Home > Hardware, Intel Atom > Building a Low Power Fanless Intel “Bay Trail-D” mini PC for $250

Building a Low Power Fanless Intel “Bay Trail-D” mini PC for $250

Yesterday, I wrote about MSI J1800i, a motherboard based on Intel Celeron J1800 “Bay Trail-D” processor with 10W TDP,  that is expected to sell for $60 by the end of the month. I’m sure some fully assembled fanless small form factor computers based on Bay Trail-D processor will eventually show up, but I’ve decided to find out what would be needed to build a complete fanless PC with this mini-ITX motherboard, and how much it would cost.

M350_mini-ITX_enclosure

M350 Mini-ITX enclosure

First we’ll need a mini-ITX enclosure with a fanless PSU. I’ve found M350 Universal Mini-ITX enclosure (pictured above) coupled with picoPSU-80 80W picoPSU-90 90W 12V fanless power supply, and a 12V 60W AC-AC power adapter would probably fit the bill. The mini-ITX casing and power adapter are available from E-ITX.com, and the picoPSU power supply can be found on Amazon.

I’ll also add a 1TB SATA HDD, and a 4GB SO-DIMM DDR3 memory stick. I’ll just select some best selling parts from Amazon US, namely HGST Travelstar 2.5″ 1TB SATA HDD, and Crucial CT51264BF1339 4GB Single DDR3 1333 MT/s (PC3-10600) CL9 SODIMM notebook memory module.

I’d guess that’s all you’d need to get a fully working system, except possibly some cables. Let’s see how much this would all cost:

  • MSI J1800i motherboard – ~$60
  • M350 mini-ITX enclosure – $39.95
  • picoPSU-80 PSU – $24 [Update: this won't work. See comments section, so I've replaced it with:]
  • picoPSU-90 PSU – $21.92
  • 12V 60W AC-AC power adapter with US power cord – $14
  • HGST Travel 1TB 2.5″ SATA HDD – $74.25
  • Crucial 4GB SO-DIMM DDR3 – $44.14

The total is $256.34 $254.26, shipping not included. Some items are shipped for free (Amazon) to the US, and if you live somewhere else, you should be able to find similar parts at the same or even lower price locally. All you’d have to do now is to install your preferred operating system via a USB flash drive or USB DVD drive.

Did I miss anything? Or do you have any other suggestions? Comments are welcome.

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  1. adem
    January 15th, 2014 at 12:15 | #1

    wow this is awesome now you can run any os you want i am guessing you can install windows on it seeing how its intel and any linux you want like ubuntu and sabayon and you can install android x86 but what i want to know can i install Hackintosh this would make a mad hackintosh or even just xbmce on its own and stick it under or behind your tv. so is it an extra $10 more if i want the quad core one thanks

  2. Xan
    January 15th, 2014 at 14:24 | #2

    I was thinking about something similar but with two HDDs, 2x2TB would be sufficient.
    Would make great XBMC box, not needing external NAS. It could serve as low traffic NAS for home network and do all torrent/dc/XDCC downloads.

  3. Viky
    January 15th, 2014 at 16:56 | #3

    This is a great build. X86 is now catching up with ARM in terms of price and Watts. I would like to use this as a either XBMC HTPC or as Plex Media server along with my existing Raspberry pi with Rasplex. in both the case it can also act as a Home NAS also. I have few doubts though

    1. Is it powerful enough to transcode as plex media server.
    2. What is total watts consumed with whole setup?

    Also addition of IR receiver and WIFI/ bluetooth dongle would be good for an HTPC setup.

  4. Xan
    January 15th, 2014 at 20:48 | #4

    Well if you use XBMC, you don`t need extra remote. Smartphone or tablet with yatze remote beats any physical remote..

  5. Harley
    January 15th, 2014 at 21:29 | #5

    I much would rather use a (smaller) SSD harddrive. You also do not need more than 1GB or 2GB RAM for most purposes on a system with slow CPU.

    8GB SSD harddrive is enough for a dedicated XBMC based HTPC with OpenELEC.

    If you want some additional space for retro game emulators then a 30GB SDD instead should be enough and is not that much more expensive.

    Since the CPU and harddrive are the bottlenecks for performance on a system like this, you be much better of with 2GB RAM and a fast SSD harddrive.

  6. Allan
    January 16th, 2014 at 00:35 | #6

    Another interesting board is the ECS NM70-I2. For $70 you get a 1.8 GHz dual-core Ivy Bridge Celeron (1037U), a real PCIe 2.0 x16 slot and a dual channel memory bus. I got one from the ‘Egg.

    It’s not fanless but it’s basically silent and very low power.

  7. vtomin
    January 16th, 2014 at 01:37 | #7

    How much would it cost with 2 GB of RAM, 60 GB SSD and a cheap midi tower case?

  8. onebir
    January 16th, 2014 at 02:18 | #8

    Wondering what advantages this would have over something like an Odroid-U3 at about 1/2 the price. SATA hard drive is one…

  9. California Bob
    January 16th, 2014 at 02:22 | #9

    I’ve got a few m350 pcs and they work well. Be sure to order the VESA screws for the m350 if you want to mount it on the back of a monitor or TV. It’s only 4 dollars or so extra if you buy them at the same time. I don’t mount a HD inside the enclosure. Instead I boot from a USB flash prepared either with YUMI from pendrivelinux.com or by myself with syslinux and a “frugal” install of puppy linux. The YUMI tool lets you run just about anything you can find on distrowatch. Two USB ports are hidden behind the front faceplate. I have used them for the a default boot USB flash and a small wifi adapter (Linux compatible.) I have had a problem with the front USB ports metal housing arriving in damaged and unusable condition, so check that as soon as you take delivery. The vendors I’ve worked with (e-itx, minibox, etc.) provide excellent customer service, and Amazon provides the sales front-end for many of them.

  10. Marius
    January 16th, 2014 at 02:40 | #10

    @onebir
    Much more powerful than the Odroid , extension via PCI-E ( I saw one slot in the picture ) and last but not least open source all the way. You’ve got Intel graphics and an X86 on which you can install whatever your heart desires ( even OS X I think ).

  11. Roel
    January 16th, 2014 at 03:34 | #11

    This seller on aliexpress has cheap atom pc’s that should be perfect for htpc’s: http://www.aliexpress.com/store/800900
    I don’t think You can make your one for these prices. A shame they haven’t one with a slimline cdrom bay.
    As You can see they even have arm pc’s with linux firmware.

  12. onebir
    January 16th, 2014 at 03:42 | #12

    @Marius
    Are these major advantages for a HTPC/NAS? (In particular if the full Ubuntu repos are available on the Odroid.)

    @Roel
    Don’t prices work out similar allowing for the 1TB HDD and extra 2GB RAM proposed above? Also at present I think Inctel’s offerings all use processors with much higher power consumption. (Not sure how performance compares…)

  13. Someone from the other side
    January 16th, 2014 at 17:45 | #13

    @onebir
    Intel GPUs will have massively better drivers, that alone would be worth it. Now if someone wised up and made a low priced board that could be powered by a simple 12W5A brick (think NUC) instead of that overcomplicated ATX stuff…

  14. onebir
    January 16th, 2014 at 18:13 | #14
  15. Andrew
    January 17th, 2014 at 02:07 | #15

    I have traced the source of this (obviously incorrect) rumored $60 price for this MSI j1800i motherboard to an article that was first published on Tech Report ( http://techreport.com/news/25892/msi-shows-sub-60-mini-itx-mobo-with-bay-trail-d-onboard ) on January 9 and subsequently taken up by various other websites. The problem with this is that the j1800i Atom processor alone costs $72 (Intel prices, tray, 1000 quantities). Also comparing to other existing Mini ITX mainboard prices, one can easily tell that $60 is decidedly unrealistic.

    If we go for a more realistic >$100, we end up with a >$300 build of a very low performance PC which I would hesitate to recommend for anything except the most basic tasks.
    Tom’s Hardware benchmarked the Celeron j1750 (a similar dual core Bay Trail CPU with a slightly lower base clock) a few months ago: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/bay-trail-celeron-j1750-performance,3614.html and the slowest Ivy Bridge Celeron processor runs rings around the Bay Trail CPU.

    Personally I find it difficult to position this processor:
    - For a Linux DIY HTPC or NAS I would much rather use a 35W Ivy Bridge part, basically for the performance and upgradability.
    - As an Android TV box, there are smaller and cheaper ARM solutions with better Android support.

  16. Someone from the other side
    January 17th, 2014 at 18:15 | #16

    Intel’s 72USD for a J1800i also strike me as decidedly unrealistic. It’s also clear that their published prices are hardly what manufacturers pay for CPUs. Hell they sell a Celeron 847 NUC for less than twice that…

    @onebir: That one is indeed an abomination. But what they are using now (especially HD3000 and up) is much more useable than most PowerVR and Mali chipsets out there…

  17. January 31st, 2014 at 10:24 | #17

    Eee Box EB1037 is one mini PC with Celeron J1900 (the quad core version of j1800). No price yet. http://liliputing.com/2014/01/asus-eee-box-eb1037-fanless-mini-desktop-bay-trail-power.html

  18. cptcosmic
    February 4th, 2014 at 20:36 | #18

    the build in the article would not boot because the motherboard requires 4-pin power connector addionally to the 24 pin power connector. picoPSU-80 PSU does not have the 4 pin power connector, you would atleast need the picoPSU-90.

    you could also think about getting a second hdd tray for another 2.5 harddrive and you could install the OS on an USB drive or maybe even on a vertical usb on board flash drive to get the most out of this case.

  19. February 4th, 2014 at 21:00 | #19

    @cptcosmic
    Thanks for letting us know. I can see the 4-pin 12V ATX cable is indeed missing when comparing picoPSU-80 and picoPSU-90. I’ll update the post.

  20. vlaero
    February 6th, 2014 at 15:38 | #20

    I have one of these enclosures: http://www.aywun.com/ProductDetails.asp?ID=56
    Quite affordable and you do not need to buy a separate pico PSU. You may want to try and find a local price to compare like-for-like with the costs you have provided here, but I was able to get this case for about AUD$70 (Australian) shipped. I suspect this will be slightly cheaper than the two items serving the same purpose that you are quoting here.

    With this case at home I’ve currently got the motherboard backplate removed and have repurposed an old sata->esata breakout bracket for a desktop PC. I’ve removed the actual esata connector from the mounting plate. The other sata end is connected to one of the two internal sata ports on the mini-itx board and the esata end then is fed out the back of the case. You could do a bit of dremel work to make this look cleaner, but for now it is fine. An external hard drive is then able to be connected. In my case I’m using one of those drop-in dock type things. The drive is able to spin down when not in use (OS in on a 2.5 inch SSD inside the case). When the drive has spun down there is total silence.

    Another plus for esata is if you are wanting to play around with vsphere hypervisor (free edition) on a small machine. It does not support USB for datastores, but obviously supports sata. WIht AHCI mode sata it is also hot swappable.

    Bring on the cheap quad core bay trail boards.

  21. onebir
    February 13th, 2014 at 19:14 | #21

    So the mini-ITX boards only need the 12v adaptor, not the PSU

  22. onebir
    February 13th, 2014 at 19:24 | #22

    *?

  23. February 13th, 2014 at 20:21 | #23

    @onebir
    The mini-itx boards have a 24-pin ATX connector so they require an ATX PSU. I’ve read it’s not a requirements on Wikipedia, but a recommendation.
    The thin mini-itx boards can apparently be powered by a 12V or 19V “laptop” power supply.

  24. onebir
    February 13th, 2014 at 20:26 | #24

    @cnxsoft
    Ah thin-mini-ITX, that’s what I meant! Thanks :)

  25. vlaero
    March 27th, 2014 at 10:09 | #25

    I was just thinking, with thin-itx boards and the new asrock q1900dc (not sure of the height of this one and if it officially meets thin-itx specs) having external DC power, what is the market like for a a really cheap enclosure that perhaps has room for a single 2.5inch drive?
    I’m thinking along the lines of the type of cases that come with the various arm dev boards. I think there was a cheap case for the cubietruck like this? For something like $11?
    Even if the case was perspex it would be fine. When you’re buying a $60 board the prices for mini-itx cases are a bit silly. Especially if you don’t need it to house a PSU.
    Think of the situation where someone just puts ram on a baytrail board and runs it off usb/sd.
    So, what is available? Has anyone got any pointers?

  26. May 4th, 2014 at 12:34 | #26

    Somebody made one for real using a Celeron J1900 based motherboard. Total price: 200 Euros (That includes VAT applied in Europe). http://www.rkblog.rk.edu.pl/w/p/building-linux-pc-using-low-power-quad-core-celeron-j1900/

  27. jspin
    May 7th, 2014 at 11:28 | #27

    @cnxsoft
    actually, you CAN use the pico psu 80 since there is a connector for the 4pin cpu power cable (sold separately):
    http://www.mini-box.com/4-Pin-P4-Mini-Power-Cable
    * note that it only works on the pico psu 80

    i just ordered that cable along with the m350, pico psu 80, and 60W adapter. now i just gotta decide which cpu/mobo to use. i’m sorta leaning toward the j1800 on a gigabyte board (ga-j1800n-d2h). i’ve always avoided celerons, but for an htpc, it should be just fine

  28. Someone from the other side
    May 7th, 2014 at 13:34 | #28

    Seems to be a no brainer to go for a J1900 instead, double the number of cores at barely higher price…

  29. May 9th, 2014 at 11:40 | #29

    And there’s now an Intel J2900 motherboard – http://www.fanlesstech.com/2014/05/pentium-j2900-alert.html

  30. Someone from the other side
    May 9th, 2014 at 18:36 | #30

    And again only 2 SATA ports, what is it with those people….

  31. onebir
    May 9th, 2014 at 18:43 | #31

    @Someone from the other side How many Arm boards even have SATA?

  32. May 10th, 2014 at 10:43 | #32

    @cnxsoft
    And cheaper ECS BAT-I/J2900 for $96.99 @ http://www.superbiiz.com/detail.php?p=MB-BAT_J29

  1. January 16th, 2014 at 00:57 | #1
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