Thursday 18 June 2009

Compute Cube

In a previous post I mentioned fitting my Tesla C1060 onto my aging Asus motherboard. It has been working well but a combination of slow host<->device transfers speeds of less than 1GB/s,  2GB ram and a relatively slow processor encouraged me to upgrade.

Some of the prerequisites for my new personal super computer were:

a) Must be small - my desk area is limited and I don't like putting computers on the floor where they consume dust better than any known vacuum cleaner...

b) Must have at least 2x pci express 2 (gen 2) slots as for decent GPU computing you need to get data in and out of the device as quickly as possible.

c) As quiet and cool as possible.

As it turns out the last one was the most tricky and needed the C1060 to do a bit of CFD for the airflow in the case.

After a lot of research, measurement and two days of building here are some pictures of the final result. The case is only 11" x 11" x 14" - ok it's not Exactly a cube.... but close enough :) The tape measure in the photos is to give some sense of scale.

Many thanks to NVidia who very kindly sent me two NVidia Tesla logos for me to stick onto the case!


The equipment spec is as follows:

PC Design Lab QMICRA2

Asus Rampage 2 Gene motherboard

Intel core i7 at 2.66Ghz

12GB triple channel DDR3 memory

Enermax 1250w PSU

Asus 8800GT   - but would easily take a 295 card

Tesla C1060

150GB WD raptor

1 TB Hitachi hd  

Win XP x64 Pro and Centos   

The finished product I have named "Compute Cube v1.0" :)

After a lot of measurements the PC Design Lab QMICRA2 was the only case I could use. The build quality is superb with a nice powder coated finish. They are a bit expensive but well worth it.

Inside the case there are a total of 7 12" fans and the PSU fan - which keep everything nice and cool.  In fact the Tesla runs about 10 degrees cooler under load than in my last computer and very quickly drops back to the idle temperature when the load is removed. The 12" fans along with the BIOS's fan control features keep the noise down to a minimum while idling but quickly ramp up to cool the beasty when under load. The motherboard has some additional temperature sensor connectors in order to adjust the extra fan speeds.

I decided to stick with Asus after my last brilliant motherboard from them. Although in this case I had to use a mAtx board as that is the maximum size the case would support. The Gene is a good board but the northbridge runs very hot. In fact I had to add another fan just to keep it within a decent temperature range. It was hitting 80 degrees on a very modest load but the additional fan keeps it under 64 degrees even with a heavy sustained load.  This is partly due to the case but the heatsink on the northbridge is quite small and sits in an area of dead air between the first PCI slot and the CPU. A fan is really required although I think Asus should really have put a better / larger heatsink on it.  

The south bridge is right under the C1060 in my build but it doesn't seem to run hot at all. The build quality of the board is superb and the BIOS has every function you could possibly want.

All in all I'm very happy with my new machine and it is MUCH faster than my old one. My raytracer's frame rate has more than doubled to 80fps in this beasty.


  1. [...] one as there is no upgrade path from winXP x64. I took a full backup of my “ComputeCube” machine and without bothering to format the C drive just popped the DVD in and [...]

  2. [...] update from PC Design Lab regarding their new case. Those of you who follow the blog will know my ComputeCube machine is built into their QMicro2 case, which has been really good with only one or two tiny [...]