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Motherboard And CPU #1: Pulling Out The Stops

Take The Train: Lian Li PC-CK101, Built, Tested, And...Driven?
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Attempt #1: Push it to the Limit

Yes, I know that a Core i7-3770K is overkill for an exhibition chassis like this one. In a gaming PC, half of the money spent on Intel's flagship Ivy Bridge-based CPU would be better diverted to a discrete graphics card, which unfortunately doesn't fit into Lian Li's whimsical locomotive case. Nevertheless, I wanted to explore the thermal limits of the enclosure, so I dropped the Core i7 into Zotac's H77-ITX WiFi motherboard.

A Wi-Fi module comes bundled with the board, so you don't have to worry about wired networking connectivity.

Neither the case nor the motherboard allow for oversized CPU coolers.

In the shot below, you can see the empty tender. We recommend removing the fan prior to mounting the motherboard, particularly since Zotac's platform sports a lot of connectors right under where that fan is positioned.

The rear panel cutout is just barely big enough for the I/O shield. Snapping it in requires considerable force.

All four motherboard standoffs are pre-mounted and sport precision threads. We had no problems inserting and tightening the enclosed screws.

We discovered that our Core i7-3770K taxes Scythe's Big Shuriken Rev.2 cooler to its limits, specifically during the CPU stress test. There isn't much room left for overclocking, to be sure. The eLoop-series Noiseblocker fan does help the heat sink and cooler though, and after 60 minutes of running LinX, the CPU temperature didn't exceed 72°C with a room temperature of 22°C (72°F). Using the original case fan, the Core i7 peaked at 74°C, which is still acceptable, we'd say.

Unfortunately, the Big Shuriken's fan is just too noisy at full processor load, which prompted us to reevaluate our CPU and motherboard choices.

We took a step back from our instinct to push this system's upper bounds and started thinking about a more appropriate platform to use. We'll cover that on the following page.

Look closely; the USB header cable is barely long enough to stretch over our Scythe cooler on Zotac's board. Lian Li should make this cable an inch longer to avoid connection issues.

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  • 9 Hide
    Trueno07 , April 18, 2013 9:22 PM
    I am so jealous right now, this looked like it was a blast to put together!
  • -2 Hide
    slomo4sho , April 18, 2013 9:35 PM
    I am surprised you didn't use the model with the moving train!
  • 2 Hide
    edogawa , April 18, 2013 9:51 PM
    This thing is so awesome...if it wasn't for the noise I would get one...I love trains...
  • 0 Hide
    ASHISH65 , April 18, 2013 10:07 PM
    awesome! i want to drive that train
  • 2 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , April 18, 2013 11:05 PM
    The Little Engine That Could...
  • 9 Hide
    g-unit1111 , April 18, 2013 11:20 PM
    *Ozzy Osbourne Voice* ALL ABOARD!!! HA HA HA HA....
  • 0 Hide
    bambiboom , April 18, 2013 11:27 PM
    Just brilliant. Finally, a computer case with a bit of style suitable for grownups.

    Taking the mobile computing theme further, and addressing the limitations on computing power, if you had a Dell Precision M6600 or 6700 laptop with a broken screen, how about mounting the components, motherboard , PSU, batteries, drives, Wifi and all? Then, there could be an i7 CPU and a Quadro 4000M, all very quiet and still getting more air than it's used to. And, appropriately, no power cord!

    The idea of a serious, self- propelled workstation steam train model seems the best use possible of this fantastic enclosure idea. That the computer is itself the game is on the borderline of being art.

    And congratulations to Igor Wallossek for an excellent description of something so wonderfully out of the ordinary.
  • 2 Hide
    shikamaru31789 , April 19, 2013 1:04 AM
    I remember when I first saw this on Newegg. I thought I'd lost my mind for a moment. It's definitely a unique case.
  • 6 Hide
    ojas , April 19, 2013 1:18 AM
    Tom's Hardware's German team has a lot of fun, i can see :D 

    Really enjoyable read, Igor! Also got to know about that Gigabyte wireless streamer, should prove useful!

    Nice house btw :) 
  • 1 Hide
    flong777 , April 19, 2013 3:28 AM
    How fun and what an interesting idea from Lian Li. Kind of a pain in the ass to set up but still it is really interesting.

    Great Article!
  • 1 Hide
    christop , April 19, 2013 4:32 AM
    Looks like a fun build...
  • 4 Hide
    fimbulvinter , April 19, 2013 6:25 AM
    Tran Khanh Vinh An Has LianLi really been far even as decided to make even go want to do look more like?


    Possibly if even then yes like more go.
  • 1 Hide
    warezme , April 19, 2013 6:44 AM
    Far better than that one that shaped like a conch or shell.
  • 3 Hide
    doct3rphil , April 19, 2013 8:57 AM
    choo choo motherf*ckers. time to boot up train simulator 2013
  • 4 Hide
    englandr753 , April 19, 2013 9:30 AM
    Tran Khanh Vinh An Has LianLi really been far even as decided to make even go want to do look more like?

    fimbulvinterPossibly if even then yes like more go.


    You both destroyed thousands of my brain cells processing that, lol.

    My 4 year old son who loves Thomas the Train would have a fit over this, especially if you could get a thomas the tank version. I'll have to admit, I'd love it (and my wife) just as much watching him with it and I would have an excuse to work on computer stuff for a few hours. =D

    I do see this as a possible future purchase! Great article and awesome product!
  • 3 Hide
    FormatC , April 19, 2013 10:02 AM
    My own son Thomas (14 months) loves this train too.

    I'm using this mostly as HTPC now but I've programmed for him a special distance control and a small game to play with animals, colors etc. (like memory game). In this age he knows all basic colors (and pink :D  ), more than 20 animals and a lot of other things. Each day only 15-20 minutes are enough. And he loves Thomas the train and Shaun the Sheep + Timmy.
  • 3 Hide
    Vorador2 , April 19, 2013 10:57 AM
    This is pretty cool. Good job.

    Now if you get to install a third rail and make it completely wireless, it would be absolutely amazing.
  • 2 Hide
    lilcinw , April 19, 2013 11:09 AM
    Wow. Can you get a steam kit for the stack? How about some sound effects from the piezo speaker?
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