I guess this would be the fifth system I've built "under the influence" of SPCR and I have to say that it's my best so far. The fact that I've also put more effort into it than the others probably has a lot to do with that, but I wouldn't have gotten here without the help of SPCR. Thanks, or curses, to everyone. Anyway, I'm finally getting around to contributing. Sorry for the length.
Case: Silverstone Lascala LC13B
Case fans: Scythe 120 mm S-FLEX SFF21D, two intake, one exhaust
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E4400 Allendale w/stock heatsink & fan
Thermal paste: Arctic Silver 5 on CPU and chipset
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3R rev 1.0
RAM: Crucial Ballistix DDR2 800, 1 GB x 2
PSU: Seasonic S12 380
HDD: Seagate 2.5" 5400.3 120 GB SATA, two drives
DVD: Samsung SH-183L SATA
Video card: MSI 8500GT (NX8500GT-MTD256EH), low profile, passive
Tuner: Hauppauge PVR-150, two tuners
OS: Ubuntu Feisty with the 2.6.22-14 kernel (for Core 2 Duo temperature module), running MythTV 0.20.2
The case was mainly purchased for its looks, but the openness of the interior was also a factor. The drive bays hang from the top, which leaves a relatively flat floor that spans the entire case. The stock front fan, which was actually installed backward in my case from the factory (blowing air out of the case), was removed and a spare Papst 120 mm fan was installed in the interior in the same location as this LC13 case. In this form, the case worked relatively well for some older hardware I ran in it for a few months, but the two 60 mm fans in the back were a little noisier than I'd prefer and they didn't move all that much air (big surprise).
As I said, this worked well for the older hardware, but anything newer would require more airflow through the case. I started to hatch a plan to improve the case's ventilation. That plan involved cutting large holes in the case to fit multiple 120 mm fans for both intake and exhaust duties. Since the mods I was planning to the case weren't trivial, and would be somewhat determined by the hardware in the case, I decided to wait until it was time to buy new hardware. One exception to that was replacing the two very bright blue LEDs on the front panel. They were replaced with two low output green LEDs within the first week.
The motherboard, CPU, and RAM were selected based on the computers that a co-worker and I built for our work PCs. Even though there had been some issues with Gigabyte's GA-P35-DS3R motherboards, both of these machines were stable. System temperatures were also very good when housed in an Antec Solo with a Seasonic S12 II 380 and the stock TriFlow fan (on low) providing the airflow. Even under full load, both cores and the chipset stay below 45Â°C. Idle temps are around 30Â°C for the CPU and 40Â°C for the chipset. I selected the video card because it was a low profile card, which left enough room to mount a 120 mm fan directly above it on the underside the case lid. A standard height card wouldn't allow for enough clearance between the case and the card for a 25 mm thick fan. It was also the only low profile, passive 8500GT that Newegg had at the time, plus it has DVI, HDMI, S-Video, and component outputs.
Once the hardware had been selected, I started cutting holes. Two holes were cut in the floor of the chassis for the two intake fans. A third hole was cut in the case cover directly above the video card heatsink and chipset heatsink for the exhaust fan. Actually, the top hole is more like 1.8 holes (think Venn diagram) since measuring twice and cutting once only really works when you've got the item you're cutting oriented correctly. D'oh! The fans were mounted to the case using zip ties. A layer of high density, 1/2" wide weather stripping seals the area between the fan and the chassis and reduces the amount of vibration transmitted to the chassis. The zip ties are pulled just tight enough to pull the fan casing against the weather stripping, but not so tight as to fully compress it (see pics below). I've used this technique for a few years and it works very well. It's also cheap. The newly cut holes in the case were covered with some scrap window screen to keep critters from crawling inside. The intake fans are powered by the power supply and the exhaust fan is powered by the motherboard via an extension cable made from spare parts. All three are running on 12V. The case's front intake was sealed, along with the vents on the sides.
These two pictures are from another case of mine, but they should give you an idea of how the fans were mounted in this case.
Weather stripping placed around the hole
Fan attached to case
Now for pictures of this system. It's only partially assembled at this point. The opening for the fan closest to the side of the case is partially blocked by the foot of the case. I'm not too concerned about that.
I was originally planning to suspend whatever hard drives made it into the case by removing the existing 3.5" drive bay and suspending the drives directly over the intake fans (oriented similar to the drives pictured above). Well, that didn't happen because I'm lazy. The 2.5" drives are quiet enough that I just ended up modifying the 3.5" drive bay to accommodate up to five 2.5" drives (notice the small hole drilled in the bottom), while still allowing plenty of air flow between them.
Hurray for SATA cables!
Whoops. The "extra" exhaust hole was sealed using some scrap cardboard and RTV sealant. The side vents were sealed using the same technique.
All the temperature testing was conducted with the system in the TV cabinet with the glass doors partially open (not as open as in the picture below). I even modded my TV cabinet in support of the new hardware. A major portion of the back of the TV cabinet was cut out to help with ventilation and to deal with all the wires.
Video card: ~56Â°C
Two instances of Prime95 set to run on specific cores, each with a priority of 8, run for two hours
Video card: Not monitored
Watching live TV using MythTV (standard definition)
Video card: ~57Â°C
Watching standard-def TV only exerts a load of about 15% on the CPU, so temperatures are not that much higher than at idle. I haven't done any load testing on the video card yet, so I can't say how hot it will get.
The temperatures seem very good so far, but I do have a few ideas that I might try down the road:
- Adding guides to the intake fans to help direct the air in a more horizontal manner across the motherboard
- Raising the chassis slightly so that there's more clearance between the bottom of the chassis and the shelf
- Installing a U-shaped baffle underneath the chassis to force the intake fans to only pull air from the front, a similar mod could be made to the exhaust fan vent so that it exhausts only to the rear
- Adding a baffle between the video card heatsink and the exhaust fan
- Adding a baffle between the chipset heatsink and the exhaust fan