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  1. Mountains of gear vaporeon800's Avatar
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    Hey guys, hoping for some suggestions from the gurus for how I should spend my money.

    My max for hardware is around $600. File storage is already taken care of with 9TB of USB3 drives. Past experience has shown me that I personally don't need more than 50GB of SSD as main storage for a Win7 system, so skimpy suggestions on that will be good.

    I don't play PC games. Zero.

    I'd like a small case since I just have a little room in a modest apartment, however I have my eye on a PCIe capture card that is full-length. My understanding is that this limits my options to a subset of Mini-ITX cases aimed at HTPC users who also want to install a long graphics board. The one I saw that is aesthetically pleasing to me is called Bitfenix Prodigy.

    When I asked on Doom9 for the best x264 encoding FPS/$ ratio, someone suggested i7-4770. That seems unrealistic for my budget (at $320 it's over 50% of my total), but hopefully I'm wrong. I also want high single-threaded performance, since I've never been brave enough to tackle Avisynth-MT for more than a few weeks.

    Does RAM size affect x264 performance much? If not, as little as 4GB will do me fine for my other tasks.
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    If money is tight, think about an MATX build instead. Mini ITX boards generally cost more than similar MATX boards, and the smallest mini-ITX cases don't have an opening that allows the single expansion slot to be used. The Bitfenix Prodigy does have an opening for the expansion slot, but its dimensions come close to that of a small MATX tower.

    [Edit] This is what I'm talking about:

    The BitFenix Prodigy's handles look cool, but waste space. Its dimensions are listed at 9.84" x 15.91" x 14.13"

    Admittedly these MATX cases are plain little black boxes, without the distinctive styling of the Bit Fenix case, but the dimensions listed for the SilverStone Temjin Series TJ08B-E and the SilverStone SST-PS07B are 8.27" x 14.73" x 15.75"
    Last edited by usually_quiet; 30th Jun 2013 at 19:15.
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  3. Mountains of gear vaporeon800's Avatar
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    Unfortunately the length of the card I'm talking about is beyond ridiculous. At 13.875", it exceeds what their cases touted as supporting "graphics cards of any length" can hold, according to the actual specs. The case that does fit it (SilverStone SG02-F) is described as supporting "extended-length" cards, but the manual for the card definitely claims it's standard "full length". Well, at least this one has the option of white.

    And digging deeper I see that the Prodigy in fact can only do 12.598"... I think you saved me some frustration.
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  4. Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    When I asked on Doom9 for the best x264 encoding FPS/$ ratio, someone suggested i7-4770.
    8 core AMD CPUs are almost as fast at x264. And a lot cheaper (FX 8350 is about $200). You'll need a lot more cooling though. Maybe too much for a tiny case.
    Last edited by jagabo; 30th Jun 2013 at 21:08.
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  5. Mountains of gear vaporeon800's Avatar
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    Thanks, but won't the requirement of adding a graphics card screw up my plan of slotting in the long capture card? Also, this site claims that the Intel chip is 58% better at single-threaded.
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  6. Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    Thanks, but won't the requirement of adding a graphics card screw up my plan of slotting in the long capture card?
    Get a motherboard with integrated graphics.

    Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    Also, this site claims that the Intel chip is 58% better at single-threaded.
    Yes single thread IPC is much better on Intel CPUs. But you asked specifically about x264 performance. Are you planning to run x264 single threaded?

    Oops, I missed the part where you said you were afraid of multithreaded AviSynth. Running AviSynth single threaded will be a bottleneck if you use slow filters like QTGMC() and McTemporalDenoise().

    Running Multithreaded AviSynth isn't hard. It's just a matter of copying the multithreaded avisynth.dll over the one already in your System32 or SysWow64 folder, then adding a SetMtMode() or two to your script. Of course, there are some filters that don't run multithreaded properly. But the filters mentioned above aren't a problem.

    Personally, for general performance and power consumption I prefer Intel CPUs now. But if x264 and AviSynth are you primary concerns the 6 and 8 core AMD CPUs are a better value.
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    One of the problems with most of those smallish HTPC cases is inferior cooling. Most will take only a single 80mm cooling fan, and some take only a tiny 60mm. A fan in that size range which would be capable of cooling a big CPU + cramped case for hours of video work would sound like a Boeing 747 in your living room. Drives, CPU's, power supplies -- these generate heat, even with an mATX or MiniATX board. Bigger CPU's have bigger and louder fans, and the OEM coolers that come with Intel or AMD are barely adequate to keep the chips from melting. When you're running a multi-threaded app with those big chips you can hear it out in the street.

    Most HTPC's can be built as highly capable units, but they still have power and size limitations compared to bigger machines. I built an HTPC for my Hauppauge PVR with an APEX DM-387 case (throw away the horrible OEM power supply and get a Seasonic), a cheap ASRock mATX board and Intel i5-3570K CPU that works like gangbusters given its limitations, and has an excellent ATI low-profile HD card. Any way you look at it, a $1500 pro capture card won't fit a smallish case, and even a 1TB drive is going to fill up faster than you think.

    The alternative would be to find space for a good mATX case that can house larger components. If you want a smallish HTPC case you can throw some pretty nice gear into it, but a one-quart bucket can't hold a gallon of water.
    Last edited by sanlyn; 21st Mar 2014 at 15:24.
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    This is the best selection of parts I could find near your budget using the Silverstone SUGOS02W-F case you want. Does not include shipping, tax, SATA cables or the 2 extra fans your case can accept as an option.
    CASE http://www.amazon.com/Silverstone-Tek-MicroATX-Computer-SG02W-F-USB3-0/dp/B00B3QYA2E $75

    Based on user reviews for your case, you will probably find a modular PSU very helpful and the short modular cable set for the PSU may come in handy too
    PSU http://www.amazon.com/SilverStone-Strider-ST50F-P-Certified-Modular/dp/B0047CQ1B4 $75
    http://www.amazon.com/SilverStone-PP05-Short-Cable-PSU/dp/B0025VKUN4 $20

    CPU http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819116898 $220
    MOB http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157384 $78
    RAM http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820233186 $70

    You don't save much money by buying a 60GB SSD and selection is not great. Most cost between $70-$80. A good 120GB model can be had for between $100 and $110.
    SSD http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820211582 $70

    On second thought, this motherboard is probably better on account of the orientation of the SATA ports. The edge of the motherboard will be close to the HDD cage, so SATA ports that face the front of the case are likely to be a problem.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813135353 $79

    [Edit]If you want to overclock:
    CPU: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819116504 $220
    MOB: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=13-157-325&Tpk=N82E16813157325 $90
    Last edited by usually_quiet; 1st Jul 2013 at 11:45.
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  9. Mod Neophyte Super Moderator redwudz's Avatar
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    I wouldn't recommend a 60GB SSD. I find them much too small for a boot drive. When I used one for that, I had to constantly remove files from it to keep up it's efficiency. I like to keep a SSD a maximum of 50% filled for best performance. That would limit a 60GB drive to 30GB, a bit too small for a newer OS, IMO. Now I use 120GB SSDs for boot and no problems with over filling them.

    There are plenty of desktop HTPC MicroATX cases on the market. Most have poor cooling for a high performance CPU and a large heat producing video card, IMO.
    I don't know if your capture card produces that much heat, but video cards tend to run warm.

    I use a Lian Li desktop case for my HTPC. Nice case, but poor cooling, even with two 120mm fans. Of course part of the problem is that it has to run quiet as it's in my front room. And I either had fan noise or overheating with the 145W CPU I started with. I finally went with a low power AMD A6-3500 APU, a three core 65W version running at 2.1GHZ. And a motherboard with built in video, along with a HDMI output. It handles HD MKVs and Blu-rays with no problems using HDMI and S/PDIF audio out.

    I rarely use my HTPC for encoding. I use the PC in my computer details for that. That's a six core AMD, overclocked and water cooled. Very nice for H.264 encodes. But the HTPC is capable of H.264 encoding, just a bit slower. It does run a little warmer during an encode, but it's still quiet enough for a HTPC. (21C idle and 39C encoding H.264 @100% on all cores with the stock CPU cooler, no overclocking.)

    I would recommend a modular power supply as you have fewer unused cables you have to stuff somewhere.

    I definitely wouldn't recommend a ITX MB or case as they are very limited for space and generally have slower CPUs and small power supplies.

    Does RAM size affect x264 performance much? If not, as little as 4GB will do me fine for my other tasks.
    If you are using a 32bit OS, then 4GB is the max and about the right amount. If you are using a 64bit OS, then 6 or 8 may be advised, but 4GB will still work OK.
    When encoding, very little RAM space is used, seems to me about 200 - 300MB or so. On board graphics uses some also.

    For a CPU you might look at this low power (And low cost) APU: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819113332 I suspect it would run very cool.

    This is an older post about my HTPC. It has evolved quite a bit since then: https://forum.videohelp.com/threads/305973-Post-pics-of-your-HTPC?p=1898449&viewfull=1#post1898449

    I doubt you will find many HTPC cases that can handle a 13.875" video card.
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  10. Basically, you have conflicting requirements. An HTPC is generally a small, low power, quiet device used just to play media. An encoding machine is a big, high powered, noisy behemoth.
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  11. Mountains of gear vaporeon800's Avatar
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    My goal isn't HTPC though; just a case with the smallest dimensions that will fit the stupid capture card. Noise while encoding is acceptable so long as it ramps down during other usage.
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    Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    My goal isn't HTPC though; just a case with the smallest dimensions that will fit the stupid capture card. Noise while encoding is acceptable so long as it ramps down during other usage.
    Unfortunately SFF cases usually aren't made to handle high-powered systems. Air circulation is not good, and there is no room to install case fans in the optimum spots for cooling.

    Because space is tight, aftermarket coolers are often limited to low profile designs. Low-profile models are designed to be quiet and cool a little better than the stock cooler, but don't have the cooling power of the big, bulky aftermarket air coolers you see more often. Plus, most SFF cases don't have enough room on the back plane to install the radiator and fan for a liquid cooler.
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  13. Mountains of gear vaporeon800's Avatar
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    Okay guys, what do you suggest for a "smallish" case that would fit the long card and be good cooling-wise?
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    Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    Okay guys, what do you suggest for a "smallish" case that would fit the long card and be good cooling-wise?
    I like a smallish case myself and I have looked at a lot of them. I don't know of any where installing a capture card that large would not greatly restrict air circulation within the case even if there is room for one.
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  15. Mountains of gear vaporeon800's Avatar
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    :\ What would you recommend in terms of your overclock suggestion vs your other suggestion? Will the overclocked one be faster but hotter despite the lower model number?

    Are there any mobos for these CPUs that have a Firewire header or port?
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    Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    :\ What would you recommend in terms of your overclock suggestion vs your other suggestion?
    I recommended the "K" model Ivy Bridge because it is supposed to be overclockable and some reviewers liked it for that purpose. I don't overclock. My case isn't built for it, and I have heat problems to contend with. It isn't unusual for the room where I have my PC to reach over 90 F in the summer because I don't have air conditioning. I bought a 65W TDP CPU to use for my smallish IN-WIN EM020 case and I shut down when I think it is too hot.

    Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    Will the overclocked one be faster but hotter despite the lower model number?
    I think a Haswell CPU is supposed to be about 10% faster than the equivalent Ivy Bridge CPU, if not overclocked. Overclocking can make an Ivy Bridge faster than the equivalent Haswell but generates more heat. That's why people buy the jumbo-sized aftermarket air coolers and liquid coolers for their CPU when they overclock to any significant degree.

    Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    Are there any mobos for these CPUs that have a Firewire header or port?
    It looks like MATX mobos for Ivy Bridge CPUS or Haswell CPUS with a firewire header are no longer being made. Doing a search at Newegg in the US, I found 12 ATX mobos for Socket 1155 (Ivy Bridge or Sandy Bridge), but only one for Socket 1150 (Haswell), with a price tag of $289. I have resigned myself to buying an add-on card if I decide I want Firewire for my next build.
    Last edited by usually_quiet; 13th Jul 2013 at 15:06. Reason: price is $289 not $290.
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  17. Mountains of gear vaporeon800's Avatar
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    I hesitate to follow up since I didn't end up going for the hardware you suggested (except CPU+mobo!) but I figured maybe an annoying conclusion is better than none. I grabbed a couple eBay deals for the SSD and RAM. If those two components die I don't really care (I don't typically keep valuable stuff on my Windows drive).

    No long capture card yet, but here's how it looks right now with both side panels off:
    Click image for larger version

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    Intel Core i5-4670 Haswell 3.4GHz LGA 1150 84W Quad-Core CPU = $219.99
    ECS Elitegroup Micro ATX H87H3-M mobo = $79.00 (Amazon Marketplace)
    OCZ Agility 3 60GB SSD = $47.53
    Crucial Ballistix Sport VLP 8GB (2 X 4GB) DDR3 1600 = $49.99
    Corsair Obsidian 350D Micro ATX Case = $82.74 + $9.93 CAD (price-beat + tax) = ~$89.11 USD
    Corsair HX650W PSU = nil*
    Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus heatsink/fan = $24.20 + $2.90 CAD (price-match + tax) = ~$26.06 USD
    US parcel receiving fees = 4 x $3.50
    Total = ~$525.68

    *I cheated: I already had a sealed Corsair HX650W PSU sitting on a shelf, so I didn't need to factor that in. (The PSU only cost me shipping; my 4.5 year old HX620W died last year and they honoured the warranty. Mind you, while waiting for the warranty process I bought myself an HX650W that is still in the other PC.)

    For the case, my other option was the Cooler Master N200 at half the price of Corsair's 350D. I was lured in by the two USB 3.0 ports at the top rather than the single one in the middle, but now I'm regretting letting that sway me since I'm looking at adding a cheap 5.25" fan controller and there are many that offer two USB 3.0 ports via the mobo header. Ah well; the other thing that I liked from reading about this case was the opportunity for cable management behind the motherboard, and I did enjoy doing everything up neatly!

    Somehow this thing is slightly larger along every dimension than the 5 y/o mid-tower that I have been using as a stopgap...
    Last edited by vaporeon800; 8th Sep 2013 at 05:01.
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    I am envious. My planned system upgrade keeps getting pushed back.

    I really like that case. It is handsome, well-made, and roomy with great cable management features. The Cooler Master is nice too, but does not seem as well built. I hope the CPU and motherboard live up to their reviews. Good job!
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  19. Mountains of gear vaporeon800's Avatar
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    Quoting myself from another thread regarding my experiences with the system, because I have a couple images to share displaying the graphical "corruption" issue.

    Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    I don't fancy myself a computer hardware reviewer and I'm not sure what differentiates motherboards besides connectivity. I have run into issues trying to use any of my USB2 capture sticks at the same time as I have a bunch of other USB stuff plugged in: two USB3 HDDs, a Wifi stick, mouse+KB, sometimes more. I suppose it would be the same with any system, but strangely some of the sticks are far better behaved than others.
    Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    I just remembered some issues I've had with the integrated graphics:
    • Momentary random "corruption": for example, scrolling in a text document and portions of the screen fail to update such that some letter segments are from before the scroll. It doesn't fix itself; it stays garbled until I do something else to update the display (scroll more, minimize the window).
    • DXVA playback of H.264 files in MPC-HC almost always starts with a green screen, followed by a semi-garbled green display as it gradually morphs through motion compensation to start resembling an image and finally becomes the correct output once it hits the second keyframe in the file.
    • Using "Stretch to window" mode in the Capture module of VirtualDub, the overlay fails to keep up with the live input and drops batches of frames.
    Click image for larger version

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    Click image for larger version

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    I finally went ahead with my long-delayed upgrade in April. The parts I used are listed in my computer details. I picked a different i5 model which has Intel HD Graphics 4600 too. The ECS H87 motherboard you picked was sold out, so I picked something else I liked with a B85 chipset intead. I haven't experienced any odd graphical symptoms with notepad or anything else so far. I hardly ever play H.264 video, so I can't say if anything strange happens with that.
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