LMFAR: When the parts list was coming together a few months ago I was in the process of building a POS/business computer built in a smaller case utilizing a micro ATX mobo. It got me thinking as to how I have been using my computer that I built last fall, and if it really was necessary to have such a large. I built my last PC for my use in architecture school, so something that would be stable while under 100% load for extended periods of time was important. It has performed pretty well so far, and in some cases was a little overkill. For the LMFAR I had to work under the same guidelines, since this PC is for my brother, and he has the same needs as I have since he's in an architecture program as well. After some input, from folks here at PCPP I decided on using the Xeon processor, and the micro ATX mobo to save some space. So now for the run down:
CPU: I originally was looking at using the i7-4770K for this build, as I felt that the i5 I had in my last build was a little under powered. I did a little research, and found that this Xenon CPU has nearly the same specs as the i7, sans the on board graphics, and was $50-$60 less. The need to unlock wasn't there, so it was obvious to me which way to go. After the build, and getting everything updated I ran Cinebench 15 for a benchmark on the CPU rendering abilities. On the multi-core rendering test the Xenon scored somewhat lower than the i7-4770k, it wasn't much of a difference, but it was a little of a surprise. The single core test put it above the i7 though. The applications we regularly use in school rely heavily on CPU rendering, so having something capable of pushing our renders in a hurry is a necessity. I did have a screenshot of the test, but I've packed the build since then and forgot to copy it over.
CPU Cooler: Although the stock cooler might have been sufficient, knowing that the CPU will have some extra cooling while being at 100% load for extended periods of time will provide some peace of mind. VERY solid backing plate, I wish all aftermarket coolers had backing plates like this one. I was pretty happy it easily fit in the case as well.
Mobo: The desire to have a computer with a smaller footprint drove the decision to go with the micro ATX form factor. This mobo has everything I wanted for the build with 6 SATA6 connectors, plenty of USB 3.0 and 2.0 connections, and the Asus warranty, making it an easy choice at a decent price. I would say the I/O shield is a little on the cheap side, but it's not something anyone will see much of, so it's not a big deal. The black and gold color scheme looks pretty good as well.
RAM: The need for a minimum of 16g's of RAM at the most reasonable price possible dictated this decision. These sticks also have the gold colored heat fins with a black body, so they look pretty slick on that mobo. The reviews for this RAM was good, and the need for 1866 mHz speed wasn't there, which also helped with the mobo decision.
HDD: I've been using Seagate for a while, no problems, so no need to fret. The price was good, and 1TB is a great place to start.
GPU: With the Xenon not having any on board graphics, getting the most bang for to buck was necessary to get a picture on the screen, AND utilize the GPU rendering abilities of 3ds Max. A couple searches, and it still seems like the R9 270X is right there in the sweet spot for price and performance. Cinebench came back with an FPS of ~129, which is grat, but really not all that important as this won't be used all that much for gaming. My experience with the R9 270 in my personal machine has been great, it's done everything I've thrown at it without breaking a sweat, so it goes to think the 270X might be a little better. OC capabilities are there as well, but may not get used.
Case: So, the case, I LOVE IT! first off I really like Silverstone cases, they're a great value, have some really smart, sometimes quirky, features, and are engineered pretty well to maximize airflow. Looking through the relatively few options for a micro ATX cases I found the PS-07 to be exactly what I wanted. Of course SS makes the TJ-07, which is exactly the same on the inside as this case, but it's ~$30 more. So having the HDD rack, the removable mobo tray, and the heat sink jack, while dropping the large fan in the front and the aluminum bezel were fine with me. The top, and the left and right sides come off, giving quite a bit of space to get my hands in there. The mobo tray comes out, which helps getting the mobo screwed down while eliminating the frustration you get when one of those screws go skipping off into a dark corner when you miss the threads. The PSU goes in the top of the case, much like cases of yore, and vents out of the top. I'm not sure this really helps cool the case since there's not an intake on the bottom of the PSU, and the GPU is immediately below, blowing up towards the PSU. Thermal performance benchmarks rate this case about the middle of the road, but it's much smaller in volume and footprint than other cases that are supposed to be designed for the micro ATX form factor. The mobo is inverted as well, so that was a fun quirk to work with, but once everything was in and secured, I got a nice clean build, that looks pretty sharp in there.
PSU: It has everything I want and need in a PSU, 80+ Gold, and semi modular, a decent price, and a solid track record are what I want in a PSU. I have to say the included cables were a little on the short side for this build, with the SATA power going down to the HDD in the bottom of the case only just reaching by the last connector. You won't see the PSU at all with the sides of the case removed, but it is a fairly good looking unit being all black, with green and white graphics.
Optical Drive: Most professors require hard copies of the semester's work on CD, so the need for the DVD-RW drive is there, the drive mounts flush to the case face, and with the PSU and SATA connectors right there at the top made it pretty easy to wire in. Good price, with a good reputation.
Monitor: This monitor was a pretty good deal, and has a great viewing angle having an IPS panel. I'm not a fan of the bezel though, as it has a easily visible seam on the bottom left and right sides. The buttons aren't visibly labeled, but they're in the same place as any other monitor. I wouldn't take the manufacturers description at face value as well, AOC's website says it's a 24" monitor, but the box says 23.6", I didn't break out the measuring tape, but having differing numbers when you pay a premium for every inch on a monitor is a little off-putting. Otherwise it has a good picture, crisp colors, AND has a matte finish panel like all monitors should.
WiFi: I've been using Rosewill WiFi cards with no problems, I have this same card in my personal PC, and it works pretty well. It's capable of streaming on my home network with no hiccups, and hasn't dropped a signal to date.
Closing remarks: I'm sure my brother will get a lot of good use out of this machine, it is capable of better than good performance, and won't be a chore setting up a tearing down as he moves around the studios in the coming years. I really enjoyed working with the PS-07 case as well, the cable management potential is great, and made for a nice, clean build. I would recommend ordering a few extra fans for the case, and in my case the CPU cooler. It only comes with the two in the front, so I flipped the fan on the cooler to pull the air through the fins to the back and out of the vent which is directly behind the cooler fan. The front fans do have a direct path to the mobo area, but this may lead to some extra heating. Thanks for reading about this build, questions and comments are welcome!