- Jan 23, 2018
Fractal Design Node 202 mITX case
Gigabyte Z370N WIFI Motherboard
Intel Core i5-8400 Processor
G-Skill Aegis DDR4-3000 16 GB kit (2x8) F4-3000C16D-16GISB
Scythe Big Shuriken 2 Rev B with Noctua NF-A12x15 fan
Corsair SF450 SFX PSU
2x Noctua NF-A12x15 case fans in GPU compartment
Samsung 850 EVO 500 GB 2,5" SATA SSD
Seagate 2.5" 2TB 5400rpm HDD (ST2000LM015 Barracuda Guardian)
Asus GTX 970 Strix OC (fan+shield removed and cooled by Noctua case fans via cardboard airflow duct)
Apple/Broadcom BCM94360CD 3x3 AC WIFI card in M.2 A/E-key adapter for native WIFI/BTLE in macOS
Lenovo 24" 1080p display with internal USB 3.0 Hub
Dell AC511 USB soundbar - USB powered, built in USB sound card, built in stereo mic with noise cancellation, iPhone-compatible headset jack (mic+stereo support)
Apple Magic Trackpad and Magic Keyboard
Logitech MX518 mouse
After owning MacBooks, Mac Minis and, most recently, an iMac as my primary home computers, I wanted to get back into gaming for the first time since 2010 or so. Before this build, I entered at the shallow end by buying a cheap Lenovo M83 SFF workstation PC (i5-4440, Q85 chipset, 16 GB DDR3) and plugging in a GTX 1050 Ti. I needed dual boot, as I am well stuck in the Apple ecosystem, but also wanted to do some gaming. That build worked well enough by retaining my everyday functionality in macOS and got me hooked playing PUBG on windows
So I planned this build for some more fps at lower noise, and also for the satisfaction of once again having built my very own rig.
The Node 202 case is a bit challenging, but I do appreciate a sleek and compact build combined with low noise, which is possible with a bit of effort.
Due to my choice of case, I needed an ITX board, and looked at all options available for Coffee Lake. I'm no fan of RGB lighting and other gaming-themed "features" - I just want a sober, functional build. I considered the Z370 chipset well as the more recent H350 and B310 chipsets. Even though USB 3.1 gen 2 was appealing, I opted for the older Z370 for OS-independent, BIOS-enabled VCore undervolting to keep CPU temps in check. This led me to choose between the Asrock Z370M-ITX/ac and the Gigabyte Z370N-WIFI. In the end I went with the Gigabyte due to the better audio codec (although I'm currently using USB-audio), and due to an additional M.2-slot on the back of the board for future proofing.
The i5-8400 is a true bargain from a value-per-dollar. Compared to the previous i5-7400 it gets two additional cores and a significant boost to clock speed, so it was an easy choice.
The Big Shuriken 2 was supposed to be the most powerful cooler that could fit into the Node 202, and I am quite pleased with the performance (although I haven't tested any alternatives). With a modest -90 mV undervolt on Vcore, the CPU peaks at 78 C with FurMark and Prime95 at full load, and the Noctua fan at around 1700 rpm.
I bought this card used for its great performance per dollar (I got it for 1000 DKK, which is $158 USD at today's rate), and overclocked to a stable 1500 MHz on the core, it reaches around 5 TFLOPS which fits in nicely between a 1060 6 GB and a 1070 in terms of pure processing power. I removed the fans and shield from the heatsink and built an airflow duct from cardboard, so the GPU is cooled by the two Noctua 120mm fans in the GPU compartment of the case. This makes sure the GPU is always cooled by fresh air from outside the case. I connected the case fans to the GPU by modding the plug from the stock fan onto a Y-splitter for PWM case fans. I hit around 79 C on the GPU core at 120% TDP, +200 MHz core, +300 MHz memory, +37 mV Vcore in MSI Afterburner with the case/GPU fans at 1800 rpm.
The Corsair SF450 is an awesome PSU, period. It takes around 15 minutes of furmark+prime torturing for the PSU-fan to even start spinning due to the high efficiency and it stays inaudible at all times.
I already had the Apple/Broadcom wifi card for native support in my previous build, but this time around I wanted to integrate it in a cleaner manner. I pulled the stock Intel WiFi M.2 card from the mainboard, bent the shielding to fit an M.2-to-Apple 12+6 Pin-adapter and replaced the antenna connectors for different ones, so I could use my old stub-antennas instead of the ugly and large one that came with the mainboard. The card works perfectly and I have Magic Keyboard/Trackpad support in UEFI, Clover, Windows and macOS!
SSD/HDD and Dual Boot
In my old build (and I my iMac before that) I had split the 500GB SSD into a 300 GB Windows-partition and a 200 GB HFS+ partition. The 200 GB SSD partition was then grouped with the 2 TB HDD into a Core Storage Volume group for use as a 2,2 TB fusion drive, which works perfectly. I simply moved the drives into the new build without reinstalling. I had some issues with the EFI partition not being recognized by the UEFI, but after booting with a Clover USB flashdrive and re-installing/updating Clover on the SSD EFI partition, everything worked fine.
Post installation tweaks
I generated patched SSDT for the CPU and applied a fix to enable USB 3.0 in macOS 10.13.4.
Now, the system runs perfectly. As in "everything just works". The only detail is that About This Mac says "Unknown CPU", but who cares..
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