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 Post subject: Modified Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced Mini-ITX
PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2012 1:45 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 07, 2010 6:37 am
Posts: 29
Location: Romania
Hello everybody.

I have decided to modify this case because:
- it is relatively small, about the size of Sugo SG07/08;
- it looks nice (IMHO);
- it is REALLY REALLY cheap, like 4 times cheaper than the Silverstones (about half the price after buying a psu);
- unlike the SUGOs, I can choose a modular PSU;
- and last but not least, I think it has great potential... as in "I would never use it in its default configuration".

So... the components:

Case: Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced Mini-ITX
PSU: 520W Seasonic M12II-520 Bronze
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-H67N-USB3-B3
CPU: Intel i5-3570K
CPU Cooler: Thermaltake Contac 21
RAM: 8GB Kingston HyperX 1600 bla bla bla
GPU: Gigabyte GTX 660 OC
SSD: OCZ Vertex 2 90GB / Samsung 830 128GB
Case coolers: 1x120mm + 2x80mm Nexus RealSilent

Pictures:

* Sorry, no pictures of the original layout of the case, I have already dismembered it :)
Here is a link to the Cooler Master site: http://www.coolermaster-usa.com/product.php?product_id=3102

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Not exactly Miss Elite 120, but definitely functional :)


Details:

- yes, the 80mm fan cage is from an old Antec ISK;
- the SSD is screwed to the floor vertically (there is space for about 3 x 2.5" drives, but I only use one);
- all the case fans are running at 7V;
- the output of the PSU never gets even close to warm, so it has no impact on the intake of the two 80mm Nexus fans, even though they share the right side of the case;
- to mount the PSU vertically I have adapted the original PSU bracket that came with the case;
- at idle, from about 50 cm you can barely hear a slight whoosh from the videocard - pretty much noiseless system;
- at benchmark load, both the GPU and CPU fans ramp up, so they can be heard. Not exactly loud, but not silent;
- at gaming load, only the GPU fans spin faster, but not by much, and the Gigabyte Windforce cooler is pretty quiet (check out reviews, there are quite a few out there)... So the system remains quiet, I am definitely pleased with it.
- also, the idle and load (30 minutes of Furmark + Prime95) temperatures are great (room temp - about 22 degrees C):

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The Furmark graphic shows 44 degrees as minimum temp because I ran it immediately (a few seconds) after another Furmark session, so there was no time for the video card to cool down.


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 Post subject: Re: Modified Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced Mini-ITX
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 3:43 am 
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Joined: Wed Apr 02, 2008 12:20 am
Posts: 148
Location: Sweden
Nice build. Could you post pics with panels closed up?

I wonder about the 2x80mm solution, is it beneficial? Meaning have you tried without to see if temps change?


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 Post subject: Re: Modified Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced Mini-ITX
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 5:07 am 
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Joined: Sun Feb 07, 2010 6:37 am
Posts: 29
Location: Romania
AckeDman wrote:
Nice build. Could you post pics with panels closed up?

I will do it tonight when I'll get home. It does look just like the stock configuration, though...
By the way, the temps for both idle and load were obtained with the panels closed up, if that's what you were thinking about.

AckeDman wrote:
I wonder about the 2x80mm solution, is it beneficial? Meaning have you tried without to see if temps change?

The same, I will try tonight.
I have never tried without them, because they are the only source of cold air for the CPU cooler. It's true that some air comes from the VGA coolers, but that air will be relatively hot under load.
These two 80mm fans also blow some cold air over the motherboard and RAM, so I would probably keep them running even if the difference in the temps was small or none at all, since they are silent at 7V, anyway.

I did think about replacing them with a 120mm fan, using the hdd cage (after cutting it and screwing it to the floor and the upper rail, of course), but I'm not sure it would work. Plus, it would make it impossible to remove the 24 pin cable from the motherboard, because you couldn't reach the connector anymore, at least with this motherboard.


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 Post subject: Re: Modified Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced Mini-ITX
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 1:44 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 07, 2010 6:37 am
Posts: 29
Location: Romania
As requested, first some pictures with the cover on:

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Secondly, the results of the furmark + prime 95 test without the 2 x 80 mm fans:

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As it can be seen, they do make a bit of a difference: +4 degrees system, +3 degrees CPU, but more interestingly +7 degrees GPU. To be honest, I was expecting to see the biggest impact on the CPU and the system temps...
Considering they are pretty much silent at 7V, I see no reason to remove them. Plus, it will probably be better to have them during the summer, when the room temperature will be 7-8 degrees higher.


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 Post subject: Re: Modified Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced Mini-ITX
PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2012 4:03 am 
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Joined: Sun Feb 07, 2010 6:37 am
Posts: 29
Location: Romania
So.... Updates on the silent front:

Late last night, about 2 a.m., no noise in the house, no noise outside... Perfect setting for tuning the fans...

First of all, I decided the idle noise of the video card, as little as it was, must be dealt with.
Problem: it won't go under 40%, see GPUZ above, in spite of ultra low GPU temp.
Quick solution: completely remove the Windforce fans.
Long term solution: replace original fans with 2 x 120mm fans. More details later...
Effect of the quick solution: idle/normal use temperature of 35 degrees; tried a quick stress test, stopped it after 80 degrees. Don't know if it can take it, but I want it cooler.

Details on the long term solution: normal width fans (25mm) will barely work. They cross the side of the case by 1-2 mm. Even though it is possible to force the cover on, I won't do it for two reasons: the fan blades will be too close to the cover, thus increasing noise; the cover will push the fans, which in turn will push the video card, which is only a few mm away from the CPU cooler. Solution: use 2 Scythe Slip Stream Slim 120 mm fans.
Now for the nice part: the Gigabyte video card fan connector is a 3 pin type. That is perfect, since it will output variable voltage :)
Last night I tried with a Nexus and a CoolerMaster, they were barely spinning at the idle setting of 40%. Idle temps around 30; under load, 69 degrees. Hotter than the stock, but still ok and most importantly, current load noise is lower than stock fans idle noise - basically, fan control will go as high as 70-75% under furmark load, much lower (55-60%) when gaming. Now, 70-75% of 12V is about 9V, while 55-60% is about 7V, if that's the way it works. Those are nice speeds to run 120mm fans under GPU load :)
I will try tonight with the two Scythe fans, temps will probably be a little higher... Will post some pics with these mods and their results.



Now, on the other hand... Removing the video card fans made me notice the CPU fan :)
Pretty quiet while idle, just a bit over the 7V Nexus fans.
Problem: spin up is pretty aggressive, making the fan noticeable even when there is no need for it.
Solution: remove the red cable from the PWM connector of the CPU fan and connect it to the 5V line of a Molex (tried 7V, still too noisy under load).
Effect: the fan normally spins from 1000 up to 2400 rpm. PWM-ing up to 5V translates into a range of 300 to 1250 rpm, more or less. Even with everything else off and your ear next to the CPU fan, it can only be heard from aprox. 1100 rpms up. Not exceeding 1250 rpms means it is as loud as a 7V Nexus, which pretty much says it all.
The temps? Highest temp during about 1 hour of Prime95 was 64 degrees. Acceptable, I would say. Still gotta see the Furmark plus Prime95 temps, but I have to install the Scythe fans first...

All in all, I am pretty happy with the outcome. I will definitely sacrifice around 10 degrees for a silent computer under normal use, and most importantly close to silent under gaming/load/heavy use.


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 Post subject: Re: Modified Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced Mini-ITX
PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2012 5:28 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 07, 2010 6:37 am
Posts: 29
Location: Romania
I was hoping to finish it tonight (it's past 4 a.m. here), but I've spent a lot of time rethinking and redoing the wire management and thinking about solutions for installing and connecting the 2 Scythe fans to the video card fan controller.

First of all, here are the temps with the fanless video card and the CPU fan connected to 5V instead of 12V, but still taking advantage of PWM.

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Secondly, here are some pictures of the case guts after some more wire management, with and without the fanless video card installed:

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As far as the two Scythe fans are concerned, I'm still not sure how I am going to install them, but I will connect them to the video card controller using PowerLED and HDDLED wires from an old case, in order to match the video card connectors (I know, I could probably shop for the exact connectors required, but it's more fun to improvise).

That's about it for tonight. Gotta get a few hours of sleep before junior wakes up...
More pictures tomorrow. I hope I will be able to finish installing the fans and take some stress tests (furmark plus prime95) with the new setup.


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 Post subject: Re: Modified Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced Mini-ITX
PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2012 3:40 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 07, 2010 6:37 am
Posts: 29
Location: Romania
I've managed to finish the build (at least until I get other ideas :) - suggestions are welcomed, as well).

Here are some pictures with the two Scythe fans installed:

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The two Scythe fans do make a lot of difference as far as noise is concerned, but considering the amount of work required to set them up... To be honest, for anyone out there not in a holy quest for silence, take my advice: stick to the stock fans, the Windforce x2, it's probably good enough for you.

I've taken some measurements, the GPU voltage increase is largely linear, though it does seem to go faster after 70%:

% Measured Voltage
40 4.75
50 5.9
60 7.3
70 8.8
80 10

Measurements were taken with the fans off. With them on, it never gets to 70%, see results below.

The two fans are 1200rpm and 1600rpm. The 1600rpm one will only start past 60%. During games I don't think it will even start, since under heavy load (see furmark plus prime95 below), the video card outputs 62% voltage, running the fans at about 7.5-8V.

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I've decided to run the CPU fan at 7V, after all. Using 5V resulted in prime95 temperatures of about 68 degrees, with short jumps up to 73 degrees.
For some reason, using the 7V trick (12-5) resulted in no speed reporting in SpeedFan. Could use some help here... Has anybody ever run into this kind of problem?
Thankfully, the PWM was not affected, meaning that it is still barely spinning during normal operation.

All in all, comparing the first test results (CPU PWM up to 12V, GPU with original Windforce fans) to the final ones (CPU PWM up to 7V, GPU with 2 Scythe - one mostly unemployed):
- idle temps increased from 22 to 24-25 (CPU) and from 25 to 33 (GPU);
- load temps went from 59 to 63 (CPU) and from 53 to 62 (GPU).

A small price to pay for an almost silent computer...

Final noise levels? Obviously, I don't have the required tools/equipment, but think about it this way:
- 3 Nexus fans running at 7V;
- 2 Scythe fans running up to around 7-8V (worst case scenario);
- 1 Thermaltake CPU fan running up to 7V (worst case scenario);
- the PSU fan from Seasonic M12II-520 (I guess it is spinning... :) ).


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 Post subject: Re: Modified Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced Mini-ITX
PostPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2012 1:54 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 07, 2010 6:37 am
Posts: 29
Location: Romania
After a few days of gaming (Sniper Elite V2, Battlefield 3, Metro 2033, Skyrim), I can draw these conclusions:
- It is only at night that the computer can be heard (and that might actually be the PSU fan or some vibration, not too sure about it), no matter if it's idle or under stress; during daytime I have to wait for screen output to make sure it turned on;
- I can not hear any increase in fan speed when going from idle to gaming; graphs show it, but it just can't be heard;
- While gaming, GPU temps do reach 62-63 degrees, as in Furmark - actually, I did record a 68 once, during a Sniper Elite V2 session; CPU temps never get above 53, so nowhere near Prime95 results.

Since gaming is going to be the most intensive task this computer is going to perform, I am extremely pleased with the results... especially when taking into account the fact that the computer is still in a temporary position (I really gotta clean my desk :) ), less than an arm's length away from me, at shoulder height.

The only other thing I would still do, but don't really have the guts to do it, is SHORTEN the case :) Yeah, I think there is too much wasted space between the PSU and the motherboard. Of course, that would change if I were to use 2 or 3 disks, or a longer video card. So I guess I'm just gonna have to leave it like that... at least for now ;)


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