mini EPM (eco-power-multimediastation)

qwerkus

Weaksauce
Joined
Aug 30, 2014
Messages
78
Hello,

This project was born out of some frustration over intel's desktop chip policy. I built the mini EPW hoping to fit a good Broadwell CPU, and OC it to death thanks to good cooling abilities. Than, when chipzilla finally decided to sell some broadwell cpus, there were only 2 available, and - if you ask me - grossly overpriced. If figured: for that price, I could keep the better-than-expected-g3258, buy a good vga card and get much better results. So my Coolcube AIR got finally its gtx 960, freeing up a palit gtx 750 ti stormX. Seeing some other "sandwich itx" rigs on this forum inspired me to try to fit the card within the smallest possible space. Yet I wanted it to be clean - no wild boreholes or ugly screws visible on the case. To sum it up, here is my objective list:

-clean
-small
-re-use all parts of the mini-EPW
-fit the palit gtx 750 ti

Fortunately my favourite case constructor came up with a new case, offering nice possibilites. (Thank you again Dennis!)
First, the case is only 80mm tall which is just enough to fit a vga card over the cpu cooler, and accomodate sdd/hdd sidewise.

MN4JLh5l.jpg


Second, it comes with a second plate/bracket placed just beneath the top cover (which means 2 plates on top of another), intented to hold hdds.

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And finally, the case comes with 3x COM holes pre-drilled, offering enough opening to pass nearly all types of cables, including an HDMI one...

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I spent some time measuring stuff, crunching numbers and measuring again, until a new plan emerged, and the part-gathering started.

Old Parts:
-CPU: intel g3258 aniv. ed.
-Thermal Paste: arctic mx-2
-Mainboard: Asrock z97m-itx/ac
-Wlan card: Qualcomm AR9264 + 2x external Antennas
-Ram: corsair vengeance low voltage white pc1600 cl9
-SSD: crucial mx100, 256Gb
-hdd: WD blue 7500LPCX slim

New Parts:
-Case: realan e-mini e-w80 (without PSU): around 60€ (including shipping from china)
-PSU: pico-box z2-atx-160: 12€
-CPU cooler: Titan DC-155A915Z: 8€
-CPU fan: noctua NF-A9x14: 9€
-Vga fan: Prolimatech Ultra Sleek Vortex 14: 10€ - ebay

Building parts:
-1x PCI-E riser x16 (15cm) 5€
-1x aluminium plate cut to 192.5*200mm 8€ - ebay
-Various screws 5€
-Various tools 15€

Total: around 130€.

Now without further cliffhanger, here is the result:

TdVCHVCl.jpg


BMbHHXEl.jpg


qNSzHEMl.jpg
 
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qwerkus

Weaksauce
Joined
Aug 30, 2014
Messages
78
Let's have a look at this tiny beast. Top view: mainly the prolimatech fan in exhaust (pull) mode held by 4x 20mm M4 chromed screws - all nicely centered!

EiJQqB2l.jpg


Back view: WIFI-antennas, Prolimatech cable ... and and mini-HDMI to HDMI adapter! The secret to a clean sandwich setup: use a card with a mini-HDMI header...

lLHQoCFl.jpg


Cooler side view: you can spot the CPU heatsink, the noctua and the VGA heatsink. There is around 12mm left between the noctua and the VGA.

DbqhnMsl.jpg


Riser side view. BTW only x16 riser seem to work on x16 slots. I first wanted to go with a smaller one, x4 or x8, but it just wouldn't work.

XPFcDPTl.jpg


Cover removed: second cover panel shows up. Based on a 192.5*200mm*1.5mm square aluminium plate heavily modded to:
- hold the vga card (via 4 screws)
- accomodate the prolimatech screws

You can actually build the entire project without this 2-panels layer, drilling through the top cover, but it would not be nearly as clean, and much more difficult to assemble or disassemble.

EMRKfcql.jpg


Close-up at one screw holding the vga

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CPU cooler under the vga. The noctua is also in pull mode, but this might change. I'm not completely convinced by this setup, as it routinely hits 60°C under load.

rN9QMz2l.jpg


VGA panel removed; now it gets interesting: you can spot the riser card attached to the VGA, the fan cable adapter, the un-plugged mini-HDMI adapter and the core of the rig.

OQsJ7aAl.jpg


Side view of the VGA mounting. I used 25mm 4xM3 screws, 16x M3 bolts and 4 rounds bolts. There is 2mm left between the VGA heatsink and the aluminium plate.

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Detail of the fan mounting system: recycled bicycle rubber! The holes of heatsink and fan don't match.

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PSU and HDDs. I had to solder the PSU input cable behind the DC-ATX pcb to allow for more HDDs space. You can easily fit 3x 2,5" disks, perhaps even 4. 7mm space between the ssd and the hdd. Both are only held by 2 screws - but it's very sturdy.

71O1cXpl.jpg


Bottom view: you can spot the 4x hdd screws

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Detail of the hdd screws. I used mb insulators to avoid scratching the bottom plate.

yABSAMil.jpg


Overall, I'm quite happy whith this built. The prolimatech 140mm fan is a monster for a case this size: virtually silent and very powerfull. VGA temps are ridicoulously low, but CPU temps sometimes break the 60°C mark - perhaps I will switch to push mode. I hope this was a good read and will inspire more modders.

qwerkus
 
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SaperPL

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Aug 31, 2014
Messages
1,821
Nice build.

Actually there's one thing I don't like about those - the fan on the outside. I want to see someone making a partition splitting the air coming into the cpu fan from the air coming out of its radiatior and such hole on top as you made it. This way cpu fan should suck air through the hole also venting the gpu radiator without the external fan.

Alternatively it would be quite okay if you used very slim fan and turned the case upside down.
 

qwerkus

Weaksauce
Joined
Aug 30, 2014
Messages
78
Nice build.

Actually there's one thing I don't like about those - the fan on the outside. I want to see someone making a partition splitting the air coming into the cpu fan from the air coming out of its radiatior and such hole on top as you made it. This way cpu fan should suck air through the hole also venting the gpu radiator without the external fan.

Alternatively it would be quite okay if you used very slim fan and turned the case upside down.

I doubt your first setup would work. "Sucking through the hole also venting the gpu" means gpu atop the cpu. This creates a nice little heat stack, which you'd have to remove. These 3L systems are so small, if you cramp a 50W CPU and a 40W GPU, you have to get the hot air outside. If you use a weaker cpu (20W), you can lower the gpu and fit the fan inside like here. I first felt your way about the external fan, but IRL, it actually looks pretty nice. You can put a cup on the grill (very sturdy), and cool down your coffee, or start a game and heat it up again...

The second setup was an option, which I tried, but it looked silly. You need 15mm for the fan, and AT LEAST 15mm between the fan an the support/table if you set the fan as intake, or 20-25mm if you use the fan as exhaust, otherwise there is just not enough air moving. 30-40mm feet look really weired... it's like an elephant with giraffe legs.
 

SaperPL

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You didn't get what I mean. Currently you're pushing the air inside with this huge fan from the top. You could do the same thing pulling the air with the same fan from the inside below the gpu if you had the space for the fan inside. Also you're currently doing exactly the same thing blowing the air through gpu radiator and that gets sucked into cpu fan.

What I mean is - you're sharing this hot air anyway. You could make the gpu directly below the top cover and below gpu put the surface with hole only. You connect that hole to the cpu fan as it's intake. This way whole airflow goes from the top, cools the gpu first and then goes through the cpu radiator a bit hotter. Effectiveness depends on how big fan you can mount between the cpu and gpu and how can you shape that airflow partitioning around the gpu.
 

qwerkus

Weaksauce
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Messages
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You didn't get what I mean. Currently you're pushing the air inside with this huge fan from the top. You could do the same thing pulling the air with the same fan from the inside below the gpu if you had the space for the fan inside. Also you're currently doing exactly the same thing blowing the air through gpu radiator and that gets sucked into cpu fan.

What I mean is - you're sharing this hot air anyway. You could make the gpu directly below the top cover and below gpu put the surface with hole only. You connect that hole to the cpu fan as it's intake. This way whole airflow goes from the top, cools the gpu first and then goes through the cpu radiator a bit hotter. Effectiveness depends on how big fan you can mount between the cpu and gpu and how can you shape that airflow partitioning around the gpu.

Nope. The prolimatech is in exhaust mode, pulling hot air OUT of the case. Push mode makes little sense in this config, and would dust the entire box in no time. CPU fan is also in pull mode. Cooling the gpu first could work when watching vids; under gaming load, the gpu tends to get very hot though. Anyway: if you want to direct the airflow in a very precise manner, this case is not optimal: too many openings everywhere. In my config though it works well: cold air enters from the side and the bottom thanks to the huge airflow of the prolimatech fan; you can feel it just holding your hand next to the case. The only question remaining is wether the cpu fan works better pulling or pushing air. Need to do some tests about this.
 
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SaperPL

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Oh, I didn't notice that both of the fans were inverted. Anyway my idea remains but with the opposite airflow direction...
 

iFreilicht

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Sep 23, 2014
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I love it! The only thing that bugs me is the fan cable showing, but I doubt that would be easy if even possible to hide.

Other than that, really creative and interesting setup with nice solutions for little details. Especially having both fans reversed is a nice twist on things. BTW, with the top fan in exhaust, you wouldn't really need a fan grill because the blades spin in such a way that they can't really hurt anyone even if they stick their finger into it directly. Still good to have a bit of peace of mind.
 

qwerkus

Weaksauce
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Messages
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I love it! The only thing that bugs me is the fan cable showing, but I doubt that would be easy if even possible to hide.

Other than that, really creative and interesting setup with nice solutions for little details. Especially having both fans reversed is a nice twist on things. BTW, with the top fan in exhaust, you wouldn't really need a fan grill because the blades spin in such a way that they can't really hurt anyone even if they stick their finger into it directly. Still good to have a bit of peace of mind.

It's quite possible to hide the fan cable by drilling a small hole (2.5mm) through the frame of the fan. As I wasn't sure about the final config, I did not do it yet, but it's planned for the future. For the rest: I have a 2 year old daughter, which keeps trying out everything, including sticking her fingers where they don't belong! But sure: the main purpose of the grill is to serve as cup support, not protection :)
 

Alted4

n00b
Joined
Nov 20, 2011
Messages
55
Qwerkus,

A few questions for you:

1. Would you have a scale handy to weigh the system? I'd like to make a similar version with a VESA mount if it wouldn't be too heavy.

2. I'd like to put the fan inside the top cover. Is there enough room to fit it in in your configuration? If not, what is the limiting factor?
 

qwerkus

Weaksauce
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Aug 30, 2014
Messages
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I'd say around 2,5Kg; should not be a problem for vesa mounts. Putting the fan inside is tricky, but possible. Check out the "sandwich itx" thread. For me, the limiting factor is the cpu cooler. I already managed to keep it beneath 30mm and leave enough room between the cpu and the gpu for airflow and still the noctua cpu fan is the only audible part (sometimes really loud) of the rig. I guess with a thin-itx board, and a 20-30W cpu it could be possible to fit a 12mm scythe fan inside. Another problem is the I/O bracket: if you want to use larger plugs, the vga will have to show up somewhere in the back - no matter how you cut it out, it's going to be a mess that way. Better go with the mini HDMI adapter :)
 

qwerkus

Weaksauce
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Aug 30, 2014
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The gfx drivers seems to randomly crash under win 7. Not sure what the problem is. Could be the riser.
 
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qwerkus

Weaksauce
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Aug 30, 2014
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First lead in my investigation about those random crashes: vga bios. Some time ago, I flashed the gtx 750 ti to raise the TDP to 70W, which was supposed to prevent fps drops under full charge. Well it turns out 70(gpu)+53(cpu)+2.5(hdd/sdd) > 100W limit of my psu (120W with 83% efficiency). Even though I doubt the gpu ever sucked more than 50W, but even than, I would hit the limit. So I reverted back to the stock bios, with TDP limit set to 38.5W. Let's see how things evolve.
 

SaperPL

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I think your problem is not the power supply or the card settings but the pci-e riser.

Riser this long without the additional power connector might not give your card enough power and since your card doesn't have PEG connector then all power it gets is from this pci-e cable.

Also make sure you didn't damage the ribbon to pcb connections since that's easy to do in such cramped space with full length riser.
 

iFreilicht

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Good point, Saper.
Giving your GPU additional power by maybe soldering on a direct connection to the 12V rail of the PSU could really help you.
 

qwerkus

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Thank you for you input. Good point: was my first thought. Than I read some test about powered pci-e riser, showing that it's only relevant when 2 or more cards are plugged in. My Riser is only 15cm long, and should not have that many power losses. Anyway: I orderer another riser (4th!), just in case.

There are some other symptoms pointing towards PSU shortage: troubles with WIFI (signal too weak), and random blue screens. Maybe it's even a combination of both: riser + psu too weak.
 

qwerkus

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Since the vga bios flash, things finally seem to work. No more blue screen / random crashes. The last annoying thing is the noctua fan beeing too loud. I'm really disappointed by noctua. Always expensive, and still quite loud. No OC possible at all, since the cpu would reach 70° under (heavy) load with stock clocks! My $2 original chinese fan is working quieter... Tec Support from Noctua points towards the "pull" configuration, which might produce unwanted whinning. This sound a bit cheap too me, especially since I read somewhere the nh-l9i heatsink - which uses the same fan - can also be mounted in "pull" configuration...
 

SaperPL

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You've got high temps on cpu because it's in a pull config and there's no fan directing the airflow by pushing fresh air in. If both fans pull out then it might be a real mess in such cramped space if the airflow is not anyway directed.

Did you try switching the sides to make both fans push the air inside? I know this means hot air coming from gpu to cpu but you've got huge fan pushing a lot of air in there - it might be okay.

I actually agree with Noctua tech support about that noise - the fan is noisier from the buttom side since its usually the side that's going inside the case. Fans are most likely optimized and measured from the front since those would be facing you this way in most common situation.
 

qwerkus

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Actually, the case is pretty much open on every side. When the 140mm fan blows, you can feel the air draw all around the case the case. I guess air intake is not a problem. As of directing the flow, I thought on a caes this size, it would not be of matter. Maybe you re right, and there is just not enough air exchange around the cpu. I would hate a push config though, as it would dust in no time, and a plastic filter like my coolcube air mod does not fit.
 

SaperPL

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Why not just test it even without the plastic filter for the start. Get the info whether this will work or not and then decide if the difference is worth the swap.
 

qwerkus

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I had some time today, and finally did it: reversed both fans into push mode. You were right: temps are much better and there is even room for a mild overclock (max 72°@3.9Ghz after an hour or so). The Noctua fan remains surprisingly quiet. Only problem left to be solved is dust. No way I'm mounting an ugly plastic mesh on this little jewel...
 

SaperPL

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There you go :)

I have no idea how to figure out filtering here without making some additional piece of metal to shape the inlet to look good with filter.
 
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