Friday, September 26, 2008

Topsy-turvy HTPC case

YY-0110, Front

Wrote a couple of critical reviews on Antec P182 (on Newegg and here), and immediately remembered the good old YY-0110 (YY0221 is a closest approximation available today).

It wasn't too good at all when I bought it. Well, to begin with, it was bought in 1999 (it was difficult to find and especially verify anything on Internet back in those times), and I had very little idea about what I was doing - it was the first time I was building a computer. Stamped steel, point welding, sharp edges, damaged threads. Resonated like a steel guitar. Inferior PSU, gave up the ghost pretty soon.

However, the role this box played in the transformation of a person with no practical skills into a person that is not afraid of any DYI work can't be underestimated.

...It all started with a freezing video card, Riva TNT2. It was freezing as soon as the card temperature was above 30°C (for comparison, XFX GF7950GT PVT71JYHE9 feels just fine at 130°C). And of course, there was no money to replace it. Well, the less money you have, the more is your motivation to turn on the brains, so I did. Took out the card, took off the heatsink, swore at lazy workers that didn't put the thermal paste right, fixed it, put it back, rejoiced. But there was a side effect to it - at first, Pulse was created, and it eventually grew into DIY Zoning...

But I digress.

All in all, this box had been in service until 2005 (running PIII/550 with 512K RAM), first as a workstation, then as a server. Then it was retired, and it was collecting dust - until the need for a new computer materialized.

That was when things got interesting.

By that time the noise finally got on my nerves.

Lian-Li PC-60 (the original, with three 80mm fans) was bad. Lian-Li V-Cool PC-V1200B, with two 120mm fans and a squirrel case, even on rubber grommets, was even worse. So the verdict was: no new case, YY will be modded, 80mm and 90mm fans will be thrown away, quiet 120mm fans will be installed, and the end result must be quiet enough to put it in the bedroom or into the entertainment center.

The case was gutted, metalworking tools were engaged, and in a couple of weeks the case was difficult to recognize: instead of one 80mm and one 90mm fans there were four very quiet 120mm Scythe S-FLEX SFF-21D (bought here). I can't say whether they really deliver promised 8.7dBA, but you can only hear them in a very quiet room at night, and you have to get down on your knees to hear them. Two intake fans at the front, one intake fan at the left (where the CPU is), and one exhaust on the rear (below the PSU).

YY-0110, Rear

PSU chosen was fanless (kind of) Antec Phantom 500. That was before I got disappointed in Antec PSUs after two consequent failures, both shortly after warranty expired. Interesting fact is that I'm seeing a sharp decline in Antec popularity recently - I guess I'm not the only disappointed one. Another disappointment was that as soon as the auxiliary fan kicks in, you realize that no, it is far from zero noise, it's much worse than regular - but that doesn't happen very often, especially if you're only using the computer as HTPC, and not as a gaming station.

After long consideration, fanless XFX GF7950GT PVT71JYHE9, fresh new on the market, was bought. That turned to be the worst disappointment of all: it didn't fit into the case. I was 4mm short. Sure YY is a big case, it's just that the motherboard compartment is more shallow than most... I said, the hell with it, cut out the hole in the side panel, and it works happily since.

That was the end of it, and it seems that the case turned out quite right. It is quiet as a coffin, and cold as a tomb.

YY-0110, left

CPU temperature (AMD X2 3800+) doesn't get above 49°C with the fanless video card (above), and doesn't get above 52°C with two G92 8800GTS/512 SLI (it is interesting that even those two monsters, the noise level wasn't bad at all). Hard drive is in a wind tunnel between two fans, I don't think it will ever overheat.

YY-0110, right


It's been 10 years since I've started buying computers out of my own pocket.

  • Bought two whole computers - HP Pavilion out of ignorance, Dell Dimension E521 because of crazy sale;
  • Bought four cases - YY-0110, Lian-Li PC-60, Lian-Li V-Cool V1200B Plus, Antec P182;
  • Got four cases as a present;
  • Built total of eight computers (not counting endless tinkering with existing ones).
All things considered, this case is so far the best.

Yes, it is somewhat ugly.
But it works.
And it is cold.
And it is quiet.

I don't think I'll be buying more cases anytime soon. There's a stack of old cases gathering dust in the corner, I'll just pick the one that fits the purpose the best and start hacking away...

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