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Building A Liquid-Cooled MicroATX Gaming Monster

Power, Heat, And Efficiency

Power consumption is where the microATX build literally sucks, as in the amount of extra current it draws from the wall. Though factory-overclocked graphics cards take part of the blame, the Maximus IV Gene-Z’s habit of disabling low idle power states when XMP memory mode is enabled also hurts the smaller machine’s overall efficiency.

While the microATX machine’s liquid-cooled graphics cards reduce GPU temperature, CPU temperatures are relatively well-matched between both configurations. We should also point out that both cases have similar airflow, in spite of the smaller machine’s radiators.

Higher graphics card frequency and better overclocking capability put the microATX system in the driver’s seat in front of the full-sized SBM build.

The reference-speed SBM machine sets the baseline in our efficiency charts, so that the chart reflects only how much better or worse other configurations are in comparison. This is done by starting off with the reference machine at 100% then subtracting 100% from the results.

Power consumption favors the bigger machine by such a large amount that it completely diminishes the microATX machine’s performance lead in our efficiency comparison.

  • compton
    I really like this setup. The Maximus Gene-Z is very swank, and it's on my short list even though the last thing I need is more motherboards laying around.

    I was a huge proponent of uATX cases until I needed space for an Asus Essence STX and a Killer Networks 2100 NIC. I found a compromise with the Lian Li PC A05NB -- it's one of the smallest ATX cases around, not much larger than the uATX enclosure I was using prevously. The diminutive Gene-Z is perfection for uATX boards, and wouldn't be out of place in larger cases -- but it's nice that you were able to cram so much into such a modest enclosure.
    Reply
  • dogman_1234
    Question: why does the Mobo choice have a 'bad voltage regulator?'

    Anyways. Love these kind of articles. Helps other users get more of what they assume. Keep it up Tom's.
    Reply
  • iam2thecrowe
    dogman_1234Question: why does the Mobo choice have a 'bad voltage regulator?'Anyways. Love these kind of articles. Helps other users get more of what they assume. Keep it up Tom's.it doesnt have a BAD voltage regulator, it just doesn't deliver enough stable power for overclocking much, nor do the VRM's have good cooling on them in that gigabtyte board. This was the assumption for the poor overclcking perfromance in the SBM.
    Reply
  • dogman_1234
    iam2thecroweit doesnt have a BAD voltage regulator, it just doesn't deliver enough stable power for overclocking much, nor do the VRM's have good cooling on them in that gigabtyte board. This was the assumption for the poor overclcking perfromance in the SBM.How does one avoid this?
    Reply
  • aznshinobi
    Man... I was thinking custom water cooling loop when I saw this. I guess not. Not a huge fan of manufacturer pre-made loops, I find them expensive for their price. I.E All the Corsair Hydro series products.
    Reply
  • crisan_tiberiu
    Question: is the overclocked i7 passing the Intel Burn Test @ Extreme Preset? I am asking this because my 2600k cant pass this test @ 4,4 Ghz, it simply shuts down (thermal protection kicks in, no errors :))
    Reply
  • ceps
    Love this build, i love mATX builds, maybe the most interesting build I've seen here. Good Job!!
    Reply
  • Crashman
    crisan_tiberiuQuestion: is the overclocked i7 passing the Intel Burn Test @ Extreme Preset? I am asking this because my 2600k cant pass this test @ 4,4 Ghz, it simply shuts down (thermal protection kicks in, no errors )Eight threads Prime95 small FFTs for max CPU.dogman_1234How does one avoid this?On the Gigabyte board you could probably see that half of the voltage regulator had no heat sink, but some crap boards have sinks so it's only a little helpful. Otherwise you have to pick a board you like, then use your search engine to find out what other people are getting from their overclocks.

    In the case of that board, it was stable at 1.35V, fluctuated quite a bit at 1.36V, and dropped all the way down to 1.36V when it was set to 1.38V.
    Reply
  • crisan_tiberiu
    CrashmanEight threads Prime95 small FFTs for max CPU.On the Gigabyte board you could probably see that half of the voltage regulator had no heat sink, but some crap boards have sinks so it's only a little helpful. Otherwise you have to pick a board you like, then use your search engine to find out what other people are getting from their overclocks.In the case of that board, it was stable at 1.35V, fluctuated quite a bit at 1.36V, and dropped all the way down to 1.36V when it was set to 1.38V.sry, i retract what i was saying :( i tried Burn Test again (with 20C room temp not with 30 :P ) and it passed @ 4,5 GHz). I have an AsRock MB and used "Load optimized overclock settings for 4,4Ghz, and i dont know why, it sets the PLL voltage to 1,75V, witch is very high. I have set the PLL to 1,55 V and now it works great @ 4,5 GHz ... What can i say, i am always learning something :P
    Reply
  • AppleBlowsDonkeyBalls
    A Core i7-3930K sounds good for the next $2000 build if it's out by then. GTX 580s are horrible bang-for-buck, so I'd step down to two Radeon HD 6970s for 2560x1600 gaming. It should be comparable in gaming to this one and much faster in multi-threaded. It remains to be seen how much X79 motherboards will cost, but I think a great system could be made on that 'budget'.
    Reply