I completed the overall build of my * Idol Worx Plus * build – a` not-very-powerful computer designed to fulfill the role of a simple workstation on September 4th 2018 – after having first built and tested it up to first-smoke-test level back in June 2018.
It took a while, and the design turned out to be poor; so poor that it’ll never be built again. – But at last this project can have a line properly drawn under it. The components used weren’t well chosen, and it looked to be heading for a crunch at one point, save for a brainwave from Idol.
I fully realise that this has nothing to do with music and/or the usual type of entertainments; but if you follow me, Sharron-Idol the tech-geek-entertainer; then you get tech-geekery as entertainment as a part of the overall package.
The Build – Previously
The first picture shows what I’d already built: The second pic shows the motherboard box: A fairly old board designed to run Sky Lake chips, but will run Kaby Lake with a BIOS upgrade. I was using a Sky Lake Celeron, despite having updated the BIOS anyway.
A Bad Case
The case was a Fractal Design Core 1100: The worst and most badly-designed case on the planet; having no consideration for cable management or airflow, and very little idea about mounting drives either. I’d already mounted a 1TB SATAII HDD in the 5.25″
optical drive bay using an adapter – as there was nowhere else to mount a 3.5″ HDD that gave enough room to connect it. Despite having deemed the intended drive-mounting plate useless; I’d kept it, and I ended up using it to mount the SSD that I’d use for the system on.
In The Box
I’d kept everything “vital” in the motherboard box; such as the black plastic cover for the CPU pins: If I ever have to RMA the board I’ll need that. – If the board is returned with processor fitted I’ll probably lose the processor. If the board is returned with no CPU and the pins exposed then that’ll invalidate the warranty; so keep the cover and replace it in the case of an RMA.
i/o, i/o; It’s Off To Work We Go…
I kept the plastic from the RAM – so that I’d know exactly what I’d installed. I kept the plastic from the processor’s retail enclosure – it will act as insulation for storage if I ever remove or change the chip. I kept a lot of maybe unnecessary documentation, and I kept the motherboard driver DVD. Although there was no DVD drive installed, I had a trick up my sleeve.
I’ve given you a look at the back panel and i/o shield/ports. Let’s remove the cover-panels on both sides: You’ll notice that the PSU is mounted at the top of the case. – ‘Very naughties. The case really sucks… And I still have airflow and cable management to sort out too. I’ll need a miracle, as this case makes provision for neither. You’ll note that I have a case fan installed at the back, blowing outwards, and I also have the power supply sucking air from the case and blowing it out the back. All I need is an inlet; the air-motion is taken care of already. Fortunately there is a grille made for a side-fan on the case which allows air to first cool the graphics card (Which will be installed shortly.) – then half of the air is sucked out back by the case fan, while the other half circulates round the CPU and then cools the PSU.
Drives Me Crazy
I have the 1TB HDD connected to data and power. I have power to the mobo, the fan works. I want to use the 1TB HDD for storage and have the system on a 250GB SSD for speedy response.
I gave a picture of the drive mounting plate – which has room only for mounting & connecting 2 x SSDs. – It appears strange that the case will only take SSDs, when it accommodates the PSU as if it were well before that time of SSDs.
SATA At The Back
I’m going to install something that I picked up new and fairly cheaply on eBay; that being a dual SATAII rear port… Well I have 2 spare SATA ports on the motherboard, and I intend to use this computer for component-testing purposes among other things… So why on Earth not?
Solid State Technology
Next we install the SSD. I used an Intenso 250GB SSD because they’re good performers + it was all I had in stock. The usual retail bullshit of small item in big packaging to give the customer the impression that they’re getting more than they actually are… Out of the box it comes, out of the plastic tray…
…And in the words of Carey Holzman:
“That can go over there.”.
‘Install the drive onto the mounting plate, install the mounting plate into the case, and connect power and data: Target neutralised.
Next let’s install the graphics card: I have a second hand EVGA GeForce 210 1GB card that I originally bought to use in an HP box that I did up back in time. We install that in the PCIe x 16 slot and it’s time for a second smoke test… Bring it on.
I’ll connect up a wired mouse and a wired keyboard to USB2, connect a monitor via VGA, and power this baby up… Everything works but no video… I wonder if that card was damaged between its last machine and now? ‘One way to find out: Remove card and plug in to onboard video… Still nothing.
Hmm, interesting. The last time I smoke tested it everything including video worked. The only adjustments I’ve made since then is installing the graphics card. That could have been faulty. It still may prove to be. There is, however, seemingly no output from the VGA port.
Let me try something: –
I grab a laptop with a VGA port on it, power it up, connect the monitor’s VGA lead to its VGA port.. Nothing. – It looks like my monitor or monitor cable are faulty. I’ll tr4y a different VGA cable. – ‘Still nothing. I have a reserve emergency monitor I can use – Let’s try that… And it works! I have a picture generated by the BIOS. Hmm; well that old Dell monitor has finally popped it’s clogs. It was over 10 years old, so I’s had a good life. That can go outside in the skip – which will be emptied tomorrow anyway, so bon voyage oh corpse of a monitor.
‘Reinstall the graphics card, test, then install Windows and the drivers: We’re rockin’. – Let’s do this!
I have no DVD drive installed. I need to use a little ingenuity. I connect a DVD drive to the SATAII port on the back of the computer, connect to a SATA power plug inside the case, use the SSD packaging to support the unit – as the power connection is rather high up – and install those drivers from the disk.- * Come to me baby! *
Windows Update Here We Come…
All that remains is to go to Windows Update and get all the offered updates… OH YEAH this drive is FAST! – Now I want to go to NVIDIA website and get the latest graphics card drivers and associated software. They haven’t made any Windows 10 64-bit drivers for the GeForce 210 since 2016; but that’ll do for now.
Having installed all that lot, let’s sort out this cable management to the best of my ability, get the side panels on, 1 last test, and we are done. – Yes indeedy!
Oh and I forgot to mention: It was around this time when I ran a system inventory tool, https://buggerallon.tv/ofr/System-Inventory-Tool.zip which reported that I only had 4GB RAM installed. Looking inside the case I could clearly see 2 x 4GBs Crucial DDR4 RAM installed. – Pressing down on the RAM sticks showed that one of them wasn’t inserted in its socket properly, and therefore hadn’t been connecting or working.
That little job took around 6 hours, which was way longer than I’d expected – but it was great fun! 🙂
How Speedy Actually Is The SSD?
As I already pointed out; I installed an Intenso 240GB SSD as the system drive of the computer I’ve just finished building. I gave it an initial smoke-test in June, having installed only a blank 1TB SATAII HDD which was left blank. I swapped the HDD over to SATA port 1 on the motherboard, and connected the SSD to SATA port 0 as the system drive. I made sure of the correct boot-order.
To tell the truth I was rather surprised at the speed that the drive functioned when judging it by eye: It appeared faster than anything that I’d ever used before. I’d watched Carey Holzman use top-of-the-range SSDs, like Samsung, that cost quite a bit more than the equivalent Intenso drive; yet they didn’t appear to seem to operate much faster than the Intenso drive I had used.
One Way To Find Out
There was one way to settle this between me and myself; and that was to use Crystal Disk Mark 64 to measure the speed – and then compare it against Carey’s results.
When I first tested it I hadn’t installed all the drivers and software; but I got a read score of 497.5 and a write score of 464.9. I just tested again – in the last 1.4 hour when writing this, and at first it didn’t seem to be the same drive; but then it started getting similar scores: The top read score went right up to 540.9, and the top write score was just a fraction less than at first, scoring 464.2…
Y’know I’m sitting here wondering to myself; ‘Isn’t 540.9 the sort of figure you’d get with a good SSD? ‘Surely not? Let’s find out how that compares to Carey’s figures in his tests on You Tube…
Well in Carey’s tests, a Western Digital Blue 500GB, which costs $100USD, scored 563.2 read, and 531.1 write. WD Blue doesn’t exactly have a reputation for high quality; but on we press – like a towel.
So on the evidence of that alone; Intenso’s not that good: I probably won’t use them again: WD Blue are comparable, maybe a little cheaper price-wise, and they seem to perform a little better for the money.
Future SSD Usage
Will I be using WD Blue in future? – Maybe; but I want to try ADATA on my next build – which may well be my long-awaited * Idol Tower * build. I was and probably still am going to do that later this month, but there’s no hurry and no deadline or need to stick hard & fast to a schedule for it; so if I’m late doing it then it’ll be a little later when it’s built.
The first picture – above – is the test result when I’d recently finished the machine. The second pic, lower down, is the test result after I’d installed drivers & other software.
– And so to clarify and continue the report on my * Idol Worx Plus * build: –
Setting aside the matter of the case (Fractal Design Core 1100) being an absolutely horrible case to build in (If I’d have known that this case was so crappy beforehand I’d have avoided it like the plague.), and the fact that I used a relatively cheap selection of components for this budget build; which cost me a little under £300 GBP… The operating stats are fairly favourable:
I’m using a Gigabyte H110M-S2H motherboard – which isn’t a particularly amazing board. It has a tiny amount of single-coloured RGB lighting to boast about; otherwise it’s a fairly UN-unique socket 1151GA Intel motherboard that supports Sky Lake chips, and Kaby Lake after a BIOS upgrade. (The latest BIOS is F25, which I have installed.)
I’ve named the machine “Hawking” after the late Stephen Hawking: Smaller and less able than most; but totally brilliant nevertheless.
The processor I used, rather un-imaginatively, is the Intel Celeron G3900 (2 cores, 2 threads) from the Sky Lake family, running at a maximum of 2.8GHz. The operating system is Microsoft Windows 10 Pro 64-bit.
I’m running 2 x 4GB Crucial DDR4 memory in dual-channel configuration. I’m not using the CPUs onboard graphics; I’m running an EVGA NVIDIA 40nm 1GB GeForce 210 graphics card with the latest 64-bit driver + NVIDIA High Definition Virtual Audio Device.
I was very worried about airflow and ventilation at first; but I had a brainwave and instigated the following cooling airflow system: –
The case has a grille at the bottom of the motherboard, originally intended for an extra fan, which I’m using as an air-inlet for cooling purposes. The internal airflow goes from the grille straight to the graphics card, before half of it is exhausted out the back of the case by the case-fan, while the rest goes on to cool the CPU before being sucked into the PSU which is top-mounted, and exhausted out back.
I switched on and let everything idle for a while before activating HW Monitor and gaining some readings. I then activated and ran Unigine Valley Benchmark, which, despite the extra graphics card, gave me a lower score than the onboard graphics on an AMD processor on another computer I built, at only maximum 6 FPS. – I’m not sure if that reflects badly on the Intel processor, or on the 6-year-old NVIDIA graphics card?
Nevertheless; the benchmark accomplished what I intended it to accomplish by stressing the system. More than anything I wanted to test the cooling-ability that I’d created despite the badly-designed and poorly-ventilated case working against me. The results were favourable: –
The CPU ran a maximum of 100%, but its temperature hit a maximum of only 98^F (37^C), using 22.46 Watts of power in doing so. The fans hit 70% of their maximum speed but didn’t max out.
On the graphics card, which has passive cooling; the GPU maxed out, but the airflow that I’d designed in kept the core’s temp down to 63^C (145^F). Neither the HDD nor the SSD overheated, staying below 29^c (84^F) and 33^C (91^F) respectively.
– So in terms of overall performance this computer is fairly lame when compared to a gaming rig, but OK when compared to a run-of-the-mill workstation – as was intended when I designed it.
It appears to be overheat-proof – despite the graphics card’s passive heatsink and the use of the standard Intel stock cooler that was supplied packaged with the chip.
The above information was recently published in a series of posts on Facebook. I wrote the notes up properly and put them on my website as this article.
Do browse other articles on this site, my main website; Bugger All On dot TV: There’s entertainments and arts on offer as well as tech stuff. … Because the sun always shines on .TV – even though there’s bugger all on.