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The Pictureframe PC

This idea goes back to the year 2003 when I first ran across the concept on mini-itx.com. Someone made a Pictureframe PC and had details about it here. Ever since I saw this idea, I knew someday I would get to make one of my own.

Fast forward 4 years later. With extra money to burn and an undesirable need to start a new project, I started on the pictureframe PC. First it involved collecting the computer parts that would go inside of the picture frame. Here's a run down on the parts I used for this project...

Monitor - Hanns-G 19" LCD Monitor

Motherboard - VIA EPIA-EN 1.2GHz fanless motherboard

Memory - Corsair 512MB DDR2-533

Networking - Hawking 802.11b/g 54Mbps wireless USB adapter

Power Supply - picoPSU-80 80W power supply & power brick

Input Devices - wireless keyboard/trackball

Hard Drive - Toshiba 40GB 5400RPM SATA laptop hard drive

Cooling Fan - Enermax 80mm case fan

I first used the guide here as an example to go by but with a few upgrades on my project. I decided to use a 19" monitor and as faster motherboard/CPU combo along with more RAM. It wasn't until I got all the parts enclosed in the pictureframe when I ran into an overheating problem. The parts alone on the table would run at 55 degrees and it was stable. But once they were all crammed into the picture frame, they reached over 66 degrees and the system would lock up. I really wanted to have a fanless system, but because of my faster components, they created too much heat and a fan would have to be necessary. The hot parts in the PC from hottest to coolest were the hard drive, motherboard, and power brick. The hard drive would get too hot and stay hot keeping the system hot. I originally had a 120GB SATA drive in there. Because of this, I decided to go with the Enermax 80mm case fan which runs so quiet it's barely noticeable and it keeps the system running stable at 53 degrees. I also replaced the 120GB SATA drive with a 40GB laptop drive and noticed a major decrease in temperature.

My stepdad owns a picture frame store and was able to put together the picture frame for me. I then used wire and heavy-duty Velcro to hold all the parts in place. Since I wanted just one wire coming out of the PC, I spliced the power cables of the PC and the monitor together so just one cable needs to be plugged into power. Now when the PC is plugged into power, it automatically comes online. When the PC is powered down, just unplug the PC and plug it back in to get it powered on again. I decided to do it this way so I would not have extra buttons protruding through the side of the picture frame, giving the entire project a clean look.

The PC is running Windows XP Professional and is heavily tweaked for maximum performance. Since it's main purpose is to run a screensaver, a 1.2GHz CPU and 512MB of RAM is a bit overkill, but gives me room to do other things with this PC in the future.

Once this is hung on the wall, it can be set to run a variety of screensavers, from pictures, videos, a clock, etc. The wireless keyboard/trackball work great and can reach well beyond the 20' distance it's rated for. This PC is also great for visitors who would like to jump online to check email as well.

Since my stepdad helped me with this project with framing part of it, I let him borrow it for a few weeks to display in his shop to show off. I made a screensaver of all his framed work to scroll by. He's told me many people have came into the shop and were in awe of this machine. I told him if someone offered enough money for one, I'd put together another one!


Pictures
Here are pictures of the project separated by production stage. Click each thumbnail to enlarge.

The PC without a case

 

The decision of the frame

 

The monitor mounted inside the frame

 

PC Parts installed inside picture frame

 

Final product running at stepdad's shop


Conclusion
This whole project took over a month from start to finish. The cost of this project was around $800 total. If I had a chance to do this again, I would go with a slower CPU/motherboard so it would be cooler, fanless and cheaper in price.

Copyright 2005 djdingo All Rig

Copyright 2005 - 2008 djdingo.com All Rights Reserved



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Pictureframe PC