Let's face it.  We're now in the "Ipad Era" as far as the size of our computing devices go.  Desktops which used to be a common household appliance have long since been supplanted by the ubiquitous laptop/notebook.  We've had this ever increasing desire to make our computers smaller and to blend in or disappear into our home and office decor, rather than to take center stage.  I often hear my clients say "I'd love to have a powerful image processing station, but my wife wouldn't allow it in our office/den/study.."  Or "I can barely get away with the big screen plasma.."   Perhaps the days of impressive looking electronic devices dominating our homes has long passed.

 

Introduction

Let's face it.  We're now in the "Ipad Era" as far as the size of our computing devices go.  Desktops which used to be a common household appliance have long since been supplanted by the ubiquitous laptop/notebook.  We've had this ever increasing desire to make our computers smaller and to blend in or disappear into our home and office decor, rather than to take center stage.  I often hear my clients say "I'd love to have a powerful image processing station, but my wife wouldn't allow it in our office/den/study.."  Or "I can barely get away with the big screen plasma.."   Perhaps the days of impressive looking electronic devices dominating our homes has long passed.

To this end I spent the several weeks researching, measuring, and designing a very size and weight efficient no compromises imaging workstation.  A tough lightweight computer not much bigger than a breadbox.  And by no compromises I mean it will be equipped with the most powerful graphics processing unit (GPU) useful for imaging, and will even hold the biggest/longest video card desired by the most serious gamers.  It will even hold two of them.

It will hold up to the most powerful 6 core Intel i7 CPU available with the more desirable 1366 socket, and with as much RAM as you desire.  No special power supply required, it will house a common ATX sized power supply.  It will be equipped with the fasted Solid State Disk (SSD) available anywhere with file transfer speeds exceeding 700mbps for both read and write operations which fits in a PCIe slot and not a slower SATA II or III interface. A 32-1 flash memory card reader, Blue-Ray optical drive, and eight available 3.5" drive bays for a total of 24 TERABYTES of storage.  It will even be able to pull double duty as a Home Theater PC (HTPC) with 7.1 channel optical and coaxial outputs, DTS, Dolby and THX certified. This is not your Father's PC!

All of this in a breadbox sized box with great style, totally silent operation, and available in three colors.  Red, Black, or Silver.  Read on to see which components I selected to build this system and why I chose each one.

 

The Components

Quality parts are essential for a reliable workstation, but when you’re building a powerful workstation in a very small footprint case, the size and performance of each component must be carefully considered.  Space is at a premium, so to ensure proper fit, adequate cooling, and optimum performance you’ll either do some serious research or pay a system builder to make your system.  I don’t build systems full time, but I have built many systems for my clients who would rather someone knowledgeable with imaging and computers put their system together.  If you have a need, ask.

 

Case

This was perhaps the most critical part of the component selection.  A case determines the size of the motherboard, how many storage drives it can hold, the size of the power supply, front panel switches and ports, cooling, and acoustical efficiency.  More, because this time my goal was the smallest possible case with the most powerful components, and I wanted it to be strong enough for regular portability, case selection was even more critical.

 

This was perhaps the most critical part of the component selection.  A case determines the size of the motherboard, how many storage drives it can hold, the size of the power supply, front panel switches and ports, cooling, and acoustical efficiency.  More, because this time my goal was the smallest possible case with the most powerful components, and I wanted it to be strong enough for regular portability, case selection was even more critical.

 

I researched and went hands-on with many cases, and was pleased to see Lian-li topped my list.  Lian-li has long been my favorite case manufacturer because of their high quality all aluminum construction, great design, light weight, and reasonable prices.  In the industry Lian-li is known as the Rolls Royce of PC cases. 

The Lian-li PC-V354 Micro-ATX case reviewed here was without a doubt the best case for the build.  Nothing else was close.  It was such a necessary part of the build that I ordered it from the states and paid the high shipping cost.  My sources at Pantip tell me this case will be available here in Thailand sometime in March.

 

Motherboard

 

When choosing a motherboard there are many technical considerations.  Do you want a 1156 socket motherboard for the entry level i3/i5/i7 Intel CPU’s, an AMD CPU motherboard to save money, maybe the new 1155 socket Sandy Bridge, or the no-holds barred 1366 socket motherboard?

 

When choosing a motherboard there are many technical considerations.  Do you want a 1156 socket motherboard for the entry level i3/i5/i7 Intel CPU’s, an AMD CPU motherboard to save money, maybe the new 1155 socket Sandy Bridge, or the no-holds barred 1366 socket motherboard? 

I won’t go into many of the technical details, but I wanted the most powerful motherboard possible with as much ‘future proofing’ as possible.  More, I knew I’d be using it with high-speed SSD’s, GPU’s, and USB 3.0 devices and I needed the most PCIe channels to help prevent bottlenecks.  I’ll admit, the new Sandy Bridge CPU’s were very tempting, but ultimately the 1366 CPU socket with the x58 chipset, six slots for DDR3 triple channel memory, and is the platform/socket of choice for the upcoming Intel i9 CPU.

The problem with my choice is it severely limited my choices.  While there are roughly 90 1156 socket motherboards and already over 30 new 1155 socket Sandy Bridge motherboards in the Micro-ATX size which would fit my case, there were only 3 available with the 1366 socket.  Further investigation revealed only one of these had both USB 3.0 and the SATA III/6gbps interfaces required for my level of build.  One motherboard.  Not much to choose from.

Asus’s Rampage III Gene Micro-ATX motherboard reviewed here was the only choice, and the best choice.  This board is built a very high quality level to support major over clocking and other severe use demanded by hard-core gamers.  Every feature which supports gamers, made this a better more high quality board to use for imaging.  All the right ports and features were present.  Read the linked review for more information.

Again, it wasn’t available yet in Thailand so I ordered it from the states.  I’m told it will be available here in Thailand next month.

 

CPU

 

The motherboard, RAM, and CPU choices MUST be made together.  The 1366 CPU’s available include the ever popular i7-950 four core 3.06ghz chip, up through the Extreme Series i7-980x six core 3.3ghz chip.  There are several in between.  I chose the i7-950.

 

The motherboard, RAM, and CPU choices MUST be made together.  The 1366 CPU’s available include the ever popular i7-950 four core 3.06ghz chip, up through the Extreme Series i7-980x six core 3.3ghz chip.  There are several in between.  I chose the i7-950.

 

Why the i7-950?  Aren’t more cores and more power better?  Absolutely.  But cost is always a factor and so is the point of marginal returns.  A i7-950 4 core 3.06ghz chip here in Thailand runs under baht 10,000.  The Extreme Series i7-980x 6 core 3.3ghz chip runs baht 35,000.  Over three times the price!

 

Why the i7-950?  Aren’t more cores and more power better?  Absolutely.  But cost is always a factor and so is the point of marginal returns.  A i7-950 4 core 3.06ghz chip here in Thailand runs under baht 10,000.  The Extreme Series i7-980x 6 core 3.3ghz chip runs baht 35,000.  Over three times the price! 

In actual real use both of these chips can be over clocked to very near the same speeds.  3.8ghz is easily done on air cooling with 100% reliability.  That really only leaves the matter of the two additional cores.  I regular monitor my core usage with a special widget which shows my usage, and logs it as well.  4 cores means 8 threads with hyper threading.  Not all programs are designed to use multiple cores, though today most of your major imaging programs such as Lightroom, Adobe CS5 Photoshop, and Phase One’s C1Pro6 are utilize multiple cores.  But a review of my logs showed me that over 90% of the time I never used the 8 threads I already had. 

So, for more than three times the price I passed on the Extreme Series i7-980x.  You might find it worth it.  Not only that, I was thinking that before summer is over the new i9 CPU’s with even more cores and much lower anticipated prices will arrive and then I can simply swap out my old i7-950 with a new i9, without changing anything else on my system.  If I feel the value is there.

 

CPU Cooler

 

CPU coolers serve two major functions over the stock Intel fan cooler that comes with the CPU.  They drastically reduce or eliminate fan whine/noise, and they can cool the CPU much more efficiently.  Cooling is especially important if you plan to over clock.

 

CPU coolers serve two major functions over the stock Intel fan cooler that comes with the CPU.  They drastically reduce or eliminate fan whine/noise, and they can cool the CPU much more efficiently.  Cooling is especially important if you plan to over clock.

As you walk through Pantip you’ll see literally hundreds of CPU coolers of all shapes and sizes gracing the windows of most every enthusiast shop.  Which one is for you?  First, they need to include a mounting bracket which supports your CPU and all the necessary hardware such as screws and springs and even a high quality thermal compound.  That still leaves a lot, so I keep track of several excellent websites that regular test and review coolers.  No need in duplicating someone else’s work.  Consistently the Thermalright 120 Extreme has either totally out performed every other cooler for the last 3 years, or been in the top three.  It’s a solid choice I used on my i7-920 build some time back and have since installed in over 20 custom builds for clients.  It just plain works.

 

However, we now have new requirements.  The small footprint Micro-ATX build.  This is a huge tower cooler and it wasn’t clear if it was going to fit in the case and clear all the other components such as the RAM memory cards and the video card.  Not being sure, even after careful measuring, I bought it anyway.  Later, during the build, I discovered the cooler would fit, but I’d need to suspend the fan ‘near’ the cooler vs. ‘on’ the cooler as it was designed.  This presented very little trouble and doesn’t seem to have affected the cooling at all.  I’m happy with this choice.

 

However, we now have new requirements.  The small footprint Micro-ATX build.  This is a huge tower cooler and it wasn’t clear if it was going to fit in the case and clear all the other components such as the RAM memory cards and the video card.  Not being sure, even after careful measuring, I bought it anyway.  Later, during the build, I discovered the cooler would fit, but I’d need to suspend the fan ‘near’ the cooler vs. ‘on’ the cooler as it was designed.  This presented very little trouble and doesn’t seem to have affected the cooling at all.  I’m happy with this choice.

 

MEMORY/RAM

 

I used OCZ’s excellent DDR3 PC3-16000 triple channel memory.  Two sets of 3 2tb modules each, for a total of 12gb.  12gb is plenty for imaging.  24gb is the max this system can hold and would be better for rendering video

 

I used OCZ’s excellent DDR3 PC3-16000 triple channel memory.  Two sets of 3 2tb modules each, for a total of 12gb.  12gb is plenty for imaging.  24gb is the max this system can hold and would be better for rendering video.

RAM is one of the areas in a system where you stand to achieve the least performance gain when going from the standard fare, to the most extreme.  And due to our Micro-ATX footprint and large tower CPU cooler space was at a premium thereby eliminating any RAM modules with high profile heatsinks.

 

Some will say ‘why waste the money on 16000+ memory, when it all runs at 1033 anyway?”  This is true on entry level motherboards.  On enthusiast motherboards, and with quality RAM embedded with settings profiles, you can take advantage of the higher speed memory through a simple BIOS settings (XMP Profile 1).  Now it becomes a simple cost factor, is the additional 4-5% performance improvement going to justify the extra cost.  In this case I got a great deal on the 16000+ memory which made it worth it.

 

Some will say ‘why waste the money on 16000+ memory, when it all runs at 1033 anyway?”  This is true on entry level motherboards.  On enthusiast motherboards, and with quality RAM embedded with settings profiles, you can take advantage of the higher speed memory through a simple BIOS settings (XMP Profile 1).  Now it becomes a simple cost factor, is the additional 4-5% performance improvement going to justify the extra cost.  In this case I got a great deal on the 16000+ memory which made it worth it.

 

Power Supply

 

The highest quality power supply, with the most power, you can possibly afford is the single most important thing you can do for system stability and longevity.  This is not an area to skimp.

 

The highest quality power supply, with the most power, you can possibly afford is the single most important thing you can do for system stability and longevity.  This is not an area to skimp.

With this in mind, we still had the size and case restrictions imposed by the Micro-ATX footprint and the Lian-li PC-V354 case.  The case accepts full ATX size power supplies which is unusual in a Micro-ATX case which is great, yet I noticed the way it was mounted didn’t provide for an air intake vent like the new style with the big more quiet fan on top.  This means for best cooling I needed a rear intake power supply.  And I wanted it as quiet, powerful, and the highest possible quality.

PCpowerandCooling has built their reputation providing high quality power supplies to specialty builders, server builders, and those demanding the best possible power supplies.  Their newest consumer grade supply is the Silencer 900 which was perfect for my needs.  Besides, I already had one in my storage room brand new.

 

System Drive

 

Solid State Devices (SSD’s) are hugely faster than the mechanical drives most are still using.  Without going into numbers allow me an example.  A benchmark test I run on the SSD I selected for this build processes a set amount of data and executes a set amount of instructions in roughly 12 seconds.  The same benchmark on a mechanical hard drive can take several hours.  Twice that on a laptop drive.  I’ve run the tests and seen it first hand.  An SSD will improve the performance of almost any level system more than any other single component or action you can change.

 

Your system drive holds your operating system and desirably most if not all of your programs.  The faster this drive is, the faster your boot times will be, and the faster your programs will load.

Solid State Devices (SSD’s) are hugely faster than the mechanical drives most are still using.  Without going into numbers allow me an example.  A benchmark test I run on the SSD I selected for this build processes a set amount of data and executes a set amount of instructions in roughly 12 seconds.  The same benchmark on a mechanical hard drive can take several hours.  Twice that on a laptop drive.  I’ve run the tests and seen it first hand.  An SSD will improve the performance of almost any level system more than any other single component or action you can change.

With my very positive experience with my Crucial C300 256gb SSD I reviewed here I was faced with the decision to buy another of these excellent SSD’s which are still among the top three available, or try a new PCIe SSD card.  For the same money, the PCIe card offered the same capacity and greatly improved performance.

 

I chose OCZ’s Revodrive.  This is a PCIe x4 card with Sandforce controllers and it’s significantly faster than any SATA II or III SSD available.  Simply put, this drive screams. Read more about it in my review here.

 

I chose OCZ’s Revodrive.  This is a PCIe x4 card with Sandforce controllers and it’s significantly faster than any SATA II or III SSD available.  Simply put, this drive screams. Read more about it in my review here

 

Storage/Data Drives

 

However, my requirements called for the ‘fastest and lightest’ possible.  This build is to be used for my students use during workshops and portable on-site use for big jobs.  I didn’t need the 24tb of storage available on my main workstation, and which would fit in the Lian-li PC-V354 case.  I also didn’t want the additional weight of 3.5 inch drives, the additional noise, or the additional heat.   I simply needed the fastest and lightest 1tb worth of storage available at a reasonable cost.

 

Conventional wisdom dictates Western Digital Black 1-2tb SATA II 3.5 inch drives for storage purposes.  Virtually every imaging professional I know uses them for internal storage.  They use Drobo’s for external storage.

However, my requirements called for the ‘fastest and lightest’ possible.  This build is to be used for my students use during workshops and portable on-site use for big jobs.  I didn’t need the 24tb of storage available on my main workstation, and which would fit in the Lian-li PC-V354 case.  I also didn’t want the additional weight of 3.5 inch drives, the additional noise, or the additional heat.   I simply needed the fastest and lightest 1tb worth of storage available at a reasonable cost.

A 1tb SSD would fit the bill, but would end up costing more than the rest of the system combined.  Then I remembered I had the 500gb Seagate Momentus XT Hybrid drives in my storeroom from a previous review.   I had two of the small 2.5 inch hybrid drives available.

The Lian-li case had special mounting points for up to (4) 2.5inch drives.  I mounted the hybrids into the case and connected them to the system not really knowing how they’d perform for my needs.

 

When you ‘pull’ an image file from your storage drive into memory to work on it in an imaging program, this often creates a time lag of a few seconds, a type of bottleneck.  A WD Black can transfer at roughly 90mbps, and a top laptop drive at about 55mbps.  The Revodrive above can do this at over 500mbps.  And that’s only part of the story, sequential speeds aren’t everything.  It’s the 4k reads and writes which tell the rest of the story, making a SSD possibly nearly a hundred times faster to pull up a file over a mechanical drive.

 

When you ‘pull’ an image file from your storage drive into memory to work on it in an imaging program, this often creates a time lag of a few seconds, a type of bottleneck.  A WD Black can transfer at roughly 90mbps, and a top laptop drive at about 55mbps.  The Revodrive above can do this at over 500mbps.  And that’s only part of the story, sequential speeds aren’t everything.  It’s the 4k reads and writes which tell the rest of the story, making a SSD possibly nearly a hundred times faster to pull up a file over a mechanical drive. 

I was surprised to see I could pull up files from the hybrid drives at up to 250mbps!  And I could do this for the first 2-3gb of data I needed which is enough for over 95% of my accesses.  After the first 2-3gb the speeds would drop to the 50-55mbps you’d expect from a high-end laptop drive.  Since these hybrid drives are only baht 3000 each at Pantip I consider this a great value.  I’m going to install one of these Seagate Momentus XT drives in my main workstation to hold the files I’m currently processing, and then move them over to the WD Black 3.5 inch SATA II drives for archival purposes.

 

Video Card

 

Another vital choice in a system build is the video card.  It should be carefully matched to your desired tasks.  I’m not a gamer, but I do require significant GPU (graphic processor unit) power for my imaging.  Conventional wisdom ‘used’ to say that for Photoshop and imaging any video card was good, that you’d see no performance gains from a faster card.  That was before Adobe CS4 and CS5 came out, now taking advantage of OpenGL and the power of your video card.

 

Another vital choice in a system build is the video card.  It should be carefully matched to your desired tasks.  I’m not a gamer, but I do require significant GPU (graphic processor unit) power for my imaging.  Conventional wisdom ‘used’ to say that for Photoshop and imaging any video card was good, that you’d see no performance gains from a faster card.  That was before Adobe CS4 and CS5 came out, now taking advantage of OpenGL and the power of your video card.

Still, there is only so much power you need for imaging.  For this build I selected the ATI Radeon 5770 GPU I reviewed here  It’s low price, modest power draw, and high performance makes it an excellent choice for imaging professionals.  Even those who play the occasional game or two.

 

If I was rendering significant video footage with this machine I’d have went with the more powerful dual GPU ATI Radeon 5970 like I have in my main workstation, or perhaps the newer ATI Radeon 6970.  There are websites totally dedicated to helping you select the right ‘fit’ of video card for your system.  Knowing your needs and then not exceeding them helps you get all the GPU power you need, and not spend money you don’t need to spend.

 

If I was rendering significant video footage with this machine I’d have went with the more powerful dual GPU ATI Radeon 5970 like I have in my main workstation, or perhaps the newer ATI Radeon 6970.  There are websites totally dedicated to helping you select the right ‘fit’ of video card for your system.  Knowing your needs and then not exceeding them helps you get all the GPU power you need, and not spend money you don’t need to spend.

 

Monitor

 

I always advise clients to purchase the largest and highest quality monitor you can afford.  Nothing will give you more pleasure and satisfaction than seeing your images displayed in all their glory on a quality LCD.  To this end I have dual NEC LCD2690uxi2’s (26.5 inch professional imaging monitors) for my main workstation.  But what about an amateur photographer, or someone like me looking for a highly portable large monitor still suitable for teaching imaging to clients?

 

I always advise clients to purchase the largest and highest quality monitor you can afford.  Nothing will give you more pleasure and satisfaction than seeing your images displayed in all their glory on a quality LCD.  To this end I have dual NEC LCD2690uxi2’s (26.5 inch professional imaging monitors) for my main workstation.  But what about an amateur photographer, or someone like me looking for a highly portable large monitor still suitable for teaching imaging to clients?

This is where I still feel the Samsung BX2450 I reviewed here continues to shine.  It’s very thin, very light, and only about 9000 baht at Pantip Plaza with a full three year warranty.

 

This is where I still feel the Samsung BX2450 I reviewed here continues to shine.  It’s very thin, very light, and only about 9000 baht at Pantip Plaza with a full three year warranty.

 

Keep in mind, this is a LED LCD of the 1920x1080 consumer variety.  It’s not the best, it’s only adequate for imaging.  And only after proper setup and calibration.  I encourage you to read the full review for this information.

 

Keyboard

 

Quality keyboards enhance productivity.  I personally feel the Logitech K800 Wireless Illuminated Keyboard reviewed here is the best choice, but if you want a wired keyboard or like me have one sitting in your storage room, the Logitech Illuminated Wired Keyboard reviewed here is an excellent choice.

 

Quality keyboards enhance productivity.  I personally feel the Logitech K800 Wireless Illuminated Keyboard reviewed here is the best choice, but if you want a wired keyboard or like me have one sitting in your storage room, the Logitech Illuminated Wired Keyboard reviewed here is an excellent choice. 

 

The Perfect Stroke key system, the 5 levels of illumination, the smart keys, they all add up to an excellent value.  Everyone who’s used this keyboard makes unsolicited positive comments.

 

The Perfect Stroke key system, the 5 levels of illumination, the smart keys, they all add up to an excellent value.  Everyone who’s used this keyboard makes unsolicited positive comments.

 

Mouse

 

Another important choice.  I can’t count the number of really expensive systems I’ve seen where the owner skimped with a 200 baht mouse.  The horrors.  It’s like the difference of riding on a Benz vs. a tuk-tuk.  Please don’t skimp on the mouse as tempting at is might be.  Buy a good one and you’ll immediately recognize the value.

 

Another important choice.  I can’t count the number of really expensive systems I’ve seen where the owner skimped with a 200 baht mouse.  The horrors.  It’s like the difference of riding on a Benz vs. a tuk-tuk.  Please don’t skimp on the mouse as tempting at is might be.  Buy a good one and you’ll immediately recognize the value.

I’ve reviewed several mice over the last year, and you guessed it, I had a Logitech MX1100 in my storage room already so this is what I’m using with this system. I reviewed it in depth here

 

I’ve reviewed several mice over the last year, and you guessed it, I had a Logitech MX1100 in my storage room already so this is what I’m using with this system.  I reviewed it in depth here.

 

I’ve also reviewed the Logitech Performance MX Mouse here  You’re probably wondering which one I like better?  I like the Performance mouse better, but only because it’s slightly smaller and fits my smaller hands better.  It’s also a great deal lighter in weight than the MX1100 and you can feel it.  Some people like a bigger more substantial mouse, some like a smaller lighter one.  It’s purely a matter of taste in this instance.  Most would be happy with either as they’re both very high quality with excellent drivers and supporting software.

 

The Build

 

Using the exact parts described above I sat down to carefully build the system. Building a small footprint Micro-ATX case is a different experience than a full size tower case.  Everything must be precise and perfectly installed and wires thoughtfully routed.

 

Using the exact parts described above I sat down to carefully build the system. Building a small footprint Micro-ATX case is a different experience than a full size tower case.  Everything must be precise and perfectly installed and wires thoughtfully routed.

Because airflow is at a premium in such a small case, any cable or component not thoughtfully placed could result in significantly increased temperatures and/or unwanted vibrations or noise.

More, the sequence of the build is vital.  I stripped out the case and installed the optical drive, assembled the motherboard/cpu/ram/cooler and attached it to the case side after connecting as many of the front panel wires and connectors as possible.

I then installed the video card, wifi card, and Revodrive PCIe SSD.  With these in place I attached the Seagate Momentus XT Hybrid drives into the drive bays and replaced them in the case.

Finally, I installed the power supply and connected the power connectors to the motherboard (2), video card, optical drive, and hybrid drives (2).  Finally, I suspected the CPU Cooler 120mm fan in an ideal location.   When finished I attached the last side panel and secured all the screws.

IF you seated every board perfectly, attached each wire in the right place, and didn’t forget anything.. then you’re ready to connect the monitor, keyboard, and mouse, and boot up into the BIOS settings and set your system accordingly.  Once this is done, you can put your Windows 7 x64 into the optical drive and install your operating system.

 

Performance

There is always the big moment with a new build when you apply the power for the first time and see if everything turns on and works properly.  The lack of smoke and loud noises is a good sign.

From the moment I turned on this system I was amazed at its acoustic performance.  There is hardly any noise at all, and the noise you ‘can’ hear comes from the small fan in the power supply and on the video card.  The case fans are silent as are the hybrid drives.

Normally, I’d use an optional cooler on the video card with a larger totally silent fan.  I didn’t have the luxury of this option this time because there simply wasn’t enough room between the cards to allow the larger size of the fans.  Remember, this motherboard is only 9.6 inches square.  It really crams a lot into a small package.  If there was a side air intake on the case I would have used a power supply with the larger bottom/top mounted fan which would have reduced noise further.  But overall, this is a very quiet system.  From 2-3 feet away you can’t hear a thing.

The speed is stunning.  Without over clocking, you snap from task to task in an eyeblink. With the combination of the Revodrive PCIe SSD and Seagate Hybrids, there is very little if any noticeable bottleneck when performing most common imaging tasks.  Those who have used this system can’t believe the amount of power in such a small shoebox sized machine.

Normally I’d expect temperatures to be an issue with this much power and such a small case, but even with ambient temps sitting at 35c, the CPU idled at 39-41c and under full load barely reached 50-52c.  The video card was slightly warmer under load at 55c.

You couldn’t hope for better performance.

 

Summary

 

Overall I couldn’t be more pleased.  I now have a screaming small and lightweight system for my workshop students to use, and to travel with on more extensive assignments.  The complete system, monitor and keyboard/mouse included, packed in a hard case with wheels, weighs less than 22 pounds!  Not bad at all.

 

Overall I couldn’t be more pleased.  I now have a screaming small and lightweight system for my workshop students to use, and to travel with on more extensive assignments.  The complete system, monitor and keyboard/mouse included, packed in a hard case with wheels, weighs less than 22 pounds!  Not bad at all.

The price vs. performance shows a keen value.  Sure, I could have spent much more for a six core processor and the x2 version of the Revodrive, but this system is so fast and powerful as it is you’re sure to be happy.  Knowing when ‘enough is enough’ is important.  I’m not exactly known for knowing this point, but I really don’t see much need for the six core CPU, faster x2 Revodrive, more powerful 6970 GPU, or a full 24gb of RAM UNLESS you render a lot of video.  If you do, the money would be well spent.  For imaging, this system is a dream as is.

Everyone who has tried this system at first wonders if the system is running when they turn it on.  They see the LED’s light up, but hear no noise unless they get real close.  When they realize it’s running there’s a big smile.  The smile gets much wider when the fast SSD brings them into Windows in 12-14 seconds.  And the smile never goes away as they start processing images.  This is the way it should always be.