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Old 04 January 2003, 22:19   #1
My elbow tastes of icky

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Mini-itx: any good for Amiga emulation?

I'm sick to death of the noise coming from my Thunderbird and Radeon 9000 (which gets very little use because most PC games bore me senseless) so I'm thinking about selling the lot and buying one of these tiny, almost silent, but very under powered systems from www.mini-itx.com

I'm certain you wouldn't have a hope in hell of running WinUAE on it, but do you think it could cope with Winfellow?

Apparently they can cope with almost anything you can throw at them except 3D games and very CPU intensive apps so they're perfect for web browsing, email, office apps etc.
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Old 04 January 2003, 23:41   #2
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Dunno m8... would be good if it could tho

why not buy one of those P4 shuttle mini-pc's.... this overclocking forum i hang out on seem to rate them very highly!

*ive seen some crazy mods done with these diddly mini-itx boards... stuff one in an a1200's case!
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Old 05 January 2003, 12:16   #3
My elbow tastes of icky

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I like the Shuttles, but they're even harder to cool than a standard sized PC because there is far less airflow. If you bung in any extra PCI cards or an AGP graphics card it gets very cramped and the whole thing heats up quickly.

The other problem is noise - since the PSUs are so much smaller, the fan in them has to be smaller too, and the smaller the fan the greater the whiney noise they make. You can replace it with a quieter one but you've got to swap like for like in terms of size so that doesn't help a great deal. Shuttle could make them much quieter although it's difficult because they have to consider the worst possible scenario i.e. cooling a P4 3.0 gig and a top of the range AGP graphics card. So in effect it's impossible to provide out of the box silence, and I don't like the idea of having to mod brand new kit.

I've gone to great lengths to quieten my Athlon and it still drives me insane. There are hugely indepth sites out there written by people who share my sentiments but I'm particularly sensitive to noise because I suffer from tinitus. I have a constant ringing noise in my head 24 hours a day and the noise from CPU fans and whatnot makes it even worse. That's why I'm going to drastic measures and am happy to make performance sacrifices for silence.
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Old 05 January 2003, 16:08   #4
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Echo -

I asked a dealer at a computer show about the Cyrix chips that are on those mini-ITX mainboards. He stated that the benchmarks posted on the net about the performance of those chips are B.S. He said that the Cyrix-1000mhz performs worse than the AMD K6-2 series (and implied that the site that did the benchmarking must have been sponsored by VIA because it doesn't touch the Celeron-666 in performance that the site said it was the equivalent of).

So, as for the Cyrix chips - I'd avoid any solution based on that chip like the plague.

As for noise levels - Antec sells a PSU called "TruPower" that has integrated thermally controlled fan levels. In addition, it has fan PSU lines to drive up to 3 external fans - all automatically speed controlled by the PSU. Just hooking my case fans up to this PSU easily cut the noise level emitted by my case in half. Another thing you can do is choose a lower-rpm CPU fan. Its especialy worth it if you have one of those 7200rpm screamers on your heatsink already.

As usual - fans are typically the loudest source of noise. If your current video card has a fan, try a Geforce4MX (no fan on most of these units). A lot of mainboards nowadays come with a fan on the North Bridge - if it has a fan than it almost certainly needs it, so no choice except to change mainboards there.

Finally, CDROM drives typically make one hell of a whine when they spin up. At this point in time the only option to fix that is to get a Kenwood TrueX drive, but it may not be worth it if you use CD-R's or CD-RW's or rip audio. But if you do none of these 3 things, the Kenwood is certainly right up your alley.

As for what I'd recommend for you -

Mini-tower case w/ Antec Trupower PSU (330w)
Kenwood TrueX CDROM 72X
Intel845G-based mainboard
Some flavor of Socket 478 Celeron or Pentium4

This setup should be relatively quiet (having only two fans) and pretty quick to boot (and you can never have too much processor power when dealing with MAME).
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Old 05 January 2003, 18:53   #5
My elbow tastes of icky

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Thanks for the info/advice. I knew these C3 chips were low performers, but I didn't know they were quite that bad. They're mostly designed to be used as headless servers, DVD/MP3 home theatres etc so the majority of people wouldn't mind that. I was hoping to also do a spot of emu gaming so maybe I should rethink.

What I've done to silence my current setup is change the noisy fan in the PSU for a 12db Papst one by cutting out the old one, clipping off the 4 pin power plug of the Papst fan and soldering it into place. This is practically inaudible.

I tried using the same kind of fan to cool the CPU but the CFM rating wasn't high enough to keep the temps down - I was getting temps in the region of 80+ so I swapped this for a higher CFM Papst fan rated at 20db. 20db should be very quiet in theory, but it still grates on my nerves. Either my ears are very sensitive or Papst are underestimating the noise levels. Probably a bit of both actually.

Then there's the fan on my Radeon 9000. I don't really know the specs of this since it's the factory default one. It's quite small as are most GPU fans, probably a 50mm so that explains the whine coming from that. Over at www.zalman.com you can get a passive GPU cooler which should work to shut that up, but then I'm still left with a stupidly hot Athlon, always the way with AMD chips sadly.

I'll do a search for these Antec PSUs in a sec and see what I can find out. Whatever I do I definitely want to get rid of this Athlon which will mean changing mobos. Like you say, I think a Celeron is a good idea since they're easier to cool so I'll be able to run a slower fan.

www.asus.com do a barebone system called the Terminator which includes a PSU with no fan. The only fan in the system is a large exhaust fan which is dynamically controlled by the BIOS depending on the temp of the system. They've been getting excellent reviews. The only downside for most people is the lack of an AGP slot. Anyway this is another option I'm considering.

If anyone is interested in these Shuttles, a new AMD model is being released mid-January. It will have built-in Geforce graphics equivalent to a GF4 MX. It's said to be even noisier than the previous models, though that's not an issue for everyone.
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