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Long time lurker first time Cuber

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Hello all! Like many of you, I've been a fan of the G4 cube for quite some time and have recently acquired one that I'd like to update to modern parts. As for my usage scenario, I currently have an HP microserver with 3, 3TB drives running as a HTPC for plex, flash video, a NAS for local storage, and a time machine server (using a virtual box appliance). It all runs pretty well but now that I've really gotten into plex, I leave my laptop (core 2 duo) on to do the transcoding that the server just can't handle. I'd like to make the G4 Cube take the roll of both my laptop and the server. A few of my goals are below.

Goals:
1. Fast enough for multiple plex transcoding / streaming sessions + transcoding for ipad viewing.
2. Space for 2-3 HDs
3. HTPC usage for plex and flash video
4. Preservation of the original bottom plate of ports. (Not 100% on this one)
5. Reasonably low power for 24/7 operation


I have 3 different set ups in mind of which I am leaning more towards setup 1.
1. I5 Intel NUC:
  1. Small, low internal footprint and heat
  2. Room for more HDDS
  3. Possibly use this to connect HHDs to internal usb. http://www.datoptic.com/ec/usb3-and-esata-to-5-sata-drive-hardware-raid-jbod-controller-u3es-rm.html#
  4. preserve backplane ports
  5. but would it be powerful enough?
  6. Worst bang for buck performance
2. DQ77kb + 3770t
  1. About the same price as NUC
  2. Only 2 on board sata ports, would need pcie sata card or other solution for more SATA drives
  3. would have to cut backplane
  4. WAY more power. Geekbench of 10,000 vs NUC of 5,000
  5. Should still have room for HDDs
3. Gigabyte H87 or Z87 with 4770t or 4765t
  1. Takes more room than DQ.
  2. has all sata ports I need
  3. possibly lower internal heat with 4765t


Sorry for the LONG post! Any input would be great! I see myself modding my cube with a little "uncut cube" plus some internal acrylic fab of "Cube 2.1"
 

neilhart

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There are more options that you should consider.

The Intel DQ77KB thin motherboard is out of production but available at a price.

Today there are at least 5 Haswell thin mini-ITX boards that you could consider:

ASUS Q87T

Gigabyte GA-H87TN, GA-Q87TN, and GA-H81TN

ECS H87H3-TI

Of these 5, I would be most interested in the GA-H87TN which I would expect to be fairly easy to bring up Mavericks on. And this board does have 4 6GBs SATA ports and a mSATA port.

And there is the i7-4770T CPU that is attractive for the 45W rating and support for Intel HD4600.

In my opinion the major attraction of the thin motherboards is the on board PSU which greatly simplifies the tasks when doing a G4 Cube conversion.

I have the ECS H87H3-TI up and running Mavericks. It runs well, however it was not an easy hack and has only 2 SATA ports. I did do an OS X installation guide for this MB which can be found in the Mavericks Guide forum.


Good modding
neil
 
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There are more options that you should consider.

The Intel DQ77KB thin motherboard is out of production but available at a price. ...

In my opinion the major attraction of the thin motherboards is the on board PSU which greatly simplifies the tasks when doing a G4 Cube conversion. ...

Good modding
neil
If you know someone in Australia, there is an online store selling the DQ77KB for $99. And BTW the DQ77KB motherboard has 4 SATA ports, not 2 as you stated.

I agree with Neils statement about the thin MB range, they also are designed to provide power to four SATA devices.

In comparison the NUC (Haswell Generation) only has a single SATA port, and the power connector only provides 5V, no 12V, so really is only good for a single 2.5" drive. If you have 3.5" drives you have to go the Pico PSU route which adds to the complexity.

Also in regard to mounting of drives apart from the standard cube 3.5" drive drive mount, the only other place is where the optical drive is located. IHMO mounting 3.5" drives here is challenging because of the way the frame is designed.

Good luck with your build

Kiwi
 
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Hi Gogo, I agree with the comments of Neil and Kiwi.

The DQ77KB has one terrific onboard advantage of a 'Custom Solutions' header that includes 5V standby power for easy implementation of touch-sensor functionality. Although out of production, there is currently a seller on eBay MITXPC that has stock. As Neil pointed out, it unfortunately comes at an elevated price. That said, the advantages of it are considerable for a build such as this.

If you decide this route, note that the 3770T processor is not officially supported on Intel's Compatibility list for this board, as the 3770S is.

Your goals for the Cube are certainly going to provide a challenge. Good Luck and post pics as you go!


Cheers,
Ersterhernd
 
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It's been a few days of gathering components and preparing the internals of the cube. So far I have decided on the H87N-Wifi motherboard so I have a greater array of chips to choose from. This means I had to nix one of my goals of keeping the stock underside look. I'm instead going for a clean large cutout of all the ports and holes leaving lots of room for air circulation.

To make the cuts I used a rotary took with the dremel metal cutting 1.5 inch wheels. They are phenomenal! One wheel has lasted me the whole backplate cut out and it goes through very smoothly without jumping or catching the metal. I will then clean up the edges with a diamond wheel or a stone bit.

My next thoughts will turn to whether I should mount the motherboard with processor facing inward or outward. I'm leaning towards outward so I can isolate the motherboard cooling with the large bottom opening as intake and the upper thin grill as exhaust.

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My next thoughts will turn to whether I should mount the motherboard with processor facing inward or outward. I'm leaning towards outward so I can isolate the motherboard cooling with the large bottom opening as intake and the upper thin grill as exhaust.
Good progress made so far, thanks for sharing.

I think you should reconsider your mounting decision. reason being that while isolating the cooling you are restricting it to 1/3 of the case, and don't get the use of the main top air vent.

The other major issue if you face the CPU outwards is cable routing. SATA cables must fold back and pass back into the centre of the case. ATX power cable to Pico PSU is very problematic because of its size, and may be infeasible. The only alternative would be to mount the Pico on the same side as the CPU, but you end up with a very crowded CPU area.

Flipping the MB so CPU faces inwards removes many of these issues, cabling is easier, cooling can use the vents (top and bottom) provided in the case.

Kiwi.

EDIT : here is a build that places the MB with CPU facing out wards, have a read
http://www.tonymacx86.com/powermac-g4-cube/41302-my-customac-mini-g4-mac-cube.html
 
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A quick update with more pictures!

Parts:
h87n-wifi
4765t 35w TDP i7
zalman slim cooler
16gb corsair ballistix very low profile ram
120gb samsung evo

i have mavericks up and running but haven't done any tweaking yet. The mother board is in, but I need to move the motherboard stand screws because I have them mounted a little off . I'm testing the motherboard now with it facing outward, but after I build my hard drive rack, I'll experiment with it facing inwards as well and check some temps. I'm imagining it won't matter with my processor choice.

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A quick update with more pictures!
...I'm testing the motherboard now with it facing outward, but after I build my hard drive rack, I'll experiment with it facing inwards as well and check some temps. I'm imagining it won't matter with my processor choice....
Even with a lower power CPU I don't think that there will be anywhere for the heat to go with the motherboard facing out like that. Not having an I/O shield may help to draw air up and out through the thin slot above but ideally you'd have some sort of fan moving air up through the center of the case and out the larger opening in the top. The worst you can do is try I guess, it might work.
 
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Agree with most that has been said.

Just though on the subject of drive mounting, there is space for extra 2.5" drives in the dead space on the Cube inner cage where the original "Airport" card would have gone and also on the equivalent space on the other side of the inner cage - that is pretty much limited to "thin" 2.5" drives of 7mm depth.

There is room (in theory) also for 2 3.5" drives AND keeping a slim optical drive - one 3.5" can mount where the original one went and another can squeeze in between that and a slim optical. I did that in my first ever mod.

Notice I said "in theory" though. In practice it is cramped inside the Cube and you really have to take care of ventilation - so I only ran one 3.5" drive there on a permanent basis in return for some lower temperatures.

Have fun!
 
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