Upgrading the OPC

[Blog] My adventure as I attempt to fit a new graphics card into the Orange OPC.

As my friends may know, I’m a slight Orange Amps fan, owning several magical pieces of engineering by them, including an AD30 and Dark Terror. Some time back, Orange decided to break into PC building and I must say, the results were some what amazing. The Orange OPC is an astonishing computer tucked away in the shell of an amp, it’s stunning. But as with all computers, eventually you need to replace something and as always, the first thing to become massively outdated is the graphics card.

I’ve had my OPC for about 18 months now and felt it was time for an upgrade in the graphics card department. With the OPC being custom built, it doesn’t have the same layout as a regular PC tower, so selecting a new card was somewhat of a challenge. The motherboard is attached to the metal chassis (I assume it’s aluminium due to it’s rather light weight) which forms the rear of the PC, see the picture below.

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It all just slides out.

The rear chassis is U shaped and slides out of the wooden amp casing. Four speaker cables have to be disconnected before the entire thing can be completely removed. Once out though, the sight is quite amazing. Every piece is securely bolted to the chassis, no clips or connectors that can wiggle free, just good old fashioned bolts.

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Quite tidy for such a tight space.

The cables were all really tidy, clipped up and out of the way of fans. The DVD Drive can be seen hanging down at the top of the picture and the hard drive is where the little green chip board is at the top right corner. It’s very nicely laid out, however, one thing caught my eye, that’s a 400W PSU, nowhere near enough juice to power the kind of cards that I was looking for. Luckily I had an 800W PSU laying around from a previous build, panic averted! replacing the PSU bought up its own little problem though, more on that further down.

The hardest part came when trying to find a card to fit, there’s only about 210mm of space inside the OPC for the graphics which rules out ever single ATI R9 card, the smallest measuring in at 228mm. I was upgrading from an AMD HD7750 1GB, so wanted atlead 2GB of VRAM, I browsed many cards and finally found one I thought would be an adequate upgrade: the MSI R7 260X 2GB. With 2GB VRAM, DVI and HDMI outputs and measuring  in with a length of 203mm, it was the perfect size. For the constraints of my case and my budget, it was a good card but something caught my eye, it had 2 DVI outputs, damn. See the next two images.

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The old HD7750. It was a good card and has served me oh so very well. I’ll miss the little guy.

 

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The chassis in all its glory.

The image above shows the graphics card removed and that large vertical slot is where it goes. Note, there’s only one slot and some vents next to it. This posed a whole new problem, I now needed a card that could fit into a single slot. Back to the drawing board.

After quite a few hours of searching various websites I decided to move away from my trusted AMD/ATI comfort zone (used them for the past decade now) and wondered into the darkside of Nvidia. Here I just came across the same problem though, cards are either 18mm too long or are designed for dual slots. I was getting nowhere, until I stumbled onto the MSI GTX760 ITX Edition. It came in at £80 above my agreed budget, hence I didn’t come accros it before, but it was the perfect size and only required one slot, well, sort of…

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The MSI GTX 760 ITX Edition. Lovely card and it fits! Almost…

The plan was quite simple and I had 2 choices; 1) Hack an extra slot into the OPC’s chassis (which is about 2.5mm thick) or 2) chop the connector off the graphics card. I did spend some time considering hacking the OPC’s chassic, it’d make future upgrades easier, but then I admired the beauty of it and decided it wasn’t worth ruining it’s gorgeous body. So, off with the extra connector!

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Oh, what a mess…

I did the obvious thing first, of course, connecting everything up and making sure it all worked. It did, flawlessly. I bench marked using Thief; 1080 x 1920, everything maxed and on. Previous score was a rather pathetic 12fps average with those settings, the new card scored 43, which is perfectly adequate for my needs. I ran some other games, programs and stress tests just to make sure everything was good, and it was. So, it was on with the cutting!

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Oh yeah, a cheap ‘Dremel’ tool! That’ll do it!!

After some discussion with my father over the best approach to hacking up a brand new £200 graphics card I decided to purchase a cheap ‘Dremel’ tool. It cost £30 and you can buy them from most harware stores, I got mine from Maplin and good lord, did it do the trick! Using the fiber glass cutting discs that came with it I proceeded to cut into the metal connector, very slowly. I did it in parts, cutting away the excess pieces to avoid friction on the inside of the cut. 20 minutes later I had achieved this:

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That is one heck of a straight cut for a first timer. I must say, I’m quite proud of it.

As you can see, it did a great job. The connector was gone and there was only a tiny lip (approx 0.5mm) left from where the connector once was and I didn’t even hit those screws!

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As you can see, it now fits like a glove.

Everything was great, the OPC now had a new graphics card and was a happy gamer once again. Now, those problems with the PSU, first, it was mounted onto foam, which is a great idea to stop it from vibrating against the chassis, but unfortunately the foam was sticky on both sides. It was a nightmare to remove, but with the help of my sisters hair dryer, I eventually managed to pry it off after 20 minutes of teasing and pulling. It might just have been an oversight on Orange’s part, but really, you should never stick components down with sticky foam, it makes fast upgrades turn into a nightmare. A PSU change over should only hake about 20 minutes, it took me that long just to get it off the chassis!

Problem number 2 came when I was disconnecting everything, someone decided that instead of attaching the power light to its own Molex connector, they’d just use one of the connectors from the PSU, chop the connector off and solder it onto the light. See below.

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Oh dear, which silly sausage thought that was a good idea?

Granted, it may have been quicker to simply solder the power connectors to the light, but it doesn’t help people when they come to upgrading things. Luckily, this was a quick fix, whilst out at Maplin I purchased a 4 pin Molex connector for £1.80. I simply cut the cable at the Molex connector and attached it to the new one, no solder needed, just a pair of pliers.

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I’m attempting to show the inner Molex connector and how it attaches. Bad pic, but you get the gist I hope.

Once the new Molex connector was in place I could simply plug it into one of the spares from the PSU.

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Everything slots back in perfectly!

Once I’d finished tidying the cables, everything slotted back into the chassis perfectly and my beautiful OPC was back up and running! Even with the couple of mishaps it was an enjoyable adventure, one involving some daring surgery, but it was worth it.

Links:

Happy gaming people!

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Those beautiful knobs and inputs…

 

 

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NaytoE
Web Master at CoupesCorner
Nathan is lumbered with all the technical stuff behind CoupesCorner. If stuff breaks, it's always someone else's fault, but he'll fix it, because he's a pretty awesome guy.

Nathan loves tactical shooters, RPG's and Bro-Ops games. Some all-time favourites of his are Black and White 2, Postal 2, the Rainbow Six series and Pokemon. He also loves playing guitar and fishing with his dad, when Lozzy isn't busy making him do stuff...
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