current specs, minus video card:
Core i5-4590S with Xigamtek Praeton LD963 HSF
Crucial Ballistix Tactical LP DDR3L-1600 16GB (2x8GB)
Gigabyte GA-B85N Phoenix Wifi (Azurewave mPCIe card with Broadcom wifi replaced with Intel 7260AC)
Crucial M500 480GB mSATA SSD
Samsung 1TB 2.5" (M8 HN-M101MBB)
Samsung slim DVDRW SN208FB/BEBE
Antec ISK 300-150 with Pico PSU 160XT PSU (stock PSU removed)
2x Antec Tricool 80mm (clear versions without LED lights)
I've tested a few different video cards in it but haven't settled on a final model. Right now there's an R7 250E in it, but I'm hoping that when the rest of the 900 series cards launch I'll find something that matches the black and orange scheme.
 It has been given a name: the pumpkinator
. Because orange
TLDR version: I'm building a tiny system and wanted to share. It will be black
. I will be posting pictures and talking about stuff when the last parts come in next week.
It's been a little over 4 years since I put together a PC of my own. The last one I built was a Core i3-530 and Intel DH57JG ITX motherboard in an Antec ISK 300-65, and it ran Ubuntu and was used almost exclusively for listening to my music collection and browsing the web. I tossed in some Noctua fans and a thicker heatsink than the one that came with the 530 (I think it was from a Core 2 Duo, as I recall they used the same dimensions / retention mechanism) to keep fan speed (and thus, noise) to a minimum.
Years later I find myself wanting to put together another PC, this time with a little more power in case I wanted to break out some games. It will probably run Ubuntu with Steam. I still want it to be quiet, and I don't want it to take up a lot of space. Here's the list of parts that are going to be used:Case and power supplyAntec ISK 300-150 with Pico PSU 160XT and 2x80mm Vantec Stealth SF8025L
- I really liked the ISK 300-65, and I wanted to go low profile and keep the system's physical volume to a minimum, so the same case with better ventilation was an obvious choice. The Stealth fans have always worked well for me in the past, and while Noctua and Scythe's fans are highly regarded, they're also more expensive.
I'd planned on just using the ISK 300-150's stock power supply, but a few things stopped me. First - it takes up a lot of space in the system, and I was concerned that cable routing would be an issue. Antec thankfully doesn't load it up with a dozen molex power connectors - no room in the case for them anyhow - but there's still a pretty large bundle of cables that would need to get crammed somewhere and a power cable strung along the top of the case that would get in the way of a taller CPU heatsink or make video card installation a bit difficult. Second, from what I've read, it isn't particularly efficient, so it generates more waste heat than I'd like.
While I could have used a larger case and different power supply, I really wanted to stick to something with a small footprint, so the obvious choice was to replace the power supply with something more efficient. The Pico PSU (from Mini Box
) is perfect for this configuration, taking up practically no space at all, and since it uses an external power brick for AC-DC conversion, is very efficient and generates little heat. Plus, no fans, so no added noise internally.
I've gone with the top-end kit version, capable of 160W sustained output with a 200W peak, in case I end up needing a little more power than I expected. I've added the additional peripheral cable they offer on their website, so I've got a 24 pin ATX power connector, 4 pin aux 12v for the motherboard, 2 PATA style 4-pin power connectors and 2 SATA power connectors. That's perfect for the rest of the system:CPUCore i3-4130T
- Picked solely for the low TDP, with the thinking that I'd like to fit a video card in the system that could potentially pull the max 75W from the PCIe slot. Given the space constraints for a video card, that's probably unlikely. The regular i3 power draw isn't hugely different, and for another $15 or so I could have gotten something that ran ~500MHz faster, but the lower power use appeals muchly, as it enables me to "run silent" when not doing heavy lifting.
I'll be cooling it with the stock heatsink from an i5-4670K that I bought for a beefier Steam Engine (which I'll post about whenever I get around to putting that one together, heh). Several years ago the heatsink from that C2D cooled my i3 effectively and kept noise to a minimum, so I'm hoping to repeat that success. The heatsink that comes with the i3-4130T is positively tiny and appears to be all aluminum; the i5-4670K's stock heatsink is taller and seems to have a copper core. Should be more effective by far.MemoryCrucial Ballistix Tactical LP DDR3L-1600 8GB (2x4GB)
- Low voltage, low profile RAM that reportedly overclocks like crazy. I don't plan on overclocking the RAM here - not sure it would do me much good - but I stick to a few familiar brands for things like RAM and storage, and Crucial has always been at the top of my list, even though they sometimes cost more than other options. I freely admit that this is because I had such a good experience with them way back in the day when I was doing freelance hardware reviews.MotherboardGigabyte B85N Phoenix Wifi
That system I put together years ago didn't need to have onboard wifi - I don't recall if we even had onboard wifi back then - but this time around it was a necessity. I didn't want to have any USB dongles connected to this system and have to keep the PCIe slot available for a video card, so I turned to Newegg's handy search to find a mini ITX something with onboard 802.11ac (because future!).
I was pleasantly surprised to stumble across this thing. Black and Orange make for a nice color scheme - reminds me of DFI's old Lanparty boards, plus, you know, Valve, Steam Engine, Half Life, etc. It's got the 802.11ac onboard (mine came with an Azurewave card, though I've seen pictures that appear to show an Intel card installed, so they may be shipping with both), has decent onboard audio (Realtek ALC898) and, bonus, has an mSATA slot. I like that. There's also glowy orange lights, which I admit haven't ever really been my thing, but when it is all assembled, if the glow is nice, I might try to carve a lambda into it or something.
B85 chipset might be a showstopper for some, but RAID support wasn't ever in my plans. If you need teh RAIDs, Asrock's H97 ITX board (which wasn't available at the time I made this purchase) has wifi, but lacks the mSATA slot (and has the somewhat less impressive Realtek ALC892 audio, but if you've got a digital output, the analog output capabilities of the onboard audio may not be a concern for you).StorageSamsung PM851 256GB mSATA, 1TB 2.5" (M8 HN-M101MBB), slim DVDRW SN208FB/BEBE
- Samsung takes all three storage spots for this. The 1TB drive was cheap, the DVDRW was cheap, and the mSATA was cheap. I would normally have gone with a Crucial M500 for this, but if you watch ebay for these things you can sometimes get a really, really good deal. The DVDRW, I'd wanted to get a slot load drive but couldn't justify the added cost. It just needs to rip audio from my CDs (yes, I still have CDs) and probably won't get used much past that.and some form of video card!
This is the million
hundred dollar question. The ISK 300 is a low profile case, so that limits the options. There also isn't room for a double-wide heatsink/fan on the video card, so that further limits options.
A GeForce 750 would be ideal, and there are already a few low profile GeForce 750 cards out there - Zotac makes one, as does Galaxy (who I believe also sell cards under the KFA brand) - but they all have heatsink/fan units too wide to fit into the ISK. The Kepler-based GeForce 740 with GDDR5 would also be a good option, though the improved performance and efficiency of Maxwell is preferred (and, if I can be crazy about color coordination, Zotac's colors are black and orange, so...).
Single slot and low profile will be a bit noisier when running at full tilt, given the size of their heatsinks and tiny fans, but the ISK 300 is well ventilated along the edge where the video card lives, so I'm hoping that whatever I choose, there will be sufficient airflow to keep it from getting annoying while gaming.
The power draw on the 750 cards is very similar to AMD's R7 250 GPU. There are a few single slot low profile versions of those (and R740 with GDDR5, too). This is tempting, as I could just go and get one of those right now and be plenty happy with the mid-range gaming capabilities it has. But it's hard to ignore the additional oomph that Maxwell provides in the same power envelope. Thankfully, with an onboard GPU, I have the luxury of getting the system running and deciding on the video card later.
Maybe we'll see a Maxwell refresh "GeForce 740 version 2", or maybe someone will get a single slot, low profile 750 out there. Or AMD could scale Bonaire down a bit and give us an R7 255 that fits in the same form factor. Either works for me, as long as it's 75W or less.
Total system cost, sans video card: a little under $700.
I'm still waiting on the Pico PSU (scheduled for delivery on Monday), and that's going to require a minor modification of the back of the case - doing a tiny bit of dremel work to make sure the 4-pin DIN connector will fit. Once I've got that done I'll start posting some pictures of the assembly. I've got a different motherboard I'm going to pop in the case with a Zalman CNPS8900, just to see if it would actually fit. A higher power processor could benefit from that and I'm sure someone would want to know.