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  Mini ITX - AMD Llano LAN box - (final project pictures posted) 
 
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Seth Hoffman Mar 15, 2012, 02:16pm EDT Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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Edited: Apr 01, 2012, 05:46pm EDT

Replies: 50 - Views: 7194
After a recent Llano build for my wife I was impressed by how well the little chip performed. I got the idea to build a tiny Diablo 3 themed LAN box.

After many hours of debating on which parts to go with I decided on the following:

Zotac mini ITX FM1 Motherboard: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1681350007...otac%20fm1

AMD Llano A8 3870k Black Edition CPU: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819106001

Scythe Kozuti low profile ITX heatsink: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1683518516...Tpk=kozuti

8GB (2x4) of G.Skill Ares 1600 memory: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231544 (EDIT: this memory does not fit with Scythe Kozuti heatsink)

8GB (2x4) of Samsung Green VLP DDR3 1600: memory: http://www.amazon.com/Samsung-Electronics-Extreme-MV-3V4G3D-US...=8-1-fkmr0

WD Blue 250GB HDD: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136769 (had this from a previous build, purchased for $35)

Steel Series Diablo3 mouse: http://steelseries.com/products/games/diablo-iii/steelseries-d...-iii-mouse

Thermaltake Element mini ITX case: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811133093

Seasonic 350W SFX PSU: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817151063

My theory for this build is the Llano 3870k has an integrated 6550D graphics core which is one notch down from a discrete Radeon HD 6570. The Black Edition chips allow for easy graphics core overclocking as well as CPU overclocking.

Diablo 3 system requirements are:

Minimum System Specifications

PC
OS
Windows XP/Windows Vista/Windows 7 (Latest Service Packs) with DirectX 9.0c
Processor
Intel Pentium D 2.8 GHz or AMD AthlonTM 64 X2 4400+
Video
NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GT or ATI Radeon X1950 Pro or better

All Platforms
HD Space
12 GB available HD space
Memory
1 GB RAM (1.5 GB required for Windows Vista® Windows® 7 users, 2 GB for Mac® users)
Drive
DVD-ROM drive
Internet
Broadband Internet connection
Display
1024x768 minimum display resolution

Recommended System Specifications

PC
OS
Windows Vista/Windows 7 (Latest Service Packs)
Processor
Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz or AMD AthlonTM 64 X2 5600+ 2.8 GHz
Memory
2 GB RAM
Video
NVIDIA GeForce 260 or ATI Radeon HD 4870 or better


As you can see this build meets and exceeds all of these requirements, although it probably won't play at 60fps at 1080p it will be completely playable as a LAN box. This machine will be approx. the size of a standard piece of paper and 5" tall!

I will be posting some pictures of the build; parts expected to come in on Monday 3/19/2012. If you're interested stay tuned. Possibly painting a Diablo3 emblem on the top, and making a side window. I have access to an auto paint booth and equipment.

Also if you missed it Diablo 3 official release date May 15 2012!!!

I will post how well the Diablo3 beta runs on this machine as a proof of concept. The final version will be better optimized but it will give me (and you) an idea of how well it works.



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BoT Mar 15, 2012, 08:07pm EDT Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: Mini ITX - AMD Llano Diablo 3 themed LAN box
looks good. can't wait to see the pics

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Seth Hoffman Mar 15, 2012, 10:11pm EDT Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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Edited: Mar 15, 2012, 10:46pm EDT

 
>> Re: Mini ITX - AMD Llano Diablo 3 themed LAN box
I tested out Tribes Ascend beta on my wife's AMD A4-3300 Llano rig, which is only the dual core with the 6410D graphics core. The 6410D only has 160 stream processors clocked at 600Mhz. The 3870k model I'm using in my new build has 400 stream processors at 600Mhz, but able to be overclocked to 800Mhz.

Tribes Ascend is "playable" at 1440x900 on minimal graphic settings. It's averaging 25fps. So that is encouraging; I'm actually surprised it runs at all on my wife's dual core.

I could be very surprised at the results of this project.


john albrich Mar 15, 2012, 11:47pm EDT Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: Mini ITX - AMD Llano Diablo 3 themed LAN box
.
The Zotac mobo looks very intriguing and like it has a lot of potential. They're certainly packing a lot into a 7"x7" board.

Note that the WiFi is max 150mbps.
User Manual (which I always recommend reading before purchasing an item)
http://downloads.zotac.com/mediadrivers/mb/man/pa199.pdf

But...no Newegg reviews yet for that specific board. My memory may be playing tricks on me, but I was looking at some other Zotac mobos and video cards, and seem to recall their quality and support weren't well received on more devices than I was comfortable with...and even if my memory is ok, things may have changed for the better since I last looked.

Seth Hoffman Mar 16, 2012, 12:34am EDT Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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Edited: Mar 16, 2012, 12:37am EDT

 
>> Re: Mini ITX - AMD Llano Diablo 3 themed LAN box
It is true that the wifi is only single stream 150Mb/s. I'm not concerned with that, I won't be transferring large amounts of data back and forth and my home Internet connection is only 15Mb/s.

As far as Zotac goes, I know it's a gamble going with an off brand but I've used their products at work and haven't had an issue yet. I went with Zotac mostly for the features they're packing into that board, it's pretty amazing (if it works).

Also I've been building machines for 15 years, I've found that there are a lot of people who think they're DIYers but haven't got a clue, so I don't follow reviews too close.


Seth Hoffman Mar 16, 2012, 09:08am EDT Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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Edited: Mar 16, 2012, 09:15am EDT

 
>> Re: Mini ITX - AMD Llano Diablo 3 themed LAN box
I did some research last night on how to OC the Llano platform. It turns out you can adjust the base clock upwards of 40% without issue as long as you can use ratios to keep the PCIe bus as close to 100Mhz as possible. When adjusting the base clock it affects the speed of the CPU, GPU, PCIe bus, and RAM.

My plan is to use a 133Mhz bclk, 26x multiplier for the CPU, and 2:3 PCIe and RAM ratio. If the motherboard/BIOS allows these parameters, I will end up with the following:

26x133Mhz = 3.458Ghz at the CPU (3.0Ghz stock)

6x133Mhz = 798Mhz at the GPU (600Mhz stock)

2:3 PCIe ratio should keep the bus at 100Mhz

If the RAM will handle 133Mhz bclk I'll let it overclock, but I've found that there are diminishing returns after DDR3-1600, and tighter timings offer better GPU performance over 1866 and above. Going from 1333 to 1600 is ~5fps gain in games, 1600 to 1866 gains ~.3fps.

Note: I have seen reports of SSDs having issues when the bclk is running over 110Mhz.


Dr. Peaceful Mar 16, 2012, 06:59pm EDT Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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Edited: Mar 16, 2012, 07:14pm EDT

 
>> Re: Mini ITX - AMD Llano Diablo 3 themed LAN box
I am a big fan of the ITX form factor. I also bought a Zotac ITX board recently, but with the E-350 Zacate chipset rather. I am fitting it into a smaller case than yours, so there's no room for custom cooler / fan. Must be low profile and passively cooled, so the build-in and low TDP E-350 will be a better fit for me. I picked the Zotac because it's one of the few boards that provides: wireless, bluetooth, eSATA, and USB3, similar to your board. I like your dual LANs. Too bad it's not use as a server, could be useful. If you don't like the wireless/bluetooth Mini-PCIe card, you can easily change to another one.

Here are my advices regarding the case/PSU. I don't like the fact that it uses SFX PSU. I see you're changing it to a more powerful one, too. These suckers can be a pain to deal with, heat-wise. I used to have a "small box" PC build (taller than yours, but about same width/depth), which heats up like a toaster. And half the heat was from the PSU itself, as I found out. Mine was 250W, when it heated up, it could burn my fingers, no kidding. There was really no room in that small PSU box to cool itself down, even with 1 fan, while generating all that power. Yours is 350W, you can go figure. All the heat will make the PSU to have shorter life too.

If you're running 1 board, 1 hard drive, no video card, 1 optical drive, you really don't need 350W. A 120W AC to DC power brick & DC-DC PSU board will do the job. But perhaps with Llano (not a big heat generator), this could be a bit easier to cool. The case will also limit your expansion, too. For instance if you like to add a video card later, it will limit your choices because of case size. That case also provides very little cooling for the added heat of the video card. And it's not exactly small, in comparison to some smaller HTPC cases.

Since my bad experience with "small box" PC, my approach now is to either: build way small (ITX HTPC case), low power and heat less too; or build big (regular ATX tower case), which give me full expandability, room for cooling and stable PSU; but not to build anything in between. Just my philosophy...

Good luck with your build!

Seth Hoffman Mar 16, 2012, 07:33pm EDT Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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Edited: Mar 16, 2012, 07:37pm EDT

 
>> Re: Mini ITX - AMD Llano Diablo 3 themed LAN box
Thanks for the insight.

I was actually already planning on swapping out the fan in the 350w unit with a higher rpm fan. Also, I thought about cutting a hole in the side of the case and mounting an intake fan.

I won't have an optical drive installed in the machine, I have almost no need for one. I will be installing the OS from a bootable flash drive with Win7 install files created with WintoFlash software.

The 350w supply is a bit overkill but I did want more than the stock 200w, and the 350w was in the same price range as 250s and 300s. In theory a 350w PSU running at 150w should run cooler than a 200w running at 150w, because the supply is not running as close to peak output, so it's more efficient.


john albrich Mar 16, 2012, 09:31pm EDT Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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Edited: Mar 16, 2012, 11:30pm EDT

 
>> Re: Mini ITX - AMD Llano Diablo 3 themed LAN box
Seth Hoffman said:
...In theory a 350w PSU running at 150w should run cooler than a 200w running at 150w, because the supply is not running as close to peak output, so it's more efficient.


Quick summary
With some quality switching PSUs the real difference in efficiency can be negligible (for all practical purposes) over a fairly wide-range of loads...the efficiency might vary by only a few percentage points even as the load varies from 40% to 80% of the PSU's rated max output.

However, heat contribution and efficiency VERY much depend on the actual design of and specific components used in the PSU, actual cooling mechanism and heat removal system, the AC mains voltage, and more. An example of one of the simpler factors: You can have a grossly inefficient PSU model that will in fact "run cooler" and inject less heat into the case than a "more efficient" PSU even when the less efficient PSU has more waste heat...simply if it has a superior method of removing that waste heat than the more efficient PSU.

In addition, if a PSU has really tight tolerances on the output voltages, that can reduce the power consumed by components in the PC. In the simplest case, DC power increases non-linearly as a function of voltage (P=E^2/R). So when a "+5V" supply actually outputs 5.25V (the +5V +/-5% PSU spec), then the power dissipated by +5V sub-systems in the PC increases by much more than the 5% (0.25V) voltage difference. For example, let's assume we see a power consumption of 300W steady-state on the +5.0V rail. If the PSU outputs worst-case +5.25V that same subsystem now draws about 330Watts...an increase of about 10% in power...not just 5%. (note: just another reason to add a 20%-30% higher PSU power buffer when planning your PC configuration...in addition to efficiency goals, rail-power limitations (e.g. power on +5V and +3.3V combined limited to less than both as specified separately), possible future expansion, possible overclocking, component variation considerations, etc).


With regard to load v. PSU maximum rated output power:
Here's a bit of info to consider re efficiency v. load for a more or less typical switching PSU:
http://www.anandtech.com/show/2624/3
With some PSUs the real difference in efficiency can be negligible for all practical purposes over a fairly wide-range of load. But, with some PSUs if the load is too low compared to the maximum rated power of the PSU, the efficiency can be significantly lower than when operating closer to the maximum spec'd output capability. The second chart on the webpage is instructive. Even though it is designed to show efficiency as a function of low v. med v. high load on a 900W PSU, it does scale to some degree to lower output PSUs and corresponding loads on the same class of switching PSUs (once you change the fundamental electrical design of and/or components used in the PSU, the curves can change drastically).

Specifically looking at the two examples you suggested:
The "low-efficiency" load you mentioned with the 150W load on a 200W PSU (75% of max 200W) is actually likely to be closer to the maximum efficiency point of the PSU than the 150W load on a 350W PSU (43% of max 350W). Look at the 43% and 75% efficiency points of the 900W PSU in the chart. Both loads yield close to 85% efficiency for the 120VAC input line in the chart. Either way, when looking at the universe of quality medium power PC switching PSUs, the real efficiency difference is likely to be at most a few percentage points in that load range (43% to 75%). So the main issue is more likely to simply reduce to how well a PSU removes heat from itself/the case (and how much audible noise, if any, is acceptable to do so).

One other thought...
The use of an UPS with Automatic Voltage Regulation (AVR) can improve efficiency a bit of any switching PSU if your area suffers from frequent and significant sub-nominal AC mains voltage/brown-outs, etc. An AVR capable UPS will keep the AC voltage closer to the optimum design value for improved PSU efficiency. Whether the added up-front costs are worth it is up to you. Note: you may be able to find an old working UPS with AVR that someone wants to sell cheap because they don't want to replace the battery. Even without the battery, it still performs AVR. However, some UPS units have a "replace-battery" alarm that cannot be disabled...which is VERY annoying...you have to physically disable the "speaker" (e.g. some hot-melt glue in the "speaker" aperture, or IF one has the appropriate electrical knowledge...remove the "speaker" element, etc)

edit:
added a bit more detail
edit:
added info re: PSU output voltage tolerances and specs impact on power (simple case)

Seth Hoffman Mar 16, 2012, 09:40pm EDT Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: Mini ITX - AMD Llano Diablo 3 themed LAN box
Good to know, thanks for the information.


Seth Hoffman Mar 17, 2012, 12:15am EDT Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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Edited: Mar 17, 2012, 12:15am EDT

 
>> Re: Mini ITX - AMD Llano Diablo 3 themed LAN box
Looking like the parts won't be here until Tuesday...I wish Newegg had a program similar to Amazons Prime.


Seth Hoffman Mar 21, 2012, 11:49am EDT Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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Edited: Mar 21, 2012, 11:54am EDT

 
>> Re: Mini ITX - AMD Llano Diablo 3 themed LAN box
Yesterday I started my mini ITX build. I will be posting pics of the machine this evening. The build went fairly smooth but I did run into some issues.

1) The 3870k stock heatsink and fan are too tall for the Thermaltake Element case, I had to use a low profile fan that I happened to have on hand. The stock fan interferes with the PSU, which is mounted directly above the CPU.

2) I have a fairly serious heat issue. My CPU is hitting 65C under full load with the stock heatsink even with the PSU removed and the case open. I am using Artic Silver 5 thermal paste, tried both X pattern and classic pea size center displacement. I have made sure the heatsink is seated properly (hard to mess up AMDs mounting). I ordered an aftermarket mini ITX compatible low profile heatsink, the Scythe Kozuti: http://www.silentpcreview.com/article1209-page2.html

3) The motherboard has CPU OC features and works great, but does not have GPU OC features. I took a gamble on this board and other than that omission it's great. I believe I can OC the GPU through AMDs drivers/utilties.

I also ordered a slot fan to help cool down the internal temps. This case is simply too small for this CPU in my opinion but I'm determined to make it work.

On a positive note; I did get the temps stable with some extra temp. fans to test things out. Diablo 3 beta performs great, 1440x900 max settings except physics is 50+FPS. WoW at 1440x900 medium settings in busy areas is 45+FPS. I did not get a chance to run any other modern games yet, but so far it appears to be a completely viable platform for LAN parties and HTPC work.

I love the tiny form factor, it's a total nightmare to wire, but I like a challenge.

Again I'll post some pictures of the build so far tonight, with the stock heatsink. When the bigger heatsink comes I'll put up a complete project gallery as well.


john albrich Mar 21, 2012, 04:26pm EDT Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: Mini ITX - AMD Llano Diablo 3 themed LAN box
.
Looking forward to the pics! Tiny is always a challenge, but it looks like you're willing to experiment to get what you want.

My memory is saying that I've read Scythe fans have crap lifespans...can't remember where.

Meats_Of_Evil Mar 21, 2012, 05:05pm EDT Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: Mini ITX - AMD Llano Diablo 3 themed LAN box
Ouch... Were you aware that Diablo 3 will not include LAN support at all?

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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Dr. Peaceful Mar 21, 2012, 05:57pm EDT Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: Mini ITX - AMD Llano Diablo 3 themed LAN box
Seth Hoffman said:
...I love the tiny form factor, it's a total nightmare to wire, but I like a challenge...

LOL, tell me about it. ;) Even worst to manage the wires/cables inside a book-size case... It's always a challenge building small. But I find it very rewarding when it's done right. Smaller cases are also more impressive to others' eyes, too.

Very interesting heat sink there. Never seen something with the fan so close to the CPU, and with the all the fins above the fan.

65C is not that bad, some older Intel chips can heat up to 80C! I do however think that Llano should be cooler than that though. Your slot fan will definitely help, it sucks the heat out via the PCI slot. I had one of those in my old box PC build. Your case have side vents, I would suggest to mod it slightly so you can mount an intake fan on the side opposite to the PCI slot. Since you are not using any optical drive, you can exploit the 5.25 slot as a wind tunnel for air intake. Use something like this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835230041

Anyway, you get the idea. As long as you can keep it cool, you have a successful small PC build. Good luck!

Dr. Peaceful Mar 21, 2012, 07:00pm EDT Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: Mini ITX - AMD Llano Diablo 3 themed LAN box
john albrich said:
...So the main issue is more likely to simply reduce to how well a PSU removes heat from itself/the case (and how much audible noise, if any, is acceptable to do so)...

John, you remind me of something I forgot to mention. Small cases use small fans, which usually generate louder fan noise, because they need to spin faster (more RPM) to achieve the reasonable CFM ratings. Again mentioning my old small box PC, which used 5cm to 6cm fans, total 5 of them, it was very loud. So loud, it was intolerable in a quiet room. Unlike an ATX case, which can use 8cm, 12cm or bigger fans, which need not to spin so fast to generate the same CFM rating. So yeah, noise is yet another challenge for a small PC.

john albrich Mar 21, 2012, 07:15pm EDT Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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Edited: Mar 21, 2012, 07:19pm EDT

 
>> Re: Mini ITX - AMD Llano Diablo 3 themed LAN box
Dr. Žaz said:

I bought one of those 3x40mm fan 5.25" drive bay "coolers" (but mfg=Antec) just to check out the concept. It was terrible! Just pushing the air (which it didn't do very well) they were quite loud to begin with, and all 3 fans' bearings failed within 4 weeks, with horrible noise. The tiny fans couldn't be replaced with higher-quality fans (they are built-in to the assembly), but I could peel off the stickers on the fan backsides and put some lubricant on the spindle to get them running again, but they're still noisy. I first tried standard 50W oil on one, a teflon spray lubricant in another, and a silicone gel lubricant in the last. The 50W oil worked best, but I still had to oil the little buggers about once a week. Over time, I also tried light sewing-machine oil, 20W and 30W oils later on...50W was still best.

I think a ducted assembly using a quality 120mm fan inside the case would be more effective and quieter (if such a piece of ductwork is available). But in this tiny case I doubt such a fan would fit internally.

Seth Hoffman Mar 21, 2012, 07:43pm EDT Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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Edited: Mar 21, 2012, 07:44pm EDT

 
>> Re: Mini ITX - AMD Llano Diablo 3 themed LAN box
Getting the pics now, will be posting shortly.

As far as Diablo3 not having LAN support; I am aware but everywhere we have LAN parties there is an Internet connection. So while it's not a true LAN party, it's nice to get together with friends in the same room and play online together, instead of using Ventrilo etc.

I have already mounted two 80mm fans to the side vents on the inside, once my slot cooler arrives on Friday (yay amazon prime) I will be doing exactly what you recommended with an intake and exhaust.

The low profile fan that is on my stock heatsink now has a real annoying pitch. I hope my Scythe is quieter.

Also I've been thinking about getting a Corsair H100 for my main machine...today I started thinking about mounting my H60 to the outside of the mini ITX case and running the lines inside...


Dr. Peaceful Mar 21, 2012, 07:44pm EDT Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: Mini ITX - AMD Llano Diablo 3 themed LAN box
Oil PC fans once week?! What a chore! I only oil my car engine every 5000 miles. That's more maintenance than my car. LOL ;)

I figured the 5.25 fan kit would be noisy. 4cm fans, no wonder. But then what more choice do you get for a case like that? Obviously it won't fit a 12cm fan.

Seth Hoffman Mar 21, 2012, 07:47pm EDT Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: Mini ITX - AMD Llano Diablo 3 themed LAN box
The Llano 3870K has a TJMax of 70C so at 65C it starts throttling and dynamically dropping multipliers on cores to stay afloat. I'd like to see it in the 50C range under full load.


Dr. Peaceful Mar 21, 2012, 07:53pm EDT Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: Mini ITX - AMD Llano Diablo 3 themed LAN box
Seth Hoffman said:
...I have already mounted two 80mm fans to the side vents on the inside, once my slot cooler arrives on Friday (yay amazon prime) I will be doing exactly what you recommended with an intake and exhaust...

Obviously, I am not sure what exactly you did, but if, you have mounted the 8cm fan on the PCI side, the slot cooler may interfere with it.


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