THIS PROJECT IS DEAD; SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM TO SEE WHY!
For the time being, I'm putting the objective of further silencing Alpha Three on hold in order to concentrate on the following new project...
A few weeks ago, I had gotten to the breaking point, dealing with trying to do proper professional work on Alpha Three with a gaming video card from Sapphire. The poor quality filters used on the card made it difficult to get the most from my monitor, and worse yet, made it so that it was unbearable to use any resolution over 1280x960 at a refresh rate over 60Hz (any higher refresh rate and the image becomes blurry), and rendered any resolution over 1600x1200 completely useless (God-awful image quality); this on a Viewsonic P95f+?
I realized my best solution is to build a separate machine for gaming...something small that I can could with me to LAN parties, yet powerful enough for me to keep up with other gamers, and look snazzy enough to be at least a little impressive; of course, it would have to be at least decently quiet, if at the least when I had my headphones on. This would also allow me to install a proper professional graphics card into Alpha Three and fully dedicate it to my desktop publishing work. I ordered a Matrox Millennium G550 and installed it.
Aaaaaah, the joy of crystal clear graphics at 2048x1536; for those who spend as much time as I do in QuarkXPress, Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, you'd understand why the highest resolution your monitor can handle is the lowest one you want. Even at 60Hz, it made life easier on me. I was also now able to use the highest available refresh rate at any resolution without degration of image quality as a sacrifice for image stability and eye comfort (actually, blurry images cause one to strain in order to try and correct the blurriness, which, in turn, causes further eye strain).
Now, what to do for my gaming rig? I decided that I wanted something small and light that could easily be carried around, but I didn't want something with a possibility of short support life or little option for expansion. The Shuttle SN41G2V2 XPC proved to be the ideal solution, particularly because I had in mind to experiment with a Mobile Barton core. The included SilentX PSU would be a good way to start off with quieter acoustics, as I had had prior experience with my friend's SN41G2(V1), whose PSU was quite loud, and had heard the new SilentX PSU reduced the noise considerably over its predecessor. I also liked how the XPC line was well established, with dozens of, "aftermarket," accessories and upgrades already available, and a wide following, so there'd be much experience to draw from, and many more options for modding, something I was concerned about with less popular SFF barebones machines.
So I ordered up an SN41G2V2B (for black) from NewEgg, along with a Mobile Athlon XP 2400+. I had around this time completed my article comparing the 160GB 7200.7 and SpinPoint drives, and decided to put the SP1614N into this machine, along with a pair of 512MB Kingston HyperX PC4000 DIMMs I had laying around, and the modded Radeon that I had yanked from Alpha Three.
Having completed building the machine, here are the specifications:
Shuttle XPC SN41G2V2B SFF barebones kit, utilizing the nForce2 IGP, supporting Socket A FSB200/266/333, and with the stock case cover replaced with a Shuttle XPC Special Edition cover with mesh intakes, and stock loud fan replaced with quieter
blue-LED Antec fan, for acoustics as well as visual aesthetics
AMD Athlon XP Mobile 2400+ (1800MHz stock), overclocked to 2166MHz with stock FSB and Vcore of 1.65
2*512MB Kingston HyperX PC4000 DDR SDRAM (1GB total), 1:1 ratio with FSB333, timings of 11-2-3-2.5 (a la OCZ PC3500EB "Enhanced Bandwidth" timings research; read about it at Anand!)
Sapphire Radeon 9800 nonPro, with TweakMonster BGA RAMsinks and an Iceberq 4 cooler installed, with core and VRAM overclocked to Radeon 9800 Pro speed
Samsung SpintPoint SP1614N w/AAM set for maximum quietness
Logitech Elite Keyboard
Logitech MX510 Optical Mouse
Some $80 pair of Sennheiser Headphones
And finally, here are the pictures!
From now on, I will be utilizing a new format for posting images to my threads. I will have a lower resolution version of the image so that the window doesn't suffer from horizontal scroll, and narrowband viewers don't have to suffer with huge downloads. The image and the text beneath it will be combined into a hyperlink that opens up a new window with a higher resolution version of the image, for those with broadband, and/or wish to see the image in greater detail...
...in other words, click on any image or the text below it to see a bigger version of it.
Here is a shot of Gamma One from the outside. It's easy to see Shuttle's Special Edition XPC cover, which has wide mesh side intakes instead of the puny little 1/8" perforations along the side of the stock cover. The lights from the Iceberq 4 are visible; I think you can understand how this mesh intake frees up flow significantly for both, the VPU as well as the system itself, since the air being exhausted has to come in from somewhere...
Here is a picture of Gamma One with the cover removed, revealing the innards. You can now clearly see the graphics card, the Iceberq 4 and the TweakMonster BGA RAMsinks I epoxied to the VRAM.[/URL]
I turned off the lights and took this shot just to show how much light shows through. The blue light coming from the interior, behind the video card, is emitted by the Antec blue LED fan that I swapped out the stock fan for; it's quieter than the stock unit, moves just as much air, and looks pretty snazzy to boot.[/URL]
Here's a close-up of the video card. The Iceberq 4 is powered through the motherboard, which actually controls the speed of the Iceberq 4 fan based on the temperature of the CPU. I used an inline resistor to further reduce its speed, but it still spins close to 4000rpm under heavy load, which is fine for the next couple months, since I'll be running this overclocked R360 until I purchase either NV40 or R420 (whichever turns out faster). It's hard to tell from this angle, but the Iceberq 4 comes extremely close to the case edge, so I don't think that a cooler any thicker than it would actually fit without modifications to the case cover.[/URL]
Here's the same shot with the lights out. The resistor normally lies in the position that it is in in this photo, not dangling in midair like the previous shot with the lights on.[/URL]
The system is not obnoxiously loud, but it's not remarkably quiet by any measure. Currently, I am planning to completely remove the grill blocking the exhaust; those who have seen it know that when I say it's the worst exhaust grill in the world, that I mean it really is the worst exhaust grill in the world!
. In all honesty, they probably wouldn't have done much worse to just seal the thing in completely. The CPU currently idles around 42C and reaches a peak load temp of some 54C, which are all excessively high to me, and cutting the exhaust, "wall," should most definitely help those numbers out.
While I have the mainboard out for doing that, I also plan to reTIM the northbridge, since I find that it gets quite hot, according to MBM (nearly the temperature of the CPU!), and if I do a good enough job, perhaps even swap the heatsink for something better, I may be able to pull off running the northbridge passively cooled, being that I am not utilizing the onboard video, anyway, and have not overclocked the FSB, nor is the chipset voltage controllable on this board, so it should be okay with a properly TIMmed, decent passive sink.
So, that's what I have in mind for this machine so far. Performance is quite satisfactory, but acoustics need work; other than those above mods, I don't yet have anything concrete planned, and honestly, this is my first time working in such cramped quarters...
If anyone has any other suggestions or ideas for me, I'm all ears, particularly from those who have more experience dealing with these hot little SFF PCs. From what I hear, the CPU temps tend to look like that due to the nature of the heatpipe cooler in the I.C.E. system, since the vapor-phase action does not kick in until about 40C, but I still could use a little help from people who have done stuff with XPC SFF systems before.
EDIT: PS I just wanted to add that today, I moved the Viewsonic P95f+ to use on Gamma One, and purchased a refurb NEC MultiSync FE1250+ for Alpha Three at a cost of only $189! Tri-state Fairs
ROCK!!! I'm Photoshopping at [email protected] and loving it!