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The "Official" low profile card post

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  • The "Official" low profile card post

    Hey all:

    Like many of you I have been frustrated on how to build a carputer that has the required specs for my needs. ITX is too expensive and very limited in upgradability. ATX is too dang big for a car and FlexATX has almost nothign available for it. Reguardless many of us have chosen to go with a MicroATX route first. MicroATX allows you to have a very functional, inexpensive, powerful computer with many options. Heck I can run an Athlon, Athlon64/Sempron, Celeron, Duron, Pentium-IV or even a Mobile Prentioum IV or Athlon/Athlon64 if I got the cash.

    One of the biggest problems with the issue of a carputer is size. A standard ATX or even MicroATX case is usually too dang big. I have decided to go with what's known as a low profile MicroATX case from In-WIN. There is lots of these cases available and some are even as small as 3.6" tall.

    My case is 3.6" tall. This limits me to low profile AGP and PCI cards. While there are many low profile cards out there, there are very few cards with a low profile bracket - in other words without one of these brackets I am going to have to drill holes in the blank brackets or I will have to run with no bracket. Running with no bracket - especially on a regular PCI or PCI express card (not necessarially AGP or PCIe x16 because of the retention lever thich helps keep the card in) could result in the card popping out of the slot while your car is moving. This is a really bad thing.

    Here is a list of what I have found that will work in a low profile setup.

    Video Card:
    You are pretty limited in this, but I have found these which come with a bracket:

    Powercolor 9250, 9550SE and 9600SE. These come with a bracket. A quick search on NewEgg finds a few other brands, but no bracket. These are slow - mostly because they use a 64 bit memory interface. Probably ok for Winamp visualizations, but crappy for games or high quality visulizations.

    Aopen GeForce FX 5500 Low Profile Edition. This is the most powerful video card you can buy that is affordable in low profile. It's an 8xAGP card with a 128 bit memory interface. It BEATS the Radeon 9600SE and the GeForceFX 5700LE in tests on Toms Hardware. The only problem is it doesn't come with a bracket. A quick test reveals though you can use the low profile bracket from the PowerColor Radeon low profile cards on this card - you can order one of these from TUL (Powercolor) for a few dollars.

    If you want a junk card just to get away from onboard video, even a Voilri based chipset will work. There slow as dirt, but get the job done cheap. I'd recommend a Powercolor Radeon 9250. Many GeForce FX5200 cards are available for like $50 as well - but guess what, no bracket. Many GeForce 4MX cards are also low profile.

    A Powercolor bracket will work as long as the card has a DVI opening on the buttom of the card and a video out (S-video probably is best) on the top. ]

    The fastest card I've seen in Low Profile is the Powercolor Radeon X300 256 MB PCI-E video card. Won't work for you Sempron guys (except for that new JetWay board with 754 and PCIe). Does NOT include bracket - you'll probably have to order it from TUL.

    Sound Cards:

    Damn this one was hard to find anything on. I could only find these three:

    Creative Labs Sound Blaster Live 7.1 PCI. 100 SB S/n Ratio @ 2 V RMS. This card sound be reasonable for noise. low profile, but (you guessed it) no bracket. $30 apx.

    AudioTrack MAYA 5.1. Based off of the VIA ENVY chipset. 105 SN/Ratio @3V RMS aparently. Better than Creative, only like $8.00 more. Includes the bracket.

    AudioTrack Prodigy 7.1 low profile edition. For you ballers out there, this $100 Card has 7.1 out, a 110 S/N Ratio at 4V RMS and it allows you to play DVD-Audio. Includes the bracket.


    This is the only one I found that was low profile AND included the bracket:

    The $15 Kingwin U2-PCI5 USB PCI card can give you 5 powered USB ports (including an internal one) without having to buy a hub and having to figure out how to power that thing. Comes with the bracket.


    Lots of low profile cards - but guess what, only ONE comes with a bracket.

    The Buffalo WLI2-PCI-G54 comes with the bracket and has a user replaceable reverse SMA connector. This means you can put a hi gain on it and you don't have to worry about external, weak gain USB wireless devices.

    Sorta pricey, but after rebate it's cheap.

    That's it. If you need serial or parallel, SIIG makes many low profile firewire and parallel/serial cards with brackets.

    Reply posts are welcome.

    The Buffalo

  • #2
    No offense or anything, but would it REALLY be that hard to hack off a regular bracket an inch or so, bend the end, and cut a new groove for the mounting screw? Especially considering how much other fabrication goes into the average carputer... it would open up a whole lot more possibilities for hardware, and only take about 5 minutes with a dremel...
    But don't take it from me! here's a quote from a real, live newbie:
    Originally posted by Viscouse
    I am learning buttloads just by searching on this forum. I've learned 2 big things so far: 1-it's been done before, and 2-if it hasn't, there is a way to do it.


    • #3
      I suppose so. But since I am buying brand new parts, I can provide this as a guide to those who are buying low profile setups.

      BTW - if you get the AOpen card, you can get a compatible bracket from TUL/Power Color. You need a low profile bracket from the Radeon 9250 Low profile edition AGP card. This one has the DVI connector at the bottom and the S-Video connector at the middle/top. All their other cards have the S-video at the bottom and thus won't work with the AOpen card.

      I suppose I could just drill the Aopen card bracket after I bend it.

      You don't want to use the blanks BTW I remember because the blanks will not anchor to your card. This doesn't solve the "popping card out" issue.



      • #4
        Yeah or even easier on some cards the bracket can just be removed and replaced with a smaller one.

        Good list though.


        • #5
          If you use cards without brackets you can just mount some grooved pieces on the top of your case to clamp it in. These will also keep the card straight in the PCI socket all the way along. Just make sure the case is strong and doesnt bend and put stress on the card - rubber pads would be useful.


          • #6
            what about using servermount adapters? that way you can pretty much use which ever car you want and still have a usable AGP and 2X PCI.


            • #7
              An update guys:

              Well I bought the pc parts last week after auctioning off my old ASUS laptop and some other goodies and I have to say that I like the carputer - it's really neat and the case is relatively small - and I mean relatively.

              The IN-WIN case I bought is 17" deep, 12" wide and 3.6" tall. It only holds low profile pci and AGP cards. I decided on the following configuration:

              AMD Sempron 3100+ Socket 754
              IN-WIN BT Series Beige Low Profile Micro ATX case
              MSI K8TM-ILSR (only microATX, socket 754 board w/ firewire that I could find)
              1 GB (2 512 MB) CAS 2.5 PC-3200 KingMax DDR-400 modules
              KingMax 4 port low profile PCI USB 2.0 card
              AudioTrak Maya 5.1 low profile VIA ENVY 24HT based PCI sound card
              Buffallo Technology WLIL-PCI-G54 802.11G low profile PCI wireless lan card
              AOpen GeForce FX5500 low profile 128MB, 128 bit AGP 8X video card
              NU Technology 4X DVD+RW burner (old school)
              Rounded cables
              ThermalTake 1U Server style copper CPU heatsink (only 1.3" tall, cools well!)
              80 GB 7,200 RPM 8MB Cache Maxtor DiamondMax 9 Series ATA/133 hard drive (3.5")

              I attempted to run a Toshiba 5,400 RPM 16MB cache laptop hard drive, but it's slower than a turtle taking a crap, so took it out and ran the Maxtor as the main drive instead. I want shock resistance for the HD, but I'm not paying $180 for a 60GB 7,200 RPM laptop hard drive when I got an 80GB 7,200 RPM 8MB cache Maxtor Hard Drive for $40 at CompUSA last week.

              I'll say this - running a standard bracket in a low profile case and then bending the bracket and drilling a hole does not work! There is MANY differences in the standard PCI system and low profile. Amoung them are:
              1. A Standard PCI card has the mounting screw to the right of the top of the bracket - a low p-rofile is the opposite and has the screw on the left.
              2. The high of the bracket is not only larger on the top, but ALSO THE BOTTOM. Bending off the bracket and drilling a hole in the right place doesn't work. Since the bracket is lower in height below the PCB as well as above, using a standard bracket (modified or not) results in the card not seating in the slot correctly and the front pins will not contact the slot correctly, will short (due to being at an angle) or won't even be touching at all!
              3. The card must be a certain height and length to be low profile. My video card *barely* makes enough clearance for the top of the case to fit over.
              4. Low Profile video cards are usually crap - they usually are of inferior chipset selection (GeForce FX5700LE, FX5500, Radeon 9250, Radeon 9550SE and Radeon 9600SE - though you can get a 256MB PCI Express low profile X300 card from PowerColor). There is onty 2 video cards on the market which are 128bit memory interfaces. In some cases this can mean the difference between being able to play Doom III or FarCry or not being able to play anything at all.

              Make sure you get cards with low profile brackets. If this is not possible, then run with no bracket or get a card that uses PCI riser cards, or use a case that allows full height cards (space permitting). See my next post on cases that use PCI riser solutions.

              Even this case (which is the smallest microatx case I could find anywhere) is quite large to have in a car. ITX would be ideal, but is horrendously low performance (except the P4 ITX boards), has limited expandability and is very expensive compared to MicroATX.



              • #8
                Riser based solutions:

                So you've got your CarPC setup right? Now you want a small case, but you don't want to lose the ability to run a awesome graphics card or high end sound card (Sound Blaster Audigy, AudioTrak Prodigy 7.1, Chaintech 7.1 Via ENVY sound card etc)

                Since running a low profile pci system is not for you and you want as small of a microatx case as possible, you will have to turn to a riser card solution. Keep in mind this is not a cheap solution and finding the parts will be a chore.

                Selection is few and far in between. Here's what is available:

                You can run a 1U, 2U or 3U rackmount system. This is not cheap at all, but would look cool as hell in a car. This will also allow you to install a full atx motherboard in your car as well. or has a good supply. These are thin, but very deep and very wide. Might work ok in some trunks - but never in the passanger cabin due to space.

                You could run ITX. More expensive, much slower (except the P4 boards) and much more limited in expansion. These are available in riser card solutions as well. I would check out for this stuff. Works in allot of places - glovebok, beneth seat, even in dash as a 1 DIN style headunit (expensive, slow and hard to find though).

                MicroATX - listed below.


                Evercase makes two lines of cases that have riser card capability:

                The first case they make has room for 4 low profile cards or 3 low profile cards and either a rised 1: AGP card with a regular riser or 2: a PCI card with a riser that uses a ribbon cable. This case is available in many attractive colors as well. I was not able to find anyone who sold the riser cards though as these do not come with the case.

                Their second case has either a low profile Configuration or a 3 slot rised configuration for 1 AGP card and two PCI cards. It's basic, bland and ugly, but it's appears to be the most versitile of all cases that use risers.

                ITX Casetronic:

                Casetronic has a single MicroATX case that has one low profile slot and one rised AGP slot. It's 4" tall and made of alunimum - being $55 without a power supply makes it quite pricey however. It's the Slim-4117 model.


                Silverstone makes MANY Microatx slim cases. Many of there cases are aluminum and use PCI and AGP risers. They are the most expensive of the bunch being a "premium" product. Silverstone was founded by former CoolerMaster employees from what I've heard.

                Some of these cases are very small - and thus will require the use of a slim (laptop) optical drive, firther substantially upping the price.

                Of particular note is the Silverstone LC-11. This allows the use of a regular optical drive and a regular sized hard drive. It has a very well done cooling design and has very good construction quality. There are many reviews on their site for their various cases. The LC-11 allows one PCI-E or AGP card and two regular PCI cards to be installed. AT 3.6" tall it should work well.

                That's all I could find for MicroATX. For ITX stuff the forums as this has been discusses many times.



                • #9
                  Links to the low profile cases w/ risers:


                  The ECE1290 and the ECE1510 are the cases mentioned above from Evercase that can have 1 riser card. The ECE0229 can either be 4 low profile slots or 3 rised cards.


                  After playing with my Aopen low profile card, I have come to realize that video cards MUST have the low profile bracket to work correctl - especially in a car setup.

                  Video cards have their bracket mounted to the card by extension screws - these screw into your VGA or DVI connector and they sandwhich the bracket to your video card. Unlike regular low profile cards, video cards are not connected to the bracket by regular phillips screws to the PCB. Without the low profile bracket, your VGA cable's thumb screws will not be able to reach the extension screws and will not hold the VGA cable in place. This means that there is nothing your VGA cable to your video card and thus it will probably pop out of the connector while driving!

                  I ordered the PowerColor low profile bracket for the Powercolor Radeon 9250 low profile edition (which fits my AOPEN GeForce FX500 card). Power color charges $8.00 for a bracket and $5.00 for shipping. If you would like one, you need to send a detailed letter to Power Color to:

                  PowerColor Corporation
                  15312 E. VALLEY BLVD.,
                  CITY OF INDUSTRY, CA 91746

                  You need to enclose a letter with your name, address, city, state etc, the bracket you want (see selow) and a check for $8.00 for each bracket and $5.00 shipping for the bracket (or brackets).

                  The brackets are available in a DVI version (the one you want if you buy the AOpen card I bought) or VGA. You want a DVI bracket if the video connection at the lowest part of the card is DVI and of course you want VGA if VGA is found at the bottom of the card.