SMD MIT6 – tiny gamer

Discussion in 'Small Form Factor Systems' started by matman, Jul 23, 2013.

  1. matman

    matman n00bie

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    I've decided to take my SMD MIT6 concept forward and do some physical prototyping. Yesterday I ordered the parts I need to turn my Sketchup use-of-space study into a physical one.

    I shall call this project exfinium-6

    Firstly let me be clear about my complete lack of PC modding experience. I have plenty of experience assembling PCs but have never constructed a pc case and my handyman skills are mostly non-existent. It has taken me a couple of years of worry and procrastination to get to this point and I'm hoping for guidance from the [H] community to help and see where this design goes.

    This design is deliberately very compromising and by that I mean my intent is to heavily compromise some design aspects to best achieve the primary design objective of this case.

    Primary objective: The best single card gaming performance in the smallest possible package. To me that currently means support for GTX 690 and Radeon 7990 cards.
    High priority objectives:
    • Stable, usable, reliable – good to keep running on a user’s desk at full performance for the expected life of the parts
    • Cost sensible – use commodity parts

    The MIT6 design features a sealed liquid cooling loop to shift the radiator away from the CPU and allow the PSU to sit tight over the motherboard. The result is a tightly packed small box bounded by the radiator, PSU and motherboard that is much shorter than a full length graphics card. This is the point where I decided to take a sharp turn from any other small gaming box design that I’ve seen…

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    The signature design feature: Exposed graphics card
    Yeah that graphics card really is sitting right out there. Just flapping in the breeze. Honestly, to most people I’ve shown this to this just seems wrong, faulty, unworkable but I can’t help feeling that the pros outweigh the cons. In fact I can’t come up with a negative that can’t be easily countered. One reason I’m posting here is to see if someone else can.

    Parts arrive in a few days and I’ll do some kind of a worklog here.

    Pros and Cons discussed so far:
    Pro
    Graphics card receives optimal ambient airflow/temperature
    Showcases the graphics card
    Better performance per litre than any case on the market

    Con
    External PCIe power cable might be ugly
    Graphics card is exposed to physical impact and ESD
    Graphics card will gather dust quicker
    Aestheticly jarring - not a clean looking design
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2013
  2. Machupo

    Machupo Gravity Tester

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    Interesting concept with the exposed video card. Are you going to have that portion of the mobo with the PCIe port exposed as well? How are you going to route the PCIe power cables to prevent them from disrupting the clean exposed look?

    One thing I would suggest if you're new to scratch builds is: mock everything up with cardboard / some other rapid prototyping material (Styrofoam, ABS plastic if you have a 3D printer, etc) before you cut any metal.
     
  3. matman

    matman n00bie

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    The motherboard extends roughly 12mm past the top of the chassis and the left side panel extends up to match it so the left side standoffs can be secured. Without a graphics card installed you would see the left side protruding up and an open area at the PCIe slot. I envision some kind of cover that could be fitted if the graphics card is removed.

    For PEG power I'm thinking a water cooling style via in the side, front or top. No doubt it will de-pretty the look, possibly grossly so. I'll be looking for the best way to minimize the visual impact of it.

    I have plenty of cardboard on hand and plan to make the first solid build out of masonite or MDF.
     
  4. sliv

    sliv n00bie

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    Hey man nice use of space.
    However I imagine that cleaning the graphics card from the never ending dust would get very tedious very quickly.
    I'm also afraid the pcie x16 slot would be more prone to damage being exposed like that... what if the case get's knocked over and the gpu pcb snaps? I think some sort of protection would be necessary, maybe something like this?
    If glass casing isn't an option I was thinking a custom supporting structure would be the way to go, not covering the entire card, just the edges and corners, something along these lines. It would mean committing to the current gpu size, but by creating interchangeable templates you could manufacture the bracket only when you decide to upgrade. As an alternative or temporary solution, you can get diy-crafty at your local hardware store.
     
  5. matman

    matman n00bie

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    Gee that is a nice look and the guy shares some of my thoughts about showing off the most expensive part of the build. Of course sealing the graphics card in glass isn't thermally practical. A benefit of the MIT6 design is optimal ambient air intake and clearance for the GPU cooler. Basically you can't get a better situation for GPU cooling without going to water.

    If the case gets knocked over the GPU will have more support than the average case with the card resting against the case(insulated contact) in addition to the standard anchor points. This is not the kind of case you would leave under your desk so the only physical risk more likely than in an enclosed case is impact by a flying object and ESD. So avoid the urge to keep touching your GPU with your grotty static charged fingers and try not to throw things at it.

    I don't intend to argue that that there is no loss of protection when putting the card outside the case. Just that the risk isn't dire and can be easily managed and minimized.
     
  6. Daemos

    Daemos Limp Gawd

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    Personally not a fan of it, it doesn't look very clean at all, but I prefer builds that look clean. Not sure what the point of showing off the GPU is as well.
     
  7. matman

    matman n00bie

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    The minimalism of this design is in it's size. Others are doing a very fine job of "clean" small designs. *cough* NCASE. This design however is half the size of the M1 and yet with a 7990 or 690 fitted will outperform it. Personally I've had enough of the nondesript featureless box meme plaguing PC case designs lately. I blame Fractal Design :).

    Showing off the graphics card is just a side effect of where the design took me nevertheless it is something that's desirable to some. e.g. the link posted by sliv

    Thanks for your feedback though. I have accepted that such a narrow design focus can't possibly please everyone.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2013
  8. Suprfire

    Suprfire 2[H]4U

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    This looks like a fun little project.

    Have you considered maybe having the graphics card on the bottom of the case and supporting the case with long legs? That would still keep the thermals of the GPU from mixing with anything inside the case, and it would help with the whole dust gathering thing, the pci-e power cable could be potentially be less visible, and the risk of anything touching the graphics card is greatly decreased.

    Mount the GPU with some sort of 2-part plastic bracket system that retains the card by its shroud.
     
  9. Screes

    Screes Limp Gawd

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    I like the concept, id just be too afraid of someone spilling something on it to do it.

    "Hey guys check out this awesome case" (friend stumbles and a little soda splashes out and hits your exposed graphics card) POOF. Time to buy a new graphics card.

    Also, usually the graphics card fan is the loudest thing in people's cases, and putting it on top, exposed, will only make that problem worse. Maybe if it was watercooler, or had a large aftermarket heatsink on it it wouldn't be so bad.

    Also, this case is almost exactly the same size as the SG05, so why not just use that case and cut the front to allow longer cards to stick out the front.
     
  10. matman

    matman n00bie

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    Spilling: I figure plenty of cases have lots of mesh venting on the top - this case is more exposed but spilling your coke is not a risk unique to this design
    Noise: Something like a gigabyte Windforce 3 based card can be very quiet as long as it can breathe cool ambient air so this design is potentially quieter than a case designed to isolate the noise of the parts inside. Silent operation isn't a primary design goal but I'm definitely aiming for comfortable desktop noise levels. Inaudible once your headphones are on is possible I think.
    Size: This baby is roughly half the size of an SG05 and with a full size power supply can support graphics cards that the SG05 doesn't.
     
  11. matman

    matman n00bie

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    I have received enough parts now to start measuring and cutting. Time for some pics.

    Very quick cardboard mockup done prior to receiving parts. I hope the build quality of the final product exceeds this at least a little :)
    [​IMG]

    I chose the Asrock Z87E-ITX for it's general lack of cruft and inclusion of an mSATA slot. I was initially considering the possibility that there wouldn't be room for even a single HDD but I've found some space next to the radiator for one.
    [​IMG]

    Here's the parts fitted together in the general layout I'm going for.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    On to some workbench open air testing. I wanted to get baseline temps so I can later gauge the impact of radiator airflow restriction once it's built.
    [​IMG]

    I was surprised with how little overclock I was able to achieve. 4.2GHz was unstable. I'm not even an overclock-fu white belt but my 2500K went to 4.5 and my 3570K went to 4.4. Maybe its the crappy old IBM 300W PSU I'm using mainly just for size testing. I'm probably doing it wrong because the temps never went much over 60C. Anyway the goal is gaming performance. I can't see a factory clocked haswell being a bottleneck in a single slot system.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2013
  12. sliv

    sliv n00bie

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    I'm 99% sure the psu held you back from overclocking, try it with another one if you have it laying around. If not silverstone sfx or SeaSonic S/M 12II
     
  13. matman

    matman n00bie

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    Yeah I held off on ordering a PSU because I haven't put enough research in yet. I'm looking for a 140mm deep non-modular PSU running ideally at least 600W. This design has the rad fan hard up against the back of the motherboard (170mm) so there isn't room for more. I expect maximum total system power draw with say an overclocked 7990 to approach 550W.

    The Seasonic S12II-620 is the only one I've found so far that fits the bill but I hope there are more.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2013
  14. sliv

    sliv n00bie

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    From my research the S/M12II-620 are the best bang for your buck if taking noise into consideration, they are supposed to be much quieter than the competition. I also remember seeing a new 500w "sfx" psu's from High Power at Computex so maybe hold out for that?
     
  15. jojo69

    jojo69 [H]ardForum Junkie

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    really cool idea
     
  16. matman

    matman n00bie

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    I'm disappointed by the required hose clearance on the Corsair H60. It requires about an inch of clearance past the top of the pumpblock to avoid over squishing the hoses. I have had to increase the internal width from bottom of standoffs to top of PSU to 140mm. In better news the required front to back dimension is down to 226mm. Total volume is down to just under 5 litres.
     
  17. jojo69

    jojo69 [H]ardForum Junkie

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    wind on some spiral anti crush?
     
  18. matman

    matman n00bie

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    It will quickly become obvious to some that I have no idea what I'm doing.

    Construction method is basically 3mm MDF cut with a hand saw and glued together. The materials are cheap and easy to work with I'm told. I cant just glue the whole box shut so I'm still working out the finer details of giving access for assembly and maintaining rigidity. I refuse to relax the case dimensions to allow room for fasteners. I'll just do my best to take advantage of what little spare space is available.

    1st glue...
    [​IMG]

    Fixing the bottom panel to the motherboard tray. I grabbed a bar clamp from the hardware store assuming that the join will be much stronger if I keep good pressure on it until it sets.
    [​IMG]
     
  19. matman

    matman n00bie

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    Fit test 2. I jammed all the bits in there and sat on the lid but she wouldn't close. I still need more clearance over the socket. I can make it fit with another cm of clearance and a heavy friend to help me close it.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Confirmed there is enough clearance beside the PSU for a 9.5mm HDD. There's room at both the back and front for front panel type stuff. I'm thinking I'll put switches and LEDs at the rear and only USB 3.0 at the front.

    [​IMG]
    I was hoping to mount a second HDD beside/above the radiator but that looks like the only place I can stow surplus power cables. A brutal custom sleeving mod would clean it right up and make room for the second drive but would ruin the PSU for any other case. Also If the PSU fails the replacement would have to be modded to fit.

    Back to 6 litres :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2013
  20. Machupo

    Machupo Gravity Tester

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    PSUs are made to be custom sleeved :D

    Time for some wire management!
     
  21. matman

    matman n00bie

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    Yeah I wouldn't think twice about lengthing and sleeving cables if it was a modular PSU but there's just no room for a modular in here.
     
  22. sliv

    sliv n00bie

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    If you find a pocket of empty space inside your enclosure you might be able to stuff your existing wires in there and connect these or something similar to them to add aesthetic value (and possibly improve airflow).
     
  23. lvyelion

    lvyelion Limp Gawd

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    well this look just like a SG05 setup...
     
  24. matman

    matman n00bie

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    Similar relative position of motherboard, psu and front fan but otherwise rather different cases. These pictures show the case on its side btw. It's roughly half the size of the SG05 and yet includes a full ATX psu and supports full length graphics cards. Making a lot of compromises along the way to fit so much power in such a small box, like not fitting it all inside the box (-:
     
  25. sladesurfer

    sladesurfer [H]ard|Gawd

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    I say try putting the psu at the bottom and use it as your motherboard tray.
     
  26. matman

    matman n00bie

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    I've certainly considered it. I'm reasonably certain that I already have the tightest possible configuration for a design using a standard ATX PSU.
     
  27. Black5Lion

    Black5Lion Limp Gawd

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    Since you're still in testing with cardboard, why don't you get an SG05 and mod it?
    the lite version is only $50 and you can mod it with an ATX PSU and cut the side/front off to fit the long gpu/make it external(ish).
     
  28. matman

    matman n00bie

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    Because the end result would still be twice the size of what I'm working on.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2013
  29. Black5Lion

    Black5Lion Limp Gawd

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    Oh ok....
     
  30. sliv

    sliv n00bie

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    What about a custom acrylic case? You can cut it to size with just about any sharp tools
     
  31. matman

    matman n00bie

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    I like the idea of working with acrylic at some point but for my first stab at things I feel MDF is even easier to work with and for this design a transparent case may just make it uglier with mostly the backside of components being visible.

    I have been making progress on construction but there's not much new to show for it yet. I've be able to keep the dimensions under 6 liters not counting the graphics card. The end result should be a clean monolithic looking box with the only visible fasteners being the PSU and radiator screws. I'm actually using two of the PSU screws to secure the side cover.
     
  32. adamantium

    adamantium Limp Gawd

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    You're a wild man! I see images of you jamming and packing and sitting on the thing with parts squeezing out. You'll need a latch to keep it shut. :) Can't wait to see it running. Maybe a modular SFX PSU will give you the extra little space required for cables, tubing, and maybe an HDD. A 450W would probably power everything you can fit and give you back inches you could use.
     
  33. ellroy80

    ellroy80 Gawd

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    You have to use more than just glue to hold it together, glue alone won't do as a long term solution IMO.
     
  34. jojo69

    jojo69 [H]ardForum Junkie

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    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEME7vJh2s8

    02:24
     
  35. matman

    matman n00bie

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    GTX Titan is on the rough edge of what a 450W can support. Supporting a GTX690 or HD7990 is out of the question without a real ATX PSU. I'm going for a design that really can power everything that will fit.

    This is a rough prototype / proof of concept although I do plan to use it as my primary machine until it falls apart. For production I envision it made from anodized aluminium, edge welded and/or folded. With internal space at such a premium, standard production methods and fasteners may well not fit.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2013
  36. adamantium

    adamantium Limp Gawd

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  37. adamantium

    adamantium Limp Gawd

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    I see, dual GPU cards, even more interesting. Aren't you concerned about exposure to x-rays? :)
     
  38. matman

    matman n00bie

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    Considering the amount of time I spend indoors a little bit of x-ray exposure can only be a good thing right?

    Seriously though, short of sitting the PC next to a faulty microwave oven I can't see a problem with running without a faraday cage.
     
  39. matman

    matman n00bie

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    Fit test 3.
    The basic box is complete enough for another fit test. All main components are in with nary a millimetre to spare. Its still very rough and ugly but it's enough to get a feel for the size of it now.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    I plan to box up the area around the PCIe slot, should give a much tidier and simpler look.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Comments are welcome but now's not not the time to nitpick on fit and finish please :). The graphics card and power supply are just there for size testing for now.
     
  40. Black5Lion

    Black5Lion Limp Gawd

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    You'll probably need to make a hole in the side to pass the PCIE power plugs thru...
    Other than that it looks good :)