Quiet, small-ish non-gaming build for Linux

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Quiet, small-ish non-gaming build for Linux

Post by stylishpants » Sat Oct 08, 2011 9:37 am

## Usage

I'm a software developer. This will be my main do-it-all machine for the next several years.

* It will run Linux only. Ubuntu or Debian.
* It will be on 100% of the time to be available for remote ssh sessions.
* It'll likely run a vm that may host a web server or remote file server.
* I'll be writing and compiling code, downloading and watching torrents on large monitors, and playing the occasional game of Diablo 2 or Minecraft via wine.
* I'll be plugging in the half-dead hard drives of friends to resurrect what I can.
* It will be plugged into a high-end receiver and speaker system via HDMI and/or S/PDIF through my Asus Xonar STX sound card.
* And of course it will be used for reading lots of reddit.

I'm in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
I'll be buying parts from [NCIX](http://www.ncix.com) and [Memory Express](http://www.memoryexpress.com/)

## My requirements
* Very quiet
* Reliable (high quality PSU and RAM, should run cool)
* Should feel snappy(good SATA 6GB/S performance, fast RAM)
* Should be fairly futureproof in terms of being expandable and supporting modern connectors (eg. USB3 is nice to have.) I'd like to build a system that could last for years to come, if it doesn't increase the cost too much.
* I can't imagine that I would ever do SLI or Crossfire because I rarely game. One graphics card is enough for me, preferably fanless. The most graphics intensive thing I do is watch movies on a large screen (Dell U2711 2560x1440 @60Hz)
* I'd like to be able to run a VM constantly without impacting system performance. That means good support for CPU virtualization extensions, a few extra cores, and plenty of RAM.
* Small is good, but I need a few slots for expandability.
* Budget is around 700 max. Money's not a big concern, I just don't want to waste it.

## General notes
* Avoid motherboards with marvell SATA3 controllers, they are much slower than the AMD or Intel controllers: http://benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?o ... &Itemid=38
* Z68 motherboards support some features that are not usable under linux. Notably the SSD caching feature does not work, nor does that silly switchable graphics thing. The hardware assisted video transcoding does work under linux however.
* The onboard graphics on z68 motherboards support a max resolution of 1600x1200 over HDMI. This is less than my current monitor wants, so I need a graphics card that offers dual-link DVI output.

## Build summary

Does not include fans and drives. I'll probably also buy a small SSD to install the OS on. I'll need to pick up a few quiet case fans too.
I'll reuse my old 1TB drive, which is about 70% full.

I plan to move my fanless Powercolor Radeon 5450 graphics card into this system, too, so I don't plan to buy a graphics card. It's working for me so far.

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Case          $ 90 NCIX  Fractal Designs Define Mini mATX
Power Supply  $104 NCIX  Seasonic X-560 ATX 12V 24PIN 560W Active PFC 80PLUS Gold Modular Power Supply W Sanyo Denki Fan
Mobo          $180 NCIX  Asus Maximus Gene IV mATX
CPU           $209 ME    Intel Core i5-2500K Processor, 3.30GHz w/ 6MB Cache
CPU Cooler    $ 60 NCIX  Noctua NH-U9B SE2
Ram           $ 60 ME    Corsair Vengeance LP 8GB DDR3 1600MHz CL9 Dual Channel Kit (2 x 4GB), Cerulean Blue
TOTAL         $703   
plus fans, drive

## Build detailed breakdown

**Case:** $ 90 Fractal Designs Define Mini mATX (NCIX)

* super quiet
* cool looking
* excellent ventilation
* not super expensive
* big for a "mini" case though
* has USB3 ports on top of the case
* big brother (the Fractal Define R3) reviewed very favorably at [Silent PC Review](http://www.silentpcreview.com)

**Power Supply:** $104 Seasonic X-560 ATX 12V 24PIN 560W Active PFC 80PLUS Gold Modular Power Supply W Sanyo Denki Fan (NCIX)

* gold efficiency means it produces less heat, so needs less cooling
* runs totally fanless at low speeds, virtually silent normal operation
* ridiculously quiet fancy brand name fan
* modular cables, handy in a small case
* $30 cheaper than the totally silent, fanless 400W Seasonic SS400-FL which is top-rated at [Silent PC Review](http://www.silentpcreview.com)

**Mobo:** $170 ASUS P8Z68-M Pro Z68 LGA1155 mATX 2PCI-E16 2PCI B3 SATA3 USB3.0 HDMI Motherboard (NCIX)

* has mid-board USB3 slots, can be connected to the top USB3 ports in the case
* has rear USB3 slots
* excellent fan control built in: 2 cpu fan connectors, 3 chassis fan connectors
* ESATA 3GB/S port built in (useful for my external backup device)
* HDMI, SPDIF outputs
* Supports 32GB of fast (1600) DDR3 RAM without overclocking
* More full-featured than most mATX boards, supports both reset and power buttons
* Supports the onboard graphics processor built into the Intel i5 and i7 CPUs
* Max memory 32GB, about the best you can do these days
* Two PCI-E16 slots

**CPU:** $209 Intel i5 2500K (Memory Express)

* i5 2500K has faster graphics support than plain 2500 (not sure this does me any good though...)
* i5 2500K costs slightly more than 2500, but only about $5
* Way cheaper than the i7 chips

**CPU Cooler:** $ 60 Noctua NH-U9B SE2 (NCIX)

* Smaller than many, fan is just 92mm
* Known to fit well in this small case, some other builders on silentpcreview have used this

**Ram:** $ 60 Corsair Vengeance LP 8GB DDR3 1600MHz CL9 Dual Channel Kit (2 x 4GB), Cerulean Blue (Memory Express)

* Cheap (on sale at Memory Express) but still a good brand
* Fast: speed is 1600
* Low profile: will fit underneath the CPU cooler in this small case
* Low voltage: Sandy Bridge wants <= 1.5v, this RAM is 1.5v.

Some specific questions:

* I have this creeping feeling that I'm way overspending on CPU and Motherboard. Maybe I should just go for an i3 or something AMD. NCIX has a bundle deal this week that would get me an mATX motherboard and AMD CPU for $169. Maybe it would be smarter to save the $200 and spend it on a new motherboard and CPU in a couple of years. What do you think?

$169 [NCIX Value Bundle Deal AMD Athlon II X4 640 & MSI 880GMS-E35 880G DDR3 SATA6 mATX Motherboard](http://ncix.com/products/index.php?sku= ... omoid=1292)

* How do you know how many fans to buy and where to put them? This case has lots of fan slots. I plan to put one on the bottom that shoots air straight up into the case, and another one on the side to target the cooler and the RAM. I'm not sure I need anything else.

Chris Chan
Posts: 436
Joined: Fri Feb 17, 2006 8:15 pm
Location: Michigan

Re: Quiet, small-ish non-gaming build for Linux

Post by Chris Chan » Tue Oct 11, 2011 7:24 am

I don't really understand why you say some Z68 features aren't supported in Linux, then go on to select a Z68 board. Choosing a H67 board will save you about $50, and you can get an Intel-brand board which are known to be more power efficient.

http://ncix.com/products/?sku=62305&vpn ... ture=Intel

You still get the GPU assisted transcoding benefits on a H chipset board.

Also, you're not on reddit, links are made

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[url=http://example.org/]like this[/url]
. ;)
WIP Desktop: DFI R100 industrial PC case, DH61AG, i3-2100, 8GB DDR3, 500GB 2.5" HDD, Linux Mint 12
Laptop: HP tc4400, Core 2 Duo T7200, 3.5GB DDR2, 160GB Scorpio Blue, Ubuntu 11.04

Worker control
Posts: 126
Joined: Wed Nov 16, 2005 12:16 pm

Re: Quiet, small-ish non-gaming build for Linux

Post by Worker control » Tue Oct 11, 2011 8:26 am

Stick with Sandy Bridge -- they're very impressive from a performance/power point of view.

You don't say what sort of programming you're doing. If compiling will require a lot of compute cycles, and can use multiple cores, you should definitely get a quad-core, like you're talking about. The "i5" or "i3" tag doesn't mean anything, it's just branding.

If you'd like to run VMs, I'd stick with a mobo with four RAM slots, and go 4x4 for 16 GB RAM.

I'm a bit concerned about airflow to the PSU while it's in passive mode (up to 20% of max load) -- the Fractal Design Define Mini has a separate intake for the PSU, which won't do a whole lot. Now, it may be that this is OK because the total heat generated is so low at those loads. For more discussion of this, see the recent SPCR article on passive PSUs: http://www.silentpcreview.com/article1221-page3.html
Last edited by Worker control on Thu Oct 13, 2011 1:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Dec 20, 2010 10:40 pm

Re: Quiet, small-ish non-gaming build for Linux

Post by thetipster » Thu Oct 13, 2011 9:03 am

I think the i5-2500k makes the most sense. It's only $225 and is very futureproof as you can overclock as well.

The board you chose is overkill but I think you should stick with z68 as it has great features.
I'm sure you can find a z68 that costs somewhere in the low 100's.

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