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 Post subject: Brix Pro in an Akasa Euler semi-fanless case
PostPosted: Fri Jan 23, 2015 2:47 pm 
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I've hacked together other projects over the years, but never really got around to posting them. However, I decided to do a quick writeup for this project as there seems to have been some interest here and on another forum, but nobody has posted any results yet.

The Gigabyte Brix Pro has been reviewed on SPCR and other sites, so I won't go into a lot of details. It has a Haswell i7-4770R CPU with Iris 5200 Pro graphics, and graphics at this level are not available in any other socketed CPU or all-in-one mini-PC on the market. I got a great deal on a Brix through Newegg's Black November sale, and figured I'd try it out.

The Brix Pro is nice and fast and a fantastic performer, but its big limitation is the cooling solution which under load quite literally sounds like a hair drier when the little fan ramps up to full speed.

For an improved cooling solution, I had an Akasa Euler sitting around from a previous build, and it was my first choice, although I was somewhat concerned about putting a 65W chip into a case normally rated for 35W/45W max. However, I figured I could probably make it work as my normal workload is fairly light with only occasional light gaming, software development, and media editing. Also, the Brix is used to thermal throttling even with the stock solution, so anything would be an improvement.

So far the results are great. I was nervous to be taking a soldering iron to a brand new $450 computer, much the same way I felt when de-lidding a 3770k. However, the results were worth the risk. In its new home, the Brix is *much* quieter at full load, and in general there's a lot more thermal mass to absorb the heat of the CPU which evens out the temperature spikes.
Before: Idle 56-60C, light load 70C, Prime95 100C with throttling
After: Idle <40C, Prime95 <95C after 10 minutes

The Akasa Euler comes with an aluminum block that interfaces between the CPU on the ITX motherboard and the aluminum of the case itself, which is essentially one big heatsink. To get the Brix to fit, I "machined" a block of 1/2 inch aluminum bar the best I could using a bandsaw, drill press, and a dremel tool. (I have a Sketchup model with the dimensions and can make a better picture in case anyone needs it) Note: photo shows some TIM still on the heatsink from a test-fit, and I lapped it later to make it smooth.
Image
Image

The block is mounted to the case in a location that came from the factory with a roughly-milled area which I sanded smooth. In this picture, the new block is screwed in place, with the stock Akasa and Brix heatsinks for comparison.Image


The Brix motherboard then fits on top of the heat block, attached with 10mm long M2 cap screws through the back of the normal heatsink mounting holes:
Image

The next task was to connect the power switch and power LED from the case onto the Brix motherboard. First, I determined the pinouts for the built-in power switch:
Image

And then soldered a short length from a USB header extension onto the pins of the switch:
Image

I also wired up a short headphone plug extension to bring the audio connector to the back of the case:
Image

Rather than run completely fanless, I decided to add a thin 120mm fan to the bottom for a little bit of cooling. The fan is a Scythe SY1212SL12M-P spliced to the laptop-style fan connector from the parts bin.
Image

The fan is mounted to a ~1/8 inch ABS plastic sheet, which press-fits into the bottom of the case. Add some rubber feet to allow air inflow. At idle, the fan is inaudible, and at load it's a much less distracting "whoosh" compared to the stock fan's whine.
Image

Voila, a finished product that works great. Yes, I know the case would probably do better in the open air, but it works well enough in my home-made rack.
Image


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 Post subject: Re: Brix Pro in an Akasa Euler semi-fanless case
PostPosted: Fri Jan 23, 2015 4:55 pm 
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Nice!

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 Post subject: Re: Brix Pro in an Akasa Euler semi-fanless case
PostPosted: Fri Jan 23, 2015 5:17 pm 
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Joined: Thu May 25, 2006 1:19 am
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Location: Australia
wow. mighty impressive mods.

it's a little strange seeing the nuc sized mb inside an itx case, but understandable considering the thermal envelope and, well, the case was there!

no wifi?


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 Post subject: Re: Brix Pro in an Akasa Euler semi-fanless case
PostPosted: Fri Jan 23, 2015 9:19 pm 
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Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2012 1:28 pm
Posts: 10
Location: Northern California
Yep, it's kind of odd to see the SFF board in such a large case, but I prefer to think of it as a big heatsink that happens to also hold a computer. :) At the moment, this seems to be the best-performing CPU and iGPU combination available, even better than any of the ITX options. However, maybe that will change with the new Broadwell products coming soon.

No wifi, as I don't need it, and the wifi module sits really close to the heatsink screw. However, if it can be made to fit, then presumably one could mount an external antenna.


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 Post subject: Re: Brix Pro in an Akasa Euler semi-fanless case
PostPosted: Sat Jan 24, 2015 5:43 pm 
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Hey mate.

I also threw my self into a smiliar project, however i wanted to keep the original box.
So i ordered a Noctua fan, 92x14 PWN, and removed the top of the case replacing it with steel-mesh.
The finished project looks Awesome. BUT it still manage to hit 100C when playing Dota 2 on "balanced" power mode.
Im not happy with that. However it is better than before and it is quite silent.

Im considering building a custom case for it. But how big of a heatsink do i need to add to get lower temps? I want to hit max 80C

I did some testing without a case installed, with the Noctua fan just laying on the heatsink pushing air into the heatsink, and that gave me temps at max 75-80 in Dota 2. So for a non-PC freak like me, it looks like the small brix doesnt get enough air-flow?


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 Post subject: Re: Brix Pro in an Akasa Euler semi-fanless case
PostPosted: Sun Jan 25, 2015 9:43 am 
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Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2012 1:28 pm
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Location: Northern California
Yoggi wrote:
I'm considering building a custom case for it. But how big of a heatsink do i need to add to get lower temps? I want to hit max 80C

I did some testing without a case installed, with the Noctua fan just laying on the heatsink pushing air into the heatsink, and that gave me temps at max 75-80 in Dota 2. So for a non-PC freak like me, it looks like the small brix doesnt get enough air-flow?


Higher air flow might do the trick, but the stock heatsink is pretty small for keeping a 65W CPU under 80C at full load, so you'd need a lot of airflow to keep it that cool which translates into a lot of noise.

The other approach is to use a larger heatsink to ensure enough heat can be dissipated with a smaller amount of airflow. My solution was to use a relatively large fanless case, or a standard desktop heatsink could be used instead. You'd probably need at least a mid-size one and either build a custom case or extend the heatsink out the top of the stock Brix case. If using the stock Brix case, a top-down cooler might work, such as the Noctua NH-C14 or NH-L12. That was sort of my backup plan, making an aluminum adapter block to mount a regular heatsink and cut enough of a gap in the top or back of the Brix case for the heatsink to sit above the computer. However, if you want to keep the Wifi, then you'd need to make sure to work around the stock antennas or add an external one.

Another solution would be to get a ridiculously large cooler like a NoFan CR-95C, connect it with a custom aluminum block, and mount the Brix motherboard in a little pod on top. Or do something similar with a water cooling setup. However, with the size of a solution like that, it's almost equivalent to building a small ITX box with a discrete GPU, although there is certainly a novelty factor in building a computer that's smaller than the heatsink it's attached to.


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 Post subject: Re: Brix Pro in an Akasa Euler semi-fanless case
PostPosted: Sun Jan 25, 2015 10:22 am 
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Joined: Sat Jan 24, 2015 5:29 pm
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Ye. Thats also my conclusion. I dont really want to ruine the size.

Only other option i could come up with was to fit the Noctua NH-L9i on with an adaptor, but i dont know if thats even enough for cooling.
It would increase the high 1/2-1 inch depending on the height of the adaptor.

What is ur experience with the stock thermal paste, would it even matter if i changed it?


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 Post subject: Re: Brix Pro in an Akasa Euler semi-fanless case
PostPosted: Sun Jan 25, 2015 1:26 pm 
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There's only a few degrees difference between the performance of thermal pastes.

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 Post subject: Re: Brix Pro in an Akasa Euler semi-fanless case
PostPosted: Sun Jan 25, 2015 1:49 pm 
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Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2012 1:28 pm
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Location: Northern California
The stock thermal paste seemed fine, although I replaced it with Arctic Silver 5 after the second or third disassembly. The type of paste is probably not as important as making sure it's evenly distributed in a thin layer, especially because the 4770R has a small contact area compared to standard desktop CPUs. I did notice a difference a couple times when I had an uneven thickness of the thermal paste, such as one core being a few degrees higher than the others or the temperature climbing really quickly when I put load on it.


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 Post subject: Re: Brix Pro in an Akasa Euler semi-fanless case
PostPosted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 5:17 am 
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Okay i'm back. Btw. I only have the I5 version :)

Decided that this little machine was too young for retirement.

I found a guy that can CNC mill an adaptor plate for the new heatsink.
I've ordered the Noctua L9i.

However i have a few questions about the adaptorplate.

1. You've used M2 screws and reversed the way the heatsink is mounted, are the stock M3? (likely yes) How is the fit? Wobbly?

2. Are there other parts on the motherboard that needs to be in contact with the heatsink other than the GPU and CPU?
Edit: I can see that there are 4 small bricks on the MB. Guess they keep the heatsink in the correct distance. Damn!
Because I want to make the adaptor plate the same size as the back on the Noctua L9i (ofc it needs to be wide enough for the mounting screws to fit.)
http://www.technic3d.com/thumbnails/160 ... ST_023.JPG
The backside of the Noctua heatsink will be milled flat for at good fit between the 2 parts

3. What material should i use for the adaptor. Can get it made in Kobber, Aluminium or Steel

4. What is the best way to make contact to the 2 pieces (heatsink and adaptor) Thermal paste?


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 Post subject: Re: Brix Pro in an Akasa Euler semi-fanless case
PostPosted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 11:52 am 
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Excellent, look forward to seeing what you come up with. If you have access to a CNC mill, that's definitely the way to go. However, you should double-check my measurements, as I ended up having to relocate one of the the heatsink holes slightly, either because the measurement was wrong or because I did the drilling by hand on a low-end drill press.

Yoggi wrote:
1. You've used M2 screws and reversed the way the heatsink is mounted, are the stock M3? (likely yes) How is the fit? Wobbly?


The stock mounting screws are actually M2.5 with a 0.45 thread pitch. I used M2 screws because they could fit backwards through the mounting holes, which was necessary because of how my adapter block attached to the case. The fit is actually pretty good as long as I'm careful to keep the contact area flat without adding too much pressure. The fit is solid enough to hold the motherboard in place without mounting it to standoffs through the holes at each corner of the motherboard, like I had originally planned.

Note that most heatsinks use springs to even out the pressure, so if you go spring-less then there's definitely a need to be careful with how you tighten the screws.

Yoggi wrote:
2. Are there other parts on the motherboard that needs to be in contact with the heatsink other than the GPU and CPU?
Edit: I can see that there are 4 small bricks on the MB. Guess they keep the heatsink in the correct distance. Damn!
Because I want to make the adaptor plate the same size as the back on the Noctua L9i (ofc it needs to be wide enough for the mounting screws to fit.)


There's the CPU and the separate chip which I think is the HM87 chipset? The chipset is slightly lower than the CPU, and there's just a simple thermal pad in between it and the heatsink. The two "blocks" that protrude from the heatsink are at the same height, which can be seen by putting a straight edge across them. There are some small rubber bricks that help keep everything level, and they can be kept or removed as needed.

Because the Noctua L9i also has a reverse mount, I agree that an adapter plate the size of the L9i would be best, reverse-mounted to the Brix motherboard. You can machine out the profile of the Brix side of the adapter to match the stock heatsink, which is necessary to avoid interfering with some components on the motherboard. Depending on the geometry of the heatsink, you might have some trouble closing the stock Brix case with the normal screws.
Edit: Actually, I looked closer at the picture of the L9i, and if you make the adapter too big then it'd block the cooling fins on the heatsink. Instead, it might be better to remove the mounting brackets from the L9i and attach the adapter block directly to the inner screws next to the contact area. That way, the adapter block can be a lot narrower and allow more air flow.

Yoggi wrote:
3. What material should i use for the adaptor. Can get it made in Kobber, Aluminium or Steel


The stock heatsink is copper. I used 6061 aluminum, which is supposedly easier to machine than copper. I'd avoid steel, as it's a lot harder to work with and the thermal characteristics are not as good.

Yoggi wrote:
4. What is the best way to make contact to the 2 pieces (heatsink and adaptor) Thermal paste?


Yes, you'll need to use thermal paste between the heatsink and adapter, and between the adapter and CPU.

Good luck, and please let us know how it goes.


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 Post subject: Re: Brix Pro in an Akasa Euler semi-fanless case
PostPosted: Fri Jan 30, 2015 4:28 am 
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Joined: Sat Jan 24, 2015 5:29 pm
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watts_happening wrote:
The two "blocks" that protrude from the heatsink are at the same height, which can be seen by putting a straight edge across them. There are some small rubber bricks that help keep everything level, and they can be kept or removed as needed.


Are u sure that they can be removed? Wouldn't it put a lot more pressure on the MB and be difficult to get optimal contact between the CPU and Adaptor?


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