The Freilite Brevis S - A <5L case with internal PSU

Discussion in 'Small Form Factor Systems' started by iFreilicht, May 14, 2015.

  1. iFreilicht

    iFreilicht [H]ard|Gawd

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    Small poll:

    A GPU is not the only thing one might want to put into the GPU compartment, and I've recently made a change to allow for a fan swap. What would you put there?



    Latest update:

    First hinge and Front I/O prototype.
    Full update.
    I got a package from shapeways today. The final result first:



    [​IMG]

    As you can see, the hinge works pretty much flawlessly, there's very little play in it. This solution for Front I/O is the easiest and cheapest one to manufacture and it's the minimum base option that I can guarantee will be offered. More complex I/O or upgrades (more USB ports, audio, USB C-Type, etc.) will probably be implemented as stretch goals.

    More details in the full update.

    Current status:
    First prototype has arrived, and while it is not complete, but is already used as my main system. It is currently being used for functional testing.

    Overview:
    The Freilite Brevis S is designed to be a portable PC case with support for ITX mainboard, short GPUs and FlexATX PSUs. The goal in terms of size is staying below or at least close to 5L of volume.

    These renders don't represent the current state of the case. They will be updated soon.
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Specification:

    Specifications are subject to change during the development phase!

    Mainboard: mITX
    CPU Cooler: 38mm max. height
    GPU: Dual Slot, up to 183mm long, up to 148mm tall
    PSU: FlexATX, 150mm (Seasonic SSP-300SUG included)
    Storage: 2x 2.5", 9.5mm thick

    Components: Compatibility spreadsheet.

    Dimensions (W*H*D): 59mm*418mm*201mm
    Volume: 4.957L

    Material:
    • Front Panel: 3mm brushed, anodised Aluminium
    • Side Panels: 2mm brushed, anodised Aluminium
    • Inner Frame: 1mm Steel, finish undecided
    • Thermal Divider: 4mm Acrylic
    Features:
    • Vertical and Horizontal orientation
    • Horizontal orientation with vents on the bottom for placing underneath screens
    • Easily modifiable Front I/O hidden behind door
    • Footprint similar to TKL keyboard, fits in nearly every messenger bag or backpack
    • Reversible PSU mount allows mounting PSU with cold side towards 2.5" drives
    • Separated compartments allow components to get direct intake from the side and exhaust to the bottom, back and top without heating each other up
    Future Tasks:
    The thermal divider has to be prototyped to make accurate tests with the PSU possible.
    The design needs to be revised to fix issues discovered in the first prototype.
    The cable management solution and front mount are to be finalised, drawn and ordered. Same goes for the outer shell and front panel assemblies, but they have lower priority as they can be omitted or made by hand from wood.

    Updates:
    (Most of these updates are paraphrased, shortened versions of the originals. Links to those are included)

    0. Original Post
    After successfully finishing the Freilite Alpha in the PC-Q12, I of course had to notice how much space was wasted in that case because it wasn't designed for the components I built into it.

    So I got to the drawing board and managed to scrape off two more litres, arriving at currently just under 5L. This is the PC that I wanted to build when I built Alpha, and it is now time to make it happen! (Well sort of, I have to finish the design up, but I want to get it out there.)

    I proudly present:

    The Freilite Brevis S

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    It's this small:

    Height: 420mm
    Width: 60mm
    Depth: 197mm

    Enclosing Volume: 4.96L

    It fits this stuff:

    Mainboard: mITX
    CPU Cooler: <41mm
    PSU: FlexATX (150mm, supposed to be preinstalled)
    GPU: 180mm long, 115mm tall, 2 slots (Effectively all mITX GTX970 currently available)
    HDD/SSD: 2 * 2.5"x9.5mm

    [​IMG]

    It has these design ideas:

    Intakes on only one side: This allows the case to be placed under a monitor, be VESA mountable or placed in a HiFi-Rack without suffocating the components and allows an extremely clean look from one side.

    Recessed GPU: By recessing the GPU into the case, the PCIe brackets don't stick out the back and the cabling for its power connectors can run directly into the PSU cabling area.

    Portability: By being very thin and short, this case fits into many sidebags or backpacks while still leaving space for other gear.

    HDDs far from heat sources: By being placed on the cold side of the PSU and far away from the underside of the GPU, the HDDs experience the most minor heat from other components possible in such a small enclosure.

    Minimal waste of space: By using an angled flexible riser, having the PEG connectors intrude into the area in front of the PSU, letting the HDDs connectors intrude into the Mainboards PCIe connector space and using the space next to the GPU for a front USB3.0 cable, the height of the case is kept at a minimum while using every little bit of space available.

    Easy installation: To ease installation, most panels can be removed, giving easy access to most components.

    [​IMG]

    What's left to do before I can make it:

    Tasks:
      • Thermal dividers between all three main components, maybe made out of acrylic Done
      • Stands for vertical and horizontal mode
      • Sample of the flex riser from LiHeat to make sure it fits Done
      • Redo intake and exhaust holes Maybe done, maybe I'll redo them again
      [/SIZE]
    Questions:

      • Should the case be made a little bit taller to make sure the HDDs fit with mainboards that have their socket right next to the PCIe connector and wider GPUs? Currently you can only have two of the three at the same time or resort to one HDD instead of two.
        Yes, added 6mm to allow two HDDs always.
      • How can I mount the HDDs? Adhesive tape seems like the easiest way, it decouples the drives and makes installation quite easy. But it seems like a cheap solution.
        HDD bracket is designed with no drawbacks from adhesive tape.
      • Is there space for a TRRS 3.5mm audio jack? (That's what smartphones use.) I personally like that as a solution for Front Audio because you only have one jack which looks sleek but still maintain all functionality you'd get from two jacks.
        Yes, there is. Now to designing a PCB for that.
      • Is it possible to design the PSU mount in such a way that replacement PSUs can be mounted upside down? They should always have the hot side facing away from the HDDs and I'd want to enable the use of other PSUs. Jup, done.
      [/SIZE]

    1. First design advances
    This is a multi-post update. Open the spoiler to see details.
    The intake holes were reworked. Full post.

    [​IMG]

    The PSU mount was redesigned to be reversible. Full post.

    [​IMG]

    And a TRRS 3.5mm Audio Jack was added to the front. First post.

    [​IMG]

    While it looks much better than two separate jacks, it isn't standard for PC cases, so I also set out to develop a custom PCB to make this work.

    As it turns out, this is quite a complex thing to do if you want to do it right. More details in the full post about that.

    2. The LiHeat Riser
    Full update.
    To keep the height of the case down, an angled PCIe riser is required. The first company that I found to make decent quality ones was LiHeat. I ordered one of their risers and tested it a bit:

    [​IMG]

    It worked out fine, no stability issues or anything like that, but didn't do any benchmark comparisons.

    It was also determined that their A-Type riser, which is angled downwards, would work just as well while blocking less of the exhaust.

    [​IMG]

    More details can be found in the update about that.

    3. Many new features
    Full update.
    The thermal divider between GPU and PSU was drafted:

    [​IMG]

    Back vents were added for improved exhaust:

    [​IMG]

    The vents were redesigned once more:

    [​IMG]

    A concept for the Horizontal stand was designed:

    [​IMG]

    As well as a concept for a VESA-mounting solution:

    [​IMG]

    5. New HDD mount and small changes
    This is a multi-post update. Open the spoiler to see details.
    It was decided that I needed to switch from mounting the mainboard directly to the outer panel (like the LianLi PC-Q12) to having an internal frame that the board is mounted to, like regular PC cases do. That way, there's easy access to the back of the mainboard and side panels can be made from pretty much any material.

    A new HDD mount was also designed. It was decided later on that this would be made from steel rather than aluminium.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    6. An add-on for more drives and an ODD
    Full update.
    I had an idea how to make the case more attractive to users that wanted to use it as an HTPC and cared less about transportability.
    It uses the mounting holes for the horizontal stand.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    And this is what it could look like inside:

    [​IMG]

    Space for an ODD, up to four 2.5" drives or PCIe brackets to extend I/O. That draft doesn't allow for actual full-height PCIe cards, though:

    [​IMG]

    After exploring this, I decided that I should stop messing around and get on with actually working towards a first prototype. It was an interesting thought experiment though.

    7. Small changes, first prototype ordered, HDPLEX riser discovered
    Full update.
    The Kensington Lock Slot and Nameplate found a place on the cases back.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Dimensions were slightly changed as well, the final height of the case is now 59mm.

    The main mount and GPU mount were ordered from a metal-working shop and are scheduled to arrive a month later. They are now to be made from steel instead of aluminium for higher structural integrity.

    I also discovered the HDPLEX Silicon riser, which is very thin and seems to be of high quality.
    It was tested a week later or so and I made a separate thread about that.

    [​IMG]

    8. First prototype parts arrived!
    Full update.
    The parts of the prototype arrived, and they're looking pretty good.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    And here they are with components mounted:

    [​IMG]

    I had to use the LiHeat riser, which is about 15mm too short, so the GPU mount isn't screwed onto the main mount at the moment.

    Everything fits pretty well, apart from the GPU, which uncovered a crucial design flaw:

    [​IMG]

    In a following up update, this was crudely corrected:

    [​IMG]

    It was also shown that the Seasonic SSP-300SUG, which is now a good candidate for being the included PSU, is not exactly adhering to the FlexATX standard, which results in a fitment issue:

    [​IMG]

    9. Cable harness completed, first tests with new PSU
    Full update.
    Because the stock harness of the SSP-300SUG didn't include PEG connectors, I had to make a custom one. This took quite a bit of work, but it was well worth it:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I'm also walking through the connectors and the problems that arise with the limited pin-count on the modular connectors.

    Short tests with the new PSU make me very confident that it will be bundled with the case in the future. It is very quiet in idle and has acceptable noise under load. The thermal divider isn't in place yet, so it could be that the GPU heated up part of the PSU and made the fan run faster than it would've needed to.

    10. First hinge and Front I/O prototype
    Full update.
    I got a package from shapeways today. The final result first:



    [​IMG]

    As you can see, the hinge works pretty much flawlessly, there's very little play in it. This solution for Front I/O is the easiest and cheapest one to manufacture and it's the minimum base option that I can guarantee will be offered. More complex I/O or upgrades (more USB ports, audio, USB C-Type, etc.) will probably be implemented as stretch goals.

    More details in the full update.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2016
  2. Aibohphobia

    Aibohphobia [H]ard|Gawd

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    Looks great!

    How thick is the top panel? Maybe you could have standoffs pressed in or welded so you could attach brackets for the 2.5" drives to mount to rather than using tape.
     
  3. esplin2966

    esplin2966 Limp Gawd

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    Hey, good stuff man. Love the use of the FlexATX form factor PSU; it needs more love.

    I'm about to get on a plane, but I'll have more comment in a few days.
     
  4. iFreilicht

    iFreilicht [H]ard|Gawd

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    Thanks!

    Both panels are 2mm thick. The Mainboard standoffs are already planned to be pressed into the bottom panel, so I thought about something like that as well, but it has drawbacks:

    Firstly, detaching the top panel would become a PITA and you'd not be able to use short SATA cables any more. Some mainboards have SATA ports about 5-10cm away from the HDDs, it would be very nice if one could use those instead of having to use 30cm long ones.

    Secondly, decoupling would be a major design challenge as most rubber grommets that are normally used for that have a diameter of 1cm or more and there are only 11.5mm between the PSU and the top panel. And installing the HDDs without decoupling could prove to be a mayor annoyance, especially when the PC is in idle or just working as a music box.

    Maybe it would be possible to make brackets that attach to the thermal dividers I want to place between the three main components, that could be an alternative.

    Thanks, yeah FlexATX has to be pushed! If I can get this thing to crowdfunding in time, our group buy of the 500W FlexATX PSU may be made even easier.

    Looking forward to it, enjoy your flight ;)
     
  5. SaperPL

    SaperPL [H]ard|Gawd

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    I liked your last idea more :)

    I think you don't have enough space for bending the flex riser at the edge of the case.

    I'm not sure if you'll be able to make a double bend like that you have at the back where you mount the card bracket especially with all side bends to attach top/bottom. Also I'm not sure if the riser will survive the heat from the GPU back side. Isn't that why dondan's a4 have the riser on the side of motherboard rather than at the back of the GPU?

    Also if you're going for ITX only cards you have to support oversized ITX cards which are up to 130mm not 115mm.

    I don't like the idea of flexATX PSU use in htpc especially gaming one. People are running away from standard SFX psu's to SFX-L because of the noise and you're trying to sell them even louder stuff. The other thing about psu's is how the power is usually drawn from them might not fit the needs of GTX 970.

    Intakes all on one side makes the case cover not rigid at all, especially with your long openings like that. Also those are prone to let coins fall inside.

    Hard drives are just in the middle of all incoming heat - If the card isn't a blower type which is obvious for the ITX size, it will push the hot air in all directions.

    How are you going to mount the USB without screws sticking outside? It will be screwed to that internal panel with top and bottom fins for screwing covers?

    You'll need some kind of a stand for tall and thin case like this for vertical configuration.

    and finally 414mm is a big dimension. regardless of the volume you're coming close to a rack width. When you add the space for oversized itx gpu's and enough space to bend the riser you'll end up with 450mm which is even more than a rack width.
     
  6. iFreilicht

    iFreilicht [H]ard|Gawd

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    Hey Saper, you've always the critical kind, but I actually have answers for close to everything. Thanks for your feedback!

    I'll hopefully make that one some day, but I wanted to start with something more easy first.

    I got pictures from LiHeat with their older silver riser bent like that and even that one would fit. They have newer black ones which are thinner and have a lower bend radius and I think are even non-conductive on the outside.

    IIRC, dondan just said when he can choose between going for the mainboard side and the GPU side, he'd rather take the former one because of heat. I don't think he said that there was actual danger of the riser malfunctioning.

    I'll ask the LiHeat rep about it, though.

    I knew that would arise. They are 130mm from the farthest point of the PCIe bracket, but I did the measurement from the far end of the PCIe edge connector, which is about 15mm closer.
    There seems to be no standard for how to measure this, GALAX even measured the length of their ITX card from the far edge of the PCIe bracket which added about 12mm to the length which is why a lot of people thought it was even longer than the short Zotac 970.

    About the bends I don't know, I doubt that it could be made exactly like that, but there are ways to give the bending tools more room.

    Well that's mainly personal prefernce, right? When you compare this to last- and next-gen consoles, my concept is whisper quiet :p
    The thing is, I do indeed want to sell something louder, but I also want to sell something way smaller.

    Not sure what you mean by that. The PSU bundled with this will probably be the FSP500-50FSPT, which can supply 288W on each of its 12V rails. There's no way even an overclocked GTX 970 can exhaust this.
    I'm also thinking about the FSP270-60LE, which would be enough too, but I'd rather have the headroom and efficiency of the 500W counterpart.

    Redoing the openings is on my todo-list, they are a bit too large right now. Why exactly would that cover have to be very rigid? It doesn't carry any weight of any components and the main rigidity of the case is already provided by the bent front panel and the completely closed bottom panel.
    Also what the hell, coins falling inside the intake holes? What should I expect people do with this case? Even the slots of your case are large enough to fit small coins, that seems like made up criticism.

    Not sure whether you read the todo list I wrote, but there will be thermal dividers that force the hot air from the GPU to go out the other side. I think I'll even make them adjustable so they can be placed directly at the GPU cooler, giving the hot air no way to get to the HDD area.
    There will also be one of those dividers between the PSU and mainboard area so the PSU fan doesn't intake hot air from the CPU.

    Will be screwed to the internal panel with countersunk screws.

    You really didn't read the todo-list. That's already on there. I'll also make a stand for the horizontal configuration that will allow the case to sit inside a HiFi-Rack or under a monitor.

    As I said, no space needs to be added. I'll maybe have a few mm more to make the HDD position compatible with boards that have their CPU socket directly at the PCIe connector.

    And yes, 414mm is a big dimension, but It's actually very well suited for the use cases I'm going for:

    Placing it under a 22" screen is no problem as the screen itself is about 420mm wide, mounting it behind the screen works for the same reason.
    Putting it in a rack works nicely and it fits with the other HiFi equipment because of the width.
    Putting it inside a backpack works nicely even though it's so tall. Keyboards that have a keypad are about as wide, so if your bag can fit your keyboard, it can probably fit the Brevis.
     
  7. Quartz-1

    Quartz-1 [H]ardness Supreme

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    It looks like an interesting case, but three things immediately spring out:

    1. Why run the USB cable all the way to the other end of the case when you can have it right next to the motherboard?

    2. Turning the GPU over would make maintainability much easier and shorten the PCI Express ribbon cable. How is the GPU currently secured, anyway?

    3. Is there actually enough room for two SSDs once cabling is considered?
     
  8. SaperPL

    SaperPL [H]ard|Gawd

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    Quoting on this forum really sucks :p I'd rather simply select the text I want to quite and click quote. Btw sorry for not noticing the TODO list earlier.

    Anyway:

    Here's the photo of asus 970 itx:
    [​IMG]
    Here's my model made from all data I could get(note that I have a different bracket model but that doesn't really matter)
    [​IMG]
    And I think you're still up to 10mm short on this problem.

    The noise of FlexATX psu is a personal preference. As for the other stuff - I didn't follow the thread on those flex psu's so that depends on whether they have PEG connectors and were tested properly in some HPC configurations (Nvidia tesla for example) or simply you will need to test it out.

    About the coins - we're addressing the same problem on our end and we're talking about possibility of shrinking those holes so stuff like coins won't fit. I wouldn't care about this as it's supposed to be a cheap case but it happens that people tend to ask about that a lot.

    About the thermal dividers - I'm not sure if this is such a good idea - that means you'll block the path for designed exhaust.
    [​IMG]
    It might end up working as a blower type cooling but might as well block the air circulation. This needs to be tested, I think.

    As for the drive mount - you could make a simple bracket with two bends that would catch the PSU from the sides and have opening for drives. like this |__| but inverted. mount drives to this and put it over the PSU. Top cover would keep it in place.
     
  9. iFreilicht

    iFreilicht [H]ard|Gawd

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    1. Because I actually can't have it right next to the motherboard. There isn't enough space there, it would interfere with RAM modules and other components on the board. But I may have to add room there anyway for the case screw that comes from the bottom panel.

    2. Well it would make the design easier, but I think my solution does a good job at easing maintainability.

    3. Yes, if you don't have an extended with GPU or if you don't have a mainboard where the CPU Cooler is right next to the PCIe slot. As I said in the OP, I should probably change that.

    I'll check once I'm at home, but I'm pretty sure I got this right.

    Yes they will have the required connectors and well I tested one in my current build already, it worked out just as expected. They adhere to all standards that I know are required.

    Wouldn't have guessed that anyone really thought of that as an issue. Maybe hex holes are better anyway.

    There is the same kind of exhaust on the other side and the exhaust on that side will be blocked by the PSU either way. This way I'll just make the impact of the GPUs heat on the PSU lower. I will try to test this to the best of my abilities.


    That's a pretty nice idea, I'll see what I can make of it.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2015
  10. iFreilicht

    iFreilicht [H]ard|Gawd

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    So, about the GPU width: I got it wrong by ~1.5mm. My model is now a little bit larger than yours, but at least the distance from the edge connector to the side of the card is now 121.9mm as Asus is specifying on their website, that's the most accurate I can get without buying one of these.
     
  11. SaperPL

    SaperPL [H]ard|Gawd

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    Gigabyte states 129mm btw.

    Here's how I used that 121.9mm dimmension (rounded to 122):

    [​IMG]

    Anyway from what I get now, you were around 2mm short depending on how did you measure that. I've got ~117.5mm from the connector to the other end including that PCB corner used to attach connector to.

    I know it's a mess with those dimensions at manufacturers but also that 115mm dimensions is really misleading.

    Btw did you think about switching sides of the front? I mean the power button and rounded corner at the card side and USB next to the motherboard?
     
  12. iFreilicht

    iFreilicht [H]ard|Gawd

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    Jup that's what happened. I think I'll just ask support whether there is a drawing of the dimensions available. My guess would be no.

    Yes I did and boy, and there are a few things to consider there:

    • The USB3.0 front cable (and possibly front audio cable) would be a lot shorter, which is great, but may require the case to be even taller because the only singular front USB3.0 I could find is >3cm deep, and that's without the cable, see the picture below.
    • The power button position may need to be redone. It can't be as high on the front as it used to be because that space is occupied by the GPU. When moving it as high as possible, it could easily interfere with the GPU power connectors and the PSU cabling.
      Having the Power button sit lower on the front also looks pretty bad in my opinion.
    • It may both positively or negatively affect cooling performance. The GPU generates more heat, so maybe it may be beneficial to have it sit at the top. On the other hand, this may force the CPU fan to recycle more hot air than before.

    As you can see, there is a lot of room below the GPU that is used for the front USB. That's not available at the mainboards location. If there were USB3.0 front mounts that were only about 2cm deep, then it would work easily, but the other considerations remain.

    [​IMG]
     
  13. SaperPL

    SaperPL [H]ard|Gawd

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    You could always use a different type of power button and usb port like those complete sets on pcb. This would let you loose that distance from the front of the case you're leaving for a power button and rounded corner.
     
  14. iFreilicht

    iFreilicht [H]ard|Gawd

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    That space isn't actually left specifically for those, it's there because the case has to accommodate cards up to 180mm length.

    I really, really want an LED ring on this, it just looks too good to switch to something else.
    As easy as that sounds, I have specific requirements for my front panel connectivity, so that PCB would have to be all custom, which can get quite expensive.

    I think I'll make a few mock-ups of the front and see what people like.
     
  15. Quartz-1

    Quartz-1 [H]ardness Supreme

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    With the GPU that way around, how do you actually get it in?
     
  16. SaperPL

    SaperPL [H]ard|Gawd

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    I think the idea here is to install the GPU before mounting the PSU and drives. I see no other options unless the outer front + sides wall is detachable from the bottom which would be weird.
     
  17. iFreilicht

    iFreilicht [H]ard|Gawd

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    Nope, I wanted to specifically avoid the need to install any component before another one, which was one of the main problems I had with the Freilite Alpha build.

    And yes, front and sides are removable which is a bit weird, but it is the only way to make installation in such a small enclosure easy.

    As you can see in the following picture, the back of the case is made of two pieces.

    [​IMG]

    The first one holds the Motherboard I/O and the PSU and should be screwed to the bottom panel at all times, there's no need to detach those two pieces from one another.

    The second panel holds the GPU and it has to be detached from the rest of the case to install or change the GPU.

    The basic idea for installation is that you remove all panels that aren't needed which allows to access all components as easy as possible. as can be seen in the OP:

    [​IMG]
     
  18. theGryphon

    theGryphon [H]ard|Gawd

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    Hey iFreilicht,
    I love the idea!
    The only strong suggestion I have now is that you drop the front USB and use that space for a good audio jack like you described. Definitely don't make the case larger just to accommodate a front USB.
     
  19. iFreilicht

    iFreilicht [H]ard|Gawd

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    Thank you so much, that really made me smile :D It's amazing when someone is just half as enthusiastic about something as yourself!

    EDIT: I'm not very keen on the idea of making the case any larger, either.

    Well ideally it would fit both. Would you prefer the audio jack for optical reasons or do you need its functionality more?

    Also, I'm working on new ideas for the hole patterns, this is the first one. Shamelessly copied from the PC-Q12 and maybe some other LianLi cases, but I think it looks pretty clean without being overly boring.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2015
  20. rawrr

    rawrr Gawd

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    Do people tend to use front audio jacks? I'd have thought that rear jacks would be better (interference on the front jacks?), or you might use a dedicated amp/DAC.
     
  21. theGryphon

    theGryphon [H]ard|Gawd

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    Personally, I almost never use front USB, but I almost definitely use the front audio (unless the back ports provide better features, amplification, etc). Front audio is a must if you're using earplugs, etc with short cable length.
    Especially in a case as small as this one, I just cannot understand why anyone would have to use front USB. Internal USB 3 cables are what makes this application not worth the space it takes, IMHO. I felt the same way for dondan's A4, and voiced it many times but he included a front USB cable anyways :) I hope I can dissuade you :p

    I'm enthusiastic and full of ideas but just too busy and broke to invest the necessary time and money for the ideas I have. I envy all you guys who make it real, and I share my ideas when I can :)

    I had a question: I'm not very familiar with flex ATX, so could you clarify why you'd want a flexible mounting position for the PSU?
     
  22. iFreilicht

    iFreilicht [H]ard|Gawd

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    There are some boards that have built in headphone amps only for the front audio and it's a very convenient feature in my eyes. No idea about interference, though.

    Playing devils advocate here: Why couldn't you use a simple extension cable instead of having front audio? For USB and Audio, having connectors at the front is a convenience feature in most cases.
    No matter how small the case, plugging in a stick or headphone at the front is always easier than plugging it in at the back in a lot of scenarios.
    I also want the front USB port as a way to plug in a wireless receiver like the Logitech Unified one. As the case is made of aluminium, such a device can't be mounted internally and having it at the back could decrease the connectivity in a HiFi-Rack.

    Well there is enough space for the internal cabling of USB3, so that's not the issue here.

    I still think that the best option would be having both audio and USB front connectors at the same time. Maybe I could offer a small shade that can be put into the front USB cutout.

    When the cutout is milled like in the following picture (halfsection looked at from the inside), I could offer a small shade that can be inserted into the cutout and that will be kept there by the front mount.

    [​IMG]

    You'd still see the little outline of the the cutout, but maybe that would satisfy purists :)

    Didn't even know dissuade was a word. :p

    Thanks for doing that, feedback like this is really valuable!

    So the deal with FlexATX is that a lot of PSUs don't really follow the standard/design guide where it isn't absolutely required. This means that the outlet for internal cabling may be on a different side or the PCB may be on the top of the PSU. Because of that, other PSUs are not as well suited for this case as the one bundled with it is, you may even shorten the lifespan of your HDDs if you install a PSU that has the PCB on the other side because that will be the hotter one.

    But, as I had to find out, making a reversible mount for the PSU would require me to mount the FSP500-50FSPT with only two screws because, in a funny way of irony, it only has three of the four mounting threads the standard requires.


    Oh by the way: I just remembered why I absolutely have to use a power button like this: It is the only structural connection between the front mount and the front panel.
     
  23. iFreilicht

    iFreilicht [H]ard|Gawd

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    Small update:

    I tried to make a reversible PSU mount and it seems to work out quite well despite my initial doubts.

    [​IMG]

    As you can see, the third screw doesn't have a hole in the mount, but depending on the size, it will hold on to the mount. Maybe there are UNC #6-32 with an extended flat head that would be suited even better for this job.

    Also, the PSU will have practically no way to move anyway, so there's not really a problem with stability even when using only two screws.

    I think we can tick that one off the todo-list :)
     
  24. iFreilicht

    iFreilicht [H]ard|Gawd

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    I know this is post 3 in a row, sorry for that. Just want to get this last thing out before I go to bed: (can you spot the difference? ;) )

    [​IMG]
     
  25. Aibohphobia

    Aibohphobia [H]ard|Gawd

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    I spy with my little little eye an audio jack! :D
     
  26. SaperPL

    SaperPL [H]ard|Gawd

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    Is this a dual audio jack for mic + output? Cause those are kind of not too popular and you have to buy additional connector for your headphones. Otherwise if its just audio out then I'm not sure that's enough because I think the most common usecase is the headphones with microphone connected to the front.
     
  27. iFreilicht

    iFreilicht [H]ard|Gawd

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    As I stated in the OP, this is supposed to be a TRRS connector, so yes, mic + output combined.
    They are quite popular with smartphones as you may know and regular headphones work with them out of the box, you only need an adapter when using a headset that has separate jacks and want to use its mic.

    The main use-case of front jack isn't supposed to be dedicated gaming headsets, those have pretty long cables anyway and will probably stay connected to your PC at all times, but when you want to use your regular headphones or earbuds.
    I know there are some people that use their gaming headsets on the go as well, and I might offer an option to order an adapter with the case, but seeing those are widely available, I'll probably not do it unless there's a high demand.

    Also, I will not, under any circumstances, put two coloured audio jacks there, those look atrocious and would completely break the clean look of the case.
     
  28. Black5Lion

    Black5Lion Limp Gawd

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    +1 on the combined audio jack, I don't see why more people don't use it.
    It looks much cleaner, and if you really need the two separate jacks you can get an adapter for a few bucks that will work with you other devices like your smartphone.
     
  29. iFreilicht

    iFreilicht [H]ard|Gawd

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    And your laptop! A lot of thin and small laptops use the TRRS connector, too. It probably makes more sense to use your oversized gaming headset with your laptop than with your smartphone to more users.
     
  30. esplin2966

    esplin2966 Limp Gawd

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    Hey iFreilicht, I think the comments from other people covered most of what I had to say. I was just wondering, how much space do you have between the PSU and the front wall?

    I owned a FlexATX PSU, and since they're probably not going to be modular, there are actually A LOT of cables to deal with. It looks like cabling might be very tight in your case, but I'm not sure what the actual dimensions are.
     
  31. iFreilicht

    iFreilicht [H]ard|Gawd

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    You're right, the FlexATX PSU is not going to be modular, but it isn't going to have that many connectors either. ATX12V, EPS12V, PEG and SATA.

    There is a bit more than 43mm in front of the PSU and a bit over 21mm in front of the board.
    The idea is that the unused length of the ATX connector cable can be tucked in in front of the mainboard, where it wouldn't block any airflow whatsoever. In my previous build, I only have 15mm for that which is enough.
    Then, you got the EPS12V, which will take up way less space and should fit there as well. Alternatively, its cable could reside over the motherboard I/O area or next to the PCIex16 connector.
    Then there's just SATA, which can be tucked above the PSU when unused and the PEG connectors, whose cables can fit into the same space.

    When I'm able to sell more than 300 pieces of this case, I can get a custom version of the PSU, which means the PEG connector cables can be made very, very short (~20mm) so those won't have to be dealt with.
    Same goes for the SATA cables, those would then be limited to two connectors of a pretty short length.

    EDIT: I'll try both configurations though. One with a stock PSU with too much cables and one with a modded PSU with perfect cable lengths. The latter one should work just as intended but I'm interested to see what problems arise with a regular PSU in this small case.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2015
  32. esplin2966

    esplin2966 Limp Gawd

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    41mm sounds more than enough. Good stuff!
     
  33. iFreilicht

    iFreilicht [H]ard|Gawd

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    Sorry that I don't have any large updates, there is a major Development Issue I encountered.

    Front audio

    There are quite a few ways I can do this. The more complicated, the higher quality the final solution will be. The problem is that the different solutions may require different sizes for the PCB for the front audio connection.

    The pin header in the following schematics is the HD_AUDIO connector.

    1. Easy, dirty way:

    So the most easy way would be to just use a TRRS 3.5mm jack without a switch, connect that directly to the audio header and shorten the two sense inputs to the sense signal pin like so.

    [​IMG]

    Advantages:
    • Easy to make
    • Few components
    • Small size
    • Low cost

    Disadvantages:
    • No EMI filter
    • Noisy, bad quality audio output
    • Mainboard and OS always think a mic and headphone is plugged in

    Maybe I'll still make this one first to just have something that works, but it's not desirable in the end, having unfiltered audio on the front ports would result in high noise, so I wouldn't ever use it.

    2. Sophisticated solution with slight problems:

    This requires a TRRS 3.5mm audio jack with an isolated, normally-open switch that will shorten the two sense inputs to the sense signal only when an audio jack is plugged in and it requires the use of three to four capacitors and inductors for the EMI filter.

    [​IMG]

    Advantages:
    • Good quality audio
    • OS and board know when the front audio isn't used
    • Reasonably easy to make

    Disadvantages:
    • Can't differentiate between regular headphones and headset with mic
    • 3.5mm TRRS with isolated normally-open switch is hard to find
    • No idea what inductors to use

    The second issue can be worked around. I found a jack with a normally-closed switch that could be inverted by using a MOSFET, but I'll be searching one that works with this circuit out of the box.

    The last issue is the most problematic right now. The Intel I/O connectivity design guide merely annotates the inductors with: "ZL should be 600&#8486; or greater @ 100MHz with a low Q (broad Impedance curve over frequency)". I have no idea what to do there, what kinds of components I need. That's why I can't really say anything about whether this circuit would even fit inside the case or not, that entirely depends on the size of the inductors.
    If anyone could help me out here, I would highly appreciate it.

    The capacitors are very small, though. Maybe I can eliminate one of the inductor-capacitor-pair because the microphone effectively only has one channel, not two.

    Incidentally, it seems like most PC cases don't implement this EMI filter, that's why front audio is so shoddy on most of them. There's also the option of using just the isolated switch mechanic and leaving the EMI filter out.

    2.5. Super sophisticated high-end solution.

    In order to eliminate the differentiation problem of 2. between headphones and headset with mic, one can use a Texas Instruments TS3A225E, which can sense whether a mic is connected to the second ring of the jack and switch the sense signal accordingly.
    This would make the whole circuit more complicated, but it would make it work out of the box with every mainboard out there, all adapters from TRRS to mic+audio and all headphones and even regular microphones that connect via the 3.5mm jack. I would really like to employ this Solution, but it could take quite a while to make it happen.

    I know that laptops have different ways of solving this, their drivers recognise that the audio port is a TRRS so it can ask you what kind of device you plugged in every time, but I don't think modding drivers is a solution for me.
     
  34. iFreilicht

    iFreilicht [H]ard|Gawd

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    Small updates:

    1. HDD mounting:

    I finally decided to stick with adhesive tape. Designing a sophisticated mounting system has proven to be quite complicated and make installation of the HDDs more complicated.
    The tape is not only a cheap solution, but it's also decoupling the drives and allows multiple orientations and positions for the HDDs, so no matter what components are used, at least one HDD will always fit.

    Also, I decided against making the case a little bit larger to make two HDDs work in every configuration. Not only do I hate making anything larger, but every mm I add to the height of this case will decrease the compatibility with bags, and that's one of the main features I am going for.

    2. Front Audio:

    So this again. I finally found out how I can find the inductors I need.

    An example on digikey: You don't go to the "Inductors" section, but the "Ferrite beads and chips" section, and there you can sort or filter them by "Impedance @ Frequency"! So, looking for >600Ohms @ 100MHz, I have quite a lot of choices. there even are SMD ferrite chips. So that's solved, I can easily fit those components on the front Audio PCB.
    I'll look into the TI mic sensing IC as well. I really want this to be a plug and play solution, so if I made that work, that would be awesome.

    3. PCIe Riser:

    After talking to LiHeat and even getting a few pictures, I can now say for sure that the solution I envisioned for the riser will work. The riser is about 2.2mm thick and has a bend radius small enough to fit into the cavity the PCIe bracket encloses. They also made the surface non-conductive, so I won't need an additional shield underneath the GPU.
    I got a quote for a somewhat shorter sample that I will use to try out how large the gap between the PSU and the mainboard really has to be and what kind of optimisations I can do there.

    -------------------------------------------

    So yeah, things are happening. I wanted to ask metalworking shops for quotes this week, but I really want to have the parts finalised first.
     
  35. ZombiPL

    ZombiPL Limp Gawd

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    I have a question about "adhesive tape idea", which You told me in my thread.

    I think adhesive tape is a bad idea. Why won't You make some special mounting for Your hdd/ssd ? I designed 3-times bended steel sheet which should fit into Your case. With 4 standoffs it shouldn't cost more than 5-8 dollars.

    1st mounting solution:

    [​IMG]

    2nd mounting solution:

    [​IMG]

    Maybe this will help.
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2015
  36. iFreilicht

    iFreilicht [H]ard|Gawd

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    The problem is that there is only about 1mm above and below the HDDs, it's really tight. There's literally no space for that bracket and the screwheads.

    After seeing the comments on your thread I had an idea for something that I may have to try out, though.

    In the end, if people really, really wanted to fix the HDDs with screws they could always be screwed to the top panel, but that would kill the look.
     
  37. esplin2966

    esplin2966 Limp Gawd

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    Since we're talking about adhesive HDD mounts, why not use velcro? It's basically like adhesive tape, except removable.
     
  38. SaperPL

    SaperPL [H]ard|Gawd

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    Except it lets you detach the drive but it has to be attached/glued to the drive and PSU anyway. So when you're replacing PSU or drive you've got to tear it away just like with adhesive tape.
     
  39. iFreilicht

    iFreilicht [H]ard|Gawd

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    Also there's no pair of velcro strips that are 1mm thick together.

    I think the main concern is about replacement of the HDDs, since it will be pretty hard for most people to find decent PSUs they could use as a replacement anyway, right?

    For replacement of the PSU I could just ship a few additional strips of the tape with the case.
     
  40. iFreilicht

    iFreilicht [H]ard|Gawd

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    There it is:

    [​IMG]

    This is the one at the front, the one at the back is a lot shorter.

    The idea is to keep the foam tape on the top panel (and the PSU), but have it stick only to that, not the HDDs. The slots allow users of narrower GPUs to slide the HDDs to the bottom left so CPU coolers close to the PCIe slot on the mainboard can be used.

    An additional idea would be to reroute the PCIe riser so it's atop the PSU as it was in the first renders and move the PSU down a bit. This would require the back mount to have its flange removed for that section though.

    Thoughts?