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Same or GO small, that is the Question

Last response: in Systems
December 30, 2008 6:13:05 PM

I've been building computers since the 486sx25 days and I've been contemplating a new build for my aging P4 2.4 system. After having seen the advent of Micro, Pico and Nano-ITX, I've been debating about whether or not any such ___-ITX build would work for me over the traditional ATX style.

I use my PC for net browsing, downloading stuff (vids, mp3s, large files), Office, Photoshop, a RealFlight flight simulator program, and other generic computing stuff. I'm not a hard core gamer or hosting any networks on my machine. However, the simulator I have is rather taxing, though my current setup keeps up ok.

The system I have has held up, in mostly the same configuration (same MB, CPU & RAM) for the last 5 years. So, I'm looking to build something that could possibly provide me with somewhat the same life expectancy.

I'd really like to downsize my computer if possible, take up less space and maybe even suck up less power if possible.

Am I asking too much from the smaller platforms?

My current rig:
MSI Neo-2-LS Bios V2.5
P4 2.4 Northwood PGA478 800MHz FSB OC'ed to 3.0ghz (250mhz x 12)
Swiftech MCX4000/Panaflow 80mm
(2) Corsair CMX512-4400C25PT = 1gig
BFG nVida GeForce 6600GT AGP
WD400JD 40gig SATA
Enermax EG465P-VE 431W

More about : small question

December 30, 2008 6:39:35 PM

As far as power saving, you could do a great deal by upgrading your PSU a bit. Newer PSUs are more efficient and probably deliver the best power savings of any component. Enermax has some good ones, quiet too.

Otherwise, any upgrade will consume more power.

Any significant upgrade would need to be on a MATX type board. You would clearly benefit from a quad core and a PCI-E card, so anything less doesn't make much sense.
December 30, 2008 6:44:09 PM

I've been primarily looking at Tom's recent $625 PC Build as the new "standard" build option for me to replace my current machine.

Though, my current machine moreorless performs all I need relatively well. I suspect anything newer will just be that much better.

So, I had thought something like the Micro-ITX Intel DQ45EK with a Dual Core E5200 and 2-4g of RAM would prove a powerfull advancement over my existing system, but also cut down the size as well.
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December 30, 2008 6:46:27 PM

the power savings isn't as huge a issue as I may have made it seem. I'm really just wondering if the newest, small computers can keep up and/or surpass what my current system puts out?

Also, whether or not there is any actual value in going small over the traditional MATX style?
December 30, 2008 7:03:22 PM

Also, based on your usage, I think you would benefit more from a quad core. Have a look at my guide, linked in my sig, for reasoning.
December 30, 2008 7:06:50 PM

On that DQ45EK... you would be downgrading without a PCI-E slot. The onboard 4500 is good for playing movies, but it's not as fast as your 6600GT.
December 30, 2008 11:31:23 PM

Ok, so after some more reading, is it me or is it now possible to obtain better processing performance then what I currently have and still downsize by going with either the Mini or Micro ATX form factor?

I don't see much info or reviews covering the latest boards or builds on Tom's main site.

If I can get similar performance out of a smaller package that Tom's $625 E5200/Gigabyte ga-ep45-ds3l or asrock p45xe system in a Mini or Micro, I'll go that route.... besides, things can only get smaller in the future ;) 
December 30, 2008 11:59:49 PM

Mini boards do not have PCI-E slots. Without a PCI-E slot you will have to rely on onboard graphics. There are no onboard solutions that can beat your current 6600GT.

There is no difference in performance between a good mATX board, such as the G45 I linked, and an ATX board. You do however lose slots and other features, such as extra SATA ports or USB ports.

If you really want to go that route just get a laptop. Very small footprint, very low energy consumption.

Once you start talking flight simulator however, you are either going to spend a lot on a laptop, or buy a motherboard with at least one PCI-E slot.
December 31, 2008 12:39:04 AM

Ok, so if I want to go for a smaller desktop I'm thinking starting with something like:

Asus P5Q-EM

A E5200, comparable video card to the Radeon HD 4850 512mb, 2 - 4.0 GB of DDR-2 PC2-6400, a 400w+ PSU and I was just gifted a VelociRaptor 300g drive.

Any further thoughts on this combo?

I've thought about going the laptop route, but I feel that it wouldn't allow me as much upgradability like a desktop. Besides that, I don't really need the portability and I could always use my girl's laptop if I need to compute on the go.

My current computer has evolved over the last 5 years using the same MB and CPU, which has proved quite a value. I've upgraded the PSU, video card, memory, and hard drives over the years.
December 31, 2008 1:17:15 AM


I appreciate your support of thw Q6600, but it is a bit out of my price range. I'm looking at building something for less then or around $600 (MB + CPU + RAM + Video + PSU).

It seems that a Dual Core or Core 2 Duo CPU will be a major step up from a 5+ year old CPU technology, in addition to a more modern video card any way we look at it.

The quad core would be great, but the most intensive program I run aside from Photoshop is my flight sim which has suggested optimal requirements of:

Optimal System:
For best graphical performance.
Dual Core 2.4GHz CPU
3D Accelerated Video with:
512 MB dedicated video memory
(Pixel Shader 3.0 support)

My current system runs the program pretty well and my controls are practically real-time. Enough so for the sim to actually simulate reality without causing any under-processed distractions.

I may, at some point in the future dabble in some video editing, but that's not even certain.

I had just thought that maybe a smaller MB form factor was out there that could give me the same or better performance then I have now and offer a little bit of upgradeability as funds become available.
December 31, 2008 2:16:58 AM

Sounds as if the 4850 is a bit overkill then. You could get a 4670 for much less, and it would still be an upgrade over 6600GT.

Throw in the motherboard to the list I gave above, and downgrade to the 4830 or 4670, and you have a sub-$600 build.
December 31, 2008 9:14:18 AM

Sounds like want the E7300 $120. The conbo is nice but the MB is a little higher priced even with the discount.