New PC Build: mATX?

Shawn

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My current desktop, which is an E8400 based machine, has been giving me trouble for a few months now. It was never problem free anyway, so I'm giving you guys a second chance hoping you do good by me. :p

I struggled for a while about the form factor. Part of me felt or feels that big old desktops are kind of a thing of the past, but after looking at my options I see that building a desktop is still by far the most sensible.

Last time around I bought an HTPC case but it's kind of pointless because it's still a full ATX, so it's basically a mid tower on its side... so I'm not going after that type this time.

But as I said the idea of a traditional full or even mid ATX tower seems old fashioned to me, so I started thinking about going mATX maybe.

Now here is my question, is there any drawbacks to mATX other than the obvious which is the loss of a few expansion slots?

I'm not looking to skimp on parts, I'm still looking for a high end machine. But it looks like you can run an Intel i7 2600 pretty comfortably on something like this Gigabyte:

 
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Polygon

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Really, the only loss would be less expansion slots, and sometimes memory slots. I personally refuse to buy anything with only two memory slots. Also, with a mATX case you might have trouble fitting components.

I must ask why you want an i7 2600K? Are you planning to do video editing and a lot of encoding?
 

Shawn

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Why is only two memory slots a bad thing? I was going to grab 2x4GB sticks, can't imagine needing more than 8GB for a few years.

I don't do video editing, I guess I just picked the i7 for the hell of it. It is quite a bit more than an i5 quad core it seems though...
 

Polygon

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I just don't like being shoehorned into something. I prefer to have the potential there to expand. That's just me though. As for the i7 Vs. the i5, I would only get the i7 if you're doing a lot of video editing or encoding. You're not going to see the difference otherwise. Save the money and go with an i5 2500K.
 

geeman

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mATX is a viable option these days imho. There are even high end mobos with that size and gaming cases so it should be a problem even if you want lots of power. Just make sure you can fit the expansion cards you need, hdd's and most importantly your graphics card. Also making sure you can fit a powerful enough PSU, not all mATX cases fit a normal ATX PSU afaik.
 

h-p

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I'm currently using a mATX mobo. It has a socket 1366, and I use it with Core i7 920. It's in an ATX case at the moment, but I had it in a mATX case previously. Not a single problem with it so far. :) In my opinion expansion slots aren't a problem because a lot of features is integrated nowdays.
 

thevictor390

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My PC is an mATX mobo as well, but in an ATX case. Why is two memory slots bad, you ask? Say for example you have 2x4 GB and 4 slots. Down the road, you want to ugrade to 16 GB (who knows where technology is going?). At that time you have the option of buying 2x4 GB and slotting them in next to your old sticks. Otherwise you'd have to spend a lot more money on 2x8 GB....

My own mobo is limited to 2x2 GB so this is quite annoying....

So while I'm sure it's not a big deal going mATX, what do you gain by doing so? It will be a lot easier to put together and work with in a larger case. I guess it's just a matter of style over substance but when it comes to desktop components, I find it hard to pick style.
 

smib

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Well, he could buy a single 8GB stick, price is pretty similar. Having a smaller case doesn't have to be about style over substance, full towers are fucking huge.
 

Average Guy

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If you don't want to OC, or run sli/cf but just want small computer it's just fine ;)

- You won't need more than two memory slots :)
 

Shawn

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Just make sure you can fit the expansion cards you need, hdd's and most importantly your graphics card. Also making sure you can fit a powerful enough PSU, not all mATX cases fit a normal ATX PSU afaik.
I think I've thought it through and I should be fine. I have only had two cards in my computer for a few years now, a GeForce 9800 GTX and some old 802.11g PCI card I got years ago with a motherboard. Never had more than two HDDs either.

The WiFi card is old PCI so it won't fit on the motherboard I posted, but I can just pick up a USB wireless adapter for a few bucks.

Regarding video cards, so far as I can tell they are really compact nowadays. Even though my previous case is full ATX the 9800 GTX barely fit in there (and with some drive cages removes), but if this Radeon 5750 that I'm using at the moment is any indication then I should be good with an mATX case.

Oh, and I'm only looking at cases that take a full ATX PSU. I have a lovely modular Enermax that is more than adequate and so will be salvaged.


In my opinion expansion slots aren't a problem because a lot of features is integrated nowdays.
Ditto, who even needs 7 slots in this day and age?


Why is two memory slots bad, you ask? Say for example you have 2x4 GB and 4 slots. Down the road, you want to ugrade to 16 GB (who knows where technology is going?). At that time you have the option of buying 2x4 GB and slotting them in next to your old sticks. Otherwise you'd have to spend a lot more money on 2x8 GB....
That is a good if obvious point. :p But the last two computers I have had have not been kept long enough for me to upgrade the RAM.

So while I'm sure it's not a big deal going mATX, what do you gain by doing so? It will be a lot easier to put together and work with in a larger case. I guess it's just a matter of style over substance but when it comes to desktop components, I find it hard to pick style.
It's pretty much a stylistic choice. You're right, it's hard to pick style when it comes to desktops which is why I'm trying as hard as I can to not end up with some huge steel box that would probably appeal more to a 17-year-old me.

Also, I thought about it and realized that I never came close to using the expansion or space offered by ATX motherboards or cases. Extra airflow is nice to have, but I'm not seeing many other benefits to full ATX for my use case.
 

Shawn

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New post to break things up a bit:

So I decided to seriously consider an mATX case because I didn't want a big old traditional tower sitting on my desk. It seemed perfect, smaller motherboard leads to a smaller case... but in reality I'm not sure this is necessarily the case.

I've been doing some size comparisons via this awesome tool and it seems like most mATX cases actually have a larger footprint that traditional ATX towers. Well, there's different styles of mATX cases... there's small cube-shaped models and more traditional models which are like ATX towers but a bit more petite.

I looked at a few LianLi cases of the cube variety, and like I said it seems like despite being short they take up a lot of space because they are wide.

I also really like the Fractal Design Define cases since the design is so understated and exactly what I'm after, and I was delighted to see they recently introduced the Define Mini which is an mATX variant of the case... except nobody has it for sale yet, and as per my size comparisons it seriously looks a mere 10% smaller than the R3. I might as well just go R3 + full ATX at that point.

I must say though all these have a much smaller footprint that my current stupid SilverStone case. That's also on the size comparison.



Oh, and +1 all around for the input. ;)
 
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Shawn

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welcome to the fractal crowd then, i guess :thumbsup:
It's not so easy I'm afraid... I can't really find it for sale anywhere. My local place has all FD cases on back order, having been delayed multiple times so they don't even have ETAs anymore. Newegg.ca doesn't sell any Fractal Design cases and I don't think I would want to buy something as big and heavy as a case from their US website.

So I'm still looking into other cases...
 
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GaryC

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Don't do atom. Even a Core 2 Duo would be better. And for graphic cards, ATi tends to have less energy consumption/power usage. And since you don't game, you could even get the cards from the 'last' generation
Nvidia GTX 400s, or ATi Radeon 5850, etc
 

Shawn

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Do you guys have any video card recommendations?

I know the Sandy Bridge chips have built video capabilities which are probably fine to play the occassional game, but it seems kind of counterintuitive pairing a 2600K with onboard graphics, no? I don't play games often but if I wanted to buy a computer based on my actual and frequent needs then I should be looking into an Atom-based build.


Also, if I were to get one 8GB stick of memory instead of 2x4GB sticks to leave room for future expansion, will it matter than it's not dual-channel?
 

Shawn

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Don't do atom. Even a Core 2 Duo would be better. And for graphic cards, ATi tends to have less energy consumption/power usage. And since you don't game, you could even get the cards from the 'last' generation
Nvidia GTX 400s, or ATi Radeon 5850, etc
That was a joke man. Who in their right mind would consider an i7 2600K and then also an Atom for the same build?

I was just saying that if I were to stick to what I actually needed even an Atom would probably be overkill.
 
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GaryC

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Sandy Bridge cards have some bug in there, from what I've read. Something related to graphic cards.
 

Shawn

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Sandy Bridge cards have some bug in there, from what I've read. Something related to graphic cards.
It wasn't video cards, and they've taken care of it already. Apparently motherboards with the B3 designation are fixed.
 

GerFix

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Have you considered a mini-ITX board? The mini ITX cases are much smaller than than micro-ATX cases. Lian Li make a couple that are quite understated and they can use a standard ATX power supply. I quite like the look of the PC-Q11. As for motherboards, there is an Asus Sandy Bridge board with built in Wi-Fi: P8H67-I Deluxe. The only thing you need to add is a graphics card but if you aren't going to do much gaming the onboard graphics would be quite sufficient and you could use the PCI express slot to install a PCI express SSD :wicked:.
 

Shawn

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Have you considered a mini-ITX board? The mini ITX cases are much smaller than than micro-ATX cases. Lian Li make a couple that are quite understated and they can use a standard ATX power supply. I quite like the look of the PC-Q11. As for motherboards, there is an Asus Sandy Bridge board with built in Wi-Fi: P8H67-I Deluxe. The only thing you need to add is a graphics card but if you aren't going to do much gaming the onboard graphics would be quite sufficient and you could use the PCI express slot to install a PCI express SSD :wicked:.
I didn't consider mini ITX because I didn't think they had decent motherboards for that standard. I've looked at ITX cases though and there definitely is a lot more options and better ones than mATX.

Thanks, this helps me out a lot. I think I prefer an Asus board to a Gigabyte too.

Edit: The Q11 seems to be sold out everywhere as well sadly. I like the really small footprint, it's so much smaller than LianLi's mATX cases. Anyone else make a case like the Q11?
 
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