Hopping onto the SFF bandwagon for ~$400

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Hopping onto the SFF bandwagon for ~$400

Postposted on Thu Feb 01, 2007 7:25 pm

Well, as my birthday is about to roll around I'm thinking of spending my 18th birthday cash on something besides hookers and lottery tickets. That is to say, I am contemplating rebuilding my current PC but in a smaller form-factor. However, I am not very knowledgeable about the small form factor area of computers. I do know:
1)I would like to take this chance to switch to Core 2 Duo. I acknowledge that this will entitle new RAM and a new processor along with the new motherboard and case (and possibly power supply unit).
2)I would like to spend as close to $400 as possible.
3)I do not have a preference as to Shuttle/Barebones or µATX Desktop Case
4)I plan on retaining my current setup's hard drive, video card, and optical drives.

For the processor/RAM, I was thinking of going the cheap route with an E4300 and 1GB of DDR2 667 (a 1GB module from Kingston is $68 at the 'egg :o). The motherboard and case are entirely up in the air, and I would love some input from all you intelligent fellows.

Thanks.
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Postposted on Sat Feb 03, 2007 8:01 pm

Anyone?
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Postposted on Sat Feb 03, 2007 8:26 pm

Umm, I might be buying 2 1 gig sticks because of you. :lol:

edit. I purchased the ram (it has free shipping). I could not pass it up.
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Postposted on Sat Feb 03, 2007 10:29 pm

Hehe...enjoy it :D I'm just hoping the price stays down that low (perhaps lower!) when I go to buy my stuff.

Anywho; I've narrowed it down to two chipsets: G945 and G965. Weighing extra cost (~$30) vs. extra features (overclockability?) has me confused; and I've been unsuccessful in finding a review for any (specifically the Gigabyte boards 945GME-DS2 and 965GM-S2) of them. Anyone want to help me on this one?

Also, I've been looking around at cases and the Thermaltake Lanbox looks pretty good. A little larger than the XQ-Pack cases but the handle seems a lot firmer (compared at the local Microcenter) and it seems like a better case all around, but the extra $50 is not as yummy. Any other suggestions for cases?
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Postposted on Sat Feb 03, 2007 10:40 pm

What do YOU consider SFF?

How aesthetically pleasing would you like this system to be?

How quiet would you like this system to be and where do you plan on putting it (close by on the desk. . . . . on the floor away from you . . ???)

How many drives are you carrying over? (optical/floppy/HDD)

What other components would you be carrying over?
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Postposted on Sun Feb 04, 2007 12:36 am

I own 2 Shuttle XPCs and I highly recommend them. However on your budget a new build might be kind of tough. A barebones XPC runs $200+, once you add a CPU, Video Card, Hard Drive, DVD burner and memory you are going to clear $400 fast. You might be able to get an older used XPC in that range though.
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Postposted on Sun Feb 04, 2007 8:41 am

Until I go to college, the plan is to set the thing on the floor. But once I'm in the dorm, I don't know where it will end up as of yet. I don't need it to be silent, but quiet would be nice. I forsee that my video card will play a major part of the noise factor, as the stock fan is quite loud. I would like it to be at least mildly pleasing. It doesn't have to be "OMG THATS SO SECKSI!!11" but I don't want it to look like the rear end of a cow either.

I consider SFF to be anything mATX or smaller. :P I plan on carrying over at least 1 ODD (my DVD+/-RW burner), 1 HDD and probably a floppy drive, or if I can find one cheap enough, a floppy+card reader combo. I will also carry over my 7800GT. If I could find a good board with DDR1+2 support that would be awesome because then I could carry over my 1 GB stick of DDR400; but I do not see this as likely.

My only gripe with Shuttles is that I wouldn't be able to re-use the case and just plop down a new motherboard because they use proprietary stuff.

edit: I might end up selling my old motherboard, CPU, and RAM (probably for something like $150 or less) if my parents don't want it. That might give me some extra cash for the build, but dunno if it'll be something I'll try and set up before hand so I'll have the extra cash at buying time or later. :-/
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Postposted on Sun Feb 04, 2007 9:29 am

Let's start off simple then. From Newegg is showing me, only the VIA chipsets do the dual memory setup - throw in PCI-e and the mATX size you are looking for - . . . so from that standpoint you only really have one choice

1. - Abit IP-95 - $65 (leaving you with $329 after shipping)

If that's not what you are looking for, then we'll have to find another board. I say pick the board first, can always pick a case to go around it.
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Postposted on Sun Feb 04, 2007 9:36 am

I saw that one but I dismissed it because it doesn't support 5.1 sound for the onboard, and I do not as of yet have a dedicated sound card. Add that to the fact that I've heard a lot of bad things about VIA's chipsets from people and it didn't seem a friendly candidate. So yeah, the only options left are the intel chipsets (like the ones I listed earlier).
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Postposted on Sun Feb 04, 2007 9:46 am

Have you seen any Intel chipsets on a mATX board that have DDR and DDR2 memory slots?

VIA makes stable chipstes - not the most overclocker friendly or have the most cutting edge features, but they work.
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Postposted on Sun Feb 04, 2007 9:51 am

Can't say I've seen one; which is why I didn't think it was likely to happen.
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Postposted on Sun Feb 04, 2007 9:54 am

Via boards are the only one's that support ddr and ddr2.
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Postposted on Sun Feb 04, 2007 5:29 pm

So my options are intel chipsets. Which would be the best for my budget? I was hoping to eek out at least 400mhz of OC on the processor (1.8 to 2.2) for a nice speed boost. So some OCing potential is necessary.
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Postposted on Sun Feb 04, 2007 5:45 pm

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Postposted on Sun Feb 04, 2007 5:53 pm

Stay away from Vista Basic it is pretty feature limited. Get either Home Premium or better yet XP of some flavor
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Postposted on Mon Feb 05, 2007 7:42 pm

I'd like to avoid side-grades like going the socket 754 route would be. If I'm going to do that, I might as well just grab a 939-based system and use that. I was really aiming for at least AM2 if not Core 2 Duo if it was doable. Do you think that it's possible to do that on my budget?
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Postposted on Mon Feb 05, 2007 7:50 pm

Not really, the C2D by itself is nearly half your budget, maybe a low end AM2, even that is probably stretching it a little thin.
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Postposted on Mon Feb 05, 2007 7:54 pm

add about 50% to your budget and you could put together a pretty good system. Trying to cut corners and do it for 400 is just asking for problems down the road.
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Postposted on Mon Feb 05, 2007 8:39 pm

Alright then. I'll just wait a little longer then. Or perhaps just stay with my current case and buy a E4300 + Gigabyte S3 + gig of RAM which would be under $400. Just have to avoid spending the money I have saved until I can decide what I truly want to do. Thanks everyone :D
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Postposted on Mon Feb 05, 2007 10:56 pm

Q2
The new 945 DS2 solid caps from Gigabyte
E4300 for $113+
X-QPack or other µATX cases
Run the thing at 1066FSB
--
E6600 speeds FTW

8)
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Postposted on Sun Feb 25, 2007 7:07 pm

You could save yourself some money in the short term by getting an AM2 board and putting something like the AM2 sempron 3000 in. The processor would only run around $40, leaving you an upgrade path a little down the line.

I was just looking at the Asus M2NPV-VM for a system in the same price range. board costs $84 at newegg. the onboard video wouldn't do you much good, but it does give you a tv-out port, and it has 5.1 audio onboard.
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Postposted on Sun Feb 25, 2007 7:27 pm

The on-board video would do him just fine. S-Video, Composite video, D-sub, and DVI that he can use an DVI-HDMI adaptor if he wanted to (the adaptors work just fine). Seeing that it may be possible to find the X2-3600 soon in Canada for less than $120, the AM2 platform is a very viable platform to be considered. I don't think it is necessary to OC an HTPC.
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Postposted on Sun Feb 25, 2007 8:14 pm

I wasn't referring to the quality of the onboard video(I might build a rig around this board myself), just that the OP stated he already had a PCI-E video card.
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Postposted on Sun Feb 25, 2007 8:50 pm

I'm not sure that I understand the goal of this upgrade. If you just want to get into a small case, a micro-ATX motherboard like the RS482 Infinity or A8N-VM CSM could be plunked into a tiny micro-ATX case like the TM-211 or a rather large cube like the X-QPack with all of your existing components. The Shuttle cubes are much smaller than the X-QPack.

When I put the RS482 Infinity into the TM-210, I had to replace the included wimpy power supply and noisy 80mm case fan with an Antec TruePowerII and a 92mm Panaflo-M, but this system works fine as a second PC.
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Postposted on Thu Mar 01, 2007 4:58 am

JustAnEngineer wrote:When I put the RS482 Infinity into the TM-210, I had to replace the included wimpy power supply and noisy 80mm case fan with an Antec TruePowerII and a 92mm Panaflo-M, but this system works fine as a second PC.

Hey JAE you bought yourself a TM-210 too? How do you like it? Too bad you could not get the no PSU variant from the egg. I got the no PSU one and put the S12-430 in there, sweetness. 8)
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Postposted on Thu Mar 01, 2007 6:38 am

The ASUS TM-210 is remarkably compact on the outside and accepts a full-size power supply like the Antec TruePower II (which I dug out of my parts box). The construction is a bit flimsy (noted on the rear panel, which was bent by UPS' handling), but you should probably expect some of that with a cheap case. The included 80mm fan was surprisingly noisy, but the case has mounting holes to put a quiet 92mm fan in its place. The stealth drive covers give the case a nice clean look.

The TM-210 is one of the smallest micro-ATX cases that accepts a full-height graphics card and a regular ATX power supply.
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Postposted on Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:14 am

JustAnEngineer wrote:The ASUS TM-210 is remarkably compact on the outside and accepts a full-size power supply like the Antec TruePower II (which I dug out of my parts box). The construction is a bit flimsy (noted on the rear panel, which was bent by UPS' handling), but you should probably expect some of that with a cheap case. The included 80mm fan was surprisingly noisy, but the case has mounting holes to put a quiet 92mm fan in its place. The stealth drive covers give the case a nice clean look.

The TM-210 is one of the smallest micro-ATX cases that accepts a full-height graphics card and a regular ATX power supply.

So you like it?

My biggest thumbs up for it is a drive bay that can hold 5 3.5" drives if you don't mind the heat buildup. To me, it means 2 HDDs plus floppy (:o) with ample room for heat dissipation. For some odd reason other µATX cases only have 3 bays or even less, while actually being higher in their tower height.

That, plus the black is pretty slick.
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