Some Notes On Construction
A good set of tools
Possibly the most important part of the purchase I made when pulling together hardware was a good toolkit. Especially having a decent torch on hand for later parts of construction, when the case is cluttered with hardware. But having a good screwdriver (ideally a ratchet screwdriver) and wrench makes the process much less frustrating overall.
The Antec SOLO case
Everything I’d heard about the Antec SOLO case proved to be more than true. It was a dream to work with, and really well thought out for PC building. There were only a few small things that made me nervous along the way.
Part of assembling any PC is putting an I/O panel in place – this is the metal panel at the back of the PC that all of your ports (USB, video) come through from your motherboard. It has all of those neat little etchings letting you know what each port is for. The SOLO case comes with a standard I/O panel, but it’s necessary to push that out and replace it with the I/O panel for the M4A89GTD motherboard. I had to use more force than I felt comfortable with in order to get this out – just keep building the pressure behind the I/O panel that’s in there, and it will eventually (possibly violently) pop out.
Also, be careful if you remove the bottom drive bay from the case, because there’s some cabling running through the bottom of the case that you run the risk of pinching and potentially cutting. And given that it’s the cabling going from the front of the case to the motherboard, that cabling is doing important stuff like making the power button work properly!
You can almost see the cabling at the bottom of the case in this shot
Like any puzzle, toward the end of assembly, you’re going to find it difficult to add the last few pieces. I’d recommend planning out and attaching the necessary cabling to your power supply before screwing the power supply into the case. The cabling that the Seasonic power supply comes with is fantastic quality, but relatively inflexible and difficult to move around components that are already in place.
When installing the optical drive (either a DVD or Blu-ray drive) there are tabs on either side of the bay that, when pushed in, will slide the drive bay out super-easily!
You can see the tabs for the drive bay at the bottom of this photo
Real Silent Case Fans
I’ve fallen in love with the Real Silent case fans after installing one. Rather than screwing to the case, they use rubber fasteners (the purple things you can see above) to fix tightly in place. These fasteners avoid the possibility of metal screws rattling or vibrating, and hold the fan in place better.
I’m definitely going to be adding another one of these fans to the heatsink to improve airflow!
Installing the Mugen 2 heatsink
Most of the components attach in only one possible place, as directed by the manual or by interconnecting slots and tabs, so most of the assembly was straightforward in terms of attaching things to other things. The only really complex assembly I found was attaching the Mugen 2 heatsink.
It’s necessary to remove the standard heatsink mount that comes with the Asus board for their stock heatsink, and screw the Mugen 2 directly to the motherboard using provided screws that ensure that you get even contact across the whole CPU. This is really important, because the heat spreads based on contact. There’s a great explanation on this page of the Silent PC review providing great photos and more detailed information.
The standard heatsink mount is the black plastic bracket around the CPU (the high reflective square) here
The weight of the heatsink makes it cumbersome, and a little daunting to attach to the heart of your PC – the motherboard. It’s definitely recommended as a job worth waiting for a friend to help.
It’s also worth considering picking up some third party thermal paste to use for attaching the heatsink to the CPU – heat is transferred between the two surfaces via a paste which becomes a cement between the heatsink and CPU. The Mugen 2 does come with a standard paste you can use, but based on recommendations I picked up a tube of Noctua NT-H1. I may never use that tube again, but for a $10 investment it’s worth getting the best use out of the much more expensive heatsink.
Third party thermal paste – glorified glue!
It’s worth noting as well that while everything fits together, there is precious little room between the RAM in the machine and the Mugen 2 heatsink – with slightly chunkier RAM, either things wouldn’t fit in place at all, or both surfaces would be touching, which would likely do Bad Things to the RAM.
Without the Radeon graphics card in the case, even without tweaking fan speeds, the machine is essentially silent. So if you ignore the graphics card (or substitute a quieter model) you should be happy with the results. I’ve been using the standard power management utility that comes with the motherboard to shut the graphics card off when I’ve been doing voice recording.
There’s definitely tweaking yet to be done – my cabling still looks like the mess above at the moment, and I know the case has great cable guides to help me get that under control. But, to be honest, it’s working good enough for now, and there’s voice work to be done. So I’ll inch closer to perfection as I need to.
I’m by no means an expert on hardware, but if you’ve got any questions or feedback, I’d love to hear it. I’ll keep an eye on comments, and if there’s something you’re curious about, I should be able to dig up an answer if I can’t respond straight away.
Thanks for reading!
About The Author
Kevin Powe is a Voice artist based in Melbourne, Australia. The multi-talented Mr. Powe is many things including: IT Consultant, Voice Over Artist, Would-be Cowboy and all around nice guy. Right now, he’s pretending to be a Space Marine.
You can find Kevin at his voice over site and contact him for Voiceover Work, or a hand with tricky IT questions.