ITX Linux Workstation Build
The time is fast approaching for my next build. It will be an ITX based one, my 3rd ITX build in the last year, as I've grown to love this format for various reasons. Here are some points/requirements for this proposed build. This build will be used as a daily general computing workhorse. It will not be used to play games as I have that base already covered with another pc.
-> This build will run Linux exclusively (Either Linux Mint, Suse 11.3 (When it drops), or PCLinuxOS 2010.1).
-> Must be very quiet yet powerful & fast enough to run today's modern applications (Not A Game Machine Though).
-> Must be built with up to date components.
-> Obviously Linux compatibility is a must.
-> Would prefer to choose an ITX case that can fit a standard ATX power supply for the sake of choice.
-> I would prefer that the chosen case be able to fit a cooler the size of the Scythe Big Shuriken (My heatsink of choice for tight spaces.
-> Must be reasonably priced but not if it means sacrificing the above points.
-What Is This Build For?-
Daily computing tasks such as surfing the net, multimedia, document creation, communication, ect, ect.
So with that out of the way here is some of the hardware I have been looking at.
Intel based gets the nod here so far due to the availability of S1156 based motherboards. From what I have been reading the ECS H55H-I seems to be a great board for the price but with no USB 3.0 or SATA 3 it isn't very forward thinking. The Zotac H55ITX-A-E is another contender but while being more expensive than the ECS, it does at least have integrated WiFi (Bu at an almost $50 premium over the ECS board!). Still USB3 & SATA3 are NOT among the deciding factors for this build at all.
I did not include any model from Intel since being an overclocker at heart, Intel gets passed over due to their usual lack of any overclocking options in their shipping bios.
I am not against an AMD offering, I still love my Zotac GF8200 ITX build, but I am being swayed by my cpu choice.
Intel Core i3-530
The Core i3 has the combination of speed, easy overclockability & cool running efficiency that seems to make it a perfect choice for this setup. As a bonus it includes Intel VT-x technology since I am a virtualization junkie as well not to mention Hyperthreading.
Here is a sticking point. I would prefer an ITX case that supports a full sized ATX powersupply. I just feel that I would prefer the choice of silent powersupply than have my choices limited by the small selection of SFX based units around. I would also be able to go modular which would be a big advantage given the limited space that the ITX platform affords. This is not written in stone however.
Some I've been looking at include the Lian Li PC-Q08 (Not really available yet), Lian Li PC-Q07, Lian Li PC-V351A, Silverstone SG05B, Silverstone SG06B.
So here is the beginning of my next build. I would like to start ordering parts within the next week or two.
Opinions & Observations are welcomed.
Some questions come in my head...
What does it stand for?
Playing dvd or editing video files?
How long do you plan to keep it? Do you want it for the long run or you change your computer every 2 to 3 years?
Not looking for extreme overclocks but from all I've been reading 4ghz out of the i3 is not too hard. Btw, here is a very interesting article. I won't be going to these extremes but it shows what can be accomplished.
If you plan going on the ITX motherboard, Intel lead the way with small & efficient platform.
On the other end, if you go with a micro atx board, amd have the feature lead for the price in this category. More heat and less efficient than Intel by the way. Plus, you will be able too upgrade it with the 2011 amd processor. On the Intel side, you won't.
It is up to you to decide witch size do you prefer the most!
But on both size, you don't need a tremendous amount of power, exept if you vertualize like 2 servers 2003 with 1 serveur 2008 domain controller and like 4 or 5 xp machines...
The issue I have with Intel branded boards, in particular the ITX based products, is the complete lack of bios "tweaks" available. I'm an enthusiast at heart & this just won't do even though with respect to tweaking, I'm not going to far with this build. I love the build quality of their boards though.
If I was going MicroAtx an AMD Athlon II Quad would be my choice all the way. Pricewise though the ECS LGA1156 still has the edge on even the cheapest but quality ITX AMD rival. (Source Shopbot - Compare prices - Canada - Price Comparison - Comparison Shopping)
I would also, as you pointed out, give up some efficiency.
With respect to virtualization, I do not need to run servers on this box as I already have a dedicated Bare Metal Hypervisor based XenServer 5.5 box running 24/7. I do though like to keep up with Linux releases so I usually end up checking out the latest distributions via VirtualBox running on the desktop.
P.S. I really appreciate your input.
I've actually been contemplating an itx/h55/i3 build myself. (for some small folding)
Decided to wait on the Gigabyte h55 itx board, but it was supposed to be out last month. So far I've only seen a review of it on Linus Tech Tips, and that wasn't even a review of the board, but the barebones system that came with it. Brand wise I prefer Gigabyte over ECS by a longshot, always hearing stories of bad ECS QC.
The DFI mini itx P55 wouldn't be a bad choice either, but you'll need a video card if you go with that.
For the CPU I've been debating 540/530, higher multiplier on the 540 will make getting to 4ghz a lot easier, since there isn't much room to bump voltage on an itx board. (less mosfets/vrm's etc)
For the case I'd get one of the Lian Li cases, slim optical drives on the Silverstones just suck. (pricewise)
PSU wise I've been looking for this however, it's been really hard to find.
EDIT: also thought about running a Pico PSU, but then I wanted room for a video card.
Then a amd athlon II with 890 series chipset might be a rock solid choice for multimedia usual task.
But I don't know if you might run into trouble because it's a recent chipset (For linux)
You seem more informed than me on that particular topic!
I have actually heard good things about the ECS ITX product & its' price & availability are right now. I do think the the Gigabyte product will be more interesting in no small part because it will have USB3.
I too have been taking a long look at the Lian Li cases. They are easy to like and most, not sure about the PC-Q07, should fit my Scythe Big Shuriken.
This is true but I think the latest ATI drivers for Linux do support the 890 chipset. I wish there was an ITX board with the 890 series chipset.
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