[µSFF Gaming Build] Neutronium

Discussion in 'Small Form Factor Systems' started by Machupo, Nov 27, 2012.

  1. Machupo

    Machupo Gravity Tester

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    [​IMG]

    First and foremost: many of you participated in the design / idea thread, and I thank you very much. Your insights and advice are the basis from which this build log developed :)


    Project Goals:

    As the name "Neutronium" would indicate, the primary goal of this project build is to put the most "oomph" into the smallest container; "Neutron-degenerate matter" wasn't nearly sexy enough, so I went with the sci-fi popularization of the theoretical material. (On a side note, if you have a few bucks to give, shoot it to Wikipedia, we all use it more than we think!) Another goal for this project was to do this under a size limitation that could fit into a TSA-approved carry on container (such as a Pelican 1510) should I ever want to travel with it (oh, and that means no liquid cooling as well) :( Finally, I wanted to limit desktop sprawl of this case, so that meant an upright design.


    Design:

    For the bulk of design talk, I'll direct you to the previous Neutronium thread here, where you can see the slow evolution of the design / fab of some prototype parts. I will point out here, though, that the IDC definitions (see 1.1) of the various SFF cases is what I tend to use, so µSFF would equate to a system that is 4-8 liters in volume.


    Components:

    Case: Lian-Li PC-Q02 (in Black). Weighing in at 2.0kg and only 6.90L of exterior volume (minus short feet, which were thrown out at any rate :p), this is a pretty tiny case to work in. I like the aluminum construction (VERY light) and very obvious attention to detail that you see in this case, everything goes together very well. Unfortunately, it doesn't have any PCIe slots and has a some questionable design elements on the front of the case; we'll see what we can do about that during this build.

    PSU: Silverstone ST45SF-G 450W SFX. There is only one choice if you're looking for the most/cleanest power in the smallest box, and this is it. It's modular, which is a massive plus, and the unit has gone through every torture test I can throw at it without an issue. Unfortunately, the fan that comes with this PSU is absurdly loud, so I swapped mine out for a Noiseblocker slim PWM fan. Much better!

    Motherboard: ASRock Z77E-ITX. Many of you use this board and know that it is the logical choice for this build. Yes, I could have used the Asus board, but with no major OC benefit and that big daughter board getting all up in my business, it wouldn't do. Bonuses for this board are the wifi and mSATA slot. While I plan on using RAID0 SSDs for the OS partition of Neutronium, the mSATA slot is a good alternate plan, and I'll probably find something useful to do with it.

    Processor: Intel i7-3770k Ivy Bridge processor. Go big or go home, I guess, and Socket 2011 won't fit. 'Nuff said.

    RAM: 2x Samsung 4GB DDR3-1600 30nm ultra-low-profile RAM. The stuff that most of the internet raves about, and even better, in a tiny little package that is shorter than the ram release/lock latches.

    Processor Cooling: Thermalright AXP-100. Only 58mm tall, with a modular 120mm fan mount (allows lateral/vertical shifting of the fan... a very nice thing to have when mm's count!). Absurdly solid construction and the best cooling you will find in this form factor.

    Video Card: EVGA GTX670 Superclocked+ 4GB with a transplanted Zotac Twincooler. The Lian-Li PC-Q02 presents us with an interesting quandry: no PCIe slots and only 200mm of (exterior) depth. Again, I'm looking for the highest performing parts in the smallest case: naturally, the short PCB GTX 670 is the go-to part. Since I game at 2560x1600 on my 305t+, I was leaning towards a card with 4GB of VRAM. Unfortunately, the only coolers I had seen that might fit the bill were either using water cooling (TSA no-no) or only released in the Asian Market. So, I used Tenso, a Japanese product forwarding service, to buy a Zotac Twincooler from Amazon.jp. Once I got the heatsink in my hands, it appears that it is the same triple-heatpipe heatsink that is found on the GTX 660Ti (albeit with a different shroud). So, heads up, if you want to do this type of build, you don't need to pay ridiculous prices to import parts from Japan, just grab a 660Ti and sell it as a bare card to someone who is trying to watercool.

    Storage: 2x Samsung 840 Pro 256GB SSDs (7mm) in RAID0. Does anyone else find it funny that Samsung doesn't have these listed on their website yet (just the 128GB ones)?

    Other bits:


    Current State of the Project:
    As of 28 MAR 2013

    Assembly issues (so far :p)
    • Reversed chassis fan mounts, 1mm short on depth and was intersecting with mobo 24-pin power release latch
    • Shaved bottom filter mount to allow clearance with GPU
    • Re-soldered one connection on Vandal switch which had come un-done
    • Rewiring SSD power cable -- wires had backed out of second SSD power connector (retreated into the sheath)


    Powers up just fine and once I get the second SSD up to speed, I'll install raid and Win7 :)

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    Last edited: Mar 29, 2013
  2. Machupo

    Machupo Gravity Tester

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    Work in progress photos:
    As of 20 MAR 2013

    [anchorlink=Metalwork]Initial Metalwork[/anchorlink]
    [anchorlink=Custom]Custom Parts for this build[/anchorlink]
    [anchorlink=Assembly]First Assembly[/anchorlink]
    [anchorlink=Fitting]Component Fitting[/anchorlink]
    [anchorlink=Wiring]Custom Wiring[/anchorlink]

    Original parts cramming with the unmodified case:
    [​IMG]


    Initial [anchor]Metalwork[/anchor]:

    Gaping front hole on the case. Got rid of the stupid ODD slot and the poorly placed / cheap looking buttons and USB ports. This entire front will be recessed black brushed mesh w/ a blue filter core (think retro speaker covers).
    [​IMG]

    Anyone got some iron(III) oxide? :D :p
    You can see the dual-slot PCIe cutout here as well as the mobo IO plate that has been shifted 8mm North. I also made an inlet cutout in the bottom of the case for the Twincooler. It, like the front, will be brushed black mesh w/ a blue filter core.
    [​IMG]

    Bottom shell is looking really nice, I'm glad the PCIe brackets went on ok. A complete PITA to get the rivet holes lined up (very surprised my 1/16" bit didn't snap with some of the lateral forces it endured, lol), but well worth it.
    [​IMG]


    [anchor]Custom[/anchor] Parts for this build:

    Moved the motherboard up by 7.5mm in order to shoehorn in the dual-slot PCIe card.
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    Repurposed & trimmed Dangerden 2-slot IO bracket. A nice clean solution for mounting the PCIe card!
    [​IMG]

    Added some trim color to the mobo tray :)
    [​IMG]

    Made some fan brackets for the front 120mm fan. This required me to drill two countersunk holes on the mobo-tray side of the front piece and repurpose the USB3 bracket ones on the left side. Fun experiment, glad it worked out (minus the one "oops" :p)
    [​IMG]

    I made this front grille out of two layers of modder's mesh (1mm circles) and a layer of bright blue HVAC wire filter ($1.95 out the door at Homedepot) in the middle. Very neat patterns when back lit, but VERY subtle (exactly how I want it) when it's just sitting there.
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    Front fan installed from the inside view.

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    Front fan viewed through the filter-grille with lots of backlight.


    First [anchor]Assembly[/anchor]:

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    Component [anchor]Fitting[/anchor]:

    View of the back side of the modified motherboard mounting plate with the motherboard installed. Much better access to the cpu hsf pins and the mSATA slot!
    [​IMG]

    This is one lonely shot :( This case has an absurd build order due to the space constraints: you have to insert (but not screw down) the video card prior to the front fan and the motherboard. Install the power switches/LEDs, cpu 8-pin, and 24-pin ATX power cable BEFORE installing the motherboard. Then you can finally install the front fan and plug it in. Hopefully this won't change too much when I throw the SSDs into the mix! I had to do a bit more filing to get the video card to want to go in (less than mm clearances between the 2-slot bracket and the rivets), total PITA!
    [​IMG]

    Custom [anchor]Wiring[/anchor]:

    Here is the single to dual pcie cable... only 5" long... double-gauge crimping is a nightmare! :eek:
    [​IMG]

    The 24-pin ATX (5.5" long, with a 90 degree bend) was a complete pain in the ass to make. I think I might have a solder fume headache :p
    [​IMG]

    Dual 840 Pro's installed & custom cable made :D
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2013
  3. xyexz

    xyexz Limp Gawd

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    Nice looking build man, watched the other thread for some time, can't wait to see this come together.
     
  4. HaX

    HaX [H]ard|Gawd

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    make the magic happen
     
  5. Machupo

    Machupo Gravity Tester

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    major case deconstruction and cuts done -- just need to cut the mesh panels / filter elements and add a 16mm hole on the back for the power switch.

    I had originally cut two openings on the front panel (per the sketch in the 27NOV update), but it looked fugly, so went with the wide open / bookshelf speaker look :D
     
  6. Machupo

    Machupo Gravity Tester

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    I'm taking a break for a bit, lol! My neighbors are probably ready to kill me with all of the early morning/late night drilling & dremmeling!
     
  7. xyexz

    xyexz Limp Gawd

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    Just give 'em a 6-pack when they walk by or order them a pizza :D
     
  8. Machupo

    Machupo Gravity Tester

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    Nothin' a couple drams of blue won't fix -- my neighbors are actually pretty awesome.


    What do you guys think? Sorry for the crappy cell phone pics, SLR is under the weather. I can't wait for the rest of the hardware to get here!!!

    [edit]pics moved to post #2[/edit]
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2012
  9. CMadki4

    CMadki4 [H]ardness Supreme

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    Hey, looking really good man! I love these kinds of builds. And I'm so amped to see more talent in the modding community! This is going to be one tiny little power house!
     
  10. mnpctech

    mnpctech Limp Gawd

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    I like the results too, nice little rig... and great taste in Mod Tools and Beer :cool:
     
  11. Machupo

    Machupo Gravity Tester

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    Lol -- thanks :)

    We had two 40ft. tractor trailers of the Black Lager donated (one to post MWR and one to a wounded veterans organization I do ultras for), so it's definitely become the unofficial currency around post. It's surprisingly tasty, definitely not what I was expecting out of a Guinness (it's very easy to drink - i.e. doesn't feel like you just drank a loaf of bread).

    Your ruler/multi-tool has been invaluable during this process, it even serves as a good bending brake if you're slow about it! :D


    (added a couple more photos to the main post)
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2012
  12. Machupo

    Machupo Gravity Tester

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    SSDs have finally shipped. They will go on the inside roof of the case (there is about 20mm above the motherboard, so I guess I could have room for 4x 2.5" drives in there.

    I am a little concerned that hot air may get trapped up there and cook the SSDs, but I guess we'll find out once they're installed and the system is up and running :p

    I'd much rather not cut into the roof of the case, I think that it's stylistically important for it to be solid (not to mention functionally important if you want to set stuff on top of the case). Thoughts?
     
  13. Jen

    Jen 2[H]4U

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    looks pretty good , alot of thought and detail . very similar to one i built years ago . i dont think you will have problems with 2.5 drives just as long as the fan in front is working. the video card may get warm in heavy gaming but i dont think it will

    Jen
     
  14. CMadki4

    CMadki4 [H]ardness Supreme

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    I agree with Jen, I think your SSDs will be okay. I think there will be enough air moving through all parts of the case that you won't risk melt down.

    I really like the front panel's large thin border cutout. Slick. This on the top would also be cool, but unnecessary and like you mention might compromise the structural integrity a bit.
     
  15. EnzoFX

    EnzoFX [H]ard|Gawd

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    Seriously, not with that airflow.

    This build makes too much sense! How dare you think you know better than case manufacturers? Wish they would just catch on and stop with half measures.
     
  16. Machupo

    Machupo Gravity Tester

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    Cool, thanks for the replies.

    Super tight weave sleeving (royal blue) arrived, so this week will be the time to do the wiring and part install!
     
  17. radex7

    radex7 [H]Lite

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    That looks neat!
     
  18. Shaav

    Shaav Limp Gawd

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    Your modding looks really neat. My case suffered a lot more while I tried to modify it. Here is a link to my build: http://www.computerbase.de/forum/showthread.php?t=1095685

    I wish you good luck with your build. Could you do some thermal tests with your graphicscard, once you have installedeverything? I would like to know how big the thermal problems will be, because I plan to install an "GTX 660 Ti AMP! Extreme Edition" (link) instead of my 5770HD.

    greetings,
    Shaav

    Edit: link is now correct
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2012
  19. Machupo

    Machupo Gravity Tester

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    Will do, Shaav,

    Started component test fitting today, had to do a bit more filing. Also did a little bit of sleeving.

    As always, updated pics in the OP.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2012
  20. Machupo

    Machupo Gravity Tester

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    Slight update -- I'm going to be cutting some vents in the left side panel (similar to the ones that are currently there... unless it looks like ass, then I'll be going with the recessed mesh) so that I can flip the PSU and allow it intake from outside the case.

    I'm mainly doing this because Silverstone, in their infinite wisdom (which has been described by WiSK et al), decided to flip the 24-pin ATX plug. This would require you to cross sleeved cables, which a) looks like garbage and b) is a complete nutroll to get the wires of the appropriate length. I guess the silver lining here is that the PSU will get fresh, cool air no matter what :D
     
  21. WiSK

    WiSK 2[H]4U

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    The criss cross look - it's actually kinda growing on me :)
    [​IMG]
     
  22. Machupo

    Machupo Gravity Tester

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    hrmm, that actually looks pretty nice :D

    might be harder to replicate in one color, though -- just royal blue (the theme of the build is matte black w/ a tinge of blue); I'm looking at doing 4x 6-wire sleeves for the ATX pin, though, so I might be able to pull it off. It would definitely be easier than cutting the panel, lol.
     
  23. Machupo

    Machupo Gravity Tester

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    ATX cable, SATA cable, power switch/LED cable, and fan cable done. Still have to do the 8-pin EPS and the PCIe cables.

    Still waiting on that AXP-100 :eek:
     
  24. jubbie

    jubbie Limp Gawd

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    Wost thing is that you cant even buy it anywhere :p
     
  25. vienna1

    vienna1 n00b

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  26. Machupo

    Machupo Gravity Tester

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    It has a significantly smaller fin area -- of course, until I see performance data on all of them compared, it doesn't mean too much :)

    Well, I'm rolling on the stock heatsink for now, 'cause you know, that's [H] and all :D That will at least allow me to finish assembly, and provide a baseline for temperature testing.
     
  27. CMadki4

    CMadki4 [H]ardness Supreme

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    Love this case mod. Can't wait to see the temp data! All the mesh it should breathe just fine.

    Gotta paint those cuts though. Sharpie just isn't cutting it ;)
     
  28. Machupo

    Machupo Gravity Tester

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    Lol, for sure. Need to find a good metal paint for bright royal blue.
     
  29. ivoryg37

    ivoryg37 Limp Gawd

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    wow that case is small. Cant wait to see it completed!
     
  30. TheSurroundGamer

    TheSurroundGamer n00b

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  31. Machupo

    Machupo Gravity Tester

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    Lol, sorry. I have been slammed at work (and snowboarding every weekend). I'll try to get everything packaged up this week and take a ton of pics.
     
  32. Shaav

    Shaav Limp Gawd

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    Nah, benchmarks are more important. Cannot wait to see them.
     
  33. XcPNehVYlE4A3C

    XcPNehVYlE4A3C Limp Gawd

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    saw this thread bumped and was excited thinking it might be completed finally :-D

    this build is the king of all SFF builds as far as most power in the smallest space. And it looks awesome too!
     
  34. Machupo

    Machupo Gravity Tester

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    Had a little time (home from work before the sun went down!) this evening to work on the last items.

    - Updated all of the blue edge coloring on the case to oil-based paint (no more sharpie!)
    - Fabricated and installed the bottom filter element (same coloring and pattern as the front filter element) as the video card will be pulling air in through the bottom of the case
    - Created the single to dual PCIe cable (5" short cable). Fits perfectly, but holy cow is double-crimping a pain in the butt! I had to re-do quite a few crimps (and that's even after I soldered each connection prior to crimping).

    Only think I'm tracking that I have left to do is to make the 8-pin EPS power cable... I'm smoked, though, so hopefully in the next night or two. I really want to finish this project up so I can start packing my mod room up for the pending move to middle America!

    Sorry for taking so long on this, but I want to make sure that I get everything absolutely right before I close it up b/c making mods after it's all set up is basically a complete deconstruction/reconstruction exercise :eek:

    Oh, and I finally received an AXP-100! :D
     
  35. spudboy

    spudboy n00b

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    I'm looking for ideas before I do my next build and this is incredibly awesome. Love the work so far and can't wait to see the finished product.
     
  36. Machupo

    Machupo Gravity Tester

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    Wiring complete -- moving on to final assembly and shakedown :)

    Thanks for following the project, I'm glad I finally got around to hammering out the issues!

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2013
  37. XcPNehVYlE4A3C

    XcPNehVYlE4A3C Limp Gawd

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    HURRY!!!1 lol jk :D

    ive said it before but I gotta say it again: this is the ultimate SFF build. most power possible in the smallest space. and looks slick too. cant wait to see it done.
     
  38. crABtoad

    crABtoad Limp Gawd

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    some really great work man, congrats! :D
     
  39. Machupo

    Machupo Gravity Tester

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    Some minor assembly issues, but no show stoppers :)

    Updated pics in the OP!

    I know, I'm thinking the same thing about that void in the top back of the case:
    [​IMG]


    :p
     
  40. Machupo

    Machupo Gravity Tester

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    Computer is pretty toasty in there -- 38-40C idle, around 80C max (and is very loud, lol) -- I'm amazed the ST45SF-G is holding up with intake temps that high. Might look into the 330w DC PSU option to free up some ventilation space. Would that be cheating? :p

    [​IMG]