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 Post subject: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2013 5:51 am 
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Hi there! I would really appreciate some expert advice on this. My main objective is to build a low power, silent-ish workstation machine to replace my aged Dell Precision. I don't have a budget in mind, but I have an idea of the components I need, and based on my software usage, I would like an honest critique of the build.

Software I generally use:
  • Visual Studio 2012
  • MS Office 2013 - mainly Excel, and including Visio 2013 + Project 2013
  • Eclipse with ADT plugin
  • VirtualBox - 2 Linux VMs, 1 Windows Server VM
  • Adobe CS6: Fireworks, InDesign, Illustrator
  • Google Earth
  • Trimble Sketchup (with high-res textures, shadows + lighting)
  • QGIS

I haven't given any though yet to case fans, chassis, etc.

In terms of applications running concurrently, my typical daily usage involves having one of the IDEs open (either VS 2012 or Eclipse), one of the Adobe products open, 2 Virtualbox linux VMs open, and Google Chrome with about 16+ tabs open...don't ask :)
I also won't be playing games on this machine, and will probably encode a video once or twice a month. Video encoding is not critical to me, and I would probably get it started, leave it to do its thing, and hit the gym or whatever.

My proposed build is as follows:
  • CPU: Intel Ivybridge LGA1155 i7-3770T, 4C8T, 2.5GHz, 45W max TDP
  • Motherboard: ASUS P8H77-I, all-in-one LGA1155
  • Memory: Corsair Vengeance Low Profile, 16GB (8GB x2)
  • SSD: Samsung Pro 840 128GB
  • HDD: Western Digital Scorpio Black WD7500BPKT
  • GFX: Sapphire HD6670, 1GB 128bit 4ch. DDR5, LowProfile ... I probably should be using a professional Graphics card, and would need your advice on a low profile, low power drawing alternative.
  • PSU: any 250W SFX PSU --> unsure about this, as I was also keen on a Pico-PSU, but the graphics card may be too much for this to handle

Components are hard to come by here in South Africa, with the 3770T almost out of stock everywhere and the new Haswell 4770T nowhere in sight. If need be I don't mind getting the components shipped here.

I'm led to believe that there is not much difference between IvyBridge and Haswell for desktop CPUs, so I'll stick with IvyBridge as its a lot cheaper than the Haswell equivalents. My main concern is the CPU. The 3770T is rated at 2.5Ghz ... if I max out the processing capability of the chip, it should consume 45W. However, if I go for another CPU say the standard i7-3770 rated at 3.4Ghz with a max TDP of 77W, I may end up not maxing out the CPU, thereby causing it not to reach its max TDP. Would this be a correct assumption? Also, would an i5 suit my requirements better?

Thank you :)


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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2013 2:08 pm 
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Welcome to SPCR.

I'm not familiar with the Illustrator/web page design side of the Adobe suite. So, I'm not sure how much horsepower you'll need for that. I'd think it would be much less than what's needed for Premiere...maybe on par with Photoshop. So, if we bracket somewhere in there....

Stay away from the T parts - all you are doing is nerfing the clock rate when you need it. All the CPUs idle at similar power levels. At 2.5GHz, the non-T parts will consume about the same power as the T part. When the CPUs pop up to 3+GHz, yeah, they'll use more power, but it will take less time to complete the task, and so the task energy will be similar - or even less using the non T part.

I don't know if your apps make use of hyperthreading...so can't comment on i5 vs i7.

Haswell runs ~5-15% faster than Ivy Bridge. It also idles at lower system power levels.

GPU: Just use the integrated graphics. The 6670 doesn't buy you anything unless your apps make use of GPU for hardware acceleration (eg: Photoshop rotate/zoom/etc Mercury Engine stuff). If they do, then it's another discussion. Also, what's your monitor? Is it a crappy TN display or some 10-bit professional monster?

RAM: 8 or 16GB? Easy to tell - just look at your current PC and see how much is used.

PSU: deferred until GPU resolved. Your system w/o a graphics card will consume <130W when stressed.

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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2013 4:15 pm 
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Location: Scandinavia
Hi,

Before everything, it is almost impossible for me to fathom out how you would like to strike a balance between "smallness" (e.g., mini-ITX), "quietness" (criteria vary with people) and "performance". If you wish to achieve absolute quietness, as I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, you'd better opt for a micro-ATX system. Having said that, I gather from my experiences that it is still quite doable to build a mini-ITX system since you don't need high-power graphics card. Also, I'm a bit dubious about your real intention to build a quiet rig because you have listed WD Black HDD as one of the components to be used in the rig. A single HDD will nullify all the efforts.

A few points need clarification:
- It is almost pointless to buy T-version of Intel CPU because it is so easy to underclock it. I underclocked i7-2600 in my office rig from 3.8GHz to 3.0GHz and the load temperature accordingly decreased from 70 Celsius to 58 Celsius. You can adjust power consumption by controlling clock frequency. If I remember correctly, I once read in a technical paper that power consumption of a CPU in full load state is approximately proportional to its clock frequency (strictly speaking, affinely linear), which is in line with my personal experience.
- Haswell CPUs are far more efficient in idle state and emit only the minimum heat. For example, in my main rig, the CPU fan runs at 300 rpm in idle state with CPU temperature of 29 Celsius. Although no one has ever conducted comprehensive analysis upon the heat characteristics of all Ivy Bridge and Haswell CPUs, I gather (or my gut feeling is) that Haswell CPUs are considerably cooler than Ivy Bridges ones when the clock frequency is less than or equal to 3.0 GHz (which you can ensure by simplistic underclocking). Not to mention the energy efficiency of Haswell CPUs in idle state.
- If you are really interested in building up a silent PC, Haswell motherboards made by Asrock provide the most flexible and functional yet OS-agnostic BIOS fan control that we have ever seen in the market.

Some suggestions:
1. SFX PSU market has not matured enough to churn out really quiet PSUs yet. However, you can try a recently-released semi-fanless PSU by SilverStone, ST30SF, which has not been reviewed yet by any benchmark websites (which somehow reflects how small the market is). On the other hand, there are a multitude of near-silent standard ATX PSUs. For example, Corsair RM series PSUs are truly quiet.
2. With regards to chassis, I would personally take a chance on Lian Li PC-Q27 with Noctua NF-A14 on its bottom. While Lian Li PC-Q series have long been notorious for hard installation of side panels, each of which is secured by EIGHT screw, side panels of PC-Q27 can be easily removed without any screw and you can use standard ATX PSUs. The reason I recommend this chassis is that I speculate it is the smallest chassis that can accommodate ATX PSUs.

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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2013 4:51 pm 
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Hi Steve. Thank you for your in-depth response and for your advice on the "T" CPUs.

I should probably mention that my current Dell is packing a Xeon E3-1270 (3.7GHz), with 8GB DDR3 (non-ECC), and an AMD FirePro V4700. I will be keeping my monitor which is a Dell U2713HM - 27" LED QHD IPS. Its not as great as the U2713H, but I'm not a creative professional, so I don't need the crazy colour accuracy. The U2713HM is a great monitor though (cost effective as well for its specs).

CA_Steve wrote:
I'm not familiar with the Illustrator/web page design side of the Adobe suite. So, I'm not sure how much horsepower you'll need for that ... I don't know if your apps make use of hyperthreading

From my googling, I have found out that the Adobe products I'm using don't make use of HT. I don't use Photoshop or any of the video editing packages like Premiere Pro. Sketchup does not make use of HT, and neither does Google Earth nor QGIS. Available memory and decent graphics processing is what is important for the latter software packages. Visual Studio 2012 however, can utilise all cores available if necessary, but for most of the applications I compile, this isn't a big issue.

CA_Steve wrote:
GPU: Just use the integrated graphics. The 6670 doesn't buy you anything unless your apps make use of GPU for hardware acceleration (eg: Photoshop rotate/zoom/etc Mercury Engine stuff). If they do, then it's another discussion.

I'm unsure if Intel HD Graphics 4600 will support my usage, but I know Google Earth Pro requires DirectX9 and 3D capability with 64MB of VRAM. I assume that QGIS would be similar. Sketchup has similar requirements, but the graphics solution should also support OpenGL 1.5 or higher.
Another option I have is to use an AMD FirePro 2270 (http://www.amd.com/us/products/workstation/graphics/ati-firemv-2d/amd-firepro-2270/Pages/amd-firepro-2270.aspx). It consumes 15W max, and supports a maximum resolution of 2560x1600. However, I believe that it's meant more for dual displays rather than graphics processing.
I'll do a bit more homework on the GPU options and post back here if I come across anything.

CA_Steve wrote:
PSU: deferred until GPU resolved.

I've come across this: be quiet! SFX Power, 350w (http://www.bequiet.com/en/powersupply/47), but am hoping I will be able to use this: http://www.mini-box.com/picoPSU-160-XT

CA_Steve wrote:
RAM: 8 or 16GB? Easy to tell - just look at your current PC and see how much is used.

I would prefer 16. Running a typical load, through Windows Task Manager I've seen my memory peak at about 7.2GB and I have never seen my CPU usage go above 19%. I would also like to allow for spinning up an extra VM if needed, and also allocating more memory to the main VMs I am running.

CA_Steve wrote:
Haswell runs ~5-15% faster than Ivy Bridge. It also idles at lower system power levels.

Thanks for informing me ... I was not aware of that! These are my options based on the various retailers' stocks:
  • i7-4770
  • i7-4770S -> 65W TDP
  • i5-4670
  • i5-4570
  • i5-4570S -> 65W TDP
here is the comparison chart: http://ark.intel.com/compare/75124,75122,75038,75047,75043,75044

What do you think?


Last edited by shalan on Sat Nov 16, 2013 2:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2013 5:53 pm 
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Hi ggumdol. I am not expecting this build to be totally silent (hence the term "silent-ish" in my opening line), but I am aiming towards something that draws as little power as possible given the requirements. The WD black 2.5" is meant as the data storage drive for working files, frequently-accessed files, etc. WDC site states that the drive reaches an average 28dBA (seek time and idle)...not too sure how loud or quiet that really is. Incidentally, the WD Blue 500GB (WD5000MPCK) reaches roughly 17dBA in seek mode. Alternatively, depending on the cost of the build I may at the end decide to swap this for a 256GB SSD.

- As per CA_Steve's response as well, I will stay away from the "T" variants. How about the "S" variants?
- I'm sold on Haswell vs. IvyBridge and will stick to the Haswell chips.
- Would you not recommend any of the Asus or Intel mobos?
- What are your thoughts on the Pico PSU I mentioned in my reply above to Steve?

Thanks for the chassis and PSU recommendations, and your advice in general, ggumdol. I will certainly factor all of it in. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2013 7:33 pm 
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- Go with the i5-4670...or the i5-4670K if you want to overclock a bit sometime down the road. Again, why pay for a nerfed CPU (the S)?
- Asus makes decent motherboards. They have good s/w based fan control. If you want UEFI (bios) based fan control, then Asrock has the best, followed by MSI.
- case: Is mini-ITX desired for it's small footprint? Are you space constrained or....? What case are you considering?
- gfx: Try the integrated gfx on Haswell - you can always add a gfx card if it doesn't cut it.
- PSU: You could probably get away with some Pico PSU solution.
- storage: Might consider 128GB 840 Pro for OS/apps, another SSD for working files/scratch, and a slow quiet HDD (like the WD Red) for data storage.

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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2013 6:12 am 
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shalan wrote:
- I'm sold on Haswell vs. IvyBridge and will stick to the Haswell chips.
- Would you not recommend any of the Asus or Intel mobos?
- What are your thoughts on the Pico PSU I mentioned in my reply above to Steve?


Asus will definitely look better aesthetically. As you sound not that much picky about silence, I suggest you stick with whatever you prefer. The enitre story of Pico PSU still sounds to me a bit of snake-oil-like thing. If you are inclined to experiment it, I would not discourage you from doing so.

By the way, I suggest you go for lower-clocked CPUs such as i5-4440 or i5-4430 or i5-4570 if you are not an overclocker. I have this theory that heat emission of Haswell CPUs increases with clock frequency considerably faster than Ivy Bridge CPUs (i.e., higher proportionality constant). That is, Haswell CPUs are cooler than Ivy Bridge ones only in low-to-medium clock frequencies and becomes inferior to Ivy Bridges above a certain threshold in terms of heat dissipation. I'm not actually entitled to have a say about other models than mine, i5-4430, but a number of reviews out there have pointed out high temperature issue of top-end Haswell CPUs. Please recall that it is merely a theory based on my empirical evidence and gathered information. From a different angle, I reckon that an i7 CPU can be beneficial for you in terms of reduced complilation time in Visual Studio.

Just in case. In order to max out the resolution of Dell U2713HM (I'm using it now at home), 1440p, you will have to opt for somewhat expensive motherboards with proper DisplayPort. For example, Z87E-ITX and H87E-ITX/ac seem to be the only two available Asrock ITX motherboards meeting all your requirements.

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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2013 11:09 am 
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Your development tools, as such, will work very well in your PC configuration, performance wise. I've used those, and similar, tools as a professional programmer for many years.

MS Office will work very well with your configuration.

Google Earth will, as well, work excellent on just about any recent GPU, including Ivy Bridge, given a good download speed.

Adobe CS6 can use the GPU for major performance increases and the integrated Haswell GPU falls short in CS6 tests that I've seen online.

As for running VM's note that Haswell mini-itx boards typically have max RAM of 16GB, which may be a potential issue. The K variants of Haswell CPU's lacks directed I/O (Vt-d), which, depending on usage of VM, may be an issue as well.

Pico PSU: Great for low power passive/quiet cooling builds when size is constrained. Two of my recent silent builds uses Pico XT 160, Haswell 4770T CPU, Streacom FC8-EVO and CPU GPU. With SSD the PC's are silent, powerful, and usable except for high-end graphics.


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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2013 11:47 am 
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blankus wrote:
Adobe CS6 can use the GPU for major performance increases

Some Adobe apps do (Photoshop, Premiere) and some don't (Lightroom). Haven't seen whether or not the OP's apps do.

blankus wrote:
and the integrated Haswell GPU falls short in CS6 tests that I've seen online.

Here's Puget System's benchmark for Photoshop. They have an HD 4000 in the test. The HD 4600 is ~50% faster. So, figure 25 sec for it vs 20 sec for a $100 gfx card.

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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Sat Nov 16, 2013 5:42 am 
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Hi CA_Steve, blankus and ggumdol ... thanks for your input. Apologies for my delayed response...I've been trying to see what components are locally available for my build.

CA_Steve wrote:
case: Is mini-ITX desired for it's small footprint? Are you space constrained or....? What case are you considering?

Yes, I am a bit constrained for space, and will probably look to one of the Lian-Li ITX cases such as the Q03 or Q07. The U2713HM monitor is wall-mounted already, so my space constrains would be at desk-level and below.

ggumdol wrote:
you will have to opt for somewhat expensive motherboards with proper DisplayPort.

Yea, I see that. There is the option of the ASUS H87I-PLUS, which according to the specs, can do 4096 x 2304 @ 24 Hz via HDMI ... ??

ggumdol wrote:
By the way, I suggest you go for lower-clocked CPUs such as i5-4440 or i5-4430 or i5-4570 if you are not an overclocker.

Good argument - FWIW, I am not an overclocker :D

Regarding i7 for better compile times in Visual Studio - I'm not so sure about that. http://stackoverflow.com/a/11055584 and http://stackoverflow.com/a/1814117 state that VS does not yet take advantage of multi-threading. Besides, turbo-boost on the CPU is available if needed. Another post I remember reading (can't remember the link though), was that Visual Studio is heavy on disks and disk access during compilation. So good clock speed and perhaps a good SSD will be more beneficial in this regard than an i7 with HT.

Now regarding my GPU options :? I'm a bit unsure about going the dedicated GPU route or to take a chance on the Integrated HD4600. In order to get max resolution from my monitor, I'll need a mobo with a DisplayPort, and those mobos are quite expensive compared to a B85 chipset equivalent; ie. for the price difference, I can pick up an entry level Nvidia Quadro card. My concern is that a dedicated GPU card will draw more power, but I'll have piece of mind when running my apps.

Iff I can get away with running my apps decently on the HD4600, then I don't mind, and I will probably see some power savings (not sure here again) and can therefore go with the PicoPSU option. This is the only bit now holding me back from completing my build list. Hopefully, I can get your opinions on this and take it from there.

I'll post my build list shortly once I've gathered all the components and priced them.


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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Sat Nov 16, 2013 6:47 am 
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Interesting topic with much good advice (from some of SPCR's best). My advice would be to make sure to get HD4600 on your CPU, and if you have the opportunity - try it out with your old case and PSU. If that works well performance wise, then you can get a Pico PSU and small case for your system.

About i7/i5, HT or no - I wonder if you could capitalize on having more threads available for multitasking, even if your programs do not directly benefit you could maybe see a smoother system if you use several programs simultanously. ** "Chrome with 16+ tabs", not asking, just sayin'. And if you get a K chip instead of T or S, you can undervolt instead of underclock to see how far down you can take it while still having stock performance. Later in the life cycle you can go the other way (overclock for better perf. in two years time?) and maybe you then extended the lifecycle of your CPU by undervolting it for a few years ? (maybe not). I dunno which chips have the best binning, K, S or T ? Surely they are binned for their respctive purposes?

*edit; Motherboard with Displayport should be a nobrainer in my book - very elegant if internal graphics is all you need, and also necessary for your resolution with good refresh rate. Will also be a fully usable backup should any GC fail, i've even played Farcry3 for fun on my HD4000 :) Downsides is ofc cost and the fact that there's not a seperate cooler for the GPU (which may or may not affect the noiselevel from CPU cooler) Upsides of having to pay more is that you may end up with a better motherboard overall.. and you may not..

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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Sat Nov 16, 2013 7:15 am 
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Yes, you probably want to go with Displayport - looks like there's some funkiness between Dell and Intel if you use the Dual DVI or HDMI.

Yep, Mini-ITX + Displayport + cheap is a rare combination. The MSI Z87I might fit the bill. In the US, it's reasonably priced ($130). Here's a review. Only 1 system fan header, though. Would have to get a splitter or control a second case fan with a Fan Mate or similar. MSI also has the B85I and H81I...but they look hard to find...and haven't read any feedback.

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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Sat Nov 16, 2013 2:34 pm 
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shalan wrote:
Iff I can get away with running my apps decently on the HD4600, then I don't mind, and I will probably see some power savings (not sure here again) and can therefore go with the PicoPSU option.

Just as CA_Steve mentioned, mini-ITX + DisplayPort seems to be a rare combination, consequently requiring you to pay unexpectedly higher cost. It's a niche market where cost-effectiveness is not questioned so much. The trouble here is that there are so many cons and pros of buying (i) "mini-ITX + DisplayPort" motherboard and (ii) simple motherboard + a discrete graphics card, which obfuscate the problem. I only guess that first option might make your life easier and far more energy-efficient (nothing can defeat Intel's intergeted graphics card in this regard) but the second option is also worth considering if you are interested in playing games occasionally or reducing video transcoding times. It's basically up to you to make the best decision. On a second thought, I speculate that mere existence of a discrete graphics card might be undesirable in terms of noise. I must add that Intel 4600 is quite powerful and you can even play some games like Skyrim in 720p with satisfactory frame rates. FYI, AnandTech recently reviewed Asrock Z87E-ITX:

http://www.anandtech.com/show/7484/asro ... itx-review

shalan wrote:
Yes, I am a bit constrained for space, and will probably look to one of the Lian-Li ITX cases such as the Q03 or Q07.

I would like to remind you that while PC-Q03 and PC-Q07 are attractive options, they don't have a proper airflow system. It is perhaps safer to go with PC-Q27 and Noctua NF-A14 on its bottom. The airflow mechanism of PC-Q27 might help quieten the system in the future. As for CPU cooler, I think you can start with stock cooler at the beginning. My impression is that Haswell stock coolers are considerably quieter than those of previous generations. By the way, I have to concede that you are trying to solve a very puzzling problem because you are considering two types of PSUs (or three if you count SFX?), which should be matched with suitable chassis, which will in turn restrict CPU cooler options.

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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Sun Nov 17, 2013 2:53 am 
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khaakon wrote:
And if you get a K chip instead of T or S, you can undervolt instead of underclock to see how far down you can take it while still having stock performance.


I have a i7-4770T and on the MSI Z87I I can underclock, but not overclock. The underclocking can be done with the Intel Tuning Utility that follows the installation CD. For some reason I cannot do underclocking from BIOS.


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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Sun Nov 17, 2013 8:22 am 
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blankus, does the Z87I allow for undervolting?

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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Sun Nov 17, 2013 9:55 am 
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CA_Steve wrote:
blankus, does the Z87I allow for undervolting?


Yes, but only at a fixed CPU Core voltage and that from the Intel Extreme Tuning Utility. For some reason I cannot change the voltage from the BIOS.

There is no "Adaptive CPU Core Voltage Offset" like the Asus Z87-PRO or the Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI have. A pity, really, as I like the adaptive mode.


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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Sun Nov 17, 2013 10:38 am 
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ggumdol wrote:
The enitre story of Pico PSU still sounds to me a bit of snake-oil-like thing. If you are inclined to experiment it, I would not discourage you from doing so.

It's simple really: The picoPSU simply feeds the 12VDC through to the motherboard & other components from whatever supplies it. It creates all the other voltages -- 5V, 3.3, 5Vsb, etc -- using DC/DC conversion from the 12V. The lower voltages represent usually well under 20% of total power to PC. The pico is very efficient at doing this, 90% or better. Since the 12V line is untouched by the pico, the quality of the 12V (or 19V for some picoPSU models) adapter is important, as is its output current capacity. A 160XT pico, for example, must be paired with a 160W 12VDC adapter to give you its rated power; pairing it w/ an 80W adapter will limit you to 80W. There's no magic. The benefit for thermal/noise in a small case is significant: Whatever heat the PSU generates remains outside the box, and there's zero risk of the PSU fan ramping up as the case heats up. (See discussion of OTHER CONFIGURATIONS on last page of Silverstone ML05 review.) Caution: Some higher power AC/DC adapters have a fan that will kick in at higher load. Obviously, if you want silence, you should avoid those.

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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 6:46 am 
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To everyone who has contributed to this thread - my sincerest thanks to all of you! :) It has really been an eye-opening mini-journey. I've had a long think about my options, keeping in mind my wants, but being realistic about certain things:

  • i5 or i7? I've decided to go with the i7 - mainly due to the fact that it has the same max TDP as the other i5 options. Also, the extra threads may come in handy down the line, and maybe even for Virtualbox.
  • I've also decided to go with the B85 motherboard with an addon GPU. The Z87 options are at least double the price of the B85 board just for the sake of a built-in DisplayPort, and I really don't want to take chances here if the HD4600 isn't on par with my needs.
  • Lastly, I've decided against the PicoPSU option :( . I really wanted it in this build, but I used the OuterVision PSU Calculator (http://www.extreme.outervision.com/PSUEngine) using their recommended 90% CPU utilisation, and it calculated that I would need a PSU rated with a minimum of 180W, but recommended 230W. Plus, I'll need to allow for any minor additions to the PC: USB devices that may need power, etc.

This is my final build list:
  • Processor: Intel Haswell LGA1150 i7-4770, 4C8T, 3.4Ghz
  • Motherboard: ASRock B85M-ITX, LGA1150
  • Memory: Corsair Vengeance LP, 16GB (8GBx2), DDR3 1600, CAS9
  • Storage: OCZ Vertex 3 120GB, 2.5" SATA6G SSD ----> this will be coming out of my current Dell workstation, and SecureErased before I install Win7 on it for this machine
  • Case Fan: Noctua 140mm Premium Quiet Cooling Fan NF-A14 FLX
  • Graphics Card: HP Quadro Fx380 Low Profile (28W) ---> not fanless, so I'll hav to see how quiet/loud the GPU fan is and take it from there
  • Monitor: DELL UltraSharp U2713HM, 27" LED Monitor, 2560x1400
  • Optical Drive: ASUS BW-12B1ST, 12x Blu-Ray writer
  • Power Supply: Corsair RM450 (CP-9020066-WW), 450W
  • Keyboard: Logitech Gaming Keyboard G110 ----> I already have this (I like the robustness of the gaming keys :D )
  • Chassis: Lian Li PC-Q27, Mini Tower, Black, No PSU
  • Webcam: Microsoft Lifecam Studio, 1080P HD CMOS ----> already have this
  • OS: Windows 7 Pro 64-bit
[/list]

I'm not quite certain about my chosen GPU card as its benchmarked far lower than my FirePro V4800, but I think it will work out.\

I know half the components listed here probably defeat the purpose of this forum (SilentPC), but hopefully the Noctuas do the job and the GPU fan doesn't get louder than a whisper!

Would you recommend that I stick with the stock CPU Cooler?


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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 7:56 am 
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shalan wrote:
Would you recommend that I stick with the stock CPU Cooler?

No.
The maximum CPU cooler height in the Lian Li Q27 is 70mm. There are a handfull of good coolers that size, especially because you chose a semi passive PSU that shouldn't be coupled with a passive CPU cooler:
Noctua NH-L9i (very small, but a little louder than the others), Noctua NH-L12 without top fan, Scythe Big Shuriken 2 Rev. B (good performance, low price), Thermalright AXP-100 (a little better that Scythe, much higher price), Prolimatech Samuel 17 (a little better that Scythe, much higher price, no fan included).

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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 8:17 am 
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I believe you have made the best decision about all components but if you haven't order them yet, you can agonize over decisions a bit more.

shalan wrote:
I've decided to go with the i7 - mainly due to the fact that it has the same max TDP as the other i5 options. Also, the extra threads may come in handy down the line, and maybe even for Virtualbox.

- This is far from the truth. It seems to me that they (Intel) were intent on giving the impression that their lower-end i5 and higher-end i7 have similar TDP characterstics, perhaps to conceal their inferior heat properties of high-end models. My i5-4430 in "full load state" consumes no more than 34W (when observed in Core Temp 1.0 RC6) with average temperature of 44 Celsius, on which Noctua NH-U12S is blown by its fan at 530 rpm (completely inaudible). Note that the airflow mechanism in my main rig is far from perfection because I lowered the rotational speed of the front fan to 150 rpm (non-existential). On another second thought, you can probably cope with heat emission of i7-4770 because, as far as my experience goes, the load temperature of i7-2600 in my office did not exceed 70 Celsius and the Haswell must be substantially superior to Sandy Bridge unless they are overclocked.

shalan wrote:
Lastly, I've decided against the PicoPSU option :( .

- I fully support your decision on PSU. Corsair RM450 is dead silent and sturdy as well.

shalan wrote:
Case Fan: Noctua 140mm Premium Quiet Cooling Fan NF-A14 FLX

- Surely, you are not unaware that NF-A14 FLX is a "3-pin voltage-contolled" fan whereas the Asrock B85m-ITX has "4-pin PWM-controlled" fan header? You would better go with Noctua NF-A14 PWM.

shalan wrote:
Would you recommend that I stick with the stock CPU Cooler?

- Definitely. It is quite usable. I even thought that there is no need to replace it with Arctic Freezer 11 LP in my HTPC because it is not that noisy when I'm 2-3 meters away from it. Find out first how noisy it is to your ears.

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Last edited by ggumdol on Tue Nov 19, 2013 8:53 am, edited 4 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 8:37 am 
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shalan wrote:
Lastly, I've decided against the PicoPSU option :( . I really wanted it in this build, but I used the OuterVision PSU Calculator (http://www.extreme.outervision.com/PSUEngine) using their recommended 90% CPU utilisation, and it calculated that I would need a PSU rated with a minimum of 180W, but recommended 230W. Plus, I'll need to allow for any minor additions to the PC: USB devices that may need power, etc.... Would you recommend that I stick with the stock CPU Cooler?

The PSU you chose seems fine, but the reason for it is not quite right. All those power calculators overestimate real world needs. Take a look at the power consumed by the system in our i7-4770k review: 119W DC max P95+Furmark, 78W DC TMPGEnc -- and this is with a GeForce9400 graphics card that has a TDP of 50W. In your system usage, it looks like exceeding 100W would be virtually impossible.

As for the cooler, yeah you could go with the stock cooler and see if it's ok for you... but why bother? Every one of the aftermarket coolers mentioned by boost offers better, quieter performance -- and requires back of board access. ie, best mounted before the system is fully installed.

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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 8:58 am 
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MikeC wrote:
The PSU you chose seems fine, but the reason for it is not quite right. All those power calculators overestimate real world needs. Take a look at the power consumed by the system in our i7-4770k review: 119W DC max P95+Furmark, 78W DC TMPGEnc -- and this is with a GeForce9400 graphics card that has a TDP of 50W. In your system usage, it looks like exceeding 100W would be virtually impossible.

I think you are completely right but people tend to opt for some sort of head room for future upgradability and it can be psychologically stifling to push everything into the corner.

MikeC wrote:
As for the cooler, yeah you could go with the stock cooler and see if it's ok for you... but why bother? Every one of the aftermarket coolers mentioned by boost offers better, quieter performance -- and requires back of board access. ie, best mounted before the system is fully installed.

That's why I recommended Lian Li PC-Q27, which is one of the rare chassis having easy (both) side panel installation mechanism.

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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 4:23 pm 
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boost wrote:
There are a handfull of good coolers that size

Thanks boost, though the only cooler you've mentioned that is available here, is the Scythe Big Shuriken 2 Rev.B
EDIT: The Noctua NH-L12 is available here, but at more than double the price of the Scythe.

ggumdol wrote:
Surely, you are not unaware that NF-A14 FLX is a "3-pin voltage-contolled" fan whereas the Asrock B85m-ITX has "4-pin PWM-controlled" fan header? You would better go with Noctua NF-A14 PWM.

:oops: Didn't catch that...thanks! The Noctuas aren't common with any of our retailers here in South Africa, so I have to settle on a 120mm equivalent (Noctua NF-F12 PWM), or find something else that's similar.

MikeC wrote:
In your system usage, it looks like exceeding 100W would be virtually impossible.

ggumdol wrote:
I fully support your decision on PSU. Corsair RM450 is dead silent and sturdy as well.

PicoPSU would certainly be dead silent (fanless). I was truly under the impression (outervision calculator) that the combined wattage of my proposed components would be too much for the PicoPSU. This honestly is a first prize for me in terms of a PSU goes ... is this a viable option, or should I just throw that thought away?


Last edited by shalan on Tue Nov 19, 2013 4:30 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 4:26 pm 
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ggumdol wrote:
My i5-4430 in "full load state" consumes no more than 34W

gguumdol, what's your usage like? Running any VMs, or demanding software?


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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 4:56 pm 
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shalan wrote:
MikeC wrote:
In your system usage, it looks like exceeding 100W would be virtually impossible.

ggumdol wrote:
I fully support your decision on PSU. Corsair RM450 is dead silent and sturdy as well.

PicoPSU would certainly be dead silent (fanless). I was truly under the impression (outervision calculator) that the combined wattage of my proposed components would be too much for the PicoPSU. This honestly is a first prize for me in terms of a PSU goes ... is this a viable option, or should I just throw that thought away?

Examine the page on power (with i7-4770 linked before) -- you'll see that during video encoding, the system drew 78W DC. You presumably will never run P95+Furmark the way we do just to torture-stress the system & for comparable power info. That's when we hit something like 130W DC, which is still deliverable with a picoPSU + the right adapter; ie, an adapter rated for >130W DC output. mini-box.com's picoPSU-150-XT + their 150w AC-DC Power Adapter, 12v 12.5A should do you fine. You will also have to consider what kind of wiring harness you need. The combo will run ~$100, which probably isn't far from what you'd pay for a good 450W PSU. The wiring considerations make a picoPSU fussier than a standard PSU.

In any case, the real difference between this and a very quiet PSU (one whose fan does not start up till >100W) is small. The biggest difference might be the additional space for the CPU heatsink & fan to breathe better, probably run its fan slower.

You could also consider a small SFX PSU with an adapter plate, like that sold by Silverstone, which would give you a little more room for the CPU heatsink/fan than a full ATX PSU. Silverstone says their 300W Broze 80+ SFX PSU has a fan that does not start till higher load -- don't know just how high though.

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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 1:39 am 
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shalan wrote:
ggumdol wrote:
My i5-4430 in "full load state" consumes no more than 34W

gguumdol, what's your usage like? Running any VMs, or demanding software?


Once again, I will leave it to you to make the best decision. I'm only aiding in making informed decision and won't persuade anyone to buy certain products. For your information, though I'm running Windows 7 on VirtualBox where the host machine is Windows 8.1, I don't often run CPU intensive tasks and my main rig hasn't ever felt slow to me.

Let me just reiterate this: I think your proposed system can cope with i7-4770 but performance gain of i7's hyperthreading (which is estimated to be only 20-30%) comes at the cost of drastically increased heat emission. Just have a look at the following result to compare i5-4430 and i7-4770K:

http://uk.hardware.info/reviews/4437/38/intel-core-i7-4770k--core-i5-4670k--core-i5-4430-review-haswell-test-energy-consumption-igpu-cinebench-115-max

i5-4430 : 72.1W
i7-4770K : 94.6W
i7-2600K : 117W

Having said that, even top-end Haswell models are far superior to Sandy bridge equivalent, i.e., i7-2600K. My conclusion (if I must make it) is that, in light of my experience with i7-2600, your configuration can surely cope with i7-4770 but you may need to spend extra money, i.e., high-tier aftermarket CPU coolers, to quieten i7-4770. It will be considerably easier to cool the likes of i5-4430 in such space-constrained mini-ITX chassis.

When it comes to the choice between ATX PSU or PicoPSU, I concur with MikeC in overall but THE "Silverstone 300W Broze 80+ SFX PSU" (ST30SF) has been reported to be generating coil whining in an Amazon (US) review. As I said before, SFX PSU market is still immature. I haven't used PicoPSU in my rig ever and I'm not even planning to use them in the foreseeable future but there are a plethora of dead silent ATX PSUs to be reckoned with such as Corsair RM.

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 Post subject: Re: Low Power mini-itx "Workstation"
PostPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:29 pm 
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Since hardware availability is a key issue, I'd suggest that instead of building a completely new system that you reuse as much as possible and move to a smaller setup.

If your Xeon is a V2, check out the AsRock Z77E-itx board as you can reusue the current memory and CPU along with your working video card.

The board also includes an M-SATA port and I'd suggest if you need it, a 64GB Plextor M5 SSD http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6820249029 for use as your boot drive.

As to the case, I've been looking at the Cooler Master Elite 120 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6811119261 due to some very nice features as it should remain cool in your climate. The only other thing I would recomend is get a good battery backup with votage stabilization to run the system and monitor.

Mike_C: Some good points about the PSU but I'd simply look at something like an 80+ 300w PSU (what ever is available locally) in a standard ATX - the case I've suggested will handle it fine.

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