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Toasty Computer Upgrade Assistance

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September 5, 2009 1:20:35 AM

Hello,

A couple months ago I built a Shuttle PC. I move a lot (twice since then) so the ease of packing was important. However, performance has not been as good as I hoped. I expect this is due in part to the limited single-slot cooling on the GPU. Newer games stress it to the point of instability at stock speeds. Now, the questions:

1) Would a two-slot cooled graphics card help the cooling problem?
2) What is the best way to improve gaming performance for this little machine? Willing to fork out a few hundred to achieve this.

I can provide the dxdiag output if details are required. Basic system specs are as follows.

CPU: Core2Duo E8400 @3.0GHz (stock)
RAM: 2Gig x4, DDR2 800, 4-4-4-12 G.Skill
GPU: Radeon 4850, 1gig, Powercolor AX4850 1GBD3-PPH
Chassis: Shuttle SP45H7, 300w PSU

Your help is much appreciated. Thanks.
September 5, 2009 1:36:29 AM

hmmm, seems like the psu is small (might explain the instability). the card and cpu are good though. a bigger cooler will make the card run cooler.
September 5, 2009 2:37:51 AM

I don't believe the PSU is the culprit in this case. Instability is expressed in graphical artifacts and glitches, not system failures. If it is, I'm probably hosed. There doesn't seem to be any simple way to upgrade the PSU.
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a b B Homebuilt system
September 5, 2009 2:43:10 AM

Before my thoughts, run HWmonitor and see what your temps are doing on the GPU.

+1 to the PSU being the cause of the instability. Problem with the shuttle, its far from a standard size. I don't have any experience with shuttles, but you might want to find someone else that's tried or has replaced the PSU on that model. Otherwise, you might need to downgrade your GPU. Something like this might work better, but you're still under the spec'd req wattage.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

This would be similar but cheaper, not dual slot though.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
September 5, 2009 10:21:43 AM

87c heavy load, under 60c normal, under 50c min
a b B Homebuilt system
September 5, 2009 11:47:21 AM

Thanks for the temps. While that is a touch on the warm side, I'd still question the power. But the solution I present might take care of both.

An underpowered GPU won't bring a system down. If the GPU is pushed to hard, it might crash the program thats tasking it, but once it gets back to windows and 2d mode, the GPU will be more than capable of keeping up. If the GPU is pushed enough that it causes artifacts, but not enough to crash, there's two things that can be done. Add voltage or turn the clock speeds down. Since voltage is the suspected culprit, I'd underclock your GPU. Turn it all the way down and test to see if you still get artifacts and what your temps will be. Might have to turn down the detail settings too. If you don't get artifacts and you're more comfortable with your temps, you can zero in on what speed draws enough power, but not too much. The down side to this, is PSU are most efficient between 60%-80% load and then it drops off pretty quick. You're running your PSU at or near max. It can effect the life span of the PSU and power consumption from the wall.

Options:
If turning down the clock/mem speeds do the trick, then its a free solution. If the artifacts are still there, and you think its heat and nothing more, then you can add a PCI slot cooler. This will draw more power and add to the problem if it is just a voltage issue and add noise.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...

Not sure how much more moving you have to do, you could abandon the Shuttle platform and get something else. While that's a nice setup, its not really gamer friendly. Might be able to sell it for a fair amount and get a desktop case, mobo, and PSU. That's easily less than a few hundred and if you do sell the shuttle, very little out of pocket.
September 6, 2009 2:48:00 AM

Thank you very much for the assistance.
For now I'll try out down-clocking the card like you suggested. In the future I'll modify the case to accept a proper PSU. It'll be ugly but eminently more practical.
a c 83 B Homebuilt system
September 6, 2009 3:47:03 AM

Myrdin said:
Thank you very much for the assistance.
For now I'll try out down-clocking the card like you suggested. In the future I'll modify the case to accept a proper PSU. It'll be ugly but eminently more practical.


A vga card with a double slot cooler is more effective because it gets the hot air directly out of the case instead of letting it recirculate. I won't buy a strong vga card without one.

The PSU is probably marginal. One possible solution is to use a second psu to drive a stronger vga card like this:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
It fits in a 5 1/2 inch bay, so you might need to use a usb cd drive or a cd emulator.

Would a stronger card fit? They might be 10.5" long.
a b B Homebuilt system
September 6, 2009 12:15:09 PM

I found this shuttle build that uses a 4850. They used liquid on this system instead of air and their 4850 is a single slot design. I'm not suggesting buying a water block system, but that the PSU may be enough for the 4850.
http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,2845,2344200,00.a...

One other test to see if its heat, take the cover off the case. Run your test for artifacts and temps and report those back. Do it at stock speeds too. If you really want to get crazy, have a fan blowing on the open case also. If no artifacts, then it is the heat and my guess of the PSU being the issue was wrong. Yep, I said it. Just don't tell my wife. Then a pcie slot cooler might do the trick for a few bucks vs a couple hundred or the headache of modding the case.
September 7, 2009 3:08:43 AM

Temps: 36c Min, 58c Max
No glitches or instability observed.

That 5.25" PSU geofelt posted is pretty nifty. They seem quite uncommon. I may order one anyways to support future upgrades.
a b B Homebuilt system
September 7, 2009 12:34:41 PM

That very much surprises me that its the heat. The 4850 shouldn't show signs of stress in the 80s. But at least that answers the question. Options would be a PCI slot cooler if there's room around the GPU HSF. If not, you can mod the case and install your own fans. An array of drill holes would be easy enough and get some black screws to match the case, you'd never see them. I'd start with a single fan on the top sucking air out and if you can get another one somewhere as an inlet, that would be good too. I just don't want to see you run into power problems with fans, even though they really don't use that much.
!