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My Comet Lake Cube (eGPU Capable!)

Joined
Oct 6, 2021
Messages
2
Motherboard
ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3 LGA 1200 ITX
CPU
Intel Core i5-10600K
Graphics
Onboard Integrated
My Comet Lake Cube (eGPU Capable!)
(z490 ITX w/Thunderbolt 3, i5-10600K, 16GB RAM, 1TB NVME, 10TB 3.5", 400W PSU, Blu Ray)


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Components:
• PowerMac G4 Cube
• ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3 LGA 1200 ITX Motherboard
• Intel Core i5-10600K Comet Lake Processor
• 16GB DDR4 G.Skill (2x8GB) 3200Mhz Aegis RAM F4-3200C16D-16GIS
• 1TB WD Blue SN550 SSD M.2 PCIe NVMe Internal Solid State Drive
• SST-ECM26 SILVERSTONE M.2 NVME SSD TO PCIEX4 1U ADAPTER CARD
• 10TB Toshiba S300 3.5” Surveillance Hard Drive
• Broadcom BCM94352Z Wifi WLAN Card
• HDPLEX 400W HiFi DC-ATX
• Noctua NH-L9i Low Profile Intel CPU Cooler PWM
• Noctua 92mm NF-A9 PWM 2200RPM Case Fan NF-A9x14-PWM
• Panasonic UJ167 Super Slim Blu Ray Combo

Misc:
• M3 Allthread Threaded Rod Stainless Steel
• Various M3 Male, Female PCB Standoffs, Assortment Screws
• Heatshrink, Tape, etc.

Tools: Just a hacksaw, a file, and a power drill.

Hi all,

So I’ve never posted before, but I thought some of you might be interested in my effort at a G4 Cube Hackintosh. This is my first and only case mod, so forgive me if my design decisions are a little amateur, but I think it worked out well for my purposes.

The purpose of this build was to replace my existing CCTV camera recording server. It was a Skylake i5 system, and with camera upgrades I was starting to push 800 megapixels per second, and it was starting to struggle. Further, I wanted something I could keep on display instead of under the stairs, as heat build up from this sort of CPU intensive activity was significant. Hence, I thought the cube made an excellent choice!

My goals were as follows:

• A CPU with a minimum of 12 threads (6 cores), as the CCTV software makes excellent use of multiple cores.
• No internal GPU, as the CPU would already be producing enough heat on its own.
• Maintain the original external functions of the cube. That meant using the original touch sensor, keeping the push-handle mechanism intact, and retaining the ‘toaster’ effect of the CD drive.
• Again for thermals, keep the AC/DC power conversion outside of the cube.
• Retain the original 3.5” hard drive bay, for installing the 10TB platter for CCTV recordings.

I considered using a slim mini-ITX form factor, as it conveniently accepted 12v as an input from an external power supply. Unfortunately, they are near on impossible to find in Australia. Importing one was also extremely expensive, plus I didn’t want to deal with that in case of warranty issues.

In the end, I found a runout deal on the ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3. The problem is this is a monster of an ITX board, with large VRM/Chipset heatsinks, and even a riser card for the M.2 and some SATA ports. On the plus side, it is one of only 2 ITX z490 boards that supports Thunderbolt 3, which conveniently would allow me to have an eGPU in the future, without the thermals and space considerations if I were to try to fit one in the cube.

Once I got the motherboard, it was apparent that the riser board would be too tall to be used. This meant I lost 2 of the 4 SATA ports, plus 1 of the 2 M.2 ports. Further, using the remaining M.2 port disabled one of the remaining SATA ports. As I needed two of them (one for the 10TB drive and 1 for the Blu Ray drive I was using instead of the original CD drive), that meant I couldn’t use any of the M.2 ports. As I wasn’t using the PCI-e slot anyway, the solution was to use a M.2 to PIC-e adaptor, in an ultraslim profile, to gain me an M.2 port without sacrificing any SATA ports.

It’s no secret that Comet Lake CPUs run hot. I went with the Noctua NH-L9i heatsink fan, even though it’s TDP is only up to 65W, and the i5-10600K is rated at 125W! I did significant research in obtaining a T series CPU for lower TDP, but once again, they are impossible to find in Australia. I thought about just an i5-10600 (65W TDP) instead of a 10600K, but after reviewing this article, there seemed to be little real world difference in the TDP, if anything, the 10600K will run slightly cooler with my multithreaded use-case due to better binning: https://www.anandtech.com/show/1634...i710700k-review-is-65w-comet-lake-an-option/2

I mounted the motherboard to the Cubes handle frame using standoffs and threaded M3 rod running the full depth of the handle. Others have just used a nut either side of one edge of the handle to mount the supports for their motherboard, but in my case, I needed these mounts to be rock solid. The reason is, there is nothing supporting the motherboard on the bottom where the IO panel is. As other modders have found, a standard ITX motherboard’s RAM slots usually interfere with the original Cube touch switch. While there are some ITX boards with the RAM slots in a different location, none were available in Australia. I really wanted to keep the switch, so I took an unconventional approach. I mounted the motherboard such that it protruded about 3-4mm outside the bottom of the Cube chassis. This meant I needed to cut a hole for the entire IO panel, plus a slot for the PCB section of the board where the PCIe slot is. Many people would be horrified at this solution, but it was the only option if I wished to keep the switch, and quite honestly, with all the cables plugged into the IO panel, you can barely notice without looking closely.

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I used @afmacj solution for the cube switch, using an optocoupler that allows the Cube light to follow the status of the motherboard (sleeping etc): https://www.tonymacx86.com/threads/my-coffee-lake-g4-cube-i7-8700-z370-gtx-1050-ti.258649

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To aid cooling, I used an additional Noctua NF-A9x14-PWM mounted to the bottom of the chassis, blowing up the shaft where the original heatsink was. When cutting the heatsink, I decided to keep the top and bottom sections to provide additional support, boy was that fun with just a hacksaw!

IMG_2329.jpeg

The next challenge was power. I knew picoPSU’s around 120W could probably meet my requirements, but I really wanted headroom for the future, and I wasn’t sure if they would actually interfere with the cube switch when installed. Same with the G-Unique PSUs. So, after careful measurement, I ordered a HDPLEX 400W HiFi DC-ATX. I fit this in the space which existed between the original hard drive and CD drive, plus half the depth of the CD drive. I replaced the CD drive with a 9mm thick Panasonic UJ167 Slim Blu Ray Combo, modifying the original CD case as a frame. With the HDPLEX, the CD drive, the additional height of the ATX power cables, and the 10TB hard drive, I literally had zero space left over. I actually had to file down some of the chassis to make it all fit. I had to mount the Blu Ray drive with the label facing in, as the offset between the drive and the slot in the Cube acrylic didn’t line up the other way. Getting all this to fit was the most challenging part of the build.

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In the end, I’m really happy with how it turned out. With all CPU cores loaded to 20%, I get temps around 50-60deg C. I have plenty of power headroom for the future, which will come in handy if I add an eGPU and start gaming on it. Of course, this would not have been possible without the prior work of so many Cube modders on here, more than I can name. But thankyou to you all! Hit me up if you have any questions.

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Stibbzy
 

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Joined
Oct 6, 2021
Messages
2
Motherboard
ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3 LGA 1200 ITX
CPU
Intel Core i5-10600K
Graphics
Onboard Integrated
Thanks @sethside. The thermals are ok. With four 8MP cameras and five 2MP cameras being processed and recorded full time, the CPU sits at between 20-25% constant utilisation, and CPU temps between 75-80deg C. I know that's warm, but I'm comfortable with it. I imagine it would be better if the CPU was only doing bursts of activity in between idle.

It was a fun project. It wouldn't have been possible without all the great experience of those that came before, such as @MacTester57, @minihack, @ersterhernd, @chaosdesigns, @neilhart, etc. I used lots of their input.
 
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