Blog about software development



16 Sep 2023 - by 'Maurits van der Schee'

The fairly new N100 processor was mainly available in mini PC's and firewall devices, but now we have ASRock that offers it as "N100DC-ITX" on an ITX sized motherboard. I'm using it to rebuild a PC in my living room that I designed to be powerful and silent and always on. My previous build was an ASRock J5040-ITX motherboard in an Inter-Tech ITX-601 HTPC case with 32 GB of RAM a 1 TB SSD. It used 8 watt at idle and I wrote a post about it. No reason for real complaints as I've used the machine daily, but certain websites (and sometimes VSCode) started to feel a bit slow. I wanted a little better performance and the N100 should be able to deliver and hopefully it will not consume much more power.


About the ASRock N100DC-ITX

It is a very affordable board considering you can power it with a 20 euro external power supply and has a CPU and cooler included for only 140 euro. Add an ITX case, some RAM and a drive and you'll build a nice fanless budget PC around 300 euro. Great features are it's full size DDR4 support, 2 SATA ports and it's NVMe slot (PCIe 3.0 x4). The board has 6 physical USB ports on it's I/O shield and supports 6 USB ports on front panel connections. It also supports M2 WiFi, but be careful as you must use a CNVio2 (Key E) card, such as the (recommended) Intel AX211 (which performs really well).

How about the Asus PRIME N100I-D D4?

The only other N100 ITX motherboard option I'm aware of at the time of writing is the Asus PRIME N100I-D D4. Even though Asus states that the board has a 16GB SO-DIMM RAM limit, it happily accepts a 32GB SO-DIMM in it's single (channel) slot. It has NVMe drive support and also has 1 SATA3 port, so everything looks good. Note that this is also not a DC board, so it requires you to buy an additional PicoPSU to run it in a small case. If you do have a small case with power supply (such as the Inter-tech ITX-601) the Asus may be a good match too.

List of materials

The materials used in this build are (prices from Dutch web-shops like Megekko and Amazon.nl):

 91 Antec ISK 110 Case (includes 90W power brick)
140 ASRock N100DC-ITX motherboard with CPU
 82 Patriot Viper Steel DDR4 1 x 32GB 3200MHz RAM
 95 Crucial P3 Plus 2TB M.2 PCIe Gen4 NVMe SSD
 15 Noctua NF-P12 1300 RPM Redux, 4-pins PWM, 120mm Fan
 21 IntelĀ® Wi-Fi 6E AX211, Key E M2, CNVio2
 11 2 x IPEX (MHF2) Cable + 8dBi WiFi Antenna
 14 Be quiet! MC1 M2 SSD cooler
--- +
469 Total

Note that even without trying to save costs, I still managed to stay under 500 euro total costs on this build. I had an "Antec ISK 110 Vesa" laying around from a previous upgrade with 2 x USB 3 and 2 x USB 2 on the front, but this case is hard to find now. As an alternative I do recommend the "Chieftec IX-03B" with a 120mm x 15mm slim fan, which looks nicer as it is a smaller case, but is lacking front panel USB connections.

So this build is not "silent"?

Well.. depends on your definition of silent I guess. The motherboard is fan-less and it supports connected fans that only power up above a certain motherboard or CPU temperature. The "Noctua NF-P12 Redux" is a very quiet fan that I only spin up to 25% (of 1300 RPM) when the motherboard goes above 50 degrees Celsius. I configured the fan curve to spin the fan 10% faster for every 10 degrees the motherboard heats up. You can play with these (visual) fan curves in the BIOS, which is very nice. I can assure you that most of the time the fan will be off and when it is on, you won't hear it. It may not even be needed, but I believe that a little airflow has a positive effect on the life-time of the components. So yes, the build is very quiet and no it's not fan-less.

Is it using less than 8 watt idle?

No, it's not as efficient as my previous build. It uses about 12 watt idle, which is a lot more (measured on the wall socket). This was somewhat disappointing, but it triggered me to try out the suspend (to RAM, S3) option. When suspended it uses only 2 watt, which is very nice (in combination with auto-suspend after half an hour). Also waking up from suspend was very fast (1-2 seconds). The only problem was that initially after waking up from suspend the video failed to work (no signal). I found out that this was a bug that was solved in a recent Linux kernel. After updating my Linux kernel to the latest version (using the mainline tool) suspend was working flawless.

Conclusion: Cheap, small and quiet

So I like computers to be cheap, small and quiet. After today I can say I also achieved "relatively fast" as this machine isn't noticeably slower than my 5700G in everyday tasks (surfing, office work, programming). If you are looking for a living room PC that it relatively small and quiet I can recommend this build. It was a joy to build and it is a joy to work with. The PC is heavily used every day, so I feel the money is well spent. I hope I inspired you with this write-up and enjoy upgrading and tinkering!


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