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9VARZ
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9VARZ's 2010 P55 Mini-ITX Workstation Build! "Genesis" 9VARZ Feb 22nd, 10, 08:12 PM #1

This thread will follow the progress of my only complete PC build for 2010 from concept to realization. Due to the way the project is funded (as well as other logistical issues to resolve in-between), this build is expected to be one of the slowest PC-workstation builds seen on any tech forums that does not involve a scratch-built case or custom water-cooling - spanning from early January 2010 (when the need for a high-spec PC was established) to its eventual deployment in September 2010.

Even so, I will be expecting constant updates to the system with a major overhaul sometime before Christmas of next year for at least the board and CPU just to keep it updated as well as to improve on the IO connectivity options which the components of today's technology currently lack.

So it's very likely this thread will stay continually updated from time to time up till the Christmas of 2011! Stay tuned if you're egged!


Revision/Progress Log
Early Jan 2010 - Early conceptualisation and compute requirements established.
Late Jan 2010 - Rough budgeting complete, project approval sought
6 Feb 2010 - Project approved in principle
Late Jan to mid-Feb 2010 - seeking quotations for parts and availability for TCO assessment
22 Feb 2010 - Project Log set up
23 Feb 2010 - Updated revision to present spec level (PSU), status log
March 2010 - Sidetracked to look at audio components, sought approval for use of rapid prototyping machine
10 March 2010 - Project title changed to "Genesis" from "Estoc S"
10 March 2010 - In principle approval achieved for the use of a rapid prototyping machine (material type: ABS, method: FDM)
12 March 2010 - Eliminated Tower-type air coolers/heatsink
24 March 2010 - Project put on hold in lieu of Computex Taipei

Current status of the project:
PROJECT STOPPED. PENDING FURTHER REVIEW FOR FEASIBILITY OF IMPLEMENTATION.



Views expressed are my own.

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Last edited by 9VARZ; Mar 27th, 10 at 05:25 AM..
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Preamble/Project Objectives 9VARZ Feb 22nd, 10, 08:12 PM #2
Some of you might have followed another thread in the hardware arena and realised that I have already had some ideas conceptualised on a Mini-ITX build sometime this year, on which the basis of this build will manifest itself upon.

To expand on that, a need was identified early this year in January that a high-end system would be required to enable me to carry out some engineering-based research at a personal level which will mainly see application in aeronautics - in particular, finite element analysis, multidisciplinary design optimisation and computational fluid dynamics. There will also be some development of openCL/CUDA-based flow codes which I intend to validate on the Fermi architecture when it eventually gets released.

A quick rehash on what has been identified so far as the compute requirements for this system:

Application/Problem Area
  • Dual-monitor 3D output for engineering CAD/CAE use. Occasional photographic manipulation for print.
  • Large spreadsheets, 2D charts, MATLAB, Maple, Ansys, 3DS CATIA (Simulia), FLUENT/GAMBIT, openFOAM.
  • CUDA programming and development of numerical models (solving of PDE).
  • Linux + Win 7 Professional (Dual/Triple-Boot + VM).
  • Small form factor.

N.B.: Some of the charting software as well as stock MATLAB are not designed to run natively in a multi-core, multi-threaded environment, although there are add-on APIs for that purpose. MATLAB also has a CUDA-based API which allows a limited degree of compute parallelisation using suitable Nvidia cards, although it remains to be seen/validated on the DP accuracy of those models.

Thus, it can be said that the compute requirements (in addition to it being used as a "normal" internet-access, word-processing terminal) for this system would be somewhere between the range of medium-high to very high (the latter especially for long validation runs of flow codes that are still unable to resolve in real-time).
Views expressed are my own.

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Last edited by 9VARZ; Feb 24th, 10 at 12:05 AM..
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Initial System Requirements, Budget 9VARZ Feb 22nd, 10, 08:12 PM #3
When this project first started, I set myself some very broad requirements which I later narrowed down to a few specifics that I wanted to have so as not to make too many compromises. It initially ran along the following lines:

Chipset: Intel P55/H55/H57
Motherboard: mini-ITX board based on the above chipset that would support a Core-i7 processor
CPU: Intel Core i7 8xx
Memory: 2x4GB DDR3 PC3-10666 CL7 matched pair rams
HDD: WDC Velociraptor 300GB (WD3000HLFS) (hot-swap ready)
Case: SFF case with a maximum of 240mm depth and 140mm maximum height
PSU: 300W SFX PSU (or compatible PSU with casing)
ODD: Blu-ray Writer
GPU: Nvidia Quadro FX
DISP0: 24", 10-bit panel, 1920 x 1200
DISP1: 20", VA panel, 1600 x 1200
Keyboard: Mechanical keyboard - undecided
Mouse: Logitech Performance MX
CAD manipulator: 3D Conexxion SpacePilot

All of that had to squeeze into a rather tight SGD$6000 budget, with some of the parts possibly being acquired in both UK and Singapore before its eventual deployment in the UK.
Views expressed are my own.

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Last edited by 9VARZ; Feb 22nd, 10 at 10:11 PM..
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Engineering Challenges + Possible Solutions/Workarounds 9VARZ Feb 22nd, 10, 08:13 PM #4
Designing a system around such parameters has a number of significant drawbacks.

Firstly, there is the issue of heat.

While I can safely say I would be utilising this system mainly in the colder months of the year (where the ambient temperatures in my room average around 18 to 25 degrees Celsius), heat is still definitely going to be one of the key issues in contention here, especially with the relative confines of the small form factor case we're dealing with here.

Secondly, power management foibles are always something one gets when dealing with mini-ITX based systems. You can't afford to have a high-octane processor under the hood, your choice of graphics has to remain within the constraints of the tiny SFX PSU, the efficiency of your design may not be up to par, etc., etc.

In fact, if it were up to me, I would just go ahead and generalise that all mini-ITX systems have their Achilles' heel in heat/thermal and power management. In most cases, massive compromises have to be made in order to ensure the smooth running of such a system. Case in point: The most stable mini-ITX systems thus far are embedded Atom builds which are used mainly in HTPC and router configurations. The mere mention of that processor family would already put off three-quarters of the enthusiast crowd for obvious reasons.

Thirdly, and perhaps no less important than the first two, this system still bases itself on technology which were available since Q4 of 2009 and have yet to adopt any emerging technology that are slowly becoming mainstream (SATA3 and USB3). The architecture and the cost of the components used has to be scalable enough to meet this future need (the bare minimum to be able to sell off parts of the components if need be). Even so, I'm running a very high risk of obsolescence of the technology onboard here.

Finally, any noise resonating in a small form factor rig becomes very amplified (which is why laptops can be perceptively louder than their desktop counterparts, even though the measured sounds may be the same or less). Any instance of NVH has to be counter-acted with an aggressive use of damping, which in turn further complicates heat issues.

Arguably, all of these problems can be solved relatively easily if a custom/desktop chassis is made/used to house a micro-ATX motherboard on the desktop or routing cables down to the floor to a full tower get-go. However, it is noteworthy that micro-ATX boards are relatively bulky span-wise (as I'm working within a 1200mm x 700mm envelope for my desk space, which I have to prioritise for other uses such as books and papers as well) and floor space is a massive premium for my application.

Thus, I intend to counter the heat and power issue by thinking vertically a bit and going with a slightly roomier case and rejecting the stock power supply. Instead, a new case was selected (first by visual guess-timation) that might allow the use of a full height cooler within the case. That would allow me the off-chance to use an early version of the venerable Thermalright 120 extreme (TRUE) (subject to fitting tolerances, again) that I have lying around at home which I've not even got it out from its packaging yet.

As for power, a highly efficient ATX power supply would be used in its place and its cables would be bundled and routed externally into the case via the rear mounting vent of the case. The issue of dust with that solution would mean that a positive pressure exhaust diffuser/port is required to be fitted in place of the PSU mount (as dust filters used for exhaust fans strongly resist the flow patterns and results in a substantial increase in noise).

With these measures in place, I hope the problems with heat and power would be significantly mitigated.
Views expressed are my own.

WTS: Garage sales!! Pre-loved items sold for cheap!!


URGENT DOSE OF VITAMIN M REQUIRED.
Can you help?
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Last edited by 9VARZ; Feb 23rd, 10 at 10:47 PM..
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blackdra19 Feb 22nd, 10, 08:14 PM #5
i'll be camping.
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9VARZ
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9VARZ Feb 22nd, 10, 09:40 PM #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by blackdra19 View Post
i'll be camping.
Thanks, mate. This one is going to take a long time to finish, though. So take your time to read. Enjoy!
Views expressed are my own.

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9VARZ
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W01-INP55C "GENESIS" Mod 0. 9VARZ Feb 22nd, 10, 09:55 PM #7
With the above considerations in place, the present iteration of the hardware is as such. Do note that the specs chosen for this system have not been frozen as yet. I intend to constantly update this list until about late June or mid-July.



Motherboard: DFI Lanparty MI P55-T36
CPU: Intel Core i7 860 (SLBJJ) OR Xeon X3460 (SLBJK)
HSF: TRUE120 (early version) with LGA1156 bolt-thru kit OR Danamics LMX Superleggera with PowerBooster 2
Memory: Mushkin 996798 - 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 PC3-12800 7-9-8-24 Blackline (or any similar spec kit ram with ECC if it can be used on the board with SLBJK)
HDD: WDC Velociraptor 300GB (WD3000HLFS) (in hot-swap bay 0)
Case: CFI Group CFI-A9849 mini-ITX case (see pic)
PSU: Seasonic M12II 520W ATX PSU (Smallest available in SLS. S12II-430 is more expensive than the 520 modular, because it's only available in the UK.)
ODD: Pioneer Blu-ray Writer 12x/8x/16x (BDR-205BK)
GPU: 768MB PNY Quadro FX1800 PCI-E 2.0 (x16), 192Bit GDDR3, 2x Display Port/Dual Link DVI
DISP0: Eizo FlexScan S2433W (24", VA+Overdrive, 30-bit colour)
DISP1: (undecided for the moment, might use a second Eizo S2433W or go for a dual NEC-IPS setup if the budget allows)
Colour Calibration Device: DataColor Spyder3Pro
Keyboard: Mechanical keyboard - undecided, I'll want to have a hands-on first before deciding
Mouse: Logitech Performance MX
Sensory Controller: 3D Conexxion SpacePilot
Views expressed are my own.

WTS: Garage sales!! Pre-loved items sold for cheap!!


URGENT DOSE OF VITAMIN M REQUIRED.
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Last edited by 9VARZ; Mar 12th, 10 at 04:39 AM..
terence52
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terence52 Feb 22nd, 10, 10:04 PM #8
camping here as well.
itx for workstation hmm..
nice
Build: Diablo SV|Esprit V8|GT-86
Processor: Xeon E5 2660 ES @ 2.82GHZ (H.K 3.0 CFed)|I7 4700MQ|AMD Opteron 165|I7 950 (X5650?)|Pentium G3258 @ 4.5GHZ
Motherboard: Asus Rampage IV Gene|Clevo W350TQ|Asrock 939A790GMH|Asus X58 Sabertooth|Asrock B85M Pro4
Ram: Corsair Dorminator GT 4GBX2 |Crucial 8GBX2 DDR3L 1600MHZ|KVR 4X1GB DDR 400MHZ|HyperX 2GBX3|KVR 2GBX4
GPU: PC HD7990 (EK 7990 SE)|GTX765M|Asus HD5450 1GB DDR3|Sapphire HD6870 1GB|Sapphire HD6770 1GD5
SSD: M5P 128GB (DD), M500 240GB (Benching)|M5M 128GB|
HDD: WD Black 2TB (Programs), Red 3TB (Data) |WD Scorpio Black 750GB|1TB Blue|1TB Blue
Psu: Seasonic X650 + Custom White/Black Cable Set|120W Adapter, 5500 mAh battery|FSP 300W GLS|Andyson F650M
Casing: Arc Mini R2|Aftershock XG15 + CF Skin|??
Cooler:Custom WC|Fan + Heatpipe|Deepcool Gabriel + 25MM Fan

Audio: Audnist MX2 |Swan H2S (Swan A2S Driver) + H6
Moblie: LG G3 D855 407 (Rooted V10I)
Portable Audio, Audio Technica IM03 + HDC5|Ibasso DX50
- Fast reaching limits.
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blackdra19 Feb 22nd, 10, 10:06 PM #9
get filco?
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9VARZ
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9VARZ Feb 22nd, 10, 10:08 PM #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by blackdra19 View Post
get filco?
The trouble is deciding between the switch types. I'll want to try out all the various switch types first before getting.
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KoKainE Free will is my drug


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KoKainE Feb 23rd, 10, 08:31 AM #11
w00t! sign up for a follower spot!
[Mobo] Asus P8P67M-Pro [Chip] Intel Sandy Bridge i7 2600k cooled by Antec Kuler 920 [Ram] GSkill Ripjaw-X PC12800 1600mhz 8GB CL7
[HDD] OS: WD 300GB Raptor (HLHX) || Storage: Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB, WD Green 2TB
[GFX] Asus GTX560Ti DirectCU II OC displayed on [Monitor] Dell U2311
[PSU] Seasonic-X 560W Gold [Chassis] Silverstone TJ-08E
[Keyboard and Mice combi] Logitech G110 and G500 [Mousepad] Barracuda Juggernaut
[Sound] Altec Lancing MX6021 [OS] Win7 Ultimate 64bit
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quantumfusion Feb 23rd, 10, 07:52 PM #12
nice ! the casing looks awesome for a workstation cum miniserver . any idea where can i get it in SG ?
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9VARZ Feb 23rd, 10, 08:22 PM #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by quantumfusion View Post
nice ! the casing looks awesome for a workstation cum miniserver . any idea where can i get it in SG ?
That's what I want to know also. The local prices here in the UK are so expensive (about £75 after tax before delivery).

The casing itself was meant to be for a low-powered, home server build based on the Atom or even an old AMD/Intel chipset and dual core rig. The stock PSU on its own is an SFX 220W Active PPFC model (not high efficincy) and I have no clue who the OEM is. That said, it would be great for these kind of motherboards if you're thinking of doing a homeserver with that! Probably all you need is a good onboard RAID or an attached SAS raid card.



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GegeV2 Feb 23rd, 10, 08:36 PM #14
Mayb u could state which have u gotten so far....?
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9VARZ
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9VARZ Feb 23rd, 10, 08:41 PM #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by GegeV2 View Post
Mayb u could state which have u gotten so far....?
Refer to first post, nothing yet. I've too many logistical issues to settle in-between (the place I'm living at now is going to go in June/July). So I do not intend to hoard stuff now and then risk them either getting obsolete, stolen or missing by the time I'm ready to use them in September.

But as for stuff that I do have at the moment, an old TRUE120 (still in the box and plastic wrapping) which is lying somewhere at home in SG. Everything else would have to be built from the ground up, which I intend to do so in July after moving out from my present accommodation.
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