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Mini Zen - Wall-mounted silent Mini-ITX

by tyogev

108
56 Comments

Part List View full price breakdown

Details

Date Published

July 8, 2017

Date Built

July 1, 2017

CPU Clock Rate

4.2GHz

CPU Temperature While Idle

48.0° C

CPU Temperature Under Load

58.0° C

Description

UPDATE: WOW! I'm beyond flattered to be featured, especially as I know this is a bit of an odd-ball build since you'd never really want to game on it! Thanks PCPartPicker!

Hi everyone,

Not a gamer here (anymore), but still a very heavy user with very high expectations and demands from my PC. So, wanted to build something that would perform more than admirably for any basic office work, with the occasional video or photo editing (but not much), and really wanted to shoot for a totally silent build. I was immediately attracted to the Core P1 as it allowed for a mini-ITX build, wall mounting, and a great way to show off the build without having to get too custom. The one downside was that with the totally silent build the space reserved for fans and reservoirs was pretty useless – still trying to figure out what I’ll put there, maybe my company’s logo or something on the glass.

The build was surprisingly easy. All the custom option on the case were irrelevant to me as I wasn’t trying to do anything special with the cooling or even to show off a video card (just using the processor’s GPU as it is good enough for anything I’m doing). The big concern was the giant heatsink and how it would interfere with the RAM. Thankfully, with the Vengeance LPX DIMMS it fit, but just to be safe I bought a single 16GB DIMM and put it in the slot further away from the heatsink. The nearer slot could have worked but it would have been SUPER tight – there was no point in messing around since I had the other slot just sitting there. If I choose to expand RAM, which I may in the coming months, I could still use the nearer slot, but it would require a total removal of the heatsink first – so a bit of an undertaking.

As for the heatsink, I fully appreciate giant honking heatsinks are not exactly en vogue from a design standpoint, but I like it. There is something very Zen about it to me given that it is totally silent, circular, and just kind of cool looking. Since everything else is more or less black in the build, coupled with the tempered glass of the P1, which gives a lot of reflection, it is kind of the only thing you see when you look at it from more than a few feet away.

The two main questions I get are about the cooling and the silence, so a quick note on both of those:

Cooling – yes, this build’s base temp is higher than most, but it never moves. At idle I’m at 48C and under a heavy load it goes up to 58C, but nothing I’ve done yet has exceeded that. So, while I don’t LOVE the temperatures, they are very safe. If I have any sort of air circulation in the room more generally (i.e. just have my air conditioning going, etc.) it brings the temps down a few degrees. But with the totally open design of the Core P1, I’m not too worried about the long-term effects on the CPU.

Silence – Silence is golden, yes, but it is also a bit weird. As excited as I was to finally have a totally silent build, now that I have it, I kind of miss the noises. I never realized how much the small hums and whirs were actually indicators to me that something was working, etc. Now, when a Chrome window is a bit slow to load, I’m less sure of it popping up soon or not than I was when I could hear the computer working. In all, I like it a lot, but it can be disorienting when trying to troubleshoot or anything like that. So, as a final word, how does this thing work? Well, I couldn’t run the 3DMark tests as it didn’t like my not having a dedicated GPU. So, I had to instead use Passmark’s Performance Test, which is probably more appropriate for me anyways as this won’t be used for anything beyond very light gaming. Here are the results:

Test: Score - %

CPU: 6530 - 58

2D: 920 - 90

3D: 1003 - 47

Mem: 2581 - 88

Disk: 9475 - 99

So, not surprisingly, the 3D graphics score is a bit low as is the processor. But, again, I don’t need the graphics for much of anything, and the processor crushed the single-threaded mark with a 2513 score (97th percentile) which is the most important CPU measure for me anyhow.

In all, I’m loving this build. It runs like a champ on everything I need, looks great, and by hanging it off the wall and getting it off my desk, I’m enjoying all the reclaimed desk space as well. I can recommend any part in this build, so long as it's specs fit your needs. Thanks for reading, and happy building!

Part Reviews

CPU

I got a good deal on this and chose to go this option because for single-threaded performance, surprisingly, it even outdoes a non-overclocked i7-7700K. As single-threaded is most of why I do, I chose to save the money. Also, if I ever choose to put some active cooling in, I can still play with this and squeak out a bit more performance. (9/10)

CPU Cooler

Look, I just think it is amazing that it is possible to cool today’s processors without a fan. The silence is impressive, although sometimes a bit unsettling – more on that later. I think the design is beautiful, and despite being on a Mini-ITX, it didn’t cause much cramming issues other than the first RAM slot where you really should go low profile. I get questions about not going with NoFan’s larger CR-95 – I opted not to for fear of a) even worse cramming and b) it extending beyond the glass of the P1 case which I thought would be aesthetically unpleasing. If passive cooling is of interest to you, this is a great one so long as you keep the TDP low. (9/10)

Thermal Compound

Thermal compounds are thermal compounds for the most part, but I love the syringe on this - very easy to use and apply. (10/10)

Motherboard

A very solid performer with remarkably easy overclocking options. I didn’t take much advantage of them as I was trying to keep things super cool with my totally passive system, but they’re there if I ever choose to go in a different direction with it. Don’t love the antennae which are more or less a requirement if you are going to use the WiFi or Bluetooth at all. Range without them is pitiful. Not sure I really get the value of the dual NICs either. Other than that, no complaints – well designed. (8/10)

Memory

Again, I chose to go single stick in case there was cramming with the heatsink, which there sort of was – it was very tight. Didn’t want to go any faster than DDR4-2400 as I’d have to overclock the CPU, which with the passive cooling I was trying to avoid. So, just bumped things up to 2400, instead of the default 2133. Performs admirably, but expected to see better performance scores. (9/10)

Storage

As I don’t need much storage as all my work stuff is on the cloud through my work, and all my personal stuff is on a great NAS I already have in place, this just needed to hold Windows and a few gigs of work stuff so I’m not always downloading. The performance of this thing though is unbelievable. I’ve been using SSDs for a few years, and was blown away by how much better things ran when moving to them from HDD – jumping to M.2 is an equally impressive jump. Everything is just read/written the instant I click. If you don’t have big storage needs, strongly recommended going with these 960 EVO drives. (10/10)

Case

AWESOME case. Super easy to build with, loads of room, and almost limitless options. Strongly recommend. (10/10)

Power Supply

Silent PSUs are really impressive to me and this one is no different. While I sometimes get the tiniest hum out of the processor, the PSU is always completely 100% silent. Very impressed. (10/10)

Monitor

LOVE my super wide screen, especially for the work I do. Makes two-up screen use super easy and effective!

Keyboard

Phenomenal keyboard. I love playing around with the lighting options, but just as a typing tool, this thing is top-notch. STRONGLY recommend any of the Corsair K-series for any use, be it gaming or office.

Mouse

Been using this mouse for years and it continues to run like a champ. Super precise and very comfortable. Highly recommened.

Headphones

Loved these headphones for many years. They originally came out years ago, and for the price, you still can't really beat 'em. If you love your audio, this is a great easy way to step into some professional grade headphones.

Other

Good cabling, but never love Amazon's branding on everything, and the cable themselves are rather stiff. For my needs with hanging the cables on the wall, they were a bit tough to work with. But, as far as extension cables go, they certainly do the job at a very fair price.

Comments Sorted by:

TheOfficialCzex 3 Builds 9 points 2 months ago

The cable management... Wow.

tyogev submitter 1 Build 2 points 2 months ago

Many thanks. I wanted to do something given the wall mount, so I got a little silly with it. By far the most time-consuming part of the build.

TheBlackPython 1 Build 9 points 2 months ago

this is not a silent build, you have a speaker!

tyogev submitter 1 Build 4 points 2 months ago

Damn! You caught me! Headphones too!

AetherSprite__7 1 Build 3 points 2 months ago

Are you planning to overclock the cpu? With a peak load temperature of 58c, you have quite some headroom to overclock. Also very creative with the cables!

tyogev submitter 1 Build 1 point 2 months ago

Thanks! The cable work was easily the hardest part of all this. I may OC moderately, just for kicks, but given the passive setup I don't have much in the way or recovery actions if it starts to heat up. So, long story short, I'm hesitating. If I do pull the trigger, I'll report back how far I could go with the purely passive setup.

LifesGoodGaming 3 points 2 months ago

The name Mini Zen made me think this was a Mini-ITX Ryzen rig, but I was surprised to see something else. Good build, though. +1

tyogev submitter 1 Build 2 points 2 months ago

HA! You're totally right - I didn't think of that. I was considering a Ryzen, but opted for an Intel for the onchip GPU instead of having to buy a separate GPU. That said, most GPUs would fit here pretty easily despite the heatsink size. Appreciate the +1!

aidanjt 2 points 2 months ago

Plenty of passively cooled discrete GPUs as well. Nice build.

tyogev submitter 1 Build 2 points 2 months ago

Agreed - and if I needed more graphics power I'd go that route. As I don't really need it and I was a bit nervous about trying to fit it with the giant CPU heatsink I opted to go without (for now at least).

Vairfoley 11 Builds 3 points 2 months ago

Congrats on the feature! Very unique build.

Anyansayo 3 points 2 months ago

Wow, very clean build. This is the first featured integrated graphics build that I have seen here on PCPP. That case looks awesome, but I don't think that it would work for me though.

tyogev submitter 1 Build 1 point 2 months ago

Thanks! It is a funky case, but I recommend it strongly as it was SUPER flexible, and I love having everything on display. Certainly with my setup though, I ran out of things to put in there and the whole side which they leave for reservoirs and fans is empty - I'll figure out something there...

biggles5107 2 Builds 2 points 2 months ago

A very different build from what you normally see here on PCPP, but I like it.

tyogev submitter 1 Build 2 points 2 months ago

Thanks! I knew coming in that this wasn't "normal", and as a high-end gaming rig it would leave a lot to be desired. But, I thought it was an interesting build, and could serve as a solid base for people to build from. Swap the cooler for an AIO and add a GPU, and you could have a pretty serious contender for not much money. The Core P1 case leaves a lot of room for adjustment/improvement.

Sensible_Systems 19 Builds 2 points 2 months ago

Love it! I've wanted to try an open-air silent build for a while, so always nice to see how one works out in reality. Really like that you've mounted it "upside-down" too: my case, my wall, I'll say which way is up!

tyogev submitter 1 Build 2 points 2 months ago

Thanks! It really worked out, couldn't be any much happier. As for the upside-down part, you're totally right. I left it out of my review, but I chose to do it for two reasons: 1) just for practicality, so the faceplate, with the power button, USB ports, etc., would face where I was sitting, and 2) I noticed that when it was right-side-up the passive CPU heatsink was capturing some of the heat from the PSU. As the heatsink is rated for 80 TDP with a 60 TDP CPU, and the PSU is rated for 460W with no more than a 115W draw, I figured I'd let the PSU do the extra work of handling rising heat. Aesthentically, I figured it was a wash, and only guys like us know that it's upside-down anyhow... :) Love the comment! Thanks again!

Sensible_Systems 19 Builds 2 points 2 months ago

Smart choices on the mounting orientation, then, and I will learn from your example if I ever try mine, which would include a passively-cooled graphics card: have to shuffle stuff around to see what arrangement works best. Oh, and I also liked how you found the silence slightly unnerving at first :D Like turning the whole thing upside-down, that's something that had never occurred to me!

tyogev submitter 1 Build 1 point 2 months ago

Yeah, the silent thing is something I'm still getting used to. I definitely recommend working on one for a day before spending the extra dough to make it silent. I'm not as thrilled about it as I thought I'd be.
As for the passive graphics card, I was looking to do the same with a Ryzen CPU, but with the heatsinks being so large, at best it would be a mighty tight fit on a mITX board. I was committed to using the Core P1 case and was too concerned about passively cooled heatsinks being so close to try it. If you pull it off, definitely let me know!

Clemeit 2 Builds 2 points 2 months ago

Well there's something you don't see every day. I like it

Sherlockian1 1 Build 2 points 2 months ago

Unique! I like it

Anyansayo 2 points 2 months ago

How does the fanless cooler work?

tyogev submitter 1 Build 1 point 2 months ago

Couldn't tell you the full-on technology, but just has an incredible amount of surface area so the ambient air is enough to keep the processor cool enough. Notice with my temps that at idle I'm still at 48C, but I only go up to about 60C on a stress test. That, of course, is with a 60TDP CPU - I was too nervous to try anything higher or to OC the CPU.

jsoutherland89 4 Builds 2 points 2 months ago

Beautiful!

gorkti200 2 Builds 2 points 2 months ago

This is really neat. Very unusual, great job. A silent build would be pretty fun to do imo. Also I love the 7350K in a way I cannot explain, so bravo.

pegotico 2 Builds 3 points 2 months ago

At that price is a great deal! :)

tyogev submitter 1 Build 2 points 2 months ago

Many thanks. After a string of i7' processors I was sure I'd have some misgivings about the i3, but for my needs (heavy office with the occasional Photoshop, etc.) this little guy has been running like a champ. As I said in the review, most of what I do is single-threaded, and on that spec alone you really can't beat this thing.

Manifestoplus 1 Build 2 points 2 months ago

Why the cables on the wall? Usually we want to hide them! I would have preferred the cables a little lower to be under the desk level. Then, I would have turned the PC 90° clock wise. Finally, use the same type of cable management going up to the PC from bellow, only. But, that's my point of view... Cheers!

tyogev submitter 1 Build 1 point 2 months ago

I saw pictures of people doing cool stuff with cables (like with their floor lamps, etc.) so I thought I'd play around and try and do something "artistic". It kinda worked. I actually thought of doing exactly what you're saying with having the cables run straight down as I thought that could look really neat too, but then the power button, USB ports, etc., would all be facing up which I thought would be too much of a pain. Thanks!

Selicos 1 Build 2 points 2 months ago

Were you able to use the usb hub built into the monitor?

tyogev submitter 1 Build 2 points 2 months ago

I did. One of those cables is to the monitor which then splits out to feed charging cables for my phone dock, mouse, and on the side ports I put the receiver for the mouse to keep the distance as close as possible (as the USB ports on the PC are now further away). Only some are USB 3.0 on the monitor, but that doesn't affect my needs. LOVE the monitor - if you are considering one of Dell's ultrawides, I strongly encourage you to do so. A tad expensive, but worth every penny.

Selicos 1 Build 2 points 2 months ago

I have my eye out for something that hits 2/3 of the following:

  1. Larger than my current 24" (dual setup, 24". 1920x1200) so ultrawide fits and is ideal
  2. Higher than 1080/1200p vertical resolution ideally 1440p
  3. Higher than 60hz (ideally 100+)

Currently I'm looking at the dell 27" 1440p 144hz gamin monitor but need a GPU upgrade to really use anything more than what I have and with current prices I'm waiting for Volta probably.

I use a 34" ultrawide, 1080p, at work and it is good until I need more real estate for projects...

BoadTheToad 1 Build 2 points 2 months ago

You get the cable management idea from Linus' media space at his home? :D +1

tyogev submitter 1 Build 2 points 2 months ago

HA! The real inspiration was an old DIY post (http://lifehacker.com/5803639/creatively-wall-mount-your-home-theater-gear-cables-and-all-for-better-access-and-organization). I didn't want to use super glue and mess up my walls, so I opted for the clips, which I think still look pretty cool, but didn't get me as straight of lines as I would have liked. Thanks!

Wolfemane 4 Builds 2 points 2 months ago

I made the mistake of showing my wife this build and she immediately pointed out the cable management, then pointed at her rats nest, and then gave me the wife eye. So... thanks for that.

How easy are those clips to manage? Seems like they could either be a giant pain or incredibly manageable... or both.

Slick build, love seeing itx in creative ways. +1 from me and if I could +1 from my wife!

tyogev submitter 1 Build 2 points 2 months ago

Too funny! I just read your comment out to MY wife, and she pointed out that I didn't spend 5% of the time on her cabling as I did on mine - so make some room in that doghouse! :)

Clips were an absolute pain in my ***. My fingertips were SO raw by the end of it, I can't even tell you. Beyond that, after everything was said and done, some would start peeling away from the wall, cables wouldn't stay taught enough to stay straight - it was kind of a nightmare actually. Here's what I'd say: if you want to do something artsy with your cabling, either 1) use super glue and just accept that you're going to mess up your walls in the name of this project and get super straight lines (as described in the DIY post that originally inspired the idea in me: http://lifehacker.com/5803639/creatively-wall-mount-your-home-theater-gear-cables-and-all-for-better-access-and-organization) or 2) use the old-school wire clips (the kind you have to hammer in) - again you'll ruin your wall with a ton of holes, but the clips will stay put and the wires can be pulled taught much more easily.

Thanks for the +1 and give your wife a +1 from me in spite of the marital strife she's causing me on my end! :)

Wolfemane 4 Builds 2 points 2 months ago

As cool as it does look, what you said about those clips is exactly why I never went that route. We actually decided this past weekend to go ahead and do corner cable hiders and run as much as we can through them. mMst of our electronics now reside in a converted closet so that should make it a bit easier. But my office is still open for debate. I have cables going in every direction and really need to find a good clean way to keep it all organized. My least favorite task.

Still though, the look of your cable management is pretty sweet and well worth the effort. I'm torn... hehe

ImperiousBattlestar 2 points 2 months ago

Nice build, not what I expected. Unusual, in a good way. +1 :)

shreduhsoreus 5 Builds 2 points 2 months ago

For $130 that's not a bad CPU. I'm sure you could get it to 4.8GHz easily, potentially higher with an AIO.

tyogev submitter 1 Build 1 point 2 months ago

Agreed! Playing with an AIO and OCing is likely what I'll do next as I'm not as enamored with the silent build as I thought I'd be. Thanks!

Boith 3 Builds 2 points 2 months ago

That heatsink is rather interesting, really like it. Same for everything else, especially cable routing. 10/10, good job.

coolarj10 2 points 2 months ago

awesome!!

Cmdr__Tim 2 points 2 months ago

I think that's the exact same desk that I have!

tyogev submitter 1 Build 1 point 2 months ago

Like $150 from OfficeMax? I guess I could have added it to the parts list! :)

Cmdr__Tim 2 points 2 months ago

I'm only 16, I didn't buy the desk, my dad gave it to me :P That price sounds about right though... Nice build, and an alright price on the 7350k lol

corruptGamer698 1 Build 2 points 2 months ago

The feature is well deserved! I really like what you did with the cables. Nothing like ive ever seen before! Great job! +1

Faasos 2 points 2 months ago

God I wish to use a wallmounted PC so bad, but my walls are very bad. :/

tyogev submitter 1 Build 1 point 2 months ago

My wall isn't great either, it's the old plaster and lath type, which made finding a stud to mount to difficult, but look online for videos on how to do it. Was a challenge, but hit the stud almost straight on with my first try. Good luck!

Faasos 2 points 2 months ago

It probably isn't as bad as mine, my wall almost shattered to pieces after I tried to hang a painting

tyogev submitter 1 Build 1 point 2 months ago

Well... you know what they say about people and glass houses... :)

Twist3r 1 Build 2 points 2 months ago

This is a great build, the look is really cool :-) !

Also I'm happy to finally see a second build using the NoFan CR-80EH heatsink, I added the first one to the database last year :-) (https://pcpartpicker.com/b/VXgLrH).

I'm surprised about your temperatures though as they are so much better than mine - in a prime95 CPU stress test I attained 93° C, gave up, and added a fan (that I suspended and use at minimal rotation speed to keep silence). Main differences are that my case is closed (although with mesh on sides and top) and my motherboard is horizontal, while yours is vertical and completely open. The CPU is different too but I believe mine has a lower TDP. I wonder if a fully open environment makes such a difference, or if maybe I didn't install my heatsink properly.

How did you perform your CPU stress test, what it real heavy usage, or a full stress test like non-stop prime95 ?

tyogev submitter 1 Build 1 point 2 months ago

Hi Twist3r! Thanks for the kind words. As I’m no thermodynamics expert, I can only share what I’m experiencing - couldn’t even begin to take real guesses as to why we have such differences. But, per your message, I went and downloaded prime95 and gave it a whirl (that’s why it took me a second to respond).

Within the first minute of the prime95 torture test, the temps shot up from 48C to 60C, but then it just sat there. I let it run for fifteen minutes, and it just wouldn’t budge from the 60C number. For context, it is a hot day here, so my office was quite warm (probably 27C ambient) and quite humid. So, I had just turned on my A/C when I began the test for my own comfort. The A/C circulates the air in my office as well as, obviously, cools it down – but the PC is on the opposite side of the room from the A/C, so it is hardly blowing right on it or anything. Without the A/C, it likely would have gone a bit higher, but nowhere near the 90+C you're seeing.

Interestingly, I have seen the temps exceed 60C on other occasions, but not by much – I think 62C is the highest I’ve witnessed, but the logger says it hit 65C at some point – not sure when or why. Interestingly the torture test didn’t get to 65C – again, can’t tell you why.

So, my only guess is that you’re right about the case differences and that the completely open case allows for better circulation and thus lower temps. Given that passive coolers, like the CR-80EH, rely so heavily on convection, leaving the space below and above it probably significantly affects the airflow and its effectiveness. Other than that... dunno.

If you want me to try anything to help you figure it out, just let me know – happy to do some testing and learn more together.

F3rrum 2 points 1 month ago

Can you please tell me the name of the desk you are using, it looks great. Thanks

tyogev submitter 1 Build 1 point 1 month ago

Thanks - I like it a lot (although it does limit mouse selection with the clear glass). It is the "Brenton Studio Evanti" glass L-Desk from OfficeMax - it was the cheapest L-desk that didn't look completely awful when I was doing my office a couple of years ago. Seems they don't sell it anymore, but maybe you can find it elsewhere.

Yahtadi 1 point 2 months ago

What de..

Sandunga 1 point 2 months ago

lol

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