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I have been overclocking and benchmarking computer hardware for quite a few years. However, Once I joined the realm of competitive benchmarking about two years ago, things changed a lot. One thing that I have found to be essential is a proper benching table. Today, I’m looking at the new and improved benching table built by DIMASTECH in Italy. Does it have what it takes to replace my long time benching table build by Navig?
I’d like to start with a brief history. I know that most of you are not competitive benchers, the few who are probably won’t read all of this. For the rest of you, I think it may be beneficial for you to see where I’m coming from. Like most of you, I overclocked my computers for practical purposes and tangible benefits for many years before getting competitive.
I met this guy named Matt, aka “rdrash”, back in the summer of 2007, and he convinced me to join the OCForums Benching Team. Back then I was more concerned with a having a powerful & silent computer. The very first overclocking competition I even participated in was call The Forum Warz 2008 hosted by The Raptor Pit. Back then my computer was in a case, my CPU and graphics card were air cooled, and my room was a comfortable temperature. I also used my computer for many things, including gaming, multimedia processing, and as a server for media contect to my HTPC in the living room. So this competitive stuff created some strain on the family situation, becasue any time I was benching my family was unable to watch movies, or listen to stored music. In addition, the nights were cold, so to maximize my overclocking potential, I physically disconnected the system , and moved it to the window ledge to draw in some of the cold night air.
As you can see, it was a nice rig for it’s time, but it was obviously built with certain goals in mind (quiet, powerful, functional workstation), and benchmarking scores was not one of them. But after getting a taste of the competitive nature of overclocking…I was hooked.
The next Forum Warz came later that year in the form of The Summer Wars 2008. This time, I had upgraded all of my hardware, and built my first water cooling loop for the CPU and hot running X48 chipset.
But there was a problem, if you look closely at these photos, you’ll notice a hardware raid card in the lowest position. That was connected to three 1TB drives which is where I had moved all of my media files. I was running a RAID5 to ensure data integrity. However, during this competition, my overclocking disrupted the operation of the RAID controller, and corrupted the array. Parity or not, my data was gone. My last backup had been about a year prior, so you can imagine how this went over with my wife (hint: “not good”).
First touch with a benching station
About three months afterward, I went to my first live competition dubbed “Overdrive”, hosted by Tom’s Hardware Guide in Los Angeles. During this competition I joined forces with Team IRONMODS. We came face to face and competed against some of my online buddies here at OCForums. They brought along with them a custom built benching table that was designed for this type of stuff. I thought it was really nice and kept their area clean and organized. We (Team IRONMODS) almost had catostrophic failure at one point becasue one of our PSUs almost slid off the back of our table! The OCForums team using a benching table kept everything in its place, nice an secure.
So, I too decided it was time for me to re-think my situation, I needed to seperate my daily computer from my overclocking hardware and I decided to get a benching station. My budget was tight, and the station in the picture above seemed to do the job mighty well. So I jumped on to OCForums and shot a private messege to Navig, the builder of these custom made stations. He got right back to me, and within a couple weeks, I had my own Navig build station to play with.
After winning the competition in LA, my teammates and I proceeded to the international finals in Paris, France. A perfect opportunity to christen the new benching station, and we used it to great effect there, winning the world championship! Below you’ll see Team IRONMODS, the custom built Navig bench station is in the foreground.
After my trip to Paris, it was straight into a couple more online competitions with The Raptor Pit, “The Raptor Bowl 2009” and “The Winter Wars 2009”. Finally I was able to move out of my case, and bench on hardware that was dedicated for benching, and my family could continue their daily activities without worry of my blowing up anything while overclocking. It was so much easier to bench without those thoughts looming overhead. It also gave me the flexibility to swap hardware quickly and easily. During The Winter Wars 2009 competition, I even entered two rigs in two separate classes. First I ran a watercooled system, and then reconfigured my bench table with a system setup for benching on liquid nitrogen.
In the summer of 2009 I participated in The Summer Wars 2009, and again, my Navig built bench table supported all my needs.
So, as you may imagine, I’ve grown very accustomed to having a benching table to sort out my hardware, and help me keep everything organized. On a few occasions I have benched without a table, and although it may be slightly faster to setup, it’s much more chaotic, and prone to problems and hardware failures. This is due to any number of reasons, but the most likely is a lack of structural support. Imagine your video card inserted into a motherboard PCIe slot with a heave copper pot attached, but nothing to support all of the unbalanced weight except the PCIe slot itself! Bad idea, and asking for trouble.
The newcomer – the DIMASTECH Bench/Test Table Easy V2.5
So today I bring you the new and improved DIMASTECH Bench/Test Table Easy V2.5. DIMASTECH has only been in business for a short time, but they have been parading their handiwork through the extreme overclocking communities for quite a few years. They are know for their impeccable craftsmanship and innovation. One product that has become their real hallmark has to be the Bench/test Table series, and this year, they’ve rolled out the new version 2.5. Everything has been looked over, and re-thought. With a huge quantity of feedback from the enthusiast community, they have gone back to the drawing board to create a really impressive piece here.
From the front you can see two chrome buttons, “P” for power and “R” for reset, and then a USB header for easy access (not included). The wiring is sleeved for nice clean, tangle-free use. There is a small DIMASTECH logo in the upper right corner as well (small imperfection in the paint circled in the photo). As you can see, both the 3.5″ and 5.25″ drive cages mount along the front edge of the base, and the exact position of both can be selected by the user. This is a very nice feature, and should allow for most anyone to find a satisfactory location for both.
The left side of the table has a location for mounting a 120mm based radiator for water cooling. Just about any 120mm based unit will work, including Thermochill radiators with their non-standard 25mm fan spacing. I ofter use water cooling for testing components prior to benching sub-zero. However, I have my radiator hanging from the ceiling so that I can easily drape it outside the window for chilly night air. If I intended to use water cooling on a more regular basis, or if it was my best form of cooling, then I would definitely consider using this location for my radiator. The radiator should be able to be mounted on the inside, or outside depending on your preference.
In the rear, the unit has beautiful laser cut lettering “Made in Italy”, obviously there was some pride put into this, and it shows!
On the base, there are holes available for mounting the PSU bracket. Again, this is adjustable for location. After mouning the PSU in the middle, I realized just how much room this table actually provides. It’s pretty impressive, and there is plenty of room down there for more water cooling components, a second PSU, or whatever else you might have a need for. I’d also like to post out that I incorrectly positioned the foam pad in these pictures, it belongs in between the PSU and the bracket, not the bracket and the base.
Moving around to the right side of the bench table, we see a large opening which very well could have been made plain ol’ rectangular, but DIMASTECH decided to go one step furture and make this access hole with a little style, nice touch. Again we see really nice laser cut lettering “DIMASTECH V2.5”.
After unpacking the table, assembly is required. First, I attached the rubber feet, the drive cages, and the PSU bracket to the base. Then I slid the top onto the base, and used six thumbscrews to join the two together. And this is where I ran into my first main problem, the threading on the base is inset quite a bit. The thumbscrews provided do not have enough length! I had to apply lots of pressure to squeez the sides in, and get the thumbscrew to grab, once it did, I could only get about a quarter turn by hand….surely not enough to create a secure connection. Uniting my screwdriver to attempt to secure the pieces a bit better resulted in stripping the tapped holes. Something you DO NOT want to do. The first time I picked up the table to move it into my workshop, two of the thumbscrews popped right out. In the photo below you’ll notice a slight bend of the side, which exacerbated the issue, especially on the front corner, but even without the bend, I still feel the thumbscrews are not sufficient in length. After discussing the problem with DIMASTECH, they informed me that they have revised the final version, and the problem should not be present in retail shipments going forward.
After attaching the two main peices, it’s simply a matter of screwing in the stand-offs on the motherboard tray, and installing your hardware.
I’ve used this table for a single long bench session, where I benched three different platforms, swapping hardware after each phase, to try and get an idea for the ease of use and functionality of this setup.
Using the V2.5
First I installed my Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7 and an X5667 quad core Westmere. I worked for about 2 hours on liquid nitrogen, attempting to improve my previous bclock limitations, and break the existing wPrime world records. For this session, I mounted a single 120x38mm San-Ace next to the CPU, and another San-Ace on the flex fan mount (not included) positioned behind the CPU. I wanted to mount another fan over my memory, but the fan mount was blocked by the CPU pot, so it would have only been able to be secured by a single screw.
After pushing the UD7 and X5667 as much as I could, I wanted to move on and give my eVGA X58 SLI Classified board another go with the same CPU. I had tested this combo once before and found a bclock wall around 215MHz. Since that initial testing, I’d researched the issue a bit, and I had a few things I wanted to try to get past the bclock limitations. For this testing, I moved the San-Ace next to the CPU a little further back to focus closer on the PWM area, and I repositioned the flex fan mount to allow that San-Ace to more directly cool the motherboard chipset. I also decided to try a fan mounted over the memory with a single screw. It worked alright as you can see in the pictures below, however I would not recommend mounting with a single screw on a more permanent setup. After only about 2 hours, I was ready to throw in the towel. Something is wrong with my board, and it needs to go back to eVGA.
My final test platform was the Gigabyte GA-P55A-Ud7 and my old i5 750. For this setup, I didn’t change any fan placements from the previous testing. This CPU is still ranked 2nd highest on HWBot, and is a very good overclocker. The highest ranked 750 on the bot has a significant lead on mine in every benchmark except for wPrime 32M and wPrime 1024M, so it was my goal to attempt to retake those gold cups. I was successful with wPrime 1024M, but not with 32M. I think this chip probably has it under the lid, but it just wasn’t meant to be today.
I spent a total of about 8 hours benching today, and throughout the entire time I didn’t have a single surprize concerning the DIMASTECH benching table. It is the right size, sturdy, and beautiful! Although this review was not meant as a direct comparison to the Navig build station I’ve been using, it’s only natural to note some of the differences.
The good, and the bad
The Navig table was built with medium density fiberboard (MDF) and an aluminum support structure. It is a very solidly built unit, it also has some really nice features; dual PSU brackets, mounting for up to six 3.5″ and four 5.25″ devices. The 3.5″ cages are made by Lian-Li and feature quick removal and installation on rails. This may seem a bit silly since there is room for six drives, but I found it quite useful as after a benching session, I’ll often take my benching drive out and connect it to my desktop PC to get my screenshots from that day’s benching. On the DIMASTECH station, the 3.5″ and 5.25″ cages feature tooless drive removal…but it’s much more cumbersom with four thumbscrews on each drive, especially if you have more limited space (like after mounting a radiator on the side) .
The Navig table is MUCH longer front to back. At first I thought this was a nice feature for giving extra space in front to set your multimeters and digital thermometers. But it’s actually a pretty bad location for these items as they will restrict your view (and access) to the board and other components mounted on the board. Using the DIMASTECH table did not feel constricted at all, and in fact made access to the PSU a bit less challenging.
The brace in the back of the Navig table is too tall, I didn’t realize it until I had the DIMASTECH table in my work area, but the aluminum posts sticking up in the back corners of the Navig table make it feel much larger and more cumbersome. When attaching water cooling lines, or power connections, they often got snagged on these posts, the DIMASTECH table felt very neat and tidy in comparison.
The motherboard standoff design on the Navig table are very unique, and they’ve been a bit love/hate for me. I love the functionaily, I love being able to drop a board down onto the table, and have a relatively secure position without screwing anything down. Yet still having the option to screw down if the situation calls for it. On the other hand, these mounts have a tendency to get loose, and tightening them back up is difficult as it requires a flathead screwdriver held on the bottom while twisting the rubber peice on the top. The DIMASTECH standoffs are more traditional, but to be sure your benching session goes off correctly and without hardware failure, you’re required to screw down at least two of the motherboard hold-down thumbscrews. I used six thumbscrews in my testing.
The Navig station was delivered to me with one intended configuration. As you may have seen in these pictures, I added a few modifications of my own. I mounted a fan controller above the power buttons for a fan behind the socket. I attached a USB hub/memory card reader just behind the power button. And I did various things with the station to allow for different water cooling configurations. But anytime I wanted to deviate, I had to pull out my drill and make mods. Additionally, I was left to fend for myself when it came to fan placement with the Navig station. With the DIMASTECH table, I can see myself moving this around quite a bit, but I don’t think I’ll have to mod anything to allow for those changes. But, only time will tell.
As mentioned earlier, two items I’ve shown here are not included in the standard package; the USB cable, and the flex fan mount. The USB cable is very handy, and I’m glad a mod was not required for front USB access. When I saw pictures of the flex fan mount, I thought it looked like a total gimic, and I would not have spent my own money on it. However, I’m really glad they chose to include it in the package, and I was very impressed by it’s robustness. I didn’t hesitate to put a big heavy San-Ace 120x38mm fan on it, I really wanted to know if it could really support the weight. It never moved unless I wanted it to! It really impressed me, and I know now it is not just a gimmick!
A few things lacking on the DIMASTECH table are LEDs for power and HDD activity. This isn’t much of an issue when working with top end equipment. But for example, last month HWBot held a competition on H55/H57 motherboards, many of which do not have any onboard indicators like a post code LCD or something similar. So it might make benching those less equiped motherboards slightly more challenging. Secondly, I’d like to see the availability of an additional PSU bracket, I know many benchers who often run dual PSUs (I’m one of them). As of right now, this is not even offered as an add-on or sold seperately.
Last topic that I’ve completely glazed over is price. I never got a formal quote when DIMASTECH was selling their original bench tables, but I’ve heard they were in the vacinity of $350 shipped to the USA. The Navig station only cost me $200 shipped. After using it for the last year, I can say I would easily pay that price again! If that were the end of the story, then I think the choice would be obvious, but regardless of the accuracy of the price estimate for the older station, this one is very affordable if you ask me. As tested, this would run 120€ for the table, 12€ for the flex fan mount, and 3€ for the front USB cable, or about 180 USD total, depending on the exchange rate. Shipping is not included, but it is offered to just about anywhere. Shipping to my address in Washington state runs about 40 USD.
So, back to my original question: “Does it have what it takes to replace my long time benching table built by Navig?” Well, I have not had much time with the table yet. And these things are difficult to determine in a limited time frame. But, if I had to make the decision now, my answer would be an enthusiastic “YES!” The DIMASTECH Bench/Test Table Easy V2.5 will be in my workshop from this time forward for daily testing and benching.
Thank you DIMASTECH for the package. I look forward to checking out the DIMASTECH Bench/Test Table Hard V2.5 very soon!