Stylencio: Passively cooled custom designed HTPC (Images)
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Author:  Hyphe [ Thu Jan 19, 2006 2:07 am ]
Post subject:  Stylencio: Passively cooled custom designed HTPC (Images)

Hi guys, I've been watching this forum for some time and have gotten inspired in creating my own passively cooled HTPC. I have some questions I need to ventilate and I hope you guys can help me on this topic. :D

I am designing my own case in aluminum with heatsinks on the sides and heatpipes to transport the heat to these two heatsinks, see the image to get a preview. The sides have not gone through any engineering process in calculating heat dissipation or anything, I bought 10mm thick aluminum plates and asked a local cnc-guy to prepare them according to my drawings. The sides are designed for pleasing the eye at the moment. If need be I will order real heatsinks and carve them out for appropriate shape. The plan is to cool the CPU on the right Heatsink and the GPU on the left heatsink. I have all the heatpipes necessary, called Borg HPC and Borg HGC by mcubed.


The hardware I have is an 80Gb Samsung 2.5 HD (Suspended), the Silverstone passive PSU and a slot-load Pioneer drive DVR-K04L.

I have practically decided to go for a Pentium M or a Core Duo depending on motherboard release dates for the Core Duo. (Tested a 3200 E4 Venice, on the setup with one heatsink which got tooo hot, a Northwood 2.6 533 was better, 34c Idle but got up to 75c on load)

The solution I have in mind right now is a i915Gmm-HFS with a Pentium M with DDR2 or DDR memory. My questions are:

- With reference to the figures for the Northwood, will I be able to cool a Pentium M or Core Duo at all?

- If I go for a Pentium M, does the 400/533Mhz make a big difference? The 400 seems to be less power demanding.

- My target is to be able to playback 1080p WMV-HD and 720p h.264 (Haali+FFdshow). Will Pentium M 745 1.8GHz 400MHz or Pentium M 750J 1.8GHz 533MHz do the job or will I have to get a 2.0Ghz? How high do you think I will have to go for playing 1080p h.264? :shock:

- What memory to choose for the setup.

- Any Geforce 6600Gt with low power consumption to cool with the heatsink on the opposite side of the CPU heatsink?



Edit: Added Stylencio to the subject

Author:  perplex [ Thu Jan 19, 2006 5:32 am ]
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You could wait for Intel Core Duo (Yonah) but the prices will be very high.

Author:  Hyphe [ Thu Jan 19, 2006 5:52 am ]
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According to this swedish site http://www.datorhandel.com/se/categories/103A61002003, the prices are not sky high so it might be an option still...

Would a 1,6 Core Duo be able to beat a 2,0 Pentium M when it comes to video playback?

Author:  Weldingheart [ Sat Jan 21, 2006 3:24 am ]
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Good work Hype,
you should post your complete system in Gallery section.

About cooling the new proc compared to the 2.6 533 Northwood, and also for the FSB, it supposed to be sufficient based on this page if you only concern about how your setup would cool it (Northwood 2.6 put 69 Watt max while Pentium M-745 1.8 generate 21W based on that page, seems that the 400/533 don't really give much difference in heat output, as the range is about from 21-27W)

I think most 6600GT will have equal wattage, so there's no lower power one except you go for 6600 :wink: ,
I can say nothing about how that size of heat sink might be able to cool 6600GT card without doing some thermodynamics/fluids mech/heat transfer :roll: , since most passive 6600Gt cards depends on case airflow instead of just convection in still air.

Author:  Ackelind [ Sat Jan 21, 2006 6:39 am ]
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Do you really need a 6600GT for your setup? I.e are you planning on running any games? If not, there are lower-powered cards. I don't know what cards have hardware acceleration for specific type of video, but 9600 for AGP is one of the least power-consuming cards made recently.

Author:  Hyphe [ Sat Jan 21, 2006 4:03 pm ]
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Thanks guys, I will post it to the gallery as soon as it's complete and I get this system working. I will somehow try to go for a Pentium M and hope it has the performance I need, I cant wait until yonah boards get to the market, who knows how long that will take.

About the 6600GT, I will be using Purevideo with MS Media Center Edition and to get High Definition Spatial/Temporal Deinterlacing, at the time of posting I would need at least a 6600GT for this, but it seems that Nvidia have got support for it on the 6600 now as well, which means I will have no problems cooling it.

I will probably do some gaming on it though and want to make sure I have some performance, the sad part is that performance brings heat, at least when it comes to GPUs. I'm waiting for Nvidia to release a 7-series card that will be low powered - high performance... I'll give it a try though, I have found a 6600GT that might be undervoltable - MSI NX6600GT: http://www.hardwarezone.com/articles/view.php?id=1648&cid=3&pg=3

Author:  autoboy [ Sat Jan 21, 2006 4:10 pm ]
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If you are running a heatpipe to the case side then you should have no problem cooling any mid range card. Remember that video cards can get much hotter than a cpu and still be stable

Author:  Mr Evil [ Sat Jan 21, 2006 5:42 pm ]
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If the case is going to be used in the orientation pictured then you are losing a lot of potential cooling by having the heatsink fins horizontal. They should be vertical for natural convection in order to impede airflow as little as possible.

Since radiation is not insignificant for natural convection, you might get a small improvement by giving the heatsinks a matte finish, and a little more if they are black.

Author:  Weldingheart [ Sun Jan 22, 2006 7:56 am ]
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Mr Evil wrote:
If the case is going to be used in the orientation pictured then you are losing a lot of potential cooling by having the heatsink fins horizontal. They should be vertical for natural convection in order to impede airflow as little as possible.

source: http://homepages.which.net/~paul.hills/ ... sBody.html

Author:  Hyphe [ Fri Mar 17, 2006 6:52 am ]
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After a lot of thinking I decided to go for Turion solution after the article here at SPCR.

An MSI RS482M-IL motherboard and a Turion MT-34. I have set the vcore to 1.075 and it's stable.

Performance is not very good :? with HDTV and the integrated graphics and there are no options what so ever to overclock. Temps are 35 on system and 49 on the CPU after 8 hours of CPU-burn.

I have ordered a 7600GT to cramp up the video acceleration. Hope that the CPU together with the GPU will be enough for playing 1080p files. It's gonna be interesting to see the if cooling will be sufficient for the 7600GT

Here's the current config, I am running Media Center on it and the only moving part is the HD, very quiet.... :lol:


Author:  doudou [ Fri Mar 17, 2006 7:51 am ]
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:D Hey !
First of all, Hyphe, congratulations for that VERY nice job !
Just a few comments on what you chose though.
As already pointed out you'd better have carved the fins vertical instead of horizontal. But now it's done so forget about it.
Then, are you using C&Q on your Turion ? And what do you mean by "no options whatsoever to overclock" ? Any board I know would let you set the FSB manually. Doesn't the MSI allow for doing that at least ?
I would be very glad to hear from you about 1080p playback once you get your video card, as I am also in the course of building my own HTPC and I also want that capability, and I also don't know what the minimum hardware is.
However I think you didn't get the point of hardware decoding acceleration. The performance of it is completely different from the gaming performance. You will get the same boost from a little geforce 6600 as from a mighty geforce 7900 GTX. If I were you I would have ordered a 7300GS rather than a 7600GT. Much easier to cool !
One last thing : how and where do you get heat-pipes so easily ?
And what are the dimensions of your case ?

Author:  Hyphe [ Fri Mar 17, 2006 3:37 pm ]
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Thanks, got some work to do before it's finished though :)

Not using C&Q, but I am using RMClock. Works like a charm. I am not sure I can undervolt with C&Q.

The FSB can't be set in the BIOS, and all other overclocking software cant recognise the "PLL", the clockgenerator. Which means I am stuck with the speed of the processor I put in, I was hoping to be able to overclock to the point where 1080p would work. If you are thinking about getting a Turion, the MSI K8NGM-V might be a better option than the one I bought, more options, and the Turion works on it according to MSI: http://www.msi.com.tw/program/products/mainboard/mbd/pro_mbd_cpu_support_detail.php?UID=701&kind=1

I'll let you know about 1080p when I get the graphics card. The 7300GS does not have all the video features that the 7600GT has, http://www.nvidia.com/page/purevideo_support.html, and still might want some games to run on it. According to Anandtech, the power drawn by the 7600GT is comparable to a X1600 XT: http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=2717&p=4
The power drawn by X1600XT: http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/gpu-consumption2006_7.html So I am hoping I got a good performance per watt ratio out of the card.

The heatpipes are available i Sweden easily, here's the website of the company who sells them. http://www.hifiatx.com/ They have a whole range of different heatpipe solutions for their HFX-Cases, these can be used in custom cases as well. There are links to distributors, otherwise you can buy from their store, they'll ship it worldwide.

The dimensions are in mm: W430 D300 H140 (With feet)
Next step with the case is to make a cover, backplate and a shelf for the DVD.

I'll post some more when I get the graphics card. :)

Author:  doudou [ Sat Mar 18, 2006 3:41 am ]
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Thanks for the link to the Nvidia purevideo features.

Author:  JimX [ Sat Mar 18, 2006 5:42 am ]
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Looks very nice!

Are these heatpipes wicked? If not, they don't work horizontally, and even if they are, they would benefit by a small continuous upwards angle. The extension joint definitely decreases their cooling capacity. Maybe you should build the front?-back? :D side out of the same thick aluminum and screw the joint there as well.

P.S. It's been written in the SPCR fora that Zalman uses wicked heatpipes. I broke one in my TNN and they're powdered, not wicked. Maybe this is the case with the HFX ones as well? Their shop does not specify.

Author:  Hyphe [ Sun Mar 19, 2006 2:30 am ]
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I do not know if they are "wicked" or not, but testing them under the watertap with hot water worked in every direction. The extension joint of course decreases the efficiency, I'm gonna try to get a shorter path to the heatsink, eliminating the extension.

Author:  Hyphe [ Wed Mar 22, 2006 1:27 pm ]
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I got the 7600GT today and have started testing. The card is a Gainward BLISS 7600GT PCX. A quick test (load using Real-time HDR IBL) with the original cooler left me with following temps (Ambient 27C):
Idle: 48C
Load: 65C
The sound is unbearable... :cry:

I am testing the heatpipe solution right now and after an hour of load the temps seems to max out at 74C, I'll get back though after some more testing.

Some images:

The mounting:



The card:

Author:  doudou [ Thu Mar 23, 2006 2:33 am ]
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Hi Hyphe,

Nice to see you find a way to cool your card. Going back to the links you provided on 7600GT power consumption, I find data are completely inconsistent :
- first anand measured the 7600GT and X1600XT to be on par (+7W for the GT under load)
- second xbit measured the X1600XT to draw c28W
- then NVidia gives the 7600GT a TDP of 67W !!! Whereas the 7600GS is rated at 32W
What the fuck is going on there ? By the way, according to xbitlabs same article, 67W is the power draw of a X850XT !!
7600GT : a low power card you say ?
MikeC if you read this post, please make us a comprehensive review of power consumption of modern graphics cards, so that we could have reliable figures !

Author:  PretzelB [ Thu Mar 23, 2006 6:19 am ]
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Just curious, was there a reason to not try the 7600gs? Looking at the link to Nvidia I see the only feature it lacks from the GT is :

Inverse Telecine
Bad Edit Correction

I have a HTPC but I my knowledge of all these features is very poor so I'm not sure why I would care to have these features or not.

Author:  JimX [ Thu Mar 23, 2006 7:48 am ]
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Guys, Hyphe already has the card, and has removed the HS! He wanted this one.

Hyphe, 74 degrees is absolutely safe. Things are looking good, but you have to finish the enclosure to be sure tempwise. Is the top cover going to be perforated?

Author:  Hyphe [ Thu Mar 23, 2006 9:41 am ]
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doudou wrote:
Going back to the links you provided on 7600GT power consumption, I find data are completely inconsistent

I also found this out after browsing around a bit. Hopefully SPCR will do some testings, problem is, that if they do, half a year later both Nvidia and ATI will have a new range of cards and we're in the dark again...

PretzelB wrote:
Just curious, was there a reason to not try the 7600gs?

I wanted to do some gaming on this machine, and the 7600GS was announced yesterday...

JimX wrote:
Is the top cover going to be perforated?

I am going to try to keep the top closed, I know I will probably have to make some vents but I'll just have to test and find out.

Author:  Hyphe [ Thu Mar 23, 2006 12:54 pm ]
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Turion Performance with High Definition Video Playback

Here's some High Definition test results, all tests done in fresh install of MCE:

Turion 1.8Ghz, Geforce 7600GT (Forceware 84.21), Purevideo Decoder 1.02-196, VMR9
Matroska Splitter + FFDShow 20051129 used for h.264

MPEG2 Transport Stream 1080i, Sample, 166 seconds, (1920 x 1080, 29.97 fps (with telecine flags), 38.81 Mbps (Header), 13.20 Mbps)
CPU load: ~20-30%


WMV-HD 1080p, Step Into Liquid Trailer, 115 seconds
CPU load: ~90%


h.264 720p, Chronicles of Narnia - Trailer 3, 148 seconds
CPU load: ~40-80%


h.264 1080p, Chronicles of Narnia - Trailer 3, 148 seconds
CPU load: 100%


I am pretty satisfied with the results :shock: , soo close on being able to playback h.264 1080p, an MT-37 would probably get away with it...... :?

Author:  Hyphe [ Thu Mar 30, 2006 10:37 am ]
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Spent this week carving out the backplate. I ended up spending a lot of time both on the backplate and the bottom since I made some bad calculations, carving them out with amature tools did not help either :x . I had to move and lower the motherboard, otherwise the PCI cards would not fit with the cover or the backplate. I also made some ventilation holes in specifically hot areas.

I have now confirmed the temps since I removed the heatpipes and attached them once again. Here they are, 26C ambient, open case:

38c idle 800mhz, 0,800vcore
50c load 1,8Ghz, 1,075vcore

74C load
54C idle

35C Idle
38c load

Here are some images of the current state:




Next is getting the DVD-burner in there and test temperatures with the case closed...


Author:  fingers [ Fri Mar 31, 2006 1:30 am ]
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Whenever I think I have lost the bug to mod along comes something like this to make me reach for the dremmel :shock:

This is one awesome piece of work. I am looking forward to seeing how your temps fair with the case enclosed! I may well have a go at something like this when the predicted 35W AMD X2s hit the market later this year :D

Author:  Hyphe [ Sat Apr 01, 2006 12:49 am ]
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Whenever I think I have lost the bug to mod along comes something like this to make me reach for the dremmel
This is one awesome piece of work.

Thanks! Feels great to be able to inspire!

I am looking forward to seeing how your temps fair with the case enclosed! I may well have a go at something like this when the predicted 35W AMD X2s hit the market later this year

I will also probably upgrade to a dual core but I am good for now :D

I'll make some preliminary test with some plastic cover or something this weekend, the real cover will have to wait a while. :?

Author:  sun.moon [ Sat Apr 01, 2006 10:14 pm ]
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Hello Hyphe,

Nice work. Just one question out of curiosity from my side: Which tools did you use for the back plate? Was indeed a Dremmel among them?


Author:  Hyphe [ Sun Apr 02, 2006 12:02 pm ]
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Which tools did you use for the back plate? Was indeed a Dremmel among them?

I did not use a dremmel, I would probably have gotten better precision on some cuts though. I used a drill and a jig saw.

Author:  Hyphe [ Sun Apr 02, 2006 12:39 pm ]
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I started some tests with a closed cover using some tape and some paperboard:


The temps did not look good :oops:
These are the temps when I decided to cut some vents on the top: CPU:60c System:51c GPU:92C HD:56c

I also noticed that the temps on the graphics card seemed particularly high on idle and variated when I put pressure on different corners on the heatsink.

The way it was attached was not that satisfying so I had to make a solution for attaching it properly. I also modified the heatsink on the card, I think it worked as a "container" spreading heat in the case, the way I made it might pressure some more heat to the large heatsink on the side.

I am testing it now and with open case and ambient 26c it seems to max out at 75, no improvements from earlier case but I think the heat is transported more efficiently now. :lol: Here's a couple of images:

Here is the original solution, not that reliable:


The new solution:



After my initial tests I have decided to make some more vents on the bottom and the back and I will also cut two big ventilation holes on the top.

Author:  scrandman [ Wed Apr 05, 2006 11:22 am ]
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Great job. A while back I suggested using the case sides as a heatsink (on another forum) and was flamed for making such an absurd suggestion. Good to see you've actually got it to work out so far...

Author:  jaganath [ Wed Apr 05, 2006 1:11 pm ]
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A while back I suggested using the case sides as a heatsink (on another forum) and was flamed for making such an absurd suggestion

Well, seeing as the Zalman TNN, Hush, Mappit and mCubed HFX PC's all use that exact heat dissipation mechanism, you must feel pretty vindicated! :wink:

Author:  mattthemuppet [ Wed Apr 05, 2006 3:00 pm ]
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wow! that's an impressive effort! Very inspiring, makes me want to do something similar even though I don't have the tools or the time.

I wonder if it's possible to get the side plates reCNC'd with vertical channels perpendicular to the existing ones - that would increase surface area considerably and should aid in convection. Shame the CPU is so far from the side panel, as that must decrease the efficiency of heat transfer in such long pipes.

Can't think of anything to aid cooling in the case itself other than to drill lots of holes in the bottom and top of the case. Perhaps some heat transfer blocks between the mobo and bottom of the case (a la TNN) would help with mobo temps? Something like a heatlane bolted to the HDD and case top would help with cooling the HDD, but I don't know if they're available aftermarket. I think I've even seen someone on here connect a Phantom PSU (is that what you have? something similar?) to a PC case with heatpipes, just by wedging them in between the fins on the top of the PSU case. May be worth considering to get more heat out of the case?

Excellent work though - I look forward to seeing what happens next!

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