July 10th brought to the UK what I understand to be the first national modding contest. Modfest 2004 was sponsored by, among others, Custom PC magazine and PC World and featured previous winners of Custom PCs own “Readers Drives” monthly case modding competition. All were brought together to battle for the coveted “King of kings” trophy as well as other titles and prizes. Eight previous winners turned up and were joined by next months winner, our own staff and forum member “Carlos”.
The event was held in a marquee erected next to the PC World superstore in Croydon and attracted a fair amount of public interest from the days PC World customers. There were also a few devotees of the modding scene present like myself, though I was also there as part of Carls support team.
A camera team and announcer covered the events inside the tent, including interviews with each modder. Unfortunately this was for the benefit of visitors only, and as far as I am aware these interviews will not be made available. If they are, rest assured I will include them here.
The list of Readers Drives winners in attendance:
Karl Brisco – winner issue 1
Barry Du-Crow – winner issue 10
Kevin “Knipex” Griffin – winner issue 8
Josh “Mister_Tad” Moore – winner issue 7
Luke Pillian – winner issue 4
Richard “Pug” Pugh – winner issue 6
Nathan Quick – winner issue 11
Carl “Carlos” Tedman – winner issue 12 (not yet released) (yay Carl!)
Toby Waters – winner issue 9
Each brought the winning case itself (as was stipulated by the rules) although many had made a few changes since the publication of their winning issue. Some brought another computer as well. The competitors were arranged in a near-circle in the centre of the marquee and people were invited in to walk around and take a look, and to vote for the case they judged their favourite.
Karl’s rig from Custom PC returns but with some changes. The old swiftech blocks have been replaced with Danger Den maze 4 components. A new cylindrical reservoir also warrants a new viewing window on the side panel to show it off. Two pumps provide the pressure needed to circulate the HUGE external radiator, which is far more external than most – this radiator is mounted on the outside of Karl’s house, on the exterior wall of his home office!
Barry won the Readers Drives contest with a rather unorthodox case mod involving a Barbie doll! The Barbie case was at the show for all to see and was quite a draw due to it’s sheer wackiness! The most interesting feature is that to open the CD-ROM tray takes a squeeze of Barbie’s hand, which pokes through the side window. Barbie sits on a 40GB IDE swing, supported by two LED-lit rods.
Barry brought along two other rigs, one a mesh and acrylic mix and the other a monster of black steel mesh holding a prometia-like cooling unit (I forget if it was a branded prometia or other type). The pressure dials on the front of this monster were quite a draw to the eye. This rig was a contender for the “who keeps tripping the power” prize, along with one of Pug’s computers!
Kevin, or Knipex, brought along the interesting double case that had won him the prize in issue 8 but with some quite major changes. Both front panels were completely rebuilt and resprayed in the same unique style as the side and top panels. This case was a real looker and certainly a contender for a prize. The clever hinging mechanism gives very easy access to the case internals which, non surprisingly, are very spacious and would be easy to work in. The power supply had also been modified to run cool with a single large fan, made before psus with large fans were easily available. Another case of the computer world following a few steps behind the enthusiasts.
Apparently one of the side panels took a bit of a bashing from the PC World transit team which is a real shame.
Josh (Mister_Tad) brought along his modified Yeong Yang cube case with some lovely Japanese styling. The top window etch looks fantastic and is complemented by his custom fan “guards”. A passer by realised that these fan grills aren’t too effectively at protecting fingers when she lost half a fingernail whilst poking about. That’ll teach her to look and not touch! “Mrs_Tad”, appointed guard of the case, found this rather amusing but managed to stifle laughter.
Luke’s rig has changed little since winning Readers Drives, but he has built a fantastic front panel mounted headphone amplifier and integrated it into his system. This panel out shines any off-the-shelf front panel I have ever seen and is truly a gorgeous addition to the case. UV-lit VU meters show both left and right channels, and a precision machine steel panel gives it that retro stereo look. In fact, with the mix of wood panelling and clean steel the whole system looks somewhat like an old piece of hi-fi equipment. A massive tube (a toilet U-bend?) provides ducting of air from the exhaust fan and some muffling of the fans noise.
Richard “Pug” Pugh brought along two rigs, Hexadragon and Alien Li. Hexadragon was the winning rig in issue 6 of Custom PC and was looking lush. The heavily modified front of the Chieftec Dragon case has had “modders mesh” smoothly integrated into the panels by means of plenty of bondo and even more elbow grease. The work has paid off as the look is absolutely fantastic and a unique style among so many Dragon based cases. Aqua-computer cooling products give the inside a wonderful clean look and also provide stunningly stylish front panels behind the mesh door. A blue LCD display mounted to one of these panels finishes the look.
Alien Li is an impressive case project since it manages to cram a full water cooling loop into the tiny Lian Li PC50 case. This wasn’t a Custom PC winner, but it was nice that Pug brought it along. It goes to show you don’t need a massive tower case to enjoy the benefits of water cooling.
Nathan brought with him a true behemoth of a case. The Mountain Mods case is imported from the USA in very small numbers and Nathan managed to grab one of the elusive cases for his water cooling project. There’s no denying that this case demanded attention – the front panel a gleaming mix of red fans and an aquatube-like bubbling reservoir. “Big” is the over-riding theme of this case, with the big bore water cooling loop dominating the case internals. No real large scale case modifications here, but a well integrated water loop and a good clean theme. Since issue 11 of the magazine, the internals were upgraded significantly as Nathan was going for the “Speed King” award at the contest.
My old housemate and member of our forums, Carl hasn’t been featured yet in Custom PC but has been confirmed as winner of Readers Drives and should be published in the next issue (12). His large black cube was the only case at the show completely custom built from scratch – the only pre-built parts of this case are the drive racks which are salvaged from old case chasses. Carl laid out an impressive stand with the cube accompanied by a ps2, surround sound system and two custom build Dancing Stage dance mats. A few demonstrations by Carl and brother Luke attracted a lot of attention from passers by! The ps2 also attracted the almost undivided attention of Pug’s son for the majority of the afternoon! His Eye Toy antics got us on the PA video screens quite a lot. Without wanting to be biased, I think Carl’s had a certain edge over most of the other cubes since it was built from scratch rather than being shop-bought. Water cooling seemed to be the biggest draw to most people with an “oooh, is that safe?” comment coming from oh so many visitors, so it’s a shame Carl was one of few air-cooled rigs in attendance.
Last but most certainly not least, Toby’s fantastic voltmeter mod was showcased at Modfest by his parents since he was on holiday in Japan (poor lad!). Toby’s father did a fantastic job of fighting the cases corner in the competition interviews, despite being a self-confessed “luddite” and knowing very little about the computer internals. The old voltmeter was gutted and the insides replaced with a VIA mini-ITX motherboard, turning it into a fully fledged PC. The PSU is cunningly disguised inside another box, which also houses a stunning valve clock (goodness knows how it works!). A third enclosure houses an LCD and a psone screen (another favourite item at the show). Everything was very clean, apart from the power cables (which only needed a bit of braiding to tidy them up) and the case was a definite favourite with many of the visitors.
Before we get to the winners, a look at the rigs brought along by the lads (let’s hope they don’t mind being called “lads”) from Custom PC magazine. As well as the “Beat the Office PC” rig, they brought along the recently featured orange Centurion case and a fantastic new Coolermaster 4xx (I can’t find the real model number) based water cooled rig. I’ve always loved these rather rare cases and the vertically mounted bay res, a good variation on the theme, is the first time I’ve see a bay reservoir looking quite so good.
1.5MB uncompressed AVI also available
And so to the winners. The awards up for grabs were King of Kings for the case voted best by the panel of judges, Speed King for the case performing best in the Custom PC benchmarking application, King Creative for the most creative mod, Best of Show for the case voted top by the visiting public, and the All Comers Crown for the best visiting mod.
The All Comers Crown wasn’t a particularly difficult fight since only Anthony Higginson’s Mannequin Man was in attendance. Not to detract from his modding skills though – the “case” is certainly a unique and rather marvellous mod! Congratulations Anthony on your win.
Speed King went to the aptly named Nathan Quick with his newly upgraded beast. It seems like a rather odd prize to offer, since you\’d think whoever spends the most money in the running up to the show would nab the award. But it\’s not just money – with an impressive cooling system and a good overclocking ratio, many congratulations to Nathan on his win.
Nathan also grabbed himself the Best of Show award – the case voted best by the visiting public. This must have been a fantastic prize to win, knowing that all the passers by thought his case was the best in the room. So many congratulations to Nathan for that!
King Creative went to a hugely deserving winner, Toby Waters the designer of the Voltmeter PC. I had no doubt throughout the day that Toby’s case would attract this prize and indeed it did. The mod is just superbly done.
The King of Kings prize, certainly the most coveted, was a tense fight. When it came to the time, the judges up on stage announced that they had decided to introduce a second place prize in this competition. The runner up to the King of Kings prize was our very own Carl and his custom built cube case! Huge congratulations for Carl, and I’m very pleased that he won a prize in recognition of his work. I watched the evolution of that case for months on end and know how much effort went into producing it.
So just one case left… the winner of King of Kings and thus, arguably, the overall winner of the day. The title went to Karl Brisco and his outlandish external radiator cooled cube case! The case itself might not be the most incredible mod ever, as admitted by judge Spencer Kelly, but the sheer madness of modding your house to improve your case cooling really does epitomise the spirit of case modding and extreme cooling. Congratulations to Karl, who won (among a case and other assorted parts) an Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.4GHz. More important than that, I’m sure, is the trophy which I hope will be prominently displayed either in his home or, well… we are case modders after all, in his case!
The day was thoroughly enjoyed by all and was an excellent event. I hope the sponsors will return for another contest next year or, hopefully, sooner and that not only the veterans but many more modders will be attracted to compete.
Special thanks to Bigz and Mister_Tad for being my chaperones to the event, Fly for providing much appreciated (and fully needed) Pizza Hut and also to Pug’s son for playing Eye Toy with such enthusiasm on Carl’s rig that he must have attracted the most attention drawn by anyone at the event all day!
I’d also like to thank all the modders present for being thoroughly friendly people. I had a good chat with most of the exhibitors and it was nice to meet both people that I have known on forums and also people I have never conversed with before.
Here’s looking forward to Modfest 2005! (editor’s note: It never happened, lol)
Extended image gallery is here.