posted Apr 9, 2013, 12:06 AM by Andrew Stock
Hello again! I completed the physical build of both boxes just earlier this evening... here's some shots of the components being installed:

DVD Drive

Boy was this a pain to install! Actually, it wasn't that bad... but it sure could have been easier. The first time through was definitely a learning experience in order of operations for this case... the second time was pretty quick.

The case only supports a 'slim type' DVD drive, and only when using a mATX or smaller board... the case can fit a full ATX board, which is nice, but that cuts out the possibility for a drive. That said, you can always use a USB drive (which is what I do for all my other home computers...) but since this is going to be a HTPC and there is a high likelyhood for needing to play blu-ray movies and such, the drive was a must. 

I went with a Slot-loading Blu-Ray drive from Panasonic, the UJ-265. This supported DVD read/write and Blu-Ray read/write, all in a slim-line slot loading package... as far as I can tell, it was the only drive out there that did all this. The only catch is that these drives are generally all slim-line sata connections as well, so you need a special adapter that converts slim-line to traditional sata. Anyway, enough babbling about the drive... more on installing it!

The Node 605 is a spacious case, but when it comes to installing this drive, it was a somewhat annoying undertaking. The case comes with some special mounting brackets for the drive, but does not really provide any instructions on how to attach them. After a little fidgeting I figured it out... but then realized that the mounting holes are not exact... you can adjust the drive back and forth:

You can see in the above shot that for this drive I ended up pushing it all the way forward. This took some trial and error to get the mounting just right. The process I used to install the brackets was to first attach them to the DVD drive, then put the drive in the case and screw in the mounting screws from the bottom of the case while it was standing on it's side. After that, I adjusted the drive forward to the proper position so it was flush with the case, then tightened down the screws all the way.

The screws on the left of the drive could only be tightened by removing the front left fan as mentioned before... and the screws on the right of the drive could only be tightened by putting the case up on its side, then using a precision screwdriver and careful aim:

I ended up putting one hand through the top of the case, and one hand through the I/O bracket to get at these last two screws:

Whew, finally done with that debacle. 

Power Supply

Fortunately, installation of the power supply was significantly easier.  I went with a Seasonic SS-660XP after reading rave reviews about it all over the place. That, mixed with the high efficiency 'platinum' rating (which I am not really convinced means anything... but still...), means this should work great for a silent always-on HTPC. 

One nice thing is that the finish on this power supply matched the Node 605 perfectly. The other major reason I got this particular PSU, aside from the ratings, was that it was actually shorter than most other PSU's out there... only 6.3" long instead of the typical 7.1" you find these days with high end PSUs. This was a very fortunate choice on my part... as when put in with the optical drive, there was very little room to spare:

I had a feeling it was going to be tight... but this was literally less than 5mm to spare. Phew! 

Another nice feature about the Seasonic series is that they have three fan modes, automatically controlled by temperature... off, silent, and cooling mode. You can also specify via a rocker switch if you want to eliminate the 'off' mode... which is great for cases like this where the PSU is installed sideways, since the PSU generally won't be able to take advantage of the passive cooling from heat rising. 

On to the motherboard! I hmmm'ed and hawed quite a bit over which board to go with for this build. I've long been a fan of EVGA, and their stinger looked awesome... but I was hesitant about only having one PCI-E slot available, should I decide to throw a graphics card into my HTPC down the road. I had also heard numerous complaints about performance issues with the board... so I decided to try a new vendor for once, step a little out of my comfort zone. The ASRock Z77 Extreme4-m board had been getting great reviews, and came recommended by several people. I ended up going with the Extreme rather than the Pro board as it was only an extra $20, and came with a few extra 'nice to have' features like higher quality capacitors and an upgraded audio codec. 

The aesthetics of the board aren't bad, though I wish they had a 'true black' PCB as opposed to this psuedo black (mostly brown) board. That said, the brownish color actually kinda works... looks like black/gold/leather when you look at it right. Very steam-punk ish. 

For the cooler, I opted for the Noctua NH-U9BSE2. I was originally going to get the NH-L12, but due to the layout of the fans on this case, I think having a cooler that passes air horizontally instead of vertically will perform better... that way, I can exhaust the air out the vent near the CPU. Finding a cooler that boasted strong cooling potential and yet still fit inside this Node 605 case was quite a challenge... I only had about 125mm to work with per the Fractal Design website... and this one was listed as 125mm. I was relieved to see that it would indeed fit with a few mm to spare... was concerned for a while as this unit is actually pretty tall:

For the CPU, I went with an Intel 3750K. I plan on using integrated graphics by default, so the HD 4000 onboard graphics was a must. Having the extra power and flexibility of a K series ensures that I can overclock for a little more juice down the road if I really need it. Unlikely, but I always like having the option. 

Here's a shot with the CPU installed, and thermal paste applied, ready for heat sink installation:

I always prefer to apply thermal paste thinly and in a specific pattern that has done well for me in the past... swirling motion in rows, back and forth. Seems to get the best distribution without over-doing it, which maximizes cooling. These Ivy-Bridge CPU's have well known flaws with their TIM that cause them to run a little hot... so every little bit helps. 

Here's the Noctua cooler finally installed:

Hard Drives
For the first system, the emulation rig, I opted for two Intel 520 series 250GB SSDs. These will go in a RAID 1 to ensure that nothing is lost, should one decide to fail. The Intel SSDs are known for their quality and reliability, but these are the new Sandybridge based units... and they have been known to have reliability issues in the past. Intel claims to have corrected these through their own custom firmware and extensive QA, but you can never be too safe when it comes to your data!

That's all for now... next time, the software install and such!