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Compact, silent, bang for the buck set and forget OC build ~$1500?

Last response: in Systems
April 10, 2012 5:51:00 PM

Looking for:

* compact case
* quiet as possible
* affordable, good value
* mainstream level performance
* set and forget overclockable


Games: mainly Supreme Commander Forged Alliance
Video editing: GoPro video (making 4+ minute videos, working with 4GB files) in Sony Vegas
Music: large FLAC collection of music, listening with headphones
Video: watching 10 bit h264 with MPC-HC with madVR, LAV, haali

Currently have (most of the guts bought in '09):

Lian Li PC-60 case (10 years old, noisy/dying 80mm fans)
LG DVD burner
Hitachi 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0 HD
Hitachi 2TB 5400 RPM SATA HD
OCZ ModXStream Pro 500W Modular
MSI 770-C45 AM3 ATX
Phenom II X3 720 BE
ZeroTherm FZ120 Zen (getting noisy)
Patriot Viper 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 1600 7-7-7-20 1.9V
Kingston HyperX 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 1600 9Cas 1.65V (bought since Patriot mem had to be RMA'd and the tall fins didn't play nice with the HSF)
Radeon 4870 1GB (too noisy for me)
Dell U2311H 1920x1080p
Dell U2211H 1920x1080p as second monitor
Sennheiser HD590 headphones
Klipsh ProMedia 2.1 (not very satisfied with them)
Windows 7 x64 Ultimate

Just bought:
Crucial M4 128 GB SSD
Radeon 6870 1GB

A "silent" case like the Fractal R3 Define, but as small as that new Lian Li case with the power supply in exhausting air forward (so expensive) or just some really silent case fans to replace the ones in my current case. If small, I don't care if it's ugly, since it will be hidden.
Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO
AsRock Extreme3 z68 Gen3 (thinking it's overkill--rather have something more basic, with a good chipset that can OC the 2500k to 4.5GHz like the z68, since not doing CF/SLI and not hooking up much at all to it)
New RAM needed? I heard intel likes triple ram @ 1.5V
Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 256GB SSD (maybe return/sell the M4, since it's on sale for $240 right now)
Single video card that can be used to speed up encoding in Sony Vegas and to play an occasional game (maybe return/sell the 6870 if a 78xx goes on sale or 560 Ti 448-core drops to around $200)
Remove the hard drives and use only SSD--use HD for backup, maybe using HD dock
Remove the DVD burner and use USB Optical drive for those rare occasions I need to install something with CD
USB SD card reader, if it's faster than just uploading from camera

Aiming to do a set and forget overclock. No real budget, but don't want to get crazy. Looking for reasonable values that would last another 3 years or so. I tend to buy "new old stock" when the prices are driven down by the latest and greatest, going for bang for the buck and proven/reliable performance. I really like system builds like the reader's choice build, or something in between the gamer and the enthusiast, but not limited to the enthusiast's budget, maybe splurging on something if a hot deal pops up for something top performing. More likely to splurge on a case, and anything that gets huge performance gains for my purposes, like a CPU, video card, and SDD, but not a mobo, power supply, HSF/water cooler, RAM, or whatever else.

I'm convinced that I don't need ATX. I had a Biostar barebones case, that was modeled after a Shuttle case, that I used for an EQ/WoW/LAN gaming machine when I was in college, that I was satisfied with. Wouldn't mind dropping down to something that size again, though I doubt they'd welcome overclocking unless it were compatible with the Corsair H80 CPU cooler. Vid card and RAM OC not a necessity for me, but I'm highly interested in getting a CPU that performs well for its price, overclocked.

Any recommendations are welcome. Thanks in advance.
April 10, 2012 6:07:30 PM

You need new RAM (your Patriot RAM runs at 1.9V).
Consider G.Skill/Kingston/Mushkin Enhanced, max 1600MHz, up to 1.65V, dual-channel (not triple for an i5-2500k).

For a case, have you taken a look at the Antec P280?
If you're looking for silent fans, take a look at Scythe or Antec fans >120mm.

ASRock Z68 Extreme3 is a solid board. Also consider the ASUS P8Z68-V LX.

The Crucial M4 is a good drive... It's up to you if you want to go for a bigger size really, and the Mushkin Enhanced Chronos Deluxe is also a great drive.

I would suggest you to have at least one internal storage HDD for programs that don't need the speed and your documents/downloads/pictures/music/video/etc.

Also consider getting a tube of Arctic Silver 5 thermal paste.

I would also suggest an AMD Radeon HD7850. If you're willing to splurge, though, the NVidia GTX 680 is the best card on the market right now... :D 

EDIT: Forgot to mention: your video editing software will probably benefit from hyperthreading. Have you considered an Intel i7-2600k (~100$ more)? Depending on your usage, it might be worth it.
April 10, 2012 6:32:05 PM

Thanks for the reply. The P280 is way too big and relatively expensive (compared to the Fractal R3 Define deal I saw for $80 a few days ago). I'm thinking my mid tower is too big as well. Its 80mm case fans leave limited options, but I found some SilenX blue LED fans for $7.99 on newegg that seem good (30cfm 15dba).

ASRock may be the board I get if I simply decide to keep my current case and swap the fans, but I really want to go more compact. Don't like the case under the desk where my legs are. Rather have it in the slot my desk has, meant for PC cases, or under the hutch.

7850 is new, and I tend to think new = expensive, but I see it's on Tom's best vid card for the money, in the $250 range. Then again, I did see a deal posted on 560 Ti 448 core on sale for $200 for half a day, before it sold out and raised in price. I would've totally jumped on that if I knew how good it was. The XFX Double D 6970 was touted for its silence, so I kind of jumped the gun on it when I saw it for $140 after rebate. I guess I really don't play any new games with realistic graphics. I only have LoL and SupCom Forged Alliance installed at the moment.

Sony Vegas crashes when I try to get my 4870 to help speed up encodes. I guess the 4870 doesn't have that function. I'm basically looking to have it fast enough that change my habit of doing all my editing right before bed and leaving my PC running to encode while I sleep. I wonder if the 6870 can even assist. I hope so, else I'm going nVidia.

I'm a type that deletes things often. If I watch an episode of something, I'd delete it right after. Habits from my laptop and being out of storage space I guess. I'm sure i can manage with 256 GB, but I prob will keep one drive just for my music collection and maybe use it for some other things, but I even think I can keep my music on the SSD, along with everything else. I'd just store my video footage to my backup drives, after I'm done reviewing and editing them. With the 128GB SSD, I'd use my old HD for data for sure.

I'll check out the 2600k. I heard the 2500k's IGP had something that helped with video transcoding. Not sure exactly what transcoding is, but if that's like encoding, that's a plus for my purposes, but I have a feeling that it's simply going from 1 format/container to another. Edit: wow, is it really worth $100 more? I hear it's great for heavy video encoders, which piqued my interest, until I saw the price difference.
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April 10, 2012 7:12:46 PM

If you want a smaller case than a midtower, that means you're also cutting down on ventilation. In which case, if you want to overclock, the only way to do it would be water cooling because most of the aftermarket air coolers require big headroom.

Have you considered the Antec Mini P180? That case would fit a CoolerMaster Hyper 212 EVO and a full ATX motherboard.

I really wouldn't suggest a microATX build if you want performance. If you were going with an i3-2120 or an i5-2400, I wouldn't hesitate to suggest a microATX build. Less ventilation (if you choose a microATX case, why else would you get a microATX board), less upgradability, less I/O ports/internal headers, less space for a good video card (coupled with less ventilation = oven :p ), smaller fans (= more loud)...

I also wouldn't suggest you to put the computer into that tight space that's "made for a computer". It was designed for old Compaq towers that didn't really need ventilation...

The i7-2600k as the same IGP as the i5-2500k, and with a Z68 based motherboard with Lucid Virtu (or H67 based board) it will help with encoding. Whether or not it's worth it is up to you. If you were doing any CAD or rendering, I would say it's absolutely worth it. An i7 would make no difference whatsoever in a game, though, so the only difference in speed that you will see because of hyperthreading are within the applications that are multi-core optimized.

IMHO, I think you should really consider going mid-tower full ATX just because, if you want performance with a good GPU and overclocked CPU, you need good ventilation.
April 10, 2012 10:35:38 PM

The Antec Mini P180 only has 4 expansion slots, so it can't accept an ATX motherboard.

Quick Sync is the name of Intel's quick transcoding technology. AFAIK transcoding is for taking a large high res, high quality video and making it suitable to be played on a mobile device.

Other good mATX cases to check out:
Fractal Design Define Mini
Fractal Design Arc Mini
Silverstone Precision PS07
Silverstone Temjin TJ08-E

Some good 'small' ATX cases:
Antec Solo II
Lian Li PC-V600F

All of the above cases will accept an air cooler the size of the Hyper 212 Evo.

Using a Micro-ATX tower doesn't necessarily mean that you're cutting down on ventilation, look at the NZXT Vulcan for instance.

You might be able to quieten your Zerotherm FZ120 down a bit if you remove some of the dust that must have built up over time?

The maximum fan speed on the Hyper 212 Evo is 2000RPM, which would not be quiet if the fan ever spun that fast, so it meets your affordable/value criteria, but in some circumstances it would not meet your low noise criteria.

All of these will be competitive with the Hyper 212 Evo in terms of temps, but will do so with slower/quieter fans and aren't too much more expensive.
Thermalright True Spirit 120 $30 ($13 shipping)

Scythe Ninja 3 $40

Scythe Mugen 3 $42

Logisys Computer MC4002IW Ice Wind $32 ($4 shipping)
Otherwise known as Deep Cool Ice Wind.

You were right about Intel's current platforms prefering RAM with voltages at 1.5V or lower.

Good mATX board:
ASUS P8Z68-M Pro $125

Arctic Silver 5 performs well, once it has cured, which takes 200 hours. There are others which perform on a par with it but don't need any curing time.
April 10, 2012 11:17:29 PM

While I still believe that a microATX tower = less ventilation, some cases are better than others.

Also, I stand corrected for the Antec Mini P180. Thanks.

Intel Quick Sync also speeds up encoding. However, the program has to support it. I quickly researched it, for the moment it seems like Sony hasn't released an update for Vegas to increase encoding speed via QuickSync. Other encoding programs do support it, however.
April 11, 2012 2:11:02 PM

Thanks for the case recommendations and the emphasis on quiet. Need to really troubleshoot where my PC's noise is coming from. I think it might be my mobo that's making the persistent annoying high pitched tone (like a permanent high pitched beep, pretty much the same sound of your head ringing from an unexpected hard hit to the head) and either my exhaust fan or power supply that's making the loud hum/vibration reverberation noise (something sounds like it's dying). Buying a completely new system is the "easy" solution, but the most expensive, and I'm reconsidering just reusing my Lian Li PC-60 case now, as long as I can get it quiet.

Anyone care to explain the difference between ball bearing, sleeve bearing, and hydro dynamic bearing? My initial impression is that sleeve bearings are bushing that can wear out sooner, ball bearings last long but are louder, and am I correct in thinking hydro dynamic bearings are quietest? I actually don't mind paying a bit for quiet fans, knowing how much bearings cost.
April 11, 2012 3:24:15 PM

I don't know or understand on a deep technical level the differences between the different bearing types, but I also haven't bothered to research it.

Here is a good article discussing a few things fan related, although it is quite old, so don't think anything in there is necessarily relevant to HDB/FBD:
After a quick search I haven't found anything more comprehensive.

I would also rank the bearing types in the way you have described, with perhaps even FDB/HDB having longer life-spans than Ball.

If your motherboard is making noise my guess is that it would be coil whine, as there aren't any fans on the MSI 770-C45.

I used to have a 4890 and it was far too loud for me. Thankfully I now have a PowerColor 6850 SCS and Antec TrueQuiet 120mm (IIRC a FDB/HDB fan) set at 600RPM and the temps are low enough for me and it is quiet.
So I think if you carefully choose a replacement for your 4870 then that will solve a lot of your noise problem.

The OCZ ModXStream Pro 500W use a Globe Fan RL4Z S1352512H, 0.33A, which has a sleeve bearing and a maximum fan speed of 1500RPM. I have read a reviewer insinuate that they are low quality (likely in comparison to Sanyo Denki San Ace 120s, so he was probably just being a snob). But I think that it would have to be under a high load or having other kinds of problems to be a major source of noise.
April 18, 2012 2:08:18 AM

Caught a deal on a 2600k from Microcenter, but no mobo nor HSF for it yet. Hoping my RAM can go from 1.65V to 1.5V, so I don't need to buy another set. Should've got the Cooler Master Hyper 212+ when I was at microcenter, and considered a premium fan like the Noctua NF-12 (or 2 of something cheaper and quieter for a push-pull set up). Was thinking about getting the ASUS P8Z68 V LE/LX, but it was out of stock. Pretty much had the bare minimum I needed. Z77 chipset didn't seem to offer anything worth the price premium.

Decided to stick with my Lian Li PC-60 case, since the case fans I just bought emit no sound except the sound of air moving (much quieter than central AC on low). Have negative case pressure now, since I have all fans plugged in now (previously unplugged the top exhaust fan, which was noisy).

Also going to test out a Corsair Builder series 430W power supply, to see if it's quiet enough. Got a molex to PCIe connector to solve its lack of a second 6 pin PCI-e connector, hoping that it works. Heard that I needed a cable that converted 2 molex to 1 PCIe was needed, but I'm hoping that rumor is not true.

Went ahead and got a Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 240GB, but haven't plugged it in yet. Wanting to install everything fresh. Should I go ahead and install windows and some drivers on it, or wait for the mobo + CPU before doing so?

Edit: noted that my RMA'd memory from Patriot is actually Patriot Viper II Section 5 DDR3 1600 1.65V.