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 Post subject: Gamma One--see Gamma Two instead
PostPosted: Sat Apr 17, 2004 11:04 pm 
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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+?

No way...

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.

[URL=HTTP://WWW.NgTechnik.Com/images/Shut.jpg]Image
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...[/URL]

[URL=HTTP://WWW.NgTechnik.Com/images/Open.jpg]Image
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]

[URL=HTTP://WWW.NgTechnik.Com/images/Goodnight.jpg]Image
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]

[URL=HTTP://WWW.NgTechnik.Com/images/Lights-On.jpg]Image
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]

[URL=HTTP://WWW.NgTechnik.Com/images/Lights-Off.jpg]Image
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.

-Ed

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 1920x1440@72Hz and loving it! :D

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Last edited by Edward Ng on Thu May 20, 2004 7:52 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Apr 17, 2004 11:23 pm 
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Quote:
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.

Interesting, I had to mod my coolermaster 620 HTPC case in almost exactly this way due to airflow problems. The "giant slab o' aluminum" front panel isn't exactly amenable to good airflow.

Quote:
honestly, this is my first time working in such cramped quarters...

I never understood the appeal of these SFF boxes; they are incredibly cramped. For ultra-portability, a laptop is better.. and for everything else, a small mini-tower is just as good and a lot easier to work with (uses standard parts and form factors, etc).


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2004 5:25 am 
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Well, for one, a laptop cannot overclock, and costs significantly more for the same performance (comparing to stock). This is particularly because I'd have to pay for the special built-in display unit that I don't even want (not at all conducive to gaming), as well as for a puny cramped keyboard that I cannot find the keys I need for the life of me.

Laptops are also hardly expandable or upgradeable, and one doesn't get a hint of the fun from building your own by buying a laptop.

For two, I can't find any microATX mainboards that overclock well, either, so if I were to go with something like the Aria, I still couldn't render this level of performance out for this price, unfortunately. Even at that rate, the Aria is still quite a bit larger; for portability's sake, I find it easier, still, to simply put this Shuttle into the case it came with, and just carry it in there, what with the protective foam and the handy-dandy grip.

Laptops are most definitely not my style, and I'll start believing in mATX portables when they make a motherboard of that form factor that impresses more than just my wallet.

-Ed

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 Post subject: Re: NgTechnik Design Gamma One -- The Next Project...
PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2004 9:31 am 
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Edward Ng wrote:
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!.

You sure? :)


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2004 10:01 am 
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Quote:
I can't find any microATX mainboards that overclock well

Yeah, that's true. MATX is tough.

That's all the more reason, though, to just ditch the SFF size format altogether and go with a small minitower that uses standard size mobos, power supplies, etc. It's just more flexible for customization freaks like us..


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2004 3:13 pm 
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Hammer, you may have found THE WORST EXHAUST EVER; BUT, I'm going to have to argue with you that those can't be called exhausts, they're so bad. :wink:

Wumpus, I've exhausted my days of lugging around a Xaser II with a PC strap; I do not want to deal with something like that anymore. The closest thing to decent that would match your description is the Antec Super LAN Boy, and that's still not nearly as convenient as a Shuttle XPC. I will, however, admit that it's easier to deal with than a Xaser II. :roll:

The thing is you're talking about something that's at least 50% bigger in volume (if not double, once you count in depth as well as height), and easily double the weight (a decent ATX PSU plus the empty case alone would weigh as much as my whole Shuttle XPC, and that doesn't even include hard drive, mainboard, CPU, HSF, optical drive...). Not that I wasn't strong enough to lug my big huge tower around, as I said, I'd done for quite a while, but it gets tiring and obnoxious and after a while I started feeling like an idiot compared to the guys bringing in the baby computers that can be held with two fingers and are a good 90% the performance, anyway.

-Ed

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2004 3:49 pm 
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Surely some manufacturer makes a small minitower that accepts standard ATX mobos/powersupplies, which isn't THAT much larger than a SFF PC.. and a SFF PC is no laptop, that's for sure. It's still "luggable" not portable. Hardly a stretch to go from SFF to small minitower.

Of course it'll always be a little larger, but you make it sound like you're lugging in a full-size steel tower case :D


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2004 3:59 pm 
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There's only so small a case one can design to fit a standard ATX mainboard and its several full-profile expansion slots, and I truly hate those cases, like the InWin A500, where the PSU is mounted turned over 90 degrees, so it hovers over the mainboard; that so severely blocks CPU coolers that it's out of hand.

Actually I had the silver Xaser II A6000A, so it was pretty much full tower, except it was made from aluminum ("only" 11.5 lb, thank goodness). I built a machine for someone with a black Xaser III V1000A, which, empty, weighs 37.5 lb!!!

The entire SN41G2V2 barebone, which includes mainboard, case and PSU combined, weighs in under 7 lb. (if I'm not mistaken, actually, it might even be under 6lb.). I think there are ATX PSUs alone that weigh close to that figure (around 5 lb.), not even counting the case.

As I said, if I were to consider building a rig with standard ATX for carrying around, I'd most definitely go with the Super LAN Boy, and that case alone weighs more than this whole Shuttle, then adding in a decent PSU will tack on yet another 3 to 6 lb.

-Ed

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2004 9:20 am 
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Hey Edward,

Where'd you get the mesh and how'd you install it? Since I basically have the same thing you do (V1), and it runs a little warm for my tastes, I was wondering what the best way was to increase airflow. That looks like a slick job there.

I do have another question for you though. How much did working noise increase when you opened up those sides?

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2004 11:16 am 
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As I said, the cover is the Special Edition cover; it's an optional accessory cover for XPCs, that they happen to be preinstalling on Special Edition models like the SP61G2R 20th Anniversary Special Edition model.

I purchased it separately for installation on my SN41G2V2B; unfortunately, I believe it is only available in black, so if your XPC is a different color, you will have to either paint it yourself, decide that it looks fine with whatever color face you have plus the black cover, or try something even more radical.

-Ed

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2004 11:39 am 
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Edward Ng wrote:
Hammer, you may have found THE WORST EXHAUST EVER; BUT, I'm going to have to argue with you that those can't be called exhausts, they're so bad. :wink:

LOL - it does look more like an air filter, doesn't it? Actually, it found me. I built a machine for my neighbor who insisted on that case because of its - ahem - styling. The good news was that she was impressed with my mad Dremel skillz, yo! (That looks strange with a comma...)

Speaking of compact cases for uATX boards, maybe you could find a Chilli Pro?


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2004 12:04 pm 
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HammerSandwich wrote:

Speaking of compact cases for uATX boards, maybe you could find a Chilli Pro?


Speaking of "worst exhaust ever" and adding "worst case design ever", that combination adds up to: "Chili Pro" :)

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2004 12:07 pm 
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Holy s***, Shuttle wants $56 for a black cover? The SilentX PSU doesn't cost much more than that.

HammerSandwich & Edward, when I get home tonight, I'll see if I can't take a picture of the fan grills on my server. They're really bad, though I don't know if they're worse than the one you found, Hammer.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2004 12:47 pm 
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Ralf Hutter wrote:
Speaking of "worst exhaust ever" and adding "worst case design ever", that combination adds up to: "Chili Pro" :)

Did I forget a smiley again? Agreed, Ralf.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2004 12:59 pm 
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How...what...WHY?!? :x

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2004 8:11 pm 
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Backgrills and front intake.

They don't look as bad as Hammer's picture, but they're taken much closer.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2004 8:42 pm 
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I'm inclined to believe sthayashi takes the cake with that one; for such a huge case, that's about the smallest imagineable amount of ventilation.

It's incredible anyone would even try to sell something like that.

-Ed

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2004 9:28 pm 
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Edward Ng wrote:
I'm inclined to believe sthayashi takes the cake with that one

I'm inclined to agree. I must admit that I'm having far too much fun with this worst-grill contest. So I spent a little while poking around Newegg...

Starting with this stylish exhaust, we know that the air won't make any noise since it will be too busy developing sufficient spin to exit the case. Seriously, this grill is not as restrictive as some. Fortunately, the designers covered this mistake with clever intake design.

Up next, this Aspire case was slightly misnamed by an unfortunate Babelfish translation: they wanted to say that using this case will make your hardware EXpire. However, there is no better enclosure when your CPU has been naughty and must be put behind bars until it realizes its errors.

And the final contestant, a case so awful that it could come only from the dreaded Generic Corporation, is a wise choice if you have a habit of spilling beverages into your PC. This case will protect your valuable investment in the most treacherous conditions thanks to its airtight, even lightproof, construction. Innovative features include the patent-pending NoDew System which eliminates condensation by ensuring that the entire PC is properly heated. No detail has been ignored in this case's design, as shown by thoughtful touches such as the spinner-style side panels which give the illusion of speed even while thermal protection is active and the integrated handle for safe and convenient transportation of your PC to the dumpster.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2004 10:10 pm 
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What's ironic here is that, judging by the intricacy of those (extremely) poor exhausts, I'd say that sadly, they were done that way on purpose!

-Ed

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2004 12:02 pm 
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I had picked up that case before I knew much about computers and in an era where case cooling was optional and unheard of (especially with full tower cases, where the heat can just rise up).

The PIII processors in there have absolutely no problem with the heat, AFAICT. Haven't had a failure yet that could be attributed to heat.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2004 10:26 pm 
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Well, I'm rather aggravated and fed up at the moment so I'll just make this short and sweet for the time being and update this post later with the full, gory details...

...anyhow the second FN41V3 mainboard (the mainboard in this XPC) just went #^$%^& on me and I am now officially done for good with SN41G2V2. I'm returning it for my refund from NewEgg (man, the 15% restocking fee sure hurts on expensive items like this one), and getting a bunch of new components to replace the barebones parts I'll be missing once this Shuttle is ridden from me once and for all.

Sorry to anyone who anticipated good things, but I've had it with this horribly designed system.

-Ed

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2004 11:17 pm 
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Edward Ng wrote:
Sorry to anyone who anticipated good things, but I've had it with this horribly designed system.

-Ed


Are you still looking to build a quiet SFF? I purchased 3 over the last month :oops: since I seem to have a... small... obsession with small PC's that still have full features, or close to it. My favorite so far is the Biostar ideq 200-series. I got the 200V, which is their cheapest model basically, but it still impressed me. TONS of room inside considering how small it is, and in spite of having 3 fans, it's surprisingly quiet! Using speedfan, I was even able to bring both of the main fans (HSF and case) to 1700rpm and hold a 2.1Ghz Athlon to 55C while folding. To me, that's pretty good, and it's darn quiet in that state.

The PSU fan is pretty quiet too, but obviously for the ultimate in silence you'll want to replace that also, and I think it's a 70mm, so I'm not sure where to start for finding a good, quiet 70mm. I plan to replace one or both of the 60mm fans with possibly Adda fans which seem to be rated as very quiet, even at 2500rpm. Since in my experiementation I could get away with as little as 1700rpm, a fan capable of 2500rpm should be sufficient.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 28, 2004 6:01 am 
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Now that IS sad. Gamma One was the best hope for Silent Shuttle SFFs. Now what are we gonna do?

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 28, 2004 4:03 pm 
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Alright, now that my temper's come back down from the top of Mount Everest (a good night's sleep usually does that), I'll go ahead and explain what happened...

The first SN41G2V2 I ordered was just that, an SN41G2V2 (silver version). I decided to push the little rig as hard as I can, and chose a Mobile Barton 2400+ expressly for that purpose, as that chip is known for overclocking extremely well, particularly when upvolted. I figured I could, on the converse, try to achieve a unique balance; I would get a, "decent," overclock while still achieving a new level of silence for a Shuttle (not counting those incredibly skilled modders that water-cooled their XPCs; if you haven't seen it yet, you gotta' check it out!).

Well, as I was tweaking my o/c, I reached a point where I realized that I could maintain the same o/c but downvolt and still run stable, so I downvolted the core from 1.80volts to 1.75volts.

Bad move.

Before I continue let me just mention that the Shuttle has a unique BIOS design where it will restart, then write the actual changes, then restart again.

Anyway, it did its little restart, and saved settings. Then, it performed the second restart, and at that point, the board never POSTed ever again. Clearing the CMOS did not help, nor did pulling the battery out overnight (of course the whole thing was disconnected to ensure full BIOS clear). Next morning, still no good.

So, I called Shuttle. Basically, Shuttle determined that my EEPROM had gotten corrupted, so they offered to either rewrite my EEPROM for $5 (I'd take it out and mail it in), or, they'd just sell me a new one for $20. I opted for the new one.

When the replacement EEPROM came in, I swapped out the, "supposedly," broken one, and put in the new one. Still no good! At this point I was getting aggravated, but I filed for RMA at the Shuttle web site, and shipped in the board for repair/replacement.

Keep in mind that the reason I didn't just send the whole thing back to NewEgg for replacement is because I had already modded the case by cutting out the exhaust grill and cutting out the little grills in the intake and exhaust of the PSU. I had no choice but to go through Shuttle, since NewEgg won't take back physically modified/damaged goods.

While my board was on RMA, I saw the SN41G2V2B show up at NewEgg (B for black version), and immediately decided to buy one of those, being that I had no clue how long Shuttle would take to give me the replacement, and I had promised my cousin a new mainboard anyway; the silver Shuttle would make a fine substitute for a mainboard. :wink:

So, in came the SN41G2V2B, and I built Gamma One over. At this point, I was able to get it running and keep it running, and tried to, "take it easy," on the new CMOS, so it would not go #$%&^$%& like the first one, even though, technically speaking, I was being extremely mild on the first one to begin with, anyway. It ran fine for a week or two, and then a couple nights before last, I did a bunch of tinkering to take the overclock even higher, and things were good. I had the core doing 2255MHz (it's 1800MHz stock) and the video card was running harder than I could ever get it to go on any other system (stock for my 9800 nonPro is 325MHz core/300MHz memory, but I was going 392/342). Fun!

Last night, I decided it was time to try tweaking the memory a little. I tried CAS 2 (timings were 10-3-2-2.5, switched the CAS over from 2.5 to 2.0; it's Kingston HyperX PC4000 memory and I was running it 1:1 with an FSB of only 333), and it was extremely close to stable, but errored on on something like the 19th run of Prime95, so I decided to up the voltage on the memory.

Bad move, again.

I set the memory voltage up by .10volts and BAM! Same thing again; reboot to save settings, reboot and no POST, ever again.

That was the very last straw.

Luckily, this time I was smart enough to not mod the case, in the very possibility of this happening again. Which it did. So I logged in to NewEgg to set up an RMA for repair but lo & behold, I was still within the full return period! So, I set up RMA for refund, and went shopping.


In short, these are the components that will be shipping in to me on Friday to build Gamma Two:
1: Antec Super LAN Boy
2: Fortron FSP300-60PN
3: ABIT AN7
4: Thermalright SLK-974U


Those components will be coupled with these leftover components from the now defunct Gamma One:
5: Mobile Barton 2400+
6: 2 512MB pcs. Kingston HyperX PC4000
7: Samsung SpinPoint SP1614N
8: custom-modded Sapphire Radeon 9800


I will be utilizing at least the following new components not currently utilized in Gamma One to reduce noise:
9: Globe 120mm thermally-controlled quiet fan, to replace the stock Yate Loon fan in the PSU
10: AF120CT to replace stock exhaust fan of the Super LAN Boy
11: AF92CT installed on the SLK-947U to cool the Mobile Barton


Finally, I expect to make, at the least, the following mods:
1) Cut out the exhaust grill and clean it up, perhaps line it with edge molding, perhaps not, if I do a real good job cleaning it up with my rotary, which I need practice with
2) Figure out some way to suspend the hard drive while keeping it stable enough to transport the entire machine using the included straps without the drive coming loose; if I cannot do that, then it's plan B:
3) Suspend the drive, but leave some sort of extremely quick and convenient way to secure the drive temporarily for transportation


And then, if I deem it fit:
4) If it's logical and appropriate, considering cutting out the grill blocking the front intake, to open up flow as much as possible
5) If I am willing to throw down the money, line the case with something like AcoustiPack
6) If I have the time and patience, manually run a thorough acoustic spot-check throughout the entire assembly to seek out weak, rattley portions that need dampening, then devise and implement appropriate dampening measures in those spots; this is to deal with the fact that the case is aluminum, not steel.


The reason why those last three mods may or may not happen is that for 4, I do not yet know if I'm going to mount an intake fan, or just let negative case pressure do the job, and for 5 and 6, remember that this computer is meant to travel for LANning and the such, and I do not wish to add too much weight in the process of dampening.


I foresee an interesting future for Gamma Two!!!

-Ed

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