M-ITX build, first timer

Hello, and thank you for taking the time to read this post.

When my venerable Nvidia 7600GT started producing green pixels and weird geometry errors I started planning my first build for early November after Windows 8 is released. However, this morning I was treated to an 80s style stripy test pattern followed at length by a desktop that flickered on and off and included every shade of green. I was able to resolve the issue by repeatedly rebooting the machine until it worked normally but I suspect that may not be a long term solution and I may be living on borrowed time. I now plan to buy and build in the next couple of weeks.

I currently have a 6 year old all in one that has served me admirably in imaging apps and playing quite recent titles at 1920x1200, although when I do so the machine becomes too hot to touch.

The AIO point is important because the keyboard and mouse are probably all I can salvage. I will keep the current machine as a spare in my elephant's graveyard cupboard. I had originally planned to use it as a monitor in TargetDisplay mode but that requires an intact GPU.

These days my main uses are Windows games, internet, email and light productivity Office Suite.

I was drawn to the m-ITX factor and the BitFenix Prodigy, a pigmy Mac-Pro like case, as something which would actually fit on my desk away from the dust and make an interesting build challenge.

I live in Australia and have been costing at umart.com.au and pccasegear.com.
My budget is A$2000-$2500 including monitor & OS.

I prefer to keep overclocking on the table as a way of keeping the machine current and viable in the future, but note that the extra unlocked processor, mobo, powersupply and cooling bills add about 20% to the system cost and am open to reconsideration.

Planned build:

Monitor: 27" 2560x1440
Samsung S27 A850TSK ($683) is cheaper than the highly reviewed Dell U2711 ($755)
Has anyone had particularly positive or negative experiences with these monitors?

Case: BitFenix Prodigy ($96)
I like the aesthetics of the white case more, but the black version has better ventilation at the front and I plan to air cool. I have owned three decades of very pretty but very hot and modestly spec'd all in ones and learnt my lesson.

Motherboard: ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe ($229)
This seems to be the most popular overclockable ITX board. I am open to considering the ASRock Z77E-ITX ($165) but have read that there are problems with cooler clearance and slight performance lag. I also read that the USB cables for the right side of the BitFenix Prodigy case do not stretch to the internal ports on some motherboards. Has anyone had any experience with the cables either reaching or not reaching on those boards?

CPU: i5 3570K ($234)

RAM: G.Skill Ares F3-1866C9D-8GAB 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3
Low profile, 1.5v, fast. I have also seen Corsair Vengence and Kingston kits with similar specs for similar prices. Is there anything else to look for?

GPU: Preferably a 7970 for the better high res performance. Also, they are cheaper than 670s on the local sites. The best value locally seem to be the Gigabyte GHz Edition ($476) and the Sapphire OC ($466). However, they have custom coolers and look wider than two slots. Is that a problem with the m-ITX case and motherboard? I saw a build (http://forum.overclock3d.net/showpost.php?p=546067&postcount=27) using a giant Gigabyte card, but have also seen posts warning against cards wider than 2 slots. A couple of reference models seem readily available, the HIS ($419) and MIS ($440) but they seem limited in their speed and cooling. On the plus side, at least they exhaust out of the case. What model 7970s have people successfully installed in this case/mobo combination? If the 7970s don't fit then I may have to look at a reference 670.

CPU cooler: Noctua NH-D14 ($84)
This giant cooler appears to line up with the back vent fairly well and a few published builds use it.
I am entertaining three options for cooling:

a) Big Air:
NH-D14 on the CPU
Dismount the front 12cm fan and move it to the top exhaust above the motherboard. Install a 23cm Spectre Pro in the front to cool the drives and blow air behind the video card. I will need a splitter to run three fans off the motherboard control. Will this cause excessive load? How many watts of fanpower is it usually safe to run off the mobo header? I am a total novice at computer fan connectors, but I think I need a 4 pin to 3 pin adaptor then a 1:3 splitter? How have successful builders done this?

b) Small water:
The Corsair Hydro H80 ($131.50) seems to figure in every second Prodigy build. I understand it's fairly noisy and cost-ineffective, but at least it gets the heat out of the box.

c) Abandon overclocking. If I go for a non-overclockable CPU (i5.3570 or i3.3240) and a cheap reference GPU then I can use the stock cooler and case fans. I could also use a cheaper motherboard (e.g. ASRock B75-ITX $105) and power supply.

I am leaning towards Big Air because, what's the point of handcrafting a boring sensible machine? Any suggestions from Prodigy builders?

PSU: Seasonic M12II 620W or Antec TP 650W
These are both short (15 and 14cm I think) so should fit in the Prodigy's notorious 17cm PSU cage. They both seem fairly solid. Any recommendations or reviews comparing them? If I end up with a GeForce 670 then I presume the ~500w versions of each would be adequate?

SSD: Samsung 128GB SSD 830 ($109)

HDD: Seagate SATA3 2TB Barracuda ($105)
It there a reason why this drive is suspiciously cheap?

Optical: LGE CH12L528 Blu-Ray ($55)
Our household has a lot of archaic physical media.

Speakers: Logitech 320 2.0 ($36)

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit OEM ($92)

I am particularly confused by which graphics cards will physically fit, and the fan cabling.

Thank you for enduring the whole post.
3 answers Last reply
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  1. Quote:
    i am using the Ghz edition gigabyte 7970 as pictured in the oc3d thread you linked, and it fits fine.
    theres plenty of room between the PCIE and the side wall of the case.
    id speculate that even gigabytes SOC version of the 7970 might even fit (being dual slot bracket, triple slot physical)

    from another forum (http://forums.overclockers.com.au/showpost.php?p=14742875&postcount=232).

    I hope that's useful to other builders.

    Any suggestions about the PSU or monitor?

    Also, has anyone built with the spectre pro fans? What adaptors and double adaptors have you used? I guess I would figure it out eventually but I live in Rural And/or Regional Australia ("RARAland" to bureaucrats) and extra parts will take a while to arrive.
  2. It seems that the NH-D14 only fits if you remove the DVD drive cage, and it looks like one of the exhaust fans too.

    Hence I've changed my big air preference to the NH-U12P SE2, which is 120mm deep vs 158 and performs nearly as well. Hopefully those 38mm will save the ODD.

    Also, I discovered that the H-80 exhausts INTO the case, which sounds like a very bad idea in such a small chassis. Hence I have switched the watercooling option to the Antec Kuhler H2O 920.

    Has anyone here built a prodigy/p877-I combo with either of those cooling solutions?
  3. More information which may be of use to novice builders such as myself:

    The NH-U12P SE2 has old-style 3 pin fans that the asus p8Z77-I apparently cannot control.

    Also, the Antec Kuhler H2O 920's radiator blocks the other exhaust fan in the prodigy if installed on the rear roof or back and clashes with the optical bay if put in the front roof.

    Hence I think the CoolerMaster Hyper 212 Evo is the last man standing.

    Also, the Seasonic M12II 620W and the Antec TP-650 split their 12V amongst multiple rails and in theory may struggle to feed the 7970,

    The Seasonic M12 II 650 Bronze uses a single 52A 12V rail and is only 16cm long, so I'm planning to get that.

    Have I missed anything else?
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