Saturday, January 28, 2012

Apple Cube Mod II

Courtesy of PCMag Article
12 Biggest PC Duds
While the computer did not sell well and was undeniably overpriced and underpowered, it was beautiful.  Similar to the Early iMacs no machines before looked anything like it.  The ports came out from the bottom, the entire computer was removable from its enclosure by releasing a handle.  Impressively, this computer had no fans (though it was designed to have one) and utilized an immense heatsink for its cooling.

In July 2010, I had intended to begin a project a purchased a damaged cube.  This post was the first and (up until now) the last post I would make on this subject.  My focused returned to the G4 and then somewhat the G5.  One thing that kept me from pursuing this was the amazing work being done by some modders.  Here are a couple examples from tonymacs forum.  This one by 61mg73 and this one by eelmod.  Another amazing one is this one on 123macmini by khisayruou.  The one thing all these talented modders have in common is that they are master craftsmen who in many cases rebuilt their cube's inner structure to suit their purposes.  I did not feel that I could offer any improvements over what they had built. My experience with the iMac G4 has shown me that there may be something I can offer with a different approach.  I'd like to point out that this approach is in no way better (in fact it likely offers non of the amazing enhancements these projectes added).

Most of my iMac G4 mods involved complete rewiring of the neck, alteration of the lcd and its case etc.  Even my current project/variation involves LED backlights and a capacitive touchscreen.  However, my favorite mod actually came about by altering almost nothing.  Only the components of the dome were replaced.  I liked this "minimally invasive" method because it is visually the same as the original iMac G4 and because its simplicity allowed others to reproduce it.  When I started this blog to visually show my ideas, I under-appreciated how enjoyable it is to see others reproduce my work and get to do a project they likely would not have pursued had they not read my blog.  This is even more so when the person is a so called "noob" and I am grateful to the dozen or so people out there that have shown me their completed and near completed works.

Using this "minimally invasive" philosophy I now believe that I now can offer a variation of this mod that others may be able to reproduce without any high level construction or electrical skills.  The Guidelines I am trying to abide are to:

  1. As little cutting and alteration of the original structure of the cube as possible.
  2. Try to use the general layout and design of the the cube itself as a guide.  In other words, the cube structure will dictate my choice of parts, not the other way around.
  3. Keep it simple.
The thing that makes this possible is again small form factor motherboards.  I have been extremely impressed with my two KEEX ECX boards (the Core 2 Duo 4300 and the Core i 6100).  They offer essentially the same power of a mini itx.  The exceptions include the use of mobile chipsets (which are an advantage in these mods).  Most apple computers are designed with mobile chipsets in mind.  The other exception is a lack of expandability.  As there is barely any room in most of these mods, this usually is not a big deal.

As I took the Core 2 Duo ECX out of my original iMac G4 All-In-One (now hooked up to an external mini), its now homeless and I'm hoping to incorporate this into this cube mod.  Although hackintoshing had problems, I think the cube's design and using my current hackintosh may allow me to overcome this.  Although not as powerful as its Sandy Bridge Brother this board has a PCI Ex4 as opposed to the mini PCIe on the 6100.  In addition, the Core 2 Duo Penryn is more than powerful enough to be an all purpose computer or HTPC.

Original Mobo and PCI Graphics Card OnTop
Original Mobo compared to KEEX-4030 with ASUS 5450
Using a similar set up the original.  I am using a ASUS Silent 5450 graphics card with a right angle PCIx4 to x16 (though this card is available in a PCI x1 with DP and I do also have the PCI x1 ION graphics card).  I will likely instead use a ribbon riser to push the mobo towards the back.  The extra room in front I'm hoping can be used to fit a pico PSU and port extenders.  With some luck, major cutting and modification of the cube ports may be avoided.

The other two major components include a slot load DVD.  There is an adapter available that allows use of standard slim DVD slot drives within the cube slot.  A standard 3.5" HDD is contained within one of the large heatsinks.  Although a smaller HDD or SDD can be used, as the heatsink is in place I may simply use a spare 3.5" SATA HDD.

Heatsink below the motherboard area
Obviously cooling is a problem with all these small form factor mods.  The use of the small board allows me to turn it upside down with the northbridge and the cpu facing down.  Behind this is the gigantic heatsink.

To keep the original design and to keep this as quiet as possible, I would love to use this huge passive heatsink.  I do believe that it is possible, but I have never done something like this and will have to research it.  The original motherboard has the cpu on an elevated chip that interfaced with a metal brick that conducted to the heatsink.

Either using a heatpipe or modifying this, I would like to see if its possible to utilize this structure.

I still have to finish my G4 Guides so will not be starting this up quite yet.  But to anyone with experience with passive heatsinks on both the CPU as well as the northbridge, any advice would be appreciated.  Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. Hi jberg,
    Hadn't seen this post from you before. Just in case you hadn't seen my mod using the original heatsink take a look at my thread on tonymac - It's not a conventional Cube mod but does show how the Cube heatsink can be used and stands up to passive cooling.