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Opinions: Small form factor PC

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February 2, 2007 7:05:04 PM

Im building a small form factor gaming rig to replace my current midtower. I'd like some opinions about build, value, etc. Here is what I am planning.

Case: Falcon Northwest Fragbox. (I know this is overpriced and such, but I really like the shape and design of it and Im willing to shell out for it.)
PSU: Xion Supernova 600W Modular cables
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 2.4Ghz
Mobo: MSI 945GM3-F MicroATX mobo. (is this a good choice?)
RAM: G. Skill DDR2 667 (PC 5400) 4-4-4-12 (is this OK?) 1GBx2 DIMMS
Video Card: PNY Geforce 8800GTS 640MB (I originally wanted a GTX, but a guy at Falcon Northwest advised me that it would not fit in the case without removing the harddrive tray. He suggested I could put the harddrive in the floppy slot, but that sounds like it would look terrible.)
HD: Western Digital Caviar SE 250GB
Sound: Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 4
Also, a Zalman copper heatsink, keyboard, mouse, couple other little cables and things. DVD burner. Floppy. etc.
~1650$
February 3, 2007 1:22:59 AM

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February 3, 2007 1:31:39 AM

On the memory, I would go with Crucial myself.
Related resources
February 3, 2007 1:58:44 AM

Problem is Crucial doesnt make any 1.8V DDR2 667 memmory.

Quote:

• Supports 2 unbuffered DIMM of 1.8 Volt DDR2 SDRAM
• Supports up to 2GB memory size
• Support Dual Channel DDR2 667/533MHz and up(*DDR2 Memory Modules are not the same as DDR Memory Module, please check your memory vendor for more information)


from the MSI website
February 3, 2007 2:28:50 AM

Your are correct. What you have picked is great anyway.
February 3, 2007 2:41:50 AM

Let me help you out, I want you to be as smart as me rather than as stupid as everyone else. You're building a compact Micro ATX system. SFF is smaller. People have been using the term SFF to refer to any cube, but you can even get full-ATX cubes and I doubt anyone would call those SFF. Just a tip.

I'd go with a G965 chipset board, and nearly all of them are fairly good. Foxconn even makes a couple good ones, and heck, they even have a few overclocking options.

I'd go with the Cooler Master Hyper TX cooler, it weighs less and cools better. Otherwise, you might consider buying the cooler that Cooler Master copied, but I can't remember its name.
February 3, 2007 3:08:08 AM

Thanks for the tip, Ill keep that in mind.
how does this look as a mobo:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
A quick search I could not find the CPU cooler you mentioned. I have used the cooler I meantioned before and had great sucess. It keeps my Pentium D 930 at just above room temperature.
Looking for RAM for that mobo is a nightmare. its really specific. I found this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
but the timings are crap.
February 3, 2007 3:39:33 AM

Dude! I am totally feeling your pain. Small form factor sucks right now. G965 is not very overclockable. There's just not much out there for a motherboard. I'm hoping someone comes out with a 680 Micro ATX, but until they do, we are stuck in Non-enthusiast land. I've got a beautiful silverstone SG01 which I haven't found a good combination for yet.

Make sure you have 11" for that graphics card.
February 3, 2007 4:40:32 AM

G965 should be able to OC fairly well, it's the boards that kill the overclocking attempts through BIOS restrictions. That is, it should OC well when in P965 mode. Yes, disabled onboard graphics are not a problem for graphics card users.

Performance is good too. 680i would be a waste for Micro ATX, too hot, too complicated, too much power draw. 650i would be a better choice, but G965 is fine.
February 3, 2007 7:18:24 AM

I've been doing some light research on m-ATX mobos for a new HTPC build sometime later this year. So far everything points to all m-ATX mobo, no matter which chipset is being used, has very limited overclocking capablities. It seems that the G965 is limited to a max FSB of 290MHz. That represents a potential overclock of only 9%.

Based on my research the FSB frequency is directly linked to the PCI-e frequency in the G965 chipset. Unlike the P965 and 975x chipset which where the FSB and PCI-e can run asynchronous to each other.

I've been looking at the ABIT IP-95 m-ATX mobo for my HTPC, it uses the VIA P4M890 chipset. Some people have reported overclocks of up to 3.1GHz where as other people reported very poor overclocks. I'm still doing researching on this mobo. One drawback is that since it uses an old chipset only single channel transfer is supported instead dual channel.
February 3, 2007 7:46:41 AM

Quote:
It seems that the G965 is limited to a max FSB of 290MHz. That represents a potential overclock of only 9%.

Based on my research the FSB frequency is directly linked to the PCI-e frequency in the G965 chipset. Unlike the P965 and 975x chipset which where the FSB and PCI-e can run asynchronous to each other.


I think it's just sloppy BIOS implementation, caused by an industry that doesn't care about Micro ATX overclocking because they don't see enough demand. I can push them over 300MHz, and I suspect an FSB1333 setting may pop up in time...with a BIOS update.
February 3, 2007 7:59:08 AM

Quote:

I think it's just sloppy BIOS implementation, caused by an industry that doesn't care about Micro ATX overclocking because they don't see enough demand. I can push them over 300MHz, and I suspect an FSB1333 setting may pop up in time...with a BIOS update.


I certainly hope that by the time I build a new HTPC new BIOSes will be released for better overclocking.
February 3, 2007 8:13:26 AM

The GTS is my card of choice. You won't need more power than that for awhile I don't think. You may want to think about investing in some 800mhz ram though. Also, may want to look into a smaller HDD and wait for a hybrid drive.
February 3, 2007 8:19:57 AM

well SFF PCs are great. They are gaining more and more popularity, so my next rig will be a SFF PC. You also have the advantage of being able to easily take them to a LAN or friend's house.
February 3, 2007 8:32:37 AM

I have a micro ATX PC in an X-Qpack case. It's about 1X1X1 ft or so a bit longer than 12" I guess. The disadvantage to it is that it's difficult to build and work on, even with a removable mobo tray. Attaching power cords is the most difficult part. In all honesty I'd say forego the floppy drive if you're looking for something mobile, and get a good vid card. Use your other large system like a server/do it all computer. Even things like websurfing do on that system. For my mATX system I used a single raptor drive and modular PSU, which I modded a lil, and a fast single core CPU. With current dual core CPU's cheaper now, I'd use one because the use of multi-threading is becoming more common in games. Keep your mATX strictly for gaming. Keep things like virus software off it. You could even use a low GB quiet 7200rpm drive for your OS and a 150gig raptor for games. That'll allow quick loading and saving, but take longer for your OS to load. You could move your page file to your raptor as well.
February 3, 2007 12:19:05 PM

Quote:
I think it's just sloppy BIOS implementation, caused by an industry that doesn't care about Micro ATX overclocking because they don't see enough demand. I can push them over 300MHz, and I suspect an FSB1333 setting may pop up in time...with a BIOS update.


I hope you are right. I just don't trust Intel when it comes to overclocking options

Check this board out while you are waiting. It seems to have all the goodies - firewire and built in Raid at a reasonable price. Should overclock well. It's new though, so who knows.

Mach Speed MS945G-GLV
February 3, 2007 8:14:54 PM

I am not interesting in overclocking really.
The case Is the Falcon Northwest Fragbox with dimensions of 14.75in deep, 8in tall, 10.8in wide
Like I said, they told me a 8800GTX wouldn't fit(11in), so Im going with the slightly less powerful 8800GTS, which is only like 9.5in long.

Will the performance difference be very noticable between DDR2-667 and DDR2-800?

Im also worried that the heatsink ive chosen will be too large to fit right next to that enormous northbridge heatsink. This is why I prefer ABit mobos for the heatpiped northbridges.
February 3, 2007 8:31:05 PM

Quote:
I am not interesting in overclocking really...

Will the performance difference be very noticable between DDR2-667 and DDR2-800?



If you are not interested in overclocking then just stick with DDR2 533 RAM.

If you do overclock the E6600, then DDR2 667 can potentially increase the speed from 2.4GHz to 3.0GHz. DDR2 800 can potentially increase the speed from 2.4GHz to 3.6Ghz.
February 3, 2007 8:44:35 PM

Im scared that I might fry the chip.
February 3, 2007 9:14:47 PM

Youd be hard pressed to fry the chip, particulaly as you are putting an aftermarket CPU cooler on it, just keep an eye on temps as you go along, if they get to high, then ease back on the OC.
Also that is a beautiful case!
February 3, 2007 9:38:54 PM

is DDR-667 adequate for a 3Ghz 6600?
Is that like the very edge of stability or is there breathing room.
February 3, 2007 9:44:14 PM

Anything beyond that would be overclocking the RAM. Some RAM overclocks good, some doesn't.
February 3, 2007 9:45:43 PM

Well at 3Ghz on the CPU youd need to be running at DDR2-771 (at 1:1 ratio)
so DDR-800 is probably a safer bet. having said that some ddr-667 will OC enough to do that, though i am still on "old" DDR RAM so i couldn't say what RAM would be best for you ;p
February 3, 2007 9:54:09 PM

Quote:
Well at 3Ghz on the CPU youd need to be running at DDR2-771 (at 1:1 ratio)


9x333.333=3GHz, 2x333.333=667.

DDR2-667 would run at its rated speed for an E6600 at 3.0GHz.
February 3, 2007 10:01:31 PM

I guess a good question would be:
If RAM rated for 1.8V receives more than that, will it kill the RAM?
February 3, 2007 10:10:28 PM

Whoops, sorry mate, i was abit off there :( 
for some reason i thought that the 6600 had a locked 8x multiplyier...
February 3, 2007 10:13:05 PM

Quote:
is DDR-667 adequate for a 3Ghz 6600?
Is that like the very edge of stability or is there breathing room.


Yes DDR2 667 is adequate for 3.0GHz. I generally recommend Corsair XMS RAM since they are pretty much bulletproof, but they are slightly more expensive than other brands.

CORSAIR XMS2 2GB (2 x 1GB) DDR2 675 (PC2 5400)................$185 - $30 Mail-in Rebate = $155
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1682...

Overclocking should be done with caution especially if you are a first timer. The E6600 should be able to overclock to 3.0GHz without having to play around with voltages.

For more information about overclocking you should go to the overclocking section of the forum. I would recommend only increasing the FSB 20MHz at a time and test your system for heat issues and stability.

Use a program called Core Temp. My E6600 OC'ed to 3.0GHz is 39C while idle and 55C under full load using a Scythe Ninja heatsink/fan.

http://www.thecoolest.zerobrains.com/forums/viewtopic.p...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1683...
February 3, 2007 10:16:00 PM

Quote:
I guess a good question would be:
If RAM rated for 1.8V receives more than that, will it kill the RAM?


Not unless you over do it. Up to 2.0v should be safe.
February 4, 2007 12:04:06 AM

thanks for the help.
At this point I think I will just stick with my first choice of Mobo and RAM. I will overclock slowly and be careful.

I was orginally going to get a Raptor but someone told me that it wouldn't increase performance for gaming. They also told me Raid0 wouldn't increase performance. Is this true? Im certainly willing to pay for a second HD if Raid0 will increase performance.
February 4, 2007 3:19:19 AM

also, The board doesn't meantion any RAID features, does this mean it does not support hardware RAID?
February 4, 2007 3:22:46 AM

How much drive access in your games? It is tossup on performance. It will load faster and read/write a lot faster. but storage is less and not as safe.
February 4, 2007 4:39:50 AM

Quote:
How much drive access in your games? It is tossup on performance. It will load faster and read/write a lot faster. but storage is less and not as safe.


You dont lose storage space on RAID0
February 4, 2007 5:05:46 AM

Quote:
but storage is less and not as safe


And do explain how RAID 0 is less safe than a single drive configuration...
RAID 0 - if one drive fails, you lose all your data...
Single Drive - if one drive fails......oh you lose all your data too!
February 4, 2007 5:09:29 AM

Quote:
thanks for the help.
At this point I think I will just stick with my first choice of Mobo and RAM. I will overclock slowly and be careful.

I was orginally going to get a Raptor but someone told me that it wouldn't increase performance for gaming. They also told me Raid0 wouldn't increase performance. Is this true? Im certainly willing to pay for a second HD if Raid0 will increase performance.


Just be aware that m-ATX motherboards for Conroes do not offer much overclocking headroom. I've been researching some of these motherboards for my next HTPC. Nearly all of these boards cannot be overclocked very much, if at all.

Hard drives do not have any impact on actual gameplay. They merely affect load and save times. So whether you are using a 5400 RPM, 7200 RPM or 10,000 RPM hard drive, you will still get the same frame rate when playing a game like Far Cry.
February 4, 2007 5:14:08 AM

Yes but I would love lower loading times.
If this board supports RAID (I emailed MSI) then I will buy a second WD Caviar and RAID 0 them. Im not worried about data loss, I regularly back up all my stuff to a external drive.
February 4, 2007 5:19:34 AM

The board I recommended has RAID.
February 4, 2007 5:45:03 AM

Okay, a RAID 0 setup should decrease install, load/save times. How much, I don't know since I don't have a RAID setup.
February 4, 2007 4:21:49 PM

Quote:
It's fairly nice for the price, what with firewire and all, but for a few dollars more you can get more rear panel connections:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...


this one? I guess I will have to wait until its back in stock... whenever that is.
Newegg has had a particular microphone (the only good one) out of stock for like 3 months now... wish they'd hurry this kinda thing up.
February 6, 2007 2:04:01 PM

Yeah, go with that Foxconn g965, if you don't want to overclock. It's got a really good feature set and plenty of room for an aftermarket cooler, which you don't need unless you plan on overclocking anyway. It will be worth the wait.
February 6, 2007 5:30:39 PM

well its actually in stock now.
Will the foxxconn have good overclocking you think?
February 6, 2007 8:37:45 PM

It's good for an overclock to 300MHz or a bit more. Read the review of the similar board at SysOpt for specific overclocking details.
!