NCASE M1: a crowdfunded Mini-ITX case (updates in first post)

extide

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Why not take this design and develop it into a working case?

I can see that the video card is not aligned properly, it is too far towards the back of the case. So you would need to add some depth to the case, but otherwise I think this layout can work well. It appears to be able to support a single 120mm radiator, and you could have vents on the bottom or near the bottom for the video card. You may need to add some width to ensure you could get the gpu pcie power connectors in, and perhaps if someone wants to use a gpu block, but this design would be really tough to watercool the gpu as there is very little room for a reservoir and no room for a large radiator.

One thing I would do is probably turn the psu around 180 degrees around the vertical so that the intake fan is in the front of the case, and move the ssd's to behind the psu, and the psu forwards, as it seems like it would be really hard to get to them in the current config. The psu could draw cold air in from vents inside the front cover.
 

DG25

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I can see that the video card is not aligned properly, it is too far towards the back of the case.
It's a perspective illusion, see bellow.

One thing I would do is probably turn the psu around 180 degrees around the vertical so that the intake fan is in the front of the case, and move the ssd's to behind the psu, and the psu forwards, as it seems like it would be really hard to get to them in the current config. The psu could draw cold air in from vents inside the front cover.
If i rotate the PSU as you said, the hdds would have to sit at the back, which will make the PSU wiring harder, see pic:


But you could solve this by placing 1 hdd on the other side of the PSU. I think two hdds could fit there, but only if one of them is a 7mm SSD. Otherwise, the width of the case would go past the 15cm limit (panel thickness included) by a couple of mm (5?):


Or you could add 2cm in height (making it ~24cm) and place one to four 2.5" hdds on the bottom of the case, under the GPU card. In this case, the PSU could get pushed a bit more inside the case, making it possible to have the PSU vents on the lateral pannels. This will keep the case a bit shorter, at 27 cm - 27.5 cm long, as initially planned. The bottom of the case will have no feet, instead it could have small side vents, like this (took the photo from Necere's first case design, i hope he doesn't mind):


ps: the vents for the CPU cooler could be on the side panel, or at the back of the case. The heated air will escape through air vents at the top of the case.
 
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nickbudi

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Just made an account just for this awesome thread. I love this case Necere! Genius layout and footprint. Your latest concept will be perfect for what I want in my first SFF build, though personally I won't be using a 3.5" HDD in mine.
 

Nick0matic

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I'll be honest, I think concept 4 is the best compromise to be similar in size to the Sugo, but do more.

If that was the final design now, how long would it take Lian-Li to get it in production (ignoring how long it takes for people to pay for a kickstarter)?
 

Necere

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If that was the final design now, how long would it take Lian-Li to get it in production (ignoring how long it takes for people to pay for a kickstarter)?
Good question, and I don't know the answer. It probably depends on the processes, tooling, custom components (e.g., front I/O), etc. Stuff that depends on the design requirements.


Glad you guys are liking the current concept. I'll show concept 4.1 in the next day or two, but in the meantime check out this motherboard:



Losias has a review up. It's a Mini-DTX board (ECS calls it mATX, but don't be fooled - it's M-DTX). What's so special about it? Notice the second PCIe slot? Concept 4.1 has three expansion slots. Consider the possibilities...
 

CrimandEvil

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I really wish they would make more boards like that! Can't wait to see your next designs!
 
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nickbudi

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Good question, and I don't know the answer. It probably depends on the processes, tooling, custom components (e.g., front I/O), etc. Stuff that depends on the design requirements.


Glad you guys are liking the current concept. I'll show concept 4.1 in the next day or two, but in the meantime check out this motherboard:



Losias has a review up. It's a Mini-DTX board (ECS calls it mATX, but don't be fooled - it's M-DTX). What's so special about it? Notice the second PCIe slot? Concept 4.1 has three expansion slots. Consider the possibilities...
And I thought your last concept couldn't get any better. This has me drooling. I accepted that my ASUS Xonar Essence STX sound card was going to be left behind if I pursued a SFF build!
 

DG25

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DTX format was announced a long time ago and never took off... On that mobo, if you use a 2 slot video card, you will end up with the same space as micro atx mobo (4 slots), granted it will be a little bit less wider. But in the case of the wider microatx mobo, you could just place the micro atx psu over the memory slots, and get the same space savings you would get with that mini dtx board). I don't know, but i really don't see the appeal, i would buy a micro atx board instead and make a custom case with the same volume.
 
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Machupo

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Necere, that board is a has been... H61, SATA II, USB 2.0, PCIe 2.0 etc...

As DG mentioned, DTX has been around for a while, just never took off. If someone wants to do it right, get the modern stuff on there and dual PCIe X16's for watercooled SLI, then I'll start drooling. :D
 

Necere

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On that mobo, if you use a 2 slot video card, you will end up with the same space as micro atx mobo (4 slots)
You're wrong, but rather than explain I'll just make a picture:





You'll note that a mATX board, all by itself, is taller than concept 4.1 is (240mm). Needless to say, with the extra 3 inches of depth mATX has on MITX/MDTX, the concept 4/4.1 layout would never work.


Necere, that board is a has been... H61, SATA II, USB 2.0, PCIe 2.0 etc...
I never said it was an enthusiast-level board. Considering up until now the only M-DTX boards have been atom-based, anything that supports an i7 is a huge step up. For someone who loves the size of ITX but requires more than just its single PCIe slot, this board is the only option out there at the moment. Settling for last-gen interfaces is something a lot of people would willingly trade to get the flexibility of a second card.

I've been hoping more manufacturers would pick up Mini-DTX for a long time now, so this is a step in the right direction IMO. You might remember the early Mini-ITX boards weren't exactly on the high performance bleeding edge, either.


If someone wants to do it right, get the modern stuff on there and dual PCIe X16's for watercooled SLI, then I'll start drooling. :D
I agree. Board manufacturers have to know there's a market first, though.
 

CrimandEvil

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I agree. Board manufacturers have to know there's a market first, though.
Personally, I'd like to see some enthusiast DTX boards that also use stacked sodimm slots instead of the regular stuff. There's some plenty fast sodimm memory out there with very little markup over the regular desktop and it it's stacked it could lead to slightly smaller room to work with.
 

DG25

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Necere, yes, you're absolutely right, sry. Don't know what i was thinking, lol. I've mixed up the number of occupied slots. :p
 
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Nick0matic

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Is there even any ITX case which is as small as a Sugo which can fit a 120 radiator now?

I already bought a Q08 (which was much bigger than I thought) for a build which can fit in a carry-on bag (I fly to and from college), but these concepts make me think my case is a monster.

The more I see this thread, the more I regret getting the Q08. Even if it isn't until next June, this must see the light of day as a real case.
 

Necere

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Is there even any ITX case which is as small as a Sugo which can fit a 120 radiator now?
The Falcon NW Tiki comes with a sealed liquid cooler, though AFAIK you can only get the case as part of one of their built-to-order systems. Other than that, nothing I can think of.


Just did a custom loop test layout in 4.1... heh... it's not going to be for the faint of heart:

 

Necere

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I think I've done about as much as I can do with this for now, so here we go...


Concept 4.1

This revision brings back the flexible space from the earlier concepts, allowing the bottom inch of the case to be used for a variety of purposes - fans, drives, third expansion slot, or watercooling pump (if the GPU is short or single slot via a waterblock).

  • 160 x 320 x 240mm, 12.3L
  • 105mm CPU cooler height
  • 3 x expansion slots; 1 & 2 support 12" cards, 3 supports 11"
  • 3 x 3.5" mounting locations
  • 4 x 2.5" mounting locations (x2 if double stacked)
  • 4 x 120mm fan mounts
  • 1 x 80/92mm fan mount
  • Single or dual 120mm radiator capable
  • SFX power supply


Lots of pics this time around:















On the back: 80/92mm fan mount, alternate AC plug location next to the first (some rads or coolers may conflict with it in one location), holes for running watercooling tubing externally.

Double-stacked SDDs are visible at the front, which require removal of the front panel to mount:



The opening at the lower front facilitates long GPU insertion and allows use of virtually the full case length.




Various configurations of the flexible space.




Drive cage that mounts to the front-side 120mm fan mount, a suggestion from Nick0matic. The following configurations are possible: 2 x 3.5" drives, no fan; 1 x 3.5" drive with 25mm thick fan; 2 x 3.5" drives with slim fan (12mm).

Drives may be oriented with connectors at the top or bottom, but must use right angled SATA connectors in either orientation (unless a short expansion card is used).




The Noctua NH-C14 is shown in the case, however it's unlikely to fit unless the socket positioning is perfect for it. This is more to show the max height that will fit.




And of course, watercooling:



Single rad...



...or dual.




The Tecnofront Nano reservoir fits neatly on the back




Lots of angle fittings. The Apogee Drive II is a chunky little beast, and requires some careful planning to use, but it fits. 13mm OD tubing is shown.




Dat stance :D


So... whatcha all think?
 

Nick0matic

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Brilliant! :D

That really fleshes out the various configurations of the case. I do have a couple things to ask or mention:

First, you have the "Front 120mm drive cage" mounted, you display the ability to place a 120mm, 25mm thick fan adjacent to a hard drive, or simply two hard drives. Wouldn't that first configuration of a single fan and a single drive completely negate the effectiveness of that fan?

Second, does that front-mounted double-2.5" cage fit with the second (front mounted) fan in place? If not, it seems rather redundant given 3.5" bays can support 2.5" drives.

Oh, and just as a thought: there's so many possible fan locations in this case, but ITX motherboards rarely have more than one or two fan ports. Not that I'm complaining, but I guess whoever works in SFF cases already knows this.

It seems you've also really upped the ante with small parts and details with this concept as well. Amazing work, Necere! :)
 

Necere

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First, you have the "Front 120mm drive cage" mounted, you display the ability to place a 120mm, 25mm thick fan adjacent to a hard drive, or simply two hard drives. Wouldn't that first configuration of a single fan and a single drive completely negate the effectiveness of that fan?
Not entirely, no, though it's obviously going to impact airflow somewhat. There's about 10mm between the fan and drive, and holes on the side of the cage allowing air through.

Second, does that front-mounted double-2.5" cage fit with the second (front mounted) fan in place?
It's actually just a pair of plates that allow the second drive to 'piggy back' on the first drive, which is fastened directly to the chassis. Yes, both 2.5" drives fit with a fan in place, and/or the 3.5" drive cage, or even a radiator (depending on how large the endtank is; worst case you should still be able to mount at least one drive).

It seems you've also really upped the ante with small parts and details with this concept as well. Amazing work, Necere! :)
Thanks. Yeah, definitely stepped up the detail a notch on this one. It's important to do though, to get everything worked out and as plausibly manufacturable as possible (or as much as my limited engineering knowledge allows). If I've done a good job, little will need to be changed for the production version.
 

cowsgomoo

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That third pci-e slot, I already know what to do with it.


Also, I love how you "modded" the holes in the front panel so people don't have to do it themselves. :D
 
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kevral

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Concept 4.1 is just brilliant!

I'm just wondering, though: for a gaming system, can you get any decent SFX PSUs besides Silverstone's (I know you can't in my country)? From what I have read, their modular version is very noisy, and the non-modular is, well, non-modular.
 

DG25

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Looks very good, you really put a lot of details there, congrats! :) It would be a shame if no one builds this monster SFF case. Only limited by its PSU, but i'm sure more sfx options will be available in the future, from Silverstone or others.

How tall are the feet? You will need to be careful on what you'll place it, not on a carpet or anything similar. That's why personally i prefer lower side air vents (instead of tall feet). Easier to clean also, if you have some air filters in place. And i might also suggest turning around the PSU, so its fan gets fresh air from the other side. It will need side vents on the back side panel, of course. The PSU will be cooler and thus, more silent. I know you don't like side vents, but the case already has some big ones, adding one more won't matter that much, imo. There will be dust and there will be noise, no other way around it.
 
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Nick0matic

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Looks very good, you really put a lot of details there, congrats! :) It would be a shame if no one builds this monster SFF case. Only limited by its PSU, but i'm sure more sfx options will be available in the future, from Silverstone or others.

How tall are the feet? You will need to be careful on what you'll place it, not on a carpet or anything similar. That's why personally i prefer lower side air vents (instead of tall feet). Easier to clean also, if you have some air filters in place. And i might also suggest turning around the PSU, so its fan gets fresh air from the other side. It will need side vents on the back side panel, of course. The PSU will be cooler and thus, more silent. I know you don't like side vents, but the case already has some big ones, adding one more won't matter that much, imo. There will be dust and there will be noise, no other way around it.
A case this tiny sitting on the floor seems a bit counterintuitive, but otherwise you have a good point. Turning around the PSU and having spots for some filters (magnetic or clip on filters for the underside, perhaps?) would basically finalize this concept.

I'm really looking forward to seeing production of this already!
 

cowsgomoo

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Personally, I think more holes would make the case more filmsy, and it's already well ventilated as it is, and the PSU is already taking air from the opposite side of the case. Also, is the PSU fan speed controlled by thermal sensors or its load wattage? If it's the latter, turning it around will have no effect on the noise. The SilverStone PSU website uses a graph of PSU load % vs fan noise so I assume it's the latter.
http://www.silverstonetek.com/product.php?pid=253&area=en
 

Necere

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I'm just wondering, though: for a gaming system, can you get any decent SFX PSUs besides Silverstone's (I know you can't in my country)? From what I have read, their modular version is very noisy, and the non-modular is, well, non-modular.
I'm pretty sure FSP OEMs pretty much all of the SFX power supplies over 300W (including SilverStone's), though Seasonic has a 350W model (which is 30mm longer than the FSP, so won't fit properly in SilverStone's cases).

How tall are the feet? You will need to be careful on what you'll place it, not on a carpet or anything similar. That's why personally i prefer lower side air vents (instead of tall feet). Easier to clean also, if you have some air filters in place. And i might also suggest turning around the PSU, so its fan gets fresh air from the other side. It will need side vents on the back side panel, of course. The PSU will be cooler and thus, more silent. I know you don't like side vents, but the case already has some big ones, adding one more won't matter that much, imo. There will be dust and there will be noise, no other way around it.
The feet are 10mm, standard Lian Li size. It doesn't leave a lot of space for the bottom intake vents, it's true. I figure mounting fans at the bottom is one of the bonus features of the case, not a primary feature. In other words, you're a bit on your own if you want to do it. As for dust filters... they'd have to not take up much space, something like these.

As cows said, the PSU intake is already getting plenty of air directly from the adjacent 120mm fan, so I don't see the point in messing up the aesthetics by adding vents to the right side panel.
 

DG25

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The feet are 10mm, standard Lian Li size. It doesn't leave a lot of space for the bottom intake vents, it's true. I figure mounting fans at the bottom is one of the bonus features of the case, not a primary feature. In other words, you're a bit on your own if you want to do it.
The video card would also draw its air from there, if you choose not to watercool it; and if you also add there a couple of small hdds, you block a lot of the bottom vents. It could work fine, but i'm not sure. Small bottom side vents would be better, imo, because they'll be closer to the video card and will not be blocked in any way; both panels could have them. But it's your choice. :)

As cows said, the PSU intake is already getting plenty of air directly from the adjacent 120mm fan, so I don't see the point in messing up the aesthetics by adding vents to the right side panel.
True, but if you add the hdd cage, it's awfully close to the PSU's fan. And if you use the double rad, the PSU will get warm air, not fresh.

Personally, I think more holes would make the case more filmsy, and it's already well ventilated as it is
2mm aluminium is very strong, it won't be a problem. And besides, the PSU vent hole would be just 80-90mm in diameter. Bottom side vents i would imagine to be something like ~30mm x ~250mm.
 
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Necere

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The video card would also draw its air from there, if you choose not to watercool it; and if you also add there a couple of small hdds, you block a lot of the bottom vents. It could work fine, but i'm not sure. Small bottom side vents would be better, imo, because they'll be closer to the video card and will not be blocked in any way; both panels could have them. But it's your choice. :)
I'm thinking about dropping the bottom 2.5" mounts anyway, as they seem redundant and the mounting holes are in weird places.

Having two separate, different sized vent sections doesn't look good, and I want the right-side panel vent-free. Filtering them would also be more complicated.

True, but if you add the hdd cage, it's awfully close to the PSU's fan.
It's actually not that close. With a single drive in the cage and a fan mounted, there's 25mm of clearance. With two drives and no fan, it's 20mm. It's only if you try to do two drives and a slim fan that it gets tight (~8mm). You could use an SFX PSU with the fan at the end (like the 350W Seasonic) to make that work, though.

And if you use the double rad, the PSU will get warm air, not fresh.
Yeah, that's one of the compromises of this layout. Still, it's no worse than the situation in the SG05. And the SG05 sure can't fit a dual rad!

2mm aluminium is very strong, it won't be a problem. And besides, the PSU vent hole would be just 80-90mm in diameter. Bottom side vents i would imagine to be something like ~30mm x ~250mm.
The whole case is spec'd for 1.5mm, actually. I'm assuming Lian Li will be manufacturing this, and unfortunately their machines can't punch 2mm. But in terms of being flimsy, the right side panel is detachable and doesn't provide any structural strength itself, so it's not really an issue anyway. It would just be an aesthetic issue :p
 
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nickbudi

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Great tweaks for 4.1 and thanks for the detailed concepts!

Will the 2 holes on the back for liquid cooling have rubber grommets?

I can't wait for this case to see the light of day. I've began scavenging the black friday/cyber monday deals for parts!
 

Necere

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Will the 2 holes on the back for liquid cooling have rubber grommets?
Most likely.

I can't wait for this case to see the light of day. I've began scavenging the black friday/cyber monday deals for parts!
Well, don't get ahead of yourself. Assuming this is more or less the final version, we still need to submit it to Lian Li for engineering and cost assessment to ensure it can be manufactured for a reasonable cost. As it stands, I'm pretty certain the cost will be higher than their other small cases, which are simpler in construction.

Then of course we need to set up a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign and get some funding. It may be necessary to do a phased campaign, where we initially solicit a small donation from interested parties to get engineering done and a prototype made. That'll help us gauge interest as well. If we can't get at least 300 people to put up ten bucks, then, well... it's probably not worth continuing at that point.

So if we get through two rounds of fundraising, it'll probably still be some months for logistics to be arranged and production to be carried out.
 

Machupo

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Nicely done, Necere. Even though it's bigger than what I'd use, I'd gladly be part of the initial fund-raising. I think this concept needs to get out there ;)
 

Jen

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Nicely done, Necere. Even though it's bigger than what I'd use, I'd gladly be part of the initial fund-raising. I think this concept needs to get out there ;)
yes i agree , even though the size is bigger than what i would use i do see alot of great things about it.


Jen
 

Necere

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Just out of curiousity, how small would you two want it to be? Just big enough for, say, a 10" GPU and a couple 2.5" drives? Would you need it to have a 3.5" HDD? What about CPU cooling, would something really low profile, like, say, the Kozuti or that new Noctua (i.e., ~40mm tall max) be enough?
 

1911Shootist

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I'd go for 2x2.5 or 1x3.5 at most. I really like the layout of #313, but ditch the top 120 fan to keep it as tight as possible.
 

1911Shootist

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I'd think a 120 top-down CPU cooler could provide enough flow and positive pressure to cool the rest of the case. Let the PSU intake from the front & exhaust out of the top, and the GPU intake from the bottom.
 

Jen

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Just out of curiousity, how small would you two want it to be? Just big enough for, say, a 10" GPU and a couple 2.5" drives? Would you need it to have a 3.5" HDD? What about CPU cooling, would something really low profile, like, say, the Kozuti or that new Noctua (i.e., ~40mm tall max) be enough?
laptop drives to save space , 10 inch card max . low profile heatsink or watercooled

Jen
 

Necere

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I'll keep your suggestions in mind. There's clearly some interest in getting something even smaller. Who knows, maybe if we're successful with this, we'll do another, smaller design. I've enjoyed the process so far - wouldn't mind working on another design.


Since we're on the subject of size, I thought I'd do a couple comparison pics:





Left to right: PC-Q07, concept 4.1, SG05.
 

cowsgomoo

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You forgot the "evolution" sign.
I don't see how they would hate that from the marketing aspect. :p
 

Nick0matic

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If this design is inching closer to production, perhaps getting a kickstarter with some advertising (or at least threads) on other enthusiast forums would yield more support. I'm sure the idea of a case smaller than an SG05 holding a 240 radiator is very appealing.

Where's the OP with the Lian-Li contacts?
 

ekuest

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yeah definitely get this on some other forums if it isnt yet. talk to mods first of course to make sure they dont mind you soliciting advice and possibly posting an indiegogo link in the future. :)
 
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