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

CMadki4

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I think they're up to the:

?????
Profit

stage :D
If only it were that easy, haha :)

Walkawalka has already made it clear he doesn't care to profit from it (not sure why), but Necere may. Curious to see the direction this goes.

Potentially a good route would be to use Kickstarter to get the amount it would take for Lian Li (or whoever) to manufacture say a lot of 300 units, appealing to those who actually want to buy one of the cases. Like a preorder. Once awarded the money, order the cases and send the cases out to those who pledged money with the expectation of a case in return.
 

Necere

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Potentially a good route would be to use Kickstarter to get the amount it would take for Lian Li (or whoever) to manufacture say a lot of 300 units, appealing to those who actually want to buy one of the cases. Like a preorder. Once awarded the money, order the cases and send the cases out to those who pledged money with the expectation of a case in return.
That's been the plan all along, actually. If you go back and read wahaha's earlier posts, I believe he mentions it.

Work on the case was on the backburner for a couple weeks, but I'm back on it now and studying Lian Li's cases to try to work out the drive cages. Also checking out different renderers (just grabbed the Octane Render demo) to get some more realistic visualizations to show.

I want to get the design as nailed down as possible, and stuff like the cages and mounting hardware are likely going to nudge the volume up a bit. Like right now, I'm looking at the PC-Q25 which has a similar drive and front fan setup and it's about 20mm longer than our current design. So that's probably the more realistic target to aim for.

Once that's sorted to a satisfactory degree, the next step is the big one, and we have some choices:

1. Get engineering done and a prototype made, then proceed to crowdfunding.
or
2. Go straight to crowdfunding without a protoype, and use renders for the presentation. We can't use Kickstarter for this anymore (they changed the rules and require a physical prototype now), but we could still use an alternative such as Indiegogo.

For #1, it's not a trivial cost, and it's either out-of-pocket (which isn't really feasible for either of us ATM), or do an initial phase fundraiser via IGG (which would probably be around $3k, so e.g. 300 people @ $10). Trouble with that is, we can't really offer anything to contributors during the initial phase, except possibly crediting their contribution to a later contribution during the full fundraiser (for which they'd receive a case).

Regarding profit, it's never been a primary driver for either of us with this project. I think we're both on the same page in terms of wanting to see this project completed first and foremost; if we can do that, maybe then we'll think about doing more (new designs? Concept 1 perhaps? We shall see).
 

K1tty

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Sub'd - I'd definitely be interested in something like this. Surely there are 300 people out there that would agree :)
 

kevral

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1. Get engineering done and a prototype made, then proceed to crowdfunding.
or
2. Go straight to crowdfunding without a protoype, and use renders for the presentation. We can't use Kickstarter for this anymore (they changed the rules and require a physical prototype now), but we could still use an alternative such as Indiegogo.
I realize that I'm being a bit naive, but I have to ask: isn't Lian Li at all interested in accepting your superior design and producing it as their own, for sale through their regular distribution network?
 

Necere

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It's a good question. We haven't shown the current concept to Lian Li yet, but I believe wahaha (who's been handling most of the communication) suggested something like that for concept 1 and it sounded like they were cautiously receptive to the idea. They did want it to support a 3.5" drive though IIRC, which would've necessitated some significant design changes. Also there was the whole Silverstone patent issue. The current design is more conventional however, so they may be more receptive to the idea.
 

DOOMHAMMA

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Wow, I was incredibly excited reading through this thread and then I felt crushed by page 5 or so. Really sad the first ideas are thrown out now.
I've been spending a lot of time thinking about my next build and SFF is definitely high on my list. I have been lugging my Antec 1200 around a lot lately, and it's become immensely irritating. I am still onboard with what is going on in this thread, I would still want to buy the third version currently proposed, but it feels like the most boring so far :p I'd be tempted to just buy the SG05 instead anyway since its smaller.
 

Necere

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Render test:



Rendered in Octane Render in about 8 minutes using two GTX 260s. GPU-accelerated rendering is a beautiful thing :cool:

edit: and another-

 
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1911Shootist

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Wonderful job! Looks amazing!

I'd love to see a build like this, but slightly more compact - more in the spirit of the SG05... Max out at 10.5" cards, 2x2.5+1x3.5 at most, and barely enough room for a decent 120mm tower cooler. The problem with 12"+ card, multiple 3.5" cases is that they've been done and are on the market. We need a true SG05 Evo - ditch the ODD, clean up the looks & leave room for a tower cooler. I'd be in if it only had room for 2x2.5" drives. Mass storage is for NAS or another box.

If you can, keep the ground for the front panel audio separate from the case & USB ports (i.e separate PCB) - that way, we'll have a chance at keeping the audio clean.
 
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Necere

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I'd love to see a build like this, but slightly more compact - more in the spirit of the SG05... Max out at 10.5" cards, 2x2.5+1x3.5 at most, and barely enough room for a decent 120mm tower cooler. The problem with 12"+ card, multiple 3.5" cases is that they've been done and are on the market. We need a true SG05 Evo - ditch the ODD, clean up the looks & leave room for a tower cooler. I'd be in if it only had room for 2x2.5" drives. Mass storage is for NAS or another box.
I know what you're saying, but there are some major sacrifices in doing that.

Let's walk through what we can do. Here are the minimum dimensions we have to work with, given we want to support a "decent" 120mm tower cooler (~160mm). We may as well support a 120mm sealed liquid cooler on the back as well, since it adds nothing to the width. Here's what that looks like:




You'll note the AC plug at the top that pushes the height up, an unfortunate necessity - placed anywhere else on the back panel it potentially interferes with components.

So already the current design is pushing up against the minimum the components allow in terms of height and width. Here it is next to the SG05 (turned on its side for a better comparison):





And a side view (bearing mind that 360mm is a more realistic final dimension):





So the depth of the case is realistically the only dimension we can reduce. What are our options? The only viable place for the PSU is at the front of the case, but if we rotate it we can reduce the depth to 300mm or so. What happens though is we lose the front fan, so we need to re-think the airflow. One option is to use a reverse airfow scheme - back intake, PSU exhausts out the top (using a short ATX PSU):




In this setup, the PSU is pulling heat not just from the CPU/motherboard, but heat from the GPU as well. That's potentially problematic, especially with a non-blower cooled GPU. Not exactly ideal.


Another option is to replace the drives at the top with a fan so the PSU maintains its own fresh air supply and the CPU gets better cooling - basically reverting to the concept 2 layout (using an SFX PSU though):




And a third option, moving the motherboard up and fans to the bottom:




Keep in mind with all of these alternatives you absolutely lose the front 120/140mm fan and any possibility for a second radiator.


For reference, here's the current airflow scheme again:




What do you think? Is it worth sacrificing the airflow, watercooling options and drives to shave a couple inches of depth? I'm interested to hear everyone's opinions on this.


If you can, keep the ground for the front panel audio separate from the case & USB ports (i.e separate PCB) - that way, we'll have a chance at keeping the audio clean.
Will make a note, thanks.
 

K1tty

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I don't think it's worth it - The current scheme would be perfect for someone like me who will need 2 120mm radiators for H20 and just use the top mount SSDs and one mechanical HDD.
 

kevral

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If I'm getting this case it's for the watercooling options.

Agree on the need to make sure audio and USB do not share ground wires. I notice that Silverstone fixed this when moving to USB 3.0.
 

1911Shootist

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Thanks for the visualizations and explanation Necere!

So in rev 3, the height is being dictated by having a front 120, the PSU, and extra room for radiator tanks/fittings? While dual rads would be cool, I think you only need to have room for 1 AIO to appeal to the maximum market, and that will easily fit at the back - which is also beneficial for those that still believe they're only good in an exhaust config.

While not the most aesthetically pleasing, could the power plug be moved down by the GPU to save some height? It would require removal to get the GPU in and out, but such is life in SFF...

The length could also be shortened if you're not allowing room for a rad & fan in front of the GPU - but then you'd loose the drive cage (something I have no objection to). I wonder if you could keep the top mounted drives with the shorter height?

This is just food for thought - I am only one opinion & I hope my ideas don't discourage you - this case is phenomenal!
 

1911Shootist

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Agree on the need to make sure audio and USB do not share ground wires. I notice that Silverstone fixed this when moving to USB 3.0.
Not on my TJ08-E :-(

From what I've seen, audio ports between two USB ports = same PCB. I think most case manufacturers just ground the whole PCB (otherwise you'll have static discharge concerns with the USB ports). From what I've tried, the front panel audio needs to not be grounded for the cleanest audio, but I don't know if there's any risk in shocking the mobo through the port from static.
 
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cowsgomoo

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It's a tad too big for my use-case but you can't please everyone with mini-ITX. ;)
I think your case will be the smallest custom water-cooled mini-ITX case (next up: Bitfenix Prodigy at over twice the volume).
It may not be the smallest case for air-cooler use but people who use air-coolers can look elsewhere.
But calling it a SG05 evolution would be a misnomer now; it's a Lian Li Mini-Q evolution.
 

D4rkn3ss

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Render test:



Rendered in Octane Render in about 8 minutes using two GTX 260s. GPU-accelerated rendering is a beautiful thing :cool:

edit: and another-

O-M-G, am i seeing the rise of the perfect computer case? :eek:
 

Necere

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The length could also be shortened if you're not allowing room for a rad & fan in front of the GPU - but then you'd loose the drive cage (something I have no objection to). I wonder if you could keep the top mounted drives with the shorter height?
A 120mm fan/rad actually sits above the GPU, not in front. Only if you use a 140mm fan does it sit in front. To illustrate:





Trying your suggestions, here's what I come up with:



AC plug moved next to the GPU (though I had this earlier on concept 2 and someone complained about it), dropping the height 20mm. Yeah, we lose the top drives doing that.

Maintaining the PSU orientation we can only move it so far back before the cables will start interfering with the motherboard (particularly with a modular unit like the new Silverstone), so 330mm is about the practial lower limit for depth.

We lose the 3.5" drives, which means there are now zero 3.5" drives in the system. It might be possible to wedge one in sitting vertically against the right side panel, between it and the PSU. But we still have space for a bunch of 2.5" drives.

Front fan is now 120mm only, and still sits in front of the GPU. The only way to avoid that would be to use 92mm fans. Front mounted rad is out, unless you use a short GPU.


What do you think?


O-M-G, am i seeing the rise of the perfect computer case? :eek:
Not for everyone, clearly :p
 

Necere

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It may not be the smallest case for air-cooler use but people who use air-coolers can look elsewhere.
I can't think of any other cases this small that support a full-size tower cooler though. I think the next closest might be the Node 304, which is 19.6L.

It's a tad too big for my use-case but you can't please everyone with mini-ITX. ;)
I think your case will be the smallest custom water-cooled mini-ITX case (next up: Bitfenix Prodigy at over twice the volume).
...
But calling it a SG05 evolution would be a misnomer now; it's a Lian Li Mini-Q evolution.
Indeed.
 

cowsgomoo

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The newest version doesn't have much volume and performance benefit over the SG07/SG08 so perhaps your two-rad version is better.
 

1911Shootist

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Trying your suggestions, here's what I come up with:



AC plug moved next to the GPU (though I had this earlier on concept 2 and someone complained about it), dropping the height 20mm. Yeah, we lose the top drives doing that.

Maintaining the PSU orientation we can only move it so far back before the cables will start interfering with the motherboard (particularly with a modular unit like the new Silverstone), so 330mm is about the practial lower limit for depth.

We lose the 3.5" drives, which means there are now zero 3.5" drives in the system. It might be possible to wedge one in sitting vertically against the right side panel, between it and the PSU. But we still have space for a bunch of 2.5" drives.
I like it! I would still think it'd be possible to mount drives to the roof, although that would require another bracket and bracing (so you won't have fasteners coming through the roof), which would increase costs/complexity significantly. Even 2x2.5's mounting longitudinally would be good enough for me.

Front fan is now 120mm only, and still sits in front of the GPU. The only way to avoid that would be to use 92mm fans. Front mounted rad is out, unless you use a short GPU.
I think 120 is enough - great selection out there, and definitely the best 'compromise' size when going SFF. 92's are a huge turn off for lots of people.

Not for everyone, clearly :p
I am just one voice (who is an extremely picky engineer - just about the hardest person to please you can find!).

Because I'd stick with air (for low noise), my design ideals will differ greatly from those that want water - and they far outnumber me when it comes to a boutique case. I'm not sure it's possible to please both crowds with the same case... if it's meant for water, why design it around large air cooler? Without the cooler there, that space could be used for drive/PSU mounting, or even a radiator on the side panel if the case gets too thin for a rear mounted 120 radiator.

Necere, I'd be happy to throw a few bucks in for the development of your rev.3, I'm just bringing up these ideas & critiques to see what's possible. My feeling is I am one of few who would like my tweaks better than your rev.3 - so I hope you're not spending to much time humoring me...
 

lvyelion

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This is no longer a SG05 evolution. Deviate too far from the original idea, it's a much larger case comparing to SG05, too much things were added.

Desiging a small case is the challenge
 

kevral

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I think the current 2-radiator version is close to perfect.
It offers a great deal of flexibility (water vs air, custom water loops vs all-in-ones, front radiator vs disk cage) with very few drawbacks.
 

lvyelion

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+1

If you really want a gaming case smaller than the SG05, afaik, there is none to choose from. Maybe make two versions? :D
Doesn't have to be smaller than SG05:p

I think the original idea is to design a SG05 sized aluminum case which can host most poweful itx hardware, and some water cooling. But ppl just got lost during the process, adding more and more parts, making the case big and bulky, this pretty much defeat the idea of having a "Aluminum SG05 evolution by Lian Li".
 

Necere

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Tough crowd today, heh.

Two versions is out of the question. Remember, we need a minimum of probably 300 units to get it manufactured at all. We'll be lucky to get one version. So it needs to be the right one.

So, okay. I'm willing to entertain suggestions. You guys want smaller? Let's see what we can do.

So using the SG05 as a starting point, here's what I've come up with for a layout:





Ditched the optical, moved the drives to the top, sealed liquid cooler fits in front with no modding, case is a tower form factor to reduce the footprint. Volume is under 10L. Downside is you're really limited if you want to do air cooling on the CPU.

If you guys want, I can develop this further into a proper case.

Yay/nay?
 

fixitman

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necere,
I too prefer the really small case.
I like the post #308 design. For air cooling, move the PSU to where the radiator sits, if it will fit.

Myself, I would really love to see a design for top down air coolers like the COOLER MASTER GeminII S524, and GeminII S. I only need room for 1 2.5" drive and/or 1 3.5" at most. It would be nice to have an optical drive. Heck, these days I would probably just use an mSATA drive on the bottom of the mobo, and thats it.

I have always thought the sg05 was a bit bigger than needed for the really small form factor crowd. With a top down CPU cooler, a front mounted power supply, and a blower style GPU cooler you can intake air directly from outside the case, and vent directly outside the case (except cpu of course).
 

Necere

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necere,
I too prefer the really small case.
I like the post #308 design. For air cooling, move the PSU to where the radiator sits, if it will fit.

Myself, I would really love to see a design for top down air coolers like the COOLER MASTER GeminII S524, and GeminII S. I only need room for 1 2.5" drive and/or 1 3.5" at most. It would be nice to have an optical drive. Heck, these days I would probably just use an mSATA drive on the bottom of the mobo, and thats it.

I have always thought the sg05 was a bit bigger than needed for the really small form factor crowd. With a top down CPU cooler, a front mounted power supply, and a blower style GPU cooler you can intake air directly from outside the case, and vent directly outside the case (except cpu of course).
So you want this layout, basically:

except narrower and with a side vent for top-down cooling. Right?


for something smaller, just 'borrow' all the good ideas from the langear project http://hardforum.com/showpost.php?p=1035954891&postcount=366
Honestly? No offense to those guys, but I kind of hate that case. It lacks a coherent air flow scheme and has vents everywhere. I really don't want to design a case with vents on every side.
 

Necere

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I have an idea that satisfies my aversion to side panel vents while still allowing a decent top-down cooler, check it out:






So yeah, a duct. Interestingly, Lian Li already makes these for video card cooling. Anyone ever use one? Seems like it'd work at least as well as side-front panel intakes do.

That's a Thermalright AXP-140 in the model btw, which is a pretty respectable 70mm top-down cooler.
 

wahaha360

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Absolutely, just shoot a PM over to Kyle or one of the other awesome moderators with a link to this thread and what you want the thread title to be.
Thanks for the info. Once the design is finalized, I suppose I should change the thread title to the name of the case.
 

Jacob666

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You should not target a specific size for the case. First you need to figure out exactly what hardware it should house. For example I would like two 2,5" inch drives and no optical drive. There needs to be place for a high end cpu cooler.

THEN you do everything possible to create the best SFF case where you do some work to reduce the size. So far I'm impressed with the photos. Thumbs up for the brains behind this project.
 

f51

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Looking good! Excelent space usage. I'm very impressed... would love to see a build once this is done.
 

1911Shootist

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You should not target a specific size for the case. First you need to figure out exactly what hardware it should house. For example I would like two 2,5" inch drives and no optical drive. There needs to be place for a high end cpu cooler.

THEN you do everything possible to create the best SFF case where you do some work to reduce the size. So far I'm impressed with the photos. Thumbs up for the brains behind this project.
Excellent advice!

My ideal hardware:
ODD: No
GPU: 10"
HDD: 1-2 2.5"
Fans: 1-2 120mm
Water: Room for 1 AIO at most
CPU Cooling: Low profile is fine
PSU: SFX
 

Jacob666

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Excellent advice!

My ideal hardware:
[snip}
PSU: SFX
I don't think there are any SFX power supplies that are good enough for an enthusiast build. Silverstone has the ST45SF-G, a 450 watt gold rated PSU. But is that good enough? I think I would prefer a bigger power supply where there is more choice to get a decent one. If there were more high end SFX power supplies it would be great for this case though.
 
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