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Gen8 dual purpose HTPC + Gaming rig


KungFuSpaghetti
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Hi all,

 

I'm new to the forum but have been on here reading up for the last couple of months to get some ideas of what sort of hardware I can use in this machine.

 

My original intention for the G8 was to use this purely as a HTPC and storage server.  I have a 120GB SSD drive running windows 10 and x2 2TB WD reds and x2 4TB WD reds which are all running close to capacity with movies and TV series.

 

I'm using Plex to provide remote streaming capabilities to my smart devices so I can watch my movies and TV shows when I'm away for work and use Mezzmo locally in the house, as it just seems quicker and better equipped to handle multiple 1080p and 3D movies simultaneously.

 

I recently decided however that I'd like to be able to do some light gaming, I have an Xbox One, however I really only play racing and sport type games on this, as I HATE fps on console due to having to use a pad!

 

I took the plunge and ordered the MSI 750ti low profile card from the BTShop (formerly known as Dabs.com), it was cheap enough to take a punt on!  Got it in and thought I would try GTA 5 on it... well it ran like a 3 legged dog, it was awful.  Completely unplayable and no matter what resolution and detail level I ran it at, the frame rate remained the same (it was like a slide show!).  I noticed that the CPU was constantly at 100% duty cycle, so that appeared to be the bottleneck and I'd been considering a Xeon for some time.

 

After looking on here for what felt like forever, I decided that I couldn't really justify spending big bucks on a high performing Xeon with a similarly high price tag, so the Intel Core i3 3240 seemed the obvious choice.  I managed to find one on ebay for a pittance, so took the plunge.

 

I've now installed the CPU and I'm just using the passive cooler which comes with the system, I did have some concerns about going from a 35w CPU to a 55w one, so increased the case fan speed in the BIOS to the intermediate setting as a precaution, however this obviously isn't really ideal!  I ran GTA for about 30 minutes on the assumption that if the CPU doesn't like the passive cooler, it will just blue screen and if I kill it, well, no harm no foul, I'll just buy another.  Probably not the most sensible thing to do in hindsight, however I didn't get back from work until nearly midnight and decided it was a good time to take the Gen8 to bits...

 

I'm going to stress test the system later to monitor temps, so I've downloaded Prime as I've seen this mentioned on here by some of the more experienced users, so will see how well it holds up and what the temps are like.  So far so good though, GTA is CPU and GPU intensive and it rarely dipped under 60fps even in densely populated areas with lots going on, so the performance is certainly there from a gaming perspective, just need to now make sure nothing melts!

 

I was reading overcoats thread about the active CPU cooling and think this is the road I'll be heading down regardless, seems like a no brainer and the fact it's also a silent solution sound ideal, I just need to work out the wiring diagram he's posted!

 

In a nutshell however, yes, the Gen8 can be used as a gaming rig, the settings I've used for GTA surpass the Xbox One graphically and will run a constant 60fps!

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I have the same cpu and keep looking at the 750ti just can't justify the spend at the moment but really good to know gta 5 is running well. I have seen the gtx 950 or something number graphics cards are coming out now that will replace the 750ti so the price will be coming down next few or more months so I will grab one later. I have the same setup but only use kodi to stream only issue I have left with mine is 19 percent fan speed my gen8 is near my sofa I can hear it and have not found a cupboard the wife approves of to put it in in the front room. I don't think I will ever get the fan speed down tried all the tricks mentioned

 

Sent from my SM-G935F using Tapatalk

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Machines are best built to their target purposes.  Not saying you can't do this, but it's far better to build a budget gaming rig separately, and not have to worry about heat, find a full-height dual slot graphics card that performs better for close to the same price (even a used one for less), etc.  The Microserver Gen8 is an amazing box (I own one) within the parameters it was designed for --which isn't a gaming rig.

 

I'd much rather have a Core i3 Sandy/Ivy/Haswell with an inexpensive SSD, 8GB memory, and a Geforce 950 (which kills the 750 Ti).  Should be easily possible to do one that would run rings  around the Gen8, and be cooler and quieter.

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tezray, I bought the MSI 750ti for £86 from BTShop which I didn't think was too bad a price.  The only thing I had to do was get a craft knife to shave the lip of the power block to get it to fit without it fouling on the fan.  Oh, as for TV units, your wife sounds like mine!  We had to hunt around for some time to find a decent sized solid wood unit that she approved of, if you're UK based I can HIGHLY recommend the one we bought, it's all reclaimed wood and it wasn't expensive.  I'll get a picture later if you like and you can see the Gen8 tucked neatly away inside it on a shelf totally hidden!

 

I did some extended testing last night, had GTA running for about an hour and a half, but that generated enough heat in the case to cause the system to reboot due to heat.  I now need to find a way to draw heat off the cpu or out of the case, as once the video card gets hot enough there's not really much way for the heat to escape.  The CPU being passive cooled appears to be okay as long as the video card isn't doing much of anything.  Idle temps are 34 degrees and transcoding in plex or Mezzmo it goes to a max of 47 degrees, but if the video card is getting some use then the temps slowly creep up to 61 then the system reboots.

 

Lonewolf - totally agree, a separate gaming rig would be the obvious solution, but I like the fact my G8 sits in my TV unit and I can do everything from the one place (the couch!).  I'm not a heavy gamer on PC's, I have my Xbone for that, but I just thought it would be good for a bit of light PC gaming with some of my workmates.  I just need to find a way to draw air out of the case or cool the CPU more efficiently now, other than butcher the case or remove it completely...

Edited by KungFuSpaghetti
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We've just taken delivery of a few Core i3-3240, and we've been hammering the little box with Plex, Prime95, and Seti@Home, and cannot get the temperature of CPU above 49 degrees C, with stock 35 watt heat sink, and the fan is at 11%, with 4 x 3TB WD Reds.

 

The i3240 has more bogomips than the Xeon 1220Lv2, as it has a higher clock speed 3.4GHz.

 

Not overly worried about the temp at present, but we've got lots of processors to play with i3, i5, Xeons 1220Lv3, 1290v2.... and the magically 65 watt heat sink to try.

 

We only use for Plex, we have bigger gaming rigs to play games, which are VR ready.

 

GPU are always going to be issues in closed spaces.... hence why we have dedicated gaming rigs, fully loaded, and VR Ready! We cannot fit heavy GPUs in the Gen8.

 

I would like to see the picture of the wooden TV cab, that might keep er'indoors happy to hide all the TV gear, she hates the glass stand!

 

a link to the UK site would be good as well.

Edited by einsteinagogo
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I wanted to try something similar using my Gen 8 since I am currently running unRAID. I have done this with other builds running unRAID since all you need to do is setup a windows vm and pass-through the GPU, mouse and keyboard and thats really it. 

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einsteinagogo - I'll get a picture of the cabinet tonight when I get home, I bought it from a local store called Home Bird, it's reclaimed solid wood and looks great!

 

After more testing (read that as playing GTA 5!) I've seen max CPU temps at 57 degrees under full load after about 3 hours and with the GPU running flat out and at peak heat.  This is in the cupboard with the front door open and open at the back and the BIOS thermal options set to 'maximum cooling'.  Okay, so it's not ideal, as I'd like the case on and the door closed, but it's within a safe tolerance of the CPU and it's still running the stock 35w TDP rated heatsink.  I'll keep an eye out for someone more clever than me to come up with a cooling solution, as I'm reading a lot of mixed reviews on the aftermarket coolers at the moment.

 

I have lifted a copper cooler from an old Xeon from a server at work which is for the bin, so I'm going to clean that up and get my friend at snap-on tools to machine 75x65 holes in the plate or fabricate a bracket so I can mount to the CPU.  It's surely going to be better than the current heatsink.  My other thought was to go water cooled and again fabricate a bracket to fit the motherboard, however I'd have to butcher the case to vent out and I'm a little reticent to do that just yet!  I just want a neat OEM looking solution where I can run my thermal profile at normal cooling with the case on. 

 

Maybe one for Schoondoggy to come up with an adapter bracket to mount regular CPU coolers!  I'll have a go with this copper one for now and post the results once I have them.  Looking at giving it to my buddy this weekend, hopefully he can turn it around quickly!

Edited by KungFuSpaghetti
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KungFuSpagetti and others, I'm in a very similar situation, and thus is it very interesting to add a MSI 750ti.

I was thinking of: http://www.gigabyte.com/products/product-page.aspx?pid=5160#ov

 

These GfX Cards are designed to draw the power from the PCI bus, and do not have an additional power connector. Still, the required
power (75W, some people write) is significant. Gigabyte recommends a 400W PSU in the system. 

 

Did you take any measures to increase the system power supply?

 

Any thoughts on this? E.g., is using an additional PSU, e.g. with Add2PSU.com, a good option, or is that not needed?

 

By the way: I'm using a long HDMI cable and USB extender such that I can position the MicroServer in the attic, yet still use it in
the livingroom. This makes it 100% silent in the livingroom, and avoids additional temperature control & noise challenges
caused by placing it in a living-room cabinet - which I tried in the past. This attic solution is completely acceptable to my wife ;-)

Edited by Marcel
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Hi Marcel, I cannot comment on the Gigabyte card, but you should be able to get the physical dimensions of it to compare against the MSI.  The reason I went for the MSI was based on overall size as well as the active cooling of the 2 fans.  I had to shave a small amount of plastic off the power block, but to look at it you'd never know, it looks OEM still.

 

As for power, the MSI card says it's 60w TDP, however so far at full load the max draw I have seen is 57w TDP, so there's no issues there as far as I'm concerned.  I did think my PSU was 150w, but I've actually got the 200w version, that being said with a 150w PSU I don't think you'll have any trouble.

 

If you can get hold of the MSI card, I would get that, it fits easily and I know it runs under the stated TDP.  The only issue you will have is keeping everything cool, but if noise isn't an issue, then just set the thermal options in BIOS to max and you should be okay.  I only have the case off because the server sits in a confined space.

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Thanks, KungFuSpagetti - I noticed my mistake, and ordered the MSI card earlier today.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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