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Thread: Mini-ITX for fussy people like me

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    Question Mini-ITX for fussy people like me

    I am considering replacing an old secondary computer in my bedroom with a silent mini-ITX based system. It would run Linux and serve as a domestic online backup server, domestic Jabber server, domestic OpenLDAP server, general office/web client for secondary use, and as a PVR/general multimedia centre using a fairly old DVB PCI card, with sound output connected to hi-fi speakers. Because it is in my bedroom, and I want to be able to sleep without having to turn it off as I have to turn off the present one, I am after a totally silent/fanless system.

    I should be interested in views on three things:

    (1) what flavour of Linux that people recommend for that sort of use (I currently use Mandriva 2006 on the computer that I am considering replacing);

    (2) what brand/model(s) of mini-ITX form factor motherboards are better, and the advantages/disadvantages of the many different varieties; and

    (3) whether a double PCI slot converter (I would post the URL, but apparently, I must have more forum posts before I post URLs) would be a reliable way of enabling me to use a proper soundcard and a PCI DVB card (I am very picky about sound quality, and very suspicious of the quality of the DACs of onboard solutions), or whether such a system would likely result in instability, and additionally, what case might be suitable for a system that would use the dual PCI slot expansion module.

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    radix lecti dave87's Avatar
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    If you want, PM me the URL, and I'll post it for you.

    All the stuff I've found on mini-ITX has come from http://www.mini-itx.com/store/

    If I'm honest, what you are describing would probably be better suited to a uATX mobo in a Sugo or Antec Fusion. That way you get a better range of components, the expansion to add things in, and not much larger case. Pretty silent if done right too.

    The major problem I think you'll find with a mini-ITX system is the lack of expansion, and unless space is really a concern, then the others are as good an option.

    Dave

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    Quote Originally Posted by dave87 View Post
    If you want, PM me the URL, and I'll post it for you.

    All the stuff I've found on mini-ITX has come from ...

    If I'm honest, what you are describing would probably be better suited to a uATX mobo in a Sugo or Antec Fusion. That way you get a better range of components, the expansion to add things in, and not much larger case. Pretty silent if done right too.

    The major problem I think you'll find with a mini-ITX system is the lack of expansion, and unless space is really a concern, then the others are as good an option.

    Dave
    Thank you for your reply :-) I just PMed you the URL.

    The uATX motherboards that you describe - can they be totally fanless? I ask because my hearing is very sensitive, and I should certainly notice even a very quiet fan in the room (I even notice a watch ticking sufficently loudly!). Can one have a fanless PSU for the uATX motherboards?

    Thank you for your reply :-)

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    The King of Vague Steve B's Avatar
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    you can get fanless PSU's but they're usually expensive
    if you give us an idea of budget, we'd be able to help a bit more

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    radix lecti dave87's Avatar
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    Right, the link is here

    As Steve said, a better idea of your budget would help

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    Does he need a reason? Funkstar's Avatar
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    http://www.linitx.com is another mini-ITX store

    Also look at the mCubed cases at KustomPCs for some silent, passively cooled systems and components.

    http://www.kustompcs.co.uk/acatalog/..._Cases_96.html

    NOT cheap though
    Last edited by Funkstar; 24-03-2007 at 08:54 PM.

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    Linitx.com has good out of the box support for Linux, bit of a no brainer, but there ya have it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Agent View Post
    ...every time Creative bring out a new card range their advertising makes it sound like they have discovered a way to insert a thousand Chuck Norris super dwarfs in your ears...

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    Thank you for your replies. As to my budget, I had not considered it in detail as of yet, but definitely hundreds, rather than thousands, of pounds. I plan on recycling a goodly number of components, including monitor (in the short term), keyboard, possibly mouse (if I can fix the faulty cable again), mousemat, joystick, DVB PCI card, sound card, external cabling, speakers (I use a hi-fi in any case), and possibly the optical drive (although I might go with a slimline one instead for a smaller case). I am not looking for an absolute minimum cost solution, but, since this will be a secondary computer, it is not a matter of no expense spared, either.

    Really, I am after the most powerful VIA-based fanless mini-ITX basic system available at present (in terms of motherboard/CPU); which motherboard/CPU combination fulfils those criteria at present, does anybody know?

    Thank you all again for all the helpful replies :-)

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    Another thing that is unclear to me at present: which of the following mini-ITX CPU types are faster (and, if applicable, faster for what sort of application) per cycle of processing power:

    (1) VIA C7;

    (2) VIA Eden;

    (3) VIA Luke CoreFusion; and

    (4) AMD Geode,

    and to what extent in each case?

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    radix lecti dave87's Avatar
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    IF you want the fastest, you'll need to go the Pentium M or Core2Duo Route, but depends really how demanding you are on the box..

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    Question

    Quote Originally Posted by dave87 View Post
    IF you want the fastest, you'll need to go the Pentium M or Core2Duo Route, but depends really how demanding you are on the box..
    I don't think that those are completely fanless, are they? And, in any event, I was more after the VIA route, which is somewhat less expensive. Which of the processors that I listed above are most powerful?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jamespetts View Post
    Another thing that is unclear to me at present: which of the following mini-ITX CPU types are faster (and, if applicable, faster for what sort of application) per cycle of processing power:

    (1) VIA C7;

    (2) VIA Eden;

    (3) VIA Luke CoreFusion; and

    (4) AMD Geode,

    and to what extent in each case?
    ^^ Would be nice to know

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    radix lecti dave87's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamespetts View Post
    I don't think that those are completely fanless, are they? And, in any event, I was more after the VIA route, which is somewhat less expensive. Which of the processors that I listed above are most powerful?
    Sorry, missed that requirement. miniITX isn't my speciality, unfortunately. If it was CoreDuo or Athlons, I could tell you what was best.

    At the end of the day, it depends on what you need it for, though traditionally the Vias have been the strongest of the field.

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    I don't really need 3d graphics, otherwise, specifications as in the first post :-)

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    Quality and lack of moving parts is difficult to put in one box.

    If you are that bothered with sound quality, you might be able to use the optical out that some boards come with and feed it into an AV amp? Must admit I haven't tried that.

    For no moving parts, you need to do something like boot from a compact flash card and then NFS mount your main storage from a machine in another room, or put up with the occasional seek noise from a Samsung hard drive. Interesting project, but quite tricky to get right.

    That PCI card riser would worry me, as I don't see off the top of my head how that would be legal within the PCI spec (I had to learn it once!).

    I also don't think I could put up with the lack of performance from a low end C7 CPU these days, and if I am going to have active cooling I would rather it was a 120mm fan on a modern CPU.

    I am personally tempted by the Antec 2400 as the reviews are very good. It has fans, but they are intended for quiet use. It has a bigger brother, the Antec Fusion, which has a volume control and display on the front. Couple that with a VIA chipset motherboard (they use the least power) and an energy efficient 3800 socket AM2 CPU or possibly a Sempron for even lower power. Fan speed management should be able to keep the fans ticking really slowly or even off when the machine is idle, but ramp up if you want to do something like transcode video or watch hi-def recordings.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DanceswithUnix View Post
    Quality and lack of moving parts is difficult to put in one box.
    Ahh, I didn't actually say no moving parts: just no fans. Hard drives can be spun down :-)

    If you are that bothered with sound quality, you might be able to use the optical out that some boards come with and feed it into an AV amp? Must admit I haven't tried that.
    Hmm, interesting thought. Where would I get one of those AV amps, and do any of the VIA boards have optical outputs?

    That PCI card riser would worry me, as I don't see off the top of my head how that would be legal within the PCI spec (I had to learn it once!).
    Ahh. What would be the likely consequences of that in practice?

    I also don't think I could put up with the lack of performance from a low end C7 CPU these days, and if I am going to have active cooling I would rather it was a 120mm fan on a modern CPU.
    I'd rather not have active cooling: as I wrote before, I have sensitive hearing; and a C7/CoreFusion/Eden is no doubt going to be better than a 600Mhz slot 1 Pentium III... In any case, as a secondary computer, my uses for it would not likely be very demanding.

    Thank you for your reply, though :-)

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