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budget mATX gaming rig; opinions wanted

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September 19, 2006 11:10:18 PM

Update: Parts arrived and I am posting from the new system now. It's at least mostly working, but I may have to wait until later this week to get it completely done and stress tested. More details and pictures to come.

Quote:

$600 budget. I have HD and 1gb DDR400 RAM. My current computer is fast enough, it's just too big, heavy, and noisy for a gaming rig. I'm going to clock it down and turn it into a file server.

This is the build I am currently considering (newegg links are for reference, if you found a better price somewhere else please let me know):

CPU:
$162.00 Athalon x2 3800+ s939 (lets me keep using my DDR RAM awhile longer, saves me lots of $$$. Without overclocking it should be comperable to my P4 Northwood@2.88Ghz, should run smoother with 2 cores, plan to OC a little)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1681...

Motherboard:
$86.99 nForce4 mATX mobo (this board appears to have everything, should work better then the IGP chipsets that most mATX mobos come with)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1681...

GFX:
$92.99 x1600PRO GFX (should be powerful enough to make me happy as it is replacing my FX5700ultra; cheap and easily replacable later. rear-exhaust HSF a big plus. thx to jaguarskx for the suggestion)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

Case:
$69.99 xQpack micro-ATX case (my favorite case ever, will replace PSU)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1681...

PSU:
$99.99 SeaSonic S12-430 (PSU must draw air from the bottom, not the end. The end will be blocked by the optical drive. thanks again to jaguarskx for info and personal use recomendation)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

Optical Drive:
$29.99 16x DVD Burner (I'm not picky here, I almost never use optical drive, but annoying when it's not there and you want it xD)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1682...

GFX cards have gotten crazy with heat and power requirement, CPUs haven't gotten much faster, I'm not feeling motivated to spend a ton of money on a new computer but I think I found a cute but capable solution. What do you think?

I Plan to mod the case to make the CPU HSF exhaust directly out of the case as well. I don't have AC and I've grown tired of my Vantec Tornado 92mm xD
a b B Homebuilt system
a b 4 Gaming
September 19, 2006 11:39:23 PM

Everything looks great to me. The only suggestion I will bring is that you could get a more powerful video card that is passively cooled if you are concerned about the noise. The card you selected looks like its got a big honkin' fan on it. The problem is, with a small form factor case you need really good airflow to have a passively cooled card. I would still recommend one of the Silent Pipe cards from Gigabyte since they have a port to expel air through the back but are still passively cooled.

Gigabyte Silent Pipe Video Cards

Also, I would recommend using an nVidia card such as the 7600GT above because the motherboard you selected is capable of SLI and you couldn't use that with the ATI card. If SLI is out of the question, maybe go for a mATX motherboard that doesn't have 2 PCIe's so you can have a better selection and more options. Remember, you can always disable the onboard video and most mATX motherboards have onboard video.
September 19, 2006 11:52:54 PM

I saw those cards, but the case will be at negative pressure so that will just suck air into the case across the HSF. So all the heat from the GFX will stay inside the case anyway and it will short out some of the airflow from the vents at the front of the case. The computer doesn't have to be silent, just quietish while having good cooling performance. Ducting with fans is the best way to accomplish this. I really want the GFX card to exhaust out the back, so it must be actively cooled. Does anyone have recommendations for other rear-exhausting PCI 16x GFX cards that aren't too expensive? There are after-market HSFs that will do it, but last I checked it was much cheaper to pick a card that came with one instead of buying a GFX card then swapping out the HSF (not to mention sorting out compatibility issues).

I have no interest in running multiple GFX cards. This is the only GF4 mATX mobo I have seen, it just happened to have SLI is all. Does anyone have recommendations for other s939 mATX motherboards? Thoughts about the viability of s939 IGP chipsets for use in gaming PCs when using a dedicated GFX card and disabling the integrated GFX?
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September 20, 2006 12:21:12 AM

Save some money on a case and just lay all the components out on the floor. :idea:
September 20, 2006 12:46:27 AM

Quote:
Save some money on a case and just lay all the components out on the floor. :idea:


That's brilliant! Then I wouldn't need a matx mobo or ducting or fans either!!!!

Anyone else?
a b B Homebuilt system
a b 4 Gaming
September 20, 2006 4:30:43 PM

Have you considered the Shuttle line of SFF barebones PC's? They seem well designed, but a little pricey.

If you don't want integrated graphics on a mATX mobo, I think that ECS that you picked out is as good as it gets.

When you finally go through with this and build your SFF PC, post back here and let us know how it went. I was seriously kicking around the idea of doing the same thing, but in the end I decided to go with a full ATX. I'm curious to see how yours will turn out. Good Luck.
a b 4 Gaming
September 20, 2006 4:47:11 PM

Since the total cost of your system (excluding shipping) is under your $600 limit I would recommend upgrading your GPU to the:

Radeon X1600Pro - $93 + 6 shipping

or

Radeon X1600XT - $95 + $6 shipping - Note is an open box item, meaning some ordered it installed it and then returned it for whatever reason.

Spending a little extra on the video card will not only increase performance but will most likely delay the need to upgrade in the future. Meaning if you spend an extra $30 now, it could delay an upgrade for a 1 year or more depending on what demanding games you play. I think that's a small price to pay for better longevity.
September 20, 2006 5:20:18 PM

i'd change gpu to either:

7600GS for $90. mid-range card of current gen.

x850XT for $125. high-end card of old-gen, still a great card though.
September 20, 2006 6:18:59 PM

I was looking into mATX stuff for one of my friends, you could always go with a Gigabyte mATX Intel core 2 board. The fact that it is not a overclocking board is the down side, but the up side is you get core2 power on a budget and in a mATX case. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16813128322

And your case works with negative internal pressure air flow so the passive gigabyte card's should work nicely. And for the PSU you need to find the shorter ATX psu's unless you want your optical drives external. I think that people have managed to squeeze Enermax power supplys into those cases.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16817103512

I just bought this dvd burner for my self and it is very quiet and it is also much shorter length wise then my last 2 optical drives were.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16827151136

But drop the crap video card, for gaming go for a minimum or a Ati x1600xt or Nvidia 7600gs.
September 20, 2006 6:24:49 PM

Some good GFX suggestions, thank you.

Is the difference between the 1600XT and 1600PRO just the clock speeds of the same core with faster RAM? If so I'd probably lean towards just getting the slower one, possibly OC it a little, instead of dealing with potential open box issues.
September 20, 2006 6:54:05 PM

Quote:
And for the PSU you need to find the shorter ATX psu's unless you want your optical drives external. I think that people have managed to squeeze Enermax power supplys into those cases.


I'll need to double check the dimensions before I order, but a standard ATX PSU will fit with a short optical drive. Just have to make sure the PSU draws air in from the bottom. Pretty sure the two I picked out will work, just need to double check the dimensions. Being able to put a full-sized (although not oversized unless you want to mod the case and have no optical drive) is one of the reasons I like this case so much. Small PSUs are generally low-quality and/or much more expensive.
a b 4 Gaming
September 20, 2006 7:04:02 PM

Quote:
i'd change gpu to either:

7600GS for $90. mid-range card of current gen.

x850XT for $125. high-end card of old-gen, still a great card though.


The OP is looking for a GPU that exhausts hot air out the rear of the case. The 7600GS does not do that, but it is a better GPU than the X1600Pro/XT.
The OP does not have air conditioning.


The X850XT is definitely a good card, but I believe it would break the OP's budget of $600 which is why I didn't recommend it.
a b 4 Gaming
September 20, 2006 7:09:28 PM

Quote:
Some good GFX suggestions, thank you.

Is the difference between the 1600XT and 1600PRO just the clock speeds of the same core with faster RAM? If so I'd probably lean towards just getting the slower one, possibly OC it a little, instead of dealing with potential open box issues.


X1600Pro:
Core = 500MHz, Memory = 800MHz

X1600XT:
Core = 600MHz, Memory = 1.4GHz (IIRC it uses DDR3 RAM)


Someone pointed out a better, but slightly more expensive GPU:

x850XT for $125.

It's a previous generation video card, but it will wipe the floor with the X1600Pro/XT. I didn't mention it before because I was trying to stay under your $600 limit.
September 20, 2006 7:40:42 PM

If you are considering SLI, then your mentioned motherboard still seems to be the only option. If you're not planning on SLI, I'd follow some of the above advice. My thoughts are that the 6150/430 chipset is the easiest to alter to your changing needs, and is available in AM2, which although you wouldn't be able to use your current ram, enables power savings on both the new ram, and allows the purchase of the 35 watt 3800 x2 (assuming you can find it). Pairing this CPU with a 7600GS and a 2.5" hard drive would give you the ability to run at or under 100 watts AT LOAD, thus having no heat issues.
September 20, 2006 8:28:04 PM

i know it breaks his budget but it is only an extra $35 for a card he won't be disappointed with and will last longer.
September 20, 2006 11:55:25 PM

Ok, I got one person suggesting Gefor6150 IGP with nForce 430MCP mATX motherboards. I'll look into that a little more here in a bit.

What about more effecient active-PCF PSUs? Like this SeaSonic S12-430?
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
Looks like it's quieter, cooler, active-PCF should give me cleaner power, and it gets 15 more percentage points of effeciency, but would 430watts be enough?
a b 4 Gaming
September 21, 2006 2:42:21 AM

Quote:
Ok, I got one person suggesting Gefor6150 IGP with nForce 430MCP mATX motherboards. I'll look into that a little more here in a bit.

What about more effecient active-PCF PSUs? Like this SeaSonic S12-430?
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
Looks like it's quieter, cooler, active-PCF should give me cleaner power, and it gets 15 more percentage points of effeciency, but would 430watts be enough?


The 6150 IGP will be significantly slower than the X1300Pro not to mention the X1600Pro:

Click here for benchmarks

The 6150 IGP is not listed. However the GeForce 6200 TC is listed. TC stands for Turbo Cache, it uses the system memory which is why it is so slow.

The Seasonic S12 430 is more than enough for your system. The following is power consumption on the 12v rails:

S939 Athlon 64 X2 3800+.............................65w CPU Power Consumption Chart
X1600Pro......................................................41w GPU Power Comsumption Chart
2 Typical 300GB Hard Drives...........................44w
DVD Burner...................................................14w

Total Power Consumption (12v Rail)................164w
Total Amps (12v Rail)..................................13.67 amps

All other components draws power from the 3.3v/5v rails.

Even the Seasonic S12 330 that provides 22 amps (264w) on the 12v rail can power the above system which should be very similar to the one you want to build.



BTW, Seasonic S12 PSUs are great. They are efficient, quiet and reliable. I have the Seasonic S12 500 in my PC.
September 21, 2006 6:28:50 AM

I'm not actually going to use the IGP, just don't have very many choices for mATX motherboards.

Thanks for the info on power consumption, you rock.

Just about everything looks to be ironed out except the motherboard. If anyone has any experience, has heard rumors, or has simply looked at a bunch of them and made up uninformed opinions about s939 mATX motherboards I would love to hear them. Right now all I have to go on is manufacturer's incomplete descriptions and hype.
a b B Homebuilt system
a b 4 Gaming
September 21, 2006 3:20:50 PM

Here's a really good power supply calculator to figure out exactly what you need. It can even take into account capacitor aging.

Power Supply Calculator

I think you'd be fine getting the eVGA motherboard you originally had chosen. Did you decide on a video card?
September 21, 2006 4:10:39 PM

pretty much decided on the x1600Pro at this point
September 21, 2006 5:32:14 PM

Although it seems that Newegg doesn't have products from Ultra (Tigerdirect does though), if you can get it, I'd recommend the Ultra Microfly. Basically identical in appearance. I have this case, and I've been quite happy with it. I chose it over the X-Qpack, because the reviews (as well as opinions on here) indicated it was sturdier, and better quality. In addition, the side and top on the X-Qpack had a very rough unfinished feel, whereas the Microfly has a smooth polished feel.

While it's generally not recommended to use the carrying handle in the front, I've had no problems using it in the manner intended, though I've only carried it by the handle for short trips.

The Microfly side/top panels come in three sections whereas the X-Qpack is a single panel.

The final (main) reason I picked up the Microfly is that it is about 1.5 inches longer than the X-Qpack, so no need to worry about getting a specific mATX powersupply. I plan to eventually put in one of Ultra's X2 Xconnect PSU's, so that I can reduce the clutter inside the case. The current PSU that came with it is 400 watt.

Ultra Microfly (Silver) no PSU - $69.99
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/ite...

Ultra Microfly (Blue) no PSU - $39.99 ($30 rebate)
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/ite...

When I got mine, I paid 79.99 (canadian) and I got a PSU. That was about a month and a half to two months ago.
September 21, 2006 7:01:22 PM

Quote:
CPU:
$162.00 Athalon x2 3800+ s939 (lets me keep using my DDR RAM awhile longer, saves me lots of $$$. Without overclocking it should be comperable to my P4 Northwood@2.88Ghz, should run smoother with 2 cores, plan to OC a little)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1681...


If it matters, here's a few bucks savings:

http://www.clubit.com/product_detail.cfm?itemno=A1906810&cmp=OTC-pr1c3grabb3r

It's enough for a decent couple of meals at Perkins...
September 21, 2006 8:21:41 PM

Nice case recomendation. I hate mail-in-rebates with a burning passion, but still definately worth considering even without the rebate. An extra 1.2 inches (they exagerated a little) inbetween the PSU and optical drive would certainly be nice.

Did notice one thing it doesn't have that the chenning does: holes to mount the PSU either way. These could be easily drilled if I really need them though.
October 15, 2006 8:10:18 PM

Parts ordered

PSU SEASONIC|S12-380 RT - Retail (Qty=1, Price=$76.99)
The 430watt was out of stock... Still powerful enough. I'll just pass this one to my friend if, for some reason, I upgrade this system and need more power. I don't think that's going to happen though.

CASE APEVIA(ASP)|X-QPACK-NW-BK/420 - Retail (Qty=1, Price=$69.99)
The Ultra Microfly looked really nice... but this one was cheaper and almost identical. $10 MIR.

MB EVGA 131-K8-NF44-AX NF4 939 - Retail (Qty=1, Price=$79.99)
I didn't find anything that said the IGP chipsets mobos supported x2, so I stayed with my original pick.

VGA HIS X1600PRO H160PRQ256N R - Retail (Qty=1, Price=$92.99)
Should be powerful enough, and a big UG from my last card (AGP fx 5700ultra). Easily replaced, and hopefully a good GFX card that won't trip my circuit breakers will be out by the time I feel the need to UG.

CPU AMD|A64 X2 4200+ 2.2G 939 1M R - Retail (Qty=1, Price=$185.00)
The x2 3800+ is out of stock almost everywhere... The places that do have it are selling it for $184 and up. I didn't really want to pay this much for a CPU, but getting dual core was one of reasons for getting the new system...

DVD+/-RW LITEON|SHW160P6S05 BK % - OEM (Qty=1, Price=$29.99)
It was cheap. I verified the 170mm length, same as I used on my last build with this case. A tight fit but it will work.

Extended Warranty Fee: $0
Subtotal: $534.95
Shipping and Handling Charge**: $26.26
Total: $561.21
Now that I've ordered it I'm sure the trolls will come out and show me where I could have saved >$100 and gotten a faster system xD ANd I'm sure there will also be a few more C2D and AM2 posts completely ignoring the extra $100 I would have to spend on RAM.

Eh, nothing exciting about this buld so far other than the case. But it's under budget, so as long as the build goes smoothly I won't have much to complain about.

I'll post back when I'm finished with the initial build, then hopefully move on to the CPU duct, adding 802.11x (with the antenna on the inside) and integrating some sort of wireless headset , keyboard and mouse reciever into the case (bluetooth options seem to be firming up, but still expensive. I might just use RF devices with USB interface and shove the recievers into the empty 5.25" bay) and then finally try to get my iPaq H6315 to feed my GRPS internet access into it.

It won't be the most powerful box at the LAN, but if I I get it all finished I should still get some attention :) 
October 29, 2006 8:13:50 PM

So I've identified a few major compatibility issues with this build people should be aware of:

1. PSU and CASE: The power plug on the PSU is too close to the edge. It hits the case. Still functional but there is a small gap between the PSU and the case which is theoretically screwing up airflow and looks dumb. Also, can't get one of the sidepanel screws in (it's screws to the PSU, which is out of alignment now) I might dremel it out later, I don't want to bend it or cut it out as it is on the outside where jagged edges would be unsightly and dangerous.

2. GFX and PCI SLOT: When putting the GFX card in the "non SLI" 16x PCIe slot the HSF overhangs not only the 16x slot below it, but also most of the PCI slot below that as well. You could probably jam one in there as long as there was nothing on the backside of the card, but full size card would block the GFX card's fan, a shorter card would still block part of it. At some point I'm going to try to stick the GFX card into the upper "SLI" slot and, if it works at all, benchmark it to see if I loose any appreciable amount of performance by using an 8x slot instead of a 16x slot. Very poor layout with the 3 PCIe 16x connectors on the board.

3. GFX and CHIPSET HSF: The stock chipset cooler fits fine (but it's crap), but the GFX HSF overhangs it, a different chipset would probably have to be customized (have ~1/4th of it's fins cut down) to fit under it. I'd like to switch it to a larger passively cooled cooler, but I'll have to put a little more thought into it now. Even if the GFX card could be moved to the upper "SLI" slot it would still be in the way.

4. MOBO and CASE: The CPU HSF retention bracket underneath the motherboard hits a ridge on the motherboard tray causing the motherboard to bend. I didn't notice this until I had been running the system for a few hours already. I took it all back apart and bent that ridge down with some pliers (no one will ever see it anyway).

I hacked a disposable digi-camcorder this week and used it to take a few little video clips. I'll try to get those hosted somewhere and post back here. It looks like it stopped raining so I'm going to try and bike home now (gotta love seattle in the winter).
a b 4 Gaming
October 30, 2006 2:13:31 PM

Sorry to hear about your problems. Thanks for the videos though. The Q-Pack was never on my list of cases for my next HTPC (Q3 2007 ???) and it definitely isn't gonna be on it in the future.

Hope you are getting the performance you were expecting though.
October 30, 2006 2:53:52 PM

First of all, that EVGA board is fine, it's a Jetway by the way. Second, the 6150/430 chipset is just a hair faster, and onboard graphics don't hurt your performance once a graphics card is installed.

For that matter, you could just as easily build a Core 2 Duo with an integrated chipset, and disable the onboard graphics. You have a great many choices in Micro ATX boards with x16 slots if you simply ignore the onboard graphics.

I like the Foxconn Winfast 6150K8MA-8EKRS. I like it enough that I actually use it in one of my systems.
October 30, 2006 4:02:30 PM

Quote:
Sorry to hear about your problems. Thanks for the videos though. The Q-Pack was never on my list of cases for my next HTPC (Q3 2007 ???) and it definitely isn't gonna be on it in the future.

Hope you are getting the performance you were expecting though.


Yeah, it's not the greatest case ever. I'll probably use it again though. It's inexpensive enough to not sweat small problems. I've had the same kind of problems with much more expensive lines of cases too, but I wanted to warn people so they could at least be prepaired to make these small mods (and avoid frying their Mobo... I didn't even realize it was bent at first).

As for performance... I'm not overly impressed, but wasn't expecting to be. My last system was a P4 Northwood @2.88ghz (an engineering sample that never clocked as high as I wanted it to) so the bar was set fairly high. I haven't OCed or benched the new system yet, still working on a few things (one of my system temps is hitting 42c at ~75% load, core temp reports about 29c though, another system temp is hitting 115c, I'm assuming the system temps are just wrong, but I want to run some more tests @stock before I start OCing). And the HD seems slow (again, the bar was set a little high: Ultra320 SCSI Raid-0 array w/ 2x10k RPM drives, but they only benched slightly faster then a single WD 8m cache "JB" IDE HD back in the day so I was expecting a single SATA drive to outperform them); it's a seagate 7002.1 (I think) 80gb and it is also noisy (it's not supposed to be a desktop HD so it's not surprising that it's a little noisy, but I wasn't expecting flashbacks to 1996 when listening to it load levels for +5 seconds). I'm going to try a different drive to see if it's a controller problem or a drive problem but either way I'm thinking about buying a new Samsung SpinPoint just to get something quieter. Once I get things close to where I want them I'll do some benchies and compare it to my old system (and post them here for your reference).

One thing I am a little sad about: It's getting cold so I ran some FAH at night to try and warm up my room... no luck. With the GFX card idle and the CPU @50% (FAH is not multi-threaded, it can't manage to get the CPU over 52% unless you run two console instances at once, which I don't really want to do, just running it as a service) all of the exhaust fans blow air that is cool to the touch. Running games the GFX exhuast is slightly warm but very low volume and every thing else is still cool. I should have built this system in the summer! I need to dig up my old PC2100 registerd ram and get the netburst heater running again :) 

Oh, one other complaint is that the GFX HSF is not ducted very well. I think I might take the little slot cover out and use some electrical tape to make it exhaust properly. Looking at pictures almost all of the rear-exhausting HSFs seem to have this problem.
October 30, 2006 4:15:18 PM

Quote:
First of all, that EVGA board is fine, it's a Jetway by the way. Second, the 6150/430 chipset is just a hair faster, and onboard graphics don't hurt your performance once a graphics card is installed.

For that matter, you could just as easily build a Core 2 Duo with an integrated chipset, and disable the onboard graphics. You have a great many choices in Micro ATX boards with x16 slots if you simply ignore the onboard graphics.

I like the Foxconn Winfast 6150K8MA-8EKRS. I like it enough that I actually use it in one of my systems.


Eh, that would have saved me like $10-25 and given me some more PCI slots to work with, and some integrated GFX to fall back on... too late now though xD I guess I should have done some better research before, that board does support X2s, you just have to dig through foxcon's site for a bit to find the supported CPU list. When I was looking before I ordered it seemed the only 6150 mATX boards that listed support for X2 were more expensive then the EVGA one I picked. It also has better chipset coolers (I do not like the "tiny sheet of aluminum with a fan motor covering up the very middle of it so it cant get any ventalation with a few little fins around the edges" type of HSFs).

Where were you when I was asking for advice BEFORE I ordered? :p  I don't think I'll be building any more s939 machines (and certainly not a dual-core one, cheapest ones are >$193 now), but hopefully this will help someone else.
a b 4 Gaming
October 30, 2006 5:23:48 PM

Quote:
...I'm thinking about buying a new Samsung SpinPoint just to get something quieter. Once I get things close to where I want them I'll do some benchies and compare it to my old system (and post them here for your reference).


Samsungs are known to be the quietest drives you can buy, but they are also known to be slower than the average drive. I think Seagate drives offers the best balance between performance and quietness. I've read a couple of reviews that measured the typical Seagate drive to be 2dBA louder than the Samsung, but also offers better than average performance.

Quote:

One thing I am a little sad about: It's getting cold so I ran some FAH at night to try and warm up my room... no luck. With the GFX card idle and the CPU @50%...


I think it was from www.dailytech.com that drivers were being written for the Radeon X1xxx series where the GPU can be used to augment FAH calcs. The story is about 1 month old. You can try Googling it.
October 30, 2006 9:31:36 PM

Quote:
I think it was from www.dailytech.com that drivers were being written for the Radeon X1xxx series where the GPU can be used to augment FAH calcs. The story is about 1 month old. You can try Googling it.


http://folding.stanford.edu/FAQ-ATI.html

Only the 19xx class of ATI cards are supported right now and they are... expensive. Also, they are only used for some simulations and not others, but I would assume the FAH assignment server wouldn't send you non-GPU work units if it could help it.
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