Description

I had an 15-3570K mid-tower system. I planned to make it a gamer, but this year I'm more interested in graphics editing, so I wanted more processing threads for faster renders.

There were a lot of options, from upgrading the CPU to an i7-3770 to building a budget render box to getting a full workstation. What I decided to do was build a separate desktop for the graphics work. (A workstation by usage, not by hardware, if that makes sense.) Problem solved until I accidentally drank five shots of rum and ordered the wrong case.

Don't get me wrong, the HAF Stacker is a nice case, but it really takes the mini out of miniITX. It's huge! It's only good if you're the kind of person who likes putting things on top of other things. So I ordered a second one. And that's how the final plan came together. I'd build a graphics box in one Stacker and move my main computer into the other one. That gives me a compact working setup and leaves me a spare case and motherboard to sell or build on.

I'm only including one build list. The second computer is pretty much the same, just with the 3570 CPU.

The Reasonings

  • CPU. AMD would have been a cheaper option, especially as a simple render box, but I'm into quiet, cool, low-wattage systems this year, and Intel has the advantage for that spec. An i7-4770 would have been a little bit faster, but not enough that I'd notice the difference in normal usage. The Xeon performs close to a 3770, but costs about $75 less.
  • Graphics cards. As far as I can tell from the internet, I'd get no advantage from a workstation card for hobbyist graphics on a consumer monitor. The 750Ti seemed like a good balance of cost/capability/TDP.
  • Motherboard. I'm sacrificing the 3570K's overclocking ability with this motherboard. I never got around to overclocking it before, and I doubt I'll do it now, so I decided to save some money and complication.
  • Case. In a way, I like the outcome, since I have two computers in a fairly compact package. Cooling is a mild challenge. The Xeon does fine with a stock cooler in the Stacker, but the 3570 runs about 10-15C hotter than it did in a bigger case, getting up to mid-70s at max load. It's not easy to cool with air, because despite being called a High Air Flow case, it doesn't really let the air flow where you need it.
  • CPU Cooler. This case puts the CPU in a sort of "box" formed by the video card, the RAM, the back of the case, and the power supply. It's hard to ventilate. Instead of trying to find a fan arrangement that will work, I'll probably just add a liquid cooler kit before summer arrives.
  • RAM. I had 16Gb (4x4) in the original computer and never needed more than 4 or 5GB, so I split the RAM between the new computers.

The rest of the parts were fairly generic, nothing-to-see-here budget choices. In the end, I've got two mainline desktops, with one serving as a separate graphics system so my renders don't interfere with my everyday computing and vice versa. Power usage is low, so the noise and excess heat are low. I still have about $400 left of what I budgeted, so I have room for upgrading these computers or a good start toward building out that extra case.

Afternotes

The first couple of pictures compare two HAF Stackers against an Antec Three Hundred Two. You can see that two Stackers are about the same height and width but substantially longer from front to back.

I can feel some disapproving stares at my cable management. I actually did bundle them in one computer, but the other is still pretty much the way it looks in the pictures. I'm probably going to switch the CPU cooler on at least one of these computers pretty soon, and I'll have to finish that before I finalize the cabling.

Comments

  • 68 months ago
  • 2 points

I like it ! Did you compare the performance of the 3570 to the Xeon yet?

  • 68 months ago
  • 3 points

Not yet. I've been messing around with the hardware so much, I haven't had time to use the software. That's why I closed the cases and posted the build today, so I'd quit tinkering and get some work done. ;)

  • 68 months ago
  • 1 point

Clever choice in the Xeon! basically an i7, but why did you choose the V2 of this? There's a newer v3 and it is Haswell

  • 68 months ago
  • 1 point

ITneot: "...why did you choose the V2 of this?"

It was a couple of things. The V2 is a little cheaper and a little bit lower TDP. The other reason is that keeping the computers nearly identical would make maintenance a little easier. This way I only have one motherboard design to deal with, for example, and I can easily swap parts if I need to do some quick troubleshooting.

Also, I don't think I'd notice the performance difference in normal usage. When I'm editing, the CPU doesn't bottleneck me. It would shave some time off long renders, but the rendering time is a lot more dependent on how I set up the animation.

I'm not sure if that's great reasoning, but it's what I was thinking.

  • 68 months ago
  • 1 point

Hahahaha I just read the post of your first pc build, man you're so funny!

I'm pretty sure it's a great reasoning, easy mantenance or troubleshooting very clever in your case! :D

  • 49 months ago
  • 1 point

Just asking what software do you use

  • 68 months ago
  • 1 point

Awesome +9001

  • 68 months ago
  • 1 point

For your is there adequate cooling?

  • 68 months ago
  • 1 point

The Xeon seems fine using just the stock cooler. The 3570 is running warmer than I'd like, though. The case layout makes it hard to get a good airflow past the CPU, so I'll probably try a small liquid cooling kit.

  • 68 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks for the reply! +1

  • 61 months ago
  • 1 point

I like it! Newegg has these down to $30 after MIR for black friday/ cyber monday and I couldn't resist buying two (although I ordered the 915F's). Mine is still at a bit of an identity crisis atm- I've got a 4690k on the way and plan to OC to about 4.2ghz and throw in a GTX760 for gaming. Like you, I want to put another unit in the top, preferably as a home server or NAS. I was thinking AMD processor to cut on cost, but you brought up a GREAT point about having identical hardware for troubleshooting and swaps.

My real main concern is airflow...especially with having the PSU on the front of both. About how high does the ambient temperature get in the top case with both systems running under moderate load?

Did they come with the hardware to attach to one another?

  • 57 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks for the write up about your 915s. There aren't many builds featuring the 915F or R so it is good to see them.

With regards to cooling, the buzz I am currently reading about for low profile air coolers is the Cryorig C1 ($62 on newegg). It has a fairly big footprint and does a pretty good job cooling. You might still have the issue with it not being able to get clean, cool air.

Maybe another 915 to house your liquid cooling gear?

  • 56 months ago
  • 1 point

I thought about trying some different air coolers, but I didn't want to spend a lot of time experimenting. I installed a CoolerMaster Seidon 120V in the lower case (my everyday computer), and that solved the problem nicely.

I live in Texas with no AC, and room temperature can reach 35C (95F) in the summer. After I installed the 120V, the CPU stayed cool even at full load. I don't remember the exact temperature, but it was low enough that I quit monitoring it. I think that's the key with this case. Use a liquid cooler to get the fan away from the CPU.

Adding another 915 for the cooling gear, and maybe additional storage, wouldn't be a bad idea, especially in a build with higher performance CPUs than I'm using, but I'm satisfied with the current setup for now. Since I'm not gaming at the moment, all I need is "office-level" performance.