Infinity4 - Page Three


June 2005


I wasn't planning to make any significant changes to the computer components themselves, except for the longer data cables required to stretch around such a large case, but somehow this still left me with a huge shopping list of fans, lights, water cooling oddments, mounting brackets and who knew what else! As usual, most of what I need for my PCs is rare enough that I have to import from the US, but the weak dollar was again my friend and it didn't cost more than the customary couple of limbs.

The Koolance subsystem has its own built-in thermal management, but I wanted to retain a level of manual control over the two case fans and had already decided to ditch the DigiDoc fan controller in favour of something simpler. This removed a significant quantity of internal cabling right away, and I have to admit that the build was considerably easier without the requirement of incorporating something resembling an angry squid into the cable management scheme.

I've been aware of the mCubed T-Balancer USB sensor hub since its launch last year, and it's such a neat little gadget that I really wanted to build it into the new chassis. However, it soon became clear that even the two 120mm fans fitted to the stock PC-V2000 were going to be mostly cosmetic, and long experience with various models of DigiDoc has shown that not only do you rarely need to know the exact temperature of eight locations inside a PC, but that when you do know you just start worrying about it... Even though the T-Balancer has all sorts of nifty add-ons to allow monitoring of temperature and rate of flow in a water cooling system, it seemed like overkill to install something so complicated when for what I actually needed a simple knob would do almost as well. The old version of the PC was a bitch to work on inside because of the complexity of fan and thermal monitoring busses, and I really wanted to keep things a little more slim and elegant - especially with the unknown factor of the water cooling hoses to install.

I was hoping that the Swiss cheese design of the Lian Li case, together with the motion of air caused by the two 120mm fans above the radiator at the top of the case, would be enough to keep the few passively cooled components quite happy, but old habits die hard... I really wanted a pair of blue illuminated fans to replace the undistinguished units that shipped with the case, and the new Aerocool Turbines were just too pretty to pass up. As case fans go their specifications are actually rather uninspiring (most 80mm fans could match their lackadaisical 37 CFM air flow) but because of this they are extremely quiet at less than 20dBA - and after the roaring wind tunnel ambience of my previous PCs I was determined that if I was going to use a fan mostly for its cosmetic appearance then it had better be quiet!

Aside from their unusual black and chrome colour schemes, the Turbines are sold mostly on the dubious distinction of having "more fan blades then any other 12cm fans in the market!" - but as anyone who has paid even minimal attention to the wonderful and perplexing science of turbulence knows, this is not necessarily a good thing when it comes to providing a smooth flow of air. In the event, however, they are completely inaudible even when cranked up to their lazy maximum of 950 rpm, and the subtle blue glow from the LEDs works extremely well - as well as lighting the mirror finish blades themselves, the rear fan beautifully highlights the cooling pipes arching over the CPU water blocks, and the other glows eerily through the mesh front panel.

I've attached both fans to a Vantec Nexus NXP-305, a neat little 3" device that controls three fan channels and the pair of 12" blue cold cathode lights that ship with it - and, of course, the transparent rings around the control knobs are illuminated to provide its own blue glow. I installed the long cathodes vertically on either side of the the 5" device bays, where they shine clearly through the perforations, and between the various light sources I have an even illumination for the full height of the front bezel - the large blue and red Koolance status display right at the top, the vertical CC tubes flanking the device bays, then the Nexus, and finally the Turbine fan down in the bottom third. The effect is everything I'd hoped for.

The unused third fan channel has actually been co-opted to drive a pair of 4" AC Ryan cold cathode tubes, and although I was a touch dubious at the idea of connecting the inverter to a variable voltage, I assumed that the dedicated lighting channel actually worked in just the same way and decided to take the chance. In fact it seems to work perfectly, adjusting the light level from off to dazzlingly bright, apparently in little jumps - presumably some side effect of the inverter's electronics. I've placed the two little tubes in positions where they throw light on the front part of the motherboard, balancing the light from the Turbine fan at the rear, and between them the interior of the upper part of the case is brightly and fairly even lit. The effect in daylight is restrained, but in the evenings with the room lights down low the PC can be switched from a subtle glow to something reminiscent of a 1950s jukebox.

During the build of Infinity3 I spent many hours patiently sleeving dozens of cables ranging from the thermal sensors feeding the DigiDoc to the power supply leads, the latter requiring some extremely fiddly work with a full set of Molex pin removal tools and much muttering and cursing under the breath. This year, however, braided cables have become a standard feature rather than an exotic luxury, and companies such as Performance-PCs (motto: "Sleeve it and they will come") and FrozenCPU are providing pretty much anything you can care to name pre-sleeved off the shelf. Some are made that way, such as these IDE and floppy cables from Antec... Others, such as power supplies, are modified in-house, and for the nominal fee they charge this service is definitely worth it.

Now on to the wet parts of the project...





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