Distilling Absinthe – Part II

Now that we’re past the introduction, let’s actually get down to work, starting with a small aside on the table.

I said in the previous section that I wanted to move the system out from behind her monitors and onto a small table under her desk.  First my wife’s desk is actually a 42″ bar table. Specifically it’s the Pinnadel pub table from Ashley Furniture (link to product) that we bought through Nebraska Furniture Mart for much less than what Ashley charges for it directly. Anyway, the stretcher is about 8″ above the floor. So I need a table that can clear over that while still leaving adequate clearance above the chassis for air flow around the top radiator.

The small table was very simple: a pine plank cut from larger stock with four (4) IKEA Godmorgon legs. It took me only 15 minutes to make the table as I already had a plank of wood left over from building the Desert Sapphire cabinet. For most builds a 12″x24″ board should work. Get either oak or pine as those are the two strongest commonly-sold woods with pine typically being less expensive (and stronger than oak). Shelf boards will be your friend here. But avoid MDF and particle board.

IKEA has other vanity legs available that are shorter and less expensive if you don’t need what I acquired. Otherwise all you need is just a board large enough to hold your tower. If you are building this to support a larger chassis, buy an extra set of legs for the middle for extra support.

New hardware

Now let’s get into the feature presentation, starting with the new CPU block:


I decided to go with the Watercool Heatkiller IV Pro, specifically the acrylic version. It’s a little lower profile while retaining much of the silver from the Koolance CPU-380A currently being used. In some tests it’s been shown to out-perform the EK Supremacy EVO. And it doesn’t require any modification for it to perform well for LGA-2011v3 processors. In short, all around I think it’s the better option.

So I ordered it from Performance-PCs at the same time I ordered a few other things to finish up another project. For Absinthe, thankfully this is really the only thing I needed to order since I’ll be re-using everything else.

But let’s get to what you’re really wanting to see.

Testing the new hardware

For testing I used a spare GT620 graphics card since my wife’s R9 290X was still in Absinthe when I set this up.


One thing I really like about the X99 PRO is this little guy:


But given how I have the FPIO already connected in Absinthe, this is largely unnecessary. Still a nice touch, though, and I’ll use it anyway as it’ll make it a lot easier to figure out the pinout for the USB plugs I currently use.

So with everything mounted, using a CX750M for temporarily powering this and a ThermalTake Water 2.0 Performer for the CPU, it was time to power it on so the mainboard could fail to detect the M.2 drive… Ugh… I assumed the drive was bad, so I exchanged it at Micro Center. Interestingly, I ended up getting a slight refund doing this because of a recent price drop. When I got home, I plugged in the other drive…. only to get the same result.

I took to the Internet to see if I could find out what the hell was going on. In searching around, I decided to look through the PDF version of the manual for any information regarding getting M.2 drives to work — double-checking for recommended BIOS settings in case there was something non-obvious I needed to do. That’s when I discovered this little gem:


That’s right, the X99-PRO does not support SATA M.2 SSDs, something Micro Center’s product page doesn’t mention. You must use a PCI-Express based SSD in the M.2 slot. So guess who’s getting a 950 Pro 512 GB

That’s what I get for not doing a good enough compatibility check before buying parts. But at least I could absorb the extra cost. Mostly. I know a lot of people end up pouring a lot of saved cash into builds like this without a lot of leeway for contingencies — a consideration that seems very curiously absent in discussing builds online.

So it looks like Beta Orionis (β Ori.) is getting an SSD upgrade ahead of schedule. What’s interesting is that the M.2 850 EVO worked without issue in the ASRock X99 Extreme4 board I used in Desert Sapphire, so I think it’s reasonable to presume that another X99 board would’ve been able to use the 850 EVO. Oh well. While waiting for the SSD to arrive (I ordered it through Amazon), I decided to move ahead and test whatever else I could. I had a spare 120GB Patriot Torch LE SSD I could use in the mean time.

So that’s it for now. The more immediate next step will be to test the 950 Pro when it comes in to make sure it’s not DOA. Then Absinthe will be torn down completely, stripping the 750D completely naked for cleaning and parts inspection. I’ll probably need to give the case a shower as well to get all the dust out of it.

Note: the product image for the Watercool Heatkiller IV is copyright Watercool e.K. (Germany) and used in accordance with Fair Use under 17 USC § 107 for the purposes of commentary and/or criticism.