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High performance i7 system in SFF/Slim tower. Possible?

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June 13, 2009 9:12:33 PM


I'm an engineer that travels a lot around the world. I run a lot of applications that require high CPU performance such as CAD, MATLAB simulations etc. I'm getting sick of laptops (the small keyboard, lousy screens and bad performance) so I want to build a desktop PC but it's absolutely crucial that it's small. I.e. must be build in a SFF case / slim tower. Because of my performance requirements I want to go for a core i7 920 on a microATX X58 board. My question is if this is even possible in terms of cooling and what not?. I mean will it all fit in a small case? "Small" to me means something like the Antec Minuet 350 or the like:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I don't do any gaming so I don't need much in terms of graphics card. My only requirements for a graphics card are that it must be able to support dual monitors and that it's an nvidia card (just because the drivers are easier to handle on GNU/linux systems).
Finally would be very nice to keep the noise to a minimum, if possible.

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: asap.
BUDGET RANGE: <= $1600
SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: CAD, MATLAB,...
OVERCLOCKING: No
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: No
OS: GNU/Linux
MONITOR RESOLUTION: TWO 1920x1080 monitors
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: QUIET PC a great plus for me!

Only things I'm pretty much set on are:
CPU: Core i7 920
RAM: 12 GB, DDR3-1600
MOBO: MicroATX X58 board.


Is it possible to fit a system like this into a very small case?


Appreciate your advice!




June 13, 2009 9:43:10 PM

A few other ideas, I don't have time to do a full build atm:

You want to replace the CPU cooler with a low profile bolt-through type. You want a very secure set up if it's going to move around a lot.

You want an SSD. No moving parts. You will have to pay for a good one.


If it was me I would probably settle for an AMD PII X4 955. The reason is I could get a motherboard with an onboard GPU that way. But perhaps you need the extra computing power.
Related resources
June 13, 2009 9:51:07 PM

That Silverstone case is too large, I'm afraid. It's approx. 7" x 17" x 17" while the Antec I linked to is approx 4" x 13" x 17". And that does make a lot of difference. Isn't there anything useful out there with those approximate dimensions?
June 14, 2009 7:00:13 AM

Yes I think I have it. Not quite as well cooled though, but let's see how it goes together.

LIAN LI Black Aluminum PC-C37B Micro ATX

PC P&C 370W

i7 920
DFI X58 mATX MB
OCZ Gold 12GB

Cooler
Scythe Shuriken 2.6 inches high ;)  Sadly, no bolt-down kit.
Thermal compound

SSD
Is 256GB enough? If not we had better look at some rugged laptop drives.
Corsair CMFSSD-256GBG2D 2.5" 256GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid state disk (SSD) - Retail
WD 500GB laptop drive



GPU
Sapphire 4650 low profile

Optical
HP DVD burner


June 14, 2009 1:33:18 PM

Case, PSU, RAM and Optical look just right. Are you sure that cooler is going to be enough to keep cool a i7 920 running at 100% for hours at a time? Someone writes in the reviews:
"Also, this cooler is not sufficient to substantially reduce a CPU temp, it's much better at maintaining a temp. For example, if you get your CPU nice and hot from gaming, this cooler will not be able to bring it back down to an idle-level temp, but will instead keep the CPU at a reasonable load temp"
June 14, 2009 1:43:17 PM

oops, it double posted for some reason, somethings up with my browser...anyway my post is below
June 14, 2009 1:44:28 PM

askajaa said:
I'm an engineer that travels a lot around the world. I run a lot of applications that require high CPU performance such as CAD, MATLAB simulations etc. I'm getting sick of laptops (the small keyboard, lousy screens and bad performance) so I want to build a desktop PC but it's absolutely crucial that it's small. I.e. must be build in a SFF case / slim tower. Because of my performance requirements I want to go for a core i7 920 on a microATX X58 board. My question is if this is even possible in terms of cooling and what not?. I mean will it all fit in a small case? "Small" to me means something like the Antec Minuet 350 or the like:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I don't do any gaming so I don't need much in terms of graphics card. My only requirements for a graphics card are that it must be able to support dual monitors and that it's an nvidia card (just because the drivers are easier to handle on GNU/linux systems).
Finally would be very nice to keep the noise to a minimum, if possible.

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: asap.
BUDGET RANGE: <= $1600
SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: CAD, MATLAB,...
OVERCLOCKING: No
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: No
OS: GNU/Linux
MONITOR RESOLUTION: TWO 1920x1080 monitors
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: QUIET PC a great plus for me!

Only things I'm pretty much set on are:
CPU: Core i7 920
RAM: 12 GB, DDR3-1600
MOBO: MicroATX X58 board.


Is it possible to fit a system like this into a very small case?


Appreciate your advice!


I think you might, fit into a slim I am not sure about that, but what I do know is that if you are running CAD, I would maybe look into getting a Xeon processor, a more business grade product that might be more expensive but might handle Cad better then i7. Again, not sure but its worth to look into.
June 14, 2009 2:57:56 PM

I've looked into Xeons, but they're too costly. I think I'll get the best performance / $ with an i7 920.
June 14, 2009 8:30:04 PM

askajaa said:
Case, PSU, RAM and Optical look just right. Are you sure that cooler is going to be enough to keep cool a i7 920 running at 100% for hours at a time? Someone writes in the reviews:
"Also, this cooler is not sufficient to substantially reduce a CPU temp, it's much better at maintaining a temp. For example, if you get your CPU nice and hot from gaming, this cooler will not be able to bring it back down to an idle-level temp, but will instead keep the CPU at a reasonable load temp"



I consider these guys the real experts :)  I always try to consult them.
http://www.frostytech.com/top5heatsinks.cfm


Shuriken review:
http://www.frostytech.com/articleview.cfm?articleid=224...

It's not going to win any cooling awards I think, but your options in a slim case are few. It's on the top ten list for that reason I think. If you were to carefully mod the case you could install ventilation directly about the CPU, then replace the thin fan on the cooler with a high CFM fan...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

To mod the case I would cut a square with a Dremel and install mesh.

My real worry here is moving this thing around. I REALLY want a good backplate and bolt-thru kit on any cooler you use and I'm not sure about stress on the PCI-E slot also.
June 14, 2009 8:30:41 PM

These guys need to build some better servers :p 
June 14, 2009 10:32:33 PM

Askajaa, you mentioned that you use CAD and MATLAB extensively. Do you have any specific graphics card requirements to support this? I know I use Pro/E as one of my primary tools and I use a Quadro card in both my desktop and laptop computers. A

Granted, such a card probably breaks your entire budget but it's worth asking.

-Wick
August 7, 2009 11:42:29 PM

Hey, I was going for the same thing. I'll explain.

I currently have an old laptop on very small tv wall mount arm at perfect height and fit for the laptop. We used it like a kiosk for email and quick web surfing and left it on all the time. The laptop is getting old now and I want to replace it with something more modular/upgradable and at the same time, high performing. I have leftover higher end PC parts from a other build that were sitting around for the last few months. So now the idea was to mount a "inside-the-back-wall" slim pc and just have a mounted keyboard and monitor on the wall in the place of the laptop. So what I needed was tight PC Case that was no more than 4.5 inches wide (or it would stick out the wall on the other side of the kiosk) and 15in deep.

Before deciding to go in behind the wall, I looked at wall mounted PC's, mini-itx's, micro-atx's, flex atx's, wall mounted cases with vesa mounts on front for the monitor. So i did find things that would work, but there was always something to sacrifice. Most were industrial vendors and the boxes were a bit too small or too big. The smaller boxes had external psu's and were too low powered. Or the box had the potential of overheating with the e7600 I was about to install. Some were too "low profile" where even a lp heatsink would be to high by like 10mm. Most of these solutions were made for the atom processors anyways. I couldn't put a high end dual slot video card in any of them either. I basically need a slim matx or atx that could handle double slot high end graphics. It would have to use a riser for sure to make the spec. The silverstone C37 was a good one. But here is something that I believe is better.

http://www.gtrtechcorp.com/


It's called the GT3. Shame it looks too cool to be hidden in a wall. Check it out. I think this is your answer. If not, you'll have to go cubed or you have to just realize that your trying to put 10lb of Sh1z in an 8lb bag as my dad would say.

Hope this helps!!
Mike
!