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Custom 1u system or Off the shelf laptop $1000 ?

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September 13, 2011 8:53:52 PM

The purpose of this build is a little different than most. I am a part time DJ for weddings and night clubs and need a new system to run my gigs with. My current travel case for my mixer has enough room to build a custom 1U system underneath the mixing board. My dilemma is will I be better off building a custom 1U system to fit within my travel case, or is there better value in buying an off the shelf laptop.

I currently use a 3 year old sony vaio 16.4" laptop for my daily use and DJ'ing. It is fine for my daily computing as I have upgraded to a OCZ Vertex 2 SSD and Maxed out the RAM at 8GB of 1066 DDR2 Running Win 7 Pro 64 on a C2D p8400.

I am not a gamer nor ever plan to be.

By building the 1U system I will be creating a physical separation between my DJ life and personal life so I can write off the build cost on my taxes and would be less likely to introduce rogue elements on my gig PC which is also important. If however the computing power of a pre-built Laptop with 17 or 18" Full HD screen will be significantly better for the same price I will opt for the laptop. My biggest problem is there are very few reviews available of the low power intel parts and no comparisons that directly relate laptop performance to desktop performance.

My Biggest concern is heat in the 1U build so I have chosen some parts with lower performance as a trade-off.

1u build sheet:

Intel Core I-5 2500T CPU quad core 2.5/3.3 GHZ w/ HD 2000 graphics ~ $220 - 45 watt CPU
ASUS Z68 Micro ATX MB w HDMI and USB 3.0 ~ $125
Corsair16GB 4x4 DDR3 1600 RAM - $100
Supermicro 1U case w/ 200w Power Supply - $110 - 17.2" x 11.3" x 1.7" - half rack depth
Hitachi 3TB 5400RPM SATA 6Gbps HD - $130
1U CPU fan - $30
USB N-Wifi Dongle - $20
USB Blue Tooth Dongle $15
LG E2360V Super Slim 23" Full HD Monitor $200 - thin is very important to fit in the road case
Win 7 Pro 64 - $50 - college student discount :) 

Total Price ~ $1,000

While I have built over a dozen custom PC's in tower cases with OC'ing and liquid cooling or other high end configs in the past I have never made a PC with such tight power, heat, and size restraints so any input is helpful.

I ruled out 65w CPU's and 7200 RPM HD due to heat concerns.

Are there any laptops out there for <$1,000 that would be significantly better than this config? Most I am seeing have Core I-7 2630QM processors @ 2.0ghz and 8GB of Ram and 17.3" screens. Graphics power is not a big deal as the most intense graphics this system is used for would be Karaoke lyrics. ;) 


If I went with a laptop I would use my current 3TB WD External HD w/ USB 3.0 to host my music collection. (currently 2.2TB)

All suggestions either for advice on the 1u build or the laptop selection are greatly welcome.
September 13, 2011 9:07:09 PM

Server rack cases are not meant for road travel.
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September 14, 2011 1:20:46 PM

Please elaborate on your response. I know numerous DJ's and sound engineers that build custom PCs and mount them into their Road Racks along with their amplifiers, equilizers, and power conditioners. Typically using 3U or 4U cases in traveling racks that are between 8U and 24U. Some of these folks have been doing it for over 2 decades.

What specific issues would need to be accounted for?

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September 14, 2011 2:42:27 PM

lp231 said:
Server rack cases are not meant for road travel.


This is just an uneducated response, ignore this.

The only issue I see is how the airflow of the chassis will be affected and the noise the chassis puts out. The Supermicro chassis (I assume the chassis is the CSE-510L-200B) uses 2 x 8500 RPM fans to cool a passive heatsink. The little suckers can really scream when the system heats up and they hit 8500RPMs. Not sure if noise level is something you're concerned with but it can get loud.

Also, do you take the front and back panels off your travel rack when you're playing a gig? This chassis pulls air in from the front and pushes it out the back, so if the travel rack doesn't have the back panel removed, it might overheat. You could get a 1U Blower and have it push out the front if this is an issue:

1U Blower
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Another note, you can save a ton of money and not bother with a Core i5. For what you're using this machine for, you can go down to an i3 or even Pentium G850 and have enough horsepower to pump out songs.

E8400 vs G850

http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/56?vs=404

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September 14, 2011 3:56:19 PM

3xch4ng3 said:
This is just an uneducated response, ignore this.

The only issue I see is how the airflow of the chassis will be affected and the noise the chassis puts out. The Supermicro chassis (I assume the chassis is the CSE-510L-200B) uses 2 x 8500 RPM fans to cool a passive heatsink. The little suckers can really scream when the system heats up and they hit 8500RPMs. Not sure if noise level is something you're concerned with but it can get loud.

Also, do you take the front and back panels off your travel rack when you're playing a gig? This chassis pulls air in from the front and pushes it out the back, so if the travel rack doesn't have the back panel removed, it might overheat. You could get a 1U Blower and have it push out the front if this is an issue:

1U Blower
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Another note, you can save a ton of money and not bother with a Core i5. For what you're using this machine for, you can go down to an i3 or even Pentium G850 and have enough horsepower to pump out songs.

E8400 vs G850

http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/56?vs=404



Uneducated response?
OP is going from a notebook where he can put in his carrying case to a 1u racket will bring a huge difference in his traveling routine. Does he have transport or does he go on mass transit? If he has transport, fine a 1u racket should be no problem. For mass transit, carrying a 1u around is like dragging a ton of bricks.
My idea for OP is to have a quiet system that's easy to carry and yet powerful enough for his needs.
The first option is a Mini-ITX system, but adding a pro-sumer sound card or other components are limited as
most mini-itx boards only have a single PCIe x16 slot.
The other is MicroATX build with a MicroATX desktop case.
Also will he need a monitor to do his work? Notebook have a screen, that 1u case don't.
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September 14, 2011 4:09:14 PM

Thank you,

Yes i definitely plan on using the Dynatron CPU cooler - I had referenced it in my build sheet but not by part #. The sound of the fans really isn't an issue as the music will drown it out easily 99.9% of the time.

I had looked at several other CPU's including the I3-2120t 2.6ghz no OC 2c/4t- $130 @ 35w but the $75 price difference is not a factor for this build and I just want the best performance I can cram into the build without it melting down from heat issues. I capped my CPU search at 45w for this reason as I realize there are several more powerful options at 65w. I also chose a 5400 RPM HD for the same reason.

The back of the case does not come off but there is 4-5" gap between the back of the chassis and the road case.

I am not actually looking to build this in a a multi- U rack but under the mixer in what is considered a "coffin" case.
I would be raising my mixer up about an inch higher than it sits in this photo and placing the chassis under neath of it for a stealth PC effect and mounting the monitor on hinges that allow it to rest on top of the mixer during transport. The way the case is originally built I have about 3" of vertical space to play with inside that the mixer does not take up when the lid is closed.

http://www.numark.com/stuff/contentmgr/files/24/e96a8b7...

The front panel of the case does come off.

Trying to figure out if a HD cooler will fit in this case or not and if it would help at all.

Would going with a 35w CPU make a significant difference? right now I have significant lag when doing a song search on my library and am looking to cut that down dramatically. Although I believe a large reason forth lag is the USB 2.0 interface of the external hard drive which would be eliminated in this build no matter the CPU.
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September 14, 2011 4:16:14 PM

LP231 i appreciate your concern over my travel options and some of the other factors but they really don't apply as I am using a full size SUV to transport my equipment to all events. I take full light rigs, professional speakers, etc... The original Idea behind the build was to eliminate the laptop bag and try to get the mixer and pc all into one case. The mixer has it's own soundcard so that will not be an issue. The mixer I use is MIDI and connects via USB.

I looked at mini ITX systems but most only had 2.5: HD bays and my music collection is 2.2TB - no 2.5" drives that size :( 

Mini ITX were usually limited to 2x RAM instead of 4x. If I can load my entire playlist for the night into RAM things seem to run much smoother so more = better.

Not that you can really do playlists at night clubs but weddings are a different story.
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September 14, 2011 5:10:18 PM

jbart1981 said:
LP231 i appreciate your concern over my travel options and some of the other factors but they really don't apply as I am using a full size SUV to transport my equipment to all events. I take full light rigs, professional speakers, etc... The original Idea behind the build was to eliminate the laptop bag and try to get the mixer and pc all into one case. The mixer has it's own soundcard so that will not be an issue. The mixer I use is MIDI and connects via USB.

I looked at mini ITX systems but most only had 2.5: HD bays and my music collection is 2.2TB - no 2.5" drives that size :( 

Mini ITX were usually limited to 2x RAM instead of 4x. If I can load my entire playlist for the night into RAM things seem to run much smoother so more = better.

Not that you can really do playlists at night clubs but weddings are a different story.


How about a external HDD, grab one that runs on USB 3.0


SilverStone case $74.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Seagate 3TB 7200RPM $179.99, comes with a free DVD burner
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Acer 23" LED $149.99, use EMCKAJG22 for extra $10 off, ends 9/14
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Corsair 650w $84.99, apply EMCKAKA24 for 10% off, ends 9/15
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Corsair 16GB DDR3 1600 $104.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
MSI Z68 mATX board $119.99, EMCKAKA32 and save extra $10 bucks, ends 9/15
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Core i5 2400 $189.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Subtotal: $904.93
For other parts like the wifi and Bluetooth, just grab the ones you want.
And for OS...
Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit five finger discount edition: Free! :D  :p 
Seriously, grab the OS from your school, it's a lot cheaper


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September 14, 2011 5:57:43 PM

My current external HD is already USB 3.0 compatible.

As for the build you suggest what type of case do you suggest because that power supply won't fit in a 1U and the combination of a 7200rpm HD and the I5 - 95w processor might just melt the PCB :( 

I am pretty sure the LG monitor I chose is a little thinner than the Acer and I have had bad experience with the viewing angle on Acer monitors. Thanks for the input though.


For clarification the vertical alignment I am looking for - if It is possile to build this without melting the components is


Lid
---monitor 3/4"
thin layer of neoprene to protect monitor from mixer knobs
mixer
--1/2" air space
1U PC - 1.75"

I have 3" to play with inside the case vertically other than what the mixer occupies.

If this is not doable I will use a laptop but I like the challenge and am looking for a way to accomplish it without the case breathing fire.
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September 14, 2011 6:28:21 PM

2u are 3-1/2" tall more than the total amount of vertical room I have in the road case.

see layers at tend of last post and pic of mixer and case n question in post above

This is the case I was planning on using -

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

why would it not be compatible with a standard micro ATX MB ? Does it have different mounting points? I know I won't be able to use the back plate but can fab one of those out of aluminum if I have to.
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September 14, 2011 7:15:18 PM

There is no back plate, it's just port cut outs. But if you have the tools for make it work... Good luck with your build.
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September 14, 2011 8:37:07 PM

3xch4ng3 said:
*sigh*.....

"Chassis support for maximum motherboard size - 9.6" x 9.6", Micro ATX"

http://www.supermicro.com/products/chassis/1U/510/SC510...

Please start researching your facts before posting.


You must be as blind as bat not to notice the problem I'm seeing with OP's case and board selection.
Until you have notice the flaw, don't post as you're making yourself look like a idiot.
:sarcastic: 
Here's a hint: It's has nothing to do with the size of the board.
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September 14, 2011 9:01:34 PM

Please enlighten me to the issue that will not allow me to use a standard Micro ATX board with this case.

Are the mounting points spaced funny?

I could probably remedy that with a drill and some neoprene gromets

Is it due to the back panel I/O cutouts?

As I said before fabricating an I/O shield out of flatstock aluminum would be pretty simple.

If there is some other larger issue that is escaping me I would really appreciate the insight.
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September 14, 2011 9:14:06 PM

Is the height of the back panel audio connectors taller than the internal space available within the case?

they are the tallest item on the MB
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September 14, 2011 10:47:40 PM

jbart1981 said:
Please enlighten me to the issue that will not allow me to use a standard Micro ATX board with this case.

Are the mounting points spaced funny?

I could probably remedy that with a drill and some neoprene gromets

Is it due to the back panel I/O cutouts?

As I said before fabricating an I/O shield out of flatstock aluminum would be pretty simple.

If there is some other larger issue that is escaping me I would really appreciate the insight.


As I've said before...
Quote:
There is no back plate, it's just port cut outs. But if you have the tools for make it work... Good luck with your build.
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September 16, 2011 10:00:32 PM

I will take that response to mean the largest barrier to using a standard MB is the fact the I/O won't line up with the holes already in the backplate of the Supermicro case.

Cutting out the back plate and fabricating a custom backplate that matches up to the ports on the chosen MB that can be spot welded in place is a craft project any 10 year old boy scout could accomplish with a dremel.

It also seem that the audio headers may be a little taller than the case itself - if I am already fabbing a backplate that isn't a big deal. I have about 1/2" of space to play with so I have enough room for the height of the MB. If there was a 1.3U case that was shallow mount ~12" instead of 24" I would use one of those but they don't exist at least that I have found

So, knowing I don't see the I/O panel as a significant barrier are there any significant reasons, heat, airflow, durability that would cause the laptop route to be superior?

How does the performance of a 2630QM compare to the i5-2500t or I3-2120s ?

I have heard there are some good samsung thin monitors too.
The LG2360 is a TN panel @ $180 @ 1.22" total thickness


Total vertical space within the case is 7.5"
Mixer is 4" tall
space left is 3.5"
Monitor is 1.25"
a 1u case is 1.75"
That gives me 1/2" to play with for neoprene to protect the monitor from the mixer buttons during transport and to account for any I/O that are taller than case dimensions. If I have to make some small cutouts on the top of the case for the I/O headers to pop though a small bit it is ok as long as the total height is not more that 2.1"

Does anyone know the height of the standard 6-port audio I/O ?

cosmetics are not a huge concern as the case will never be seen since it sits underneath the mixing board.

Thanks for all input - although a little tit-for-tat the preceding arguments have made me look at the dimensions of certain components a little more closely.
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September 19, 2011 5:16:34 AM

Well after a little more looking around I have found abetter option for my case:

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

Athena 1U 1.2mm case and I can order backplates for about 100 different MB including MSI and Asus Micro ATX boards.

While fabbing a back plate wouldn't be hard for the supermicro case why not be good looking and functional at the same time ?

The power supply and cooling on this case is a little better too so +1

Thanks lp231 for making me look a little more closely at the available options.


Here is what I have so far on the 2630qm benchmarks:

3DMark06 CPU-----------------------------4875
Cinebench R10 32Bit Single---------------3650
Cinebench R10 32Bit Multi ---------------13622
Cinebench R11.5 64Bit---------------------4.7
SuperPI 1M*--------------------------------14
SuperPI 32M*------------------------------711
wPrime 32 wPrime 1024-------------------10.3
Dhrystone ----------------------------------332
Whetstone ---------------------------------98320
Sysmark 2004SE---------------------------60255

Closest processor to the I5-2500t I can find with any benchmarks floating out there is the I5-2400s

This comparison shows how close the tow processors are based on feature set

http://ark.intel.com/compare/52208,52212

The only significant differences are the 2400S starts at 2.5Ghz instead of 2.3Ghz but has the same Turbo frequency of 3.3Ghz and the graphics frequencies are slightly different but this isn't a graphics build.

Sysmark 2007 --------------------241
Win RAR 4.0-----------------------125
Itunes 10 -------------------------170
x264--------------------------------22
Cinebench R11.5------------------4.17
Handbrake ------------------------156

Based on this comparison the 2400S is 10% faster and draws 50% less power to complete the job than a Phenom II x6 1100T
http://www.silentpcreview.com/article1202-page6.html

If the 2500T lives up to that i am sure I will be plenty happy with it. :) 

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