DBP's "thornbill" build: Core i3-3225 / GA-H77N-WIFI

Discussion in 'User Builds' started by DBP, Dec 12, 2012.

  1. DBP

    DBP

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    Dec 12, 2012 at 1:48 AM #1
    DBP

    DBP

    Joined:
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    Mobo:
    GA-Z77X-UP5 TH, -Z77-D3H, -H77N-WIFI, and Macs
    CPU:
    i7-3770K, i7-3770, i3-3225, i7-620M
    Graphics:
    HD4000 / GTX650 / GT440 / GT330M
    Mac:
    iMac, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac mini, Mac Pro
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    "thornbill": i3-3225 / GA-H77N-WIFI

    [​IMG]

    I had some of the components already, and the new stuff I got from a local supplier (ScorpTec). Amazon and Newegg aren’t viable options here in Australia.

    Components (new)

    Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-H77N-WIFI
    http://www.scorptec.com.au/computer/47992-ga-h77n-wifi

    CPU: Intel Core i3-3225
    http://www.scorptec.com.au/computer/48244-bx80637i33225

    Cooler: Noctua NH-L9i
    http://www.scorptec.com.au/computer/48136-nh-l9i

    RAM: 2x 4GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1600 CL9
    http://www.scorptec.com.au/computer/41589-cml8gx3m2a1600c9

    Case: Silverstone ML03B
    http://www.scorptec.com.au/computer/40183-ml03b

    PSU: Antec VP-350P
    http://www.scorptec.com.au/computer/43419-vp-350p

    OS: OS X 10.8.2 (Mountain Lion) from the App Store
    https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/os-x-mountain-lion/id537386512

    Optical: Lite-On iHBS312 Blu-ray writer (added after initial build)
    http://www.scorptec.com.au/computer/45509-ihbs312(black)

    Already owned

    250 GB Seagate 5400 rpm 2.5" drive

    120 GB Fujitsu 5400 rpm 2.5" drive

    500 GB Toshiba 5400 rpm 2.5" drive


    EyeTV Diversity USB TV tuner
    http://www.elgato.com/elgato/int/mainmenu/products/tuner/diversity08/product1.en.html

    I didn't need it at build time, but eventually I will probably add:
    • Apple IR receiver

    Comments

    I built this machine essentially as a proof-of-concept for a CustoMac 10.8 build before heading into my workstation build. As a result I was keen to spend as little as possible, but at the same time I needed the machine to have useful grunt once it was up and running. In the end it will replace the Mac mini 2007 Core2 Duo which has been driving our TV for a while (which doesn't run ML, and struggles with streaming 1080i content to iPads over the LAN, etc).
    With this in mind, the config was essentially a 2012 CustoMac Mini build.


    Photos:

    Above I showed the finished case. This is sitting on our kitchen bench, but as you can see it will slot into our stereo equipment under the TV quite neatly.
    A2_114141.jpg
    The magnetically-attached dust filter is on top.

    Now the pron shots showing my messy build inside:
    A2_114139.jpg
    Here you can see the 140mm-deep PSU on the right, which should (just) leave enough room for an optical drive in the future. The motherboard is closest to us, and amongst the cables in the rest of the space are the three 2.5” drives.

    A2_114138.jpg
    If I had some black SATA cables of the right length I would have used those, as the red can just be seen through the side of the case when its closed up, but that doesn’t really matter.

    And a close-up of the NH-L9i cooler.
    A2_114136.jpg

    EDIT: and a photo of the optical drive from above. As you can see, it's tight on the power cable but not really a problem.
    DBP-A2_114170.jpg

    Installation

    Once I'd built the hardware, the OS installation was fairly straightforward, although as my first CustoMac build I learnt a few things along the way. Here's the short version:

    Adding Bluetooth keyboard/mouse was something I did later. Start with a wired set (or a wireless set with a non-BT dongle) so that's one less variable to worry about (and it works in the BIOS).

    BIOS setup:
    My BIOS version was already F2, which is the latest non-beta version available.
    Load Optimized Defaults
    Enable XHCI handoff so that USB3 works.
    Change RAM clock multiplier
    Although I had 1600 MHz RAM, the system defaulted to 1333 MHz. All I had to do was to change the memory clock multiplier in the BIOS.​
    thelostswede's guide to GA Z77 BIOS settings was a help, although I found it AFTER I'd learnt some of the settings the hard way.

    Start by tweaking only the things that are required, and once you have a running system go back and tweak other settings. But do it one-by-one (or at least take careful notes!). More than once I had to get back into the BIOS and start from Optimized Defaults again because one of the many things I'd tweaked in the last mod screwed things up.
    I did also change the power button to initiate sleep and only power-off when held down for 4s.​

    Install with UniBeast.
    I downloaded the 10.8.2 version of ML (by deleting the app and then re-downloading it through the App Store). I named my USB stick "UniBeast1082" before installing UniBeast onto it, and when that was done copied the MultiBeast and Chimera packages onto it for easy access.

    Once the basic machine is up, run MultiBeast (I used 5.1.3):
    [​IMG]
    No DSDT was required.

    It’s OK to re-run MultiBeast to enable some more options, but I always had boot failures if I reinstalled the Lnx2Mac LAN driver. I was VERY thankful I had a clone of the boot drive so I didn’t have to start from scratch.

    To clone the boot drive, I used Super Duper!. You can use it for free: pay if you like it.
    If the clone drive isn't bootable and the boot drive's boot blocks are broken, you can either boot off the UniBeast stick and then select the clone partition to boot from, or you can re-run the Chimera install package and make sure you select the clone drive for the Install Location in order to re-install the boot blocks on the clone drive.

    I'm still in the process of getting the final video setup working, which was complicated by the fact that my old Hitachi 42PD7800TA plasma insists on using overscan for the HDMI input. In the OS X driver I can use the Underscan slider to compensate (it's a hack, but it works) but this only works if the HDMI is not the only/primary display. If I boot with only the HDMI connected this slider has no effect. My TV also has a DVI input (although it only supports 1024x768 and stretches it to fill the screen) so I have this connected as the primary display, and have videos playing on the secondary (HDMI) display. The only thing left to do at the moment is sort out HDMI audio.

    Build Components background:

    Silverstone ML03B case
    I looked at the Apex/Aywin and Thermaltake cases listed in the 2012 CustoMac Mini list, but decided I was unhappy with the amount of room above the CPU (where the cooler fan would be fighting with the PSU fan) and the likely noise level of the PSU. The ML03B is wider and flatter, and fits neatly into a stack of existing audio/video gear.
    It lets me use a physically bigger, quieter PSU (not that this build needs a lot of power) and in general is less cramped. The airflow design is much better. Also it has internal mounts for 2.5" drives (note that one of these needs longer-than-normal screws to reach through the plastic to the drive).​

    H77N-WIFI Motherboard
    I wanted a board which was likely to work OOB. I didn't care about overclocking, so this seemed perfect. I didn't care about WiFi support (I have gigabit infrastructure) but the onboard Bluetooth will work with the existing mouse+keyboard in the lounge.​

    i3-3225
    Cheap is the key. I needed something with HD 4000 graphics, so it was going to be this or the i5-3570K. I tried to source the i5-3475S which could have been perfect for my use (with the AES encryption instructions that the i3 doesn’t have), but in the end gave up and got the i3.​

    Noctua NH-L9i
    This low-profile (37mm-high) cooler was fairly cheap, leaves lots of room in the case, and comes from a brand I trust for quiet and effective cooling. It includes a 14mm-deep 92mm fan but as per Noctua’s instructions I can still upgrade it with a 25mm-deep fan later if I need.
    At the moment I'm using the included LNA adapter to slow the fan down so it's completely silent, and it's still doing a great job of cooling the processor.​

    RAM
    The motherboard has only two slots and I've filled it up with “only” 8 GB, but for its target use this will be plenty.​

    Lite-On Blu-ray burner
    Actually the cheapest Blu-ray burner I could find. :) Minimal testing done so far, but looking good.​

    Antec VP-350P PSU
    Cheap but effective. Had some good reviews, so why not? 350W is overkill for this machine, but the lowest I could lay my hands on at a reasonable price.
    At first I was quite happy with the low noise level, but in the silence of the lounge room at night it did become the loudest component. I later opened up the PSU and replaced the 120mm fan with a Corsair one left over from my lammergeier build. After reassembling I had to check carefully that the fan was in fact running, as it is noticeably quieter now!​

    Storage layout
    250 GB drive
    60 GB boot partition​
    120 GB drive
    Clone of boot partition, and Time Machine partition​
    500 GB drive
    Video storage.​

    These drives have come out of MacBooks over the last few years (storage and RAM upgrades are easy targets, but eventually you end up with left-overs which you couldn’t be bothered putting into laptops). I could have bought an SSD for the boot drive, but that would have been a waste of money for this machine.

    Initially I was going to use another 120 GB drive as the boot drive, but realized I had this 250 GB Seagate spare and it was a lot faster. The slower drive probably wouldn’t have affected the speed of the machine much, as the video files live on the 500 GB drive and the operating system caches applications/etc in RAM. But who am I to turn down a faster choice? So I’ve still got the 120 GB in storage (for when the other drive eventually dies I suppose: no drive will last forever).

    How much faster is the 250 GB drive? Here’s a graph of results from diglloyd’s `disktester`. As expected, spinning drives are faster at their beginning (the “outside” of the disk) than at their end. The Seagate drive eventually slows down to the fastest speed available from the Fujitsu (which is an older drive design, so this isn’t unexpected):
    disk_spd1.png
    Also note that the boot drive is partitioned so only the first 60 GB is used. Not only is this an area with fast transfer rates, it can reduce access times by limiting the range of seek motions the drive has to make.

    Incidentally, I made this graph by measuring the actual units I was going to use. I connected them into an eSATA dock on another machine to ran benchmarks.​

    EyeTV
    We run EyeTV to watch and record programs from free-to-air digital TV, and stream video to the iOS devices on the LAN. Been using it for years: love it.​


    By the way every machine in our network gets a name, and it's usually a bird: this one is "thornbill" (incidentally, back when we had a Win95 machine that was "guano"). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acanthiza

    As something that's always on (recording TV shows, etc) this machine also provides some server functionality, such as running the Printopia server that offers AirPrint to our iOS devices.

    Video+audio outputs
    The H77N-WIFI has one DVI-I and two HDMI connections. While setting it up I connected the DVI to an unused port on my Dell U2410 monitor, and it ran at 1920x1200 fine. Then I moved the U2410 to HDMI and hooked up a 1400x900 19” Samsung to the DVI. Dual-monitor worked great. The onboard Realtek audio also works great, hooked up to speakers in my office. I haven’t tried to do anything fancy with it: it Just Works.

    To do:
    • Play with a DSDT to get HDMI audio.
    • Fix the resolution in the Chameleon config so the plasma TV doesn’t get a garbled screen on boot.
    This needs to happen before Christmas so I can retire the Mini before the extended family descends on our house! I’ve already experimented with HDMI to my 1280x800 Epson projector so I pretty much know what to expect.​

    Video storage
    EyeTV can quickly build up a sizeable store of recorded programs. I've also got it configured with a big buffer for live TV (it's got two tuners, and HD content is not small). All this goes to the 500 GB drive: that way if it fills up it won't break the rest of the machine.​

    Backups
    With Mountain Lion we can have multiple Time Machine targets, and the machine nicely "round-robins" backups across them. Thus I can have backups going to one or even two local disks, as well as to a network drive on an OS X server.
    The amount of data on the boot partition is fairly small, and I don't bother backing up the EyeTV data at the moment. So the Time Machine partition doesn't need to be very large at all.

    The second 120 GB drive in the machine is partitioned so it has a copy of the boot drive (maintained with SuperDuper!) which allows me to be safe during OS updates, and the rest of the drive is set aside as Time Machine backup. Normally I would put a Time Machine backup on an external drive, but with ML I can easily do that as well.
    Having a regularly-updated clone of the boot drive has saved me several times.

    To do:
    • Send a second set of Time Machine backups to a network share (this will come once the new server is ready).

    USB
    The ML03B has two USB3 ports on the front panel, and these can connect to the H77N-WIFI's single USB3 header. However, Silverstone also provide an adapter cable to the USB2 header, and I’m using this due to the issues I have with USB2 storage devices in USB3 ports (they work, but only through USB3 hubs at the moment). The front ports are most-commonly used by USB2 sticks, and this way I don’t need to stuff around with a hub.

    The EyeTV tuner is connected to one of the rear-panel USB2 ports (via an extension so it can be placed where its IR eye can be seen by the EyeTV remote control from the sofa).
    Another USB2 port is used by the connection to the UPS so that if the power's off the machine can shut down smoothly (we occasionally get issues with this, but usually the power's not off long enough for a shutdown to kick in).

    That leaves a bunch of USB2 and USB3 ports (2 of each on the rear) free for things like wired keyboard/mouse (if there's an issue with the Bluetooth devices, but generally they're fine), external hard drives, etc.​

    Bluetooth
    The mini-PCIe card included on the motherboard has Bluetooth and WiFi, although the WiFi isn’t supported by OS X at the moment. Never mind, the gigabit LAN is perfect for me. The Bluetooth works fine out of the box (as long as I have the antenna closest to the HDMI port connected!) without needing to futz with extra Bluetooth dongles.

    In the lounge room we have a Targus Bluetooth Laser Mouse for Mac and a no-name miniature Bluetooth keyboard for those times we need to access a web browser. But most of the time we just use the EyeTV remote which connects to the EyeTV tuner dongle.

    I do also have an old wired keyboard and mouse behind the TV for those times when I need to access the BIOS, the batteries are flat in the mouse/keyboard, etc. I had this with the Mac mini too.​

    Sleep
    Pressing the power button on the front panel sends it to sleep. Pressing it again wakes it up. But sleep is not something I need on a server (which is what this is: when we're not watching TV it's probably recording something in the background, plus it handles AirPrint services for our iOS devices, etc). So I have no idea if auto-sleep/etc works.​

    UPS
    When this replaces the Mac mini I'll connect the lounge UPS's USB port to this machine. I expect it to work fully: it was plug-n-play with the mini.​

    Speed
    The end result of all this: Geekbench result (64-bit) 8270.

    My first reaction after running Geekbench was to look with pity at the i7 MacBook Pro I’ve been using for a few years as my workhorse. The poor thing had just been kicked to the curb by an upstart! I’m very happy with my choice of this CPU: it benchmarks over 3x the speed of the 2007 Mac mini it’s replacing, and should last for quite a few years as our HTPC.

    1080i video now streams from EyeTV to our iPads with no hiccups (none of our local DVB-T channels are 1080p). CPU utilisation rarely gets over 50%.​

    Will update this post as the lounge-room installation proceeds...
    In the meantime, on a high from my success with this machine I've already built my second machine (i7) which I'll post about later.

    EDIT LOG
    2012-12-19: Added first notes and photo about optical drive.
    2012-12-26: Replaced fan in PSU. Added notes about overscan on Hitachi TV.
    2013-01-04: Added comment about which antenna is used for Bluetooth.​
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 27, 2016
  2. jmpa

    jmpa

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    Dec 12, 2012 at 1:55 AM #2
    jmpa

    jmpa

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    Congratulations
    Nice build :D

    (the only thing missing is SSD)
     
  3. DBP

    DBP

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    Dec 12, 2012 at 2:20 AM #3
    DBP

    DBP

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    Thanks!

    Not really. While an SSD would be a "cool" thing to have in here, it's not worth it. With these drives lying around I got a nice system up and running, and it's even quite pleasant to use as a workstation. Sure it would be even nicer for that with an SSD boot drive, but most of the time this machine will just be running one application and the applications/etc will all be cached in RAM.
    Mind you having the video files stored on a 500 GB SSD would make things like EyeTV's "compact recording" function fly (as it's definitely I/O-bound), but as it is it's fast enough. And that would just involve silly amounts of money.

    Now my workstations are a different matter. My laptop has an SSD boot, and my new i7 workstation has two: one for the OS and one for the Lightroom catalogs and Photoshop scratch. :)

    The only difference to this build if I used an SSD as the boot drive would be to enable TRIM for best performance.
     
  4. hacman

    hacman

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    Dec 12, 2012 at 2:40 AM #4
    hacman

    hacman

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    Nice Build :thumbup: :headbang:
     
  5. Wolfie81

    Wolfie81

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    Dec 12, 2012 at 11:35 PM #5
    Wolfie81

    Wolfie81

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    *DBP's "thornbill" build: Core i3-3225 / GA-H77N-WIFI

    Howd u go with auto sleep and normal sleep?
     
  6. DBP

    DBP

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    Dec 13, 2012 at 9:25 PM #6
    DBP

    DBP

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    *DBP's "thornbill" build: Core i3-3225 / GA-H77N-WIFI

    I've put comments towards the end about sleep. After massaging the original post and adding various bits, I'll maintain an Edit log from here on.
     
  7. DBP

    DBP

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    Dec 18, 2012 at 11:36 PM #7
    DBP

    DBP

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    Added an optical drive (and another photo). Will put in new front photo later.
     
  8. Clovel

    Clovel

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    Jan 4, 2013 at 1:04 PM #8
    Clovel

    Clovel

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    Hi !
    Nice build ! Clean and effective. I'm looking into making a similar build for my parents.

    I was wondering what wattage this build uses. (Not sure thats the right word btw ;) ) I'm looking into rebuilding their computer with a 250W PSU and was wondering if it was enough.

    Thanks !
     
  9. qwerty123

    qwerty123

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    Jan 4, 2013 at 3:59 PM #9
    qwerty123

    qwerty123

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    Looks great! Makes me want to obsess about building an HTPC! :=}
     
  10. DBP

    DBP

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    Jan 5, 2013 at 12:41 AM #10
    DBP

    DBP

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    Android, iOS
    250W would probably be enough.

    Gave in to temptation yesterday and bought a cheap SanDisk 64 GB SSD (for more silence, and to make things just that little bit faster when I'm experimenting with the system and rebooting - as noted it won't affect the real-world speed of EyeTV much).
    So this weekend I may have it open again and plan to take a new front photo while I'm at it.

    Also networked TM backups are in place now, so there are a few things for me to tweak in this post.
     

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