Z270/X299 based mini-ITX Workstation

jacuro

Case Bender
Original poster
Jun 15, 2017
2
0
Hi everyone,

after reading around here quite a lot, I finally decided to sign up and get some opinions on a build I've been planning for the last few weeks.

So here's my story:
Searching for a new all-purpose workstation, I more or less accidentally stumbled across the magnificent HP Mini Z2 that'll give you anything up to an E3-1245 v6 or i7-7700 with dedicated Quadro graphics in 2.7 liters. I immediately fell in love with the form factor. This system would fit my needs perfectly besides one crucial point: Due to only two SO-DIMM slots, I cannot fit more than 32GB of RAM – for future-proofness I'd like at least 64GB.

This is what I'm looking for:
  • CPU: This is the main focus. An i7-7700K (95W TDP) would be the lower limit, ideally I'd like to have one of the new i7-7820X (140W TDP).
  • RAM: At least 64GB, the possibility to upgrade to 128GB would be nice. Dual-Channel is fine.
  • Storage: Noting more than a single M2 SSD for the OS. All user data lives in the network.
  • GPU: Actually, integrated HD630 would be enough. I want to be able to work on two 4K monitors without stutter, but the system will not be used for gaming. Unfortunately, there are no beefy CPUs with integrated graphics, so if I go for more than the i7-7700K I'll need a small, low power graphics card.
  • Cooling: Silence matters, maintenance free. I'd be fine with AIO water cooling but I don't like to change the fluid in a custom loop every 6 months. The system is supposed to run for 7-10 years 8h per day, so idle temperatures of 80°C would probably be a bad idea.
  • Case: That's the tricky part. I like the form factor of the HP Z2 and I want to be able to (possibly) mount the system under desk; so no Cubes. Aluminium preferred.
  • PSU: Something that fits in the case.

Looking for a more-memory alternative for the Z2 mini, I found that you can get LRDIMM modules (unfortunately no SO-DIMM) with 32GB and more. Using those, I could actually use a mini-ITX board with two slots and get happy.
A possible system would then be the i7-7700K without GPU in a Streacom F1, which would be my favorite size.
I'm aware that 91W TDP will be challenging to handle in the F1, but if nothing else helps I'd be fine with letting a nice cooler stick out of the hood.
No graphics card means minimal space and I'd be totally happy with that system. The problem is: I did not find any information if the i7-7700K talks with LRDIMM modules. I found people using 64GB of LRDIMM on the X99E-ITX/ac, but that's obviously a completely different chipset (and only available for CPUs without GPU… Arrrgh!). Does anyone know if the Kaby Lake i7's (inofficially?) support LRDIMM?

The save and yet more powerful alternative is the new ASRock X299 mini-ITX board and an i7-7820X. With 4 SO-DIMM slots, 64GB would be no problem, but: I'd need a graphics card and therefore a significantly larger case and better thermal management. The Streacom F7 is beautiful, but has limited thermal capabilities. Maybe a Corsair H5 SF (rated 150W TDP, but I guess It'll get pretty loud with that load?) would fit, has anyone tried that yet?
Call me crazy, but I'm not even sure if the F7 is not too large for staying on the desk. There's just so much empty space. :D

I guess with a 140W CPU, the possible cooler size on both, the S4 mini and the Lone L4 will be too limited. The Jolokia seems like a perfect fit, but it's not in production yet (I think?) and well, compared to an F1 everything looks huge (if only there was no need for a GPU…).

Open questions so far:
  • I'm happy and open for all your input. Even if it's "Don't do that below 10 liters, it'll never be a stable system". This is my first build targeted towards SFF, so I'm lacking lots of experience.
  • 1st idea (Z270 system [TDP 91W] in Streacom F1):
    • Will an i7-7700K work with LRDIMM memory? If so, with all boards?
  • 2nd idea (X299 based system [TDP 140W])
    • Fitting it in a Streacom F1:
      Do graphics cards in the performance range of an internal HD630 exist that can be fitted in a F1 together with an out-of-the-hood cooler for 140W? I wouldn't mind a bit of metal work. PSU suggestions?
    • Fitting it in a Streacom F7:
      I mainly need cooling suggestions, does a Corsair H5 SF fit mechanically and power-wise? What GPU would you suggest? What PSU?
    • Fitting it somewhere else:
      Where and how? :D
Thanks a lot for reading and all your input!

Greets,
jacuro
 
Last edited:

Aibohphobia

Jessica. Wayward SFF.n Founder
Gold Supporter
Feb 22, 2015
4,962
4,751
Maybe a Corsair H5 SF (rated 150W TDP, but I guess It'll get pretty loud with that load?)

It's loud at idle and it's very loud at load. Really it's just loud all around, I hated it for the brief time I owned one.

I've found that even the Noctua NH-L12 will handle a 5930K fairly quietly at adequate temperatures given enough ventilation.

The Jolokia seems like a perfect fit, but it's not in production yet (I think?)

I have four prototypes in a box, I just haven't gotten around to photographing my rig to finish out the project and put them up for sale yet.
 
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jacuro

Case Bender
Original poster
Jun 15, 2017
2
0
Thanks a lot for your comments so far!

What will you be doing with the rig ?
The machine is supposed to become my main workstation for the next 7-10 years. I'm doing a mixture of software development, data evaluation and hardware development. My needs therefore range from lots of memory for virtual machines and database applications to lots of parallel processing power for hardware simulations (they tend to scale very well with thread count).

About a dedicated GPU, the newly released GT1030 is only 30w and offers performances between a GTX750 and a GTX750ti, while adding HDMI2.0a support as a bonus.
Nice, thanks a lot!
I actually stumbled across PNY's Quadro P600 moments ago, which also seems to deliver exactly the processing power I need and is somehow affordable despite the Quadro naming. They seem to be pretty equal.

It's loud at idle and it's very loud at load. Really it's just loud all around, I hated it for the brief time I owned one.
Thanks! So that option is gone…

I've found that even the Noctua NH-L12 will handle a 5930K fairly quietly at adequate temperatures given enough ventilation.
Just to be sure: Only with both fans attached, right? That'll be pretty high, hmmm.

I have four prototypes in a box, I just haven't gotten around to photographing my rig to finish out the project and put them up for sale yet.
Uh, I actually read that, but I thought they were long gone. Your thread is subscribed :)

I'm still obsessed with the thought of squeezing everything into a F1…
Currently, I see two options, both based on this build. I'd obviously keep a fan for the CPU cooler, but a cutout in the black aluminium body with a silver cooler sticking out might actually look pretty nice (and deliver enough performance for the 140W TDP).
  • Extend the rear I/O shield hole to both sides and move the mainboard a tiny bit away from the GPU side. Single-Slot cards should not be thicker than 16mm, so this might actually work.
    If it does, I can mount any large air cooler on the CPU and add an extra chassis fan for chipset and PSU.
  • If the graphics card won't fit, I could cut a hole in the rear ventilation mesh and lay the card above the CPU (this has been done e.g. for sound cards here).
    This will mean that I cannot mount a large CPU cooler directly, so I'd go with a watercooling system, maybe a Corsair H80i. The CPU block would hopefully be low enough to leave space for a graphics card above and the radiator would be mounted above the memory, maybe by using the HDD cage.
Again, I'm ready for input… Is this doable?

Greets,
jacuro
 

Aibohphobia

Jessica. Wayward SFF.n Founder
Gold Supporter
Feb 22, 2015
4,962
4,751
Only with both fans attached, right? That'll be pretty high, hmmm.

I've been using it on a 120W TDP Xeon with just a slim 120mm on top. I've even used the L9x65 on a i7 5930K with a 92x25mm fan and it did well. A bit louder than I would like at full load but pretty quiet at idle.

This will mean that I cannot mount a large CPU cooler directly, so I'd go with a watercooling system, maybe a Corsair H80i.

There's really not much advantage to the thicker radiator if you're not chasing after the lowest temperatures, so a 25mm thick rad to save space would be fine.