Shuttle SDXi Barebones System

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Shuttle XPC SDXi: VGA Water Cooling

The Shuttle XPC SDXi Barebones
Up Close - VGA Water Cooling by CooIT

As we alluded to earlier, the SDXi Barebones kit is also equipped with a custom VGA watercooling setup. This particular unit is a MTEC System by CoolIT and is designed for use with Radeon based products.  The formal specifications on the MTEC unit is unclear, however, the full SDXi System comes with dual Radeon X1950 Pros, so we opted to see how the water cooling unit matched up to our ASUS X1950 Pro.  Before doing so, however, let's review the basics of the unit.

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The block assembly is mounted up high, at the rear of the drive cage and ventilates out of the top of the case.  The unit is equipped with two fans that draw air across the finned block, exhausting the warm air out of the top of the case.  The two VGA waterblocks are connected in series with each other and we should also note that the water cooling is not very quiet.  The MTEC allows two cards to be installed together in a very tight space where the card's stock air coolers would make this impossible.

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Once we removed the heat sink from our ASUS Radeon X1950 Pro, it became immediately evident that the VGA cooler would not work with our card.  The way our card was designed, the rear X shaped backplate is thinner, to prevent contact with components on the rear of the PCB.  With the backplate of the CoolIT MTEC system, the wider design hits several small components on the upper left, making it impossible to use.  We thought it might be possible to utilize the stock backplate that came with this particular card, but the threaded stand-offs are a part of the main heat sink body, meaning the screws are threaded into the sink from the rear of the PCB.  With the CoolIt MTEC system, the screws tie into the backplate, which is completely opposite.  So, those looking to consider this barebones kit will need to make sure it will work with their make and model graphics card.  Their is a hardware compatability list available online, however, it appears to be official support for hardware to work with the motherboard, not specifically the MTEC water cooling kit.  So, a fair amount of homework will need to be done to ensure there will be no issues with your particular hardware.  After testing this out, it's clear that choices may be limited with the MTEC's current design.  A seemingly simple solution to added compatibility would be to create a thinner back plate as seen with the ASUS air cooled design.  By thinning the frame, we think the MTEC kit might be able to support a few more models and avoid the issues we encountered with our X1950 Pro.


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