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What should I use?

  • ATX motherboard and be ready for 2 GPUs (only fill 1 now)

    Votes: 1 25.0%
  • ITX motherboard, 1 GPU forever

    Votes: 3 75.0%
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I'm entering the final planning stages of my PC build for college. Before I start ordering anything, I need to answer one fundamental question about my build: Form-factor, with regards to motherboard size and GPUs.

Since it is for college, space and noise are major considerations: I'll have to move it often (once every semester + LAN parties + hackathons), and I want to be able to sleep even as my PC renders overnight (essentially benchmarking in terms of system activity).
Since one of my main uses for the PC is 3D rendering, functionality scales more or less linearly with more GPUs.

Should I use:
a) ATX motherboard & SLI-ready ATX PSU (bigger, but lets me add a second GPU before starting to replace old parts)
b) ITX motherboard & normal ATX PSU (The chipset and bios still support 2 GPUs, but there's only 1 socket for a GPU to go...)
@) I'm going to use R7 2700 so no mATX motherboards will exist for the foreseeable future (except a few B350s, which are limiting in other ways...)
!!!) There is an inexpensive way to connect 2 GPUs to one 16x PCIe slot (can be passive because mobo explicitly supports it. 8 lane speeds on each)
 

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I just helped a friend build a SFF gaming/render rig this last weekend with an i7 8700 and gtx 970 and he's happy about it. One thing to consider with multiple GPUs is that is more heat to manage which will take more fans at higher speeds, and more sound as well.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
True... Also, considering I probably won't be able to afford a second GPU in any decent capacity later in college, I'll probably go for an ITX build, as long as I can find a decent deal on the board (going for X470).
In terms of CPU cooling, what type of CPU heatsink do you recommend? Full tower? Mini-tower? Pancake?
Also, since ITX only has 2 RAM slots, I'll probably go for a 1-stick RAM kit...

I'm considering making my own case, unless I can find a good case that fits an ATX PSU (ITX PSUs are too overpriced for my tastes).
 

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If you want a reference, here is the build I did for my friend. https://pcpartpicker.com/list/DFjJnH

An ATX PSU would fit in this particular case, but I wouldn't recommend it as things were tight enough as is. Also, you will want to use 2 sticks of ram so they run in dual channel mode for the best performance.
 

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What software are you using and with which renderer? Is it GPU based?

What do you plan on rendering? For most cases, a single modern GPU will be efficient enough for most renders. Especially in college. Unless you plan on building a rendering farm to lend out to your buddies at a fee lol, I would just go for a single card for less noise & heat.

I went through my college years using a single GTX 780 for my Architectural Renders and none of them went beyond 8 hours. These were complex scenes with a lot of different lighting too (3DS Max / V-Ray). And I was rendering them at 4K for the hell of it. I can't imagine a more current GPU giving you any issues.

At the end of the day, the renderer was a little bit limited from what I remember and I mostly relied on my CPU. That's why I ask the question of which renderer do you use?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I currently use Blender's Cycles rendering engine.
It's a CPU-based slightly-biased rendering engine with Cuda and OpenCL support, and will soon have hybrid CPU+GPU rendering under its belt. It's optimized for consumer GPUs and is designed to be fast to set up. It works very well for small scenes but struggles with production-scale scenes.

In Blender's next version, my workflow will also incorporate EEVEE, a real-time rasterization engine that can work beautifully as a preview for Cycles, and even be used for final renders given a detailed enough setup.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
On a related note, I notice you used an AIO for the CPU cooling. What's your take on water cooling vs. air cooling on a SFF rendering rig? I'm leaning towards air cooling for stability purposes, but if water cooling better suits my purposes, then I'll go with that instead.
 

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I definitely recommend going for a water cooling setup mainly for one reason. Acoustics.

With a water cooling setup, you have a lot more surface area to dissipate heat. In turn, you can have 3 - 5 fans at a low RPM vs 1 or 2 at a higher RPM. In my loop, I have a single 360mm radiator for both my Sandy Bridge E CPU (100W+) & my GTX 780 (200W+). My fans are never above 1500 rpm and my temps are within the a delta range of 20-25C at load.

Of course this comes at a cost and can prove to be difficult in a small case. I've never used an AIO solution but if you go that route, I highly recommend finding a kit that is modular. I.e. the EK kits that can be expanded or customized. It's not worth the price IMO for an AIO (Corsair H100i type) vs a very good air cooler.

In a small case, unless you have a large budget, something will have to give. If you go with a mid tower, it will give you those better airflow / acoustics. I personally would trade a little flexibility / mobility for acoustics. Since you're likely to be on this PC quite often vs traveling with it.

I have a Fractal Design Meshify at it allows the most water cooling flexibility (atx mobo & 360mm raditator support) for the smallest case volume. As well, it has excellent air flow.

You can see my setup here if you're curious https://www.overclock.net/forum/18082-builds-case-mods/1671257-build-log-stridsfordon-90-cv90.html

(scroll down a couple of posts for some interior shots)
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I've looked at the EK kits, and I gotta say most of them are way out of my budget ($1500-ish for the whole computer). I think the A240 seems like a good kit (price-wise), and it's expandable to incorporate a GPU block if I need it in the future.
 

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If you go that route, just make sure in the future you're buying the EK Fluid Gaming GPU block as the loop components are aluminium. You don't want to have dissimilar metals in your loop that will induce corrosion. As well, you will probably have to buy additional fittings (which may be included with the GPU kit packages)

Also, be aware that water cooling adds more weight to a system than just an air cooler. An average high end air cooler probably weights about 500 grams i.e. https://noctua.at/en/nh-d9l/specification

Where as a water cooling kit (even made from aluminium) will add probably 2 kg factoring in the radiator, res, pump, blocks, and of course, the water.
 

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I personally drain my loop every time I move my PC (town to town), so for that reason I'd say stick with an AIO and have less to worry about. I had an H100 throughout college and never had issues moving my PC between home and school on the 2 hour trip dozens of times.
 

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To counter that, I have moved my PC (city to city, driving on the highway etc.) with my loop full and never had an issue. I've only done that a few times so I can't comment on moving it frequently (monthly?). As long as you installed your fittings correctly, the chance of failure is no different than an AIO.

With an AIO, you don't have the option to cool your GPU either. Unless you buy a second AIO or those "expandable AIO" units which are priced the same or more than the fluid series... So I can't recommend. IMO go for the EK fluid gaming / aluminum series or go air.
 

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Hi,
Really just use a AIO for an aluminum cooler a lot cheaper and still aluminum with a better warranty
Corsairs have 5 year warranties.
 
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