to 55 under load in a Fractal Node 202.

CPU Cooler

This is my go-to choice for a stock cooler replacement that still fits in a low-profile space. $30 and universal compatibility is a plus, but heat output is directed straight at the RAM and the IO... something to keep in mind if running a really hot CPU. The stock cooler disperses heat radially, in all directions. The C7 is rated for up to 100W TDP and the heat exits the cooler in the direction of the fins. On my motherboard (MSI B150I Gaming Pro AC) the components on the board only let me mount the cooler with the fins in a horizontal configuration.

Motherboard

Great feature set, excellent price for a mini-ITX board with USB 3.1 (Gen1 Type-A), M.2 support, Intel Dual Band AC Wifi and Bluetooth, and premium audio. My only issue, which is hopefully temporary, is that the board will not detect the Crucial MX300 275 GB M.2 SSD I purchased for the build. I'm running BIOS Rev. 1.5 and hopefully a later version will address this issue. Just a side note, this is a B150 chipset, so don't expect to overclock your CPU or run your RAM any faster than 2133. Doesn't matter for me as this is going into a Fractal Node 202 and I want to keep the heat down, so overclocking is not important for me in this instance.

Memory

Got 8GB now, and have an extra slot available in case I want to go up to 16GB in the future. Read the reviews about single-channel vs double-channel RAM performance and noticed that the performance difference is only 1-2% with games. Love the look and the value of the Kingston Hyper-X Fury Black modules.

Storage

I love this generation of Crucial SSDs. Very fast for a TLC SSD. Nearly on par with a Samsung 850 EVO at 2/3 of the price. PCPP only has the 2.5" version listed, but I actually purchased an M.2 for the same price. Unfortunately it didn't work with my MSI B150I Gaming Pro AC Mini-ITX motherboard as of today, but a future BIOS update will fix that hopefully. I'm using the MX300 in my ASUS ROG laptop and the system boots in the same amount of time it takes to resume from sleep. Literally 3 seconds. So happy with this drive and I can't wait to get the other one working with my Media PC as well.

Storage

Got this HDD for free with my ROG laptop and I needed to replace it immediately. 1TB is nice for a data drive, but even at 7200 RPM the system was slow to load levels on Overwatch. When I got dropped from a team because I couldn't load the level fast enough, I had enough and upgraded to a Crucial MX300 right away which was like a dream.

Video Card

This is a good value video card that focuses on rear exhaust due to the orientation of the fins without the need for a noisy blower-style fan. Excellent performance in gaming, and the Silent profile in the ASUS GPU Tweak software enables the system to maintain 83 degrees maximum under load in a horizontally-oriented Fractal Node 202. Fans are not distracting at all under this profile although you can hear them slightly.

Case

Great case, includes a decent 450W PSU (Fractal Integra 80Plus White). Fits in with a living room setup. The LED is a diffuse white-blue color, not distracting at all. With carefully selected components, you can build a very capable gaming rig without hitting a wall thermally. There are magnetic dust filters over all the intakes, and there are exhaust holes cut in the top (or right) for the CPU/motherboard area. The video card should be a rear exhaust style cooler as there is no ventilation other than the rear of the case on the bottom/left side. Room for two 2.5" drives and a large video card. The CPU cooler should be a stock cooler or something low-profile like the Cryorig C7 I chose. This is the best looking case of it's kind right now in my opinion, probably on par with the Dr. Zaber once that becomes available in the US. This case is not as small as a PS4, but it is comparable to many other TV-console components as far as overall footprint and aesthetic design.

Comments

  • 37 months ago
  • 2 points

Nice Node 202 build. Welcome to the club. Excellent looking rig! +1

Sorry to hear about the m.2 drive. There isn't anything special about the mx300 to make it stand out as needing some kind of bios fix. Hopefully the issue resolves itself with some help from msi.

On a side note, I had a very similar problem with the ssd version of the mx300. MY PC would not see it no matter what i did. Inoriginally thought it was bad. Then got the idea to drop it in my laptop, which did recognized it. I formatted and put it back in my desktop. PC saw it after that. Strange in my book.

  • 37 months ago
  • 1 point

Hmm, that is interesting. I'll have to try that and see if I can get another system to detect the drive, format it, and try it again in this system. Thanks for the tip! I'll let you know how it goes...

  • 37 months ago
  • 1 point

So, I purchased a $9.99 M.2 to SATA-III adapter (Search Amazon for AD905A adapter) and I was able to see the drive from my external USB 3.0 SATA Dock and from an internal SATA port. I formatted the drive and tried the rear M.2 slot again and it still wouldn't detect. I had a feeling this might be the case, so I attached the adapter with cable ties to the second drive bay, plugged it into the SATA on the motherboard and reinstalled Windows 10 using it as the boot drive and the 1TB drive as a storage drive. It might not be the most elegant solution, but it works, it's fast, and it didn't require an RMA so I'm happy with the results.

  • 37 months ago
  • 1 point

That's so curious why the m.2 slot isn't detecting the drive. Glad the drive works though. I wonder if there is some uncommon setting in bios that needs to be enabled or changed to get the m.2 slot to work.

If you don't mind, I'd like to pass this conundrum to my old man. He is a long time computer junkie. He may have an idea. Can't promise anything, but he might have some insight.

  • 37 months ago
  • 1 point

By all means, I'm curious to see if there is a solution rather than just calling it a bad slot. I'm a long time IT Administrator myself, so I've seen a lot as well, but I'm happy to have more eyes on the problem as everyone has different exposure to various issues. On a troubleshooting side note, I heard that some motherboards disable certain SATA ports when the m.2 slot is populated. The manual didn't confirm this for this motherboard, but I tried the M.2 slot with no other drives attached and it still failed to detect. All signs point to a bad slot. I do have a workaround with the SATA adapter but I wonder if I had a Samsung 950 Pro to test if that would have worked. These drives are explicitly stated on the compatibility list MSI published for this board, so that would rule out the slot failure for certain.

MSI Compatibility list for this board: https://us.msi.com/Motherboard/support/B150I-GAMING-PRO-AC.html#support-hdd

  • 37 months ago
  • 1 point

Wow! Seems to be a lot of hard work.

  • 37 months ago
  • 1 point

It would be a lot less work if Crucial addressed some of the odd issues their MX300 M.2 drives have been having with many systems, not just mine. Most people have been returning the drives and opting for the 2.5" version or switching brands from what I'm reading on random forums. I'm going to try a USB 3.0 adapter I ordered to connect the drive externally and see if I can get it initialized. Will update with results!

  • 37 months ago
  • 1 point

My workaround worked. I'm using a $9.99 M.2 to SATA adapter board that fits neatly in the 2.5" hard drive slot. Boot up times are amazingly quick and the system works great on a new 55" Samsung UHD 4K TV. I'm running Overwatch on 1080p at 70 fps using Ultra settings. 4K UHD Video and streaming look simply amazing. I'm very happy with this build and all the hard work was worth it.

  • 37 months ago
  • 1 point

i3 and a 1060 is there any bottle necking

  • 37 months ago
  • 1 point

There is no bottlenecking with the i3 6100 and the GTX1060 3GB in gaming. It is a very well balanced combination. Check out some of the other builders on this site using the same combination, they all say the same thing. It is a great value for gaming configurations.

  • 37 months ago
  • 1 point

nifty