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[Build Log] Simple microATX gaming system (Define Mini, HR-02, GTX 680)

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
The following is the build log of my latest PC smile.gif. A gaming / sysadmin / video encoding / development PC in a microATX form-factor, to complement an iPad.

This build is nothing special, don't expect sophistication here wink.gif. That's the whole point, actually (see Components). I'm posting here just in case anyone is interested. I know I'm always curious about other people's builds, even when they're not built into a desk biggrin.gif.

Background

In the past three years, I've been through a lot of configurations, both custom and pre-built (Macs). I cannot settle, always aiming for perfection, though always finding imperfections, blowing a lot a money in the process redface.gif. Yet I strongly enjoy every single piece of hardware and feel like getting closer to the perfect system (and more general network setup) with each new build or device. To keep it short:
  • I once built a watercooled FT-02-based PC,
  • then switched to MacBook Pro,
  • later replaced with MacBook Air and a Thunderbolt Display,
  • to finally end up with an iPad (3rd gen with the fantastic Retina display) thumb.gif.

The iPad was the single best decision I've made over this rollercoaster ride. The hardware quality and usage sensations are unmatched. Over a month later, it still triggers rushes of endorphin in me thanks to the smooth and crisp diplay and general neatness of the machine. I won't go into details, one has to try it to get a grasp of the feeling. It truly deserves the adjective "Amazing".

The tablet doesn't cover the whole span of my home IT needs through. I still need a full blown PC for:
  • gaming: FPS (BF, CoD) and strategy (Anno 2070) games,
  • video re-encoding: downscaling before archiving to DVD-Rs (external DVD burner),
  • a bit of sysadmin and tinkering with the latest open-source goodness.

Current status

7WMT5l.jpg ctfoDl.jpg
(The blue cable toward the right is the front panel USB 3.0 port cable that's not plugged in yet: see update from 5 May 2012.)

Components

Drawing inspiration from past failures (custom builds) and wrong choices (Macs), I decided to do this one right. No budget limit, yet no overexpense I will regret later. Nothing fancy esthetically (ugly stickers, gimmicky heatsinks, assorted logos), or complicated cooling (watercooling). Just simple, plain, no-frills, durable components:

iZfkTl.jpg 2bIBgl.jpg
(Waiting for more parts at the moment. Pending: CPU, PSU, monitor.)

Case: Fractal Design Define Mini

I once had a Define R2. The build quality was more than fair for the price. Stunning design, flexible internals, okay acoustics. Two years later, I can't find an ITX or microATX case that satisfies all my OCDs as much as the Define Mini which is heavily inspired by the good old R2. This SPCR review sealed the deal biggrin.gif.

2bIBgl.jpg eD2NQl.jpg wcC2Ll.jpg

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Q67M-D2H-B3

This was one of the toughest choices. I need VT-d capability for Xen or KVM PCI passthrough in order to expose the graphics card to a Windows VM for gaming purposes. Depending on the motherboard manufacturers, support is uncertain in chipsets other than Q67. It is guaranteed in this Gigabyte. See this excellent thread for details.

xENcml.jpg OvHuGl.jpg QszRal.jpg
(All pins in good shape: phew!)

CPU: Intel Core i7-2600

gRl8g.jpg QbBRK.jpg

Non-K series support VT-d. With HyperThread, 8 cores are exposed to the OS, making it possible to allocate 7 of them to a Windows VM while gaming, leaving one for Linux in the background. No overclocking, obviously -- fair enough tradeoff in this scenario.

The HD2000 will be dedicated to Linux, while the graphics card will be dedicated to Windows VMs. As a result, the bigger GPU will be turned on and consuming power only for the duration of gaming sessions.

CPU cooling: Thermalright HR-02

Efficient enough for fanless operation. It used to cool an i7 980X at 4.2 GHz, fanless, with < 70-80°C temps. Surely it can handle a mere, stock 95W CPU.

vdRjS.jpg iWtC1.jpg BbrNJ.jpg

It's not in pristine condition, coming from an older build. I scratched the down-facing side of the bottom fin while attempting to attach a fan, 4 times (all 4 holes) rolleyes.gif. Forgetting these scratches exist -- even though I never see them -- is not easy at all. As silly as it sounds, using (or worse, buying) another cooler just for this reason is even sillier. This one will have to do:

V8kWD.jpg nAS6a.jpg

RAM: Corsair XMS3 - 16 GB

Plain looking heatspreaders; Corsair warranty; 4 sticks to fill all available slots; matching 1333 MHz stock speed; bargain (€67 or ~$89 -- good price in France smile.gif).

v5dc3l.jpg

GPU: EVGA GTX 680

(Waiting for it.)

I initially bought an ASUS Radeon HD7970 DirectCU II because of the apparent lack of difficulties for PCI passthrough (being an AMD chip); beefy air-cooling; robust-, clean-looking; more mature open-source Linux drivers.

JZwVEl.jpg ETRy2l.jpg

Unfortunately, issues came up shortly after mounting it:
  • Covers the top row of SATA ports, the only 6 Gbits/s ones. A right angle connector doesn't fit underneath the card. I had to plug the SSD into a 3 Gbits/s port. I should have anticipated this rolleyes.gif.
  • Artifacts (may not be the proper term): I'm almost certain the card is the culprit. ASUS "support" didn't help at all mad.gif.
  • Once it stops sending a signal to the display, it won't send a proper signal again. The result is that once the display goes into sleep, it won't wake up. Restart required. Same thing under both Windows and Linux. Other people have the same problem on the AMD forums. No one from AMD has answered.
  • A few days later, I learned that card had been stolen by the seller I bought it from, now the police is investigating and I may not get to keep it (and a refund still up in the air at this point mad.gif).

Frustration built up. After years of ATi/AMD, it's time to check out what nVidia have to offer. I ordered a GTX 680 from EVGA (vanilla) on their Europe webstore while the stock lasted (2 hours). Added benefits: allegedly polished drivers under both Windows and Linux. I hope it won't be difficult to pass through to a Windows VM.

SSD: Intel 520 - 120 GB

Intel reliability; 5-year warranty; strong performance; plain design.

71jEEl.jpg

PSU: Seasonic X-560

(Waiting for it to arrive.)

I used to love a past Corsair HX850: absolutely silent, no troubles; until I butchered its cables trying to sleeve them. Switching to an AX1200 was a major disappointment (clearly audible electronics buzz). Though Corsair's RMA has been brilliant, buzzes persisted in the replacement unit. This time was an opportunity to switch to another PSU manufacturer I've always had a good feeling (and read all-positive reviews) about: Seasonic. 560W seems like a good balance for a stock 95W CPU, stock ~195W GPU.

Monitor: Samsung S23A750D

(Pictures to come.)

I initially bought a BenQ XL2420T after extended research. Unfortunately, when it arrived, I immediately noticed a dead pixel in the middle of the screen. Less importantly, but noteworthy: it left me unimpressed with the colors (adjusted from stock), depth of blacks, viewing angles, and I didn't manage to choose 1080p@120 Hz. I returned it and bought a Samsung S23A750D.

It's night and day between the Samsung and the BenQ. No dead pixels for one thing. All shiny and glossy (for the better) bringing vibrant colors, deep blacks, unfettered whites (no matte coating), zero-config 120 Hz. Extremely happy with this purchase. Finally a monitor I like (love)!

22 April 2012

One week has passed since orders for all parts have been placed. Above are pictures of those I have received so far. Always exciting, having parts trickle home biggrin.gif.

23 April 2012

The i7-2600 arrived today. Second hand from a nice german seller on eBay, impeccably packed (pictures above).

5 May 2012

Bad luck... See the Monitor and Graphics card sections.

In addition, something I should have anticipated: no USB 3.0 support on the motherboard, whereas the case has a front panel USB 3.0 port that should be connected to an internal 20-pin header. I bought a PCI-E USB 3.0 adapter with only an internal header.

I'm waiting for the USB 3.0 adapter, GTX 680 and verdict regarding the artifacts, before adding more pictures.

Regardless of these bumps in the road, I'm happy with what I've seen out if this PC so far:
  • Beautiful picture quality. Eye-soothing 120 Hz smoothness.
  • Very enjoyable gaming experience: BF3, CoD: Black Ops and Anno 2070 so far.
  • Really fast compile times in Linux. The 8 threads shine with make -j8, especially off a tmpfs.
  • 16 GB of RAM is a treat, gives me peace of mind and flexibility when assigning tmpfs partitions and while allocating RAM for VMs.
  • All in silence.

Edited by Roman2K - 5/6/12 at 5:46am
    
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core i7-2600 Gigabyte GA-Z77MX-D3H Sapphire Radeon HD 7970 Corsair XMS3 (16 GB) 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
Intel 330 (180 GB) × 2 Thermalright HR-02 Windows 7 BenQ XL2420T 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Xenta Super Compact Wireless UK Keyboard Seasonic X-560 Fractal Design Define Mini Roccat Pyra 
  hide details  
Reply
    
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core i7-2600 Gigabyte GA-Z77MX-D3H Sapphire Radeon HD 7970 Corsair XMS3 (16 GB) 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
Intel 330 (180 GB) × 2 Thermalright HR-02 Windows 7 BenQ XL2420T 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Xenta Super Compact Wireless UK Keyboard Seasonic X-560 Fractal Design Define Mini Roccat Pyra 
  hide details  
Reply
post #2 of 13
Nice job!
    
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Core i7 920 4ghz 1.25v Evga Classified E760/E762 Evga Gtx 480 + Galaxy GTX 480 SLI 6GB Corsair Dominator GT 1600mhz 
Hard DriveOSMonitorKeyboard
Crucial C300 256Gb, Samsung 7200rpm 320gb, 2x W... Windows 7 64-bit Home premium Dell U2410 1920x1200 Wireless Logitech 
PowerCaseMouseMouse Pad
Antec Quatro 1200w Corsair 800D Razer Death Adder Office Depot thingy 
AudioAudio
Asus Xonar STX Sennheiser HD555's 
  hide details  
Reply
    
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Core i7 920 4ghz 1.25v Evga Classified E760/E762 Evga Gtx 480 + Galaxy GTX 480 SLI 6GB Corsair Dominator GT 1600mhz 
Hard DriveOSMonitorKeyboard
Crucial C300 256Gb, Samsung 7200rpm 320gb, 2x W... Windows 7 64-bit Home premium Dell U2410 1920x1200 Wireless Logitech 
PowerCaseMouseMouse Pad
Antec Quatro 1200w Corsair 800D Razer Death Adder Office Depot thingy 
AudioAudio
Asus Xonar STX Sennheiser HD555's 
  hide details  
Reply
post #3 of 13
Awesome, looking forward to more updates biggrin.gif
CHILZ - Lan Rig
(17 items)
 
CANARY - Main Rig
(16 items)
 
CADILLAC - HTPC
(14 items)
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel i5-4570s Asus H97M-Plus AMD R9 280 G.Skill RipjawsX 16 GB (2x8) 
Hard DriveHard DriveHard DriveCooling
250 GB Samsung 840 240 GB Kingston 3 TB USB 3.0 Drive Custom Loop 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 10 Preview BenQ GL2450 Filco MajesTouch2 Ninja PC P&C Silencer Mk III 600 W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Fractal Design Core 1000 Mionix Castor Monoprice XXL JL Amps + Custom Morel Bookshelf speakers 
Other
Scythe Kama-Panel 3 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
FX-8150 @ 4.6 GHz Fatal1ty 990FX Pro 9800 GTX+ 512 MB G.Skill Ripjaws X 1866 CL9 
Hard DriveHard DriveCoolingOS
120 GB OCZ Vertex 3 1 TB WD Black 5x 120mm + MCP350 + EK Supreme HF + MicroRes Windows 8 Consumer Preview 
MonitorKeyboardPowerCase
2x Dell U2212HM Logitech G110 Cooler Master 850W Silent Pro Cooler Master 690 II Adv. 
MouseMouse PadAudio
Razer Death Adder 3.5G Staples Gel Cushion Asus Xonar DG + Senn. PC333D 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Q6600 Acer X1800 ATI 5670 2 GB Kingston 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSMonitor
2 TB WD Green Asus BD-R Windows 7 Home Premium Sony 50" LCD 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Acer Media 220 W SFF Acer X1800 Acer Optical 
Mouse PadAudio
The TV cabinet Denon 2808 7.1 AVR + Dahlquist 350W 8" Sub + Kl... 
  hide details  
Reply
CHILZ - Lan Rig
(17 items)
 
CANARY - Main Rig
(16 items)
 
CADILLAC - HTPC
(14 items)
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel i5-4570s Asus H97M-Plus AMD R9 280 G.Skill RipjawsX 16 GB (2x8) 
Hard DriveHard DriveHard DriveCooling
250 GB Samsung 840 240 GB Kingston 3 TB USB 3.0 Drive Custom Loop 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 10 Preview BenQ GL2450 Filco MajesTouch2 Ninja PC P&C Silencer Mk III 600 W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Fractal Design Core 1000 Mionix Castor Monoprice XXL JL Amps + Custom Morel Bookshelf speakers 
Other
Scythe Kama-Panel 3 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
FX-8150 @ 4.6 GHz Fatal1ty 990FX Pro 9800 GTX+ 512 MB G.Skill Ripjaws X 1866 CL9 
Hard DriveHard DriveCoolingOS
120 GB OCZ Vertex 3 1 TB WD Black 5x 120mm + MCP350 + EK Supreme HF + MicroRes Windows 8 Consumer Preview 
MonitorKeyboardPowerCase
2x Dell U2212HM Logitech G110 Cooler Master 850W Silent Pro Cooler Master 690 II Adv. 
MouseMouse PadAudio
Razer Death Adder 3.5G Staples Gel Cushion Asus Xonar DG + Senn. PC333D 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Q6600 Acer X1800 ATI 5670 2 GB Kingston 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSMonitor
2 TB WD Green Asus BD-R Windows 7 Home Premium Sony 50" LCD 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Acer Media 220 W SFF Acer X1800 Acer Optical 
Mouse PadAudio
The TV cabinet Denon 2808 7.1 AVR + Dahlquist 350W 8" Sub + Kl... 
  hide details  
Reply
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
@Willanhanyard & axipher
Thank you both! smile.gif
    
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core i7-2600 Gigabyte GA-Z77MX-D3H Sapphire Radeon HD 7970 Corsair XMS3 (16 GB) 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
Intel 330 (180 GB) × 2 Thermalright HR-02 Windows 7 BenQ XL2420T 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Xenta Super Compact Wireless UK Keyboard Seasonic X-560 Fractal Design Define Mini Roccat Pyra 
  hide details  
Reply
    
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core i7-2600 Gigabyte GA-Z77MX-D3H Sapphire Radeon HD 7970 Corsair XMS3 (16 GB) 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
Intel 330 (180 GB) × 2 Thermalright HR-02 Windows 7 BenQ XL2420T 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Xenta Super Compact Wireless UK Keyboard Seasonic X-560 Fractal Design Define Mini Roccat Pyra 
  hide details  
Reply
post #5 of 13
No problem, once it's together, I'll be sure to help with any questions and give some feed back biggrin.gif
CHILZ - Lan Rig
(17 items)
 
CANARY - Main Rig
(16 items)
 
CADILLAC - HTPC
(14 items)
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel i5-4570s Asus H97M-Plus AMD R9 280 G.Skill RipjawsX 16 GB (2x8) 
Hard DriveHard DriveHard DriveCooling
250 GB Samsung 840 240 GB Kingston 3 TB USB 3.0 Drive Custom Loop 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 10 Preview BenQ GL2450 Filco MajesTouch2 Ninja PC P&C Silencer Mk III 600 W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Fractal Design Core 1000 Mionix Castor Monoprice XXL JL Amps + Custom Morel Bookshelf speakers 
Other
Scythe Kama-Panel 3 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
FX-8150 @ 4.6 GHz Fatal1ty 990FX Pro 9800 GTX+ 512 MB G.Skill Ripjaws X 1866 CL9 
Hard DriveHard DriveCoolingOS
120 GB OCZ Vertex 3 1 TB WD Black 5x 120mm + MCP350 + EK Supreme HF + MicroRes Windows 8 Consumer Preview 
MonitorKeyboardPowerCase
2x Dell U2212HM Logitech G110 Cooler Master 850W Silent Pro Cooler Master 690 II Adv. 
MouseMouse PadAudio
Razer Death Adder 3.5G Staples Gel Cushion Asus Xonar DG + Senn. PC333D 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Q6600 Acer X1800 ATI 5670 2 GB Kingston 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSMonitor
2 TB WD Green Asus BD-R Windows 7 Home Premium Sony 50" LCD 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Acer Media 220 W SFF Acer X1800 Acer Optical 
Mouse PadAudio
The TV cabinet Denon 2808 7.1 AVR + Dahlquist 350W 8" Sub + Kl... 
  hide details  
Reply
CHILZ - Lan Rig
(17 items)
 
CANARY - Main Rig
(16 items)
 
CADILLAC - HTPC
(14 items)
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel i5-4570s Asus H97M-Plus AMD R9 280 G.Skill RipjawsX 16 GB (2x8) 
Hard DriveHard DriveHard DriveCooling
250 GB Samsung 840 240 GB Kingston 3 TB USB 3.0 Drive Custom Loop 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 10 Preview BenQ GL2450 Filco MajesTouch2 Ninja PC P&C Silencer Mk III 600 W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Fractal Design Core 1000 Mionix Castor Monoprice XXL JL Amps + Custom Morel Bookshelf speakers 
Other
Scythe Kama-Panel 3 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
FX-8150 @ 4.6 GHz Fatal1ty 990FX Pro 9800 GTX+ 512 MB G.Skill Ripjaws X 1866 CL9 
Hard DriveHard DriveCoolingOS
120 GB OCZ Vertex 3 1 TB WD Black 5x 120mm + MCP350 + EK Supreme HF + MicroRes Windows 8 Consumer Preview 
MonitorKeyboardPowerCase
2x Dell U2212HM Logitech G110 Cooler Master 850W Silent Pro Cooler Master 690 II Adv. 
MouseMouse PadAudio
Razer Death Adder 3.5G Staples Gel Cushion Asus Xonar DG + Senn. PC333D 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Q6600 Acer X1800 ATI 5670 2 GB Kingston 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSMonitor
2 TB WD Green Asus BD-R Windows 7 Home Premium Sony 50" LCD 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Acer Media 220 W SFF Acer X1800 Acer Optical 
Mouse PadAudio
The TV cabinet Denon 2808 7.1 AVR + Dahlquist 350W 8" Sub + Kl... 
  hide details  
Reply
post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by axipher View Post

No problem, once it's together, I'll be sure to help with any questions and give some feed back biggrin.gif

I appreciate it wink.gif.

I'll have to check out all your rigs tomorrow. You even got a desk one, can't miss that biggrin.gif.
Edited by Roman2K - 4/21/12 at 6:09pm
    
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core i7-2600 Gigabyte GA-Z77MX-D3H Sapphire Radeon HD 7970 Corsair XMS3 (16 GB) 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
Intel 330 (180 GB) × 2 Thermalright HR-02 Windows 7 BenQ XL2420T 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Xenta Super Compact Wireless UK Keyboard Seasonic X-560 Fractal Design Define Mini Roccat Pyra 
  hide details  
Reply
    
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core i7-2600 Gigabyte GA-Z77MX-D3H Sapphire Radeon HD 7970 Corsair XMS3 (16 GB) 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
Intel 330 (180 GB) × 2 Thermalright HR-02 Windows 7 BenQ XL2420T 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Xenta Super Compact Wireless UK Keyboard Seasonic X-560 Fractal Design Define Mini Roccat Pyra 
  hide details  
Reply
post #7 of 13
Cant wait to see that beastly cooler inside that case biggrin.gif
    
CPUGraphicsRAMHard Drive
i5-2410M @ 2.9ghz Nvidia GT 540M 1GB DDR3 4GB DDR3 1333mhz 500GB 5400rpm 
OSMonitorPowerCase
Win 7 Home 64 1366x768 gloss 90w power brick Acer 
  hide details  
Reply
    
CPUGraphicsRAMHard Drive
i5-2410M @ 2.9ghz Nvidia GT 540M 1GB DDR3 4GB DDR3 1333mhz 500GB 5400rpm 
OSMonitorPowerCase
Win 7 Home 64 1366x768 gloss 90w power brick Acer 
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Reply
post #8 of 13
would have gone with a TJ08-E personally, but the mini is also a nice choice. would be a fairly beastly yet quiet machine either way. would also recommend you look into 8 gig sticks instead of 4 gig sticks. more future expandability if you decide to get into vid editing and better thermal solution in the mean time.
post #9 of 13
If they made a white define mini, that would have been the mATX case for me! Keep the pics coming! smile.gif
    
CPUGraphicsRAMHard Drive
Intel Core i7 6700HQ nVidia GTX 965m 16GB DDR4-2133 120GB M.2.SSD 
Hard DriveOSMonitorKeyboard
480GB Crucial M500 Windows 10 Pro Dell Ultrasharp u2713hm Corsair Vengeance K70 
MouseAudio
Logitech G600 Creative T20 
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CPUGraphicsRAMHard Drive
Intel Core i7 6700HQ nVidia GTX 965m 16GB DDR4-2133 120GB M.2.SSD 
Hard DriveOSMonitorKeyboard
480GB Crucial M500 Windows 10 Pro Dell Ultrasharp u2713hm Corsair Vengeance K70 
MouseAudio
Logitech G600 Creative T20 
  hide details  
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post #10 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by staryoshi View Post

If they made a white define mini, that would have been the mATX case for me! Keep the pics coming! smile.gif

I know it's not the case you are looking for, but they do make a white PS07
420
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