Advice Updating Older Silent PC

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readk
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Joined: Tue Jan 02, 2007 11:10 am

Advice Updating Older Silent PC

Post by readk » Mon Nov 14, 2011 9:05 pm

Hey everyone,

For the last 2 years I have been extremely happy with my completely fanless, passively cooled, silent gaming PC build. It's been on every day all day and I've never had any problems. I consider it one of my greatest victories!

But now it's starting to show it's age especially while gaming. It's run out of hard drive space - I just tried to install a few games that were 40+ gigs EACH! When I built this rig it let me play WoW and games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, but now I'm looking to the future with games like Skyrim ;) My CPU and video card are definitely getting too old.

I haven't been keeping up to date with the latest hardware so I thought I would post the specs of my machine circa Jan 2010 and see if anyone would like to offer some advice for upgrading this beast without blowing my power budget. Current machine idles at about 85 watts and peaks around 115-120w on my meter while gaming, I can get up to about 130w but only by running a burn-in.

150w PicoPSU
AMD X4 605e 45w
75GB IBM SSD
4GB (2x2gb) 1.35w Memory
Gigabyte GA-790XTA-UD4
Powercolor Fanless "Go Green" Radeon 5750


Where do I go from here?

quest_for_silence
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Re: Advice Updating Older Silent PC

Post by quest_for_silence » Tue Nov 15, 2011 12:37 am

readk wrote:Where do I go from here?

Assuming you want to mantain a completely fanless system, with reference to the GPU, nowhere: sure, there's the PowerColor 6850 which is way more powerful, but it runs really much hotter than the 5750 (it draws 50-60W more alone on load), so it can't run onto your Pico and moreover it isn't advisable to let it dump so much heat in a completely fanless system.

With reference to the CPU, still almost nowhere: surely you can't upgrade it with a higher frequency Phenom II (X2 or X4) without get rid of your Pico 150.
If your motherboard is decent (I don't know it), you could have some gain for free, overclocking the CPU with a modest power investment (around 25-30W DC) up to 3-3,1GHz, but you would be at you PSU limit.
Using a faster Athlon II X2 would need more power and YMMV (an old 3GHz X2 250 is already about 25-30W more on load than your 605e): just if your board isn't good at oc'ing, it might somewhat worth to use a faster Athlon II X2 250e for a small amount of money (assuming your games don't requires four cores).

IMO it should be a better move to swap the whole combo: a dual core 65W Sandy Bridge system, like an H61 paired with a Core i3 2120, would work good, but I don't know how much gain you would have at gaming while upgrading just the CPU (providing you can't swap the current 50W GPU for a 110W DC 6850).
Neverthelss it should be very noticeable with reference to a 2,3GHz Athlon II, but in order to evaluate this possible gain, I think that we do need some more details about your habits, or that you should give a read to more gaming oriented reviews of the Core i3.
Perhaps, for an higher expense, you could also use an 80W Xeon E3-1230, or a Core i5 2400, in order to get an higher gain over the Core i3 (the unlocked Core i5 2500K would be useless due to your current power limit: you won't have enough headroom to oc it), but then you'd still approach your upper power limit.

To say, you could have more liberty if you can swap the Pico 150 for some ~200W similar PSU: but definitely it wouldn't make sense to me, when you could have a 400W fanless PSU like the Seasonic X for not too much more money (providing you have the room for it).

Eventually, for the storage space there's plenty of (expensive) choices (assuming you will mantain a no-moving-part approach): maybe a 256GB Crucial M4 could be the preferred option.
Regards,
Luca

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boost
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Re: Advice Updating Older Silent PC

Post by boost » Tue Nov 15, 2011 2:27 am

Right now your system is as good as you can do completely fanless within the power envelope. Components are well chosen and it works. An upgrade of any single component won't get you anywhere.
Sandy Bridge CPUs are more power efficient, but there is currently no graphics card that can be run fanless that would be worth upgrading from a 5750. Right now an upgrade to another completely fanless system will get you nowhere, sorry.
In march Intel will bring out 22nm Ivy Bridge CPUs i-5/7-3xxx which should be even more power efficient than current Sandy Bridge i5/7-2xxx. Around the same time both nVidia and AMD should (no guarantees here, there could still be manufacturing hiccups) bring out their new graphic cards based on TSMC's 28nm process which, again should be more power efficient than current ones. Think 6850-6870 speed with 5750 power draw.
For a completely fanless setup I'd wait on these.

However, Skyrim is out NOW (and SWTOR will be before Xmas).
A stopgap solution might be to upgrade to a Seasonic 400/460W fanless PSU now and get a (used) GTX 460 or 5850. These are the fastest card that shouldn't be too limited by the CPU. You can cool them with an Arctic Cooling Acccelero Twin Turbo II/Pro easily but not fanless. If you can find a Thermalright Spitfire, you might be able to cool a 5850 passively, but that's only advisable if you use (and find!) a VRM 3/5 cooler. Unless you don't mind the graphics card giving out just after the new ones come out. Thermalright stopped making VGA coolers, so you will only find remainders or used ones.
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readk
Posts: 58
Joined: Tue Jan 02, 2007 11:10 am

Re: Advice Updating Older Silent PC

Post by readk » Tue Nov 15, 2011 10:41 pm

Well thanks everyone for the advice. After some research I really agree. The 5750 is still the king of low power video, and I'm not sure I would notice just a CPU bump. So I'm going to wait another 3-6 months and see what's on the horizon.

I figure that if I was building from scratch today though, I would run an i5 2500T processor and a Radeon 6850. I think that I could squeeze this into 200W which although too much for my Pico, I could pull out of something like an M4-ATX and a hacked up power brick such as the one from the xbox 360. This is a bit more ambitious than my last build but I think still doable with all passive cooling and an external PS, I figure it would run at around 175w when gaming and not much more heat output than I make right now.

Maybe if I have $1500 to burn in the new year :/

CA_Steve
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Re: Advice Updating Older Silent PC

Post by CA_Steve » Wed Nov 16, 2011 8:31 am

A couple of comments and questions...

Don't get a 2500T for a gaming box - while the TDP is sexy, the clock rate is seriously nerfed to get there and it will impact gaming performance. Get the 2500K instead. Idle power will be similar to the 2500T and you'll have the horsepower when you need it.

Games like Skyrim rely heavily upon CPU. If you aren't GPU limited, the fps increases linearly with CPU clock rate.

-> What's your monitor resolution? That'll determine how far you need to go with the GPU.
-> What's your goals? lowest power possible? playing games at ultra quality levels? price point? etc...

Skyrim *might* be playable with your current system. Dial down the picture quality to medium and the 5750 will hack it. The x4 605e clock speed will be the fps limiter.

Cheapest path:
As others have said, any upgrade now means replacing the pico PSU with another supply. You can pick up a Seasonic x-650 for $100 right now at Newegg. Overkill, but nice price, high efficiency, and silent at your power use.

Replace your CPU with a x2 Regor, x3 Rana or x4 Propus @ 3GHz+ and you have a nice speed bump for $70 to 100. Your mobo supports the wide range of AM3 CPUs.

Live with your current SSD space limit (swapping older games onto a HDD) and you are prolly good to go for now at lesser picture quality for $170-200.

Step 2:
Upgrade the GPU. Take a look at game benchmarks and figure out how much horsepower you want vs picture quality vs fps vs cost vs noise. :D Probably <$200 unless you want to throw a lot of heat/power at it.

Step 3:
Spend the bucks for a 128GB SSD when you just don't have the space you need on your current SSD. ~$200.

Step 4:
Now consider a replacement CPU/mobo when the above steps aren't getting you your fps. The only thing you would be tossing is the $70-100 spent on the AMD upgrade. You probably won't need to consider this for a year or more. Then you can go with a mature Ivy Bridge or even Haswell.
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quest_for_silence
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Re: Advice Updating Older Silent PC

Post by quest_for_silence » Wed Nov 16, 2011 12:27 pm

CA_Steve wrote:Replace your CPU with a x2 Regor, x3 Rana or x4 Propus @ 3GHz+ and you have a nice speed bump for $70 to 100. Your mobo supports the wide range of AM3 CPUs.

Up to 3.1GHz replacing his current CPU is totally useless, as he has just to overclock it to that frequency (with a lower voltage than a regular Propus).
Regards,
Luca

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CA_Steve
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Re: Advice Updating Older Silent PC

Post by CA_Steve » Thu Nov 17, 2011 6:39 pm

Haven't seen an x4 605e overclock result posted anywhere. I wonder what it can do.
1080p Gaming build: i5-4670K, Mugen 4, Asrock Z97 Anniversary, MSI GTX 1660 Gaming X, 8GB 1866 RAM, Samsung 860 Evo 500GB, Crucial MX100 256GB, WD Red 2TB, Samsung DVD burner, Fractal Define R4, Antec True Quiet 140 (2 front + rear) case fans, Seasonic SSR-550FX. 35W idle, 45-55W video streaming, 170-200W WoW, 318W stress test (Prime95 + Furmark)

quest_for_silence
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Location: ITALY

Re: Advice Updating Older Silent PC

Post by quest_for_silence » Fri Nov 18, 2011 2:32 pm

CA_Steve wrote:Haven't seen an x4 605e overclock result posted anywhere. I wonder what it can do.
I have one but running off an IGP: so I think I can't help.
There's also something on the german site Au-Ja, even if I think it should be also off an IGP (but check personally).
Regards,
Luca

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