Mini-ITX Gaming Rig – Part 2

Continuing on from my last post then, all parts had arrived by Tuesday therefore that evening was build time. All in the build took about four hours, most of that time spent trying out the Corsair H60 in various mount points to see which would be the best fit. It turns out the first one, with the radiator and fan mounted on the rear is the best.

bitfenix Prodigy

Despite my concerns about the AX750 fitting the case it seems fine to me. So long as you’re careful with your cable routing you’ll do little damage to the cables. You do need to push pretty hard to get it in there though as the sleeving on the cables makes the whole thing less pliable. A lot of modding forums show people using the individually sleeved cables you can buy separately but I didn’t particularly want to spend an extra £50 for the pleasure.

AX750 installed
AX750 installed

The build went as expected once I had decided where I was to put the radiator. I did have an OCZ Vertex 2 60GB SSD in my old machine that I intended to use for the system drive until I could upgrade to a Crucial M4 but it turns out that drive is dead. Unfortunately it’s also out of warranty now so in the bin it went.

Unfortunately the only other drive I had was the 500GB Seagate Momentus XT Hybrid which has been gathering dust since I RMA’d it last year. So for now it’s running with a 120GB partition which I’ll move to the new SSD in a few weeks.

Windows 8 installed quickly but I got the system stuck slightly by installing the latest Nvidia driver before Windows had finished properly installing the WDDM drivers which resulted in a screen just flashing on and off repeatedly. Booting in to Windows 8 recovery and “refreshing” the install fixed that, and it was finally done.


System Details
System Details

The WEI score is so low because of the hybrid. Default settings for RAM and CPU score at 8.4 and the GTX 460 scores at 7.3. Ultimately these numbers are fairly meaningless but they are a handy quick benchmark.

On Wednesday I decided to do some overclocking, for now just to test the H60’s capabilities. First impressions are that it’s excellent for such a small radiator, though the overclocks I tried were not exactly extreme.

Using an application called CoreTemp I monitored the temps inside the CPU while trying several overclock speeds. In a default configuration the i7 3770K idles somewhere between 20°C and 30°C, my first instinct was that this wasn’t great but Ivy Bridge runs a little hotter than Sandy Bridge. Stressing the CPU using Prime85 shows the quality of the H60 (remember this is a default configuration in a small form factor using the lowest end of the Corair H series of liquid coolers), temps max out at about 55°C.

The first overclock was gentle, pushing the CPU to 4.1GHz, at 100% load the temps were 58-59°C with occasional hits up to 62/63°C still well within tolerances. So time to up it some more, 4.4GHz at 100% load and the temps remained very close to the 4.1GHz overclock, excellent performance from the cooler.

Before resetting back to default, which I plan to run the system at for a little while before applying an overclock, I decided to use the software supplied by Asus and apply the “Extreme” overclocking to see what it would do. It put the CPU up to 4.6GHz in a heartbeat, it tested as stable so I left it at that and stressed it. 100% load was hitting 70°C +/- 4°C again an excellent performance from the H60.

I’m pretty happy with the build. Still some improvements to make though before I’m completely happy. As is always the way with these types of projects!

Mini-ITX Gaming Rig – Part 1

My main desktop computer died some time last year (in fact so long ago I can’t actually remember when!). Since then I’ve been relying on my laptop which has done admirably considering its age – coming up for four years. Obviously then there was no impetus for me to replace the desktop, until a colleague at work and I started discussing our ideal builds. Well builds that we can afford that is.

Where my colleagues build was based on a Full Tower case (the CM Storm Trooper) I was opting for a much smaller but hopefully equally as powerful a system. Here’s my final kit list.

  • BitFenix Prodigy
  • Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe
  • Intel i7 3770K
  • Corsair H60 Liquid Cooling Kit
  • Corsair Vengeance 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3 1600MHz CL10 LP
  • Gigabyte GTX 460*
  • 60GB OCZ Vertex 2*
  • 500GB Seagate Momentus XT
  • Corsair AX750 PSU

* These items were rescued from my previous system, I plan to upgrade the SSD to a Crucial M4 and the Graphics Card to a GTX 680

I have most of the parts for the build but I’m still waiting on the case and the liquid cooling kit. In the mean time I’ve been successfully freaking myself out by reading about the failure rates of the various components I’ve purchased. To be honest the only one that is still on my mind is the Power Supply. I take solace in the statistic I read yesterday that Corsair ship in the region of 150,000 power supplies per month meaning the number of failures discussed online is more likely just a reflection on the sheer number of units sold rather than something fundamentally wrong with the hardware.

Home Server Rebuild 2011

This post has been pending for a long while, I finished rebuilding my home server in May. It went pretty smoothly but there were some hiccups along the way, some doubt in the products I had bought and so on.

All turned good in the end though.

The setup is as follows:

The build went pretty smoothly as I’ve already mentioned, the biggest upheaval was the realisation that the exact model of 2TB drive I had bought from Samsung had a firmware problem causing data loss in some specific circumstances, bad times! So I had to flash the 4 brand new drives before the build could start.

From here the build was smooth, motherboard, cpu, memory, and storage controller in to the case everything looked good. Then when mounting the drives I noticed a problem, the storage controller would touch the bottom of the drive chassis just a no more. Worried about shorting something or causing some other damage I insulated the edge of the storage controller with some electrical tape.

Hardware all built it was time to configure, the plan was 2 x 1TB drives in a RAID 1 set using the motherboards built in storage controller, this would be the system drive and host client backups (2 PCs and 1 Mac), and 4 x 2TB drives in a RAID 5 set using the 3Ware storage controller for the main file shares.

Partitions were therefore setup as follows:

  • 60GB system partition
  • 871GB for client backups
  • 5.45TB for file shares

OS install took about an hour, some config changes needed to be made to move the backups to the partition I wanted, and the media shares to the largest partition. Once this was done it was time to start copying data, it took a couple of days to complete and that was it. I ran the WHS connector installer on all clients running into another problem, it wouldn’t install on my MacBook Pro (it still won’t but that’s an aside they’ve not updated it for Lion yet).

And that’s it. I’ve been running it now since completion with problems occurring only once when I think it had overheated which brings me back to what I said at the beginning about doubt in the products I had bought.

Specifically the Fractal Design case. Once ordered I started worrying about airflow and heat, the drives are tightly packed together and there’s only one case fan on the rear so it was a real concern. I am still watching it closely using SpeedFan but so far so good.