mini CAD workstation--Parts Reviews & PICTURES

BUDGET RANGE: $1500 before taxes, after rebates

-3D modeling and Rendering; BIM
-Photo editing, graphic design, page layout (Adobe CS3, maybe CS4)
-Office Productivity; maybe some web development; Surfing the internet
-Play music aloud (use as home audio stereo)
-some GIS--heavy data files
-Probably will try some video editing, but nothing serious. NO GAMES

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS:,,, -- doesn't matter, could be elsewhere
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: doesn't matter

PARTS PREFERENCES: intel core i7; nVidia Quadro FX 1800; SSD boot drive (at least 60 GB), mATX-smaller footprint

OVERCLOCKING: Not right now, maybe in the future
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Not right now, maybe in the future

MONITOR RESOLUTION: currently using dual monitors setup@ 1280x1024 and 1680x1050

1st priority- performance
2nd priority- quiet
3rd priority- small footprint/form factor
4th priority- dust/dog hair----we will need air filters

FUTURE PC PLANS: I would like to use this computer for the next 5 years. Ideally, this machine can be updated over the next few years.


Here it is: my final list--- It was based on product review "Final Thoughts" on Newegg for various components (other people's configurations), threads/discussions on these forums and a few others, and gkay09 suggestions.

Here is the breakdown of the system:

CPU: Intel Core i7-930 LGA 1366 --$283 (w/ shipping)

MoBo: EVGA X58 Micro ATX SLI Motherboard --$188 (free shipping)

CPU COOLER: COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus --$30 (w/ shipping)

RAM: G.SKILL PI Series 6GB (3 x 2GB) DDR3 1600 --$180 (free shipping)

GPU: PNY Quadro FX 1800 768MB GPU --$400 (free shipping)

SSD: Kingston SSDNow V Series 64GB --$147 (w/ shipping)
This would only be for boot drive OS and core programs. I will be adding Windows 7 Pro 64-bit.

POWER SUPPLY: COOLER MASTER Silent Pro 600 Modular PSU --$80 (after rebate; free shipping)

CASE: Antec Mini P180 Micro ATX --$75 (w/ shipping)

OPTICAL DRIVE: Lite-On 24X iHAS124 --$24 (shipping???)

HDD: 2 weeks later, I ended up purchasing a 1 Tb Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS HDD. And I am so glad I did. -- $109

This totals at $1516.
15 answers Last reply Best Answer
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  1. Best answer
    You can consider these changes...

    1. PSU - Such small case and a non-modular PSU ? Get any one of these....They have more than enough power for what you need...

    2. SSD - Get the Desktp bundle...It is cheaper and comes with the 2.5 to 3.5" adaptor...

    3. RAM with better timings...

    Other very good options with better timings...
  2. Best answer selected by extraKrisp.
  3. Are you happy with the results? Post pictures and and pros or cons about your choices :)
  4. yes yes. I'm definitely happy with the results.

    I was thinking I should have documented the build process as it was my first, but I didn't. But alas, as my 1st build, it went extremely well--thanks to the Step-by-Step guides on this forum and others found on google.

    I need to do some adjustments to the hardware inside the pc case so I will take some pictures with the side panels off and of the machine's "guts."

    I will do periodic reviews/updates of the parts over the next few days/weeks and talk about the pros and cons of each. But to be honest, it's all mostly pros. :wahoo:
  5. Here is a real quick Pros & Cons of the Antec Mini P180:

    (1) the case is NOT so mini. Even though I measured out the dimensional specs, I was surprised at how big the case was (it is larger than my old Dell Dimension 8400). I think if I would have built a cardboard mockup of the case (for dimensional purposes), I would have truly realized the size. My wife was annoyed with me because [part of] my excuse for getting a new computer was to get something with a small form factor.

    (2) even though both side panels open, there is really only access to the "guts" from 1 main side. other side is used for cable management and easier access to SATA ports on MoBo. To be honest, I'm not familiar with any other case so I have a feeling this is probably standard with most cases.

    (3) have to open the front door to access optical drive and power buttons--but not really a big deal for me.

    (1) the case is NOT so mini. I know I said this was a con, but I think it is good that this case is large. I do not think I could have built a smaller form factor PC for my desired needs----midrange CAD/3D workstation. I am using a PNY nVidia Quadro FX 1800 GPU. It is long and there is only about 1 inch of clearance between the GPU and the HDD/SSDs. I can't find the exact dimensions of the nVidia Quadro FX cards, but from the pictures, the 3800 looks longer than the 1800. For this reason, I don't think a 3800 would fit in this setup unless you removed the lower HDD rack and only used the above HDD rack. Someone please correct me if I am wrong about this.

    (2) Everything is neatly packed away inside and there is great cable management options. I think this is important because I wanted to make sure that no cable would touch anything that would get hot. The PSU is in a separate chamber from the rest of the internals and I guess this is for heat reasons(????). There is not much more room to spare inside, but I could still add a few more things, such as a 2nd GPU for an SLI setup, 2 more HDD's (for a total of 5), 3 more sticks of RAM--the RAM is important to note: my RAM is a little tall because of "heat fins." I think if these were any taller, it would interfere with the HDD's. I really like the layout/system for the hard drives. 2 cages (1 upper and 1 lower) that easily slide out for easy access to the drives. I'm guessing this is standard feature for most modern cases???

    (3) The case is QUIET--I can only compare to my old Dell Dimension which was loud--fan, and the optical drive. I now only hear my monitors, refrigerators, neighbors and cars on the street. I can hear the optical drive, but it's not as loud as my old Dell and from the research, I haven't found many truly silent consumer optical drives.

    (4) Great airflow--huge 200 mm fan on top (which is one of the reasons why the case is big) that matches very well with my Hypercooler Plus heatsink setup. And one 120 mm fan in the rear. There are two 100 mm openings with filters where I could add more fans, but they interfere with the HDD's so you would have to choose.

    my final conclusion on the Antec Mini P180: I love it and I'm very happy with it. I like that the main optical drive is up high (for easy access) as well as the front USB, eSATA, and headphone/microphone jacks--also for easy access. The side panels easily come off and go back on. I've read negative reviews about the bright white power light and it is bright, but not a deal breaker to me. The case is built very solid and I think it is made high quality. The action of the sturdy front case door is very smooth and precise, something I think most electronic makers would skimp out on. I went with the white case because it was really cheap from Newegg at the time--$64 and I actually like the white now although it doesn't match the optical drive. Good thing for the door I guess.
  6. ^ Very nice to hear that your build has come up without any issues and nearly upto your expectations...And congrats...
  7. Some more reviews of the parts:

    Intel Core i7-930 LGA 1366:

    it's great. Not sure what else to say about this. It is not overclocked, yet, but will attempt this summer after completing grad school. For most of the time, I'm barely using more than 5% of it's potential according to SpeedFan and Rainmeter desktop gauges. The temp is at a stable 30 degrees. I have tried it on some of my older rendering projects and I haven't really pushed it yet. I will later.

    None, really. Just it's cost/expense.

    If I was not planning to use this for CAD and 3D rendering, I would say that the CORE i7 is way more performance than I need, and would probably have gone with a CORE i5 or higher end AMD chip. But I am happy with what I will be able to do and try out with it--and it should suit me fore the next several years again.

    COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 Plus:

    It works great, although I don't know what to compare it to except for the stock fan that comes with the CORE i7--but I never installed the stock fan so I can't compare the performance. It is also very Quiet (I'm not sure if that is because of the case). Also, it was easy to setup, especially for a NOOB like me. The orientation of the fan and heatsink work really well with this case. I'm not sure if this is standard. But the the orientation and layout of the fans and heatsink is like this:

    HyperCooler Fan -----> HyperCooler Heatsink -----> Big 200 mm Antec case fan.

    So there is great airflow and it seems to keep the system cool.

    The thing is big. It's probably the biggest thing inside the case, aside from the PSU and MoBo. I'm surprised it fits in the Antec Mini P180 (but the case is not really a mini). I think it's perfect for the case and setup. I have read about the heatsink surface that comes into contact with the CPU---it is true, that the surface is not perfectly even/flat. The heatsink pipes cause little gaps (maybe a millimeter or in micro-millimeters). But I believe this is what the thermal paste is for???

    FINAL THOUGHTS: I'm glad I bought it and I would recommend it to a friend.

    I don't remember if it came with the thermal paste or if that came
  8. @extrakrisp use MX-2/ TX-2 for better results with that CPU cooler...
    And yup snaps would be great and that too the CM Hyper in a Mini...
  9. gkay09 said:
    @extrakrisp use MX-2/ TX-2 for better results with that CPU cooler...
    And yup snaps would be great and that too the CM Hyper in a Mini...

    gkay09, I researched on the web and Newegg for those items you mentioned, as well as general information on thermal compound/grease/paste. I found Wikipedia to have the simplest and best general explanation on thermal grease/compound/paste/etc (great for noobs like me).

    I also found this website at to have the most in-depth explanation, guides (for applying thermal grease, product comparisons(compared 80 thermal compound products), etc.

    I wish I read those prior to seating my CPU cooler. I didn't see any reference to these sites in the step-by-step guide here at Toms Hardware. But because I'm not overclocking (yet), I'll revisit this issue later when I attempt to overclock my machine.

  10. So the Antec Mini P180 is NOT so mini.

  11. Exhaust fans are situated nicely in relation to the heatsink. There is a 120 mm air intake vent (covered with removable air filters) in front of each HDD rack for a total of two. This is nice because it helps with cooling the HDD's I think. You can put in a 120 mm fan if you want, but you would have to remove the HDD racks so some sort of modification would be necessary.

    Fairly clean and looks a little roomy. However, when I was putting the parts in the case, it felt like it was cramped and there was barely any room. Notice the big 200 mm fan directly above the HyperPlus and a 120 mm fan directly to the side.

    The PSU sits upside down and is seperated from the rest of the PC internals. The cable mess is also seperated. Underneath the cable mess is the third Air intake vent that also has a removable air filter.

    Not much room between the grahpics card and the 1 Tb Western Digital Caviar Black HDD. I'm not sure how the dimensions of this HDD compare to other HDD's.

    These were the only remaining uncovered openings in the case where dust and dog hair could get in. I used fabric dryer sheets as filters. I learned about it at this website when I was researching pc air filters. It's not pretty, but it is functional and in-expensive and no one ever sees this part of the pc(it's under my desk). NOTE: when I opened up the case, there was already some dog hair inside.

    more Antec cable management
  12. ^ REally good work...and that too with a mini...and nice detailed pics too...

  13. So, my Windows experience ratings (for what ever its worth) rate my hardware. This is the current rating, which is decent, but I thought it would be higher. It seems like the weakest link in my setup is my nVidia quadro FX graphics card. The 2nd weakest link is the SSD.

    The other weird thing is that my rating went down by 0.1 from about a month ago, specifically relating to the GPU. Below is the rating from April 16th.

  14. Here are the specs on the system temps and such. It's fairly cool, particularly because all the hardware is running pretty much stock--I haven't tweaked any of the hardware yet. But this is for those who want to know about the temps particularly with this case.

  15. My only other recommendation to others regarding a new build with an SSD primary drive setup: I have been really happy with my Kingston V series SSD. I'm sure the V+ is even better.

    My suggestion is more about size of the drive. I am definitely happy I went with the 64 Gb size. I have a full Windows Pro 7 64 bit install and 69 programs installed that take up a total of 34.8 Gb of space. This gives me plenty of room for future updates and programs. I only use this for the OS and programs all my data is saved on a separate HDD which gets backed up to a 2nd HDD.

    Unless others have better knowledge than me (which they probably do), I would just go with a 64 Gb SSD for your OS and programs. Instead of going bigger, I would use that money and just get a faster 64 Gb SSD like the V+ series by Kingston.
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