The poor man's all-in-one PC for $380

UPDATE 10/3/2007 - The 22? dual-core all-in-one game PC for $765Apple has their iMac and Gateway has their One, but both of them are in the $1300 to $2300 range depending on the various options.
Written by George Ou, Contributor

UPDATE 10/3/2007 - The 22? dual-core all-in-one game PC for $765

Apple has their iMac and Gateway has their One, but both of them are in the $1300 to $2300 range depending on the various options.  What about the person on a budget?  Can you get something for less than $400?  You can but you're going to have to build it yourself and I really do mean BUILD.

It's time to pull out the handy jigsaw and drill and do some wood working.  See gallery here with full screen downloadable schematics I created.

Poor man's all-in-one PC
Now this might look ugly at first glance... ok it is ugly and it's no iMac by any stretch of the imagination but this is a very crude mock-up cranked out on a Sunday afternoon.  But that's not a problem since the actual schematic has the sides and top covered so you won't see the internal guts and it will muffle the sound of the hard drives.  When I get around to it, I'll do the full build and repost the finished pictures.

It's currently one of those things that only a mother or builder could love but what's important is that it successfully booted Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux.  I managed to move the device from room to room without having to connect the monitor and PC individually.  I surfed the web and watch DVDs pulled off the network since this unit doesn't have a DVD drive though we can certainly add a slim model to it.

Pictured below is the full schematic but you can click on it for a full screen download.

The poor man's all-in-one PC costs $380 including a 20" wide-screen LCD. Image shows an older 19" LCD with a crude mock-up attached to the back.  The entire computer including the LCD takes 58W in idle and 64W at peak CPU operation.  The PC itself consumes 30W idle and 36W CPU peak so I'm sure the folks at Climate Savers will approve.  The CPU is a 1.33 GHz Celeron 215 processor based on the "Yonah" Core Microarchitecture with the equivalent performance if a Pentium 4 2.2 GHz.

The motherboard and CPU is a D201GLY which costs $70 at Fry's Electronics.  The one annoying thing about this particular motherboard is that it doesn't support S3 sleep so it can't really save any power when you suspend the PC although it doesn't use much to begin with and it would be good for something you intend to keep on 24x7 such as a file server or firewall device.  I also got a $3 on/off switch at Fry's that connects to a 2-pin prong on the motherboard.  The power supply is an "80 Plus" 1U PSU from Sparkle Power Inc that costs $50.  You could try this 20" Acer or 20" Sceptre LCD display with VGA and DVI ports for $180 each and you really won't save that much money if you tried looking for 17" or 19" LCDs.  What's important is that the VESA mount is completely exposed so that we can hang our PC off the back.  Two screws 100mm apart are used to bolt the computer to the VESA mount on the back of the LCD.  You can buy a pair of 512MB DDR2-667 DIMMs for $36 and get 512 MB for two computers so the cost per unit is only $20 including shipping.  Here you can get a 250GB 3.5" hard drive for $50.

The entire thing measures 87.7 mm thick (3.45") so it will not stick out too far from the back of the LCD when completed.  That's actually the perfect thickness for mounting a silent 80mm fan if we load it up with two Hard Drives and cover up all the sides.  All the cables are self contained though I had to twist the two power cords together and they both connect near the same location for the PC and the LCD.  The VGA or DVI cord can be tidied up for a very short run from the PC to the back of the LCD and the same for the USB.  The sides are half-inch thick MDF wood.  The top and bottom are quarter-inch thick hardboard.  The cost for the wood material is almost negligible since it was around $7 for a 2x4 foot panel and I picked it up at Home Depot though most hardware stores will have it.

Hardboard is relatively light and strong and you can drill some smaller holes and screw the four motherboard mounts directly in to it.  Just be careful you don't screw it in so tight that you strip the wood and fiber and it's probably a good idea to use wood glue to hold it in permanently.  The same goes for the two power supply holes used to hold down the PSU.  The two holes for the VESA mount were larger and loose because the screws go in to the back of the LCD and the same goes for the four hard drive holes.

This design leaves enough room for two hard drives mounted on the top and bottom but you're going to have to wait for the D201GLY2 which has two SATA ports in addition to a PATA IDE port before you can actually use two hard drives.  There is also enough room for a half-height PCI card so we can plug in a TV tuner card or Gigabit network adapter if we want to use this thing as a high-speed NAS (Network Attached Storage).  The rest is up to your imagination.

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