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SFF Gaming rig/htpc $1k-1.5k advice/oppinions please

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January 27, 2014 8:15:35 PM

Hello I'd like to build a small gaming/HTPC.

Budget
Id like to spend around $1000 to $1,500 usd. Would that be enough?

Use
I plan on using a 1080p 3d tv as my main display and maybe get a Oculus dev kit or something in the future... So probably wont be going over 1080p any time too soon I don't think. Gaming in high as possible settings hopefully quietly. Would like to watch movies and such...

For the video card I'm pretty sure I want the MSI gtx 780 ti Gaming edition... But I really like the Gigabyte gtx 780 ti Ghz edition, just worry it may be to loud.
What do you all think? Is this maybe over kill? A good investment?

Should I get a i7 or i5? Would I be looking at upgrading much sooner with an i5?

I'm thinking mITX but open to suggestions. I'm not sure what case to go with but I have been looking at the Cool Master 120/130 and Sugo series. I like the sg8's looks a lot.

I would like to maybe try water cooling in the near future if possible, but might need to stay air cooled for a while do to cost. Thanks for all the help and your opinions!
a c 325 4 Gaming
a b B Homebuilt system
January 27, 2014 8:42:35 PM

you can start from here

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i5-4670K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($219.99 @ Newegg)
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Seidon 120M 86.2 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler ($44.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: Asus Z87I-DELUXE Mini ITX LGA1150 Motherboard ($179.49 @ Amazon)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($72.25 @ Newegg)
Storage: Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($59.66 @ OutletPC)
Video Card: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB Video Card ($724.99 @ Amazon)
Case: Cooler Master Elite 130 Mini ITX Tower Case ($44.99 @ Microcenter)
Power Supply: Antec EarthWatts Platinum 650W 80+ Platinum Certified ATX Power Supply ($84.99 @ NCIX US)
Total: $1431.35
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2014-01-27 23:42 EST-0500)
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a b 4 Gaming
a c 160 B Homebuilt system
January 27, 2014 9:04:36 PM

Hello again.
$1500 is a pretty hefty budget, enough to give you a load of options with regards to the form you want to take.
For 1080P, a GTX780Ti is pretty huge overkill. You could spend half that (GTX770) and still be comfortable in the vast majority of games, though obviously the 780Ti has a pretty impressive lifespan at that resolution. The problem with going for overkill is you have no real way of telling how long certain aspects of the design will last.

One perhaps significant thing is that you mention going for water cooling. Most cases will support water cooling in some capacity, as most will have a 120mm fan location which you can mount an AIO like a Corsair H60/H80, though only three (five) ITX cases that I can think of are specifically skewed towards water cooling, and none of them have a form factor like the SG08/Elite130. Those cases are the Bitfenix Trio, Corsair 250D and EVGA Hadron Hydro - all of which have the capacity for 240mm radiators for custom loops and AIOs like the Corsair H100i. It's certainly something to consider.

i5 vs i7 is pretty straightforward - i5. Both are quad cores which operate at similar clockspeeds and are based on the same basic design, they will perform identically in any task which can't take advantage of Hyperthreading. Things are certainly progressing towards greater threading, but there isn't really anything to suggest that games will end up playing better on an i7. Given the $100 difference in price, an i5 makes a lot more sense at the moment.


Going to throw some builds at you anyway.
Build 1 is pretty much a basic 1080P ITX gaming build, for less than half of your budget. Nothing about it is terribly fancy, but there is no game on the market it can't play, and it'll max an awful lot of things at 1080P. I'm sticking it in to show you how flexible your budget is.
PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i5-4430 3.0GHz Quad-Core Processor ($184.98 @ SuperBiiz)
Motherboard: ASRock H81M-ITX Mini ITX LGA1150 Motherboard ($64.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($72.25 @ Newegg)
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($59.98 @ OutletPC)
Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 760 2GB Video Card ($239.99 @ NCIX US)
Case: Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced (Black) Mini ITX Tower Case ($34.99 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: XFX 550W 80+ Bronze Certified ATX Power Supply ($59.99 @ NCIX US)
Total: $717.17
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2014-01-27 23:45 EST-0500)

Build 2 This one is more what you had in mind I think. It's a pretty high end air cooled system, a lot of which can be scaled back if needed. The Maxmus Impact board, the massive CPU cooler and $500+ graphics card are all perhaps excessive, but it's still comfortably under budget, and it's a similar sort of size to the things you had in mind.
PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i5-4670K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($219.99 @ Newegg)
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-D14 65.0 CFM CPU Cooler ($73.74 @ OutletPC)
Motherboard: Asus MAXIMUS VI IMPACT Mini ITX LGA1150 Motherboard ($209.99 @ NCIX US)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($72.25 @ Newegg)
Storage: Samsung 840 EVO 120GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($89.00 @ Amazon)
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($64.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 780 3GB Video Card ($505.91 @ Newegg)
Case: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini ITX Tower Case ($69.99 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Antec High Current Gamer 620W 80+ Bronze Certified Semi-Modular ATX Power Supply ($69.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $1358.85
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2014-01-27 23:57 EST-0500)

Build 3 This one is if you want to go water cooling, either custom or AIO. I've included an AIO as it's easier to price (and a lot cheaper) but you could do a custom solution within your budget. Also, the 350D listed below is just a placeholder for the 250D, which should be a similar price anyway. One thing to note is that if you are going for a custom loop, a Bitfenix case might be more suitable as it allows push/pull configurations where the 250D does not.
One reason I went for the Impact in 2+3 (over say an Asus Z87I-Deluxe or ASRock Z87E) is because you can buy full cover waterblocks for this board, which nicely facilitates a really effective custom solution if that interests you. It's probably too expensive overall though.
PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i5-4670K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($219.99 @ Newegg)
CPU Cooler: Corsair H100i 77.0 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler ($99.99 @ NCIX US)
Motherboard: Asus MAXIMUS VI IMPACT Mini ITX LGA1150 Motherboard ($209.99 @ NCIX US)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($72.25 @ Newegg)
Storage: Samsung 840 EVO 120GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($89.00 @ Amazon)
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($64.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 780 3GB Video Card ($505.91 @ Newegg)
Case: Corsair 350D MicroATX Mid Tower Case ($79.99 @ NCIX US)
Power Supply: Antec High Current Gamer 620W 80+ Bronze Certified Semi-Modular ATX Power Supply ($69.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $1395.10
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2014-01-28 00:00 EST-0500)

As you can see, your budget will stretch to a 780Ti if you like, but I think it really is more than you are ever likely to need. If you do want to go overkill, I'd suggest shopping amongst GTX780s. They offer performance pretty near to the 780Ti for $150 less, and it's quite likely you'll barely notice the difference.
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January 28, 2014 12:27:22 PM

Wow! Thank you guys!

I'm definitely set on the i5 then for sure.

I also NEED wifi. Was thinking about the board with 802.11AC vs the other capping at N, though honestly I don't know about anything after G. So I'll have to reed up on that.
Can you tell me more about that full coverage block for the maximus IV? I seem to only find CPU only type blocks... I still need to reread that sticky a few more times...

Why do you guys use 2x 4Gb ram? Wouldn't be better to go 1x8bh ram? Then I could upgrade to 16 with out tossing two perfectly fine memory sticks...

I'm still a little unsure about water cooling as I'm mostly interested in the cooling the GPU. So it would have to be a full custom loop for both, or just all in one for the CPU and leaving the GPU air cooled right? I'm not sure it would make sense to do a single loop just for the GPU. At least that's what I'm let to think from the water cooling sticky... Which i need to read a few more times. I know I don't NEED it but I really kinda WANT it....

I could go with prodigy, it comes in bright green with a window (REALLY love the way it looks in that color, despite it's size for mITX), and the pump/reservoir they used in the "sons of anarchy" build was amazing, but I cant find the link (I'll link to it soon).... But it is really kind of a little big.

Betfinix Trio - Notta... Can't find ANY thing at all. Lots of large Betfinix towers that are NOT called the "Trio" show up all over the place instead though.

250d - I can't get a good feel for it's size right now, seems rather big. Reading more up on it now.

EVGA Hydron Hydro- I like the looks of. A little tall but looks nice, I think it would be ok sitting in/on an entertainment system. And I really like that has a optical drive slot (slim).

I do need an optical drive bay for a good blue ray burner right? Especial for 3d?

So I guess the case is probably the biggest issue for me right now. I have no idea witch one to go for since you cannot buy the NCASE M1. Shame, as it seems like the perfect mITX/SFF, gaming, HTPC case.

I suppose I was thinking about using 120 rads do too the case sizes. I know it's not the best, but it should do at least as good as awesome air-cooling parts right? But look (and be) much neater and very quiet. I'm also not against mounting the rads on the back of the fan spot with brackets...


I'm not sure the 780s are that good of a buy compared to the 780ti's I was looking at. The reviews on the Gigabyte 780 ti Ghz edition and MSI gaming were very impressive. A water cooled 780 seems to cost more then either of those cards, and both cards seem much faster. The Gigabyte Ghz edition is supposed to be almost as fast as the 690 (beating it a couple times). And the MSI gaming too, though a little slower, still beats the hd7990 a few times. Supposed to be pretty quiet too. The Gigabyte Ghz is on sale for $680 and msi for $710.

The 780s I have looked at with aftermarket coolers are getting much to closely priced to Ti's... But I will have to keep looking.
I know the Ti's a bit over kill but seems worth it compared to the 780's i've looked at. They all seem to be like ~$630 with aftermarket coolers. And Like $800 with a water block attached.

Cutting back on the video card seems like a good idea though to move in the direction of a full custom water loop from the get go... But I think it would have to be more like 770 /ti or 760 /ti area.

I guess in my head I was thinking of getting the SFF built and running stock air cooling for a little while and then getting every thing together for water cooling. The main thing is trying to find water blocks that will fit the cards I'm interested in. I'm not sure how far they are from reference.

Guess maybe I should ask question's in the water cooling area...

Thanks so much Rammy! You're very patient and helpfull. I see you helping people a lot, all over on here. Thanks!
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a b 4 Gaming
a c 160 B Homebuilt system
January 28, 2014 5:36:35 PM

The case is definitely a good place to start for ITX, as it's what imposes the limits on what you can put in it.
I'd come across the Ncase a while back but totally forgotten about it. In it's case, the limitation is likely to be partly within the power supply. In many ways it's quite similar to the EVGA Hadron Air/Hydro in layout. I'd also reckon that you'd be pretty tied in towards reference style coolers. It's very nice though, Lian Li as an OEM should guarantee great quality.

The Bitfenix thing is just me being stupid. Bitfenix makes three ITX cases, all of which are fairly similar with aesthetic differences, hence "Bitfenix trio" - Prodigy, Colossus and Phenom ITX. If you need a full sized optical drive (or an internal one at all) and want a 240mm radiator provision, these are ruled out pretty quickly.
In fact, outside of the (as yet) unreleased 250D, I can't think of any ITX cases which have provision for a 240mm rad and a full sized optical drive as standard, without any modding. The Hadron Hydro isn't available yet either (I don't think), only fits a slim drive and also may limit your selection of water cooling parts (they sell their own kit). The Silverstone Raven RVZ01 also has some 240mm rad support, but I can guarantee it'll be a bit of a nightmare to build in.

About the optical drive thing. You can buy slim Blu-ray drives, so that's not necessarily an issue, but I can't remember having ever seen a slot-loading one. I'm sure they exist, but it probably means they aren't going to be cheap. Might be worth weighing up the pros and cons of having an external one if it gives you more flexibility.

There's a couple of companies making full waterblocks for the Impact, but I think these are the only ones that are available now(ish - I think they are launching very soon).
http://www.ekwb.com/news/450/19/EK-introduces-ASUS-Maxi...
Relatively, they seem quite good value, given the cost of a CPU block alone. Obviously if you go down the watercooling rabbit-hole then costs escalate very quickly anyway. It definitely makes the Impact a more interesting prospect.
Nobody really NEEDs a full watercooling solution I don't think. Most components come with pretty effective cooling as standard and in most cases power demands are actually decreasing, or remaining fairly level.
I'd say if you are going for a proper water cooling solution, ie. rad(s), resorviour/pump etc, then it makes sense to do the graphics card too. Graphics card water blocks aren't cheap, but when you spread the cost of components over two cooling tasks it makes it slightly less ridiculous in terms of value. There is nothing to actually stop you from doing a loop solely for a graphics card, but it's probably a lot of hassle for a reasonably small reward. Much like with CPU cooling, there is a hybrid solution though the Kraken G10. It's basically a bracket that lets you fit any standard AIO CPU cooler to a graphics card. In an ITX case, I'm not sure it's likely to ever make an awful lot of sense, but the results in some scenarios are quite impressive.


A GTX780Ti is amazing if you can afford it, but even a GTX780 is huge overkill, which is why I stopped there. There's a decent difference between the two at the kind of resolutions they are designed to be used at, but down at 1080P most of that advantage will be irrelevant as you'll be producing more fps than you can see.
A waterblock for either of these cards is going to be the same price as they will use the same/similar design across the 780/780Ti/Titan (same chip), though you'll need to match them to the model for compatibility (non-reference designs might position components differently). The cost should be around $150-200 for the block depending on if you add a backplate.
Overall, the 780 will be a lot cheaper. $500 versus $680-700+.

The main issue with going for air, then swapping to water, is that most cases aren't terribly helpful towards this goal. In an ATX tower it's very easy, but on ITX you either need to plan in advance for water cooling, or not bother at all.
As you can see from some of my earlier comments, one choice like "I want 240mm rad support" is going to have a big knock-on effect on what you can actually chose.
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January 29, 2014 11:45:24 PM

Man you're the best Rammy! Gave me all sorts of ideas. That water block is TOO pretty and thanks a lot for the kraken tip!

Before you go, what do you think of the 4gb 770's?



I would just like a slim slot loading blue ray burner, but found some good externals so either way is fine. Sure is convenient having one atached though. It's just "nice".

Was thinking a little smaller... like 120mm maybe... But some one did put like a 240 or 280 in the top, dropping a slim optical drive and drilling some holes in the top cover.... Looked so cooool! XD
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a b 4 Gaming
a c 160 B Homebuilt system
January 30, 2014 12:34:04 AM

4Gb GTX770 - almost entirely pointless. There's a reason even the GTX780Ti only has 3GB of Vram.
You can kinda make a case for them if you are using 2 (or more I guess) for like 4K gaming or something, when the frame buffer might actually start to matter.
Overall though, they are pretty useless. You'll see a lot of people suggesting them for no apparent reason.

Yeah if I had a ridiculous amount of money to burn on a new system, I'd seriously consider the Impact and a water cooling loop. It has a pretty big advantage over any other Z87 board in that aspect, as it basically is in a class of one.

You can use a single 120mm rad to try and cool a graphics card and a CPU, but I dunno how effective it would be.
If you are just looking to cool the CPU, you might as well use an AIO or an air cooler I think. It's not really worth the expense.
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January 30, 2014 12:52:00 AM

What would you recommend as one step back from the 780 then? 760/ti? 2g version of the 770's?

I care about the GPU first, CPU second... But dang that full cover block is ridiculously pretty!
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a b 4 Gaming
a c 160 B Homebuilt system
January 30, 2014 12:59:44 AM

There isn't much between the GTX770 and GTX780. It's a reasonably big gap, and there was rumoured to be a GTX770Ti, but as AMD hasn't got a card in that area, I doubt Nvidia will bother. The GTX770 is competing with the R9 280X and the GTX780 is lining up against the R9 290.

The only stuff between is some of the more heavily overclocked cards, like the MSI Lightning, Zotac AMP!, Sapphire Toxic etc. Whether or not those represent good value is pretty subjective. If you just want a card to come out of the box and work very well, then they make a certain amount of sense.
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January 30, 2014 1:05:44 AM

Thanks again Rammy. Wish I could pick more of your answers... But there may only be one!
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