As you can imagine, it can be tough to pick the best of the best from a full year’s worth of LANFest events, and selecting a winner for 2013 was no exception. We saw awe-inspiring technical mods, envy-inspiring artistic mods, creative traditional case mods, and finely engineered scratch builds. Our 2013 winner falls into that last category.
We found Craig “Losias” Brugger’s aluminum and plastic creation at LANFest NETWAR, the LANFest event that takes place a couple times a year in Omaha, Neb. Brugger won not only the NETWAR mod contest last February, but also ended up taking top honors for the entire 2013 LANFest season.
Small But Deadly MPD-01 (the name stands for “Mobile Pwnage Device”) is the product of Brugger’s obsession with tinkering in general and with small form factor builds in particular.
“There is always a little extra challenge in making sure components fit efficiently in a small space,” Brugger says. “I’ve been a tinkerer my whole life. Nothing was ever good enough for me. I always had to try to make things better in some way. It was a natural carryover of this mindset when I started modding.” Brugger set out to build a fully capable LAN rig that was as small as possible, and MPD-01 was the result.
“I didn’t want to compromise on any of my needs,” Brugger says.
“I wanted it to be able to handle a high-end GPU without issue. It needed to cool efficiently. It needed to house two full-sized hard drives and a pair of SSDs. Then, above all else, it had to be easy to maintain and upgrade.” Judging by MPD-01, we’d say he hit all his targets. MPD-01’s CPU is cooled by NZXT’s Kraken X40 closed-loop cooler, and Brugger says “I could drop in a GTX 780 Ti tomorrow and have no issues.” Portability without durability can be more of a curse than a blessing, but MPD-01’s carry handles also serve double duty as an outer layer of protection for the rig’s sensitive components.
Ghost In The Shell You’re probably wondering how easy it is to work on, with all the parts of a fully functional LAN machine packed into such a compact frame. That’s where the magic happens.
“One of the best features of MPD-01 is that it consists of a core and an outer shell,” Brugger explains. “The core completely slides out the rear of the shell. Any component can be easily accessed without issue. I would even argue that it’s much easier to replace parts on this mod than on most full-sized systems.” (We won’t argue with him.) And because Brugger rigged a power connection between the core and shell that utilizes touch contacts instead of wires and plugs, you don’t have to unhook anything before you slide the core out. “This also gives me one other pretty cool option,” says Brugger.
Processor : Intel Core I5
RAM : 16GB DDR3
GPU : Nvidia GTX 680
Storage : Two SSD and two 3.5″ HDD
PSU : Shuttle PSU
Cooling : NZXT Kraken 140 AIO
“I can remove the core and still use my PC while I build or mod a new shell.” And despite the fact that MPD-01 has an extremely cool look that falls somewhere between “baby nuke” and “MIL-SPEC field computer,” Brugger says aesthetics were a secondary concern.
“I consider it the ultimate grab-and-go rig,” he says. “It’s not about perfect paint and perfectly run acrylic tubing; it’s about having something supremely durable that I can just throw in my car and head to a LAN or a friend’s house for some gaming. It also happens to be my daily rig. It fits both roles very well.” Aside from Brugger’s custom-made and fairly ingenious chassis, MPD-01 consists of an Intel Core i5-3570K nestled into an ASRock Z77E-ITX board, with 8GB of Samsung Low Profile DDR3-1600 memory, a GIGABYTE GTX 680 OC, a Shuttle 550W PSU, a pair of Crucial SSDs, a Western Digital HDD and a Seagate drive, and the aforementioned NZXT Kraken X40.
Oh, and there’s also the Aigo Android tablet that Brugger attached to the front of the case, which Brugger says gives him easy access to system information (CPU and memory usage, temperature, and even some game-specific options) “at the touch of a screen.” “SFF doesn’t have to mean compromise,” Brugger stresses. “With proper planning and a willingness to see it through, you can create some pretty efficient rigs. Also, think outside the box when it comes to case design. Go for something original. Get creative!” Well, you heard the man.