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System Builder Marathon Q2 2015: $1600 Mini Performance PC

Power, Heat, Efficiency And Value

The Q2 Mini ITX build has fewer onboard components than its full ATX rival, so it consumes less idle power. It also overclocks better, so it consumed more power when overclocked. Yet even the compact system can’t compare to the wild power swings of Q1, where a lower CPU core count produced even smaller power numbers while a pair of GPUs consumed enormous energy when loaded.

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I don’t want to start a format war, but the CPU of today’s Mini ITX build did run a little cooler than its Full ATX counterpart, and though that was mostly due to its better CPU cooler, the numbers reveal that it was indeed flowing a sufficient volume of air. Its GPU ran a little warmer, but that same GPU was shoved into the top of the case. Moreover, it had 3% better efficiency than the big system at stock clocks, and its higher overclock only gave it a 2% efficiency disadvantage compared to the overclocked big system.

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Oh, hey! Looking at performance-per-dollar, I’d call the overclocked compact machine a success. Of course the big machine was also a success before we overclocked it. Then again, the big machine was overclocked before I overclocked it due to enhanced Turbo ratios. Hmm. Maybe I’ll just let you pick your favorite machine!

And now for the big let-down: The old Q1 system was far heartier at running high resolutions. I kind of expected that. High-resolution performance might have been better still had that machine contained a pair of R9 290X cards rather than a pair of GTX 970s. I’m willing to discuss that, along with other aspects of future builds, in the response thread below.

At least I was able to build a tiny Haswell-E system that, in spite of its “crippling” dual-channel DDR4 configuration and wasting of PCIe 3.0 lanes, was still able to match the average performance and overclocking capability of its full-sized rival. I’d call that a huge success in a machine that’s smaller than a size-13 shoebox, especially since the machine slightly exceeded my own expectations.

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Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware, covering Cases, Cooling, Memory and Motherboards. Follow him onTwitter.

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  • UltimateDeep
    Baby PC able to out-overclock the Papa PC, gosh, this shouldn't be happening but it did anyway!
    Reply
  • MasterDell
    PSU used is not Haswell Certified.
    Reply
  • eldragon0
    Great write up, but the 5820k has 6 cores ( OC section says four physical cores)
    Reply
  • RazberyBandit
    Tricky tricky tricky tricky!

    Relate to a younger generation? A reader would have to be at least 35-years old (and into Hip-Hop) to have gotten that reference...

    You Be Illin' =)
    Reply
  • Crashman
    16145478 said:
    Tricky tricky tricky tricky!

    Relate to a younger generation? A reader would have to be at least 35-years old (and into Hip-Hop) to have gotten that reference...

    You Be Illin' =)
    I'm just fighting for your right to party. No need to take this on all by yourself, any more.

    Reply
  • CaedenV
    @Razbery and Crashman
    Nice :)
    Reply
  • Aspiring techie
    Sweet. The mini itx form factor doesn't limit performance at this price level. I guess you learn something new every day :)
    Reply
  • daveys93
    "High-resolution performance might have been better still had that machine contained a pair of R9 290X cards rather than a pair of GTX 270s."

    Typo? I think you mean 970s.
    Reply
  • atheus
    Again you sacrifice cooling performance to pick up an optical drive. Are you being paid off by big optic...oil?

    Admit it, you just chose that motherboard because it lets you plug this bad boy in:
    Reply
  • Nythious
    It's about time people start realizing that smaller cases restrict the impact of ambient temperatures because the total air volume is recycled faster than larger cases.
    Reply