Supercharged G4 Cube Mod: i5, GTX 750Ti and 3TB 3.5” HD in a cube!

Discussion in 'PowerMac G4 Cube' started by albertodlh, Oct 24, 2014.

  1. albertodlh

    albertodlh

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    Oct 24, 2014 at 4:16 AM #1
    albertodlh

    albertodlh

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    Yes, I know. How. Freaking. Original. Yet another G4 Cube mod. But believe it or not, about a year ago when the idea first popped in my mind, I was naive enough to think nobody had come up it before. When I found out it was actually a “thing”, I was more than a little bummed. So much, in fact, that I abandoned the project altogether.

    But then I started looking at all the mods, each one better than the previous, and I was motivated again. And here’s why I finally ended up doing the mod: I wanted to use more components than I had ever seen in any cube mod before. I do graphic design and video editing, so I needed two components that most cube modders end up ditching: a 3.5” 3TB hard drive and a dedicated video card. And I didn’t want to compromise on the optical drive. And yeah, why not add an SSD a 1TB 2.5” hard drive too. It seemed impossible. And there’s no better motivation than impossible.

    Here’s the list of components I used (tried to pick everything for maximum compatibility and easy installation):

    * Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI
    * CPU: Intel Core i5-4570S, 2.9 GHz
    * CPU Cooler: Noctua Low-Profile CPU Cooler NH-L9I
    * Video Card: I already had a slim Gigabyte GT 640, but my idea was to end up using an EVGA GTX 750Ti, so I needed to leave enough room for it to “breathe”.
    * RAM: Crucial Ballistix Tactical Low Profile 8GB Single DDR3-1600 (x2)
    * Hard Drives:
    - Samsung 840 Pro Series 2.5-Inch 256GB SSD
    - HGST Travelstar 2.5-Inch 1TB 7200RPM
    - Seagate Barracuda 3.5-Inch 3TB 7200RPM
    * Optical Drive: Hitachi LG HL CA10N 12.7mm Slot load (But, DON’T BUY THIS ONE! It’s loud and OS X won’t support native burn with this drive. I currently have to use Roxio Toast)
    * Power Supply: Mini-Box picoPSU-160-XT, with 192w AC-DC Power Adapter
    * Case Fan: Noctua 92 x 14 mm Low-Profile Cooling Fan (my original idea was to use it as exhaust on top, but ended up using it as intake. I’ll explain why later)
    * Bluetooth: IOGEAR Bluetooth 4.0 USB Micro Adapter
    * WiFi: Broadcom Wireless 802 11/a/g/n Internet WLAN Adapter.

    The first thing I did was to buy an old, not working cube on eBay. I disassembled it and became familiar with the internal frame and how all the components were distributed. The plexiglass case was full of scratches, and I had to sandpaper and polish it for days to make it look good again, but it was completely worth it. Mostly because I now have really sexy biceps.

    After measuring the internal aluminum box, I started playing Tetris with figures sized like the components in Fireworks (Yes, I use Fireworks). I wanted to know where to put everything, minding a proper ventilation. It became clear from early on that if I wanted to cram so many things inside the cube, I had to ditch the sliding mechanism. It’s super awesome, but it takes a lot of space. So I ended up deciding that instead of modding the internal aluminum frame of the cube, I was going to make an entire new one in plexiglass.

    I'll buy you a beer if you understand which component is which in this diagram.

    [​IMG]

    Second thing I did was to make a cardboard model of what was to be my replacement internal frame. I did this because Plexiglass laser cutting services are expensive, and I wanted to test everything in order to avoid any possible measuring mistakes (which I had made).

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Notice I used 2mm cardboard, same thickness of the plexiglass. This required many, many, many box cutter razors, zen master patience, and no fear of losing a finger (what’s a pinky good for, anyway?). But the cardboard frame was so firm, it allowed me to add most of the components and see if everything fit properly.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    In fact, it worked so well I could have ended up using it, but 1. cardboard could have catch fire and burn my entire house with me inside, and much more importantly 2. it looked ugly as sin. So after I was sure the frame worked, I had the plexiglass laser cut like my models.

    The pieces, when they arrived!

    [​IMG]

    The assembled internal frame.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And here it is, with all the components inside.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    It's hard to see, but when I took this photos I was still using the GT 640. Yet the hole on the bottom was wide enough to allow me to eventually replace it for the GTX 750 Ti. At the time, I didn’t know if nVidia was going to release the alternate drivers, so I just had my fingers crossed hoping for the best (thankfully, they did!).

    Curious thing: After turning it on, I noticed something I wouldn’t have possibly thought of. The thing was humming. And I don’t mean a gentle, low hum, no. This was a great disturbance, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and... refused to shut the hell up. The exhaust fan was to blame. Not because the fan itself was loud but because of the internal acoustics of the cube. The exhaust fan was making it act like a bagpipe of sorts. The solution was to turn it around and make it an intake fan instead of an exhaust fan. It still hums a little, but no longer haunts my dreams and torments my soul. And I believe temps are even better with the fan in this position.

    Now, regarding temps. I know some of you will be wondering how hot is this thing, since it’s crammed with so many components. Well, my CPU is idling on 46º, and my drives are around 40º. The mobo is around 53º.

    Hot, I know. But, before you yell at me that my computer is about to burst into flames there’s something you should know: I live in a city so hot, if it were a girl, you’ll chose her over a threesome with Scarlett Johansson and Jen Lawrence. Our average ambient temperature is around 32 degrees celsius. Those temps are but one or two degrees above of what I usually see, even in extremely well ventilated cases (even without any case at all!). In fact, before stuffing my components in the cube I had them in the Antec ISK 310-150 case, and my temps were even higher. That said, the intake fan on top is a necessity. I’ve tested turning it off, and boy, do things get dangerously hot in there.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    There it is, running Yosemite and kicking ass. It looks so cool, I now have to get me a new desk because the one I currently have is is in really bad shape -.-

    Some final words:

    * I bought the Hitachi LG HL CA10N optical drive because it was significantly cheaper than a Sony Optiarc. I regret it. It doesn’t work natively with OS X (it does with Roxio Toast) and it’s loud, loud, loud. If I had the money, I’d change it.

    * I should’ve used a better CPU cooler. The NH-L9i is excellent, and my CPU temps are mmmmacceptable, but I think I could’ve stuffed a Prolimatech Samuel 17 in there, which would’ve been better.

    * I wish I knew more about electronics to add a touch sensor to power it on. It’d be way cooler, but meh, it works fine without it.

    * If you noticed, the internal frame is being held up by two screws that are bolted from the top of the plexiglass case. The screws are visible, and ugly, and Jony Ive would probably murder me if he saw it. I’m thinking on a way to improve the way they look.

    Last but not least, I wanted to mention that this was actually my first case mod. It goes without saying, but I couldn’t have done this without the help of all the previous cube modders. I started standing on the shoulders of giants. So, thank you guys.

    Hope you liked it. Any questions, feel free to ask.
     
    Pierre1203 and JM99 like this.
  2. astrobruin

    astrobruin

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    Oct 24, 2014 at 8:16 PM #2
    astrobruin

    astrobruin

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    This is spectacular. This looks like it took a tremendous amount of time, work, and ingenuity. Very well done - I'm very impressed! And thank you for sharing :)
     
  3. MacTester57

    MacTester57

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    Oct 24, 2014 at 9:18 PM #3
    MacTester57

    MacTester57

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    Different approach, but very well done! :thumbup:

    MacTester
     
  4. rayd

    rayd

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    Oct 25, 2014 at 4:21 AM #4
    rayd

    rayd

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    Nice work mate, love the custom innards.

    Did you retain the standard latch system to pull out the insides?

    Also - which power supply do you use to power your cube and how many watts is it?
     
  5. ersterhernd

    ersterhernd

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    Oct 25, 2014 at 5:40 AM #5
    ersterhernd

    ersterhernd

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    This is a beautiful example of taking a concept to reality. The cardboard model was obviously very well thought out. Your final product is truly unique. Is there any other flat head style bolts you could use in the top to finish it off better?

    Great Job. The cutting of the pieces must've been pricey, whoever did it was obviously very skilled.


    Cheers!
     
  6. rayd

    rayd

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    Oct 25, 2014 at 6:54 AM #6
    rayd

    rayd

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    Ahh just noticed the mounting screws up top - i guess that answers my question about the latch.

    Perhaps swap to a Hex countersunk bolt for the mounting screws for the finishing touch :)

    similar to this, apple used them all over their macs around that era - would look great IMO :D
    Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 4.53.12 pm.png
     
  7. albertodlh

    albertodlh

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    Oct 25, 2014 at 1:27 PM #7
    albertodlh

    albertodlh

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    astrobruin, MacTester57: Thank you for your words. I Hope my cube motivates somebody else to do his own, as yours motivated me. The problem is that now I discovered that case modding is really entertaining, and I want do more! :D

    rayd: yeah, the inner frame is held up by two screws that are bolted from the top of the cube. If you look closely, you’ll notice that there’s actually two nuts in the top face of the frame.

    I’m currently using the picoPSU-160-XT, with a 192w AC-DC Power Adapter. The pico maxes as 200W, that’s why I chose the S version of the i5. Also, “Maxwell” video cards draw little power. 200W doesn’t seem like much, but it’s all working fine.

    esterhernd: The cutting job was a little pricey, but wasn’t as pricey as my first option, which was 3D printing the pieces. Making the conversion to USD, it was around $80.

    I’m going to try and find some flat headed screws to finish the job. Thank you for your suggestions.
     
  8. neilhart

    neilhart Moderator

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    Oct 26, 2014 at 12:45 PM #8
    neilhart

    neilhart Moderator

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    albertodh you have created a truly unique cube. I am greatly impressed with this.

    [​IMG]

    And thank you for sharing your project.

    Good modding,
    neil
     
  9. ersterhernd

    ersterhernd

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    Oct 26, 2014 at 2:12 PM #9
    ersterhernd

    ersterhernd

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    :eek: WOW. Thats not pricey, that's a smokin' deal!
     
  10. albertodlh

    albertodlh

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    Oct 26, 2014 at 5:29 PM #10
    albertodlh

    albertodlh

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    neilhart: Thank you! It might seem like a small silly detail, but my favorite part of the design is actually the way I'm bolting the motherboard to the frame. If you notice, the pegs are actually in front of the board and I'm bolting the screws from the back. I did this to gain some millimeters and push the mobo as far as I could to the back of the cube. Also, the transparent plexiglass frame looks kind of cool.

    ersterhernd: Heh, I had to check in several places, and use all my charm to haggle over the price. In most places the price was around $150-200.
     

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