Sunday, October 22, 2006

Small Form Factor (SFF) PC

I was starting to have a build up of left over parts that I wanted to put to use (mostly socket 939 era parts). Prices on venice core cpu's have really dropped lately so I took the plunge and built my first SFF PC on the cheap.

- Ultra Microfly Micro ATX Case $50 after $30 MIR (includes 400w PS)
- Foxconn 6150K8MA-8EKRS Socket 939 NVIDIA GeForce 6150 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard $62 after $10 MIR (Bios)
- AMD Athlon 64 3000+ Venice Retail $55
- Mitsumi Floppy + Card Reader $24
- ATI X800XL (already had)
- Corsair 2X512MB PC3200 (already had)
- WD 250GB PATA hard drive with SATA adapter (already had)
- floppy rounded cable, single ended rounded ide cable (already had)
- Benq DQ60 DVD Burner (already had)

I spent about $191 total for this venture.

- First thing I noticed was the case was bigger than I expected. It's quite a bit larger than your typical shuttle xpc. The advantage though is it uses standard parts for everything: mATX mb, standard atx power supply. Build quality of the case itself is just ok. I'm not sure I totally trust the plastic handle as a fully loaded case can get pretty heavy. Some pieces were a bit bent that I had to reshape a bit. It has quite a few sharp edges (cut myself three times!). Pretty solid but I would prefer it to be a little bit more sturdy. On the plus side it was pretty easy to work with and take apart. The slide out motherboard tray really helps. Things got a little cramped trying to hook up the floppy (I can't imagine working in an xpc), the back IO panel was a bitch to get on, but other than that assembly went pretty smooth.
- The Foxconn (never used them before) is a pretty nice board overall. The bios isn't bad but don't expect crazy oc'ing. It's very full featured with plenty of usb/1394 headers that let me enable all the front access ports and my card reader that is in the floppy drive, one 16X pcie, and 3 pci slots. It even has all the legacy ports like serial and parallel. I flashed from a jan 2005 to the latest june 2006 bios. The june 2006 bios seems to have a known bug where it won't power down properly. You can restart, it even seems to shutdown windows just fine (you see the keyboard lights flicker at the end like during a restart or when the pc is just about to turn off) except it just stays on. Holding the power button down for 5 seconds will turn it off. Read the comment by N/A. I think I'll just live with it for now and hope a new bios comes out. It uses Realtek sound. Grab the drivers from the foxconn site. It also has integrated video but I didn't test it. Installation, setup, stability are all great.
- Temps are good with idle around 34c cpu.
- Wow the retail cpu heatsink/fans have come a long way. They are super easy to install. You don't even need a flat headed screwdriver anymore!
- I loaded up counter strike source and guild wars. CS bench was over 100 fps @ 1280X1024 with everything maxed out. Running everything at stock.
- Noise levels are fine (case has one 80mm in the front and a 120mm in the back). It's no Sonata but it's quiet enough.

Overall I'm pretty happy with it. It should make a fine Lan Party machine. My laptop is getting pretty old for gaming and this was much cheaper than buying a new laptop and it's upgradeable.

UPDATE 10/24/06
ok so I couldn't help myself. I decided to try a bit of overclocking.

244mhz X 9: 2.2ghz (default is 200 X 9 = 1.8ghz)
default vcore: 1.40v
k8-NB: 4X (976 - keeping it under 1000 for the HT, default is 5X)
NB -> SB: 3X (default 4X, keep it under 800)
sB <- NB: 3X (default 4X)
memclock Index value: 166mhz = 6:5 (default: auto)

stock speeds:
3dmark01se: 18994
counter strike source @ 1280X1024: 115.55
(used 1280X1024 since that is the naitive rez of the 17" LCD I would bring to lan parties)

oc to 2.2ghz:
3dmark01se: 21413
counter strike source @ 1280X1024: 124.93

Seconds Temp1 Temp2 Temp3 HD0 Temp1 Core Vcore1 Vcore2 +3.3V +5V +12V
72448 32.0 34.0 37.0 38.0 34.0 38.0 1.39 1.22 3.36 5.0 11.97

under full occt load:
Seconds Temp1 Temp2 Temp3 HD0 Temp1 Core Vcore1 Vcore2 +3.3V +5V +12V
74091 41.0 34.0 22.0 37.0 34.0 45.0 1.39 1.22 3.36 5.0 11.9

Temps look fine with a max of 41c. Volts look good too. So far rock solid stable. I think I'll leave it like this. That's a very modest oc to amd 3400+ speeds. I'm pretty sure the cpu will go a lot farther (haven't tested) but I don't want to push it too much on a stock cooler in a SFF.

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