Case mods, tools, tech­niques, wa­ter-cool­ing gear and ev­ery­thing to do with PC mod­ding

Custom PC - - MODDING -

Mini-ITX cases need a re­think

There are some fan­tas­tic mini-ITX cases that cater for all man­ner of sys­tems, but the per­for­mance gam­ing area of the mar­ket is cur­rently com­ing up short. My grum­bles be­gan when Nvidia’s GTX 660 and 670 graph­ics cards be­gan sport­ing de­lib­er­ately short­ened PCBs.

Th­ese cards meant you no longer needed a large case to ac­com­mo­date them, or one that of­fered enough room to house a de­cent mid-range GPU. The sit­u­a­tion has pro­gressed even fur­ther since then, and cur­rently, the GTX 960 and awesome GTX 970 are avail­able in de­cid­edly dinky vari­a­tions, plus AMD has its new R9 Nano. The is­sue, how­ever, is that very few (if any) cases take ad­van­tage of them.

It’s an is­sue that reared its head again when our colum­nist Richard Swin­burne men­tioned to me on Twit­ter that the awesome EKWB Preda­tor all-in-one CPU cooler we re­viewed last month was ex­actly the same length as a mini-ITX moth­er­board and an SFX PSU. Of course, with short PCB GPUs be­ing the same length as the moth­er­board, there’s the op­tion to make a case that houses all of this kit with­out wast­ing space. You don’t see this space op­ti­mi­sa­tion with the lat­est mini-ITX cases, though, for sev­eral rea­sons.

While many cases, such as BitFenix’s Prodigy or Phanteks’ miniITX of­fer­ings, of­fer great wa­ter-cool­ing sup­port, they also use stan­dard ATX PSUs, which are mounted at the rear of the case as usual.

As a re­sult, there’s of­ten a huge gap at the front of the case, so the chas­sis ends up be­ing larger than nec­es­sary. Even Sil­ver­Stone – a strong sup­porter of the SFX PSU form fac­tor – lacks the win­ning com­bi­na­tion. The FT03 Mini sports an in­ter­est­ing use of SFX PSUs and mini-ITX moth­er­boards, but it also sup­ports GPUs in ex­cess of 250mm and is one of the worst cases for wa­ter cool­ing avail­able. Most small cube cases such as Parvum Sys­tem’s X1.0 sup­port large graph­ics cards too.

Like­wise, Lian Li’s PC-Q07, which sup­ports GPUs up to just 180mm long, still uses a space-wast­ing ATX PSU that’s an­noy­ingly lo­cated over the top of the moth­er­board, ob­struct­ing ac­cess to it. The case also has prac­ti­cally non-ex­is­tent wa­ter-cool­ing sup­port, al­though on the plus side, it’s very short, with a depth of just 20cm. It’s a shame, then, that case man­u­fac­tur­ers aren’t tak­ing ad­van­tage of all the op­tions – a full combo with an SFX PSU, mini-ITX moth­er­board and short GPU could be very small in­deed.

That might sound like a niche build, but with AMD’s R9 Nano blaz­ing a head­line-grab­bing trail for short PCBs, I’m hop­ing that case man­u­fac­tur­ers will take some no­tice.

We don’t all need masses of space for graph­ics cards; many peo­ple don’t need more than an SFX PSU and miniITX moth­er­boards are more pop­u­lar than ever. It’s high time we got a case that takes ad­van­tage of all th­ese new ben­e­fits – there are al­ready plenty of projects that do so in the PC mod­ding scene.

Small-PCB graph­ics cards have great po­ten­tial for making tiny mini-ITX rigs, but few cases take ad­van­tage of them

While many miniITX cases from the likes of Phanteks of­fer great wa­ter­cool­ing sup­port, they also use stan­dard ATX PSUs

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