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Old December 8, 2013, 12:06 PM
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Default Smallest mITX Gaming Case - From Scratch

Hi Everyone,
I'm working on building a custom case for an mITX gaming build. My intent is to get the system as small as reasonably possible - I've been trending to a smaller build since my last (current?) system. Here's the build for those interested: Old Liquid Cooling Build

I looked around at ITX cases online for a long time, and many have more features than I have any need for, which causes the case to get larger. I really don't get the whole BitFenix Prodigy craze, that case seems just as large a midtower... Anyway, the only one that I came across which I had any interest in was the NCASE M1, but that still had a few things I didn't like and good luck getting my hands on one anyway (already sold out before I learned about it). There are certainly some similarities with the M1 and what I'll be doing, but it's the layout I had in my head before saw it - and really once you start working with these parts, there are only so many ways to fit the pieces to get it as small as possible!

So, I'll make my own! I have access to shop facilities at work, I'm a mechanical engineer, why not??

Here's the spec list - I've already purchased these components.
Intel Core i5-4670K 3.4GHz Quad-Core
Asus Z87I-DELUXE Mini ITX LGA1150
Crucial Ballistix Tactical 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600
Crucial M500 480GB 2.5" SSD
Seagate Momentus XT 500GB 2.5" 7200RPM
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 760 OC 2GB
Silverstone 450W SFX12V

Some explanation behind the parts:
MOBO:
I was between the two Asus ITX boards, Z87I-Deluxe, and the ROG Maximus VI Impact - always leaving the door open for overclocking. When it came down to price, I really didn't need to spend the extra money on the ROG for extra features I would probably never use. But, the Deluxe board has a lot of appealing things about it. First, taking advantage of space and moving the voltage regulators onto a vertical plane. Very little cluttering the CPU socket, so I should be able to get nice cooling on there once I decide if it will be liquid or air. Power and SATA connectors along the outside edge of the board to help with clean cable management.


Crucial RAM:
I've always liked crucial RAM, after some searching it seems they are still competitive for speeds. Also found they had low profile RAM with nice timings. Sold!

SSD Crucial M500 480GB:
This will be my first SSD - currently running 3 enterprise 1TB HDD's in a RAID 5 array - I didn't want to sacrifice much on space for main install location. It was between this and the Samsung 840 series, after some research the Crucial 480GB has the best performance in the M500 series, and was better priced than the Samsung for similar performance.

Seagate Momentus XT:
This is a hybrid drive that I had put in my laptop for a while before the laptop bit the dust. Still a good drive, gives me a bit more space on a spindle drive in a small form factor.

Gigabyte GTX 760 OC:
Once the 760 hit the market, I knew it would be the card for me - right price point and performance for the gaming that I do. Last GPU I bought was over $600, still running great after 7 years but I didn't want to drop that much on a card again. So, I started looking at which version to get, and sound is a pretty big deal for me. This one with WindForce cooling was benchmarked to be the quietest out there on air, so here we go!

Silverstone 450W PSU:
This is an SFX PSU, so it's considerably smaller than your typical ATX PSU. It's fully modular, and pretty quiet (18dB). Some may say I'm under powered, and I'll need more than 450W, but I've read up on the power draw of the graphics card and other components and I think I'll be in good shape. I won't have a lot of peripheral hardware in this system which helps keep the need low, but we'll see how it goes!


I have to say when I first received some of these parts, I was just blown away by the scale - didn't really sink in until I held them in my hands!




Took a shot of the parts and a rough layout I have in mind. The 3.5" drive is only there for scale reference. Please pardon some of the picture qualities, I took a few with my phone a while ago but will be using a nice camera going forward.



Until I actually get the case built, I didn't have a spare on hand to build up the parts and check function. I also didn't trust leaving them open on my desk because I've got a Great Dane who is a bit slobbery and likes to shake his head pretty hard, sending slobber all over - easy to short something out. SO, I made do with what I had and built it up in a cardboard box! Good news is everything works.




Happy to report that the GPU is nice a quiet, practically silent - at least when the system is idle. Loudest parts so far are the CPU stock fan (it ticks) which is no big deal because it won't be staying around. But also the PSU fan makes a minor noise. Looked it up, apparently it can get a noisy under load, so I'll wait and see what that turns out like before I do anything. Disappointingly, the PSU cables are quite rigid and the connectors are a bit cheap. Not sure if I'll do anything with those just yet.


I use SolidWorks a lot at work, so naturally I had to model all this stuff up to see how I could fit things together and start sorting out the case structure. The transparent blocks (if you notice them) are just keep-outs for my own reference, so I know how much cables and connectors will stick out, etc.

Here's the motherboard.


GPU and RAM installed.


PSU in place.


Now that I had all that done, I could start to put a box around it. I roughed up a frame and some sheet metal panels for the skins. I've looked at this some more since this version and thought about it, and there's still some more shrinking that I can do to get the size down and simplify for building. More on that later though once I continue with the modelling - I really just wanted to get this post up so that I can start recording my progress and seeing what everyone thinks and if they have any suggestions!




In the meantime, here's a size comparison of this design against my current PC - a modded Lian-Li PC-A05NB (From the build log at the top of post).
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Old December 8, 2013, 12:06 PM
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Old December 8, 2013, 12:06 PM
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Old December 8, 2013, 12:37 PM
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Looks like it'll be an interesting build. Any intention of active cooling other than the rad? After my experience with the M350 case I'd suspect you'll need something.
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Old December 8, 2013, 01:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sswilson View Post
Looks like it'll be an interesting build. Any intention of active cooling other than the rad? After my experience with the M350 case I'd suspect you'll need something.
Not sure what you mean by active cooling, forced airflow through the case? If so, yes, I absolutely plan to do that - just not modelled in there yet. I've currently got about 135mm clearance from CPU to case wall, so I can fit a reasonable air cooler in there.


Or, I'm also looking at putting a single 120mm rad in there. I've got enough space in the rear as well to put in a 92mm fan, and still have room for my power connection and (potentially) quick disconnects and valve for a later external cooling system.


The video card will be an isolated air path. The WindForce coolers don't actually vent out the rear at all, all the air goes out the sides of the card. So I'll be taking advantage of that to vent straight out the sides of the case and prevent that heat from getting into the main body of the case.
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Old December 8, 2013, 01:42 PM
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Technically you only need a 240 rad yeh? cpu and vid. Or are you not water cooling this time?
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Old December 8, 2013, 02:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kartner View Post
Not sure what you mean by active cooling, forced airflow through the case? If so, yes, I absolutely plan to do that - just not modelled in there yet. I've currently got about 135mm clearance from CPU to case wall, so I can fit a reasonable air cooler in there.


Or, I'm also looking at putting a single 120mm rad in there. I've got enough space in the rear as well to put in a 92mm fan, and still have room for my power connection and (potentially) quick disconnects and valve for a later external cooling system.


The video card will be an isolated air path. The WindForce coolers don't actually vent out the rear at all, all the air goes out the sides of the card. So I'll be taking advantage of that to vent straight out the sides of the case and prevent that heat from getting into the main body of the case.
Yep exactly that. We've had relatively cool running chipsets & memory for so long that I'd almost forgotten the quest for airflow over motherboard components, but as far as I can tell it was the complete lack of airflow that prevented me from being able to run an A8 under load in a M350 mITX case.

Personally... I'd forgo the second single fan rad in favour of a unimpeded 120, or even a 140 if you can fit it in. I'd also strongly consider figuring out how to have an exhaust fan specifically designed to draw airflow over the motherboard components.
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Asrock AM1H-ITX / AM1 Athlon 5350 / 2X4G Gskill PC3-14900 / Intel 6235 Wi-Fi / 90W Targus Power Brick / 320G Seagate Momentus / Mini-Box M350 / 1X 22" Dell IPS / 1X 22" HP
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Old December 8, 2013, 05:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clshades View Post
Technically you only need a 240 rad yeh? cpu and vid. Or are you not water cooling this time?
The only rad in there was the 120mm on the side, if I go with liquid cooling that is - still not decided. If I do liquid cool, I'll only be looking at doing the CPU in this build, the vid card will stay on it's stock cooler. If it looks like I've got a rad on top there, it's actually the fans on the vid card heat sink.


Quote:
Originally Posted by sswilson View Post
Yep exactly that. We've had relatively cool running chipsets & memory for so long that I'd almost forgotten the quest for airflow over motherboard components, but as far as I can tell it was the complete lack of airflow that prevented me from being able to run an A8 under load in a M350 mITX case.

Personally... I'd forgo the second single fan rad in favour of a unimpeded 120, or even a 140 if you can fit it in. I'd also strongly consider figuring out how to have an exhaust fan specifically designed to draw airflow over the motherboard components.
Yeah, with a decent heat load there would need to be some sort of air movement to get the heat out, not to mention just getting it up off the components themselves unless there were large heatsinks for natural convection. The rad shown there would be the only one in the system if I go with liquid - if I don't it will be an intake fan. I'll show the intake and exhaust paths soon to be more clear about the plan.

Thanks for the feedback so far!
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Old December 8, 2013, 11:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kartner View Post
LMAO I've got this case too - nice app... following closely, great solidworks
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Old December 9, 2013, 05:23 PM
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Interesting.... Are you planning on over-clocking as well? I'd love to have a mITX computer, but I have a sound card for my HD650s and mITX doesn't like more than one PCIe in use. Where is the HDD going to live? Are you going to install a SSD? I haven't looked up the full details for the mobo, but looks like it doesn't have a mSATA port for SSD, that would have been sweet ;)
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