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Building a G4 Cube in Australia

Joined
May 27, 2012
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775
Motherboard
DQ77KB
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i7-3770S
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Introduction

Welcome to my build log for G4 Cube (my first cube) conversion.

I am already in the process of building a "G4 Cube Inspired Self Build", and didn't actually need another computer, so my father in law agreed to fund this project, to replace his 2008 iMac. So he will be the proud owner when it is complete.

CPU Architecture & MB Choice

I had written a few posts about (on other threads) about waiting to see what Haswell architecture bring. However in doing my research I came across the following article. It summarizes quite well that most of the advances are made in the mobile low power space. (obviously to try and compete with ARM)

http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/what-you-need-to-know-about-intels-4th-gen-haswell-processors/

The desktop range is more of an incremental improvement. The significant GPU improvement of the GT3 (i.e. 3x performance according to Intel) is only available in the i7-4770R which is a BGA (soldered to motherboard) package, more use to a system integrator than a self build.

I think the assumption by Intel is that a desktop user will have a dedicated GPU. The only Mac that could use this part would be an iMac, and that uses a dedicated GPU so this supports the assumption.

So interns of a Cube build I don't think Haswell is going to a little bit faster, but not significant enough to warrant the downsides. The main issue is waiting for support by Apple, and community to make necessary adjustments. A lot of things have to fall in place, this takes time.

Finally by sticking with existing technology, the same motherboard as my "G4 Cube Inspired Self Build" I can better support pushing future OSX upgrades out to my father in law. So the build will have:

Intel DQ77KB Thin Mini-ITX
Intel i7-3770s 65w processor.

Cooling

I intend to use the Xigmatek - Praeton LD963 CPU Cooler.



This is bigger than the Slim Silence used lot in i3 Cube builds, and is rated to support 115 watt of power. The height of the heat-sink means it should fit nicely under the latching mechanism, with the top mounted fan (90mm) sitting in between the latching mechanism. This is similar in design to sleppek's build

http://www.tonymacx86.com/powermac-g4-cube/96216-my-cube-2-1-core-i7-ati-6670-inside-cube-g4-case.html

Of course case ventilation is essential, so I will have a lower mounted "Noctua NF-A9x14" fan, it is a 92mm PWM fan that is 14mm thick, which will give some additional clearance in the bottom of the case. I also intend to do use some baffles inside the case to improve airflow and hopefully the cooling efficiency. This technique was very will demonstrated by rossi.

http://www.tonymacx86.com/powermac-g4-cube/95189-cooling-cube.html

The Build

The other major components include a full size 3.5" hard drive, 2.5" SSD, both running on SATA III, and of course and optical drive. I choose not to use the mSATA option as it only supports SATA II, and want this (apart from dedicated GPU) be a performance machine.

I don't intend to document the entire build, so things like motherboard mounting, and reuse of the cube power sensor, etc won't be covered. Things unique to this build, primarily around the cooling solution will be covered. Hopefully I can bring some new ideas.

And of course I will ask a few questions along the way, this is my first Cube after all...

Kiwi

PS Special thanks to the work of ersterhernd, minihack, rossi, neilhart, mactester, chaosdesigns, sleppek, for pushing the envelope and making this all possible.
 
Joined
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Messages
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First Question: Has anyone managed to get the DQ77KB to fit and still retain the cube power sensor ? If so how?

I just got my MB and can't see how this would fit, although I haven't cut anything on the base plate.
 
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Hi Kiwi, I know already what the most difficult part of your project will be... Giving it away when it's all done! :(

Kidding aside, I look forward to watching this, especially what youre doing with the CPU cooler configuration. About the touch sensor, it's likely going to collide with your CPU cooler and two USB headers. Chaos put his original sensor hidden behind the grey Apple if I remember right, by cutting a hole in the can. You may want yours up top in its original location, I'm not sure.

Best of luck to you as you begin!


Cheers!
 
Joined
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Messages
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Hi Kiwi, I look forward to watching this, especially what youre doing with the CPU cooler configuration. About the touch sensor, it's likely going to collide with your CPU cooler and two USB headers. Chaos put his original sensor hidden behind the grey Apple if I remember right, by cutting a hole in the can. You may want yours up top in its original location, I'm not sure.

Best of luck to you as you begin! Cheers!
You are correct about the touch sensor, once I put the mother board in the case, it was clear it wasn't going to fit. Here are some initial pics.

The heatsink mounted on the motherboard. Looks good so far.


But when you take a closer look, you can see the heat pipes resting on the capacitors. Not Good !!!


So my temporary solution is a 1mm thick pice of aluminium on top of the CPU. This raises the heatsink, so it doesn't come in contact with the capacitors. I realise this is not ideal.


I have been running CPUTest and temps hover around 67 degrees (on the bench). Longer term I could get some 0.5mm - 0.7mm copper sheet, to act as a better conductor.

I have also thought about rotating the heat-sink in other directions, but even though it will fit without issue, more of the heat-sink will be covered by the latching mechanism, so the question is better thermal contact, or more airflow.

Thoughts?

Here are a couple of photos of the motherboard heatsink in situation. First photo includes the fan placement, showing how it will sit relative to the heatsink.


Second photo, you can see it but the heatsink is close to touching the upper panel, I think will still sit in the can, but may have to sit further away from the centre of the case so as not to interfere with the exit grille in the top of the can.
 
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Hi Kiwi, those are interesting photos, it appears that the new cooler will pose somewhat of a challenge to get it working effectively. Of course, thats what makes these project fun, isn't it? ;)

IMHO, the direct contact of the three heatpipes onto the CPU for the most efficient transfer of heat is of paramount importance. If you rotate the cooler 90 degrees to the photo, with the pipes at the top of the Cube, is there clearance from the other components on the motherboard? I'd be interested to know the dimensions of the cooling fins only without the fan mounted.

Whatever config you eventually decide on, I see an obstacle like I faced with the Vent Grille. It had to be filed off slightly to permit the CPU Cooler to fit. Your unit will be even more so, because the fan sits attached to the cooling fins, rather than recessed into the fins as is on the Gelid. Mounting the fan to the fins while still allowing clearance from the vent grille is going to be a challenge, I would think.

Below is a photo that I hadn't posted online yet, it shows the mounting of my Gelid and where the conflicting area was with the vent grille. Perhaps this'll give you a better idea of what you're up against with the Praeton.





Good Luck!
 
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Hi Kiwi, those are interesting photos, it appears that the new cooler will pose somewhat of a challenge to get it working effectively. Of course, thats what makes these project fun, isn't it?
Also a bit frustrating. You can only piece together a partial view reading what others have done, it isn't until you try it yourself you find all the pitfalls. My intent was to follow yours and others work but try something a little different. Hopefully I can get this to work.

IMHO, the direct contact of the three heatpipes onto the CPU for the most efficient transfer of heat is of paramount importance. If you rotate the cooler 90 degrees to the photo, with the pipes at the top of the Cube, is there clearance from the other components on the motherboard? I'd be interested to know the dimensions of the cooling fins only without the fan mounted.
Agreed, and Yes plan B is to rotate the heatsink, some results and pictures below. A single fin is 94mm x 16mm. The total height of the stacked fins is 64mm excluding heat pipes.

Whatever config you eventually decide on, I see an obstacle like I faced with the Vent Grille. It had to be filed off slightly to permit the CPU Cooler to fit. Your unit will be even more so, because the fan sits attached to the cooling fins, rather than recessed into the fins as is on the Gelid. Mounting the fan to the fins while still allowing clearance from the vent grille is going to be a challenge, I would think.
Below is a photo that I hadn't posted online yet, it shows the mounting of my Gelid and where the conflicting area was with the vent grille. Perhaps this'll give you a better idea of what you're up against with the Praeton.
The fins on the Praeton are separate, they are press fitted (not welded) to the heat pipes, I suspect trying to cut the fins would destroy them, instead I will have to make it fit without modding the fins. The fan will be independently mounted (as low as necessary) to not conflict. See pics below.

Here are some initial pics and tests. Tests were done wit Fan set to 30% duty cycle running at a consistent 1150 rpm. I used CPU Test with minimum 20 minutes for temps to settle.

Showing the placement of the fan, centered horizontally, and lowered so as to not conflict with the exit grille on the case. This is with the aluminium spacer to raise the heatsink and clear the capacitors. Test results are 83 degrees average across cores.


Then I tried rotating the heatsink, and removing the aluminum spacer. My main concern is lack of cooling to the the right hand heatpipe. Test results are encouraging 79 degrees average across the cores


The big advantage of this second config is that there is much more space at the top of the motherboard, to clear to case vent (see pic below). One advantage of both of the above configurations (the fan offset) means the motherboard heatsink (northbridge?) and memory are getting some direct cooling from the cpu fan.


Out of interest I moved the fan to be perfectly centred on the heatsink, and remeasured temps, came down to 75 degrees, so it does make a difference. Interesting in this final test the heatsink temp (which had been 50 degrees for all tests) went up to 55 degrees. Not sure what to make of this ?

May try using copper spacer, as per first option, but suspect it may not be significantly better than my second option, and comes with more difficulties with clearances in the top of the case.

For now I intend to leave it on the bench (and actually use it) so can finish my Self Build. Thanks for your feedback.

EDIT: Also measured temps running idle at 25 degrees fan about 850rpm.
 
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But when you take a closer look, you can see the heat pipes resting on the capacitors. Not Good !!!
You could try to dent in the heat pipes a bit at the collision point. I think, a thin copper sheet would work too. Aluminum is not a very good heat conductor.

Good luck with this build!

MacTester
 
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Those initial temps are definitely encouraging, as the cooler is only running at a throttled RPM. Have you tried it with turbo boost enabled yet Kiwi? At higher overclocked speed, the heat ramps up dramatically with mine. Did a test tonight with CPUtest 8 instances, enormous test. The 80 degree mark occurred in just under 10 minutes at 3.37GHz.

Also, just to clarify, I didn't file my CPU cooler to fit, but rather I filed away a portion of the vent grille itself on the cube. Can't notice it as its inside. If you can get your fan mounted down a bit, I don't think you'll have any trouble with the fitment from what I can tell from your photos. The config with the heat pipes up top near the USB headers looks great.

Very interesting watching this.



Ersterhernd
 
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You could try to dent in the heat pipes a bit at the collision point. I think, a thin copper sheet would work too. Aluminum is not a very good heat conductor.
I though about trying to bend the heatpipes up a bit, but it is impossible as there just isn't anything to hold onto, the fins on the heatsink are quite delicate and easily damaged.

Those initial temps are definitely encouraging, as the cooler is only running at a throttled RPM. Have you tried it with turbo boost enabled yet Kiwi? At higher overclocked speed, the heat ramps up dramatically with mine. Did a test tonight with CPUtest 8 instances, enormous test. The 80 degree mark occurred in just under 10 minutes at 3.37GHz.

Also, just to clarify, I didn't file my CPU cooler to fit, but rather I filed away a portion of the vent grille itself on the cube. Can't notice it as its inside. If you can get your fan mounted down a bit, I don't think you'll have any trouble with the fitment from what I can tell from your photos. The config with the heat pipes up top near the USB headers looks great.
I specifically tested with low RPM's to accentuate any temperature differences. I am not going to attempt any overclock until it is running inside the case, which is when my cooling will be properly tested. At least I will have some comparative numbers once finally mounted.

I think I am going to go with the heatpipes at the top mainly because it will be easier to mount as less issues with space constraint at the top of the case. Even though copper will provide better connectivity and reduce temps, it is probably not a significant enough advantage, compared with my chosen option.
 
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I have one question. It is sort of a chicken and egg question. I hope it makes sense.

How to I measure the locations for the four motherboard standoffs that will be attached to the latching mechanism (without cutting and installing the IO port face place, and properly seating the motherboard)?

I am assuming this is the first job, next the motherboard distance (from the latching mechanism) can be set using adjustable standoffs to accommodate the heatsink, and checked for fitting at the top of the case. Then finally the IO ports can be cut out based on the final motherboard location.

In terms an answer, the lateral (side to side) location should just be perfectly centred. It really is the vertical position that I am unsure, and how to accommodate height for the IO shield which hasn't been fitted.
 
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