Description

A build for professional software developers interested in compile speed, fast/plentiful working memory and storage, and near silent operation. Graphics performance was not a big concern for software development, but reducing noise from this development daily driver was.

The challenge with the Inwin D-Frame Mini case fitting an ATX-sized motherboard was to replace the provided aluminum backplane (a shame, it's so sexy) with a new one, created from a Target-purchased cutting board (not so sexy).

My air cooler had a tight fit in the end, so I modified the glass side panel stand-offs to extend them a bit. Also etched the glass for some class.

Special mention goes to the Inwin D-Frame Mini open air case and the Scythe Mugen 5 PCGH Edition air cooler, both of which keep heat and noise to an absolute minimum. While my build is not greatly overclocked, it could easily handle such. Still hasn't really made any noise, even with my software builds.

A remaining challenge is to add a bracket to the backplane to support add-in cards, such as when I need to use a 3rd-party graphics card.

I love this sexy yet workmanlike system. Time to take my old, noisy, non-SSD, boat anchor of a development system out behind the shed for a mercy killing.

UPDATE MAY 10, 2019: Got around to adding a proper graphics card (EVGA 16 series). Added a few more pictures showing how I added a bracket to hold the card in the slot. Along with the card lock at the end of the slot, this should be more than enough to secure it, even with a mild bit of reorienting the case to work on it.

Part Reviews

CPU

What can I say: it's the best Intel CPU for development, balancing cost, features and flexibility for overclocking. In development, the more cores and threads, the better for compiling, building, encoding, etc. This CPU is the latest/greatest from Intel for such (without treading into exotically priced CPUs). Plus I like to use the included graphics capabilities of the chip, instead of buying another video card.

OC CPUs to 5.0 GHz and RAM to 3200 MHz, running between 25°C and 59°C average on CPUs with my development workloads, so far. Really not stressing system, so fans haven't spun up.

I highly recommend it for software development.

CPU Cooler

This is a silent edition of the the respected Mugen 5 CPU cooler, developed in cooperation with PC Games Hardware magazine. The asymmetric design and cooling fin height worked well for compatibility, while the two Kaze Flex 120 PWM fans (running 300-800 RPM on sealed liquid bearings) are virtually silent (4-14.5 dB). Honestly, the only way I can tell they are running is the slight waft of air I get from the open air case I'm using.

I love this air cooler and highly recommend it.

Motherboard

I was drawn to this motherboard by how easy it is to overclock one's system, it's many advanced features, plus it looks a treat, which is important with my glass panel-sided, open air case. I'm not using the built-in LED lighting, but I could easily customize it for any color scheme if I did. Two M.2 slots (one 22110 sized), with cooling metal covers, support the high performance storage I need for software development.

My only hiccup was when the built-in LED lighting near the I/O ports initially didn't function. Fortunately, the problem slowly seemed to correct itself, with the LEDs getting brighter and brighter over the course of a few days. Now it works correctly (?!)

Memory

Works great so far so I recommend it. Pricey, but having a lot of RAM is the answer to many software development questions/problems. 3200MHz seemed like a good new minimum speed vs. cost. Seamless overclocking with this motherboard.

Storage

Fast, pricey, but worth it to me as a professional software developer. This drive is the OS, programs, documents, source code repository drive, which needs to be very fast. Silent operation was also a reason to go with this M.2 drive.

Storage

Faster than a hard drive, pricey, but worth it to me as a professional software developer with recent capacity-related problems. This drive is for bulk storage of development artifacts (pictures, videos, music, etc.), so ultimate speed is not a concern. Silent operation, however, is.

Case

I guess I like to make things difficult by putting an ATX motherboard into an ITX case. I just wanted the smaller size/price of the D-frame Mini, with the benefits of a larger motherboard. My solution was to create a new backplane from a Target-purchased cutting board that matched the color of my system.

In particular, I love the open air case concept as well as the excellent build quality Inwin is famous for. Get one while they still last. (Inwin had stopped making them for a while.)

I highly recommend this case.

Power Supply

This well specified power supply is silent, looks pretty slick and has functioned flawlessly so far (i.e., no coil hum noise, no muss). With my open air case, it also gets plenty of cool airflow. I've never seen such attention paid to a power supply's packaging before.

Yes, as some may notice, I did add my own black metal mesh covering to the power supply area...to dress it up and add a place at the bottom to collect my power cables' extra length. Hot glue worked well to hold its edges.

I highly recommend this power supply.

Operating System

Life-long programmer of DOS and Windows. My relationship with Microsoft has been a long and rocky road. Not very happy with all the consumer phone/tablet crap mixed in with desktop Windows. Seems a privacy nightmare. This marriage is on the rocks.

Monitor

This is a great software development 4K monitor, which can take in up to four HDMI inputs, with adaptable layouts. It is also targeted for desktop use, which is an improvement over using a consumer 4K TV (i.e., the TV features are stripped out).

I was concerned before buying it that it would be too big to work up close with on a desk, but I have no such concerns now after using it for a while. I've just had to adapt my old habit of throwing a window to another monitor, to managing multiple windows within one (very) large screen space. I use AquaSnap to manage windows.

I highly recommend this monitor for desktop development work, and AquaSnap for managing multi-window layout.

Mouse

Best mouse for me, ever. Smaller wireless mouse, fits hand well and has scroll wheel and "back" button built in, which I swear by. Batteries last forever. Not the most durable, but that's why I actually have a case of them in my closet; I like it that much.

Speakers

Excellent bass and clarity without having to use a subwoofer. Love the externally cabled desktop volume wheel/jacks/power control. First class quality, you pay for what you get.

Comments

  • 11 months ago
  • 4 points

You built an atx Mobo in an itx case

  • 10 months ago
  • 3 points

Wow. Interesting idea mate. Can I ask did you cut the cutting board manually by hand? thanks

  • 10 months ago
  • 1 point

I traced the old backplane's outline (and stand-off holes) onto the cutting board, then used a power jig saw to cut it out, and finally used a file, scraper and a small bit of heat to neaten up the edge. That cheaper type of plastic tends to melt a bit if the jig saw's blade gets hot. I just went slow and careful. It worked well for me.

The benefit is that I could make a neat, unique backplane for little outlay (less than USD$20). I used mechanical bolts, nylon spacers and washers to mount the motherboard to the backplane, instead of the normal metal stand-offs.

  • 10 months ago
  • 2 points

Wow. Nice dude. Makes me wanna do something similar. Do u think using acrylic as the backplate is doable? Strength wise since we are mounting alot of stuff on it. Would like to hear your thoughts. Thanks

  • 10 months ago
  • 1 point

One could use cast acrylic, but it tends to be a brittle/unforgiving material, which needs much care in handling, drilling holes, cutting, polishing and such. (I would never use the cheaper extruded acrylic.) On the plus side, acrylic really can look nice, and is optically clear, transmiting light internally, where each edge tends to glow, if lit by LEDs, say. A frosted acrylic would really light up everywhere.

There are a multitude of materials that could be found if you go to a materials sourcing site. They often tell you the differences between them there. It just tends to cost more coming from a supply house, which is why I went with a cutting board.

  • 10 months ago
  • 1 point

There is also the issue of mounting stand-off screw holes that receive standard motherboard metal stand-off screws. In acrylic, this is typically done by welding a purpose-made receiver into the material (i.e., heat the metal stand-off and then insert it in an undersized hole, which then melts around the rough edge of the insert).

A simpler solution, such as I used, was to buy my own mechanical screw hardware and nylon washers/bushings/etc. HINT: leave a little slop in the motherboard mount holes (i.e., use a size larger drill bit), since it is easy to be a little off center on each hole, and if you have no room for movement, it can result in some screws not being able to align properly.

  • 11 months ago
  • 2 points

I love the Mugen. Nice +1

  • 9 months ago
  • 2 points

I use that "backplate" as a mousepad, and I kid you not it's legit! No wonder that Target "backplate" looked familiar.

  • 8 months ago
  • 2 points

Where did you buy your Scythe Scmg 5PCGH CPU Cooler Mugen 5 PCGH Edition? I can't find it anywhere

  • 7 months ago
  • 1 point

I believe it was from England (or possibly Germany). Sorry to hear you can't find it. It (quietly) rocks!

  • 8 months ago
  • 2 points

This is a really cool system!

  • 11 months ago
  • 1 point

My old system took 10 minutes to rebuild my application. Now it takes 20 seconds! :) Newest CPU, plus threading, plus RAM, plus SSD equals developer happiness. Oh yeah, and it's totally silent.

  • 11 months ago
  • 1 point

Can you Oc with that cpu cooler?

  • 10 months ago
  • 1 point

The answer depends on variables like ambient temperature, airflow, how hard the overclock, your CPU, etc. Generally speaking, I consider it fine for mild to middling OC, but I might go with a better air or liquid solution for heavy OC. This cooler is perfect for OC lite with a desire for quiet operation.

  • 10 months ago
  • 1 point

What kind of programming languages would be good to learn for software dev? And would a GPU be a necessity for software dev?

  • 10 months ago
  • 1 point

That's tough to answer in a generic way. It really depends on what you'll be working on. Web vs. phone vs. PCs vs. MACs vs. business systems, and so on. Any particular area you're thinking about? That would help me answer the question.

  • 10 months ago
  • 1 point

I was thinking about the Pc/Mac area and possibly business

  • 10 months ago
  • 1 point

For PC, I prefer C# and C/C++ for straight-up coding. For user interface stuff people mostly stick with WPF and WinForms APIs (both usable by C#/C++). Web-related programmers should start with HTML/Javascript these days. Web/Linux stuff, in general, has a lot of open source libraries and tools that people use these days, which change often and can many times die on the vine due to lack of support. Windows APIs, on the other hand, stick around forever.

  • 10 months ago
  • 1 point

Atm I'm using python for the fundamental mindset of software development. But I guess I should start learning C or Javascript. Also would software development require a powerful graphics card?

  • 10 months ago
  • 2 points

Really depending on what do you develop. I previous work I had to develop software for VR, then good GPU was mandatory. In my current job I work with eCommerce site so powerful GPU is not necessary.

  • 10 months ago
  • 1 point

I would answer 'not really' to development requiring a powerful graphics card. A lot of times in development, using a less powerful system for testing is better; to make sure your code works on all kinds of systems, especially less powerful ones. (Hence, it took me so long to build a new development system.)

'Development' is such a generic word. I've mastered over a dozen specific languages, and quite a lot more APIs. The developer's mindset is to keep on learning all the time. Enjoy!