Testing Hardware (Mini-ITX), Revised

As I mentioned before, we're also changing the way we split the test platforms. As Micro-ATX systems can be competitive with full ATX systems in terms of performance, it makes more sense to lump those two together than to lump Micro-ATX enclosures with Mini-ITX enclosures as we've done in the past. The result is a Mini-ITX testbed that's a little bit more geared towards what one would expect to find in a Mini-ITX system proper.

Mini-ITX Test Configuration
CPU Intel Core i3-2120
(65W TDP)
Motherboard Zotac Z68ITX-A-E
Graphics Card Intel HD 2000 IGP

Zotac GeForce GTS 450 Eco (dedicated)
Memory 2x2GB Crucial Ballistix Smart Tracer DDR3-1600
Drives Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 64GB SSD
Samsung 5.25" BD-ROM/DVDRW Drive
Accessories Corsair Link
CPU Cooler SilverStone NT07-1156 with Cooler Master ThermalFusion 400
Power Supply SilverStone Strider Plus 750W 80 Plus Silver

The impetus behind the changes for the Mini-ITX testbed can seem a bit more nebulous compared to the ATX, but let's discuss our thoughts.

On the motherboard/CPU/HSF front, we wanted a motherboard that had a native USB 3.0 header, something still rarefied in the Mini-ITX market. Of all the Mini-ITX boards on the market, Zotac's was the one best equipped for our purposes and realistically is probably one of the most feature rich Mini-ITX boards available in general. The CPU is also fairly representative of how much power someone might try to cram into an enclosure, as Sandy Bridge continues to strike an excellent balance between performance and thermals. Finally, our old heatsink/fan just didn't really spin up or down in testing; this is a limitation of not only Zalman's implementation but also the old motherboard's fan control. Either way, the low profile heatsink from SilverStone should resolve the problem just fine.

Where graphics are concerned, the GeForce GTX 580 in our old testbed was simply too much card for a Mini-ITX review. Oftentimes it was too big for the enclosures we wanted to test in, and even if it could fit there are very few Mini-ITX users likely to use such a powerful and power hungry card. While a single-slot AMD Radeon HD 7750 would probably have been ideal for our revision, it was more difficult to obtain in the wild. Zotac offers a model of GeForce GTS 450 that does the trick, though: the 450 Eco uses DDR3 instead of GDDR5 and has reduced clocks, but it also employs a single-slot cooler, is a short card in general, and requires no external power lead.

The remainder of our testbed carries over from the previous page.

Update: We originally included an i5-2300 in the Mini-ITX testbed. However, before testing with it we opted to swap to an i3-2120 to allow for testing cases with dedicated power supplies that wouldn't be able to handle a 95W CPU but could handle a 65W CPU.

Before continuing on, we'd like to thank the following vendors for furnishing us with the hardware to revise our  testbeds.

  • Thank you to Puget Systems for providing us with the Intel Core i7-2700K and i3-2120.
  • Thank you to Gigabyte for providing us with the GA-Z68MX-UD2H-B3 motherboard.
  • Thank you to Zotac for providing us with the Z68ITX-A-E motherboard and GeForce GTS 450 Eco.
  • Thank you to Crucial for providing us with the Ballistix Smart Tracer memory.
  • Thank you to Corsair for providing us with the Corsair Link kit.
  • Thank you to Cooler Master for providing us with the Hyper 212 Evo heatsink and fan unit.
  • Thank you to Kingston for providing us with the SSDNow V+ 100 SSD.
  • Thank you to CyberPower for providing us with the Samsung BD-ROM/DVD+/-RW drive.
  • And thank you to SilverStone for providing us with the power supply and NT07-1156 heatsink/fan combo.
Testing Hardware, Revised Testing Methodology, Revised
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  • Gnarr - Sunday, April 1, 2012 - link

    This is not a revised methodology, but a revised method. Methodology is the study of a method.
  • shin0bi272 - Monday, April 2, 2012 - link

    I would still keep furmark since its designed for stressing the cards...

    "What is FurMark?

    FurMark is a very intensive OpenGL benchmark that uses fur rendering algorithms to measure the performance of the graphics card. Fur rendering is especially adapted to overheat the GPU and that's why FurMark is also a perfect stability and stress test tool (also called GPU burner) for the graphics card."
  • sticks435 - Tuesday, April 3, 2012 - link

    Furmark doesn't come anywhere close to reality as far as temps are concerned. It's like the Linpack of GPU's. Plus like Dustin Mentioned, Nvidia and AMD have specially coded the drivers/power circuitry to step down when Furmark is detected, so it doesn't give accurate results. I actually think some of the newer work units from F@H are the best test of heat and noise as far as GPU's are concerned.
  • shin0bi272 - Tuesday, April 3, 2012 - link

    true. I was just posting whats on their site. Their stated mission is to test who can get the highest fps at the lowest temp which makes it a good candidate for a benchmark. If you go over to lanoc and read their test of the 7970 and 680 in furmark you'll see how whacked out the program's scoring is. the 680 scores higher in fps and lower in temp so you'd think it should score higher in the burn-in score point system. It doesnt. Ive never seen a benchmark of f@h come near the stress levels that furmark puts on the cards but I guess if your only looking for real world programs to test its a good one.
  • shin0bi272 - Tuesday, April 3, 2012 - link

    oh and according to legit reviews running f@h is getting harder and hard to do on the gpu.

  • sticks435 - Tuesday, April 3, 2012 - link

    Fair enough. I don't think that it's getting harder, it's that Standford is probably swamped and hasn't had time to write new cores for the new arch. Either that or the current drivers are so terrible it causes f@h not to work. My 570 with the current work units sits at 94c with the fan speed at 75% with an ambient of 24c @850mhz. That's more stressful than any game as far as work/temp is concerned.
  • sticks435 - Tuesday, April 3, 2012 - link

    that should have been 26c ambient.
  • Knifeshade - Tuesday, April 3, 2012 - link

    I think there needs to be a 'with stock heatsink' result, and one with the Hyper 212 in your testing methodology.

    You're ultimately testing a case's capability. Having a custom cooler is misleading. "Oh those CPU temperatures look pretty good". "Wrong, it's mostly because of the custom cooler".

    Not everybody uses aftermarket cooling in their build, you know.

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