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 Post subject: new rig (fruits of SPCR)
PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 12:00 pm 
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Location: Columbus, Ohio
After months of lurking (and asking the occasional question), I've built
my first new rig in several years. My goal was to make it 'better' in
all respects compared to the existing computer: faster, quieter,
smaller, less electricity. Thanks to SPCR, I think I've done it.

First, the statistics, and then the photos. Let me compare three
systems: the old rig, the new rig, and a reviewed Puget Custom computer
with which my new rig shares a case, video card, and motherboard.

The new rig specs are: Silverstone TJ08 micro-ATX case, AOpen
i945Gtm-VHL motherboard, T7400 Core 2 Duo processor, 2 GB DDR2-667
RAM, 2 x 100GB 7200rpm 2.5" notebook HDD in RAID 1 under Linux,
Gigabyte 7600GS passive video card, Seasonic S12-380 PSU. XP-90
heasink with Nexus 92mm fan.

Code:
                           Old             New            Puget
power draw "off"         6w              1w               -
power draw "idle"       137w            56w              54w
power "cpu load"        163w            98w              82w
pwr "cpu+gpu load"      171w           110w              92w

cpu temp "idle"          33°C           33°C            33°C
cpu temp "load"          39°            48°             56°


The new systems idles nicely, but the effect of having a T7400 Merom
instead of a T2400 Yonah shows up under load. It's still waaay better
than the single-core Athlon XP. The XP-90 and Nexus fan keep the
T7400 plenty cool.

Now some photos. First, my homemade suspension for the two
Hitachi notebook drives:
Image

The well-perforated front plate of the TJ08:
Image

I removed the cage for the 3.5" drives, and added a second 120mm fan.
All fans are attached with velcro for easy-on off. (Tip: if a stiff cable
tends to push the fan off the velcro that's supposed to adhere to the fan,
a drop of superglue fixes it nicely).

Image

There is a Silverstone fan controller with three connections & knobs on
the back (one of the PCI slot openings). The small card that connects
the controllers to the fans (with some exposed electronics!) is velcroed
near the top-left of the back of the front panel:

Image

Here's a shot of the mostly-finished interior. The HDD cage is velcroed
to the floor of the case in front of a fan. With the ease of changing fans,
I've already made some swaps but don't have any conclusions to report
yet. At 22°C ambient, I can run the fans very low (I'm guessing between
6 and 7 volts) so it's pretty quiet. The top front fan appears to be optional
for cool weather, but when this room gets to 30°C ambient on a hot
summer afternoon I'll probably need it.

Image

Another point about room inside the case: the lower fan clip for the
XP-90 will hit the video card when in transit between the attached and
unattached states. That is, if I ever change the fan, I need to remove
the video card first.

I also note that the CD-in and HD-audio (front panel) connectors on the
motherboard are very close to the video card, as seen in lower center
of this shot:

Image

And finally, an exterior shot. The combined 3.5" slots and the unused
5" slot have homemade wood+paint ventilation grilles. Overall, a very
"clean" exterior look I think.

Image

A final "noise" note. Although I can hear the HDD seeks, they are
not intrusive. Overall there is a light whooshing sound. If this was
under my desk, it would be inaudible, but part of my reason for going
micro-ATX was to get the box on top of the desk. (I have very long
legs and kept attacking the old system with my knees!). For what it's
worth, the whoosh of "tbroma" (short for theobroma, the species name
of cacao theobroma, the chocolate tree) is noticeably less than
that of my wife's 4-year-old iMac (the pod with an LCD sticking up).

Again, a tip of the hat to all the posters and reviewers here on SPCR.

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 Post subject: update
PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 6:46 pm 
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Something was missing ... here's a photo of the back. The orange
gaffer tape covers up some miscellaneous holes in the back panel
that I thought might be creating minor short-circuits in the airflow.

Image

I completely removed the top fan and things are still working very well.
The CPU temp might have gone up 2°C under very heavy (torture-test) load, but not
under normal operations, and the HDDs run about 3°C cooler. So apparently
the top fan was stealing a little airflow from the bottom fan. Here's how
it looks now.

Image

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 7:53 pm 
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Hello,

How does the "golf ball" dimpled fan compare to the Nexus and the S-Flex?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 9:30 pm 
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Location: CA
Good setup, although a bit of cable cleanup and maybe consolidating down to fewer fans would be my choice.

Would this motherboard also host a Yonah CPU? Been thinking such an HTPC build but would prefer Yonah to save a few more Watts. For my HTPC uses the Merom seems like overkill. I am thinking Core Duo or maybe even Solo.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 12:48 am 
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Joined: Mon Aug 21, 2006 12:29 pm
Posts: 50
I like it!

Can you tell me a bit more about the PCI fan controller? I have the same case and don't want to sacrifice a 3.5 or 5.25" bay for a fan controller, and your solution looks excellent. Haven't been able to find one though...


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 11:08 am 
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NeilBlanchard wrote:
Hello,

How does the "golf ball" dimpled fan compare to the Nexus and the S-Flex?


At the low voltages used, I can't really tell a difference, although my
only testing equipment is my ear. Maybe if I did fan swaps at
midnight I could tell something ...

[edit] as a later post reminded me, the one thing I *did* notice
was that the Sharkoon would sometimes not start at 5v.

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Last edited by b3nbranch on Sat Jan 20, 2007 11:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 11:14 am 
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vincentfox wrote:
Good setup, although a bit of cable cleanup and maybe consolidating down to fewer fans would be my choice.

Yes, there are a lot of cables, and they're stiff. Putting the HDD cage on
the bottom meant a SATA power cable down the middle (it's not long
enough to take a circuitous route).

vincentfox wrote:
Would this motherboard also host a Yonah CPU? Been thinking such an HTPC build but would prefer Yonah to save a few more Watts. For my HTPC uses the Merom seems like overkill. I am thinking Core Duo or maybe even Solo.

Absolutely. In fact, it did briefly host a Core Solo as I was experimenting,
see this thread

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 11:19 am 
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TheRove wrote:
I like it!

Can you tell me a bit more about the PCI fan controller? I have the same case and don't want to sacrifice a 3.5 or 5.25" bay for a fan controller, and your solution looks excellent. Haven't been able to find one though...


It's the Silverstone FP33, available at newegg and other outlets. You
get both a 3.5" bay 3-knob piece and the PCI 3-knob piece, so you can
install whichever suits your fancy. It's rated for 5v-12v so you can turn
those fans down pretty low. The only aspect that requires a little
thought is where to secure that piece that connects the fan cables and
the controller cables.

Oh, and the PCI tab that holds the knobs was a bit too long for the
PCI vents on my TJ08 ... but a pair of tin snips fixed that.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 11:34 am 
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Ah, I completely missed the "Included optional expansion slot cover for rear mounting" in the FP33's description. :) I've ordered one now. Do you have any problems running that Nexus fan at 5V? I remember reading they don't spin up properly?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 11:37 am 
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The only one that showed any reluctance to start at 5v was
the Sharkoon Silent Eagle 1000. Perhaps I got lucky with
the 'sample variance' on the Nexus 120mm.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 3:30 pm 
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I'm curious what your parameters were for this build, that led you to the 7600GS?

I was thinking of a similar setup, for my HTPC. The 7300GS seems attractive for that since it's lower-power and you don't need much 3D for such a setup.

Perhaps you are also playing games on this system?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 4:20 pm 
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To tell the truth, I probably need only a 7300GS right now, but
I was just keeping my possibilities open. At present the machine is
used for both mundane needs (email, web) and for C++ programming
and extended runs of evolutionary programs (ones that try to find
optimal solutions by evaluating the fitness of a population of
candidates). I considered a 7300GT, but it seemed to have about
the same power requirements as the 7600GS.

If you really want to save power, you could use the on-board
graphics. But I'm not familiar with the possible requirements of
an HTPC system (HDMI etc.)

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2007 8:41 am 
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Here's an update:

1. I blocked the openings in the metal frontpiece where the upper
120mm fan was originally placed, with a piece of Damptek foam I
had laying around. This seemed to help the ventilation somewhat,
in that the airstream is now more focused into two paths: the upper
above the DVD-RW unit towards the PSU, and the lower through
the fan towards the HDDs and graphics.

2. I got software undervolting under Linux (Ubuntu) working, but it's
not for the faint-hearted. You download the linux-source for your
kernel version, apply a patch from the PHC web site, and then in
my case (Merom t7400 isn't supported by the PHC patch) edit the
patched speedstep-centrino module to add tables for my t7400. Then
recompile the cpufreq modules and copy into the run-time directory.

The low-end of speed (Frequency ID or FID) and voltage (Voltage ID or VID)
are locked, so idle didn't change from this effort, but I was able to
take the full-speed (2.17 GHz) VID down to 26 from 40, or from ~1.21v
to ~1.04-1.05v. My CPU stress test (two copies of mprime) saw the
AC draw (kill-a-watt) drop from 97-98watts to ~85watts. (mprime failed
almost instantly at VID 24, it was stable for 3 hours at VID 25 and I
went to VID 26 for margin-of-safety).

3. I replaced the 7600GS with a 256MB 7300GS (also Gigabyte) and
the idle dropped from 56watts to 50-51watts. The other test cases
also dropped from 5 to 8 watts.

Overall, the peak AC draw I see now is down to 94-95watts, and
more typical "busy" (both cores ~80% utilized) is 67 watts.

I put sensors for 2 Kama Thermo units in the exhaust airstream of
the PSU (S12-380) and the case fan. The PSU exhaust is only 1°-2° F
above the temperature at the front of the case! The case exhaust
right now (both cores 80-85% busy) is 11°-12 F above. Very pleasing results! :D

Perhaps it's time to consider, if I succumb to the efficiency/coolness bug,
replacing the grossly undertaxed S12-380 with a picoPSU and 120watt
AC-DC brick. This combo (see review here) is highly efficient --
I might see a 10watt drop!! Hmm. :!: It might reduce the cable mess
a wee bit too...

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 Post subject: went to picoPSU!
PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2007 12:39 pm 
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Well, I did it. I swapped out the under-used Seasonic S12-380 for a
picoPSU-120 with the 110w AC/DC brick. While I was at it, I decided
to remove the front fan and see what the effects were. So, I'm down
to two fans, the 120mm Nexus exhaust fan and the 92mm Nexus
CPU fan, both undervolted. The case now looks like this:

Image

The wiring still isn't pretty (SATA cables are too long for where the
disks are, and the picoPSU, with two Molex only, can require a lot
of converters and splitters).

Idle is now down to 42/43 watts (the kill-a-watt flickers between the
two readings), was 52; 77 watts for CPU load (two copies of Mersenne
prime torture test), was ~85; 90 watts with a busy graphics program
on top of the CPU torture, and a peak of 103 watts (AC draw) if I pop in
a photo CD on top of all that. The fan on the AC/DC brick never
came on. Typing this we're at 43 watts, 17%-18% drop from before,
and load is 9%-10% less. Worth an afternoon's fussing around (had to
splice some cables).

With just the two fans, the CPU temps are about the same, but the
HDDs are about 3°C warmer. Still, today they are at 41/42C with
an ambient of 26C, so not so bad. I think the system is now close
to silent at my normal sitting distance, but I'll have to wait until later
(quieter room) to verify.

Here's what the back looks like now:


Image

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2007 3:06 pm 
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Interesting stuff. 8)

You can probably drop you HDD's temps in one of two ways:

1) put them clloser to the rint
2) put them where your ATX PSU used to be.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2007 3:07 pm 
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MikeC wrote:
Interesting stuff. 8)

You can probably drop you HDD's temps in one of two ways:

1) put them closer to the front
2) put them where your ATX PSU used to be.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2007 6:38 am 
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Nice work. There's enough of a difference between this and your prior machine that if you leave it powered on all the time, you might actually see a reduction in your electricity bill!

Continuing on MikeC's idea for cooler hard drives: Maybe you could re-build your HDD suspension cage with an old power supply enclosure, particularly one with an 80mm fan. Gut the innards, drill some holes on the sides, put in a Panaflo or Nexus 80mm, and you should have a nice, quiet HDD case. With that in place, you could probably even remove the front 120mm fan.

Another idea: you might be able to run that processor passively with a Scythe Ninja or Thermalright Ultra-120.

Sweet rig!
Matt


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2007 8:09 am 
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matt_garman wrote:
Nice work. There's enough of a difference between this and your prior machine that if you leave it powered on all the time, you might actually see a reduction in your electricity bill!

Continuing on MikeC's idea for cooler hard drives: Maybe you could re-build your HDD suspension cage with an old power supply enclosure, particularly one with an 80mm fan. Gut the innards, drill some holes on the sides, put in a Panaflo or Nexus 80mm, and you should have a nice, quiet HDD case. With that in place, you could probably even remove the front 120mm fan.

Another idea: you might be able to run that processor passively with a Scythe Ninja or Thermalright Ultra-120.

Sweet rig!
Matt


Good suggestions. I had removed the front 120mm fan as part of this
experiment, but I've just put it back in (for now) at 5v. Changing the
position of the HDD cage front-to-rear on the floor of the case never
helped, and sometimes hurt (44°C within minutes of booting). With the fan we're a good 5° cooler.
The front panel connector (USB, firewire, etc.) blocks the lowest portion
of the opening so there may be some stagnant air there.

Thanks!

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2007 10:10 am 
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Found an old ATX power supply. The idea of using that shell to
utilize the space where the Seasonic used to be appeals to me,
but I probably won't get a chance to work on that for a few weeks.

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 Post subject: HDDs in PSU box
PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2007 12:37 pm 
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Well, I got around to putting the hard drives into a gutted ATX PSU,
as suggested. I didn't have the energy to re-work the elastic mount,
so I just plopped the existing wood+elastic frame inside the PSU cage,
and added an 80mm fan connected to a Zalman fanmate.

The HDDs now run 1°C to 2°C cooler. (As I type this they are at
37°C with ambient of 25.5°C) The noise level hasn't changed
much, even though the 120mm fan in the case front is now
replaced by an 80mm fan in the back. This is probably due
to the fact that the HDD noise still has a straight shot to the
user through all the openings in the TJ08 case front. (I clipped
out a lot of the PSU back for the power, data, and Zalman
cables to the 2 HDDs and fan). Still and all, it's still pretty quiet.
Not silent, but quiet. The A/C has to turn off and the wife's iMac
has to go into sleep mode before I can hear it.

Thanks for the tip!

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