I think of Gamma Two
as very much a return to my roots, hardcore overclocking; our course, everything
I've learned in the process of assembling Alpha Three and Sigma One has come
into play while building this machine, but the primary focus has returned to
squeezing every single last frame-per-second out of the gaming experience...
This machine also represents a return to AMD-based computing on my part, having gone the Intel route on my last two builds. I had heard many really good things about AMD's Mobile Barton core, and decided to experiment with one for myself. Past experience with ABIT boards was always positive, so their new uGuru (mu-Guru or microGuru) series of boards was quite choice, obviously the Socket-A AN7 model in particular. To ensure that the RAM would not be an FSB bottleneck, I chose to install a pair of Kingston HyperX PC4000 DIMMs. Cooling duties went to the king of Socket-A heatsinks, Thermalright's SP-97 copper heatpipe cooler; finally, instead of just going overkill on noise and cooling, I decided to go for a zen balance, and installed a Panaflo M1B to the SP-97, powered and thermal-speed regulated by the AN7.
Choosing a case for this new machine, which not only needs to run cool, but also needs to be lightweight and stiff in order to endure the hardship of travelling to LANs while not causing me permanent harm in due process, obviously set down different requirements than for Sigma One or Alpha Three, which emphasized acoustic performance. I went with Antec's Super LAN Boy, a lightweight, yet solidly built aluminum enclosure with wide, wide 120mm intake and exhaust openings. The grommetted hard drive mounts were also quite appealing, as did the included straps for carrying the machine...very appealing! To maintain some semblance of acoustic reduction, I decided to power the system with a Fortron FSP300-60PN, which I had great experiences with in Sigma One, and swapped the stock fan for a Globe 120mm thermal-control unit.
Storage capacity for a single drive took some priority here, as hard drive performance doesn't necessarily have nearly as large an impact on overall importance as it does in, say, digital imaging and A/V. As such, I went, instead, with Samsung's SpinPoint SP1614N; an 8Mb-cached 160GB dual-platter design. The 160GB storage capacity should guarantee sufficient storage for even the largest, most texture-laden games such as Unreal Tournament 2004 (six CDs!) and Far Cry (five CDs); that this much capacity could be had in a single drive package that happens to be one of the best performing (acoustically) 7200rpm hard drives, at a very decent price point, also factored in to the equation.
Finally, the most critical part of all, the graphics subsystem. As any good gamer knows, your video card (and to quite an extent as well, your monitor) will make or break your gaming experience in these modern days of reality-pushing graphics and mind-bending framerates. Serving up graphics for now is a modified Sapphire Radeon 9800 nonPro card, modified with TweakMonster BGA RAMsinks and an Arctic Cooling VGA Silencer, attached to the ViewSonic P95f+ that used to work in conjunction with Alpha Three (which now works quite happily with my new NEC Multisync FE1250+).
NgTechnik Design Gamma Two System Specifications:
Enclosure: Antec Super LAN Boy; front intake and exhaust grills removed with tin snips and lined with chrome channel molding
Power Supply Unit: Modified Fortron P300-60PN with Globe 120mm thermal-control fan through inline resistor
System Mainboard: ABIT AN7, with stock northbridge sink swapped for Swiftech MCX159, fan removed
System Cooling: AcoustiProducts 120mm Acoustifan AF120CT, mounted with ear grommets as exhaust
Central Processing Unit: AMD Mobile Athlon XP Barton 2400+ processor (1800MHz stock speed)
Central Processor Performance Configuration: 11.0x multiplier * 220MHz Front Side Bus Rate = 2420MHz Core Rate
Central Processor Running Configuration: 2Volts
Central Processor Cooling: Thermalright SP-97, Arctic Silver V, Panaflo 92mm M1B, powered and regulated by ABIT AN7
Adapter: Sapphire Radeon 9800 nonPro 128MB AGP graphics adapter
Graphics Accelerator Performance Configuration: Video Processing Unit Core Rate 398MHz, Video Memory Rate 338MHz
Video Processing Unit Cooling: Arctic Cooling VGA Silencer, set for high, Arctic Silver V
Video Memory Cooling: TweakMonster tinned copper BGA RAMsinks, Arctic Silver Thermal Epoxy
Display Unit: Beige Viewsonic Professional Series P95f+ 19" Diamondtron-NF CRT-based monitor
System Memory Subsystem:
Random Access Memory: Two 512MB Kingston HyperX PC4000 DDR SDRAM DIMMs (1GB total)
RAM Performance Configuration: Single-Channel (read why in above blurb)
RAM Running Configuration: 2.8Volts, 8-3-3 3.0 (also read why above)
Mass Storage Subsystem:
Hard Disk Drive Unit: Single Samsung SpinPoint SP1614N, 160GB capacity over 2 platters @ 7200rpm with 8MB of cache
Optical Media Access: Silver NEC ND-2500A DVD+/-R/W/CD-R/RW/ROM drive
To Network Switch: Utilizing onboard nForce 10/100 ethernet controller
Sound Adapter: Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS
Headphones: Sennheiser HD 497
And now, on to the pictures!
I chose the Antec Super LAN Boy because
of its super light weight,
the 120mm intake and exhaust, outstanding build quality, decent looks
and very good price point. I also like Antec's grommeted hard drive trays,
which would serve as a good interim solution until I figure out a form of suspension
that can hold up to travelling, assuming I can come up with one.
The AN7 by ABIT proved to be an optimal solution for squeezing the most out of AMD's Mobile Barton core
and proved far more capable than the poor example served by Shuttle's FN41V3 (the board included in the SN41G2V2 XPC).
By raising the core voltage to 2.00, I am able to run the CPU at a solid 2420MHz, tested 100% stable
with a 48hour straight Prime95 Torture Test marathon, at an FSB setting of 220.
By removing the plastic garnish in front
of the factory-mounted 120mm Antec LED intake fan,
I got access to the four screws holding the fan on, and simply abolished it.
After that, I opened up the case and removed the six screws holding the front bezel on,
leaving the front of the chassis exposed to my snips and I, which resulted in a decently open intake:
The snips, of course, left some rather
which I decided to simply line with chrome automotive door molding.
The stock exhaust fan does not come mounted,
but comes wrapped in mounting instructions inside of the case during shipment.
I removed the included silicone mounts and utilized them on an AcoustiFan AF120CT out back:
As you can see, I also lined the raw edges with chrome automotive door trim in order to protect tender hands.
As you see in the image above, the PSU is blue:
But I did not paint it; in fact, the
latest Fortrons come from the factory this way!
The fan also comes with a new, clear Yate Loon fan of the same model as the older, black model.
In the image above, however, the fan is black; this is because I have
swapped the stock fan for a Globe 120mm thermal control fan.
In fact they also come presleeved:
and with new, easy to grip blue plastic Molex connectors:
Overall, I am definitely loving the
They've taken a great product at this price point and truly made it
the best PSU for this price, bar none!
The CPU is cooled by a Thermalright SP-97 all-copper,
heatpiped heatsink that is mounted through the board for secureness:
Mounted on top of it using clips is a
attached to and thermally speed-regulated by the mainboard.
The fan was custom-sleeved for $1.50 extra by Jab-Tech, and I lucked out
as the M1B I received is made in Japan. I was also pleasantly surprised
to find that it supports speed monitoring.
The stock northbridge proved a rather poor performer
(ABIT's uGuru was detecting its temperature to be hitting over 50C),
and it was noisy to boot, so I swapped the stock cooler back into Alpha Three,
since it made no difference, and moved its Swiftech MCX-159 over to Gamma Two:
From this angle it is clear just how
tight the of the northbridge cooler fitting is,
being that ABIT chose to place the northbridge literally right next to the CPU;
in fact, I had to actually break off five of the helicoid pins from the nearside
of the MCX-159 in order for the two sinks to be at peace with one another.
Luckily, this means the chipset cooler gets plenty of air from the CPU fan.
The video card has been heavily modified in order to extract the highest overclock possible on air cooling.
This image shows a couple things. You can
clearly see the blue plastic shroud
that Arctic Cooling has around the metal tension clip used to mount the VGA Silencer,
and as you can also see, I have the TweakMonster BGA RAMsinks mounted so as to take best advantage
of the flow of air coming off of the AF92CT that has been mounted to a Zalman fan bracket
for blowing on the VRAMsinks; the northbridge cooler gets air from the CPU fan.
One of the best things about Arctic Cooling's VGA Silencer,
and a distinct advantage (among others) that it has over Zalman's ZM80C-HP
is that it leaves room enough for RAMsinks on the back, since it does not have much back there besides the clip,
but it also leaves plenty of room underneath it on the front side for RAMsinks as well:
From this view, a few things are notable;
there is more than enough room for the frontside RAMsinks
to fit under the VGA Silencer, as barely visible through the blades of AcoustiFan.
Finally, you can see how I was able to cleverly hide the floppy power cable
going into the card by running it inside the wire wrap
I used for the fan power cables.
Among the revisions made to the VGA
Silencer in Revision 3,
the back bracket was changed to a single slot piece, so that cards
with nonstandard output interfaces would not have issues with the cooler;
instead of removing the stock bracket and installing the replacement,
two-slot bracket in its place, the card now includes a simple
one-slot bracket adjacent to the stock bracket.
Finally, this last image shows the fan
zone within the machine itself.
I worked quite a bit on making sure that air flow is as unimpeded
as possible; this ensures optimal cooling conditions
for the heavily overclocked components.
Please point all comments and inquiries to Edward Ng.