HTPC upgrade? New mobo + CPU + RAM only

Stereodude

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My LGA775 Intel E5200 HTPC running Windows 7 (32-bit) is getting a little irksome in some regards. Basically, my main complaint is that background OS tasks like Windows Update processing and downloading updates can cause stuttering or dropped frames when they occur during video playback. My initial idea was to upgrade the CPU. An E8600 (the fastest dual core CPU it supports) is about $20 (used) on eBay, but I'm not sure if some extra MHz will improve things. Another option would be to get a Q9550S CPU (the fastest 65W quad core), but they're about $100 used on eBay. 4 cores might be better than 2 faster cores in terms of ironing out my complaints. However, at $100 for a Q9550S I'm almost halfway to buying a new Haswell i3, low end mobo, and some DDR3 RAM. A new Haswell system would give me a more powerful CPU (than even the Q9550S) and PCIe 3.0 which will help out madVR vs. the PCIe 2.0 I have now.

At a minimum even if I don't change any hardware I needs to reinstall an x64 version of Windows so I can use current drivers for my R9 380 card...

I was thinking something like this:
i3-4370 - $129.99 at Microcenter
ASRock H97M Pro4 - $49.99 (after $10 rebate and $20 processor bundle discount) at Microcenter
8gB (2 x 4gB) DDR3-1600L - $40 everywhere
 

ddrueding

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Looks entirely legit and quite reasonable to me.

Edit: Wow, PCI slots....haven't seen those in a long time...
 

Stereodude

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Hmm... This get a little more complicated. The CPU cooler I'm currently using, Scythe Ninja Plus, can't be used for Socket H3 / LGA1150. That leaves me looking for a new cooler, which is more money into the project. Oh well, it's only money...

I also had my mind refreshed about Haswell's sensitivity to power supplies. The one in the HTPC was listed by Corsair as "Likely compatible". I'll probably try using it.
 

ddrueding

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Completely understand, I'm a big fan of the overkill myself. I actually stuck a AIO 120mm water unit on an i3 at home.
 

Stereodude

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The motherboard + processor have been acquired. The aftermarket CPU cooler is on order along with the RAM.
 

Stereodude

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Thermal compound and new case fans are ordered too. It's like a snowball growing in complexity and cost.
 

Stereodude

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So the last piece finally came (yesterday). The CPU & HSF are now installed in the motherboard along with the RAM. I'm running Memtest86+ now. If all goes well hopefully I can Windows 8.1 install and get it swapped into the case tomorrow on my day off.
 

Stereodude

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I got this swapped over and working yesterday. Windows 8.1 affords me 10bit output and 3D output capability from madVR that Windows 7 can't do. I got everything working x64 style. It was pretty straight forward from the software side. Install Windows 8.1 Pro and drivers for everything, install the various Windows updates, install madVR, MPC-HC, Foobar2k, etc and go. I used my spare 128GB Samsung 850 Pro SSD as the system drive.

Even though it's in a large case I had a hard time getting everything situated and fit. The top of the HSF only clears the side of case by a few mm. I put 3 120mm PWM speed controlled Noctua fans in the case using a powered PWM splitter. I didn't bother with the low noise adapters (inline resistors). I just set the profile for the PWM fan output driving the case fans to silent in the BIOS. The CPU fan was quiet enough on the normal profile. I need to do a little more monitoring, but the R9 380 seems to be running cooler than it did before. I could hear it spin up and start to get audible with the old guts, but I had only 2 case fans and the CPU fan was fighting natural convection (to push down air across the passive cooler on the chipset).

I did notice the stickers on the Corsair HX520 were starting to peel off. I also noticed some electrical buzzing noises from it as the system loading changes. They're not really audible from the seats, but it doesn't give me the warmest fuzzy feeling about the longevity of the supply. I also now have an extra Seasonic G550 laying around that I just bought I can swap in. I bought it to put in my NAS/server, not originally planning to buy a Supermicro enclosure with dual redundant 1200W supplies, so now it's available surplus.
 

Stereodude

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All these are new to me. I use VLC for my video / audio needs; I guess these are way better since you're using them. Care to enlighten the ignorant? :)
madVR is a video renderer that uses pixel shaders running on your GPU to scale video in a very high quality fashion. It has some other neat tricks, like changing the refresh rate of your PC to match the content you're playing, high quality dithering, etc. I use it with MPC-HC.
 

mubs

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I tried installing Foobar; W10 barfed saying it wasn't signed. Getting around this in W10 is quite a pain. I realize it's good that MS is watching out for us. I only wish more sw developers made their products W10 friendly. Irfanview 64 triggers a hyper immune response from W10 as well.
 

Stereodude

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I was unhappy that my network drive mappings didn't show up to applications running with administrator rights and I had map them again. A little Googling later and I found out about EnableLinkedConnections in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SOFTWARE/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Policies/System.

I'm pretty sure I need to create a .reg file for all the fixes new installs of Windows 7 (and up) need to be workable, like enabling administrative shares, etc.
 

mubs

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Just turn off SmartScreen. You can turn it back on once you've installed the software you want.
Was this addressed to me Merc? I don't use Edge at all; I've downloaded Chrome and Firefox and use those. I have already downloaded Foobar2000; it's when I try to install it that W10 warns about it not being signed. Or am I missing something in that if I turn off SmartScreen in Edge this check will not be made?

Edit: Never mind, Google helped me out. Thanks.
 

Mercutio

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In the mid to late 2000s, Dell was shipping a lot of systems that used an alternate arrangement of components. This arrangement, called BTX, was never widely adopted except by Dell and HP. Your Precision T3400 uses a BTX motherboard and a modern, standard ATX or MicroATX board can't be secured in that chassis. You're well into new case territory if you're trying to upgrade. Sorry man.
 

Stereodude

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Well, it's time again to make more changes to the HTPC. It seems the Antec P180's day has ended. I can't keep my GTX 1080 adequately cooled while running my new madVR settings while simultaneously keeping the acoustic profile of the system quieter than my plasma TV when sitting in my seat. The three 120mm Noctua fans just can't pull the heat out of the system while remaining inaudible. I was a little surprised. The R9 380 has a 190W TDP and the GTX 1080 has a 180W TDP. The GTX 1080 is a little longer, but by less than 1". As a result, I'm not entirely sure why I'm seeing such a difference in thermals. The GTX 1080 seems to have a 82C thermal target. The fans ramp bit before it gets to 82C, but they really step up the ramping to keep it at 82C. After 30 minutes of DVD playback the GTX 1080's fans are running at about 1850 RPM and they are easily audible if I mute my receiver. They don't have an unpleasant whine or anything, but the system has an air rushing sort of whoosh sound.

In that 30 minutes of DVD playback the CPU's temp is up into the mid 50's while having virtually no load on it and the CPU fan is spun up to the point of audibility which means the GTX 1080 is really heating up the case and it's not an issue with the HSF on the GTX 1080 not being able to pull heat from the card. The 3 Noctua 120mm case fans are on the verge of audibility running as fast as possible. I had the AC on in the house and the room was 23C. The idle temps of the system are under 30C. I tried changing airflow direction and fan strategy. Nothing really improved. Even running the system with the side of the case open didn't improve things all that much. Maybe I should have gotten a GTX 1080 with a blower that exhausts the heat directly out the back of the case. :dunno:

So it seems a new case is in order. I looked at the reviews at SilentPCReview and chose the Corsair 600Q. It was the best combination of quiet and good thermal performance that had 2 optical drive bays. The Silverstone FT05 was a little quieter and cooler, but has no optical drive bays. The Antec S10 is also a hair quieter and similarly cool, but it's way too much money, has no optical drive bays, and won't accept the CPU cooler I currently have. I plan to replace the fans that come with the Corsair 600Q with better ones since that was the one thing SPCR noted that kept it from being a killer quiet case.

SPCR said:
If not for the stock fans, the Corsair Carbide 600Q would be a killer quiet case. This is something that Corsair needs to work on as both the Air 240 and Carbide 500R are similarly afflicted. Cases from their competitors, like Phanteks, NZXT, Fractal Design, BitFenix, and SilverStone, are all equipped with superior sounding fans, so they really need to step up their game in this department if they want to be taken seriously as a noise-conscious manufacturer. The Carbide 600Q is painfully close to greatness, but falls just short. It's also rather expensive, selling for US$150 and the potential cost of replacing the fans making it an even pricier proposition.
The 600Q case is $140 w/ free shipping at Newegg. It has a $20 rebate dropping it to $120. I scored 3 new Thermalright TY-147A fans on eBay for $30 shipped (total). So, for the $150 between the case and fans I'm hoping to have my HTPC back into silence.
 

ddrueding

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I've been really happy with the build quality of Corsair cases so far, and I always swap the fans.

Have you considered relocating the tower? It might be easier than designing it to be quiet.

Up to now I've had the rack in the living room with a full water cooling rig, but am relocating it to the garage where I can bolt on as many fans as I like.
 

Stereodude

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Have you considered relocating the tower? It might be easier than designing it to be quiet.
I thought about it, but it would have to go into the basement. That makes using it somewhat impractical. Specifically loading discs into the optical drives... Turning it on would have to be done via WoL. I'd have to run HDMI and USB through the floor for video to the receiver and for the Logitech K800 to plug into. I'm hopeful this new case will accomplish my goals without having to resort to relocating the system.
 

Stereodude

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You could run USB and HDMI over Cat5 and just put the DVD drive upstairs on a USB3 connection.
Yes, I'm aware of those sorts of products. Many of the HDMI over CAT5e/6 products compress the video signal. They're an option, but not one I was really too interested in.
 

Stereodude

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It doesn't seem like the new case helped things out all that much. The GPU still sits at 83C under load. The GPU fans spin about 200 RPM slower than it did in the old case. The CPU runs much cooler though. I'm uncertain of the performance of the TY-147A 140mm fans. My 120mm Noctua seems to move a bit more air without being any louder. I pulled a 140mm Noctua from my Fractal Design R5 and it definitely seems to move quite a bit more air for the same RPM vs a TY-147A in free air. It seems maybe a tad louder at the same RPM, but the noise is lower frequency. I will have to swap in the Noctua and see how it does.

I'm not sure what the guys at SPCR were on about singing the praises of the TY-147A. I have a few of them on CPU heatsinks and knew they were quiet, but they seem pretty low airflow.
 

Stereodude

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I'm a little puzzled by the results, but the Noctua 140mm PWM controlled fan seemed slightly less effective if we're judging the system by the RPM of the fans on the GPU. I tried a 120mm Notuca PWM also and it was slightly worse than the 140mm Noctua. Both were spun to the threshold of audibility.

I'm now leaning toward the idea that the cooling on this particular GTX 1080 is poor for what I want to do. I guess I should have gotten an Asus Strix model. I'm noodling over selling the Zotac and replacing it with another GTX 1080 with better cooling. Or, I might just stuff the Zotac GTX 1080 in my other PC and skip my original plan to get a GTX 1070 for it.
 
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ddrueding

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One of the things I noticed with my 1080 (and Titan X for that matter) is that the back plate gets hot regardless of fan speed or even water cooling. I was able to get my temps significantly lower by mounting a large heatsink to the back of them and directing case airflow across. You may get decent results without modding the card depending on airflow.
 

Stereodude

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I've ordered a few more 140mm case fans trying to focus on high airflow, low noise fans. I don't have a whole lot of expectations of any significant improvement though.
 

jtr1962

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You need to measure the air temperature inside the case before doing anything. If you have enough airflow into the case so that the air temperature inside is close to ambient then you won't get much improvement from more case fans. Assuming the air temperature inside the case is close to ambient, at that point you have two choices, neither of which are mutually exclusive-a more efficient GPU heat sink, or a stronger GPU heatsink fan. Unfortunately, I see quite a number of cooling solutions in the computer industry where the focus seems to be more on how it looks than how it works.
 

Stereodude

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Well, I'm not adding more case fans. I'm looking to maximize airflow for a given number of fans (only 1 blowing in) by trying different fans. However, your point is not lost on me. I noted with the Antec P180 case that running it with the sides off didn't improve temperatures much with the GTX 1080. Taking the side off the case made an appreciable difference with my Asus Strix R9 380. I need to see if I can find my thermocouple and the multimeter that goes with it. Otherwise I will use my IR thermometer.
 

Stereodude

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So I did more testing. I put two 140mm case fans on the front of the system and ran them blowing into the case. I ran 4 test permutations. Fans at 50% with the side closed then with the side open. Fans at 100% with the side closed and the side open. The fans RPM on the GTX 1080 was effectively the same in all 4 tests, so I didn't bother to measure the air temperature in the case. With two 140mm fans unobstructed and unrestricted in any way blowing ambient room temp air into the case at full power with the side open there's no way the air in the case is much over room temp.

I'm seriously considering going to Microcenter this morning to pick up an Asus GTX 1080 Strix.
 

Stereodude

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So the Asus GTX 1080 Strix runs about 20C cooler under load, but it spins the GPU fans about 200-250rpm faster than the Zotac. I'm not sure how audible they are or aren't because the case is all open and apart still, but I imagine they're not inaudible. The good news here is that I now have plenty of thermal margin to play with and should be able to find a satisfactory operating point by slowing the GPU fans down in exchange for a little hotter temps than stock (but still cooler than the Zotac).

I also need to see how the GPU controlled 4-pin PWM case fan headers on the Strix work.
 

Stereodude

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So I've basically achieved success. Asus GPU Tweak II can control the fan speed on the card. You can't adjust the fanspeed below 39%, other than off. However, it's effectively inaudible from my seat at 40%. After 30 minutes of running with the TY-147A as a case fan blowing across it the GPU temp has stabilized at 76C with an ambient room temp of 23C. I did have to bump the boost clock slightly up to 1850MHz because the default of 1733MHz wasn't quite fast enough for the madVR settings I wanted to run.

The HTPC is not quite 100% inaudible in a silent house. If you listen closely you can hear a small amount of noise from my seat. However, once you power up the receiver, TV, and other gear it becomes inaudible.
 
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