Mini-itx Systems

Dear All,

I was just wondering if anyone has had experience with running Renoise on a Mini-ITX system manufactured by VIA. Their ability to run at low power levels, and therefore require very little in terms of cooling seems like a great way of creating a very quiet and un-intrusive system for recording and writing music on.

However, does their lower performance make them an inadequate choice for use with Renoise?

Thanks in advance if anyone can shed any light on this.



don’t know … but a quiet pc isn’t hard to build.

you need:
a quiet case fan (NoiseBlocker UltraSilent) + a quiet cpu fan (Arctic) - both at low speed (<1600) + a good air flow in the case … and of course a quiet power unit (be-quiet) …

3 Ghz without annoying noise is possible with fans too !

i hear nearly nothing with my P4-3Ghz Prescott@3.4Ghz … B)

(ok i have a dammed pc case too)

and on the other hand it’s nothing special to build up a 1 ghz pc with Passive cooling …

What about liquid cooling, isnt that supposed to be a good quiet solution, or maybe there is a big bad noisy motor driving the liquid flow? :unsure:

I’ve bought sound absorbing cork plates, speciel power unit(s) and cpu cooler, and my system is still noisy. I wish i just could drill a hole in the wall, and put the computer in the other room.

imho cork plates are not the optimum … the surface of the material is important too - that’s why you find the funny bumps on the walls of studio rooms … i bought a pc case with synthetic material as acustic insulation with a rough surface … but this wasn’t enough too.

so i tryed different case fans/cpu fans and power units from different manufacturers. at the end i was satisfied with the ones i named - ( i made all controlable by pot’s)

but another important thing was the air flow in my case … after many tries i got a little negative air pressure at the front of my pc case (the front of my case isn’t 100% airtight) and all air is blown out to the back. so everything works fine with lowest temperatures and all fans running at the lowest speed. (under full cpu load my prescott - 400mhz overclocked - runs at 58 degrees centigrade >>> imho totally great for an totally isolated pc case without annoying noise)

… on my side the harddisks making the most noise. but there is no real good solution too decrease this noise … you can buy expensive stuff to make harddisks quiet but my experience is - all this stuff is bullshit. the best solution is to decrease the number of harddisks (if it’s possible) …

(i don’t know so much about liquid cooling … but it’s a quiet solution - yes … but on the other hand liquid stuff within a pc case: imho dangerous)

I’ve had some indirect experience with liquid cooling, and it’s good, but fiddly to set up if you want exactly what you’re looking for.

I suppose I shouldn’t have put an emphasis on noise and cooling, I was more interested to see what these systems are like. Aside from that their relatively inexpensive, you can buy cases for them that would allow them to either sit in a rack, or form part of a stack of hi-fi separates.

I know that there are cases for ATX machines, but I didn’t want to focus on them for a change :) Plus, the low power consumptions of the mini-itx machines must save a bit on the electricity bills!



Doesn’t your P4 get a bit hot Mr Korn? All that padding, only 2 low speed fans and huge power consumption? I hope you’re using arctic silver! It’s just that my video editing kit at work uses a P4 with an aerocool jet gimik jobby on it and 7 fans, (admittedly with a couple more HDDs and some big pci cards) but my cpu idles at around 56 degrees!

After going through 3 cases on my home athlon system, I finally managed to get a pretty solid one from ebuyer (bad I know), but for only £20! And I paid more for the others.
When I get some more cash together though i’ll be going for a lian-li or sonata case as i’ve heard good words about them.

As for liquid cooling, I’ve no intention on putting water THAT close to my kit.

However, I’ve heard the newer Athlon XP mobiles can run on passive cooling if you undervolt them!

@ the moment 47 degrees - a normal temperature for an overclocked prescott - on normal web-dev works and web-radio ;) ( = 5-15% cpu load - room temperature 24 degrees)

on 100% load i reach 55-60 degress … and a P4 shuts down automatically on temperatures about 65-70degress - there is no real danger - not like an AMD ;) (imho too much temperature kills an AMD)

oh i forgot to say … there is a third little fan within the side wall of the case ;) … but totally slow - controlled by the power unit. (you feel nothing if you hold your hand near the fan)

maybe the big case fan behind the cpu-cooler helps to cool the cpu right.

my freezer4-cooler (headpipe) run’s at 1600 rpm … the big case fan @ 1000 rpm

oh god my cpu-cooler is totally dirty … :lol:

another thing for a silent pc is a silent gfx card … or a special gfx card cooler - like inside my pc!

if i count all fans inside … i come to 6 (+gfx cooler and power unit) … but all totally silent … the BE-QUIET power unit (450w - much Ampere) was expensive - but it’s really great - you hear nothing!

… on the other hand … this is my fourth selfmade pc after 4 years … and i tried much hardware - and the big power consumption and heat of the P4 Prescott is annoying - but i’m nearly happy now - 3ghz@3.4ghz prime95-stable .

the answer is simply: YES
i’m too lazy to link you to some reference, but trust me when i say that i’ve read reviews and comparisons between VIA C3’s and Pentium III coppermines at the same clock (1000mhz) with the VIA CPU only being half as performant as the p3 counterpart.
also keep in mind that the whole subsystem is totally obsolete nowadays with its meager support for 133 Mhz FSB and single channel SD-RAM, the memory bandwidth is plainly hilarious.
it’s prolly enough to use it for sample-based music creation within renoise, with an overviewable amount of channels and a handful of internal effects… but i guess that’ll be about it.

if you really want low power dissipation (and therefore low-noise, because of less heat) and top notch performance, consider buying a Pentium-M CPU with the Dothan core.
the fastest CPU of that kind currently available is the PM 2,13 Ghz feat. 133Mhz FSB and 2048kb of 2nd level cache.
that CPU is aprx. as performant as an Athlon64 3400+ or a P4 3,4Ghz (prescott) and you can have all the latest bells and whistles with it, when using it on a desktop board like the Asus P4C800-E DLX (i875p chipset) or some i915p based Asus motherboard. in order to use it on these boards, you’ll need an adapter though, because the Pentium Mobiles are using a unique socket (479).
the PM’s are pretty good overclockers and reaching 2,7Ghz with a 2,13 Dothan does not really take a miracle… and believe me, at 2,7Ghz it’s one hell of a CPU and still running cool with aprx. 30-35W power dissipation.
only problem is the price… the 2,13Ghz P-M won’t be available for less than 400,- EUR.

or a G5 Mac ;) … don’t know anything about the power dissipation with Mac’s … any info keith?

… in Pentium-M CPU’s some P4 command set’s & features are missing (like HT) … only MMX, SSE2 in all available P-M’s … but you right keith303 - seams to be a great cpu.

the G5 is a good CPU, but certainly not as performant as some ppl think it would be. a lot of software which is available on both platforms (mac & x86) is performing worse on a G5 than on a Pentium Mobile 1,73Ghz, for example.

i’ve once read a long long thread on the ableton forums which was about benchmakring a certain example tune.
when a Pentium M with aprx ~1,8Ghz peaked at 20% CPU load, the G5 would peak at 35%.
i also did that test btw. and my P4 Northwood 3.0 @3.8 peaked at 27%… just by the way.
this is either an evidence for the inferior mac performance or the less optimized ableton live code on mac bases systems.
as i’m not a big fan of apple in general, i of course do refuse to assume the latter. :)

concerning the power dissipation i have no idea when it comes to MACs.

here are some interesting snippets from the performance test thread on the ableton forums:

the entire thread can be found here.
and keep in mind that all of these Pentium M systems are laptop-based.
on a desktop system you’d gain some performance because of dual channel ddr and the awesome overclockability of the PMs.

and yes, the PMs do not feature HT - but they do feature speedstep, nx-flag commands and other gimmicks which come in handy when trying to stay “cool”. they can be dynamically clocked, depending on the current CPU load.
i’m on a HT system since almost 2 years now… and what did it do for me? … nothing besides the fact that i can encode video’s a bit faster, which i maybe do 2 or 3 times a year.
my main hobby (music) does not benefit in any way of that technology… it even causes a few problems with renoise in the past.

but as far as i’ve heard, the next step on the intel roadmap is to fully integrate the pentium mobile architecture for desktop based systems.
they’ll be extended with HT and all extensions known from other desktop systems. the release of that is said to be due in the second quarter of 2006. until then, i’ll try to get along with my current setup.
but if i HAD to buy something new now, because my current system was totally obsolete, then i’d certainly go PM.

except adobe software. like photoshop! B)

imho it’s hard to compare totally different hardware, cpu’s and totally different os’s … and the same applications - you see it on photoshop. a G4 1ghz beats an P4 1.5ghz without problems …

My Home system basically consists

XP2500 Barton @2.2Ghz (3200) with arctic copper silent + silver 5, & has idled as low as 27 degrees, maxed @ 56. Prime95 stable, no extra vcore & can go much higher! (such a good stepping :)
2Gb DDR400 2.5-5-3-3-1t. Memtest stable
Radeon9800Pro (XT board, with temp sensing) modded to XT with arctic VGA silencer 420/395 stable.
2xSeagate 250Gb SATA in Raid 0 with two dedicated fans
1xSeagate 200Gb IDE
1xWD 80Gb IDE
2 CD/DVD r/rw/ram drives
M-Audio Delta 1010
SCSI2 & 1394 cards
1 side fan, 2 exhaust fans, all with no speed control, which i’m now considering.
The motherboard is the unusual K7-Upgrade-880 (with which I don’t intend to upgrade to 754), cheap as chips and rock solid stable.
All running off a Q-tec 550W PSU (cheap, but doesn’t get even slightly warm), and all V rails are stable.

The whole thing does “HMMMMM” a bit but not to the point of driving you mad, and doesn’t distract me much, but i’m glad I don’t sleep in the same room!

As for CPUs, I’m all for the X2 range. Although a tad pricey for now, their performance ratings are supposed to wee on most, and with the new FX 57, others are struggling to keep up. Especially considering the X2 isn’t just two CPU’s strapped together on one die, unlike the P4s, which is a big advantage. Until they’re more affordable, i can still use a mobo with 939 socket with just an A64 (when I’ve finished paying off my new pair of 19" TFTs), and go for the X2 later.

OK, i’m just bragging now, shut me up.

Don’t get me started on Macs, I maintain them @ work, & I don’t like them much, but firmly believe they can do their stuff with logic etc. I just find thier OS somewhat patronising.

blah blah blah… and my Amiga… well…

Amiga RULES! :D

i have an ibm thinkpad t23 which has a pentium 1.3 ghz and a gig of ram using an echo indigo io.
i also have a g4 ibook 1.2ghz with currently 640mb ram using onboard audio.

which one works better with 1.5?

the mac does.

grats to the mac.
but maybe nowadays, a crippled pentium3 mobile with 1,3Ghz is not really a CPU to be considered worth buying anyways… and neither is the G4.
however the G5 is and so is the Pentium M Dothan and as the latter is more performant for audio applications (presuming that renoise will exhibit the same performance across the two platforms as ableton live does) and also way less expensive, why compromise as a musician?
the G5 surely has its advantages for photoshoping (funny how apple feels the need to cram their homepage with benchmark results proving just that advantage all over the screen as if it was the only application a computer can run) and maybe takes the lead on two or three other apps as well which i personally don’t really care about as they are not music-related.

Thanks for your interesting reply Keith! I didn’t really expect there to be much in terms of performance from the mini-ITX systems, apart from their intended uses, home entertainment or servers.

The Pentium-M does sound interesting, but as you say the prices are quite high. Is there an alternative from AMD?

ok. right now it’s really hot here in germany.
here is my best cooling solution:

had to move the whole furniture… damn. but now its stable. 50degrees. :)

of course: the whole thread wasn’t about cooling, but it somehow turned to it, no? :)

Nice solution there :) I’ve used that too when rendering a movie on an old unstable machine way back…