MONOLITH


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From Wikipedia

Monoliths are advanced machines built by an unseen extraterrestrial species that appear in Arthur C. Clarke's Space Odyssey series of novels and films.

My old computer, Kool_Killer, has reached its end-of-life. The case, water cooling, and lighting system have become to annoying to me, so, I decided to go nearly the exact opposite direction. The goals for this system are: stable, powerful, expandable, quiet, minimalist in design, extravagant in functionality.  

Specs:

  • Case: Lian Li PC-A71B
  • Fans: Noctua NF-P12
  • Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750 Quad
  • Motherboard: ASUS P5E64 WS Evolution
  • Processor: Intel Xeon X3360
  • Heatsink: Noctua NH-U12P
  •  Video Card: HIS ATi Radeon HD 4870 Sapphire ATi Radeon HD 5870
  • RAM: 4GB CORSAIR XMS3 DDR3-1333
  • Hard Drive 1: Western Digital VelociRaptor 300GB
  • Hard Drive 2: Western Digital Caviar SE16 640GB
  • CD/DVD/HD-DVD/Blu-ray Drive: LG Super-Multi GGW-H20L
  • Sound Card: HT Omega CLARO Plus+
  • Monitor: DoublSight DS-263N 26"
  • Speakers: Behringer TRUTH B2031A monitors w/ Logitech Z-560 subwoofer
  • Keyboard: Logitech G15 v2
  • Mouse: Logitech G5
  • Mousepad: Ratpadz GS


Sometimes, Newegg's shipping leaves much to be desired...

 But, lets begin. Here's the motherboard:

Unknown to me at the time, but there is an unadvertised feature of this motherboard. Around the ASUS logo, just below the PCIe 4x slot, there are 4 LEDs that pulse and light-up the logo. Here's a quick video I made of it in action. I'll have to replace the standard vented slot cover Lian Li uses on the 4x slot because the light shines through it and is quite noticeable on the wall behind the computer in the dark.

Here's the processor:

Quad core running at 2.8GHz with 12MB of L2 cache. I went for the Xeon because it runs at slightly less voltage than the standard Core 2 but only cost $5 more.

The stock Intel heatsink simply won't do:

So, a quick visit to Noctua gets us this:

 This heatsink is of really nice quality. I wanted something that would cool considerably better than the stock heatsink and remain considerably quieter. Although its quite heavy, the mounting system is very sturdy (through the motherboard with a backplate, one of my other requirements for the heatsink).

Here's the motherboard installed in the case:

One of the priorities of this build was keeping it clean. As usual, the power supply posed a problem, which was dealt with. See this picture:

The two sets of wires are yet to be routed (video card and motherboard). One bundle going to the right power the drives and front fans. The one bundle going up is the 12V ATX cable and power for the rear fans. The other bundle going under the power supply are unused cables.

Here's how I routed the video and motherboard power. They are not really clean, but I have a trick that will deal with them that I'll show later. Here's the RAM installed.

Here's the Radeon HD 4870 saying hello to the Radeon 9700 Pro.

Currently, the drivers are immature, so it idles rather hot. A quick tweak to the driver speed the fan up just enough to cool it down to something reasonable (about 35% from 16%). It overclocks like a dream, and easily maxed out the available overclocking options. I upped the fan speed (to 40%, just noticeably loud) when it is overclocked.

Unfortunately, though, the Radeon 4870 decided to stop displaying DVI video. I decided to upgrade to a Sapphire ATi Radeon HD 5870 while the 4870 was out for RMA replacement (HIS was good on this regard).

Here's the new Radeon 5870 all tucked into its new home:

It sucks half the power, produces one-forth the heat, and is nearly twice as fast as the 4870. All-in-all a great first-upgrade for MONOLITH.

Here are the two hard drives. All the Lian-Li case fans were replaced with the Noctua fans, which move more air at less noise.

The rear of the multi-drive (CD/DVD/Blu-ray burner, and can also read HD-DVD's).

The SATA cable connections to the motherboard:

Front USB/Audio cables were routed behind the motherboard tray.

Speaking of routing behind the motherboard...

Well, I guess I should amend the "clean" requirement with "clean where visible." Speaking of which, lets hide those power cables. The case has a large vertical strut as a card support. Adding it back in hides those cables for us, and helps support the Radeon 4870.

The motherboard is packed with features, so much so they had to devise an add-on board to make room for diagnostic LEDs and power/reset buttons.

Here's the entire side-view:

Notice that I added the Lian-Li casters to the bottom of the case. Lian Li already drilled and tapped the holes, so it was a simple bolt-on. The only other "mod" I did to the entire system (besides tons of zip-ties) was the addition of an extension cable to the 12V ATX cable.

Here's the interior with the Radeon 5870 upgrade. Despite the huge size of the card, I still have plenty of room.


Here's the exterior:

My old system, Kool_Killer, is visible on the right.

The rest of the build.

Yes, I'm actually using a dinner table as my computer desk.

Some of the aftermath (I think my couch is in there somewhere...)