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 Post subject: First ITX build, Antec ISK300/110 observations
PostPosted: Sun May 05, 2013 10:30 pm 
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Joined: Sat May 04, 2013 6:17 am
Posts: 7
After reading SPCR for a while, I was finally convinced to boot the mini-tower Dell box off my desk and dive into mini-itx size computing. I purchased a used ISK300-150 case with a Foxconn D51S motherboard, 2x2GB ram, extra network card, Win XP Pro COA for real cheap [$65 off ebay]. Expecting really low energy consumption, I was amazed and disappointed to see 33-34W on my Kill-a-watt when fired up in BIOS. I added an 80GB HD and got all the drivers installed, system idling and it was still 33-34W. I cross checked a number of test sites and figured at the efficiency level of tested ISK300-150 PSUs - around 60% at 40W system load - that the system was using maybe 20-23W. Still not very impressive. I found an Antec MD-135 DC-DC power supply with harness and brick, the one used in the ISK300-65, and swapped out the 150W PSU. I got everything re-installed and amazingly, it was now showing just 20W, flashing 21W!

• Removing the second case fan I had installed dropped it to 19W flashing 20W

• Removing one of the 2GB sticks dropped another watt so it was 18W flashing 19W

• I noticed that PF was .53 and the ampere reading was .34A which seemed high to me. (The brick that came with the MD-135 is a Delta ADP-60HB AB, Level IV efficiency so 85% min.)

• I tried using an ISK110 brick [Delta ADP-90CD AB, Level V efficiency so 87% min.] with the MD-135 power supply and the Kill-a-Watt showed mostly 18W, PF was .92 and the ampere reading was down to .17A, more as you would expect.

• Putting the system [MB/memory, minus the slim-line CD/DVD] into an ISK110 resulted in the Kill-a-Watt showing 17W, flashing 18W occasionally.

So based on a total power supply efficiency of ~80%, and presuming that the Kill-a-Watt reading was ~17.5W [thus rounding up to 18W occasionally], working backwards, I guesstimated the system in the ISK110 was actually using around 14-14.5W (nearly 16.5W before removing the fan, 2GB ram and dropping the slim CD/DVD).

Doing the math back for the Antec 150W PSU, the efficiency at 11% load was only ~50%. Quite sad. It was obvious too by looking at the HD temp. The HD temp dropped by 6C/11F by removing the 16W space heater [PSU lost heat] underneath the HD and replacing it with the DC-DC 1-2W heater.

When I first got the used ISK300-150 system, it was really noisy. I thought, "Mike C was right; that Antec 80mm fan sounds terrible." However, I discovered quickly it wasn't the Antec case fan. The previous owner had turned off PWM on the CPU fan and it was churning away at 5400rpm. Turning on PWM and setting the start speed at the lowest possible (1200rpm), some level of quiet came. I also discovered that the PSU fan was worse sonically than the case fan, and because of the inefficiency of the PSU, it was running all the time. I was not impressed with the CPU temps at idle; ~46C/114F with the case fan on low. Raising the CPU fan speed was marginally helpful, but it became audible by 1800rpm. I added another Antec case fan, but that only gained 2C and made the case fans noisier than the PSU fan. Checking out the stock heatsink, it seemed pretty small for needing to dissipate 13W. There wasn't much wiggle room for a larger heatsink other than something taller. I scored some ASUS North/Southbridge heatsinks off ebay for a couple bucks. The Southbridge would have been ideal for the NM10 chipset, but it appeared like the tiny heatsink was glued on in addition to pins, so I chickened out and left it. However, I replaced the dinky 42mm x 42mm x 13mm CPU heatsink and replaced it with the NorthBridge heatsink [46mm x 43mm x 33mm]. It was a pain bending the hold down clip, and I had to come up with a fan mounting scheme because the fins flexed. If you look closely you can see the small silicone tubing I pushed in between the fins to receive the fan screws. The heatsink replacement was very successful in that it lowered the CPU idle temp 7C/12F with the HSF at the same speed. I expect that using some heatsink grease was an improvement over the stick on pad too.

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All in all, the install into the ISK110 wasn't too bad other than having to remove the front USB module to shoehorn in the MB. Fortunately, there was enough room to re-install all the screws for the module.

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Moving to the ISK110 had the usual problem of keeping the HD cool(er). Long story short, I drilled out the ~2500 simulated holes on the HD side of the case, and picked up about 3C/5F improvement for the HD at ~21C/70F ambient. At that ambient, the temps were:

CPU -> ~39C/102F (CPU fan runs 1700-2100 to maintain this temp in the ISK110)
System -> ~33C/91F
HD -> ~36C/97F

In my dad's basement, they are about 1-2C cooler because it's about 19-20C at this time of year.

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In retrospect, the first 600 holes took care of most of the problem. If I were to do it over, I would have only drilled out the those 600 holes that line up with the opening in the HD mount. Then pick up a 40mmx10mm fan, powered it with 5V and mounted it on the inside of the cover to move some air by the hard drive. I found some tiny screws that were long enough for the 10mm fan and were the right size to screw into two of the 5/64" holes in the cover and were flush with the outside surface. All I had on hand though was a 50mmx10mm fan that only fit up near the top of the case. It lowered the ‘system’ temperature dramatically [sensor must be on the underside of the MB or located on the top side near where I had the fan], but did nothing for the HD since the fan was above the HD. Live and learn.

I was quite content with this little box; it's pretty zippy compared to the 2.8GHz P4 it was going to replace. No gaming or movie watching going on here. It even did a respectable job capturing video during our campaign to get legacy video data off VHS tapes. I would like to have done more testing as far as energy efficiency and cooling and quiet, but it was re-purposed as a replacement for my dad's old Dell GX50 [1.4GHz PIII]. He was blown away by the size of the ISK110 and miniaturized components on the motherboard. It is definitely not silent, certainly quieter than the Dell and at a minimum, 200% more energy efficient. However for an 85 year old with pretty poor hearing, it will likely be silent for him! One of the best parts about this was that it was done on the cheap. Even adding in the external CD/DVD burner [the only new item of the system], the total came to ~$140. Now the time on the other hand... I think I had about 8+ hours in drilling and dressing holes in the case. But all those hours fiddling, tweaking, analyzing and engineering are a good part of the fun for me. Now if I could just learn to let it go at about the 90th percentile...

Looking through the gallery, this is pretty low tech and all old news for SPCR fans I suppose, but it's been a learning adventure here. I appreciate having a place to share about the project. I've collected enough parts to build another mini or two like this and a slightly larger file server based on an MI-008 case. But after having played around with the Antec ISK300, I've pondered using that for a file server too since I'm only using an SSD for the OS and 3 1TB 2.5" WDs for data. Time will tell, it always does.


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 Post subject: Re: First ITX build, Antec ISK300/110 observations
PostPosted: Mon May 06, 2013 5:00 am 
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Joined: Sat Nov 23, 2002 6:33 am
Posts: 8636
Location: Sunny SoCal
Welcome to SPCR!

Nice project and nice first post!

For drilling out the 2500 holes, I hereby nominate you for the 2013 SPCR Perseverance Award, with additional Oak Leaf Clusters for OCD.

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Main Box: Intel i3-3225, Intel DH77EB, 16GB Corsair RAM, 256GB Samsung 830, SS360GP PSU, CM PS07 case.
Music Server: Intel DH77EB + i3-3220, 2xSamsung 2TB F4, Pico PSU, Fractal Define Mini, 2xScythe Fans @250 rpm.


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 Post subject: Re: First ITX build, Antec ISK300/110 observations
PostPosted: Mon May 06, 2013 8:17 am 
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Joined: Sat May 04, 2013 6:17 am
Posts: 7
Thanks Ralf; and for the 'official' awards. I think. :shock: My wife dings me on the OCD occasionally.

Once I decided to do more than the 1 1/2" x 6" section of holes, I decided I liked the look of the real holes vs. the 'fake' holes anyway. So I rationalized that all the holes would be my 'custom' paint/decal job'. It took a few days because I was getting ~500 holes per charge with my small drill. I've got another ISK110 and I thought about pulling the metal from the other side of the case and fitting it to the HD side. Unfortunately, it's not just a simple swap. The alignment and support holes underneath don't line up, and the tabs for the attaching screws are offset. It would fit the 'style line' that goes around the simulated holes. But my concern was how difficult it would be to get clean edges all the way around and get the slots for the tabs on the metal screen cut and placed cleanly without messing up the rest of the frame. I still may try; I can get one of the other sides for $10 from Antec. I also could have used a 120mm/140mm fan grille or some modder's mesh which would probably have been quicker and provided the same benefit.

BTW, kudos to you on your stellar cable management. I can really appreciate that attention to detail.


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 Post subject: Re: First ITX build, Antec ISK300/110 observations
PostPosted: Mon May 06, 2013 1:33 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2008 4:27 am
Posts: 1728
Location: Switzerland
It looks like a fun project and I don't want to rain on your parade but with the right case, that CPU idles under 50C without any fans (depending on ambient temperature). Intel's Atom boards have been designed to be run fanless since 2010. Just mount the board in the case and you're good to go. No need to drill anything, change any heatsink or tweak anything else.
Not only that: that CPU is designed to run a good bit hotter and there's no reason to work to make it idle that low... assuming the board is designed to take such temperatures of course. You shouldn't compare idle temperatures with regular CPUs because the power consumption at load isn't much higher than at idle. 60C at idle is OK in my experience. That CPU doesn't overheat easily so the real issue is the temperature of sensitive board components.
Furthermore the technology is outdated. It's still a decent choice now if you don't want to deal with PowerVR GPUs but I hope we will see much better boards before 2014. Affordable tablets will be getting much better CPUs but I don't know if anyone will be in a hurry to sell affordable fanless mITX boards featuring the same CPUs. I fear Intel isn't going to do it and that it'll be up to the other board vendors who have a lacklustre track record at best.

edit: confused sensors in my temperature logs (it's not the same sensor that's the hottest in every situation)


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 Post subject: Re: First ITX build, Antec ISK300/110 observations
PostPosted: Mon May 06, 2013 7:42 pm 
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Joined: Sat May 04, 2013 6:17 am
Posts: 7
Thanks for your comments HFat. I'm aware that the Atom CPU is fairly robust to handle temps much higher than I have, and that it can run fanless. The Intel boards have a huge heatsink compared to the tiny excuse for a heatsink that came on the Foxconn board. Even my replacement pales in comparison. I did try running it without fans of any type while it was in the ISK300 case [sitting vertically] and it was still slowly creeping up at 62C when I shut it down. I could have purchased an Intel board or others with a large integrated heatsink that would allow the system to run fanless, but that would have been out of my budget at the moment. I focused instead at getting the temp as low as possible with minimal work on the CPU side. It could run fanless, but then it would be shedding all that heat into the small office where it resides. Keeping it low reduces the system heat coming off the system at the cost of maybe a watt for running the fan. On the HD side, with fan ventilation in the ISK300 with DC-DC PS, it stayed quite cool, around 28C. Before I started drilling holes in the ISK110 cover, it was hovering at ~38-39C at idle, quickly popping above 40C with very little activity. Will the drive tolerate that? Of course. I prefer to be on the low temp side both for longevity, and again to keep the radiated heat down.

True enough, this is 'antiquated technology'. As I mentioned in the original post, my previous system (now it's back to my 'backup server' again since I sent the ISK110 to my dad and it's replacement is still in the planning stage) is an ancient Dell Dimension 4600 2.8GHz P4 which is nearly 10 years old. Outside of being loud and "slow", it does everything I need it to do. The energy efficiency and noise could be fixed easily enough, and even some of the speed issues, should it stay around much longer. I don't have any desire to be on the bleeding edge of technology both for philosophical and financial reasons. Like I said; all the stuff in my OP is old news to veterans of SPCR. But I've found it fascinating and educational getting back to building my own computer after not having done it for nearly 20 years. Although 3 generations old, the 'new' file server will be based on a Sandy Bridge G540 CPU. I expect that might set my hair on fire in comparison to where I'm at, but I'm content to just amble along at my slow pace. Thanks again for your thoughts.


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 Post subject: Re: First ITX build, Antec ISK300/110 observations
PostPosted: Mon May 06, 2013 9:58 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2008 4:27 am
Posts: 1728
Location: Switzerland
One of the points of newer, better tech over the last few years has been that it's become easier and easier to cool. It was different back in the P4 days.
If you don't have cooling issues, a D510 board is OK. But as you noticed, an unmodded ISK300 isn't appropriate to cool such a board without fans. Newer boards on the other hand...

Another point of newer, better tech is that it lowers the price of old tech.
If you're interested, I should have some D510 boards to sell next year. Since I'll probably have a hard time finding buyers and they were like $70 before they were discontinuted, they'll be cheap. P4s and such abominations, I've been giving away. But these are still decent enough to sell I hope.


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 Post subject: Re: First ITX build, Antec ISK300/110 observations
PostPosted: Tue May 07, 2013 7:40 am 
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Joined: Sat May 04, 2013 6:17 am
Posts: 7
I've noticed that the past year or so as I've perused the forums; more performance, easier cooling. That's a nice trend for a change. Actually, I hadn't intended to go for a D510/D525 board, I was initially looking at 2500/2700/2800 boards due to easier cooling, but chose not to mess with the video driver issues. Might not have been a problem since I don't do gaming, but I chose not to go that way.

I absolutely agree that a great benefit of new tech is reduced prices for the older stuff. That's been my mode of operation for quite a long time. Let everyone else enjoy the latest and greatest, and I'll gladly go for the no longer wanted discards. Since I'm coming from lower in the tech ladder anyway, it's still an improvement for me. Further, I don't need to wait long for that to happen in the technology field. But it's not a necessity; as long as it does what I need it to do, I'm happy. Comparing the D510 MB to my old system, it was a huge leap in technology resulting in smaller, faster, quieter, easier to cool; and I didn't pay full price! I'm guessing there will be plenty of people like me that will be interested in those D510 boards or similar items.


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