I have finally collected all the parts to build my new computer. Spanning over 3 months and costing just over £400 (including swapping my Alienware PC’s 2GB RAM sticks for 4GB).
The goal was to build a budget PC which had water cooling mainly for noise purpose but also maintenance (it’s a lot easier in my experience to clean the heat sink and fan). Whilst I would not consider £400 to be a budget computer it turned out rather well.
The main criticism I had when I was putting it together was the case had left the metal cut outs in the drive bays, the Domino A.L.C mounting and configuration and the Antec Neo 500/SATA power connector being inferior to the 4 pin molex connector.
Antec had decided to leave the drive cut outs in place. Whist I do not have a problem with this it was very hard to pop them out. The lack of space meant and the amount not cut out left me twisting the metal plate till it broke. Whilst it’s suppose to be broken off, the twisting motion left a sharp metal edge.
I had my heart settle on the better and cheaper Corsair CWCH50 from reviews as a good sealed water cooler but found the supply in the UK hard to come by. I went through ordering from Amazon only to be told it was not in stock even though it clearly stated it was. Trying to remember my Scan.co.uk account login details but could not justify the extra £10+ (making it more expensive than the Domino A.L.C) including delivery to ordering from Novatech.co.uk with it saying it will arrive today for over 2-3 days. I then settled on my second choice – the Domino A.L.C.
I was worried about the size and the fitting in an mATX case but it had plenty of room. Once I that worry was over I had to move the screws on the bracket from the LGA1366 to LGA775 only to find I had to remove 4 tiny spacers using a tiny flat head screw driver. It was so frustrating scratching the black metal bracket trying to get them off. Once they were off I found would take the same amount of effort to get them back on if I ever needed to move them back to the LGA1366 configuration. The spacers stop the screws from coming out of the bracket but the instructions never said to put them back on for LG775.
Trying to screw the spring mounted screws made it very hard. Using an extra pair of hands to help me hold the heat sink and fan whilst I tried to screw it in was very hard and made even harder by the smallish case. Eventually I got it in. I would definitely re-think the mounting mechanism if I was Domino.
The next challenge was getting the rubber mount of the heat sink and fan onto the 120mm case. You had to pull the small rubber tabs through the screw holes till. Not only was it hard to grip but one or two of them almost tore as I was trying to pull them through the screw hole. Whilst I was lucky to get them in before it happened I was annoyed again by the product. It was only till after I had finished installing it I noticed it included proper screws as well as other types of fixtures.
The last problem I encountered during my build process happened couple of days after it was built. I was plugging and unplugging HDDs whilst testing Ubuntu. The SATA plastic power connector broke. This is partially my fault but does highlight a problem with SATA power connectors. This piece of hardware came from the Antec Neo 500 modular power supply unit.
I was impressed with the Domino A.L.C’s cooling power. According to BIOS and the LCD on the unit it was running under 30 degrees C! OK it was not under load but it was impressive. This was on low / quiet setting. I did find the high FAN speed to be very loud. Hopefully it will never need to go to this setting.
The Antec case made it very easy to hide a lot of the cables however the cables included in the Antec Neo could have been a bit longer to reach the higher parts / holes of the motherboard / case.
The Mini P180 has a magnetic front door but it’s not too strong allowing the DVD drive tray to pop out, pushing the door open.