The Desk-PC version 2

The Desk-PC, v2

I described the construction of version 1 here . Most of the steps for version 2 are similar, that’s why I will concentrate to describe the differences in this report…
After a few months, I was not completely satisfied with the first design. The case under my desktop was too high, resulting in recurring knee-banging. In addition, I build the desk-PC so that the components could be seen and admired while working on the pc. Now they could be seen but were located way too deep under the glass for my taste. And last but not least, cable management, meaning hiding the numerous cables from sight, was rudimentary at best.

Step 1: Preparations

For version 2, I decided to make the case slimmer and lighter. 16mm strong MDF as used in version 1 was absolute overkill for a PC-case. I settled for 8mm for version 2. The minimal height of the body had previously been limited by the CPU cooler, which towered high on top of the motherboard. After some research concerning slimmer CPU coolers, I came to the conclusion that water cooling would solve the problem most effectively as the pump housing of even AIO-coolers is significantly slimmer that the big radiator of an air cooler. As a side-effect, water-cooling done right produces a lot less noise, covering one of my other goals for version 2, near-silence.

To optimize the cable management, I aimed for a double bottom. I planned another MDF-board above the ground board with the same footprint minus the material thickness. 
All other parts involved could be „recycled“ from version 1.

Step 2: Shopping

The MDF boards were ordered at agein. The glass-plate could be re-used from version 1, material-cost was therefore reduced to a minimum.

  • 1x MDF board 90 x 45 cm, 8mm
  • 1x MDF board 88,4 x 44,4 cm, 8mm
  • 2x MDF board 90 x 11 cm, 8mm
  • 2x MDF board 43,4 x 11cm, 8mm

Total sum: around 30€. 

Here ist the water-cooling all-in-one system I used: Arctic Liquid Freezer 240. (affiliate Link) 

As I mentioned earlier, I aimed for a near silent system. The Arctic-cooler is equipped with 4 fans (2 suck in, 2 blow out of the radiator) which have such a massive air-flow, that revolution-speed of the individual fan can be reduced to 600-700rpm permanent and independent of cpu-workload. I am much less irritated by a constant gentle hum than by permanently changing noises concerning volume and frequency. 
I was not let down by the Arctic-cooler: even with the pump only working at 50%, I was able to get sufficient cooling on my Ryzen 5 1600x by running the 4 fans at only 600rpm permanently. At idle the cpu sits at around 30-35°C, at load I seldom get readings over 60°C. For safety concerns, I set the BIOS-settings to ramp up the rpm, should the cpu get hotter than 80°C (which has not happened so far). Even with the fans and radiator directly under the glass plane, I hear nearly next to nothing.

Step 3: Building

The construction was analog to version 1. First, all components were laid out in the desired layout on the mounting-board to mark the corresponding openings for I/O and cooling-fans with a pencil. 

This time, this step was a bit tricky, because I had to plan the openings for mainboard and GPU on the back-board a few centimeters higher due to the double bottom design. And I had to make different openings for the cooling-fans to countersink them between the base-board and the mounting-board. It took some „juggling“ to get these markings right. 

Additionally I marked openings under the mainboard an under the GPU on the mounting-board for subsequent cable-management. The challenging part is, to make these openings big enough to handle all the cables and connectors but small enough to not be seen when covered by mainboard and GPU. 

After sawing with the jigsaw, I glued all boards together and reinforced with nails. Before inserting the mounting-board, little wooden cubes of 3cm height were glued in the four corners and then some evenly distributed around the rest of the base-board. The mounting-board was glued to these cubes and … voilà:

The raw-case: 

The case was then painted. Again my tip for painting MDF, especially if one uses spray-paint: use a primer. MDF soaks paint like a sponge. I re-lived my mistake from version 1, did not use a primer and sprayed a whole can on the case, barely getting the desired color. I painted the outside of the case white again, as it fits the rest of my furnishings. For the inside, I chose a color with “rust”-effect. In combination with the warm-white LED´s I used this time for illumination instead of bright RGB-LED´s, the “rust”-color results in a way more calm and relaxing mood. Side effect is, that one does not spot dust on this surface as easily.
To seal the glass-plate with the case I use window-isolation-tape again, but this time in brown to match it with the “rust”-color. In comparison to version 1, I did without a separate frame on top of the case, to save height and because it just wasn’t needed for cable-management anymore. After completion I realized, that I needed a slim sheet of wood on the front-plate, where the LED-light was positioned, to shield the light which went upwards. Otherwise there was a bad reflection on the computer-display.
The “marriage” between desktop and the new case was a real challenge this time, because either the case had become slightly broader than planned or the wood of the desktop had bulged. Either way, the case wouldn´t fit at first, it costed me some nicking on the desktop and a lot of pushing and pressing, before the case was in place and the glass-plane planar to the desktop. It was secured with brackets and wood screws as before. 

The components were installed. First PSU, cooling-fans, water-cooling and media-dashboard. The cables were pulled through the double bottom to the openings for the mainboard and GPU. SSD´s were outfitted with cables and hidden somewhere in the double bottom. At last, the mainboard and GPU were put in place (don´t forget that I/O-Shield!), connected and finally screwed to the mounting-board with rubber-feets (see version 1) and wood-screws. The openings under the water-cooling were sealed with dust-protection sheets. Glass-plane on top and … finished!

Step 4: Usage

The attentive reader might have noticed that this build has no power-button. This was intended (and due to my laziness). A stylish power-button could easily have been mounted on front of the case or even inside the desktop and wired to the mainboard. But I chose a different solution, using this switch:ANSMANN Steckdosenadapter energiesparend (affiliate Link, sorry, I could only find the german amazon-page)

This plug can be programmed to switch the socket of after 60 seconds, if a certain amount of power-usage is undercut. The PC and all its peripherals like display, printer, lights, … are plugged into a power-strip which is plugged into this switch. I adjusted the BIOS so that the PC turns itself on after a power-outage. Pressing the red button of the plug turns the whole system on, shutting the PC down via Windows, the plug realizes the power-loss and turns the whole system off. A quite elegant solution, if I may say.

All in all, I am very satisfied with version 2 of the „Desk-PC“. As mentioned earlier, the build is near silent regardless of the workload. My new GPU 

„MSI GTX 1060 6GB Gaming X“

is amazing as it only uses its cooling-fans if it has serious work to do, otherwise, its completely silent. The glass is extremely durable, impacts from some heavy gadgets like my vaping equipment could not break it. I already spilled some liquids like wine or coke on the desk, but due to the isolating-tape, there was always enough time to wipe them up, before anything could drop inside the case.

To conclude, here are the specs of my current system :

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 1600X
  • Mainboard: MSI B350M MORTAR
  • RAM: 2 x Ballistix Sport LT 8GB DDR4-2400 CL16
  • SSD: WD Black 256 GB interne SSD, PCIe 8 Gbit/s M.2 2280
  • GPU: MSI GTX 1060 GB Gaming X
  • AIO-water-cooling: Arctic Liquid Freezer 240
  • Cooling-fans: 2 x Noctua NF-S12A PWM 

I hope this build-report was kinda fun to read, not to long and maybe helped someone to get inspired for a project of their own. 

So far, 

Jan Michaelsen