The HP Franken Dell. Scary project or a outstanding idea?

Not everything is a bad idea.

So, recently I tried a few fairly standard upgrades on an old Dell Optiplex. They were simple, but effective, and all was good. So, how did we get from there, to the HP Franken Dell? There were a few steps.

Over a year ago, I ordered the cheapest DX12 capable prebuilt PC on Amazon. It was a refurbished Dell Optiplex with an i5 4670 four core, four thread processor and no dedicated graphics card. It did come with dual channel memory, but only 8GB. Upgrades were relatively simple. More capacity on the RAM, an SSD instead of the hard disk drive and a graphics card. It wasn’t the best Gaming PC in the world, but for about 330 USD, accounting for price drops, it was solid. One of the videos benchmarking current games can be found here.

Then came the idea of upgrading the CPU, a Xeon. The choice of the Xeon came from the natural upgrade path (i7 4770) being more expensive. The E3 1270v3 has almost the same clock speed and the same number of cores and threads. It was also only 28 bucks and some change.

The surprise came when it turned out not to be an upgrade because of the GPU. A better GPU meant needing more room, and while I was at it, I might as well, pick up the motherboard for another 18. Nice.

Not an Optiplex anymore

Freed from the Optiplex case, I could test the Xeon with other video cards and find that the four core, eight thread actually performed very well, for a ten year old processor. The problem was, it was stuck in a lousy case. The temps were a bit high on the GPU side, but not horrible. I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it.

At the same time, I was considering turning the old HP a6512p into a bit of a sleeper build. The fifteen year old PC wasn’t very capable of playing modern games, even with a decent GPU, but it did have a redeeming quality. A standard mATX fit inside and it took a regular size Power Supply. The same size motherboard that the Xeon called home. Hmmm. Nah, but maybe, just maybe, it would work.

I knew there were going to be a few issues; the front panel accessories being one of them. The front panel lacked the USB3 available from the newer Mobo and there was a firewire (1394) connection that was useless. An expansion bay including USB3 was cheap, so it made the list. Also on the list was something to help with the adapters I had already purchased that worked for the pink case.

Finally, the HP Franken Dell.

When it was all said and done, it worked. Temps weren’t great, but I know there isn’t a lot of airflow in that case, so it’s something to work on. Maybe a Noctua fan will move more air and be more quiet. As it stands, I have some room, but not a lot, for more drives and I have to consider if the FrankenDell will be a better solution for my server that I keep putting off. Noise and temps first, then I will explore more drives.

Overall, it was a fun experiment. Parts fit where maybe they shouldn’t have, and I can see why companies like HP and Dell try to now make proprietary parts. (Though, some of their parts could use a good swap). I don’t yet know what will become of the older HP motherboard and Q6600 that where originally in the 6512p, but I also have an AM3+ motherboard around somewhere without a home. Hmmm, I wonder if I should get a FX processor and pit it against the intel CPU’s like the Xeon. To be continued………maybe.

Link to the YouTube video about the HP FrankenDell.

And of course, back to the blog section

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *