Hi guys, I hope you find this of interest
During the course of the modifications to my shuttle , I could not help thinking that If I had designed my Shuttle I would have done some things differently, no doubt my line of thinking doesnâ€™t suffer the same constraints as Shuttle (like trying to do things cheaply), but you canÂ´t turn your head away from new developments in the PC industry, one of the latest trends is Quiet /Efficient cooling, which is a strange thing to say in some ways, since Shuttle has been a pioneer in using heatpipe cooling technology.
Shuttle tells us that that their SFF systems are so well designed, that they are perfectly capable of using all the hardware associated with the most powerfull desktop computers whilst enjoying this in a small footprint format that is also reasonably quiet. The truth isnâ€™t so rosy, if we take the SX48p2 Deluxe as an example which was shuttles top of the range model until the SX58 was introduced very recently and build it with the following components like I did.
Cpu Intel QX9650 (waste of money, better to buy a Q9650 and overclock it 3.6 ghz if you need speed)
GPU ATI 4870 512mb
HDD WD Velociraptors 300gb x2, Raid 0
Optical drive LG DVD recorder
Memory DDR3 4gb (2x2gb) Corsair Dominator 1800mhz cl8 (better to get 1600mhz memory with lowest latency, because the mb tops out at 1600 fsb)
You will find that everything works, but the temperatures and noise under load are not what most of us would expect. The problem resides in the fact that the cooling solutions from shuttle have not changed much since the introduction of the P2 chassis and while they were perfectly adequate for the hardware available a few years ago, it struggles to cope with current components as I found out when I put mine together with the above components. Although a less powerful graphic card and cpu would obviously be easier to cool, and the truth is that, there is fair number of shuttle owners quite happy about their general temps in their systems, but its not what most of us would call a silent cooling solution either, so it would still be worthwhile try and improve the cooling efficiency, even if the result is similar temps but near silent operation.
In order to improve the cooling in a shuttle, you need to understand how it works and its design limitations, as standard, all the fans in the system are set to blow out air, fresh enters the case through the various grilles and openings, this configuration works reasonably well, until you fit a powerful graphic card , which the latest models due to their size block a large amount of the ventilation grills used for air intake, and dump a lot of heat inside the case, if you add a hot CPU into the mix things can start to get hot, in my case I have to add another problem, high ambient temps due to the local climate.
With the P chassis we have 2 problems, limited airflow inside the case , and a cpu cooler and a chipset cooler that just about copes with intels fastest extreme chip ( QX9770) at their nominal speeds(NB temps go up noticeably when running at 400 fsb) and when you have a hot graphic card also dumping its heat load inside the case, the result will be the fan speeds will speed up in order to try and maintain the temperatures under control, and the 2 ICE fans are anything but silent when they speed up along with the 2 60mm rear case fans, Graphic cards like the ATI 4870 due to their length not only do they block the intake of fresh air into the case, but the usual dual slot cooling solution used in these cards in many cases also blocks airflow through the mosfet heatsink which is linked by heatpipes to the northbridge and southbridge heatsinks, causing your motherboard and chipset temps to run hotter.
The normal course of events once you reach the conclusion that although everything works your system runs too hot under load, is to start scratching your head looking at ways to improve the cooling, especially if you want to overclock in order to gain the maximum performance from your system or if you wish your to run your shuttle as a silent pc.
So I looked at the ICE cooler to see what could be done to improve the cooling, and it does not look promising, four single sided heatpipes which are cooled by a relatively small finned area by current day standards, of which its uppers section is blanked off by the 3.5â€ drive bay below the optical drive, removing this obstacle should improve the amount of airflow through the ICE cooler,but after this its obvious that the only way to increase improve cooling would be to increase the airspeed, and the original fan must have one of the highest rpm I have ever seen for a 92mm pwm fan (4000 + rpm) , So finding a fan that moves more air is going to be difficult to find, for the sake of comparison most so called silent 92mm pwm fans will rarely exceed 2500 rpm at full speed , at which point they are not exactly silent either.
Some people including myself have replaced the original shuttle fans with silent ones, and found this usually gives poor results with hot processors, the slower spinning silent fans pushed less air through the ICE cooler, I managed to compensate this loss to certain extent by removing the 3.5â€ drive bay and replacing the original 70mm pwm fan with a 2nd 92mm fan with a home made shroud for the fan/heatsink in order to maximize fan airflow, this exposes the full heatsink to fan airflow but it doesnt really achieve any lower temperatures than the original shuttle setup and I really wanted to overclock my QX9650 to at least 3.6 ghz ,but temps under prime 95 where too hot for my taste. what you do get is a lower noise output for same cooling capacity, which is a step in the right direction as this set up is a lot quieter and easier to live with. This mod should work a lot better with cpus with a lower TDP than my 130w for my QX9650, a Q9550 has 95w TDP, which if under volted to 1.15 v should be equal to the Q9550S which has a TDP of 65w.
Having realized that trying to improve the cooling any further with the ICE cpu cooler was a dead end, I started to research alternative cooling solutions, a more efficient cpu cooler was needed, the current trend is for fairly large tower heatsinks with lots of fin area that will allow them to dissipate heat with a slow spinning fan, the problem is lack of space inside the shuttle, height to be more specific, having removed the 3.5 drive bay, the maximum height available is 125mm, this seriously limits the choice of suitable coolers. I decided to try a Noctua NH9-UB, after modifying mounting brackets I installed with the same 92mm pwm fans I had used on the Ice cooler and found a nice drop in temp under load, which allowed me to push my QX9650 to 3.8ghz, but I wondered if we could improve things further as the fans had to be at max revs to keeps temps under control with Prime95, still too hot for my liking , and thought what would be really nice would be to use 120mm fans, the larger fans would spin slower to move the same amount of air and should produce less noise in the process.
I have tried several mods with varying degrees of success, but none was quiet enough for my liking , until now I think. And I believe it is applicable to all P2 systems, and possibly P1 also,since I had a SD31P case around and it shares similar dimensions and a lot of parts are interchangeable , My goal was quite simple, I wanted to achieve reasonable temps and with low noise, with air cooling for the sake of simplicity. The mod requires certain sacrifices though, you will have to loose the 3.5â€ drive below the optical drive, and modify the chassis & cover , which will probably invalidate your warranty, providing your ok with this you can make a substantial improvement to the cooling and make it quieter at the same time.
Continuation to follow