How does this small form factor proposed build look?

Hi All,
I’ve been researching a bunch of options on the PC build front for a Gig Performer/Home recording with Reaper build. (+ occasional other uses like Video editing…Adobe)

Core Goals

  • Portable form factor…for occasional on the road use.
  • Quiet machine
  • Windows (my whole life has been in that world anyway)
  • Great value for money and hopefully work for the next 7+ years or so.
  • Capable of handling layered patches with Kontakt/Omnisphere strings/piano etc. with no clicks or clacks.
  • Primarily used at home - but occasional gig needs.
  • Will be hooked up to two monitors…one for the Gig Performer screen…on side of keyboard…second for sheet music using Mobile Sheets with the midi auto change GP patches feature.

After reading through threads here it seemed the case was one of the biggest decisions.

I’ve come up with the Dan A4 H20 case. this video has an example build that is quiet and compact.

Here is my current proposed list of components.

https://au.pcpartpicker.com/user/Mavoz/saved/#view=szFcxr

Do you have any thoughts on these components based on your experience?

Some questions:
Any other case you would consider? I considered the NZXT v2…but some people on threads have been complaining about the noise of the included cooler. There is also the respected Cooler Master NR200P…but it is starting to get a bit bigger than I’d like…but I guess might be worth considering still.

Cases: Length Width Height
A4-H2O Case 326 140 244
NZXT H1 196 196 405
NR200P 376 185 274

I’ve also heard some debate about the SSD’s…ie. sounds like having 2 separate ones is still the go…do I use 2 x NVMe drives…or 1 systen NVMe and a 2.5"?

Thanks for any other thoughts at all!

I’d go 13th gen cpu instead of 12th. I5 13600k.

I’d do two m.2 nvme drives if you can afford it and your motherboard supports it.

For audio use i’d skip the graphics card for now.

You have a B660 based motherboard. I have gone with Z690 boards instead because they support higher bandwidth for storage and graphics. The Z690s will cost more, though.

All the prices in that part picker are high. I’d check BH Photo, Newegg, and Amazon once you know what components you want.

Last time i bought there were big backlogs on all decent lower price motherboards. Going with a mini ITX setup limits your options there.

I built two systems earlier this year. I’ll look for my parts list later and post it.

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Following up on my post above…

I went down this road looking to build a mini-ITX system earlier this year. There are tradeoffs between size, cost, and power. Smaller costs more for comparable power. I ended up bailing out on the mini-ITX idea because I know I’m unlikely to ever really want to move my PC around and I didn’t want to pay a big premium for portability I wasn’t going to use.

But that’s me. Assuming you really want a mini-ITX and are willing to pay the price, here are the tradeoffs I evaluated…

Storage
I’m a really impatient guy when it comes to watching loading screens. So I prioritize drive speed a lot, and for the past three of four years I’ve left hard drives behind in favor of SSD storage. Within SSDs the fastest by a pretty good margin are M2 NVME drives. There are multiple speeds within that, and I generally pay up for something close to the fastest.

There are also M2 SATA SSDs, which are slower, but on average will still be faster than a hard drive.

In raw numbers, PCIE 4.0 M2 NVME drives will do about 7,000 MB/sec vs. a SATA hard drive that you may get to around 160 MB/sec or a M2 SATA SSD that will probably be around 600 MB/sec. If you’re loading a lot of samples (you mention Kontakt and Omnisphere) then strongly consider your patience vs. your price sensitivity.

Motherboard
I almost always stick to Intel CPUs, so for current generation you’re looking for an LGA 1700 socked based motherboard. I always look for the number of M2 slots on the board because I want at least two. As I mentioned in the prior message, the Z690 (or Z790) boards are built for more storage and graphics bandwidth than the B660 boards.

I’m not aware of a B660 mini-ITX board that has multiple M2 slots. There are Z690 boards with multiple M2 slots, which is what I had shopped for, but those were/are in the $450+ range and I wasn’t willing to go there. As a result I ended up with Z690 ATX boards in my last couple builds. (Asus Rog Strix Z690-A Gaming WIFI D4.) The closest mini-ITX equivalent I see today is the Asus Rog Strix Z790-I Gaming Wifi, which looks like a great board if you’re willing to drop $470.

The other current motherboard consideration is DDR5 vs. DDR4 memory. DDR5 carried a pretty sizable pricing premium up until recently, but that seems to have mostly gone away if you shop around.
The actual performance difference between DDR4 and DDR5 is really minimal in practical real-world use, but your motherboard is going to support one or the other, not both. So just make sure you buy the right one, and stick to something like Crucial, Patriot, Kingston, Corsair… Don’t buy the off-brand stuff that’s 30% cheaper than everything else. The Corsair one you linked in your partpicker is good but about $100 more than you should pay if you’re buying in the US today.

Quiet
This will be all about your power supply and CPU fan. There are a lot of options, most of which are not very quiet. You really need to find something that will fit your case. Lots of options, but read people’s reviews.

The big thing these days is “All in one” liquid cooling systems with a radiator you attach to the case with a couple built-in fans. That’s what you have in your cart. There are lots of options, some stupid expensive, some reasonable but you may need to replace the stock fans with much quieter ones ($15 a fan, give or take). I’d be surprised if the fans on the one in your cart are quiet, but you can always replace the fans themselves later if they’re too loud for you.

CPU
Definitely go 13th gen over 12th. Not much of a price difference. You’d be better off with a 13th gen i5 than a 12th gen i7. If I were buying today I’d probably go i5-13600K ($320 or so) but the i7-13700K is worth considering at $430 give or take.

Graphics
For audio, just say no. If you really want to do video editing on it you’ll want the graphics card, but consider that video editing will benefit even more from high speed drives (M2 NVME), will require more heat dissipation, and will have its own fan noise.

My Conclusion
Absolutely nothing wrong with the system in your pc partpicker cart, other than the 13th gen processor thing. Make sure the power supply will fit the case. Small cases often have smaller spaces for power supplies, and not all ATX power supplies will fit. Somewhere in the case documentation it will tell you the size standards it can accommodate.

I’d just say to think about that tradeoff between the size, speed (of your storage), and what you’re willing to pay. The motherboard you have picked won’t handle multiple NVME drives (unless you add a PCIE card to handle them, but that’s a whole other issue). If it were me, I’d probably put a 2TB M2 NVME drive in there and use it for your storage, and put your windows installation on a SATA SSD.

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Thanks Vindes… Really appreciate the comprehensive reply! Much to think about in there.

I forgot to mention I’m in Australia… so the prices are Aud…

Some alternative options:

MOBO:

Would this be a better choice?
It looks like it still has 2 x m. 2?

Graphics card:
Interesting you think no for this… I’ve watched a few videos and some out there argue for one… just something small… to take any strain off cpu.

I guess I could even stick this in there:https://www.scorptec.com.au/product/graphics-cards/nvidia/79919-gv-n1650oc-4gl

Don’t know much about cards… assume it would possibly help?

Cpu
Will look at the 13th gen

Case:
The nr200 is a little bigger… but maybe going that little extra size achieves a lot?

SSD:

Sounds like I should go something like these?
Samsung 980 pro

Or us that overkill when the 970 era is cheaper.

Overall Reflection re cost and form factor;

I’ve still been using a massive Sager laptop from around 2010…desktop i7cpu with lga 1366 which was cutting edge at the time…it still runs gp ok… but struggling with clicks clacks on bigger layered patches with Omnisohere and Kontakt.

As it stands I’m at around $2600 Aud… this is very much a hobby and I mainly want this to work… I’m not too worried if I have to wait a few seconds longer for a patch to load.

Am I already going a bit over the top with some areas?

Ie. I could drop to Samsung 970s.m2’s.
i5 12400.cpu…

. and the price starts getting back to the $2K Aud area

Given I’ve seen some here on the forum using cheaper small form factor nuc style machines…

Anyway you’ve given me much to contemplate… will continue to research

Thank you for all the great suggestions! Really value it Vindes!

I would second your advise. With an 11 liter case though, you will absolutely have to insure that your cooling choice 1) matches or exceeds the heat load of the CPU and 2) will actually fit in the space available in the case. Liquid cooling sidesteps the profile issues over the CPU but you need to insure the radiator fits in the case - which can become an issue if you are using one of the larger GPUs. I used a STREACOM DA2 V2 mini-ITX case with an Asus ROG Z-590 MB, a Corsair H115i Pro liquid cooling system, a Corsair SF750 power supply and a GeForce RTX 3070 8G GPU. It was exceptionally tight - only possible with a lot of work to get the cabling right and an accessory header kit to move the GPU to the space available if you choose to use a GPU with the DA2 case.

If you don’t use a GPU it’s not difficult - just make sure that your matched components will in fact fit the space available if you opt for one of these small real estate rigs. Like your video, I wanted, and have, my case on my desktop, and it is quiet. I can’t hear it at all even when loaded up with the video and photo editing that I do in addition to my audio tasks. Like many other things, when you start to push the limits, whether technical or space, good planning can become critical to the success of your endeavor.

Additional comments: I really like the DA2 case and worth the additional cost. I had originally tried a LOUQE Raw S1 case, but at 7 liters it just couldn’t accommodate the spec I wanted. The smaller you go, the fewer the choices and the planning becomes more important. I won’t bother you with the other details other than to say that if you are going to the trouble and expense you might as well max out on the components so it won’t become obsolete too fast as the technology changes. I have included a few photos below that should show just how tight the build was.

And if you are interested, this is what a mini-ITX 7 liter case looks like. The smaller you go, the higher the cost, and believe me when I say that there isn’t any room for error.

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Thanks so much Cruise Cycle for the idea of that case and other ideas.
In this doc I’m starting to list things:

Also the current PC PARTS list: (which I keep playing with…might try next gen i5…but gets more expensive)
https://au.pcpartpicker.com/list/

I’ve done a rough cut out of the various sizes:

Your TREACOM DA2 V2 mini-ITX case may well be a great contender…it appears it will have a bit more room than the Dan H420…which does seem very small.

On fitting the radiator…there is a thread here that debates what fits…with some people indeed being caught out with problems:

Someone says that Cooler Master ML240L V2 (the regular version not mirror or illusion) is ok.

My last big debatable points are the Motherboard. As Vindes says above:
“You have a B660 based motherboard. I have gone with Z690 boards instead because they support higher bandwidth for storage and graphics.”

I’ve looked below…the Z690s become quite expensive…compared to everything else in the proposed build. Very open to suggestions here!

Mini ITX MOBOS: Australian Dollar
https://www.scorptec.com.au/product/motherboards/intel-socket-1700?page=1
Asus ROG STRIX B660-I GAMING WIFI Mini ITX LGA1700 Motherboard $349.00
Gigabyte Z690I AORUS ULTRA LITE DDR4 Motherboard $279.00

ASUS ROG STRIX Z690-I GAMING WIFI Motherboard
$619.00
ASRock Z690M-ITX/ax Motherboard $319.00

Hoping to order something in th e next day or two…but very open to suggestions from people!

Thank you so much for any ideas at all!

The only one who can determine the specifics of what to buy and how expensive is you. My biggest caution is that you need to figure out what you want, THEN figure out if it will fit in your desired case. For the VA2, there was absolutely no CPU fan that would fit with the way the ITX board is constructed, and if it did, would have been too high for the case. Many of the radiators, with fans that met the sound level spec would not fit in the only area it’s possible to install that in the case, all of which was determined by the CPU heat rejection spec at full load. When all that was calculated, the GPU wouldn’t fit unless a separate header accessory was installed so the GPU didn’t have to plug into the MB. One of the best features of the DA2 is all of the supports in the case can be moved around to fit what you want to build (within limits of course, determined by the rails you see in the photos). Good luck and happy building!

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I would also consider looking at an AMD system. The Ryzen chips are amazingly fast and I’ve never had a glitch. Plus they work well all day long air cooled. If there’s a chance your system will move, I’d also consider a rackmount case. I have 3 space rack system— easy to carry around. Everybody”s different and lots of solutions work as indicated by the responses. Nice to have options.

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Thanks again for the replies… the more I’ve been watching videos etc… the more my head starts to spin with all the options!

Samsung 870 versus 870 Pro

I5 gen 12600k versus 12600 versus i5gen 13 something…

versus z690 mobo versus b660… ddr 4 vs ddr 5

( A lot of videos out there are built with flashing light gaming rig scenarios in mind… so they sometimes confuse the issue too!)

At the end of the day I want to load up a nice piano like those in Komplete Ultimate… have a big layered pad sound from Omnisphere… maybe a Vienna instruments patch and not have the computer crack it at me for trying too much! (Which my current PC it can’t do that without hissing and spitting at me!)

and want to keep price somewhere around $2500 Aud.

Mike what Rzyen cpu did you go with?

On the case front I can see the Cooler Master has a bundle with psu + cooler… which could make all the building complexity simpler…

https://www.pccasegear.com/products/56065/cooler-master-nr200p-max-tg-mesh-itx-case-with-gpu-riser

Thanks all!

I have a Ryzen 7 1800x 8 core cpu with 32G of memory. That chip is a few years old now but honestly I haven’t been able to overload it. You can buy more advanced now. The one stat I would look at, is the single core speed that whatever cpu you’re gonna buy. Obviously the faster the better.

I had an older AMD computer with an Fx-8350 chipset. The Korg triton vsts — I couldn’t run because they would just click and pop. I read that it was because my single core speed wasn’t fast enough. That problem totally went away when I upgraded to a system with a ryzen chipset.

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I used components of full size format and packed them into a suitcase (including a screen)… the water-cooling unit does a great job in this case with very limited space:

The parts i use are listed here:

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Thanks Mike… really helpful… as a bit of an agricultural comparison I’ve taken your cpu and compared it with an i5 12600K

The i5 12600k seems to be a way in front given the newer gen…

and if you haven’t been able to overload it… that probably shows for those of us trying to build something in late 2022 we don’t need to go too crazy on the latest spec everything? (Assuming you’re doing similar things and loading up several vts and tracks etc)

I’m thinking of the law of diminishing returns… spending twice the money for the absolute latest mobo + cpu combos may actually bring zero noticeable difference?.

Perhaps it is all becoming a bit like the digital camera megapixel race… where it got to the point that the massive file sizes just became a pain in the neck!

I’ve still got a nearly working i7 from 2010… it just struggles when I load a big Omnisphere layered patches

It also makes me even wonder about components like the very latest SSD nvme versus the gen just before etc etc…

My ‘non educated’ guess is that all the cutting ed tech from just a couple of years ago will eat all these vsts for breakfast! But I’ll work on a budget of up to $3K Australian dollar… and get the best I can within that limit.

Spec wise I came across this Itx build… just about all the components seem like a pretty good combo…

Case wise I’m really thinking the Cooler Master nr200p max might just be a great bang for buck compromise between jtx size and still packing in all we need.

Thanks again!

Thanks for all these suggestions Schamass

As mentioned above I think I’ll now go with the Cooler Master Nrp200 max package

But then try to put together a road case that fits a 23 inch monitor.

I’m an occasional gig user…so it will spend most of the time at home… so the nrp200 should be good for home base

But I like the idea of integrating the box into a streamlined ‘transport case’ of some type… including monitor and power cables etc

Thanks for that component list… will have a good read through. Appreciate it.

Yeah, allthough it’s been a while ago now, i thought it could be useful somehow…

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Wow… that intel chipset is a beast! It’s great you did your homework and asked all the right questions. I think a lot of folks buy the expensive laptop on sale. …without doing the diligence of what actually works, and then complain when their system clicks and pops. That was me years ago. Let us all know what you finally get and how it works out. - Regards!

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Thanks for that…it was all starting to get a bit stressful by the end with all the options!

This is the latest…
https://au.pcpartpicker.com/user/Mavoz/saved/#view=jqXTMp

note: I have the NRP200 Max case with the cooler and 850W PSU…but PC pats picker won’t let me select that for some reason.

Also might move up to the 13th Gen of the i5…

Possibly consider a different SSD.

Last day or so of contemplating! Thanks!

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A couple last thoughts before you pull the trigger:

  • Looks like it’s going to be tight in there. That video you posted should be helpful as a reference as you shove everything in.

  • Looks like there are multiple versions of that motherboard. There is/was a DDR4 version and the one you linked is a DDR5. I also saw a couple comments or videos about early revisions that had problems. Wherever you end up buying it, I’d make sure to check the description closely so you’re getting what you expect. (I’ve made this mistake in the past.)

  • I leave graphics cards out of my audio system builds. You can always add it if you decide you want it later. And prices on graphics cards drop fast, especially considering the RTX 4000 series cards have just been released.

  • I’d upgrade to the 13th gen i5 13600K.

  • I usually buy my Windows keys from G2A. Could probably save yourself $100 at G2A. I don’t fully understand the sourcing, but I’ve bought about a dozen Windows and Office keys there over the past 10 years and never had a problem.

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Thanks Vindes…was about to purchase…but it all gets more complicated!

The MOBO I had in mind is this:

https://www.pccasegear.com/products/58770/gigabyte-z690i-aorus-ultra-plus-itx-motherboard

The plus version has apparently fixed some of the issues people had with this MOBO…but I’m not sure this MOBO will actually support the 13th gen i5 13600K as it refers specifically to 12th gen cpus? (Googling I think some of these 690s will support it with the right bios… but may require updating)

Interestingly I also tried a shopping cart modification with an Asus Prime ddr4 board… the savings then allow 64gb of ram versus 32… for less money! Too many decisions!

Intel says 13th gen processors will work on Z690 and Z790 based boards. The 13th gen processors didn’t exist when the board was released, so it’s not listed in the marketing materials. Historically this is pretty typical. I don’t remember an Intel processor that used the same socket not working on a motherboard with that socket. Here’s Intel’s page on 12th vs. 13th gen compatibility, though. Compatibility of 12th and 13th Generation Intel® Desktop…

In my last two builds I used DDR4 motherboards because the difference in price for DDR5 wasn’t worth the minimal benefit. In this particular case I think if you switched to an Asus mini-ITX board you would probably lose the second M2 slot. I wouldn’t want to do that just for extra RAM.

As for 32gb vs. 64gb… I don’t know. I put 64gb in the last two I built just because DDR4 RAM got cheap. I doubt I’ll ever come close to using it. The only thing I run samples on anymore is Superior Drummer. Everything else I use is modeled and pretty RAM light. If you run a lot of heavy Kontakt, Keyscape, or Omnisphere it might be different. Somebody who runs high memory use would have to weigh in. I just don’t have any real experience with it in audio use.

The real last thing I’ll comment on is the SSD choices. The Samsung 970/980/990 series can be tricky because pricing and availability can vary widely. The 980 Pro are about 2x the speed of the 970 Plus. The 990s run into the bandwidth limit of the bus, so while there are certain advantages you won’t see them much in real use. But the 990’s have just been released, so we’ll probably see price drops on the 970s and 980s.

Use your judgement if there are huge price or availability differences. In the US I’m seeing the 980 Pro 2TB for about $200 and the 970 Plus 2TB about $160 today. I’d pay the extra $40 for the 980, but it’s backordered at a lot of places. Not sure how supply in Australia will look.

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I recently went down a similar route to get a small PC to go in a rack case.

In my case I was looking for something that would be dedicated to playback, not used for creating, and good value - so perhaps a bit different to your use case. In the end I went with last gen AMD

AMD thermals are currently better than Intel for small form factor - I ended up choosing a 65W proc, the Ryzen 5 5600G. It’s a 3.9Ghz proc, and for realtime audio clock speed is important. You could also go for Ryzen 7 5700G if you needed some extra cores - but I thought 6 would be sufficient. There has been some great prices on Zen 3 processors recently, as AMD are starting to plug Zen 4

I put that in a deskmini X300 case, paired with a 32GB DDR4 memory, 2 TB SSD (nvme Gen 3 x 4) and a Noctua NH-L9a-AM4 low profile cooler - ended up with a unit that is really compact (1.92 litres), quiet, great value, and plenty powerful enough to run my rackspaces at low latency. Just note that X300 is a bit limited on USB ports, so you may want to invest in a hub if you have a lot of USB gear to connect.

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