Steam Box Build: The Twin Birds

Twin Birds

Before we start I wanted to note that all of the pictures in this article are linked to higher resolution versions.

Let’s Begin

As some of you may know, a few weeks ago I set out on a journey. My journey wasn’t very different from that of Frodo and Samwise when they set out from the Shire to take The One Ring to Mordor, and cast it into the fires of Mount Doom. But, instead of Sam I had Jeff, and instead of throwing a ring into some lava, I was researching, pricing out and building new gaming PCs. This marks the first new PC I’ve built for myself since 2007 when I put together what we lovingly refer to as the “Leet World PC.” The itch to build a new machine began when Steam released Big Picture Mode, and I started to really love the idea of having a 10-foot experience for my PC games.

The goals I had for this build:

  1. Try to stay close to a $600 price point.
  2. Find a smaller, good looking-case and quiet components since it will be in the living room.
  3. Have playable frame rates in most games at 1080p with everything maxed.

Alright, on the important stuff…


CPU Intel Core i3-3220 3.3GHz $119.99
Motherboard ASRock B75M-ITX Mini ITX $89.99
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 $40.98
Storage Seagate Barracuda 500GB 3.5″ 7200RPM $59.99
Video Card HIS IceQ Turbo Radeon HD 7850 2GB $189.99
Case BitFenix Prodigy Mini ITX Tower $79.99
Power Supply Antec NEO ECO 620C $49.99
TOTAL $630.92[1]




Some of you might say, “Nick, you could’ve spent less money than that, and get basically the same performance if you had done ‘X’ thing.” And, you wouldn’t be wrong in that statement, but what you are forgetting is that I don’t care what you have to say. Yes, it’s true that if I would’ve gone with a different case (ATX/Mini ATX) I wouldn’t have been locked into paying more for a Mini ITX board, but the smooth lines and sexy curves of the BitFenix[2] case were too much to pass up. Another limiting factor with Mini ITX was the lack of AMD motherboards available, so I chose to go Intel.


Since the Prodigy case has two USB 3.0 ports on the side, I wanted to find a board that had USB 3.0 headers, and the ASRock B75M-ITX fit the bill. Not only that, but it has two more USB 3.0 ports and an eSATA port on the back, so you can connect all the things. After deciding on the board, I needed a CPU. Since this was meant to be just a gaming machine, I felt that I could skimp here, and didn’t go for the PC-builder’s darling, the Intel i5. Instead, I opted for the i5’s little brother, the i3-3220, and it’s a great little dual-core hyper-threaded chip that won’t bottleneck the GPU, which is the most important part. I originally was going to only get 4GB of RAM since most games can’t address more than that, but it was almost the same price to go for 8GB, so I thought I’d future-proof the box a little bit.


The crown jewel of this build is the GPU. Yes, it’s not the best graphics card ever, but for under $200, you can’t do much better. ATI’s Radeon HD 7850 is already a pretty fast card, but HIS has over-clocked their IceQ Turbo to 1.0GHz[3]. I also opted for 2GB of Video RAM, up from the standard 1GB, to help with anti-aliasing and texture detail at higher resolutions. Another nice thing about the HIS Ice Turbo is that it’s quiet… Really quiet. When I fired the machine up for the first time, I didn’t realize that it was on for a second. To go along with this beefy GPU, I picked up a 620 watt Antec PSU. Antec is one of the best names in power supplies, and this little guy delivers. It has more than enough connectors for HDD/GPU/fans, and is almost silent while running.

And now back to the good part…


As any gamer knows, first, we gather our materials.
A good builder needs their tools.
By the middle of the build I had taken over our entire dining room table.
Those boards don’t work on water! Unless you’ve got power!
I had to remove both the secondary Hard Drive Cage and the DVD Drive Bay…
…to fit this beast.
Dat ass.
Aaaaaand we’re done!
Only to have to do it all again, in black.

Obligatory benchmark



If you are looking to build something similar, but maybe want to go a cheaper route, here are some options. First, you could build basically the same computer but with a cheaper case and motherboard. Also, if you are going to be running your games at 720p, something like a Radeon HD 7770 or NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 650 would suit your needs fine. One interesting solution, if you like the case or the ITX form factor, is to go AMD. Yes, earlier I said there was a lack of AMD boards for Mini ITX, but the one or two that there are, are FM2 socket. The FM2 socket is for AMD’s Trinity, formerly Vision, APUs which are a combo CPU/GPU on the same chip. I know what you are saying, “But Nick, integrated graphics suck,” and you used to be correct. The Trinity APU is the first solution that is actually a viable integrated graphics solution for gaming. I’ve seen playable frame rates from games like Sleeping Dogs at 720p using an AMD A10-5800K. This would obviously save you a lot, because you won’t have to buy a separate GPU, and if you want, in the future you can Crossfire it with a matching ATI GPU for more performance.

To Wrap it Up

After the blood[4], sweat and tears I ended up with a pretty sweet little machine. She is quieter than the XBox 360 it sits next to, prettier than the PS3 on the other side, and more powerful than either. I loaded up a couple Steam games, and they look gorgeous at 1080p on the 50″ plasma. But, as happy as I am with the little black box, the dream of being able to just fire up your PC and start playing is not quite there yet. Consoles are still hands down more user-friendly. I had issues with Big Picture not auto loading, stability in games and not being able to dismiss alerts without a keyboard and mouse. Overall, I’m incredibly happy with the purchase, and wouldn’t change a thing, but this whole experience has really showed that unfortunately, Big Picture is not ready for prime time quite yet.


1. These are the prices I paid at the time. The cost of parts can fluctuate wildly, so your mileage may vary.
2. The BitFenix name and logo inspired the names of the PCs: Jean-Grey (White) and Dark-Phoenix (Black).
3. ATI Radeon HD 7850s are factory clocked to 860MHz.
4. I have cut myself at some point during every build I’ve ever done, and this was no exception.

The GamerSushi Show, Ep 36: PAX South

This post was actually written by Eddy, posted by Nick. Just to clear up any confusion.

Wow. Uh, hi dudes. I know it hasn’t been a long time since we’ve chatted, but it’s certainly been a long time since we’ve chatted in this format – you know, the format where I’m bringing you a brand new podcast. So that’s pretty cool, right? Especially considering the fact that this isn’t a normal podcast, but a special video podcast!

Yes, this is the long-rumored video podcast from GamerSushi Weekend, AKA PAX South, where the GamerSushi dudes convened for a weekend of hanging out, video gaming, drinking and yes, podcasting. I know it’s pretty ridiculous that it’s just now coming out almost six months later, but sometimes life happens and bearded dudes have to go to California to work. And yeah, that gets in the way every now and then. Continue reading The GamerSushi Show, Ep 36: PAX South

StarCraft II: Year One

As you know, if you listen to the podcast, a few of us here at GamerSushi enjoy a little game called StarCraft II, and a about a month ago was its 1st Birthday (grunt birthday noise!). To celebrate this, the guys over at WellPlayed put together this fantastic little 35-minute documentary from a series of interviews they conducted with 9 progamers and casters while at MLG Anaheim in July.

So turn up your speakers, or grab your nice headphones, crack open a drink, sit back, relax and enjoy…

Source – WellPlayed

StarCraft 2 UMS: Star Battle

As most of us know around here know, one of the biggest advantages of PC games is customization and modding, and StarCraft 2 is no exception. Right now the number one UMS (Use Map Settings) custom game on the EU Server is an awesome space battle map called Star Battle. It’s almost like DotA meets Star Trek. Basically, you farm small fighters to gain income to upgrade the weapons/armor/shields/engines on your giant war ship so you can destroy the other players’ giant war ships. A note for our North American users: while the custom map is now live on the US Server, not many people know about it, so nobody is playing yet.

Here is a more in depth explanation by TotalBiscuit. The video is a little long, but you get the basic idea pretty quick.

Rovio Announces Angry Birds Halloween

As we mentioned on our last podcast, Angry Birds is selling like hotcakes for the iPhone and now Android. I guess that wasn’t enough for Rovio Mobile though, because on their blog today they announced a special Halloween edition of Angry Birds. It will be a standalone game with 45 spooky new levels. Unfortunately for Android users it will only be available on the iTunes App Store. Rovio says it should show up at midnight on October 21st, and will run you $0.99 for the standard version and $1.99 for the HD iPad version.

Trailer below: