RepRap Builder

March 2014

Intermezzo: Assembling a Custombuild Desktop Computer


March 2014


No news about the RepRap project for this period. Also I have temporarely postponed the FabScan project, which was another project planned for this winter.

Some time earlier Microsoft had announced that support for their operating system Windows XP would stop starting April 2014. Personally I prefer my Macbook for my private computer work, but for professional use I have to deal with a Windows operated system. Dedicated professional software for my professional activities exists only for Windows, no escape!
Because my current Windows desktop computer dates from 2008 it is still running on Windows XP as I had no reason to update to newer Operating Systems (OS). However, the system is quite slow compared to contemporary desktops and therefore I decided to replace it with a new desktop system, running on a more recent OS. In my opinion it is not a sound decision to expose my clients to safety risks involved with a non supported OS.

Most desktop systems on the market, however, are not  in line with my demands. Ideally, my preference is for a fast starting system with a processor capable of heavy multitasking and an extremely large storage capacity.  Moreover, a backup drive should be incorporated.

For budgetary reasons I decided to 'build'  the new made-to-measure system with my own hands. Building a system is not the correct wording as it is merely a matter of assembling components. A choice was made for a mini-ITX motherboard (mobo) because I have no need for many internal card slots on the mobo and it will be possible to keep the dimensions of the casing modest. Unexpectedly a secondhand casing became available for a low price, a BitFenix Prodigy. This particular
BitFenix Prodigy casing is equipped with three fans, one at the front, one at the back and one at the top.
Image 1 and 2 show the BitFenix Prodigy casing in operation with LED illuminated fans spinning (Images taken at the previous owner of the casing). The LEDs are not my choice but they came for free with the casing. The casing also has a non standard Perspex side panel (image 2) enabling a view on the inner components. This casing layout appears to be a typical choice for gamers, who prefer shiny outfits with stunning light effects. The spinning fan that can be seen in image 2 is the graphics card. In my setup no graphic cards will be installed because I have no use for fast graphics and can work with the graphics processor that is integrated in the Asus mobo.

The shape of the BitFenix Prodigy slightly bears resemblance to the famous Apple Powermac G5 "cheese grater" (image 3) and one of my preferred machines still in use since 2005, though the latter is made of aluminium whereas the BitFenix Prodigy is a steel casing with Fyberflex parts, a fiber structured composite material. The dimensions of the
BitFenix Prodigy are 25x36x40 cm with an internal volume of 36 liters. The weight (empty, i.e. no components installed) is 7 kg.
Image 4 shows a Bitfenix Prodigy for comparison with the cheese grater!

BitFenix Prodigy1
Image 1: Bitfenix Prodigy (front view)
BitFenix Prodigy2
Image 2: Bitfenix Prodigy (side view)

Powermac G5

Image 3: Apple Powermac G5 Image 4: Bitfenix prodigy

An Image of one of the LED fans can be found below:

Image 5: Bitfenix front fan

In the casing I installed an optical disk drive (ODD = CD/DVD burner) because this is imperative for delivery of my  work to clients. The ODD that I had chosen was an Asus DRW-24F1ST, a budget optical drive but fully suitable for my purposes.

The Asus DRW-24F1ST
ODD (image 6) offers Disc Encryption II through password control and hidden file name functionality, which is an extra functionality of importance for my professional activities.

Asus ODD
Image 6: Asus DRW-24F1ST Optical disk drive (Image: Asus)

The BitFenix Prodigy
casing has five cages for disk drives
, which fulfils my requirements for large storage capacity. One cage holds a 2.5" Toshiba solid state drive (SSD) with 128 GB capacity (image 7). The choice for the SSD was made for installing the OS onto it, enabling fast start up of the system.

Toshiba SDD
Image 7: Toshiba 128 GB SSD (image: Toshiba)

In the remaining cages I installed two hard disk drives (HDDs) of each 1 TB capacity and one HDD of 2 TB capacity. The 1 TB HDDs are intended as follows: one for my  business files and the other one for my personal files. The 2 TB HDD is for (automatic) backups. Total storage memory installed is therefore 4.128 TB.

The mobo is an Asus z87i-pro, a top notch mini-ITX mobo. This is a really very small mobo. Its dimensions are 170x170 mm (Images 8 and 9).
Asus mobo1
Image 8: Asus z87i-pro (image: Asus)
Asus mobo2
Image 9: Asus z87i-pro (image: Asus)

The CPU to be installed will be a Quad Core Intel socket LGA 1150 unit, an Intel Haswell i7-4770k (image 10).
This is an unlocked CPU, permitting overclocking, normally operating at 3.5 GHz. and with a thermal design power (TDP) of 95 Watt.

Intel i7-4770k
Image 10: Intel Haswell CPU i7-4770k

RAM memory, a total of 16 GB divided over two DDR3 DIMM slots of each 8 GB, will be of the low profile (LP) type in order to gain space for the CPU cooler, e.g. Corsair Vengeance LP 16GB DDR3-1600 CL10 (image 11).

Corsair 8 GB unit
Image 11: Corsair 8 GB RAM single unit

Cooling of the processor (CPU) will be done with a Zalman GNPS 5X cooler (image 12). This model is capable of cooling processors with a thermal design power (TDP) up to 100 Watt, just sufficient for my i7 Haswell CPU. In the image the copper heat pipes can clearly be seen.
In my opinion it is amazing that an invention by James Watt in the 18th century is still in use in modern computers, though the currently used applications date from patents by NASA in the 1960's.
The Zalman cooler looks quite large and impressive in the image but the total height is only 134 mm.

Zalman cooler
Image 12: Zalman GNPS 5X CPU cooler (Image: Zalman)

The power supply that will be used is a Corsair HX 520W modulair unit (images 13 and 14). For the system this unit is probably a bit overdone in its power capacity rating because a 350W unit would be sufficient, but I had it available resting on a shelf.  The fact that it is a modulair unit is an advantage because unnecessary cables can be left out of the casing, which is not very spacious.

Corsair PSU
Corsair PSU2
Image 13 and 14: Corsair HX 520W modulair power supply unit

Note: This page is still under construction!

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Last Updated on: Mon Nov 10 22:11:28 2014