Building a miniature desktop

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raygungothic
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Building a miniature desktop

Postby raygungothic » Mon Mar 01, 2010 6:07 pm UTC

I'm interested in building a medium-powerful desktop computer small enough to pick up and carry. It's starting to look practical, but it's been a long time since I built a computer and I'm feeling a bit out of my depth - I just don't know the words any more, or what's considered any good. I'm trying to read like crazy to catch up, but saw a lot of "how's my build?" posts on here and thought I might ask your august opinions as to whether this is a good base for a machine:

Zotac H55ITX motherboard: seems quite full featured for less than 7" square, unless I'm missing something.
Core i5-750. I'm a bit confused about the different Core i(something)s but this sounds pretty solid to my uneducated ears.
6gb DDR3 ram - I know I want a large chunk of memory, and this seems to be the best I can do with that board.

I want a second monitor (at least when it's at home), so presume I will need a dedicated graphics card, but don't really know what I need there. It's starting to look as though I'm not going to get much change from £700 when all's said and done, so that's my target price point for now.

I'll be doing a little light gaming, fairly heavy Photoshop, quite a lot of Maple (maths degree...) and I want a *nice* PC that will last a good while.

Is this a sensible place to start? Thanks very much!

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tryptanymph
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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby tryptanymph » Mon Mar 01, 2010 7:28 pm UTC

For heavy photoshop, a good graphics card is advised, normally. However most modern graphics cards that are any good will be longer than your lil ITX mobo, and mean that you can't use a mimi ITX case.

6GB? If that is 3x2GB, then you can't use it. The LGA1156 cpus only support dual channel memory. With 4 DIMM slots, you will be looking at a max of 8GB realistically.

I would suggest, personally, getting a mATX P55 mobo (there are some fantastic ones around from Gigabyte and Asus in particular), in an mATX case, and lash out for 8GB of RAM and a good graphics card. £700 is a little tight, but you can get away with a powerful last generation Ati card (the 4xxx ones) or an Nvidia card (260 or better, really).

In my favourite PC magazine, they specced up a photoshop machine based on that CPU for almost twice what you plan to spend mind you, that had an £80 sound card and a graphics card costing £220. You can probably skip a sound card and a megamega powerful graphics card. But with mini ITX you are paying more for less. The mobo they recommend is the Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD2. They also had a pair of fast 1TB hard drives in RAID 1, which you can maybe skip.

I would personally recommend going the mATX route and getting a gamer LAN case. It still won't be too hard to haul around.
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GeorgeH
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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby GeorgeH » Mon Mar 01, 2010 8:00 pm UTC

If that Zotac board had 4 memory slots you could use 3x2GB sticks, it just wouldn't be as efficient as a 2x setup. In general, you can use any amount of sticks you want and of any size (i.e. you could use one 512MB stick, one 1GB stick, one 2GB stick, and one 4GB stick in a board with 4 slots) you'll just end up with a slower PC than if you "matched" your RAM to your system.

@OP:
That Zotac board should be able to output to 2 monitors just fine using integrated graphics. You want 4GB (2x2GB) of RAM.

Current Intel Decoder Ring, from newest to oldest:

"Clarkdale" - LGA-1156 - Pentium G9650, Core i3 5xx, Core i5 6xx
Works in P55 and Hxx motherboards (although the IGP only works in Hxx boards) and takes dual channel RAM.
2 cores with an IGP. Hyperthreading (HT) gives you 4 virtual cores (except for the G9650, which has no HT.)
Worth Buying - Core i3 530

"Lynnfield" - LGA-1156 - Core i5 750, Core i7 8xx
Works in P55 and H55 motherboards and takes dual channel RAM.
4 cores with no IGP. The 8-series have HT enabled, giving you 8 virtual cores.
Worth Buying - Core i5 750, Core i7 860

"Bloomfield" - LGA-1366 - Core i7 9xx
Works in X58 motherboards and takes triple channel RAM.
4 cores with no IGP. All have HT, giving you 8 virtual cores.
Worth Buying - Core i7 920

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Axman
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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby Axman » Mon Mar 01, 2010 8:17 pm UTC

You want a Silverstone Sugo SG05 or SG06 for a case. With a 300W PSU you can get by with a 5700-series or lower GPU, but I *believe* that motherboard supports dual monitors. Also, I think the Intel memory controller will still use asymmetrical memory as dual-channel, as in 1x4GB + 1x2GB, but with Clarkdale and Lynnfield I'm not 100%.

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hintss
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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby hintss » Mon Mar 01, 2010 11:49 pm UTC

external GPU

raygungothic
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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby raygungothic » Tue Mar 02, 2010 12:02 pm UTC

Gosh, thanks for all the help. This has given me a lot more reading to do, and terms to google!

One at a time...
Sleepygamer: Yes, I was thinking of 3x2Gb due to a chain of misunderstandings. I am confused about this memory issue - I thought the "chips in pairs" thing had faded away, but I'm clearly very wrong! Anyway the board has only 2 slots (how did I miss that?), so that would mean 4 or 8 gigs of RAM, and actual 4-gig RAM chips seem pretty costly. Oops. That seems to be the only major way in which such a tiny board would add costs, but it's a quite important one.

I'll have a look at micro ATXs and see if I can find a suitable case in that size, thanks for the advice. My definition of "portable" is quite constrained by not driving, so I mean "must fit in my backpack" or "has a convenient handle"... my computer at work is a micro ATX type and it's definitely bigger than I was hoping for, but it's a pretty lame case, so there are probably better arranged ones.

I doubt I would ever do justice to an expensive sound card or top-end graphics card. In fact, I have no budget for a sound card at all, on the assumption that onboard will do fine for me. On the other hand, I am surprised to hear that a large graphics card is really useful for Photoshop - I thought it only made fairly superficial use of graphics card features even in CS4. Time for me to do more reading, again.

GeorgeH: Your "Current Intel Decoder Ring" is incredibly useful, thank you very much. Intel should post that somewhere prominent on their own site! Thanks, also, for the point about dual monitor output from integrated graphics.

Axman: Thanks for the case link, that looks like a really nice one and is very much the sort of thing I was thinking of.

Thanks very much, everyone.

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hintss
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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby hintss » Tue Mar 02, 2010 5:46 pm UTC

i have an acer aspire revo. look into nettops

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Endless Mike
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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby Endless Mike » Tue Mar 02, 2010 6:40 pm UTC

hintss wrote:i have an acer aspire revo. look into nettops

Not for Maple and Photoshop.

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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby Nemiro » Tue Mar 02, 2010 7:59 pm UTC

raygungothic wrote:I doubt I would ever do justice to an expensive sound card or top-end graphics card. In fact, I have no budget for a sound card at all, on the assumption that onboard will do fine for me. On the other hand, I am surprised to hear that a large graphics card is really useful for Photoshop - I thought it only made fairly superficial use of graphics card features even in CS4. Time for me to do more reading, again.


Onboard is good. I suspect if you were to listen to music with a soundcard for a while, you might see a difference, but what you don't know.. Also then you're looking at an equally expensive set of speakers.
As for photoshop.. you're correct. I've worked with the same .psd's on both an Intel Mac (before you say it, it was running Windows at the time) and my own machine, which has a Radeon HD4850.. the difference was in the loading and saving times, since the Mac was paging the file out to disk (300+ MB file and I had more 4 times as much RAM as the Mac).
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raygungothic
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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby raygungothic » Wed Mar 03, 2010 12:41 pm UTC

Further thanks!

Endless Mike: Exactly. Neither my netbook nor our horrid Celeron desktop can really cope; a nettop wouldn't be an upgrade in this regard.

Nemiro: Thanks for the info, it's nice to hear there's one area where I'm not totally out of my depth. The only system I've used PS CS4 on is my dad's, which is more powerful but not THIS powerful, and I was pretty happy with it there. I think he has a 256 meg ATI card, about 3 years old. The limits were very clearly RAM-based when I started working on large composites.

As for sound, I have a decent separates stereo in my living room; I don't see that a better sound card would make my PC catch up with it, as it still has a fan... and a less comfy chair! Let alone when I pick it up and move it, which will rarely be to a better listening environment. I'd probably only buy a sound card if I wanted to do audio recording or something actually creative with it and needed the ports (or if I'd moved out of the 20th century and made a PC my principal audio device... I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet :? )

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hintss
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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby hintss » Wed Mar 03, 2010 6:00 pm UTC

get a nettop and a powerful and big desktop, then VNC. check lifehacker

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Endless Mike
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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby Endless Mike » Wed Mar 03, 2010 7:06 pm UTC

Why would he get two desktops when he can have one desktop? If he wants to VNC in from a low-powered machine, he already has a netbook he can do that from.

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hintss
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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby hintss » Wed Mar 03, 2010 10:24 pm UTC

then do that!

raygungothic
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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby raygungothic » Thu Mar 04, 2010 1:15 pm UTC

VNC: that's an interesting suggestion and one I'd not thought of (despite using VNC at work occasionally), but I'd quite like not having to leave my computer running for long periods when I'm not using it (or is there a way of doing remote wake over Internet now?) - and it's not much good for any kind of games either, even old and less-demanding ones.

Graphics: could I please ask people's opinions of the Radeon 5450 type of graphics card? It seems like it might fit the bill for me - recent, not an awesome-super-power card, but a "just enough" approach - and it seems to be available in smaller sizes than more high-end cards.

Thanks once more!

jcidiot
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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby jcidiot » Sun Mar 07, 2010 8:21 pm UTC

I like the suggestion of the Raedon 5450, though a 4650 might work just as well.

DO NOT use vnc,unless u have a 25mb upload internet connection (which i do XD). and there is wake over internet now, google WOL (wake on lan)...

raygungothic
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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby raygungothic » Mon Mar 08, 2010 1:33 pm UTC

Thanks. The 5450 would allow me to keep the thing rather jolly small but is definitely not going to impress on the games front. A full width card is going to make it hard to keep the thing small in depth, and rules out a lot of cases. Yet I'm very tempted by the apparent awesomeness of the "latest greatest".

*sigh*

Decision paralysis is an old friend, I should buy him a pint.

Thanks again for everyone's help and time.

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enk
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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby enk » Mon Mar 08, 2010 1:50 pm UTC

sleepygamer wrote:For heavy photoshop, a good graphics card is advised, normally.


[citation needed]
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raygungothic
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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby raygungothic » Wed Mar 10, 2010 10:16 am UTC

enk: :lol: That's great.

OK chaps, thanks one final time for all the advice. I've concluded that sleepygamer was basically on the right track at the beginning - Mini ITX will be a tiny bit too compromised and I'm better off with the smallest Micro ATX build I can manage. I've made my decisions now, so thanks all. It's really helped.

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Axman
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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby Axman » Wed Mar 10, 2010 5:36 pm UTC

Bah, you can fit a 5770 in that case.

Wummi
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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby Wummi » Fri Apr 16, 2010 4:54 pm UTC

sleepygamer wrote:For heavy photoshop, a good graphics card is advised, normally.

sense, this does not make.

what one needs for photoshop: fast CPU: yes, much RAM: yes, fast hdd:doesn't hurt , GPU:no you don't

a 4MB PCI card without any 3d acceleration will do photoshop just as good as some 4GB SLI supersetup.
photoshop doesn't utilize CUDA(or such) afaik, and uses the card just as much as any browserwindow would.

rabuf
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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby rabuf » Fri Apr 16, 2010 10:06 pm UTC

Wummi wrote:
sleepygamer wrote:For heavy photoshop, a good graphics card is advised, normally.

sense, this does not make.

what one needs for photoshop: fast CPU: yes, much RAM: yes, fast hdd:doesn't hurt , GPU:no you don't

a 4MB PCI card without any 3d acceleration will do photoshop just as good as some 4GB SLI supersetup.
photoshop doesn't utilize CUDA(or such) afaik, and uses the card just as much as any browserwindow would.


Since 2008 there have been CUDA plugins for Photoshop, and current versions of Photoshop can make use of OpenGL to create a better user experience when manipulating large images. CS5 includes optional GPGPU acceleration on its own, not just via plugins.

eljitto
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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby eljitto » Fri Apr 16, 2010 10:56 pm UTC

a 5670 should be good for gaming.

also, an i7-860 would be a better choise, 8-cores (hyperthreadingg) would be more future proof the nan i5-750.
besides, photoshop takes advantage of i7s

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Welsh Mullet
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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby Welsh Mullet » Sun Apr 18, 2010 11:54 am UTC

you could buy a raiser for the graphics card (you can get ones with cables, look quite useful)
Then you can mount the graphics card sideways or at an angle to save space.

raygungothic
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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby raygungothic » Mon Apr 19, 2010 10:42 am UTC

...oops, this resurrected when I wasn't looking!

I gave up on the "build it small" idea when I realised the sort of price premium my desired build had hit, and how tricky it was going to be to power it well and cool it quietly without ending up with a bigger box (OR a much more expensive one) than I'd really wanted. Once everything was added in, it was only a bit more of a stretch to get a REALLY solid full size build in a solid but much less expensive case. So I went for that. I don't think I'd have understood it well enough to get it right without the help I got in this thread, though! I was totally confused at the start, so thanks are still very much due. My fiancee wasn't initially impressed with the obstructive fan-studded monolith on our dining table, but then she decided that she liked its speed and power and gaming potential, so no problems on that score :-)

Anyway, my Big Ugly Box works bloody beautifully. I hadn't realised how far desktop PC power had moved on, and I'm pretty sure it will be a while before I learn how to stretch the hardware I've ended up with! I have PS CS4, not 5, and it does use a small amount of OpenGL... but I've not yet seen any evidence that it is particularly taxing. However, I can definitely confirm that PS runs like stink on an i7. I don't have an Nvidia card to try any CUDA tools. Hyperthreading appears not to help Maple but maybe I'm doing it wrong.

Anyway, I guess we can call this one closed.

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roflwaffle
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Re: Building a miniature desktop

Postby roflwaffle » Mon Apr 19, 2010 10:55 pm UTC

raygungothic wrote:VNC: that's an interesting suggestion and one I'd not thought of (despite using VNC at work occasionally), but I'd quite like not having to leave my computer running for long periods when I'm not using it (or is there a way of doing remote wake over Internet now?)
Wake on lan should work fine for your BUB unless your IP is blocking stuff, just make sure your router will send the packet through.


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