Advice on a new SFF P55 machine

Hey all -

I'm spec'ing out a new SFF P55 machine, to replace my aging (but awesomely reliable) Athlon 64 X2 machine. I'd be using the machine for general productivity, some light media encoding, medium/heavy photo editing and some very light gaming (basically, Half Life 2 Episode 3 when it comes out). My priorities in this build are:

1. Stability
2. Longevity (ie, hardware that supports latest standards, has performance enough to be useful in a few years)
3. Low noise/low power consumption
4. Low cost

The current equipment list looks like this (everything is new unless noted):

1. CPU: Core i5-750
2. Motherboard: Gigabyte P55M-UD2
3. Memory: 2 x 2GB (4GB total) Crucial DDR3 1333, 1.5V, CAS9
4. Video: Sapphire Vapor-X HD 5770
5. System Drive: Intel X25-M G2 80GB GB SSD
6. Storage Drives (freebie, nearly new, pulled from an existing machine): 2 x 750GB WD Caviar Black HDDs
7. Case: Antec mini P180
8. PSU: Seasonic X-650
9. ODD: Sony Optiarc AD-7240S-0B SATA DVD burner
10: OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit (freebie)
11. Audio (freebie, pulled from an existing machine): X-Fi Elite Pro, PCI
12. CPU Cooling: Thermalright MUX-120 w/Scythe S-Flex SFF21E 120mm fan
13. Case cooling: 2xSFF21E, 1x200M Antec Fan (set to low)

All in all, and excluding combo deals, it should be right where I want to be budget-wise. I'd love to hear any general thoughts/feed back on this combination - any potential issues, bottlenecks or areas in which I could either improve performance or shave costs without losing performance.

I generally like to overbuild the cooling system, as I feel that contributes heavily to system longevity and stability. I will not be doing any overclocking (in fact, I'll be pulling the Vapor-X back to the stock voltages.)

Specifically, I'm wondering:

1. Will the Thermalright MUX-120 fit in that case, height-wise? It's 160mm tall - the same height as the Ultra-120 Extreme.
2. Will the Thermalright + 120mm Fan assembly block the first RAM slot on the Gigabyte MB? (In case I want to upgrade down the line).
3. Anyone have experience with the Gigabyte P55M-UD2 - specifically, is the barebones cooling system for the VRMs adequate for a stock 750? I've always thought those elaborate heatpipe cooling systems on VRMs were utterly unnecessary unless you're running a really hot/demanding/overclocked system.
4. Do you think I could get away with fewer fans? Or slower fans?
5. How do you all like working in the Antec mini P180 case? My current machine is in a first-gen Antec P180, and while I love the silence and cooling performance, it was a massive pain to build in.

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  1. While i have nothing bad to say against that motherboard, for a similar price you can get an Asus P7P55-M micro atx motherboard which has recently got brilliant reviews. Unless you're overclocking, i'd stick with the standard HSF that intel gives you as it is designed to handle turbo boost which is all you need for your stated priorities. That will solve your queries on blocking RAM slots. I'm a bit iffy about the Seasonic PSU's, id personally go with a 650W Corsair HX 650. You won't hear the 200mm fan at all if its set to low, if you really want low noise fans then your best bet is to get some 120mm fans at about 1200 RPM like the Silverstone FN121.
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