ASUS Xtreme Design Contest: Stage 2 build - zads

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zads Posted: Mon, Nov 30 2009 12:24 AM

The contest and the components

Earlier this month, ASUS Computer created a contest called “ASUS Xtreme Design”,

calling on computer enthusiasts to showcase their concepts on what kind of unique systems they could imagine and build,

leveraging ASUS main components and their accompanying technologies to their advantage.

20 winners were chosen from phase 1 (concept phase).

I was chosen as one of the 20 winners of the concept phase.

 

Now begins phase 2 (build phase) of the contest,

where the other 19 winners and I are building their systems with the components provided by ASUS and the other contest sponsors,

this is to thank and showcase the contest sponsors:

 

ASUS, First and foremost, for putting on the contest:

 

ASUS P7P55D Premium motherboard-

A very sexy looking motherboard (MOSFET heatsinks look awesome),

including full speed SATA 6Gbps ports, 32 phase CPU power design (!),

Fan Xpert (motherboard fan control, 1xPWM, 2x voltage control),

integrated ExpressSSD for internet access almost instantly/without booting to Windows,

hybrid power management, autotune overclocking , external overclocking remote.

 

ASUS Nvidia GTX260 GL+ (55nm Core 216) video card-

This card uses a GTX275 PCB, newer 55nm GPU fabrication process, and non-reference “copper core” fan.

I will be swapping out the included HSF for a full cover water block, detailed later.

 

Intel Core i7-860 CPU-

Latest LGA 1156 socket, Hyperthreading for more CPU efficiency in many programs,

more turbo boost and less power consumption than the Core i7-900 series.

Comes with a woefully inadequate fan in retail boxed version

(picture compares E8xxx Core 2 Duo to Core i7-860 HSF)..

I do like the smaller/less bulky retail box though, seems more efficient, even in packaging ;).

Stock HSF will be replaced with a water block for better cooling performance under overclocking conditions,

as well as more freedom in system packaging (no tall “tower” air HSF to deal with.

 

G.Skill 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3-2133-

Since LGA 1156 only supports dual channel DDR3 memory, (LGA 1366 supports triple channel),

the 2133Mhz transfer speed will provide plenty of memory bandwidth to feed data to the hungry 8-threaded CPU with Intel turbo boost.

This memory kit comes with some nice looking heatspreaders and a dedicated fan to cool the memory.

I won’t be utilizing the fan for a couple reasons- I don’t think DDR3 gets hot enough to require both a fan and a heatspreader,

I will have enough case airflow blasting the memory to keep it cool enough anyways, and my case design is already fairly limited on internal volume.

 

Samsung 128GB SSD-

 Extreme disk access speed, both in sequential throughput and random accesses.

Faster boot times, faster game and program load times, but trade off in total storage space.

In the computer storage hierarchy, it is in between DRAM and magnetic disk platter (HDD);

SSD access is faster than HDD, but more expensive per GB than HD...

DRAM is even faster access than SSD, but more expensive per GB than SSD. 

I will include some other SSDs or possibly a HDD in my system for more mass storage space.

 

Antec Quattro 850W Power supply –

<PSU pic>

850watts, 80+ bronze efficiency rating, nice looking black and yellow “race car” stripes/number paint design,

modular cables to reduce clutter and thereby improve airflow (essential for a small case design as mine).

What’s not to like?

This PSU only has an 80mm cooling fan on the rear, and intake ports on the front,

unlike many power supplies that now have a 120+mm fan on the bottom of the PSU and vents on the rear.

This could be a good or bad thing for your case airflow, depending on how yours is designed.

Note that the smaller fan is not an indicator of less power, but rather greater efficiency.

A large portion of the PSU interior is taken up by a massive heatsink to cool the interior components.

Because of this large heatsink, this PSU is also notably longer than a standard ATX power supply,

so be aware of the extra length clearance required, if you are considering it for your build.

Razer Lycosa Keyboard and mouse-

For the gaming community we have an 1800 dpi mouse, and a nice keyboard to match.

Keyboard has some tack to the keys, to help your fingers “grip” the keys and not slide around on the key surface.

Keyboard has short throw keys like a laptop keyboard, but the action feels very precise.

Keyboard also includes USB port and audio connectors on the back side of the keyboard, a nice convenience if your case is sitting on the floor or more than arm’s reach away from you.

Mouse is very accurate and has the same “tack” feel as the keyboard.

Lots of black.

 

 

UPDATE: Monday 11/23/2009

The parts arrive! The 30 day build timeline has started!

Here is a summary of my design concept:

My design concept is to build a small form factor gaming system for use in a Home theater environment, to maximize portability and minimize wasted space, without giving up expansion or upgrade options.

Here were my design requirements:

1.       Keep components cool and system stable 24/7/365, even while overclocking.

2.       Keep the whole system quiet, to allow for use in a home theater-type environment.

3.       Design to allow future upgradability.

4.       Minimize wasted space. I don’t need 5x DVD-ROMs, 8x 3.5” HDD, etc,. Plus a massive “box” wouldn’t look good next to modern consumer electronics- LCD or Plasma TV, Home theater surround sound amplifier, etc,.

a

Here is my concept design, dimensions are: 400mm x 319mm x 146mm

Using 3/16” thickness acrylic for all walls.

Watercooling for CPU and GPU in a single loop with 240mm radiator.

PSU mounting above CPU area, since this is a water cooling-only case, I don’t need any clearance for HSF.

This does require 90 degree elbow fittings into and out of the CPU water block, though.

 

 

UPDATE: 12/03/2009 Another system build primary sponsor!

http://hothardware.com/cs/forums/p/45771/342569.aspx#342569

 

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zads replied on Thu, Dec 3 2009 3:25 PM

UPDATE: 12/02/2009; Another primary sponsor!

 

Got this package in the mail last night:

:yepp::yepp::yepp:

I am proud to announce that Swiftech "Manufacturer of the world's best active coolers",

has signed on as a primary sponsor for my project!

 

 

 

Here are some more parts they have provided, starting with the ultimate in performance CPU water blocks on the market today!!

 

Unveiled only two months ago, the Swiftech Apogee XT has set a new standard in water cooling CPU block performance.

(see this independent review for more information)

Comes with 2 1/2" ID chrome barb fittings, reusable hose clamps, multiple CPU brackets (LGA 1156, LGA 1366), an unlabeled TIM (heatsink thermal grease).

It also has a nice "X" shape to it, for Xtreme design competition build ;)

And damn.. it just looks absolutely dead sexy all by itself!!!  Cool

 

Uses spring loaded screws and a stiff stamped metal back plate.

 

The black, silver, and pewter color of the block goes well with most any system/motherboard color scheme, very classy.

No clearance issues anywhere.

 

Now to put some cold water on that power hungry and hot GT200b GPU in the ASUS GTX260 GL+ (core 216),

we have the Komodo series GTX275-P897 full cover GPU waterblock.

Since the GTX260 (55nm "Core 216") often shares the same PCB as the GTX275,

This block will fit the GTX260 55nm, assuming the video card manufacturer uses the NVIDIA reference PCB design for GTX275,

labeled "P897" on the back (and not one of the video card company's own PCB designs).

More black and chrome sexiness!  Cool

 

Comes with the 1/2" and 3/8" chrome plated barb fittings (two of each size!), reusable hose clamps, the same unlabeled TIM as the CPU block.

 

Preapplied thermal tape pads (dark gray strips) for the critical components, a nice touch..

Some other GPU blocks require you to cut and place your own thermal pads and stick them on the block manually.

Swiftech has done this already for you.

 

ASUS has used a slightly modified version of the NVIDIA reference PCB on the ASUS GTX260 GL+, so I will have to use a mill to take some material out for component clearances.

You can bet I'm gonna be measuring 20x for every little mill cut :p:

..I can detail this later if anyone has interest,

basically its the caps around the voltage regulators on the right side of the PCB and the caps on the upper left of the PCB.

 

 

Next up, the high performance MCP350 12VDC pump.

Since I am working in a limited space, I need a low profile/small footprint, high performance pump.

The MCP350 will provide high pump pressure to maximize liquid flow through my tubing and cooling blocks, while keeping a very low profile and minimal noise.

The pump comes with a molex connector for power from your power supply,

as well as a 3-pin fan header (with the single blue wire) to connect to your motherboard or fan controller.

This allows your to monitor your pump to make sure it is functioning properly,

or sound an alert/alarm if it is not spinning.

Swiftech also has a higher performance version, the MCP355.

 

 

Next we have the MCR220 QP "Quiet Power" Radiator.

4x 120mm fan locations, nice built in plenum for better fan performance.

Bang for your buck, there isn't much better than this series of radiators.

They also have a stackable version and a integrated reservoir version.

 

Last but not least, we have the MCRES Micro Rev2 micro reservoir.

Again, since size being a big issue for my build, this fits my build perfectly. Thin small footprint can be mounted in various fashions, with 3 ports of the bottom to allow for various inlet/outlet configurations, and another port on the top for a fill/vent to the reservoir.

Comes with multiple mounting brackets and screws for mounting however you want it (and sticky back velcro for temporary mounting options), 4 black plastic barb fittings (3/8" and 1/2" ID tubing), reusable hose clamps, even includes spare o-rings.

 Cool

So that's it for the shiny parts pictures, time for the real build!

Many thanks to Gabe and Michelle at Swiftech, they are a quality company with great customer service.

 

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zads replied on Sat, Dec 19 2009 6:03 PM

So here's my bench testing setup.
Since my last update I have added:


  • 6 x 128GB SSDs in RAID-0 using the onboard 6x SATA 3.0Gbps ports (bottom right corner.. like the rubber bands? lol :up:)
  • 1x EK V2 acrylic pump top to the MCP350 to provide better pump performance (and some acrylic 'bling'),
  • 4x 120mm Yate Loon D12SL-12 White LED fans from PetrasTechShop.com,
  • 3/8" ID 1/2" OD Tygon tubing,
  • Koolance Compression fittings.




The ASUS P7P55D Premium motherboard has 32 phases of voltage regulator circuitry (VRMs) power to the CPU
(the more phases, the more stable the overclock voltage will be).
ASUS also includes a feature on this motherboard called T.Probe,
which monitors the temperature of each VRM, and then adjusts the VRM loading to balance out their temperatures.
This ensures that no single VRM will fail prematurely to the other ones, very nice! (picture taken from another source)


I found that on the high power overclocking passes, the VRM heatpipe heatsink
(the blue heatpipe heatsink on the top and left o the CPU),
was passing 85 deg C...
this temperature is still within safe levels, but I decided to just stick a fan on there to keep the temps down anyway.

I had the tiny blue LED fan (pretty quiet) off the G.Skill memory kit that I wasn't using, so I just stuck it on the VRM heatsink, just to the left of the CPU.
+1 bling agility skill.
Result: 37 deg C max. :cool:



I started overclocking by using the ASUS Hybrid Design features.
The ASUS P7P55D Premium can team up with the ASUS TurboV EVO software, which has a couple great features on it.
You can adjust all  of these settings from Windows, allowing you to boot up with a known-stable BIOS configuration setting,
and then overclock and test for stability while in Windows.
Gone are the days of changing settings in BIOS, rebooting, waiting for OS to boot up (hoping it doesn't crash), testing, restarting, then repeat cycle all over again.
Here is a screenshot of the TurboV EVO software (screenshot taken from PureOC):


Adjustable parameters:  
Bclk (base clock), vCPU (CPU voltage), vIMC (integrated memory controller voltage), vDRAM (DRAM voltage);
CPU PLL (CPU clock generator voltage), PCH (peripheral controller hub voltage), CH A/B DATA/CTRL thresholds (advanced data settings).
You can change these settings quite drastically, which is quite empowering.
200 Mhz Bclk is only about half of the maximum setting on this software (!)


The ASUS TurboV EVO software also has an AutoTune feature.
This automatically raises your Bclk incrementally,
and then tests your system for stability after each increase.
Very cool feature to obtain a quick and easy overclock setting,
especially if you're new to overclocking and intimidated by all the settings.


I also found that the settings of "Auto" in BIOS are much better on this ASUS board than most.
For instance, it would automatically bump the CPU voltage in response to overclock changes I made, settling in around 1.36 Vcore.



So the results of my CPU overclocking are:
(I consider IntelBurnTest a great program to test CPU stability, much faster to find errors than Prime95)

Using ASUS BIOS OC Tuner feature (takes 20 seconds..!):

3.59 Ghz! (19 x 189 Bclk)
@ 1.35 vCore (set to AUTO), 1.38 vIMC (set to AUTO).
Hyperthreading and Turbo boost ON,
All power saving features ON.

Maximum CPU speed:
4.4 Ghz  (22 x 200 Bclk)
@ 1.45 vCore (manual, Fixed), 1.38 vIMC (manual)
Hyperthreading and Turbo boost OFF,
All power saving features OFF.
Temperatures maxed out around 88-89 deg C (Thanks again to my awesome watercooling sponsor SWIFTECH!!!)

Optimum CPU setting:
4.0 Ghz (20 x 200 Bclk)
@ 1.375 vCore (manual, Fixed), 1.38 vIMC (manual)
Hyperthreading ON and Turbo boost OFF,
All power saving features ON.
Temperatures maxed out around 72-73 deg C (Thanks again to my awesome watercooling sponsor SWIFTECH!!!)

Note: my personal 'optimum' is defined by:
-Need to have power saving features on (efficiency matters to me)
-Need a large buffer to Tj.max, since I eventually will cool a GPU in this loop as well

 

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zads replied on Tue, Dec 22 2009 8:54 PM

ASUS P7P55D Premium breaks through 650 MB/sec read speeds!


:cool:

Thanks to the exclusive ASUS P7P55D Premium motherboard's onboard 6Gbps controller and an onboard RAID setup,
the World's first SATA 6Gb/s motherboard,

my Xtreme Design system has broken through 650 MB/sec read speeds, as measured in ATTO Disk Benchmark.
Note that this is achieved without use of external RAID controllers, only the onboard controller.

 

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zads replied on Wed, Dec 23 2009 9:41 PM

Thanks to the exclusive ASUS Hybrid Processor technology,
I was able to overclock the system to a very stable and strong overclock @ 4.0 GHz,
while keeping my system very cool under load and at idle.

The ASUS Hybrid Phase technology keeps the power consumption down at idle,
and provides a very stable vCore for the CPU voltage level,
resulting in an awesomely stable overclock at lower voltage than required on other boards.

The ASUS EPU6 Software undervolts the CPU and reduces its speed automatically at idle,
reducing idle temperatures and power consumption even more than any other solution!

This screenshot shows the system running full tilt,
with the system running CPU @ 4Ghz, GPU @ 750Mhz,
stressed processor and GPU with Prime95 (8 threads, hyperthreading enabled),
and Furmark for GPU stress.
23 deg C ambient temperature.
After 45 minutes:

CPU stays solid at a safe 80 deg C,
while the GPU stays at a relatively chilly 54 deg C.
Thanks to ASUS and my water cooling sponsor SWIFTECH,
for their absolutely outstanding and efficient products!


Here is another screenshot of temperatures, after idling for 30 mintues or so:

GPU is around 33 deg C, and the CPU cores are at average 23.5 deg C (!!!!)
It's astounding what the great SWIFTECH watercooling components,
combined with ASUS Hybrid Phase and ASUS EPU-6 hardware/software,
will do to cut the idle power consumption and idle temperatures.
Again, I can say enough:
Thanks to ASUS and my water cooling sponsor SWIFTECH,
for their absolutely outstanding and efficient products!

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zads replied on Fri, Dec 25 2009 1:07 AM

After a last minute push, it is finished! :D
I will call it: "White dwarf"
A star that has blown off its outer excess mass, leaving only a very dense white-blue colored core.
Likewise, my case design is devoid of all the bulk of regular computer cases,
only leaving behind the dense powerful components packaged into a small volume,
but with sufficient cooling to prevent it from going "supernova".  ;)
Quiet white LED fans gently let its presence be known.

I didn't have time before the deadline to apply some vinyl or paint as I would have liked,
but I did get the case finished to showcase my design concept and all of the components.
If I make it to the next stage, I will definitely add the vinyl for my primary sponsors.

Here is the case as it sits under the HDTV now,
the front fans are 120mm fans, so you can see how small of a profile this computer is.
Remember this system crams in a:
ASUS P7P55 Premium ATX motherboard;
ASUS GTX 260 GL+ video card (~11" long);
Antec Quattro 850W ATX power supply;
Swiftech complete watercooling system
(XT CPU block, Komodo GPU Full cover block, MCR220 240mm Radiator with 4x 120mm fans in push-pull configuration, MCP350 pump with EK acrylic top, and MCRES reservoir),
8x 128GB 2.5" SSD drives (one sponsored from Samsung):


No need for any external buttons!-
The ASUS TurboV Remote hanging on the upper right corner of the case can:
Power on the computer,
Choose one of three user-selectable overclocking presets (or underclocking for power savings),
Adjust Bclk (bus speed/base clock frequency),
and choose EPU mode (for power savings or maximum power for overclock)



3/4 view sitting on my desk/test area:

I'm not sure why the LED fans turned out Blue in this picture (maybe white balance?),
they are actually 120mm white LED fans..



Top view of the packaging of the components:



Top view of the relative size/scale of the case,
with your typical size magazine on top of the case-



Side view of the relative size/scale of the case,
with your typical 5.25" Bay DVD-ROM drive in front of the case-



This picture shows how tight the actual packaging is in some places,
here is a shot of (left to right)
MCP350 water cooling pump,
the G.Skill DDR3-2133 memory & sockets,
850W PSU,
ASUS Blue and Chrome CPU VRM heatsinks,
and the G.Skill 40mm memory kit LED fan that I moved to be on top of the VRM heatsinks to keep them cool.
The tube going from left to right feeds directly into the Swiftech Apogee XT CPU waterblock.

I'm actually kind of disappointed that you can't see the Swiftech Apogee XT block, that thing is dead sexy looking.
But at least you can still see the nice blue and chrome ASUS VRM heatsinks on the P7P55D Premium motherboard.
The PSU fits so tight on there, it actually sits on top of the 90 degree compression fittings coming out of the CPU water block.


Its a bit hard to see in the previous picture, but look where the modular cables come out, and look at the G.Skill heatsinks.
A bit of interference there, since the G.Skill heatsinks are kind of tall...



So yeah, had to do some "modifications" to be able to use some of those PSU modular connectors.

It fits as shown...
but I actually ended up just cutting those extra fins off, although I don't have a picture of that.


Some pictures of the acrylic case during fabrication,
here is gluing the sides onto the front faceplate/radiator intake fan area:

I used liquid Acrylic cement, which is actually a solvent that melts and fuses the acrylic pieces together.
This cement makes for joints that are as strong as the base material,
but you do need to make sure your edges fit together without very large gaps.
Thanks to the guys at TAP plastics for giving me some pointers on acrylic  fabrication.


Cementing the rear plate (sitting on the floor) onto the rest of the pieces,
note the cutouts for the I/O panel, expansion cards, and PSU exhaust fan, power cord, and power switch.

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zads replied on Sun, Dec 27 2009 4:49 PM

Added a little summary/running video of it in action:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SB2YDt2kdqo
Enjoy!

I sure hope I get chosen as a winner for stage 2!
I think I already know what those stage 2 prizes will be ;)

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I would love to see more pics of the inside if you could... especially around the PSU area... thx

"Never trust a computer you can't throw out a window."

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Patriot Pyro 128gb SSD

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zads replied on Thu, Dec 31 2009 3:19 PM

Paint:
Added some gloss black spray paint for the front face area (which you will see in a Home theater environment),
pardon the tape still on there that's being used for masking...
looks like reflective 'piano black':

Her you can see the effect of putting gloss paint behind acrylic (painting the inside):
Notice how the paint in the foreground is glossy piano black,
in the background you can see the actual gloss black paint on the inside isn't as glossy,
but the clear acrylic adds a ton of depth and gloss to some cheapo Pep Boys automotive spray paint:


Wire management
Before
This system has 8x 128GB SSDs in it, so the power and signal cabling can get kind of out of hand-
the Antec stock SATA modular connectors used 3x cables and power connectors on the PSU to feed all 8 SSD drives:

After
Added some badly needed wire management;
Swapped the longer SATA cables (maybe 18" long) for some short 8" SATA cables,
Created a single modular PSU connector from the Antec modular connectors,
feeds 8 SATA power connectors that are perfectly spaced so that they actually hold the SSDs together without any wire slack between them:

Front face look after painting:
I put a piece of paper in front of the fans to mask the LED fans,
simulating (light-wise) how it will look after I put the black mesh foam filter in there;
It should have a back glow behind the filter, as well as some light seepage around the clear edges out of the bottom and top of the case.
It will keep the case from being too bright in your face,
while letting you know there's something powerful lurking in there:

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zads replied on Thu, Dec 31 2009 3:20 PM

I did some idle power consumption tests using the ASUS Softwares,
using the Kill-a-watt power consumption meter (measures at the plug)

Baseline power consumption:
143 Watts

After adding EPU-6
(reduces Bclk and CPU voltage slightly more than Intel Speedstep):
137 Watts

After turning T.Probe to power savings mode
(uses 8 VRMs/voltage regulators under idle conditions, 32 VRMs under full load conditions):
133 Watts

After installing Smart Doctor v5.49, allows EPU-6 to control the video card power as well:
130 Watts

That's about a 9% decrease in idle power consumption,
just from ASUS software tuning using the Xtreme Hybrid Design technologies.

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zads replied on Thu, Dec 31 2009 3:54 PM

So I come home tonight and I find out that I have gone and done it!

The White Dwarf case design has taken top honors for the ASUS Xtreme Design competition!!

This means that I have won a trip to CES 2010 in Las Vegas,
and my system will be showcased at the ASUS booth at CES.

Great job to all of the other entrants on making some great designs.

After I heard the news last night, I was so excited that I stayed up until 5am working on the case again!
Here's the changes I made:
Reroute the water cooling loop,
Clean up some of the cables/wires,
Add some charcoal colored aluminum mesh filter material to the front intake port,
Polish some minor scratches out of the acrylic.


Here's some more pictures of the White Dwarf system:

These pictures are all taken with the lid on, showing how optically clear acrylic can be:

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zads replied on Fri, Jan 1 2010 5:14 AM

Using the ASUS P7P55D Premium motherboard with SATA/6Gbps technology,
I setup the system using 6 or 7 SSDs in RAID-0.
Not including the faster Samsung SSD, which is being utilized on one of the SATA/6Gbps ports as a boot/OS drive.
The system has surpassed 700 MB/sec in disk reads and 500 MB/sec in disk writes (albeit in slightly different setup/configuration).

Asymmetrical/Software RAID:


Onboard Hardware RAID:

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eunoia replied on Sun, Jan 3 2010 11:41 PM

...pending.

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