Ben Whittle’s Uber Computer update – An early Christmas present… for nerds

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Ben had an exciting day a couple of weeks ago as the final parts came into stock. He is now in possession of all of the components which will make up the computer, although before Ben could get all these components installed he had a bit of work to do.

The Legs

Ben has found varnish which closely resembles the finish on the speakers he has chosen, but after having assembled the desk before painting he encountered a slight issue – height.

When sat at the desk Ben found that the base of the desk sat too low and it was uncomfortable to sit at. This presented a bit of a challenge as it meant having to either re-manufacture some new legs or somehow extend them. At this point Ben had an idea he thought might save the existing legs and add quite a nice feature to the desk. Having established that simply extending the desk by making some blocks and sticking them on the end would look a bit… ****, Ben decided to separate the extension pieces with a lighting feature which would look like it was an intentional design feature (And then of course defeating the object by telling you lot about it via this blog).

So Ben set about making the blocks of wood and cutting out some 5mm frosted acrylic which would sit between the blocks and the existing legs. The acrylic will have a hole routed through the middle creating a concealed compartment where Ben could house a short strip of RGB LEDs which will shine through the acrylic.

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The next challenge Ben faced was getting power to the LED strip, this required somehow running 4 wires to the base of each leg. Ben decided to find the smallest wire gauge he had “in stock” and route a small channel down the inside of each leg and drill through at the base to the centre of the base of each leg. Once the wiring was set in the channel, Ben would simply cover over the wires with wood filler, sand down afterward and solder the LED strip to the wires at the end.

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Satisfied with the results, after having spent several hours sanding and filing away bits of excess acrylic Ben started to varnish the legs.

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Having applied three coats of varnish to achieve the desired colour Ben attached the legs to the desk and tested the lighting before wiring it to the RGB controller. Safe to say the result is a success:

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Cable Routing and Testing

With the legs back on it was then time for Ben to start routing the cables and installing components. Having already mounted most of the components such as cooling fans, radiator, motherboard, etc… most of this work was a breeze, simply a case of connecting the cables Ben had previously fabricated and pining them in place to keep things neat. There was one small challenge in providing power to the graphics cards, the cards take power from headers at the top and being quite tall there was a slight concern that the overlapping cables would be too close to the glass.

The original plan was to use cable combs to bind the power cables for both cards together and have then feed them through a duct in the back panel. Having tried for several hours to get the cables to sit the way he wanted and failing Ben decided to try another solution. The empty expansion slots have vented blanking plates to allow the air to flow past the graphics cards and into the rear compartment. Ben decided to cut away part of the vent nearest the 2nd card to allow enough room for the power cables to pass through the unused expansion slot.

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Ben is quite happy with the result, the two separate tracks of power cables look much neater than having them overlap and all pass through the same hole.

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Preparing the Motherboard

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Having completed the wiring and tested the components already fixed to the desk such as fans, UPS, etc… its time for Ben to prepare the motherboard. Ben is using a custom EK waterblock designed specifically for the ASUS Rampage V motherboard he is using. The waterblock not only uses the watercooling system to cool the CPU, but also the motherboards PCH and CPU power delivery components. This will allow for greater overclocking potential and help take heat away from the main compartment creating more clean air for the graphics cards. Of course the motherboard comes pre-fitted with a selection of heatsinks and heat pipes to dissipate the heat from these components, in order to install this waterblock Ben will have to remove all of these factory fitted parts and apply thermal compound and pads to the components on the board. Let the fun begin….

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After installing the CPU and applying the thermal pads and compound to the relevant areas the block is screwed to the board and the memory is installed.

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With the board preparation finished Ben must now assemble the pump for the water cooling system. He has chosen a Laing DDC pump, a proven highly reliable and quiet industrial pump rated at 50,000 hours MTBF. The pump is also PWM controlled meaning the flow rate can be adjusted automatically depending on cooling requirements. In its standard form the pump is surrounded by plastic casing and top, Ben has chosen to upgrade the pump using EK aluminium parts offering superior flow and heat dissipation.

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Filling and Testing the Cooling System

With all of the components now mounted, cabling and tubing in place it is now time for Ben to fill the watercooling system with coolant, purge the system of air bubbles and test for any serious issues (in other words, leaks).

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Getting rid

of the air bubbles in a new watercooling setup is a surprisingly difficult, time consuming task. The pump will only move water, so as soon as an airlock hits the pump there is no pressure to push the water round the system. This meant that Ben had to fill the reservoir then suck the air bubbles through the tube at the other end of the loop, during this “activity” he found the coolant doesn’t taste so good. On the bright side, despite the EK coolant he is using containing anti-corrosion additives, scale inhibitors and biological growth inhibitors, it’s non-toxic.

Happy that the system is now free of air Ben leaves the pump running overnight with the rest of the system powered down, thankfully it passes the test with no flying colours.

It’s Alive

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It is always a nervous moment for system builders firing up their rig for the first time. Ben has built a few PCs in his time but never anything which has involved quite as much time, effort, planning and money as this, safe to say he had his fingers crossed when he pressed that button.

After a couple of minutes of uncertainty, he was very relieved to be greeted with the “No bootable OS” message. The only time anybody is ever actually happy to see those words appear on their screen.

There is still a bit of work to do, the rear connection panel still needs to be designed and made and the painting still needs to be completed and placed in the right hand compartment, but the system is now up and running. Ben has applied some basic overclocking settings, configured cooling, RAID sets, installed the OS and run a couple of benchmarks. There is still some more configuration to be done before the system is running at peak performance but to give you all a small taste of what it is capable of:

Installed Windows 10 in 7 minutes.

Installed Server 2012 R2 in a VM in under 5 minutes!

Using the 3DMark FireStrike benchmark the system scored over 28000 points, which at the time of testing put this system in the top 250 most powerful machines tested with the benchmark worldwide. It currently is, and will likely remain for another year, in the top 1 %.

In the next update Ben will have refined the overclocking profiles and cooling setting and will be providing more detailed figures and full specifications. Stay tuned and thanks for reading.

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