HFX Micro upgrade?

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alz
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2009 3:56 pm
Location: North Carolina

HFX Micro upgrade?

Post by alz » Fri Nov 19, 2010 11:17 am

I thought this upgrade was going to be a little more straight forward, but getting elbow deep into it, I want to make sure I'm making the right decisions. I'm still a bit green behind the ears for extreme micro systems.

I want to bump up a HFX Micro that's a couple years old. I actually picked up this review copy from here: http://www.silentpcreview.com/article896-page1.html. The only thing I've done is swap the 80gb HD out for a 128 SSD.
  • CPU: Intel 945GC Express Chipset
    MB: D945GCLF2 with Intel Atom Dual Core 330
    RAM: 1 GB RAM
    Power: picoPSU with 90W (12V/7.5A) power brick
It's unbelievably quiet! However, I want a little more horsepower, memory, and an DVI video option. After some research for what would fit and work best for my needs, I ordered these:
  • CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 Wolfdale 3.0GHz LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor
    MB: ZOTAC GF9300-K-E LGA 775 NVIDIA GeForce 9300 HDMI Mini ITX Intel
    RAM: (2x) Kingston ValueRAM 2GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600)
Are there any red flags that pop up with this upgrade? Such as there won't be enough power or cooling?

The BORG FX heatpipes came installed however, so I have no experience with them. I suspect I'll need to purchase a new kit to snake around the new motherboard's layout. They're actually not that easy to find though, which makes me wonder if better solutions have appeared? Has anyone had the luxury of removing Borg heatpipes?

TIA,
alz

andymcca
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Re: HFX Micro upgrade?

Post by andymcca » Fri Nov 19, 2010 12:19 pm

Forgive me, as I'm not too familiar with this case, but:
Wouldn't you need a new heatsink for the new socket (LGA775) to mate with the heat pipes? Are such solutions available? Or is there something I'm not seeing?

Is the included PicoPSU rated to handle the E8400 + peripherals?

Also, going from 8W TDP to 65W TDP with a novel cooling system seems a little scary! Good luck! Please post back if you do it!
Currently running Mint 14 MATE on all machines.
Desktop/Gaming: E8400 / 650ti + Accelero S1 / Antec Solo
Myth Backend + Home Server: D945GSEJT / WD15EADS / Hauppage 950Q / Home made case
Myth Frontend + HTPC: Sempron 140 / Asus M4A785-M
Notebook:AMD A4-3300M

mark314
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Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2007 8:02 am

Re: HFX Micro upgrade?

Post by mark314 » Fri Nov 19, 2010 2:16 pm

DO NOT DO THAT.

Let's look at this. There are 2 specifications that are important. The maximum temperature of the CPU (Tcase) and the wattage of the system at full load (TDP). Intel recommends that the CPU be kept beneath Tcase for long term stability.

The Atom 330 has an 8W TDP and a Tc of 85.2C. In comparison, the E8400 has a 65W TDP and a 72.4C Tcase. The E8400 is the middle of it's class, and TDP is rated by class. Let's say real life TDP for the E8400 is 50W.

Let's say HFX engineered their solution to provide dissipation of the required 8W. Assuming an ambient temperature of 30C, that means their heat pipe system is designed to dissipate 8W with a temperature increase of no more than 55.2C. Their cooling system has a property called thermal resistance, which is basically a measure of the system's ability to dissipate heat. The lower the resistance, the more power can be dissipated with a given increase in temperature.

When they designed their system, they calculated the thermal resistance required to dissipate those 8 W over no more than 55.2C. The resistance R is basically 55.2 / 8 = 6.9.

So they have designed their cooling system have a measured thermal resistance of no more than 6.9. Hopefully they gave themselves some leeway, so let's assume they assembled a heatsink that had a resistance of 5. The resistance of the system is the sum of its parts, but generally speaking the heatpipes have negligible resistance.

Now let's look at how your new CPU will fare when you use their cooling system.

Thermal resistance, R = deltaT/Q, which rearranged is deltaT = R*Q. Q is the TDP of the system. R is 5. 5*50 gives a deltaT of 250, which added to the ambient gives your CPU a Tcase of 280C at full load. Barbeque time! In fact, your E8400 would need a heatsink with an R of (72.4-30)/50, or 0.85. At absolute max. I've researched this extensively and I can tell you that to get a heatsink with an R-value in a form factor that size, to operate completely passively is very hard and very expensive.

Now, maybe the resistance of their system is lower than 5. Maybe it's a lot lower - maybe it's even R=1 (not likely). Even so, remember where I said the heatpipes have negligible effect? That's assuming they adhere to the manufacturer's specifications. Those pipes look like they are 8mm. Generally, specifications on the heatpipes say to keep bends to a minimum, and to keep each bend to a bend radius of no more than 1.5 times the diameter of the pipe. In this case, a bend radius of just under 0.5 inches. Look at those pictures. Those pipes are bent so far that they are buckling. Every normal high-radius bend translates to about 3C temperature loss. I can't even speculate how much is lost on those tight bends. There will be serious loss of performance in those pipes, exacerbated by you if you have to bend them further to match them to your new motherboard.

Moral of the story - save your hardware, don't even try it!

Edit: I should point out that those calculations are for a theoretical maximum. The TDP of a CPU can only be reached with benchmarks - real use maximum power might only be 30W or less. Still - even 30W requires a heatsink with an R of no more than 1.4. That 30W for you still translates to a slightly cooler barbeque of 180C.
*Disclaimer: I own a startup company in the home-theater/PC market.

sgny
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon May 03, 2010 5:17 pm
Location: France

Re: HFX Micro upgrade?

Post by sgny » Fri Nov 19, 2010 3:04 pm

Borg is simply the name HFX give to their heatpipe coolers, so you can get a new version only through them. However, you must heed the caution about what kind of power draw can be supported; HFX specify 20 or 25W (both figures appear) as the max. That's higher than what any mainstream CPU (other than Atom) will draw.

The easiest upgrade you can do is probably to swap for a Zotac IONITX-P-E motherboard that was tested here very recently. Another alternative might be to wait for AMD Fusion to ship. That should provide a boost over the Atom and very low power draw.

edit: I've seen a 35W max quoted on their website. You should contact HFX to get them to clear the matter if you're interested in perhaps underclocking a Core i3 for example (still you'd do better waiting for Sandy Bridge which will use less power even if you do want to do that).

mark314
Friend of SPCR
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Re: HFX Micro upgrade?

Post by mark314 » Fri Nov 19, 2010 3:23 pm

The heatpipes are not the issue, unfortunately. An 8MM pipe can move up to 35W, approximately. However, moving that power to the heatsinks is only relevant if the heatsinks can dissipate it. And I suspect that heatsink will do a poor job of it, if it's capable at all.
*Disclaimer: I own a startup company in the home-theater/PC market.

alz
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2009 3:56 pm
Location: North Carolina

Re: HFX Micro upgrade?

Post by alz » Fri Nov 19, 2010 3:57 pm

Wow! Thanks for the replies and detailed perspective. I totally blanked on hitting the ceiling with heat. I thought small board, 65w dual-CPU, it's nothing outrageous. It sounds like I should stick with the Atom and opt for a different Zotac board to provide another memory slot and DVI connection.

Possible solutions:
  • 1) Intel Atom Dual Core 330 / ZOTAC Ionitx-F-E Atom 330 Nvidia ION (1.6GHz)
    2) Intel Celeron SU2300 / ZOTAC IONITX-P-E Intel Celeron SU2300 (1.2 GHz)

    RAM: 2+ GB (to be determined based on the MB) (DDR3?)
Aside from heavier research to get more in-tune with what the HFX can handle, are there any immediate surface bits I should look for in regards to heat & power limits?

Thanks again for all this feedback-- it's is extremely helpful.

sgny
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon May 03, 2010 5:17 pm
Location: France

Re: HFX Micro upgrade?

Post by sgny » Fri Nov 19, 2010 4:18 pm

mark314 wrote:The heatpipes are not the issue, unfortunately. An 8MM pipe can move up to 35W, approximately. However, moving that power to the heatsinks is only relevant if the heatsinks can dissipate it. And I suspect that heatsink will do a poor job of it, if it's capable at all.
Thanks for the clarification, it makes sense now. The 20W figure was from the webpage for the enclosure (but they quote 25W on the same page) and 35W from the page for the cooler.

alz, the P-E board will offer much better performance if you're interested in anything beyond a media playback system. The heatsink, however, seems to have a custom pattern for the mounting holes, so you might run into some difficulties trying to mount your own heatsink there.

alz
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2009 3:56 pm
Location: North Carolina

Re: HFX Micro upgrade?

Post by alz » Fri Nov 19, 2010 10:46 pm

Good spotting the P-E Celeron board. It's better with DDR3 and higher RAM capability.

Zotac doesn't have a tested memory sheet for the P-E, so I'm going to try the Corsairs from the P-E review here.

New choices:
  • CPU/MB: ZOTAC IONITX-P-E Intel Celeron SU2300 (1.2 GHz dual-core) NVIDIA ION
    RAM: CORSAIR XMS3 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666)
Still not quite sure about the HFX heatpipes. Looking at the review page images, those heatsink screws are staggered in an odd way. (http://www.silentpcreview.com/article1105-page2.html)

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