Before asking NCASE about Micro-ATX...

3leven

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Currently in production would be the Jonsbo RM1 & RM2.

As much as I Iike those (and the Nova) I am willing to sacrifice a few liters to not cover up the cpu with the psu as the only way to fit an atx psu in the case
 

Necere

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any news Necere?
Nothing new. I didn't get a really clear sense of direction from this thread, so I've set it aside for the time being and my attention has shifted over to some mini-ITX concepts. There are still some interesting possibilities there, whereas mATX feels really tapped out in terms of what's possible and what's been done already.
 

pazoo

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Nothing new. I didn't get a really clear sense of direction from this thread, so I've set it aside for the time being and my attention has shifted over to some mini-ITX concepts. There are still some interesting possibilities there, whereas mATX feels really tapped out in terms of what's possible and what's been done already.

There are indeed a lot of other interesting projects out there, but none are really reaching the level of completion (perfection?) your cases have. So I guess I'll patiently wait to see what you'll come up with ;)
 

samj

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Nothing new. I didn't get a really clear sense of direction from this thread, so I've set it aside for the time being and my attention has shifted over to some mini-ITX concepts. There are still some interesting possibilities there, whereas mATX feels really tapped out in terms of what's possible and what's been done already.

I like the direction the Nova case is going in. I'd like to see this project become stiff competition for Nova, even if it's not that different internally at the end of the day.

There are so few cases for mATX that offer such small volumes. I'd happily sacrifice some 3.5 inch HDD spaces, optical drives and maintain SFX support, and cooling for high end CPUs. Given the current trend towards smaller builds, it looks likely there will be more powerful SFX designs and compact GPUs in the coming few years, than less.

Reading through the thread, I got the impression this project could easily turn into another large-ish mATX case, albeit, very nice looking. But surely if people want a mATX case that can fit all standard hardware and cooling options without compromises, there are plenty of options on the market already?

Those limitations won't appeal to every mATX builder, but the same could be said about the M1. Many M1 builds I've seen had to compromise something in favor of something else (short GPU to allow ATX PSU for example, or 240mm radiator in place of 3.5" drives).

It looked to me like the compactness (albeit, more readily afforded by itx) was at the heart of the M1 project.

With that in mind I like the look of the '2c tight' layouts on page 5. I'd much rather see a design prioritizing volume, and a few compromises on component configurations at build time, than have a larger design with better passive air flow and water spill safety.

My point of view is maybe not compatible with the masses thought, I admit:

I am more interested in portable workstation performance than gaming or liquid cooling. The appeal of mATX for me is more memory, wider range of options for socket 2011-v3 CPUs, the option of and extra expansion card, not necessarily for SLI graphics. Generally speaking, I am in favour of quiet cooling, dust management (positive pressure systems + filtering), so I’d love to see slightly more room to fully fit coolers like the Noctua NH-C14S or Be Quiet Dark Rock TF with 140mm fan, and as a bonus, 140mm case fans, as I find them more pleasing to listen to. 120s are a great compromise though!

Right now, I'd be tempted to go with an M1. If Nova became available, or a healthy looking competitor that would still fit in carry-on luggage (wink, wink) I'd trade ultra low case volume for the benefit of an mATX motherboard.
 

twelveparsex

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Is there any way to convert the space dedicated for a radiator to be used as a 3.5" or 2.5" hard drive bay?
 

Aircoookie

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A concept I'd find quite interesting would be a kind of modular case. Say, you only need short GPUs and an SFX psu? Fine, the basic setup with under 20L in volume will do. Longer GPU? No problem, just extend the lenght of the case a bit. 3.5" HDDs and ODD? Let's add 1 (or 20) storage modules!
The only difficulties i see in such a design are prices because of many seperate modules and the difficulty of designing the parts so they are visually pleasing and technically solid in every possible combination of modules. imho that would be the perfect case :) nobody would have to compromise on anything...
 

Vittra

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CaseLabs already does something similar to that with their pedestal additions. Technically they are meant for radiator usage, but you can put anything you want in there with a little ingenuity.

Of course, CaseLabs enclosures are already incredibly large compared to what we discuss here in SFF... :)
 

Necere

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I like the direction the Nova case is going in. I'd like to see this project become stiff competition for Nova, even if it's not that different internally at the end of the day.

There are so few cases for mATX that offer such small volumes. I'd happily sacrifice some 3.5 inch HDD spaces, optical drives and maintain SFX support, and cooling for high end CPUs. Given the current trend towards smaller builds, it looks likely there will be more powerful SFX designs and compact GPUs in the coming few years, than less.

Reading through the thread, I got the impression this project could easily turn into another large-ish mATX case, albeit, very nice looking. But surely if people want a mATX case that can fit all standard hardware and cooling options without compromises, there are plenty of options on the market already?
It's a fair point. Smaller mATX cases that are still able to support higher end hardware are vanishingly few, and you're right that a larger case suffers from the problem of not really offering anything that isn't already available. I think in order to really get the size down though, we may have to give up any pretense of watercooling support. Which isn't the worst thing, IMO, but it's going to limit the enthusiast appeal.

Right now, I'd be tempted to go with an M1. If Nova became available, or a healthy looking competitor that would still fit in carry-on luggage (wink, wink) I'd trade ultra low case volume for the benefit of an mATX motherboard.
Carry-on size is actually a tough requirement to meet for a mATX case. The average carry on size limit across different airlines is around 55 x 35 x 22cm - but that needs to include the bag itself. 55cm is plenty for the length of the case, and 22cm is manageable for a narrower case, but 35cm puts some signficant restrictions on possible layouts. All of the "traditional"-style layouts (PSU above or below motherboard) are too tall, leaving the PSU at the front or over the motherboard as your only options.

Is there any way to convert the space dedicated for a radiator to be used as a 3.5" or 2.5" hard drive bay?
It depends entirely on the specifics of a particular design whether that makes sense or not. In general, if it's reasonable to do, I usually try to do it.

A concept I'd find quite interesting would be a kind of modular case. Say, you only need short GPUs and an SFX psu? Fine, the basic setup with under 20L in volume will do. Longer GPU? No problem, just extend the lenght of the case a bit. 3.5" HDDs and ODD? Let's add 1 (or 20) storage modules!
The only difficulties i see in such a design are prices because of many seperate modules and the difficulty of designing the parts so they are visually pleasing and technically solid in every possible combination of modules. imho that would be the perfect case :) nobody would have to compromise on anything...
It probably doesn't make sense to do. Each module would be like it's own mini-case, since each needs it's own internal chassis and panels etc. A case consisting of multiple modules would cost considerably more than an equivalent single case. I think there's a tendency for people to think that the amount of material is the primary driver of cost, but that's not necessarily true; every cut, bend operation, rivet, screw, etc. adds to the cost, and a small case, or modular section, can have just as many (or more) as a larger case. With die-stamped cases it isn't going to play as large a role, since a lot of the cuts/bends are done by the die. But with the lower-volume way Lian Li makes cases, each operation drives up the cost.
 

Acapella75

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I would be ok without water cooling support. I like direct airflow and maybe just the use of an AIO water cooler (H80i). In builds like these, I typically tend to use the blower types of gpus anyways. I don't need any optical drives and maybe only 1-2 ssds. I love the M1 and contemplated the switch to mitx, but there is just too many trade offs for what I want to do (expandability and high res gaming). The matx case segment really needs some competition. Hope you can do it!
 

Vittra

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It's a fair point. Smaller mATX cases that are still able to support higher end hardware are vanishingly few, and you're right that a larger case suffers from the problem of not really offering anything that isn't already available. I think in order to really get the size down though, we may have to give up any pretense of watercooling support. Which isn't the worst thing, IMO, but it's going to limit the enthusiast appeal.

If you do pursue this (you sound rather resigned to the current state of mATX), you might as well ditch all watercooling support. If I were considering watercooling, I'd be looking at the Nova, not any of the NCASE mATX iterations shown in this thread. Anything comparable to the Nova in the size to cooling balance is going to be incredibly similar. I don't think attempting to accommodate various configurations is going to lend itself to anything interesting ultimately. That wasn't the goal of the M1, and it shouldn't be for any potential candidate here. The only reason the "mATX with ATX compatibility" idea was interesting to me was due to it being fairly unique, it's size was never particularly appealing but at least it had a reason to be that large.

The last bastion of mATX is truly "smallest, most efficient mATX". If that's something you are willing to pursue, it may be the only worthwhile endeavour, but it's going to be very exclusive to specific configurations...
 

Phuncz

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Personally I don't care about watercooling anymore after spending a ton of money on something that was supposed to be quiet but ruined by the pump's noise. Having to dismantle the entire loop and replace the CPU and GPU blocks with air coolers because the GPU block started leaking, also was a reality-check. I've since went with well-received air cooling solutions and don't regret it for a single moment. It's much quieter, performs very well and when a component breaks down, I don't have to scrounge my parts bin for replacement cooling.

The only problem is with mATX and dual stacked GPUs: cooling 400-500W worth of bunched-up GPU TDP isn't easy without a lot of airflow and thus noise. Unless the GPUs could be seperated from eachother and compartmentalized, it could maybe help keep the noise in check.
 

samj

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I think in order to really get the size down though, we may have to give up any pretense of watercooling support. Which isn't the worst thing, IMO, but it's going to limit the enthusiast appeal.

I'd certainly be interested to see what could be achieved without radiator support. It's not at all a priority for my systems, coming a long way down the list after primary component support, as a nice acoustic luxury. I've had a few liquid cooled machines and regularly use AIO coolers as a quick solution to getting rid of a lot of CPU heat. They certainly have their place.

I completely understand the consideration given to enthusiast grade water cooling where a niche product is concerned. Perhaps these days though, we could also say that there is an enthusiast following for compact builds in their own right, many of whom go straight for air cooled solutions.

I have read in earlier posts that a few, including yourself Necere, Phuncz, have spoken against developing towards "the mATX M1" with the most efficient design. I suppose, the M1 was intended to support a lot of off-the-shelf hardware, while offering liquid cooling support, full ATX PSU, etc. An 'ultimate compact mATX' isn't the same project increased in size, but is there any other reason (aside from putting off enthusiast liquid builders, and a departure from the M1) you don't want to go down that route?

To help get this straight in my head; 'an mATX case' isn't a brief for a product design. So basically, unless I'm mistaken, the brief isn't set yet. It must be frustrating at times! It looks like (loosely speaking) there are the following options:

  1. A case designed to do the same thing the M1 does, but for mATX. From the component layout designs through the rest of the thread, I gather this is not a particularly small design. This option occupied most of the early discussion of the thread.

    • A variety of cooling options, including liquid (both AIO and custom loop)
    • A variety of primary component configurations (SFX or ATX PSUs, 3.5 inch HDD and ODD support)
  2. An mATX case that supports ATX motherboards. I haven't read as much on that option yet, but basically, with some restrictions, a full sized ATX board could be allowed with minimal case dimensions increase over the first option? It sounded like a case of 'if it's that big already, why not add a few more centimetres'.
  3. An 'ultra compact' mATX case, that sacrifices component support to achieve smaller volume.
    • Would likely lack liquid cooling support
    • Would likely lack optical drive support
    • May lack 3.5 inch hard drive support
    • may be limited to 120mm cooling fans (i'm not sure about this)
    • SFX PSU as the main intended power supply solution
    • may lack ATX PSU support all together

In my humble opinion, the second two options each have a defining USP (ATX motherboard support, and small volume respectively). The first one doesn't, so it would just have to be pretty (no problem there I'm sure) and maybe some smaller unique points to differentiate its self, like the inverted motherboard layout.

A long list of restrictions here, is basically a restriction on the end user, as was said with reference to dropping water-cooling support, but it is in exchange for another fast becoming popular selling point - the compact volume, I'd say worth exploring, as long as you can still achieve support for high end CPUs and GPUs. In other words, the volume coupled with the power seams to be what really attracts people to small builds. To add to that, as Phuncz implied, the air cooling support for an enthusiast or workstation system would need to be pretty good if it were the only option.
 
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Necere

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I have read in earlier posts that a few, including yourself Necere, Phuncz, have spoken against developing towards "the mATX M1" with the most efficient design. I suppose, the M1 was intended to support a lot of off-the-shelf hardware, while offering liquid cooling support, full ATX PSU, etc.
The basic reason why I'm against an "mATX M1" is that it simply doesn't make sense. I go over it at the end of my design post. Basically, the M1's layout only works because of way the components fit together - which is no longer the case once you're designing around mATX instead. The volume is distributed awkwardly (long and low), and it simply isn't able to make efficient use of space.

An 'ultimate compact mATX' isn't the same project increased in size, but is there any other reason (aside from putting off enthusiast liquid builders, and a departure from the M1) you don't want to go down that route?
What does the "ultimate compact mATX" look like, though? That's one of the things I've been trying to get at. I did a concept here, which cuts out watercooling support to achieve a smaller size, but it's still 22L. Does that qualify as "ultra compact?" That's probably not what most people have in mind, but look at that concept and tell me what you would cut or move to make it smaller?

--

Anyway, somewhat answering my own question, I have been putting some time into a new mATX concept the last few days. I saw your post in the Nova thread about wanting something that could fit in a Pelican case, which got me curious: this case is their carry-on size, and according to the site the internal dimensions are 487x285x203mm. That's actually not at all an easy target to hit for an mATX case, and I can't think of any case designed for performance hardware (read: long GPUs + good CPU/chassis cooling) that would fit. But it did inspire me to see if I could come up with something specifically to fit those dimensions. And I believe I have. I'm not ready to show pics just yet, but I can tell you that 1) it's around 20L, and 2) it supports SFX/SFX-L only. I know I've stated repeatedly that I don't favor SFX for mATX cases, due to the lower power ratings and lesser availability, but with 700W available soon and - I have reason to believe - 750W in the near future, it's starting to seem like less of a limitation. And the gains in space efficiency are non-trivial over ATX PSUs.
 

Phuncz

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It may not be a bad way to go, we've seen more than a few people building portable workstations based on the M1 and AsRock X99E-ITX that there seems to be a real market for. Most of these builds are also focused on air-cooling because of restrictions on liquids on airplanes in some parts of the world. Air cooling is also more robust for traveling in my opinion as watercooling has more ways it can fail while in transit. Also both Nvidia and AMD have lowered the TDP for their newest GPUs, which I believe will continue with their new products in 2016, which means dual GPUs and a high-end CPU shouldn't be a problem for a 700W PSU.

But personally I'm still a fan of the mATX design that allows ATX boards. Every time I see an awesome new board, it's an ATX sized board frustratingly. While I don't want to give the market even more reason to go with ATX but with less focus on powerful and feature-rich mATX boards the last few years, this might be a battle that's already to far gone to be won.

Nonetheless, I'm still very curious what comes out of this, between projects like the Kimera Nova and Jeffinslaw's mATX project, mATX still has a lot to offer in possibilities and I'm very interested in seeing what you can come up with.
 

SaperPL

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I think there is nothing more you can do with mATX or ATX unless you're willing to compromise. As Phuncz said there's already two other projects going for this target and there's a lot standard cases supporting water cooling this days.

You can do something new and fancy with those boards only if you use riser to figure out some space saving to make it a SFF case.

I recently thought of another "ultimate mATX/ATX SFF case" idea you could take into consideration if you're thinking about pelican case format:
340 x 280 x 105 mm = 10L

You could do a brick like this with external style of LRPC

Y5u0Cum.jpg


There would be an internal partition like this to enforce the airflow and support psu and gpu

SAb1ghg.jpg


Note that there should be a passive radiator on cpu, something server-grade.

9nGJfYE.jpg


It would be a positive pressure cooling type case

78zzgiZ.jpg

Anyway it's still a pain to make something fresh with mATX :(
 

Sverebom

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What does the "ultimate compact mATX" look like, though?

Like the Silverstone Sugo SG10. I'm afraid that there isn't much else you can really do with the form factor. The way I see it there are only two viable options: An ultra-compact case that will inevitably share many traits either with the Sugo SG10 or the Lian Li PC-Q10, or a very stylish and space-efficient yet not so compact and somewhat conventional case with a clean and straight-forward airflow (instead of the typical "install a radiator in the front, back, bottom, top, left, right and every other spacial dimension you might find"-designs). Personally I'd still give both my arms (or up to 250 Dollars, whatever you prefer) for a Sugo SG10 with the appearance of the Ncase M1 and clean cooling concept without fans and perforated panels everywhere.

Or you could do what you have just described and dump the ATX-PSU. You might be a bit ahead of what the market can offer at the moment, but the result could be unique and interesting.
 

Carisma

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I was all onboard on getting the Jeffinslaw's mATX project until I saw this project and it got me thinking about a future mATX build. I'm not a huge fan with the PSU over the CPU area though.

Honestly I would want the support for a ATX PSU since some people would like to run dual GPUs and overclock them. That is until a powerful enough SFX PSU was produced (looking at your Seasonic or EVGA). I would like to have the option for watercooling but if it wasn't an option I would be okay with that as well.
 

pazoo

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I would buy your concept as-is if you sell it :)
Although I don't plan to go dual GPUs so I wouldn't mind the psu going over the additional slots to gain space. No riser and nothing over the CPU is what I'm looking for.
 

samj

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The basic reason why I'm against an "mATX M1" is that it simply doesn't make sense. I go over it at the end of my design post. Basically, the M1's layout only works because of way the components fit together - which is no longer the case once you're designing around mATX instead. The volume is distributed awkwardly (long and low), and it simply isn't able to make efficient use of space.

I had a look at the design post again. I see what you mean. There's a lot of 'white space' inherent to a mATX layout that it just hard to do anything useful with, or get rid of. I seam to recall (possibly yourself?) mentioning the general proportions earlier, stating a preference towards a taller case rather than a larger footprint as well. This would certainly be preferable for a desk-top machine. I see in number 4 on the design blog - the M1 layout, that the parts stack neatly into the space above the longest component (the GPU). If you took that principal and applied it to the mATX chassis, with the PSU and drives directly over or under the motherboard / GPU, you'd get the wasted space in the vertical more than the horizontal - less of a long and low scenario? It wouldn't exactly be a Silverstone FT03, but starting to go in that direction. You may even be able to start taking advantage of the chimney effect to assist cooling.

What does the "ultimate compact mATX" look like, though? That's one of the things I've been trying to get at. I did a concept here, which cuts out watercooling support to achieve a smaller size, but it's still 22L. Does that qualify as "ultra compact?" That's probably not what most people have in mind, but look at that concept and tell me what you would cut or move to make it smaller?

Thinking about my own preference, I'd change the full ATX PSU for an SFX-L. I'd swap the existing drive bays (assuming they are 3.5" compatible) for 2.5" only, and remove ODD support completely.

I'm thinking loosely here, so without diagrams and checking, but I'd be inclined to return the motherboard to standard orientation, put the graphics cards back at the bottom, above the main air intake, then position the sfx psu and 2.5" drive mounts above the motherboard for a taller, less deep case. A lot of the space currently occupied by the ATX PSU, along with the 'dead space' above it, could then be reclaimed, allowing enough room for just the fans. Perhaps, with a more vertical approach, a cm could be allowed behind the motherboard for cable management. I'm not too fussy about it, except when it could improve cooling by getting some cabling out of the main chamber. If I get time, I'll see about a drawing to be more clear.

Anyway, somewhat answering my own question, I have been putting some time into a new mATX concept the last few days. I saw your post in the Nova thread about wanting something that could fit in a Pelican case, which got me curious: this case is their carry-on size, and according to the site the internal dimensions are 487x285x203mm. That's actually not at all an easy target to hit for an mATX case, and I can't think of any case designed for performance hardware (read: long GPUs + good CPU/chassis cooling) that would fit. But it did inspire me to see if I could come up with something specifically to fit those dimensions. And I believe I have. I'm not ready to show pics just yet, but I can tell you that 1) it's around 20L, and 2) it supports SFX/SFX-L only. I know I've stated repeatedly that I don't favor SFX for mATX cases, due to the lower power ratings and lesser availability, but with 700W available soon and - I have reason to believe - 750W in the near future, it's starting to seem like less of a limitation. And the gains in space efficiency are non-trivial over ATX PSUs.

Agree completely, it's a very tight squeeze if possible at all.

Yes, I have been looking at similar cases on their site. The 1510 carry on also caught my eye (same internal dimensions). I did a quick draft layout on paper with only the components I'm personally interested in (as described above) and even optimistically, a layout similar to your Design Posts' 2C tight, would only leave about a centimetre of clearance (computer case height while lying down has to fit into the luggage case width dimension). I haven't looked yet what affect a taller, less deep case would have on the fit into a luggage case.

I did some very loose sketches and tried to aggressively downsize. No 3.5" hdd, SFX-L only, no watercooling support, no ODD. I've no doubt that I'm missing things (and being over-optimistic), like socket / cable clearance on the motherboard, or space for cooler clearance or cables behind motherboard tray, but the dimensions I arrived at were internal volume of L35 x H28 x D16 (cm) for the core components and bottom cooling fans - giving about 16.25 litres. At these dimensions of course all you need do is add another centimetre in one direction or another and you gain over half a litre (surprising!). This was a PSU in front of motherboard configuration, with the SFX-L PSU intake facing either forward or backward.

Perhaps I could have a more detailed look at some of my thoughts if it would be of help. I'm aware it's just adding workload for me to suggest arrangements and then expect you to draw them all out! It might also mitigate some of the wishful thinking. I work in visual effects, so I'm familiar with 3D and 2D visualization software.
 

samj

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It may not be a bad way to go, we've seen more than a few people building portable workstations based on the M1 and AsRock X99E-ITX that there seems to be a real market for. Most of these builds are also focused on air-cooling because of restrictions on liquids on airplanes in some parts of the world. Air cooling is also more robust for traveling in my opinion as watercooling has more ways it can fail while in transit. Also both Nvidia and AMD have lowered the TDP for their newest GPUs, which I believe will continue with their new products in 2016, which means dual GPUs and a high-end CPU shouldn't be a problem for a 700W PSU.

Seeing those workstation builds was what drove me to speak up about it in the first place. Aside from having the day to day need for something like this for my work. My concern with mini ITX is that AsRock's X99 board may be a one off, either limiting us to them as a manufacturer, or to that model alone if they decide there isn't the demand to do another one. mATX, opens the door a bit more in terms of SLI expansion, and allows builders to look at mATX workstation boards from the likes of Asus, etc.

Liquid cooling definitely has to go once you consider travel by plane, as you say. I suppose the only issue with air cooling in that case would be heat sink weight. Others have expressed concerns and noted that they remove them for travel. I've never had trouble moving large air cooled workstations by car without any special concern for that issue though, and whatever cooling options end up in a mATX case will likely not be the largest heaviest ones available.

I agree also that the future of powerful systems running from SFX PSUs is looking quite bright.

But personally I'm still a fan of the mATX design that allows ATX boards. Every time I see an awesome new board, it's an ATX sized board frustratingly. While I don't want to give the market even more reason to go with ATX but with less focus on powerful and feature-rich mATX boards the last few years, this might be a battle that's already to far gone to be won.

I'm inclined to agree! Most of the motherboards I'd really like to get my hands on at the moment (especially Asus' X99 WS.) are ATX or even EATX. The only problem is, then you are into mainstream case market competition. Having said that - there's not been a lot of those centred on 'compactness' either. I.E. dropping ODD support, focusing on solid state storage, to reduce the internal complexity and volume of a case. IT seems manufacturers tend to go the 'please everyone' route, and release at best, a modular case with swappable or removable mounting options. In that case though you often don't get to actually save the space you're not using, but just leave it empty or fill it with something else. Typically water cooling components again...

Nonetheless, I'm still very curious what comes out of this, between projects like the Kimera Nova and Jeffinslaw's mATX project, mATX still has a lot to offer in possibilities and I'm very interested in seeing what you can come up with.

I second that!
 

Necere

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It may not be a bad way to go, we've seen more than a few people building portable workstations based on the M1 and AsRock X99E-ITX that there seems to be a real market for. Most of these builds are also focused on air-cooling because of restrictions on liquids on airplanes in some parts of the world.
This is definitely a potential concern, though on a cursory search I can't find any reports of people actually having an issue with AIOs getting through airport security. Lots of people asking if they can, and people telling them not to, but little in the way of actual first hand experiences either way.

I recently thought of another "ultimate mATX/ATX SFF case" idea you could take into consideration if you're thinking about pelican case format:
340 x 280 x 105 mm = 10L

You could do a brick like this with external style of LRPC

Y5u0Cum.jpg


There would be an internal partition like this to enforce the airflow and support psu and gpu

SAb1ghg.jpg


Note that there should be a passive radiator on cpu, something server-grade.

9nGJfYE.jpg


It would be a positive pressure cooling type case

78zzgiZ.jpg

Anyway it's still a pain to make something fresh with mATX :(
I don't really see the point of a case like this. Poor CPU cooling, no SLI/extra expansion card support, horribly cramped. It makes far more sense to go with mini-ITX at that size, IMO.

Like the Silverstone Sugo SG10.
The SG10 is 23L though, does that really qualify as "ultra compact mATX?" I get the sense from some people that it doesn't, even though for the hardware it supports it's absolutely about as small as it can get.

Honestly I would want the support for a ATX PSU since some people would like to run dual GPUs and overclock them. That is until a powerful enough SFX PSU was produced (looking at your Seasonic or EVGA). I would like to have the option for watercooling but if it wasn't an option I would be okay with that as well.
Something worth noting: the highest wattage 140mm-deep ATX PSUs are 750W, which SFX-L is soon to hit. That means, purely on the basis of wattage, it only really makes sense to support ATX PSUs that are 160mm+. That's a 20mm difference (or 30mm over SFX-L), which, depending on the specific layout, might mean a corresponding increase in at least one dimension.

I seam to recall (possibly yourself?) mentioning the general proportions earlier, stating a preference towards a taller case rather than a larger footprint as well. This would certainly be preferable for a desk-top machine. I see in number 4 on the design blog - the M1 layout, that the parts stack neatly into the space above the longest component (the GPU). If you took that principal and applied it to the mATX chassis, with the PSU and drives directly over or under the motherboard / GPU, you'd get the wasted space in the vertical more than the horizontal - less of a long and low scenario? It wouldn't exactly be a Silverstone FT03, but starting to go in that direction. You may even be able to start taking advantage of the chimney effect to assist cooling.
Sounds like you're describing a less deep version of the traditional layout (layouts 1a-1c in my post). There's nothing really wrong with it, but it couldn't be made short enough to fit a carry on, as I'll go over in a moment.


Thinking about my own preference, I'd change the full ATX PSU for an SFX-L. I'd swap the existing drive bays (assuming they are 3.5" compatible) for 2.5" only, and remove ODD support completely.
That concept already lacks 3.5" and ODD support.

I'm thinking loosely here, so without diagrams and checking, but I'd be inclined to return the motherboard to standard orientation, put the graphics cards back at the bottom, above the main air intake, then position the sfx psu and 2.5" drive mounts above the motherboard for a taller, less deep case. A lot of the space currently occupied by the ATX PSU, along with the 'dead space' above it, could then be reclaimed, allowing enough room for just the fans.
It's only "dead space" in those renders. In reality, cables would be taking up part of it, and it also allows support for 12" GPUs.

Yes, I have been looking at similar cases on their site. The 1510 carry on also caught my eye (same internal dimensions).
So looking at the specs on that carry on case more closely, I realize it doesn't take into account any foam padding, which as far as I can determine is as follows: 0.5" (12.7mm) on the bottom; 1.81" convolute (46mm) on the lid; "Pick N Pluck" filling the rest of the interior, which seems to be a solid block composed of perforated 0.5" cubes.

Now, I'm not sure how compressible that foam is, but I'm going to assume a minimum of 0.5"(12.7mm) padding on every side (the lid foam would need to be cut down/replaced), compressed to about 80%, for a total of 10mm each side. This is 20mm subtracted from each interior dimension. So from the original interior dimensions:

19.75" x 11.00" x 7.60" (502 x 279 x 193 mm)

Subtracting the foam, we get:

18.95" x 10.2" x 6.8" (482 x 259 x 173mm)


These dimensions are even tighter than I initially thought, and nearly a dealbreaker for a microATX case. The big problem is the height - 259mm - which is right on the edge of what is needed to fit a mATX motherboard alone. Take a look at this pic. Just the motherboard by itself needs 249mm, which means there's only 5mm left on either side for the chassis and clearances. It's not impossible, but it would be very tight, and there'd be no space for fans or anything else below the GPUs. Also, this is why a short-depth case won't work - 259mm is far too little (including the bracket, a 10.5" GPU is 280mm alone).

There are two possible layouts I can see to fit these dimensions without going overly long: 1) PSU-over-CPU; and 2) PSU at the front, rotated sideways. PSU-over-CPU would look something like this:



And PSU-at-the-front, like this:



Each has its pros and cons. The first layout has the potential for better overall airflow, thanks to the two 120mm intake fans, but it's basically reliant on an AIO for good CPU cooling (a problem for its intended purpose of airline travel). In principle, it could also allow for ATX PSUs to be fitted. I should note that despite the dual 120mm fans, the case is not tall enough for a dual rad up front (which are typically 275mm+ long).

The second layout allows for mid-size air coolers, but it's going to be getting some of the exhaust off the GPUs. Moreover, the front mounted PSU is quite tight on the cables when using SFX-L (about as tight as it is in the M1 with long GPUs), and there aren't great options to deal with the PSU exhaust (internal exhaust or ugly exhaust vents). No room for ATX PSUs, as well.

Either way we're looking at overall dimensions of about 260x173x360mm, or 16.2L. The first layout could trim a few mm off the width if desired, and either could drop a bit of length (though at the cost of maximum supported GPU length and AIO thickness), but this is basically as small as it gets without starting to impose severe limitations. As it is, SLI/CF won't be ideal due to the lack of an extra slot between the cards.
 

samj

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Necere, Thanks for looking at all of this - Very interesting! I will get back to you shortly, just catching up on some image generation. Meanwhile, Happy New Year! (sorry if I'm a bit early ;) )
 

Phuncz

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Indeed, thanks for taking your time to elaborate on this. Let's make 2016 another great year for Ncase !

I'm hoping HBM will give way to standard shorter graphics cards. If these become the norm for 2016 (I believe they will) the motherboard could be rotated 90° and allow the PSU to be on top or below the motherboard, like this:

e0LRHC3.png


Mind you, I probably forgot some important things (like I/O) but it could allow SFX/SFX-L/ATX PSUs over 200mm length, 240mm rad about 270mm or dual 120mm fans with slots so two 120mm radiators (think dual Fury X) would also fit, etc etc. The fans overhanging on the board shouldn't be a problem with the 173mm width you mentioned: it leaves 53mm for case, board, space between board and possible radiator oomph. It might be tight with the ATX cable though, but luckily flat cables are now a thing and Silverstone uses these on every recent PSU.

Maybe not that polished, this might be a layout you haven't considered but we are in 2016, the year HBM(2) gets it's big showing ! This ofcourse expects that short GPUs about 9,5" are used, but since this case would need time to materialise, both Nvidia and AMD should have short cards in their lineup. Ofcourse to soon to base a design on (unless you got an Nvidia guy) but it might be something to consider.
 
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Necere

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The fans overhanging on the board shouldn't be a problem with the 173mm width you mentioned: it leaves 53mm for case, board, space between board and possible radiator oomph. It might be tight with the ATX cable though, but luckily flat cables are now a thing and Silverstone uses these on every recent PSU.
I was going to object on the basis of the ATX spec height restriction, but actually the area towards the front of the board has a lower height restriction, so 120mm fans could actually fit without violating the spec. A bigger problem is how close the board would have to be to the inside front of the chassis; at 257.22mm for the motherboard+PCIe card bracket, it would basically be touching it. Also, there would be no room whatsoever for edge-mounted right angle SATA ports that a lot of mATX boards have.

Maybe not that polished, this might be a layout you haven't considered but we are in 2016, the year HBM(2) gets it's big showing ! This ofcourse expects that short GPUs about 9,5" are used, but since this case would need time to materialise, both Nvidia and AMD should have short cards in their lineup. Ofcourse to soon to base a design on (unless you got an Nvidia guy) but it might be something to consider.
Short cards most likely won't use blower coolers though, which presents a problem for a case like this, especially in SLI configurations. Remember that even if the PCB is smaller, the TDP won't necessarily be lower, and that means we'll still need bigger coolers. Think GTX 960 reference coolers.


Happy New Year all!
 

SaperPL

[H]ard|Gawd
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Happy New Year all!

I don't really see the point of a case like this. Poor CPU cooling, no SLI/extra expansion card support, horribly cramped. It makes far more sense to go with mini-ITX at that size, IMO.

The cooling performance would depend on the implementation - note that it would kind of work like in 1U servers but with bigger 80/92mm fans that wouldn't make so much noise.

The point of dropping the SLI/secondary expansion card still stands:
- maximum 8 slots of ram vs 2 of itx
- more sata-express connectors
- more m.2 connectors
- more platforms (i.e AM3+ currently)
- more boards to pick from the store
- high-end features not so common in itx boards/introduced earlier in big formats

If this is supposed to be SFF case then there needs to be a compromise somewhere. Making another SG10 but just that 1L smaller doesn't make any sense.

For example limiting gpu length to ITX size (max 200mm) and psu to SFX-L would let you make something like this:

320 x 265 x 165 mm = 14L

x1bKGCO.jpg


However that makes you figure out the cooling of the cards differently then just pumping air from the front and also there's the thing about drives placement.

Short cards most likely won't use blower coolers though, which presents a problem for a case like this, especially in SLI configurations. Remember that even if the PCB is smaller, the TDP won't necessarily be lower, and that means we'll still need bigger coolers. Think GTX 960 reference coolers.

With full ATX board or 5 slots you could go for two cards with a gap between them instead of stacking them closely together. I don't think other than this gap there is a real difference in how this should be solved in comparison to blower style cooling. All you need to do is figure out a way of changing the air fast enough to prevent hot air recycling around gpus.
 

Phuncz

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I was going to object on the basis of the ATX spec height restriction, but actually the area towards the front of the board has a lower height restriction, so 120mm fans could actually fit without violating the spec. A bigger problem is how close the board would have to be to the inside front of the chassis; at 257.22mm for the motherboard+PCIe card bracket, it would basically be touching it. Also, there would be no room whatsoever for edge-mounted right angle SATA ports that a lot of mATX boards have.
Very true, I saw some recent boards having all right-angle SATA ports, sometimes even the USB 3.0 header. It's stuff like this that many forget and you consider. There is still some margin here and there to nudge and we (maybe you did) haven't even considered PCIe extenders. With the LiHeat or what they are called PCI extenders being offered at decent prices, this might be worth to consider placing GPUs at better locations.

This seems to be the biggest hurdle: GPUs, plural. They produce the most heat, need the most space (considering airflow) and are wildly varying in specifications. I really like the design where the GPU has their own compartment. I saw a case a while back that had the top half covered in perforated material so the GPU was basically open-air without affecting the other components. I feel strongly this is a good design, but for two GPUs this would mean two PCIe extenders, like so:

4SbPMop.png


Short cards most likely won't use blower coolers though, which presents a problem for a case like this, especially in SLI configurations. Remember that even if the PCB is smaller, the TDP won't necessarily be lower, and that means we'll still need bigger coolers. Think GTX 960 reference coolers.
While true, it is expected that the move to a 14/16nm process would allow lower TDP. So we can hope this follows suit and allows even lower power GPUs while maintaining a performance increase.
The dual-Fiji Gemini card is expected to be around 350W (2x R9 Nano) while being small and probably have watercooling like the Fury X.
 
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SaperPL

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When TDP of same performance cards drops with next generation there will be more powerful cards to fill in the gap. I don't think we'll see the end of 250W high end's and ~175W ones going away because simply because VR will need all power it can get starting at consumer launch this year.

This idea with two cards on risers look interesting but it makes a very slim and tall tower that can't be put horizontally because the backs of the cards would fry the riser between them without that hot air going up naturally. I don't think such tall and slim tower is really appealing.
 
D

Deleted member 222586

Guest
It may not be a bad way to go, we've seen more than a few people building portable workstations based on the M1 and AsRock X99E-ITX that there seems to be a real market for. Most of these builds are also focused on air-cooling because of restrictions on liquids on airplanes in some parts of the world. Air cooling is also more robust for traveling in my opinion as watercooling has more ways it can fail while in transit. Also both Nvidia and AMD have lowered the TDP for their newest GPUs, which I believe will continue with their new products in 2016, which means dual GPUs and a high-end CPU shouldn't be a problem for a 700W PSU.

TDP remains more or less constant. It is true that any new generation gives you a better performance/tdp ratio but, at the end of the day, and given that the TDP is a max. contraint stated by the standards that producers have to comply with... the 300W limitation is going nowhere.

So I wouldn't hold my breath and expect high-end gpu's to have low tdp's. Because the wait might be terribly long.
 

Phuncz

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While the top-end cards like the GTX 980Ti and Radeon Fury X still have typical gaming power consumption of over 200W, cards not far off in performance (GTX 980 and R9 Nano or Fury) need less power consumption. Nvidia is still ahead in this race though and it's not like a GTX 980 is a sin.

perfwatt_3840_2160.png
power_average.png
 

sunefred

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I want to get away from the air-vents-on-every-side design that the M1 has. Virtually every small case with good cooling does it using this approach, and for good reason: it saves a lot of space, because you can Tetris fans in to deliver airflow directly to components. However, it doesn't lend itself to pleasing aesthetics or easy dust control.


When I read this I had to loudly let go of a "FINALLY!". Honestly I have never seen this from any case manufacturer and have been requesting this line of through since forever! I made a post about it on silentpcreview in 2009 and have been keeping an eye on every uATX case made before and after. Still NO ONE has created such case so I really hope you will.

Here is the post and image I used in 2009.

http://www.silentpcreview.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=55752

uATX_sketch.jpg


This is basically your option 1c. However it is now 2016 and watercooling has really matured. I would update my schematics to fit a 280 rad, reservoir and pump in the front.


Now I am seeing a different line of thought in your later posts and I would urge to back up and consider the type of case you want to make and most importantly to whom you are making the case. In my opinion the user that wants a uATX case is not looking for a cramped and space-optimized case. That user would choose mini ITX. In my opinion the uATX case you have drawn in option 1a, b and c is in fact the case that 80% of the computer enthusiasts should use (but isn't) and if you could make a very good looking case with that design I am certain you would have a killer product.

Let me explain. I think we can roughly devide the computer enthusiasts into three categories.

1. Minimal size to fit on the desktop or in the living room
This person is looking to create as small a footprint as possible and is willing to limit the choice of components he uses in order to get there. That means possible use of small form-factor GPU and power supply. The case will usually be put on the desktop, so cooling can be designed to grab air from all sides if needed.

2. Single GPU + SSD, no compromise on components and cooling
If you made a poll I am sure the majority of people would be single GPU + single SSD/HD with no plans on expanding. For this crowd, uATX is actually perfect because the built in components on the MB is generally the same as on the full ATX variants. However, there is no need to go full ATX if you are only single GPU and single SSD/HD, and I am certain most people would pick uATX if there was a really good option out there. The case should have very good looks, fit a huge single radiator and an optional sidewindow.

3. Multi GPU, expandability, no compromises on components and cooling
Most cases are made for this group, which is baffling to me.


A few people have said that NCASE should not make a 1c case because you would just follow in the footprints of every other manufacturer. I respectfully disagree because NO ONE has made this case yet.
 
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Necere

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In my opinion the uATX case you have drawn in option 1a, b and c is in fact the case that 80% of the computer enthusiasts should use (but isn't) and if you could make a very good looking case with that design I am certain you would have a killer product.
This was my thinking as well, before we even started this thread. But let's be clear: that layout with "no compromise cooling" (i.e., full tower coolers) and room for a 280 front rad is a 30 liter case, give or take. The pic in this post is an example of essentially what you're asking for.

It may be that we need to look at doing two different mATX cases - the standard 30L, and the compact <20L case, like we've been talking about for the last couple of pages. Just have to decide which to do first.
 

samj

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In my opinion the user that wants a uATX case is not looking for a cramped and space-optimized case. That user would choose mini ITX.

I think you are right in a lot of cases. As we are seeing all through thread from Necere, it's really hard to get a small mATX / uATX anything.

The problem with ITX though when compared to uATX, is to achieve its dimensions you have to get rid of core components (capabilities) that really have no substitute. E.g. an entire graphics card for those who desire SLI configurations (or any other expansion cards - sound? 10GBit NIC?) and a lot (50%) of memory. Cooling options and storage I think are areas where people can usually find some acceptable compromise that won't impact the performance of the machine too much (SSD, M.2, low profile coolers, smaller fans), even if it ends up being louder.

In an ideal world perhaps many people are basically looking for an ITX board with another graphics card shoved on the bottom.

Speaking only from my own point of view, the need for more memory, more PCIe expansion and a wider range of CPU socket options on a compact powerful machine, may just mean that two machines are needed; a full sized workstation with more memory and expansion, and an ITX machine that is compact enough to be portable, but simply wont be enough for every job, where the full sized workstation would have to step in again.

Subtracting the foam, we get:

18.95" x 10.2" x 6.8" (482 x 259 x 173mm)


These dimensions are even tighter than I initially thought, and nearly a dealbreaker for a microATX case.

Looking at a recent reply from Necere, the fact the mATX / uATX neatly bridges the performance and component compatibility gap between full ATX and mini ITX may not be as potent a factor because the high portability selling point might be out of reach. By high portability, read international travel. Yes you could check it in theory, but that's not much of a selling point in the mind of a prospective buyer.

Excluding air travel, I'd say it's not a portability deal breaker at all, so maybe the question of 'how important is air travel?' should be asked. Does it matter for big LAN events? Professionals working abroad? In terms of taking it to your friends house by car etc, the peli-case thought is more of a luxury and really not essential. Any bag / box / hold all or trunk with luggage strap would do (trying not to just think about myself for a second ;) )

It may be that we need to look at doing two different mATX cases - the standard 30L, and the compact <20L case

However, I think that the smaller volume may still be worth looking at; even with the massive compromises you must make as an enthusiast or professional when choosing ITX, there are still plenty of people willing to go for it. It's just an enthusiast for a different type of end result I guess, as opposed to the maybe more traditional all-out liquid cooling enthusiast.

Basically giving ITX system lovers a palatable volume SLI option.
 

sunefred

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It may be that we need to look at doing two different mATX cases - the standard 30L, and the compact <20L case, like we've been talking about for the last couple of pages. Just have to decide which to do first.

I think you are right that there are two distinct cases that needs to be created with two different use cases (cooling/compability vs mobility). Maybee an interesting challenge then is to find a design language that can be used across all your cases, i.e. common front panel look, similar vent design etc.

On a side note, what we really need is a new ATX standard with a 20mm thick passive PSU that could cover the bottom or top of our cases. The connectors should be directly accessible from behind the motherboard tray, i.e. positioned on the side of the PSU. Wouldn't that be nice?
 
D

Deleted member 222586

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While the top-end cards like the GTX 980Ti and Radeon Fury X still have typical gaming power consumption of over 200W, cards not far off in performance (GTX 980 and R9 Nano or Fury) need less power consumption. Nvidia is still ahead in this race though and it's not like a GTX 980 is a sin.

But this has always been truth. The high-end has always had high power consumption, and the rest had sub-200W power consumption.

But this won't change in the near future.
 

CybKnight

Weaksauce
Joined
Jan 8, 2007
Messages
70
What I struggle to find is a good looking case m-ATX with 5 card slots, good esthetics and solid ventilation.
What drew my to buy two M1 was that they look darn good, while being extremely practical.

Personally, I do prefer air cooling. I have been using SLI for a while to do 1440p at decent fps.
I don't need 3,5'' drives nor ODD. M.2 and 1x 2,5'' is good. And a 700W SFX-L should suffice.
(Otherwise I would just underclock a bit.)

Though seeing the discussion. I feel we have a bit to many of us with edge cases, trying to push our agendas.

I guess Necere also needs to consider MOQ from any case manufacturer. No point spending a lot of time refining a design for a few enthusiasts, unless he can sell the amount require to produce it.

And a bit off topic. If some motherboard vendor could create a SLI extender for their m-ITX boards, all of this would be a lot easier. Then a small ramp up of the M1 could fix the whole dilemma.
 

Allanitomwesh

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Jun 28, 2014
Messages
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Hi necrere and wahaha
Am just now seeing this,and yaaay!
Am sure everyone wants something smaller than SG10 kek,but I personally don't.
Make something about 30L that holds a totally high end rig with good cooling.
Also 5slots FTW.
I'll read through the thread but just wanted to share that with you :)
 

Acapella75

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Apr 6, 2013
Messages
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Is the Raven 90 degree motherboard layout patented? That seems like a great orientation for air cooling.
 
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