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AcuteJungle66

Chris Connor - Project SparklePony - #TTUK2020CaseModChallenge

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Hi All.

My name is Chris and I am from Scotland. I have been dabbling with tech ever since I got my Commodore 64 back in the '80s, but did not get my first 'proper' PC until I threw together a bunch of other peoples' leftover parts. Oh yes, my Pentium II @ 400Mhz with a Riva TNT2 PCI card was quite the beast; or maybe not 😢.

I served in the military for a total of 8 years, then briefly worked in I.T. before starting a career within the Civil Service. Tech and Gaming have both been passions of mine now for several decades, but it was only recently that I returned to higher education to pursue a tech-related degree. In my spare time I play my fair share of video games, but also enjoy the outdoors as much as I can.

I am very humbled to have been selected as one of the five contestants for the Thermaltake UK 2020 Case Mod Challenge, and hopefully my build progress can at least put a smile on your face during these difficult times. Speaking of progress, it will be a few weeks until I get started building I am afraid; as I am in the final weeks at University. But as soon as my online assessments and dissertation are out of the way, I will post regular updates.

The first shipment of components arrived just yesterday, consisting of:

  • ThermalTake View 51 Snow
  • ASUS ROG STRIX X570-F Gaming
  • ASUS Radeon RX 5700
  • 500GB Seagate FireCuda 520
  • 14TB Seagate IronWolf Pro
  • 850W Thermaltake Toughpower GF1
  • Thermaltake Pacific Hard Tube Water Cooling Kit
  • Thermaltake Pacific V-RX 5700 Series Plus GPU Waterblock
  • Thermaltake Water Cooling Pacific Hard Tube Bending Kit
  • 300mm Thermaltake TtMod Sleeved Cables
  • 300mm Thermaltake TT Premium PCIe Extender

All of the components and brands that made it possible

The crew at #scancomputers worked tirelessly to get these parts out to us, so huge thanks to them. I am blown away by #Seagate not only for providing the blistering fast PCIe 4.0 FireCuda, but the huge 14TB Ironwolf Pro; I wonder if it will be possible to install my entire Steam Library? 😏

There are more parts on the way from the fantastic folk at #Thermaltakeuk and #AMD, I will make sure to post pictures of them when they arrive.

As far as the design itself...

 

 

 

...that will also have to wait for another day.

Stay safe and take care everyone!

 

 

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Thanks for the encouragement guys, much appreciated.

Would have replied sooner, but spinning a lot of plates at the moment; I'm sure many can relate!

32GB of Thermaltake TOUGHRAM RGB and an AMD Ryzen 7 3700X arrived last week:CPUandRAM.thumb.jpg.10b1ef1868a772cab231694fb336ff8d.jpg

So quickly put the core components together to make sure everything was working alright.

The ROG Strix X570-F Gaming is good looking motherboard, and there is plenty of space in the View 51:

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Using PCIE Gen 4, the Firecuda 520 should be blistering fast. Was also nice to see that using the 1st M.2 slot does not cause the X16 slot to bump down to X8 like on previous generations (X470/370).

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Whilst I have not installed it just yet (I want to keep it safe and sound), the 14TB Ironwolf Pro is an absolute monster:

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The TOUGHRAM is some good looking memory, and the Ryzen 3700X is sitting underneath the Wraith Max cooler. For a stock cooler it is admittedly pretty decent, but this build is destined for a custom loop.

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The stock cooler on the AMD Radeon RX 5700 from Asus also functions alright, but gets pretty loud when the fan get up to higher speeds. Another component that will greatly benefit from a water block.

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The Toughpower GF1 is an 80 PLUS Gold certified fully modular PSU, 850W is more than enough for the job.

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With everything installed fairly quickly (did not put any effort into cable-managment of course, as it will all be coming back out again), it was time to make sure the PC booted alright and everything worked as intended.

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Sure enough, everything worked without any issues. After dialing in a few settings within the BIOS, it was then time to make sure that the PCIE extender also worked.

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Yep, everything is working just fine.

Whilst I'll be fairly 'radio silent' for a couple of weeks yet due to exams and whatnot, I will have a couple of updates that I prepared earlier. Not related to the design, but as far as tweaking a few bits and pieces.

But as soon as my academic work is out of the way, I'll get torn into this project and keep you up to date!

 

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Hey there modders!

First off, huge thanks to everyone that engaged with the intro video that @Thermaltakeposted on Facebook; best of luck to all of you that entered the giveaway!

No real progress to report for this week, so let me explain why that is the case.

As you know-given current events-shipping of non-essential items can be fairly delayed these days, so many of my materials are still to get here. I am also still awaiting delivery of more components from Thermaltake, so I am currently in a hold pattern (nevermind the fact I still have exams on the horizon).

Once everything arrives I will be able to properly start the modding. You may not agree with my methodology, but let me break down my plan so you can hopefully see where I am coming from.

  1. Assemble the full custom loop. I won't spoil what that is going to consist of, but I need to see how/where everything precisely fits in order to decide on how I want my tubing runs.
  2. Once that is assembled, then I can make some templates for my acrylic. Nothing high-tech here, the only power-tools i have are drill/dremel/jigsaw/heatgun. Then of course I need to construct all of that using a combination of cutting/bending/bonding, to make sure it all fits and looks alright.
  3. With that out of the way, everything will get dissassembled and the case itself gutted. A combination of cutting bits out and fabricating new bits will then be followed by a complete repaint.
  4. With everything painted/sealed, as well as some other small details (artwork, glass, etc.), then reassembly can commence. The finishing touches and of course wiring will be the real pain here.

Whilst that all sounds simple enough, we all know that things very rarely go exactly to plan. These 4 bullet-points are also a vast oversimplification of the work that will be carried out, but we will get into the full details as they happen.

In the meantime, I hope everyone is staying safe and staying at home; take care folks!

 

P.S. Of course the first thing I did was flash the RX 5700 with an XT BIOS 😏

IMG_1747.thumb.JPEG.7b7baf825ea153ed3bb3817ccc2f1084.JPEG

Disclaimer: BIOS flashing is done completely at your own risk and VOIDS your warranty.

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Right folks, time for a weekly update.

Still haven't starting modding just yet, currently in the final stages of my dissertation; but I do expect the majority of my materials/components to arrive sometime this week. With any luck I will be able to get stuck in during the weekend!

I have however tinkered with the vanilla build though, as I alluded to in my previous post.

Whilst I did not have the time to complete a comprehensive benchmark suite, just the act of flashing the AMD Radeon RX 5700 with an XT BIOS achieved a decent gain in The Division 2. At stock, the in-game benchmark performed admirably:IMG_1708.thumb.JPG.5fadfb0076b87ac0300432ac5d52aa08.JPG

Anyone that has played The Division 2 knows how the framerate fluctuates depending on whether you are outside or inside, which tended to be in the 80s and 100+ range respectively in this case.

After flashing the BIOS, but not changing anything else (no manual overclock or undervolt); a nice little gain was observed:IMG_1750.thumb.JPEG.940786f6c6af2e7fd38ef59e05590301.JPEG

For some reason V-sync stayed enabled during benchmarking, so I had to manually disable it; hence why it shows as 'custom' above. With the stock blower cooler still installed I do not want to push the card just yet; but once the custom loop is installed, we'll see how far we can push it. Radeon cards perform really well once you remove thermal limitations, anyone with an old Vega card (like myself) or even a Radeon VII can certainly attest to that.

The next item on my hitlist so-to-speak was RAM, as I was experiencing a few issues. Now don't get me wrong, the Thermaltake TOUGHRAM RGB sticks are fantastic bits of kit; they look great and perform really well, Hynix CJR easily goes toe-to-toe with Samsung B-Die. Also, the Asus ROG Strix X570-F Gaming motherboard is a solid motherboard...

...but as anyone with experience of running 4 sticks on Ryzen knows, XMP/D.O.C.P. profiles are usually only validated for 2 sticks. In my case, all 4 sticks ran just fine with the D.O.C.P. profile loaded, by which I mean games/benchmarks/folding@home/virtualisation; but upon restarting or powering on the system, it would hang with a RAM error. After trying all the usual things: reseating RAM, clearing CMOS, flashing the BIOS (using Version 1407, 2020/04/07), nothing seemed to remedy the problem...

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...except for running the RAM faster than 3000Mhz. Whilst I don't have the timings dialled in perfectly just yet (I just mucked around with this during a 'coffee break' from my academic work), I'm fairly happy with getting 4 sticks of 3000Mhz CL16 to run @ 3600Mhz CL18 for now. Whilst the alleged 'sweet spot' for Ryzen 3xxx is 3733Mhz, there does seem to be a consensus that having the Infinity Fabric at 1800Mhz and RAM at 3600Mhz-so it runs with a 1:1 ratio-is fairly optimal.

Whilst I don't have a comprehensive benchmark comparison of before and after, I do have a quick and dirty Userbenchmark comparison.

Before:

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After:

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I know that Userbenchmark isn't great for comparing components and that their ranking/weighting for CPUs is waaaaaaaaaaaaay off! But for a quick before/after comparison for something like RAM or a new SSD, it can be quite handy indeed.

If you prefer some AIDA64 numbers, all I have is the after (and it's limited because Trial version):

image10.thumb.jpg.a9361f65f756d3e0fa120bc1ecd40369.jpg

It's a decent starting point; depending on timings you would expect to see a 3000Mhz kit at around 45K, 3200Mhz 48K, 3600Mhz 51-55K (all when using 2 sticks btw). So to be just shy of 51K with a very quick 'stab in the dark' attempt isn't bad at all. When I have more time I will really try to dial them in further.

I did not observe any real change in The Division 2 (the only game I have installed on the system) or Uniengine Heaven or Valley; but the experiments I am currently running within virtual machines are certainly running quicker than before.

But the main bonus? The machine boots every single time now and runs stable from what I have observed (memtest overnight, folding@home, etc.). I am also pleasantly surprised that the Ryzen 3700X is hitting 4.34Ghz on the stock cooler, I guess the latest BIOS saw an improvement in AGESA.

Right, I'm out for now. Hopefully my next update will consist of me showing the addtional components from @Thermaltake as well as some of the raw materials that Project SparklePony will be using.

Stay home and stay safe folks!

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Little overdue for a weekly update here, because reasons!

First and foremost, a huge thanks to everyone that is checking in on my progress (albeit very little so far) here on the forums; as well as those of you reaching out to me on other platforms. Hopefully when the work really begins, you will be rewarded with frequent posts full of pictures and commentary. ####, even if (when) things go wrong, I'll make sure to post my experiences.

Just last week I submitted my disseration, so fairly glad that is behind me. As fate would have it, Project SparklePony became a vital asset for it; as I ran all of my experiments on the system. I don't want to bore you all too much, the TLDR: a virtual network with a web-server/legitimate traffic generator/malicious traffic generator, comparing the performance of open source IDSs (Intrusion Detection Systems).

The extra oompth of the 3700X meant that each of my virtual machines could have more processing power than the 2600 in my current build, whilst the Firecuda 520 provided much higher performance than the drives that I have currently also. For multiple VMs this makes quite the difference, as each of their 'virtual' hard drives were all on it. So when multiple VMs need to read/write at once, that extra speed really impacts the performance of each VM.

For comparison, here are a few CrystalDiskMark results so you can see the difference.

First up is a 2TB Samsung 860 QVO that is my storage drive in my rig, by no means a fast drive:

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Next is the Samsung 960 EVO that is my OS/APP drive in my rig, we all know that it is a solid performer:

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The Firecuda 520 in SparklePony? Holy ####:

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Whilst everyone will tell you that it makes no difference in gaming, aside from initial/subsequent load times; it really depends on the game. An environment like The Division 2 for example (which continually loads in data from your drive) does experience a benefit, or at least it feels like it does.

Regardless, whilst these faster speeds may not make a big difference for gaming; it certainly made a huge difference for my studies.

 

Ok, but what about the modding already?

Right, so the majority of my raw materials are here, I will have to clear my workspace up and lay them all out for photos in the near future. For components however, due to the current 'world situation' those are slightly delayed 😢

I have however slightly began on an area that does not require the other stuff to come in:

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Originally I was just going to cut out at a square (before actually getting my hands on the View 51), but after seeing the clearance between the PSU and the back panel:

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I just did not feel comfortable potentially restricting the airflow there. Whilst I know a lot of mods out there don't really care about actual functionality, this setup is going to be used all the time: gaming, art, potentially college (no pressure on her at all 😉), etc. So I decided to leave that little section of grill down there and I'll trim the included magnetic dust filter to fit there.

One thing I did notice of course was the upside-down logo on the PSU (due to the orientation of the View 51):

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That was a whole 2 second job, but is now rectified.

That's it, that is all I managed to get around to doing I'm afraid. I just had a final exam this week, I have one more the week after next; as well as an essay to complete as well. Once those last 2 tasks are out of the way, then I can really get my teeth into it. Hopefully the other goodies will be here by then as well!

In the meantime, thanks once again for stopping by.

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Stay home, stay safe!

Edited by AcuteJungle66
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It's Monday morning and once again the weather is absolutely glorious!

I know I sound like the boy that cried wolf, but the additional components from Thermaltake and Scan UK should be with me very soon. So in preparation for that, I decided over the weekend to get some other things in order first.

First on the agenda was the AMD Radeon™ RX 5700 graphics card from Asus, which comes with the reference blower cooler and no backplate.

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Disassembly was a fairly straightforward affair, with only minimal residue left over by some of the thermal pads.

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As you can see, the Pacific V-RX 5700 waterblock from Thermaltake will be getting installed onto the card, but before that we have some minor detail work to be done first.

Now each to their own and all that, but one thing that drives me crazy is when I see someone slap a beautiful block on a graphics card, but do nothing with the stock bracket:

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The unpainted bare metal sticks out like a sort thumb, unless of course that is the look you are going for. For Project SparklePony however, something had to be done about this eyesore. Whilst you can of course purchase aftermarket single-slot brackets, which are usually painted or powder-coated, I am a cheapskate; so giving it a good paint was the 'thrifty' option 😉

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A few coats of primer followed by some gloss black and clear lacquer...

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Ahh, much better.

Now on to the next pet-peeve of mine. So many graphic cards have that irritating burnt orange/rust edge on them, in your average build it isn't the end of the world; but when you are trying to make a build as aesthetically pleasing as possible, something has to be done.

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Nothing that a Sharpie can't fix of course 😀

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The Sharpie trick is an ancient technique that has been passed down throughout the generations, works really well for any random silver screws you have as well as those silly little coloured wires on your front panel connectors/audio header.

Once that was all prepped, it was time to put the block on.

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If weight is a sign of quality, then this thing is top-notch. Feels really solid and installation was very straightforward.

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I look forward to finding out how all the temps are with it, especially since the card has been flashed and will of course be overclocked.

The backplate that comes with the block is also a really solid piece of kit, whilst it won't be on show much due to mounting the card vertically; it still serves the important function of giving the assembly some rigidity.

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With that all sorted, next up was ditching the stock cooler that came with the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X and installing the waterblock.

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I was really impressed with the backplate that comes with the Thermaltake Pacific W4 Plus RGB CPU block. Really sturdy but also a very nice premium finish.

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And of course the underside of the block itself has that gentle reminder, folk forget to take that off much more often than you would expect!

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I wasn't sure how I would feel about the look of a circular block, PCs are usually full of right angles. But actually I quite like the look of it.

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With that installed it was then time to get the graphics card in as well, just to get an idea of how/where everything is going to align.

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From this angle below, you can see that the minor tweaks of painting the bracket and busting out the Sharpie has accomplished exactly what I wanted it to. If there was a rusty edge around the graphics card, your eye would be naturally drawn to it; whereas now you'd really have to go looking for it. The devil is in the details after all.

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Once the rest of the LCS components from Thermaltake arrive, I'll be installing it all so I can see exactly what I need to do in regards to bends as well as my acrylic work.

Then once I'm happy with what all needs to be done, everything will be removed so I can work on the case. A combination of more cutting, grinding, and painting are on the menu; as well as a few other things.

In the meantime, stay home and stay safe folks!

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Not much to report this week I'm afraid, still awaiting delivery of the remaining components from Thermaltake. It has worked out well however, as I was able to finish up all of my academic work without any distraction; just sitting my last exam yesterday.

So now I am done with everything and just waiting for my results!

As soon as the rest of the parts arrive, I will finally be able to really get stuck in; so this past weekend I decided to do a few preliminary things to get the ball rolling.

Since the weather was nice I decided to take a stab at cutting my first piece of acrylic:

Acrylic1.thumb.jpg.460bd77e6ae63b78401626a69bb12e3f.jpg

This particular sheet is actually gloss white, but comes with a protective blue film on both sides. The film is quite handy for plotting your guidelines, as well as providing some surface tension to prevent cracks or splintering. I just used a cheap jigsaw (nothing fancy) but with a high-quality metal-cutting blade. As long as you keep the speed slow and with no articulation, cutting acrylic this way is fairly straightforward. Just remember not to go too fast, otherwise it will melt back together.

The radiator/fan brackets also needed a little bit of cutting with a dremel:

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Just little slots to allow the acrylic sheet to be flush with the frame. An alternative option would have been to put notches in the acrylic, but doing it that way would require pinpoint precision; whereas this way I could basially 'eyeball' it.

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Not bad for a first test-fit.

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I will need to trim the top bracket a little bit more, as the acrylic isn't perfectly perpindicular at that top-left corner. Plenty of other little bits of cutting to do as well, for cable and tubing access; as well as more acrylic pieces to measure and cut for the rest of the inside. Unfortunately I can't do that until the rest of the cooling parts come, as I need the exact measurements.

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It is nice and bare back here for now, but once all of the power/argb/fan cables are in, it is going to be a nightmare to tidy up. 

Well that's it for now, weather permitting I will do a little more acrylic work over the weekend. Now that all my academic work is out of the way I plan on making steady progress relatively quickly. The sooner I get everything assembled and mocked up, it will be much easier for my step-daughter to plan out the 'artsy' stuff. She has plenty of ideas, but it can be difficult to visualise without having the blank canvas set up to see how everything will look/fit.

In the meantime, take care folks. 

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The eagerly anticipated second delivery came in this week!

A few fittings unfortunately came in chrome rather than black, which I imagine is due to issues with stock; which is completely understandable given current events. The extra-thick radiator did however really catch me by surprise. My intent was to install a 2nd Pacific C360 radiator at the front, for a total of 2 radiators (top and front). 

After a good couple of days trying different layouts, it became clear that I would have to have the slim rad up top and the thick rad at the front. Not only is the Pacific CL360 thicker, it is also a fair bit wider as I soon found out:

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Whilst it has all the mounting holes in the 120mm position, the actual dimensions of the radiator are that of the 140mm position. The knock-on effect is that I have to trim the notches for the acrylic a bit more, which isn't too bad; but it also resulted in having to experiment with the positioning of the Pacific DP100-D5 distribution plate.

I also got my pipe-cleaners out to try and get an idea of possible tubing runs:

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Wasn't too keen on this first iteration, so pondered over it for a little while and tried again:

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As you can see, the 64mm thick radiator brings some issues. The View 51 only officially supports such a thick rad in the area that the distro plate currently sits. It kind of fits up top, but requires to be offset a fair bit; resulting in the fans being off center. So the front will have to do. It also unfortunately intrudes on quite a bit of space where artwork was orginally going to be, so will have to go back to the drawing board a little bit there as well. Once I trim and install the acrylic we will be able to get a better idea of how to proceed.

As you can see, the distro plate also has to end up sitting quite low in order for drain port clearance. This also means that only 2 fans will be able to fit down below.

Right, so before diving into more fabrication and prepping for paint etc., I wanted to make sure the components were working and that the radiators didn't have any leaks. I'd much rather take the time now to check, than find out AFTER all the work has been done.

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The run from the top radiator to the CPU block will definitely have to be remade, I was off by fair bit and really had to force placement. Fairly happy with the GPU>radiator run though.

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The CPU>front rad run is alright, but I will likely bend a fresh one later on. Originally it was going to enter the other port on the radiator, but the run from port back to the distro plate was just way too sharp; so had to change it up at the last minute.

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Whilst I do love the look of perfectly perpindicular bends, I also really like curvy ones like this little rascal. This one will definitely be a keeper. I also like the angle at which the previous bend had to it.

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The final run (first run in the loop order) sucks. Due to the position that I have to have the distro plate in, that port on the distro plate is too low. This bend will definitely be getting changed, I will most likely run from the higher port and come down at an angle like the CPU>fat rad run.

But it will do for now for the sake of making sure everything works.

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Sure enough, that dodgy run had a slighly leak. The tubing was basically sliding out due to the tension on it, at least it will hold for this test.

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Thankfully that was the only issue. The D5 pump runs like a champ, and the radiators are rock solid with no leaks. The loop ended up taking 1.5L of fluid to fill, and getting all the air out was quite the headache; but I got there in the end.

Mission accomplished, everything works and I have a better idea now of how the runs will likely look (they will be tweaked a fair bit by the end). 

Now time to drain the loop and dismantle everything.

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Having spent all of yesterday mucking around with the case, I am going to have to take a day or two of rest; my sciatica is unfortunately screaming at me.

Next on the agenda is to modify/trim the acrylic sheet that was hugging the motherboard, now that the distro plate and thick radiator are there. Then I can move on to the remaining acrylic pieces that will inhabit the interior as well as around the fans. Once all of those have been done I can then move on to a full tear down of the case, a little bit of cutting, and then prep for paint.

I also need to begin work on the back/side panel as well. Hopefully the weather this weekend cooperates with me!

Thanks for stopping by folks, take care and stay safe!

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4 hours ago, Colin McNally said:

Looking good mate 

Thanks mate.

After mulling it over though, I’m just not happy with it. It has become way too ‘busy’ due to that thick rad.

I think I’m just going to bite the bullet and put it up top with the fans off-centre:

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For the components that are in there, a single 64mm radiator should be more than enough. So if I just go with the single:

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I’ll have much more ‘canvas’ and it should look a lot cleaner and less busy.

At least that’s what I’m thinking; and my girls like it better this way, so I’ve got to listen to them!

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Whilst I did like the actual runs from the first iteration, this should work. Now we have a bit more space for whatever the #### we (I say we, my step-daughter is in charge of artwork) end up putting there.

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Ooft, what a week.

So picking up where I left off, plan for this past week was to get all of the acrylic pieces hashed out. I wanted to get that out of the way, since it was going to be one of the more tricky items on the agenda. Sure enough, it was fairly tricky.

Attempt #1

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The holes for attempt #1 were slightly off, but nothing a little moulding/edging wouldn't be able to hide; same with the cutout for the pump and drain port. Unfortunately I had a bit of an accident when I was drilling the last hole, my step bit had got stuck and I accidentally applied to much pressure when trying to get it unstuck.

Which resulted in a crack:


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Whilst only apparent when you get up close and personal, I knew I would have to try again. 

Attempt #2

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I decided to take a short break from redoing that particular panel and started working on the rear and bottom. Ended up reusing the broken panel for the rear bit and did a test fit with the edging, fairly happy with it. Bottom still needs a fair bit of tweaking, but I was ready to dive back in to getting the big piece sorted.

Got everything cut and drilled, was looking better than the first attempt. If you look closely however, you will likely notice a large crack above the fittings. That crack happened whilst I was dusting off the acrylic, couldn't believe it; another significant amount of time down the drain.

On the plus side, it gave me some food for thought and I decided that I would make some tweaks for...

Attempt #3

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I now had a really good template for what I needed to do, and can report that everything went perfectly! Holes are spot on, edges straight and most importantly NO #### CRACKS. In retrospect, the cracks were of course my fault; but valuable lessons were learned.

Next up was the acrylic pieces for the top and front fan areas:

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The top didn't cause me any real issues, just some minor tweaking was required to get it to fit snugly. Not convinced I'm 100% happy with it, so may have to revisit later.

The front part though, that was interesting.

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I figured that a 200mm hole saw cutter would do the trick:

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What an absolute beast of a unit, considerably heavy as well! It definitely does the job, you just have to take it nice and slowly; ensuring not to force it too much. The problem however was that whilst the scrap piece of acrylic (the circle or 'donut hole' if you will) was 200mm in diameter, the piece I was using ended up being larger. Which is of course due to the width of the saw bit itself.

This meant that once I trimmed the piece to fit in the front section, I was left with 3 separate pieces (very slight tolerances on the sides) that didn't actually line up well with the fans themselves.

So I ended up having to cut the pieces up even more (into 6 pieces) and try to fit them together like some kind of jigsaw puzzle:

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In its current state, it clearly looks like crap. The curvature of the circles is off, edges don't line up, etc...

I've got a few plans up my sleeve to achieve the end result that I want, just a case of some more experimentation. It has made me reconsider trying to achieve the raw acrylic finish on the front and top though, as I think it will look much cleaner if the panels are paint-matched to the rest of the case; with the seams all removed so it looks like 1 piece of plastic.

So whilst it was a frustrating week for me (1 day of work, 2 days of sciatic pain afterwards, rinse/repeat), it has also been a great learning experience for me.

I'm going to take the weekend off so I can relax and recuperate, but full steam ahead next week; time for some dremel work and get started on paint!

Thanks for stopping by folks, take care and stay safe!

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Been a bit of a slow week, the weather was hit and miss up in my neck of the woods so was limited as to what I could get done outside.

I wanted to get started on painting the frame, but needed to do a little bit more cutting before I could get started:

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This large rectangle was of course for an LCD screen:

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A little rough around the edges at first glance (I was just making sure it actually fit), but the acrylic within the interior should hopefully give it a clean finish.

I cleaned up the edges a bit more, then sanding everything down in preparation to start laying down some primer:

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Even just a coat of primer looked better than the stock finish, hopefully the final product will be worth it.

This week I'm hoping to finish off these bits so I can start putting components back in, then next on the agenda will be front and top panels.

Thanks for stopping folks, take care and stay safe!

 

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Hey there folks, been a little while since my last update.

I had originally planned to get a fair bit done last weekend and have an update for Monday, but things didn't work out that way. But anyway, what progress has been made since the last time?

The front and top panels were not going to plan, which is definitely my own fault. I think I misjudged just how tricky doing the things I wanted to with the acrylic would end up being! After seeing how the first run ended up looking, it also made me realise that I would end up painting those bits anyway; as the raw acrylic would look slightly out of place.

So I decided to try a different material:

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Yep, that is going to work a lot better. Need to do some finishing work to it of course, fill in the gaps and sand smooth. But at least this mock-up gives you an idea of what my plan was for these areas. Hopefully the final product will look alright!

I had ran out of supplies, so just put those pieces to the side for now. With the holes all lined up I could now turn my attention to the fan/radiator brackets:

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I trimmed off some of the front fan mount so it's less busy, then gave both mounts the usual primer then paint. Unfortunately I was out of clear and couldn't purchase any locally, so had to wait until this Friday until I could give them a few coats of that.

Since that was on hold, I turned my attention to the interior of the case. I figured that whilst I have a lot of exterior work to complete yet, I could potentially get the inside sorted in the meantime. So that is exactly what I started on:

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The rubber moulding/trim isn't quite perfect at the moment, but is lined up fairly well for now. Whilst all of my measurements for the acrylic panels were fine, once I popped all the bits in I soon found that I needed to sand some of the edges down a little more. It was definitely a tight fit.

Speaking of tight fits, it took me ages to get the GPU in; I'm still amazed I didn't crack the acrylic in the process. I really should have put that in before the rear acrylic piece, but oh well:

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Before I get bombarded with comments about having the exhaust at the bottom and the 'but heat rises' argument, yes I know. I am no stranger to the concepts of cooling a PC, and the decision to have all the fans orientated the way they are is purely aesthetic. Whlst the 200mm Riing Trios have lighting on the front and rear, the 120mm Riing Quads do not. So they needed to be orientated this way to provide the lighting necessary for the other acrylic pieces yet to be installed. But with that being said, the airflow that will be present within the case is more than enough to overcome the mechanics of convection.

I installed a single fan guard on the fan underneath the GPU, so as not to catch the riser cable. Those fans won't be visible anyway, so no biggie.

Just today I managed to apply clear coat to the fan mounts as well as the small front panel, so the plan is to get those installed tomorrow so I can carry on with the interior. Once the rest of the fans are installed, then I can start on some cable management around the back:

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Whilst I will naturally try to make things as neat as possible back here, most of it will end up being covered anyway in order to faciliate the plan for the rear side panel.

I also wanted to add a little easter egg for my stepdaughter. Even so she already has a PC (which I made from old bits several years ago), this will be a proper PCMR build; so plopped a cheeky sticker on the unused drain cap for her:

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So whilst I wait on things to dry before moving on, I thought I would start working on something else:

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That's all for now, thanks once again to everyone that has been stopping by or keeping tabs on my progress; the support is greatly appreciated. Hopefully the next update will be the interior all sorted out.

Stay safe!

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Thanks for the kind words folks, it is much appreciated. 🥰

I went into this whole contest with solely a 'theoretical' understanding of how I could use the acrylic. In my head the plan was to create a cleaner version of the View 51 Snow. Now this isn't to say that the case doesn't already look great stock, as it certainly does; but we all know how factory paint jobs can be, especially when dealing with multiple materials.

I'm now getting to the stage where I will start to see whether these ideas actually work or not!

So catching up from the last time I checked in, once all those things above had been painted and lacquered, it was time to start putting some pieces back together.

First up was the small front panel where the power switch and USB ports etc. reside, as well as getting the 200mm Riing Trios in:

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I had removed as much of the fan bracket as I was comfortable with, as I still wanted it to successfully hold these monsters in place. Whilst not perfect, it definitely makes things less busy behind the fans. Some other minor things were making the Power Button and Reset Switch black, just to give it a little bit of pop.

Another reason for starting to get things like the fans and front panel in was to get started on cable management, as that would eventually be a slight pain. At least at this stage there were barely any cables:

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It's a shame that the above shot doesn't show how glossy that front panel is, but I suppose that's what happens when you just take candid photos rather than lighting them properly and whatnot. Admittedly when I'm working on a PC I just want to get stuck into it, so pausing to take a pic is something I constantly have to remind myself to do!

I then put the thicc boi back in as well as the 3 Riing Quads up top, and it was time to make some new bends:

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I think this shot gives a better idea of just how white the case is now after the paint job, you can also see a decent bit of reflection on that bottom right corner.

After several iterations of different bends, keeping in mind I wanted the area of acrylic on the right to not be covered up by tubing, these are how the final bends turned out:

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I had considered having the CPU>Distro run travel at a 90 to the right and then straight up, but running it straight this way kept the panel nice and clear for...

...well, stuff 😉

I flushed the system several times with Distilled Water and then ran just the pump for a couple of days to make sure there were no leaks. Everything checked out, so it was then time to drain the system and put in the proper fluid. Whilst the system did look pretty cool with clear coolant, there was really only one choice:

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I've honestly never used the P1000 coolant before, but I have a decent amount of experience with opaque coolant from other brands. So I'm unfortunately well aware of some the issues that can be encountered. My first build with some really cheap stuff turned quite yucky after a few months, but usually the reputable brands work quite well provided you do the prep work correctly.

Next step was to get the system filled and get out all the air bubbles, so ran the pump once again for a good couple of days:

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I always love how much quieter a pump runs when you use a pre-mixed coolant compared to distilled water, just that slight change in viscosity makes a world of difference.

I briefly turned on the system fully, just to make sure everything worked. System was absolutely fine, it just took me a little while to get used to the TT RGB Plus software. But I got there in the end.

Before proceeding any further I wanted to get to work on the cables around back. I had all the intentions of making it super-clean back there, but if you recall, the rear panel was going to be modified with a lit Unicorn's Head (still the plan). In order to help facilitate this, as the actual cutout would be clear, I needed a blank canvas back there. So instead I did an alright job of running the cables fairly tidy and then slapped this in there:

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Now nobody will ever know what sins lurk beneath 😉

I haven't started working on the actual panel that will go there yet, waiting on some dry weather up here as I need to cut some acrylic outside. But once I get that done I can then get it bonded to the panel frame and start working on that. So shouldn't take too long.

With the back kinda sorted out for now, it was time to return my attention to the interior of the case:

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I was pleasantly surprised with how it looks in person so far, the glossy acrylic really shines; which ends up giving a nice combination of reflecting light as well as letting some through. 

Next on the agenda was to start working on the basement. This is another part of the build that I wasn't sure whether it would give me the effect I wanted or not, so I just very quickly took some off-cuts and slapped them in there to give myself an idea of whether it was going to work or not:

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The image probably doesn't do the visual effect much justice, but sure enough it is functioning as a lightbox fairly well. So I was very relieved it would work as intended.

As of today I've got 3 weeks and 1 day to get the build finished and a video made. So in reality that translates to between 1-2 weeks left, depending how much time I want to leave for filming and the subsequent editing.

The outstanding items still to be completed are:

  • Finish off basement and the trim/frame for the side panel
  • Clean up interior and put in 'stuff'
  • Finish fabrication then Prime/Paint/Gloss Front and Top Panels
  • Fabricate and then Prime/Paint/Gloss Rear Panel
  • Glass Etching

So I think I should have enough time to get those items done. With that being said though, I will likely only have another 1 or 2 updates this month. Well, before the video goes live at least; as I want some of it to be surprise after all.

Anyway, thanks for popping by and make sure to stay safe folks!

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Has it already been a week since the last update?

Well, I better get cracking then!

So the next thing I wanted to get sorted out was the panelling/trim on the 'business side' of the case. I kind of had an idea of how I wanted it in my head, but thought it safe to try with foamboard first.

Which is just as well, since the prototype was a fair bit wonky:

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But at least it served its purpose, it enable me to fine tune things a fair bit before moving on to the actual acrylic pieces.

So a little bit of jigsaw action resulted in:

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So my inital thoughts were that I was at least happy with the shape and relative symmetry of it, and I like that some of the lighting was coming through the acrylic; but ultimately I decided that I would like it better if I painted it. 

Which then gave me an idea. What if I put on some stars (as in the stickers we used to get at school for doing a good job), painted over it and then peeled them off? I wonder if that would work:

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So slapped some primer on it and put it to one side for now, as I wanted to turn my attention to the front and top panels:

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Managed to get it bonded at least, but I knew that getting the seams all smoothed out would require a little bit of elbow grease later on. 

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Same with the front, quite a bit messy here as I was slapping it on there a fair bit. But it was nice to see how the front would look with the panel filled in like that. Frankly I quite like the look, was exactly what I was going for!

So I put both of those panels to the side for now, so they could cure, and moved on to putting some paint down on the trim panels from earlier:

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Not too shabby. Some slight imperfections due to not having a sealed painting booth, but only really noticeable if you really get up close and personal. These should hopefully do the trick.

The last week or so we've had fairly wet weather up in our neck of the woods, so when I got a brief dry spell I took advantage of it and cut out the acrylic for the other side panel:

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With that cut at least, I just need to get it bonded to the panel then smooth out the seams. Then we can get cracking on making a stencil for it and getting it painted. But there's a good chance that will be one of the last items we tackle.

With more dry weather this week, it was then time to keep working on the top and front panels. I knew from the get-go that this was going to be tricky for me, and would require building up the seams/sanding down/rinse repeat.

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So not quite done with them yet, but I'll get there. I'm just hoping that the weather is dry when I am finally ready to slap primer on them.

With those sitting outside to dry, I figured I would turn my attention back to the interior; as there are still a few things to take care of.

First up was seeing how the stars turned out:

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Sorry about the reflections, it's a bright day so the TG makes it a bit tricky. Crappy photo aside, the stars turned out pretty well. Whilst not exactly my cup of tea, my stepdaughter absolutely loves them; so that's the important thing! I also think that the black edging (which is just a roll of rubber moulding) really just sets it off, just needs some slight tweaking so it is nice and straight. I'm also going to clean up that area on the right close to the latch for the glass, so it looks a little bit more streamlined.

Originally we were planning on using Armour Etch to engrave a design on the glass, but I am not convinced at all.

We (it's not just me) feel that once we take care of some of the other decorations in there, that it would then just become 'too busy' or detract from the interior. But once all the other bits are done we might change our mind.

Please feel free to let us know what YOU think.

I cannot take credit for this next small alteration, as it was actually my partner's idea; and in my opinion it was a really good one:

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Just a little bit of black mesh at the front, just for a bit of contrast. Plus of course it does serve the functional purpose of collecting some of the dust, so that is bonus. Whilst it looks fairly black from that angle, once you shift a bit it then lightens up a fair bit:

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Not too shabby at all.

Well that is all for now, I just have a few more finishing touches for the interior as well as tidying some things up; and then I can focus on getting these exterior panels all sorted out.

With only 2 weeks left, I was really hoping to be done this week so I would have all of next to work on the final video; but depending on the weather, I very well may be cutting it close!

As always, thanks for the support and feedback, it has been great fun so far.

Stay safe!

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With only a week left to go, yep it looks like I will be cutting things close after all!

So since the last update I have been spending a fair bit of time with the front and top panels:

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But we'll get back to them in a moment, as they have been quite a pain.

I also bonded the acrylic to the rear panel, made sure to leave it to set for a good day or so:

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This panel also caused me slight headache, or rather I gave myself a headache by forgetting about something. I made sure I had plenty of clearance on all of the edges...

 

 

...except for the rearmost part by the locking screws. So the panel wouldn't actually go on properly due to hitting the chassis, huge mistake on my part. So it was time to dust off the Dremel and trim some more case, which was quite frightening to be completely honest; since the chassis had already been painted and the system was assembled. But plenty of dust sheets made sure I didn't damage anything.

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Ahh now it fits!

Needs some more things done to it of course, tidy up the seams where the acrylic meets the metal; and freehand a stencil then paint it of course. 

Whilst I was looking at the rear of the case, I thought that a little bit of mesh would look quite nice in the hard drive caddy area:

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Yep, much better.

Another eyesore that needs dealing with is the area where the LCD panel resides:

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I toyed around with a few ideas for this, initially thinking I would just have solid box-like structure painted and slapped on. But after a few mockups, I think I am going to go a different route.

I put some motherboard standoffs on the screws holding the panel in, which give me the perfect spacing to use my old friend acrylic:

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The plan is to just use a single small rectangle of acrylic with mesh on the top and sides (leaving the bottom open for the cables).

Should tie in nicely with the rest of the scheme.

I'm not going to show any pics of the 'final interior' just yet, you'll have to wait for the final video I'm afraid! (I'll do a write-up after that goes live) But I worked for a fair while getting that sorted out, with the big obstacle being the exterior panels at the moment.

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I'm currently trying to get them to look as presentable as I can before getting them painted. To be honest it is really pushing the limits of my skill with this type of thing, to the point that I almost regret deciding to do this to these panels; well, with hand tools and common materials at least.

But I will try my best to get them looking decent, until time becomes a factor and I end up HAVING to paint them regardless!

Right, so I believe I am going to leave it there. I do not think I will be posting another update prior to the video going live and the voting opening, as I do want the final product to be a little bit of a surprise. But I will most certainly make another post about everything I did between now and then.

Once again, thank you for all the kind words and feedback, it has been greatly appreciated. Hopefully you'll enjoy the final product, I know my stepdaughter certainly will!

Take care folks, and stay safe!

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Phew, I'll tell you what; the final week was incredibly interesting. It was filled with minor issues and having to think quickly and readjust, but in the end the build was finished by the deadline.

If you want to just get straight to the end result, then the voting page has now launched: https://www.scan.co.uk/shops/thermaltake-modding-challenge

But if you want to read the final build log and see how I got to the end result, then stick around!

18 July 2020

I tried as hard as I could to get the front and top panels to look as pristine as possible; but as I mentioned, I basically hit a wall in terms of my own skill. This was exceedingly frustrating, as these panels could effectively make or break the build. So it was time to get my thinking cap on......

🤔💡

Then it hit me.

I could armour etch the glass panels in order to hide the imperfections, possibly with some stars over the fans in order to tie in with the side trim. Plus with the glass frosted, it should give a really nice lighting effect. Of course once I read the directions on the bottle of Armour Etch, I realised that it was not suitable for large areas; so instead decide to go with the spray-on glass frosting. Whilst it wouldn't look as good, at least there was no risk of the glass shattering.

Having a plan in motion, I felt reinvigorated about everything (I was honestly a little deflated with these panels not turning out the way I hoped) and got the panels primered and painted. I then turned my attention to another side of the case:image0.thumb.jpg.c7d131d838f105394e22ea58df2d9750.jpg

Turns out I'm not too bad with a blade, always knew that my military training would come in handy one day! 😉

This of course was the stencil for the side/rear panel, so went ahead and slapped that on:

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Once again I found myself up against my mortal enemy, trying to make smooth transitions between materials. I once again thought to myself that I might not be able to get this part of the build looking quite right, but figured I would sleep on it and revisit things the next day.

19 July 2020

Feeling a little better about things, first up was cleaning up the mess that I had made the day before:

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I wasn't too concerned about transition here, as we had a plan for the back panel. Whilst the inside of the case was monochromatic and fairly sleek, the plan was to go a little crazy back here and have some fun with it. So the next job was to get it painted at least:

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20 July 2020

With the rear/side panel painted, I thought I better paint the other side of it as well in an effort to minimise light bleed:

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Whilst this was drying, the front and top panels were ready to have the glass fixed back on; as the final coat of clear had been applied to them the day before and the frosting had been applied to the underside of the glass:

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By this point the rain had reappeared, so brought the rear panel inside to dry:

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With everything either drying or setting, it was time to call it a day and see how things would be looking tomorrow.

21 July 2020

First order of business was putting the front and top panels back on the case. Which actually took much longer than it should! I couldn't get the front panel to slot back in, along the bottom edge there is a tab that slots in to the bottom piece; and it did not want to go in at all! So just a quick bit of cutting and giving the bottom slots more of a V profile rather than a U seemed to do the trick.

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The frosted glass has certainly accomplished what I wanted it to. You can still see that both panels have been modified/filled in, but the imperfections are fairly well covered up by the frosting. It also radiates the light quite well. The only thing that bothered me was that you could peer through the gap between the glass and the chassis, seeing the imperfections. So I had a think and looked around to see what materials we still had laying around.

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I still had some mesh kicking about, so thought this would be ideal. Not only would it somewhat mask those imperfections, it would be functional and also provide a little bit of contrast; tying in with the black trim throughout. So cut them to size, used some clear silicon craft glue and

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Just a small detail like that really makes a difference in my opinion. Whilst working on the exterior, we also put the build's name on the front:

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The last thing for the day was to have a look at how much light bleed there was on the rear/side panel:

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Ooft, that is certainly a lot of it! Okay, no big deal. We'll pop down to the shops and get this sorted tomorrow.

22 July 2020 -The day before the build MUST be finished and video submitted

Whilst I was definitely cutting things a little closer than I had planned, I was still feeling pretty good about things at this point. We had stocked up on some craft supplies (if you haven't caught on, this entire build used common off-the-shelf items for most things) and all that was really left was the panel above and some other minor cleaning up.

First job was to tackle some the light bleed, so some black foamboard should do the trick:

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When it came to decorating this panel it was all about having some fun and doing it in a manner that my step-daughter would like, competition be damned. Whilst of course it would be great if other people liked it, but at the end of the day I tackled this more like a client build.

In this case the client was an eclectic young lady, so it may not be for everyone.

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As I say, may not be everyone's cup of tea; but she absolutely loves it! First up was the use of actual Duck Tape (the brand) to hide the less than perfect seams between the acrylic and the metal, so pleased I found a way to include duct tape in the build; you can literally use it for anything! Joking aside, it also served as a nice backdrop for the pom-pom things; which sparkle quite a bit. The rainbows are actually cake toppers, which give it a nice little splash of colour; and of course the black foamboard has done the job of stopping the light bleed. You still get a little bit of light bleed right at the top between the panel and the chassis, but it is bearable.

With that panel done, the last thing on the agenda was the very rear of the case and covering up back of the LCD panel. Once again, we figured we would have a little fun back there.

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We used white acrylic and mesh once again, just to tie it in with the build; but slapped a colour sticker on just to give it a little pop. If you recall, I had used motherboard standoffs back here. So in order to fix on the acrylic panel I first took a piece of foamboard and glued it to the acrylic. Once that had set I then lined it up with the standoffs and made holes in the foamboard so the standoffs would somewhat slot in. Glued it all in place and then fixed on the acrylic. Fairly simple but does the job.

With everything done, all that was left was to take some pictures...

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...and wait until that night to record and then edit the video to submit.

This experience has been absolutely amazing, once again I just want to thank everyone involved. Thermaltake were amazing to deal with and were always available if I had any questions or concerns. Scan Computers did an amazing job shipping all the components out to us, despite everything that was going on in the world. Seagate were extremely supportive as well, and of course AMD and ASUS provided some great components for the build.

SparklePony will be a huge upgrade for my stepdaughter, as she is currently sporting components from several years ago: CPU - AMD Athlon X4 750K Black Edition @4GHz, GPU - AMD Radeon R9 280. It took a little bit of tweaking and dialing down of settings to get her favourite game The Sims 4 to run at a steady 60fps.

Whilst she isn't using SparklePony just yet, as it is still on the dining table, I did give her a demonstration of how The Sims 4 runs (which is her favourite game atm). With everything maxed out, well over 200fps at 1080p (she only has a 1080p monitor atm). She also dabbles in Destiny 2 a little, so hitting about 180fps there also made her fairly happy!

I also want to wish the other competitors the best of luck, it has been awesome watching their progress and you should most definitely check their builds out.

All that's left to do is link to the voting page and the final build video. Thanks for all the support, please take care and stay safe!

 

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