Just about anyone can put together a solid computer using a decent midtower and the right parts. What we don't see as often is just how fast a computer can be assembled in a small form factor. More and more, too, the term "fast" isn't an all-encompassing one; as the GPU becomes increasingly important, the definition gets foggier and foggier. Today, all of these considerations collide as we test two top end configurations from Puget Systems against each other.

On the outside it looks we have two systems assembled in Antec's ISK-110 enclosure, but on the inside, we have a showdown between Intel and AMD's best and brightest at 65 watts. The more cynical (and admittedly informed) reader may already have an idea of where this is going, but there are definitely some surprises in store.

The Antec ISK-110 is a mini-ITX enclosure with exactly enough space for the motherboard, CPU, memory, and two 2.5" drives located on the opposite side of the chassis, underneath the motherboard tray. There's no space inside for a power supply, and indeed each enclosure comes with the necessary tools to mount it to a monitor's VESA mount, effectively hiding the entire system. As a result, the ISK-110 employs an 80-watt external power supply—good for saving space, bad for driving powerful hardware. Puget Systems faced a very real limit as to how much power could be crammed inside this chassis, but we felt like it would be a good opportunity to see just how powerful a system could be built in it...from both AMD and Intel.

In an effort to keep things fair, Puget Systems tried to use as many of the same components as they possibly could between the two builds. In practice things didn't quite work out that way, as you'll see later.

In the Blue Corner...

Expectations for our Intel-based system are set appropriately; Intel's been leading AMD in terms of CPU performance-per-watt for quite some time now and there's no reason to expect anything to change here, especially with the bulk of the Llano desktop chips sporting 100W TDPs that remove them from contention for this build. Here's what we're testing in the Intel configuration:

Puget Systems Echo I (Intel Edition) Specifications
Chassis Antec ISK-110 VESA
Processor Intel Core i7-2600S
(4x2.8GHz + HTT, Turbo to 3.8GHz, 32nm, 8MB L3, 65W)
Motherboard ASUS P8H67-I Deluxe Rev. 3.0
Memory 2x8GB Patriot DDR3-1333 SO-DIMM
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 2000
(6 EUs, 850-1350MHz)
Hard Drive(s) Intel 520 240GB SATA 6Gbps SSD
Western Digital Scorpio Blue 1TB 5200 RPM SATA 3Gbps HDD
Optical Drive(s) -
Power Supply 80W external
Networking Realtek PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Atheros AR9285 b/g/n Mini-PCIe Wireless LAN
Bluetooth v2.1+EDR
Audio Realtek ALC892
Speaker, mic, and line-in jacks, optical S/PDIF
Front Side 2x USB 2.0
Headphone and mic jacks
Top -
Back Side 4x USB 2.0
2x USB 3.0
Optical out
Speaker, mic, and line-in jacks
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1
Extras SSD
Warranty 1-year parts, lifetime labor and support
Pricing Starts at $852
Priced as configured: $1,756

First of all, Puget Systems opted to equip their Intel version of the Echo I (the Echo II line can handle higher TDPs and includes an optical drive, but in a slightly bigger chassis) with the fastest CPU that Intel offers at a 65W TDP: the Core i7-2600S. The i7-2600S is able to turbo up to as fast as the regular 95W i7-2600 can on three cores, two cores, or even just one core, but on all four it peaks at 2.9GHz. For all intents and purposes, that's not a huge hit in exchange for being able to fit inside the power envelope this enclosure's power supply requires.

That's a lot of heatsink for a small chassis!

Where things do get a little bit dicier with the i7-2600S is the integrated graphics processor: the i7-2600S uses Intel's cut-down HD 2000 graphics that sports half the shader cores the HD 3000 does. This is actually a small change of pace for us; the HD 2000 is actually fairly rarefied in review systems we test, as on the notebook side [nearly—mobile Celeron and Pentium have lesser GPUs] every CPU's IGP has all twelve shaders, while the desktops we test almost never run the IGP.

Instead of full length DIMMs, the ASUS P8H67-I Deluxe uses a pair of SO-DIMM slots that admittedly prevent our comparison from being completely fair. Keeping with maximizing these configurations, Puget Systems filled both slots with 8GB DDR3-1333 SO-DIMMs from Patriot. The PCIe x16 slot is left unoccupied (and there's really no room for a GPU in this chassis), while the board's wireless duties are handled by an Atheros AR9285 controller.

Finally, storage is handled by an Intel 520 series SSD with a 240GB capacity as the system drive, while a slow 1TB Western Digital Scorpio Blue running at just 5,200 RPM handles mass storage. You can actually configure the system with a 750GB Scorpio Black for a bit less money, and that drive runs at the full 7,200 RPM, making it potentially a more ideal choice unless you absolutely must have the extra space.

And in the Green Corner...
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  • ggathagan - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    As mentioned in the article:
    "Puget hasn't qualified any 8GB DDR3-1600 DIMMs for deployment in any of their builds, and so they erred on memory capacity instead of speed. In conversations via e-mail, they even admitted this was probably a mistake in this instance. The problem is that they also don't offer any 2GB or 4GB DDR3-1600 DIMMs for the AMD-based system, either, when they do have 4GB DDR3-1600 DIMMs qualified for other builds."
  • compcons - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    Although I am not claiming a bias, it is a real shame you had to test that Llano with crappy 1333. Although I wouldn't recoomend rolling your own system to run in this silly race, I think it would be very enlightening to see how this would do with fast RAM (1800). I myself was really dissappointed after reading how crappy the AMD did in the CPU tests until I got to the end of the article and realized it was slow RAM. Not o be too harsh, but based on the price and poorly conceived system configuration, I'd tend to not buy anything form these guys...

  • JKflipflop98 - Monday, March 26, 2012 - link

    I would be very interested in a future update to the article testing if swapping out the memory modules actually do make that big of a difference.

    There's only one way to find out. . .
  • Andrew.a.cunningham - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    Ditto on my end. These endless accusations of bias and/or corruption devalue hours of work on the part of writers and prevents the reasonable discussions that AT commenters are more than capable of having.
  • Andrew.a.cunningham - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    ...and these comments are on an article that actually recommends the AMD system over Intel's. :-)
  • ImSpartacus - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    While I cannot disagree with the content of this post, might I suggest that Anandtech staff not respond to critical (errr trolling) comments?

    I come to Anandtech for a cold and completely objective look at the consumer technology of today and tomorrow.

    Sometimes, it isn't possible to hold an objective discussion with commenters. Impassioned (albeit respectful and 'correct') comments can slowly damage the image of a journalist and their distribution channel.

    If this site starts falling apart, I won't have anywhere to go. Can we nip this in the bud?
  • Tchamber - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    Availablility is the issue, they even mentioned that in the article. What mainstream, trusted website were you going to pick that 65w A6 3600 at?
  • BSMonitor - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    Clearly Puget is going for two different market segments with each system. It makes perfect sense to me.

    The Core i7-2600S is $100 more expensive than the Intel Core i5-2405S, but comes with half the graphics computing power. They simple chose the best CPU performance they could fit in 65W. It would make no sense to have two identical product lines with the only difference for the customer to choose AMD or Intel. So the AMD side is left for the best iGPU performance at hand.

    On one line, they are going for low end gaming. On the other, raw computing power. Intel vs AMD is superficial to them. With the mini-gaming rig they also make more $$ as the APU costs $150-70 less.

    And please, don't make me laugh.. You could dump 20 Llano cores into the thing and it wouldn't touch Sandy Bridge quad cores. Grow up.
  • jgutz20 - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    That is true about the AMD cpu used is far from its best, And while the AMD chip has the best GPU of the 2, I'd like to see a "slower" intel chip, be it a i3 or an i5, whatever they have within power envelope that has the HD3000 graphics as that would even the playing field a bit more.

    I guess what i would like to see is Anandtech re-doing this comparison but with their own build so as to ensure they get the best parts available, not the best parts this company offers in this form factor. Get the MB/CPU/RAM for each setup and re-use the case, HDD's etc.

    That is what i would like to see as a follow up to this article!
  • medi01 - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    At least they couldn't test low power AMD CPU with 1000 watt PSU this time, lol...

    1500$ for these, you must be kidding me...

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