Log Black and Tan: A Crime of PC Fashion -- Vintage Radio Hotrod 'Sleeper' PC

FreshGnar

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Sep 23, 2020
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Props to my fellow Psych fans that got the title.

Here is my vintage Sony radio hotrod/sleeper/monstrosity.

I know some are going to wince at this and others may rejoice.
Just like real hotrods, this isn't for everyone. I know how the sff community feels about components being outside the case lol.
However this time it was by design. The goal was to take an old, broken, unassuming radio, and turn it into a pc. My original idea was to make a completely incognito, cpu-only, living room pc. Then I had an idea.... what if I got real weird with it?.....



















Documentation has never been my strong suit so I apologize for not having the time to go through a step by step build process. Here is an album with most of the pictures: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmSz5KKG
They are mostly in chronological order with the exception of the first handful of photos being the finished product. I did run into a few issues with the mobo mounting plate fitment with the x570 board that is hard to explain with photos. I used a different mobo for test fitment and long story short i had to move one of captive nuts on the side to the top as you'll see later on in the album. Hopefully everything else kind of explains itself.

Here is a link to it on pcpp: https://pcpartpicker.com/b/jNZfrH
But I'll list the specs here as well.

CPU - Ryzen 5 5600x
Mobo - Gigabyte Aorus x570i pro wifi
GPU - EVGA gtx 1080ti gaming
Storage - 1 TB Samsung 970 evo m.2 nvme
PSU - Enhance ENP 7660B Pro
Pump - Swiftech MCP50X Exteme 12 VDC DDC Pump


My hope is to replace the 1080ti with a 3070, ideally an MSI Ventus 2X OC, since the pcb is a bit shorter and will provide more room for the power connectors. I'm in no rush however since they dont even have waterblock support yet and are currently made of unobtainium.

These are the temps I got after my first timespy run:

This was with a somewhat mild fan curve on the radiator fans.
I reset the min/maxes before running the test so the min temp on the EVO looks a bit high.
Idle temps are about as follows:
CPU - 35 C
GPU - 24 C
nvme - 42 C

So far in Cyberpunk I have maxed out at about 76 C on the 5600x and about 49 C on the 1080ti with fans set to max.
This isn't the quietest PC ever built that is for sure, but it doesnt bother me as I game with headphones. Actually with the Noctua's the only real ear sore is the Swiftech pump. Its very audible but damn does it push some coolant. I didn't do a crazy amount of research but for my idea of a short column reservoir to work i needed a fairly short pump with an inlet on top and this fit the bill nicely.

As far as 'small form factor' goes, my loose measurements put the volume of everything but the tubing at about 13L with the whole thing being able to fit inside a 17L box.

I'll end this post with one final thought.....
 
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FreshGnar

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I've been looking into ways of squeezing out some more cooling headroom out of this thing. Recently I've been hitting as high as 82c on the 5600x in Cyberpunk now that I've got my game settings the way I want and would really like that to be a bit lower.

Looking at the back, at the gap between the gpu block and the radiator, it hit me that there is just enough room for some slim fans. I'd love to say it was forward planning but in this case it was just dumb luck as I originally ballparked the clearance needed for a gpu block and gave it a bit of extra space just to be safe. I figured surely a push/pull configuration would provide more cooling than just the push, even if its only 15mm fans on the back. I used a single slim noctua fan I had lying around just as quick test to see if there would be any noticable changes.





I could tell right away even at idle, temps were lower. Sure enough I was seeing about 70c max after about 30 minutes of gameplay. This was definitely enough to convince me to begin the necessary modifications to fit two. Only problem was, I only had one NF-A12x15 and it looks like Amazon won't have them available until after xmas. However, I did have two Chromax versions in my htpc build I decided to donate to this cause. Guess I'll be in the market for some new ones 😂







I'll probably put the slim tan noctua in here until I can get some new chromax ones. This pc doesnt really see much heavy use at the moment so a single fan should do the job temperarily.

So on to disassembly of the radio pc.

I made sure to do some forward planning when designing and building so that the radiator could be detached and swing out to allow access to the components behind it without having to drain the system.
Just had to undo the quick-disconnect and remove the screws that mount the brackets:



I made sure when designing this mounting point that it could be accessed behind the hinge even with the loop filled, just need to lean it over a bit is all.



Voila! Radiator brackets disassembled, without draining the loop.



The modification required to fit the slim fans would be grinding down the ridges on the support brackets.



First I chipped away at it with the cut-off wheel:



Then smoothed it down with the grinding wheel and finished the edges with a file.





I didn't take any photos of the other bracket, but it was the exact same process.

With the brackets ground down there was still one more glaring issue:



For the holes to line up I would need to cut a recess in the top of the fans.



Much better



Then after some measuring/fitting I did the same with the other fan.


You'll notice I also cut the corner off of one of the fans because during fitting it was hitting the bracket. Problem is, as you'll see during the final fitment, it doesnt hit at all and was a mistake I made during the test fitting. Once I order some new slim chromax's for the htpc I might replace this one but its not of huge concern at the moment since it isn't visible with it on my shelf. Still, I hate making avoidable mistakes like this. It goes to show, always measure twice before cutting.

But with that out of the way I threw a fresh coat of black paint on the brackets, and while those were drying I got to work cutting down some mounting screws, as I had none that would fit a 15mm fan. As luck would have it I had 8 matching long radiator screws in my hardware box, so I measure the required length (twice!) and cut them all down to size, this time with the dremel for a more precise cut.



I even test fit them all one by one to make sure they wouldn't foul the radiator.

Upon mounting, I noticed there was a little gap left as a result of the bracket sitting between the fan and the radiator:



This wasn't ideal, as you general want the fans to fit snug against the radiator to avoid static pressure loss. However, I don't think it will equate to much loss as they are only 15mm thick and they are still going to do their job of pulling air through the radiator so I just added some washers to even it out and called it good.

Here they are finally mounted to the radiator:



Here is a closer look at the corner that didnt need to be cut 🤬



With everything all mounted back up, I managed the fan cables the best I could.



This fan splitter on the back isn't the most mind blowing mod but it might be my favorite on the build just because I knew I would be disassembling this thing after I built it and I wanted all the fan cables to be easy to detach and reattach. Forward planning pays off again!
Another angle:



Here is the build reassembled:



There are really no other photo angles worth updating as this is the only angle you can really see them in.

As far as results go, after playing Cyberpunk for several hours, with some long cutscenes in between, the max temp I hit on the cpu was 68c. This encouraged me to mess with a gpu overclock a bit (+100 core), which brought temps up to about 77c max. I have found that overclocking this 1080ti doesn't really lead to any fps gains in game so I will probably roll it back to stock (or even undervolt) and enjoy a much cooler system. I say 'much' because in a build with only a 240mm radiator every extra degree helps. I was very pleasantly surprised as I did not expect to squeeze this much more cooling out of this thing with out having to extend the dimensions at all. Very satisfied with the results 😄
 
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FreshGnar

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Sep 23, 2020
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Its time for another update. There have been a few issues with the build that I've been meaning to fix/improve and I finally had some time recently to begin the teardown to resolves some of these issues. Not to mention, the whole thing could use a thorough dusting.





Here are the glaring issues:

The first one is this gap where the side of the radio is beginning to separate near the bottom.





The second, and more serious is one of the standoffs I had screwed and epoxied to the radio to support the radiator has ripped out.





Also, while I have the build apart I am planning to make some improvements to the system. I'll go ahead and spoil it by saying that it doesn't involve an RTX 30xx. However, I've been wanting to make some tweaks to the routing and design of the tubing for easier assembly/disassembly, as well as some improvements to the cooling ability itself.
One of these is revisiting my column reservoir. More specifically, adding a plug to the top instead of this rubber cap that I just slipped over the hard tube.



Before I can do any of that though, I need to do a complete teardown. Its very hard to disassemble this and take photos so I tried to snap the important steps

I start by disconnecting the quick disconnect and remove the radiator mounts to drain as much coolant as I can out before completely removing it.


(for some reason this photo came out like 💩)


Next I do the same for the GPU. (I keep a bucket on the floor to catch all the draining coolant.)


The rest was tricky to photograph while removing so here is the cpu lines drained and motherboard removed.


Finally, here is the whole build completely disassembled


That's as far as I was able to get for now. Hopefully I'll have some time to update more in the coming weeks. Thanks for following along!
 

FreshGnar

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Ever since I built this thing I wanted it to be my forever PC (a challenging goal I know, with ever-changing PC tech/hardware). So with that in mind, I want it to be as future-proof as possible and like I've said before, easy to modify and work on.
For those interested and mainly for my own reference, here is the laundry list of things I plan to fix/improve:

-close gap on side panel
-find more robust solution to broken radiator standoff mount
-add more quick disconnects, especially for gpu
-redesign reservoir with more air-tight solution
-replace the nf-a12x15 I mistakenly cut
-DUST!!

-add dust filters to nf-a12x25s
-remake the removable motherboard tray
-mount gpu more securely

-incorporate an additional 120mm radiator into loop (technically done, needs revisiting)
-shorten and properly sleeve power button connector
-relocate m.2 to back of motherboard (with it positioned on the front, over the chipset, it gets pretty warm)
-cut a larger front panel opening for easier access
-clean up mb i/o cutout
-noctua psu fan swap? (the stock fan in this psu is actually pretty quiet, this is more of a want than a need and will be low priority)

These are just the things I could think of off the top of my head. If I find any more issues I want to fix, I will be sure to document them as well.
 
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FreshGnar

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Spent some time conceptualizing some things today during my lunch break.
One of the things I left off my list that I completely forgot about (just added) was the motherboard tray. It is currently just a chuck that I cut out of the original radio back panel. I want to create a new one that looks much cleaner.

My plan is to make the new one out of some sheet acrylic (3mm thick), mainly because I already have some leftover from another project. It should be strong enough to support what I need it to and should be able to withstand considerable heat.
I also plan to add some captive nuts similar to the way I did with the current tray (since it will be hard to thread standoffs into acrylic and make them sturdy, I will simply use some machine screws and spacers)

Here is a rough preliminary sketch of the new tray design:

-2 captive nuts to mount it to the radio shell
-4 captive nuts to mount the motherboard itself

You may also notice I've labelled a slot with a carriage bolt.
This is my idea to give the gpu more support while being flexible enough to fit any future cards that his build might use.
Currently it is just held in place by the tubing and the riser cable. It isnt putting any stress on the riser but it still needs a more robust solution.
Here is my idea for that with an incredibly detailed mock up done in microsoft paint 😉:


With the new tray I will decrease the size of the foam pads to give the carriage bolt plenty of adjustment. I may decide to add a second carriage bolt on the other side of the riser to more evenly distribute the weight. For now this is just for proof of concept of the design itself.
 
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FreshGnar

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Tackled a few items last night.

Threw in a screw on the underside to help close the gap in the side panel.




Also shortened and sleeved power button connector.
Before: (it was covered in heat shrink so I had a decent surface to glue into the corners to help manage the excess length)

Replacing the 4pin connector proved to be extremely tedious since the crimpers I have are a little too big to crimp the pins tight enough. I had to finish the job with some needle nose plyers but after wrestling with it and going through about 20 pins I ended up with a nice clean finished product. Good thing I bought the giant pin connector kit!




After:






Next thing I did was take the dremel to the front of the radio to open it up for a bit more access.


Doing this removes the holes that the front cover sat in so I had to come up with a different way of supporting it.
I drilled and countersunk some holes in the corners and epoxied on some screws that I hacked to length and then layered them with some electrical tape for a snug fit. It fits snug enough to keep the cover on even with it held upside down so I call that good enough.







I'm actually pretty excited to share this next part. The front needed to be opened up anyway but with more room in the front to work with, now I could look into an idea that's been kicking around in my head for a while now.

First, I opened up a box with some goodies from ppcs.com. Some more 45 and 90 deg elbows and some other misc fittings, some double sided tape, and...... an ultra slim 120mm rad from xspc 😏


So, my goal is to attempt to add another 120mm rad worth of cooling to the build in the very limited space in front of the motherboard.
Space is so limited in fact, that during test fitting the only way I found for the front cover to sit flush is to use a 92mm fan on the radiator that sits directly on the fins.




As far as plumbing the new radiator into the system. I really want to be able to add some quick disconnects so that the radiator can be installed separately from the motherboard to avoid tons of hassle.
After spending all evening trying different fitting combinations, I came up with this:


I know the amount of fittings is a little ridiculous, but the design allows it to hinge out effortlessly with the quick disconnects located in positions to be easily accessible.


Now that I have come up with a routing solution that works I will spend some more time tinkering with it to find a more efficient routing solution. With this solution the system flow goes PUMP -> 120RAD -> CPU -> but I will look at a option that goes PUMP -> CPU -> 120RAD -> that may potentially save me some fittings while also offering as much accessability.
There is also a bit of material left the shave off of the backside of the front cover, so maybe that might allow me to use a noctua 120mm slim fan or just give a bit more room to work with in general. It is definitely something I'll be looking into.

Regardless, I'm super stoked to actually find a solution that at least fits it inside the shell. This went from "you know what would be really cool..." to "holy s*** this could work", so I'm really excited to keep working at a way to improve it.
 
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Valantar

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Wow, I really love this project. Very, very cool. And well executed! The rad hanging off the back is a bit ... questionable, but somehow it still works. Next up: repurposing the frequency display as a temperature gauge, and giving all the knobs and dials a function? :D
 

FreshGnar

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Sep 23, 2020
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Wow, I really love this project. Very, very cool. And well executed! The rad hanging off the back is a bit ... questionable, but somehow it still works. Next up: repurposing the frequency display as a temperature gauge, and giving all the knobs and dials a function? :D
Thanks for the kind words! I get asked that alot. While it would be very cool, I currently have the power supply sitting right behind it on the backside and I'm afraid if I looked into it, it would just open up a can of worms. It would be super cool and I know alot of people would love to see it done, its just not something I'm concerned with at this point.
 

Valantar

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Jan 20, 2018
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Thanks for the kind words! I get asked that alot. While it would be very cool, I currently have the power supply sitting right behind it on the backside and I'm afraid if I looked into it, it would just open up a can of worms. It would be super cool and I know alot of people would love to see it done, its just not something I'm concerned with at this point.
That's very understandable, it was mostly a joke, though it would be really cool :D Oh, btw, wouldn't you say the can of worms is already well and truly opened with this build? :p
 
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FreshGnar

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I failed to mention in my last update that I did get a new motherboard tray cut and drilled. I attached the two captive nuts to mount to the case but still need to do the four that mount the motherboard itself. I can still mount the mobo I just really want the convenience of captive nuts. Regardless, at least I can use it to start mocking up some other things.




g]h


For those interested, this is the epoxy that I use:




I started reassembling some components to mock up where I wanted to cut the slot for the carriage bolt mount, but I came across an issue that I completely overlooked when I came up with that idea.
I only have this much room to work with:

Even if I did manage to fit it, I would lose the ability to install a second m.2 which I would like to keep.

So I went back to the drawing board and thought of this:

Using an L shaped bracket mounted at the same point as the radiator support bracket.
It would be a fixed length bracket so I would not have the ability to adjust it on the fly for any future graphics cards. However, I have plenty of sheet metal lying around so making another bracket like this to fit a different card wouldn't be that difficult. I would also add a square of foam to the top so it wouldn't just be sitting on bare metal.

On a more boring note, I found some dust filters I had leftover from another project to use on the radiator fans so I can cross that off the list.

I think the nf-a12x25s look much better unobstructed so I will probably move the filters to the backside of the nf-a12x15s on the pull side of the rad.
 
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FreshGnar

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Haven't had much time to work lately, but I was able to get the noctua psu fan swap done the other night:














I know I listed this as a low priority task, but given the lack of time I've had to work on this project recently I knew this was something I could knock out fairly quickly since most of the other tasks on my list are a bit more involved. Happy with how it turned out, and glad I did it. :)
 
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