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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  • djfourmoney - Thursday, April 12, 2012 - link

    Same here, I need to buy some USB stuff since I have DirecTV and internal PCI HDTV Tuners. Just adds to the budget, I really can't afford to spend the extra $135 (Case, USB Combo Tuner, $15 extra for Mini-ITX)
  • Mothergoose729 - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    In the review, the power consumption of each platform was tested only under CPU load. This is inaccurate and unfair because the GPU power consumption contributes a lot to heat and detracts from efficiency. A combination of furmark GPU torture test and a CPU intensive load tester is needed to get an accurate measurement of the power consumption of these chips.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    Incorrect. The systems are tested under load, CPU and GPU combined. I ran the stress test in AIDA64, stressing the CPU, GPU, and system memory. Previous results used whatever the most stressful situation I could find was to maximize power consumption; sometimes it was Mafia II, sometimes it was Left 4 Dead 2, sometimes it was AIDA64. My goal is consistently to maximize the power consumption, and the CPU and GPU are being stressed in tandem here.
  • Mothergoose729 - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    In the review, both CPU fit a 65 watt envelope. While it is true that AMD A8 processors feature more cores and better graphics, they also have a much higher TDP. To my knoweledge, the A6 processor in this review is the fastest or one of the fastest chips that is under 65 watts.
  • BornDaemon - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    Registered just to post this - this is a SFF with a low noise output and small energy footprint. Why was this not tested as a HTPC, looking at different outputs, image quality analysis between HD2000 and the AMD chip, etc? Seems a lot more likely it will be used hooked up to a TV than as a gaming rig, in my mind.
  • HW_mee - Thursday, March 22, 2012 - link

    I believe Anadtech already has a comparison of the Intel HD graphics and the Llano GPU somewhere on the site making such an analysis worthless.
  • chuckula - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    How DARE you only "lean" towards Llano!! This just shows that Anandtech is an evil Intel SHILL operation bought and paid for with evil Intel Blood Money!

    Any *objective* review would never have even considered using parts that aren't blessed by the holy elders of AMD! It's disgusting that you would even write an article that insults AMD by using the word Intel in it! And to have the nerve to suggest that people should choose a system based on their needs instead of just signing over their children and life savings to AMD is absolutely appalling!

    I will never read this site again after such a twisted and disgustingly biased article! GOOD DAY SIR!

    P.S. --> To the two people who were dumb enough to take this seriously, yes I am joking. It does show that the AMD cultists who constantly bash Anandtech don't have a clue though, they don't realize that the easiest way for Anandtech to give better reviews of AMD products is for AMD to actually make better products.
  • Mayuyu - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    IMO, you should have reviewed the video image quality difference between Intel and AMD. It is a much more relevant test than gaming for this system.

    Stuff like how much frames can Quicksync vs AMD decode a 1080 H264 40Mbps stream at.

    MadVR Performance..., etc.
  • chuckula - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    Quicksync has exactly 0 to do with video decoding, this keeps coming up over and over and it's a little depressing how uneducated most people are. I can (and have) done full H.264 1080P video decoding with a 3 year old Core 2 notebook with x4500 graphics over an HDMI output with audio under Linux, so video playback is a piece of cake.

    Quicksync is for video *trans*coding which is 1. usually done offline and 2. often done on a separate box from the HTPC. The HTPC plays back the video *after* transcoding.
  • zebrax2 - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    A good review. Some of the commentators seem to forget that this is not a processor review rather a system review. Dustin reviewed what was available, it is not his problem that a certain processor is not available for the system rather it is Pudgets.

    I actually think this review put AMD in good light. Even though the the processor (possibly also the ram) used in the system was not the best that one can get it still managed to impress the reviewer.

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