Description

This build started out about a year ago as a moderately priced Skylake ITX build with a GTX 970 in a Thermaltake F1 Suppressor case. I upgraded to the GTX 1070 about 6 months ago and then when the DAN Cases A4-SFX was (briefly) available for retail last week decided to grab one and have a go at shrinking it down.

I primarily use it for gaming (Witcher 3, Fallout 4, Elite Dangerous, Cities Skylines) on an LG 34" 2560x1080 ultra widescreen. The 1070 is a bit of overkill at this resolution, especially as the LG maxes out at 60hz. But it basically means I can run any current games on ultra settings smoothly at the max display refresh rate - which is awesome.

In the future, I'd be keen to try out a 1440p screen and maybe VR and am confident that this machine would handle it fine.

I'm not interested in overclocking, so decided against a high-end chipset and coolers which kept costs for the build pretty reasonable. It also means temps are fine even in this little case.

The case isn't cheap - and if I was just trying to max out performance the money would be better spent on more CPU/GPU power. But it's so tiny! Still finding it incredible that you can pack so much machine into a case the size of a shoebox.

It's not the quietest system, especially under load as the relatively small fans on the CPU, graphics card and power supply all have to run at pretty high RPM to keep temps reasonable. I've also noticed a little coil whine on the 1070 if you put your ear close. The case doesn't offer any acoustic dampening at all, as it's very open for airflow. For me that's fine as I wear headphones when gaming, and at idle or handling basic browsing, there's no noticeable noise.

Aesthetically the build is pretty stealthy with mostly black components and just a few white or silver accents. The case doesn't have any lights (not even a power indicator), so with the light on the graphics card disabled the system is completely dark. Internally the main area I want to improve is the PSU cabling - the stock cables are much longer than needed and so create a messy tangle. I'm going to have a stab at building my own custom cables to make it neater.

Update: Built some custom cables to try and clean up the cable tangle under the PSU. It was my first custom cabling project so took me much longer (and resulted in more blisters) than I had bargained for, but very happy with the outcome.

Part Reviews

CPU

Awesome gaming processor for the price. These days I'd probably get a i5-7500 as it's same price and has a higher clock speed, but unless you're gaming at 4k I don't think you need anything more powerful than this.

CPU Cooler

Small, efficient and pretty quiet. What's not to like :) There are only a few coolers that fit in this case, and I've been very happy with Cryorig gear in the past so this was an easy decision. Certainly much better than the stock Intel cooler.

Motherboard

I was a bit nervous about getting such a basic motherboard, but it was definitely the right call. If you're not overclocking there's no reason to get a Z series chipset. And in an ITX board the additional PCIe lanes that the pricier H and B series chipsets offer are useless as you've only got the one PCIe connector and you're using that for graphics. So H110 is the winner!

I wanted an M.2 slot to keep cabling to a minimum, and while the one on this board only runs at 20Gb/s Gen2 x 4 speeds not the full 32Gb/s that Gen3 x 4 offers, it's still waaaaay faster than a SATA connected SSD.

And while USB 3.1 Gen 2 or Thunderbolt 3 and wifi would be nice to have, I don't think I would have used them and haven't really missed it.

All in all for less than AU$100 this board is incredible value. Plus it's black. And there's no ******* RGB anything on it.

Memory

They run at the max speed of my motherboard, and I've had no problems. Got them for a good price in the US. And they're black.

Storage

Not as fast as the latest gen NVMe drives, but way faster than a SATA SSD. More than fast enough for a gaming machine. Boot and game loads are really quick. Got mine pretty cheap on eBay.

Video Card

Went for a blower card as I knew I'd be using it in pretty small cases. I think this was the right call, but it is a little hot and noisy under load. Doesn't thermal throttle, but when the fan spins up to high revs it's an audible buzz. I've also noticed a little coil whine - not particularly loud or annoying though. I think it's only started since I switched to the SF450 PSU as I never noticed it when using a RM450 in my previous case.

Performance wise it's great. More than enough horsepower for the resolution I game at (2560x1080). And I like the look of it too - not too gaudy.

Case

This is my perfect case. Love it.

It's a pleasure to build in - even though it's tiny, the unique design with the graphics card back-to-back with the motherboard means you can easily get to components from the sides or top. Fitting a full-size GTX 1070 was really straightforward compared with other cases I've worked with.

And it's soooooooo small! About the size of a shoebox. I don's see how you could make a more compact gaming case (i.e. that allows for a normal motherboard, PSU and full-size graphics card).

Cooling wise it performs as well as my previous case (Thermaltake Suppressor F1) which is pretty incredible given there are no case fans and it's about a third of the volume.

Build quality is great. Feels very solid with a sleek minimalist anodised brush aluminium exterior.

If I had to nitpick - the power button feels a little dinky. And the plastic feet on the bottom aren't very grippy so it slides around on my desk a little.

The real problem is getting one - it's kickstarter-funded project out of Germany. The first production run has finished with most of the units going to the kickstarter funders. A few excess units went to overclockers.co.uk and caseking.de for retail and I was lucky enough to snag one in the ~30mins or so it took for them to sell out.

Apparently there's another production run scheduled for mid-2017 though so if you're keen keep an eye on the website.

Power Supply

Only been using this a few days, but so far so good. It's tiny and quiet.

I have noticed some coil whine on the graphics card that I don't think was present when using my previous PSU (Corsair RM450). But it's not too bad.

I don't like the bundled cables much for a small form factor build. They are ribbon cables, but quite stiff and with a messy pinout on the ATX cable that makes it hard to cable manage. And although they are shorter than the cables usually supplied with an ATX PSU, they're still way too long for my build.

Corsair sell a "short" braided cable kit for this PSU, but it's only slightly shorter than the standard cables. Would be good if they had an even shorter option.

I'm going to have a go at building my own custom cables instead.

Comments

  • 30 months ago
  • 4 points

I love your tight, compact, powerful computer. Amazing job! You've taken my one.

I do admit that my Adrian Monk side is saying "I must clean off those fingerprints."

  • 30 months ago
  • 3 points

Yeah the case does show fingerprints easily. Will give it a polish and take some more pics once the custom cables are done.

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  • 30 months ago
  • 1 point

People are always doing that to you... maybe keep a better grip on em? =P

The more you give it up the less special it becomes... wait...

That may be so, but that's because my zero is off limits.

  • 30 months ago
  • 3 points

The sex jokes this thing makes...

Totally because its so sexy

+1

  • 30 months ago
  • 2 points

So cute, yet so powerful. +1

  • 30 months ago
  • 2 points

Always had an eye for these Dan cases, well designed. Nice execution from you +1

  • 19 months ago
  • 2 points

I've been planning to preorder the new version of the A4-SFX but I didn't know how weel it would fit a full size GPU. I was looking at the 1070 Aero and thought it would be alright, then I found your review in the comments with a link to this build.

Thansk for sealing the deal for me. Very much looking forward to building this rig.

  • 30 months ago
  • 1 point

+1 for the unique build

  • 30 months ago
  • 1 point

Very nice ... small builds that work are special.

  • 30 months ago
  • 1 point

Excellent!! That is all I have to say about this one!!!

  • 30 months ago
  • 1 point

in my opinion this is the best case ever , but it's too pricey! (350 AUD is about $270!)

  • 30 months ago
  • 4 points

Yeah it's not cheap. But there's nothing else quite like it. And it's well built enough that I'll be using it for years.

Hopefully Dan can scale up production and lower the price. Or license the design to someone who can. Either that or other manufacturers will take notice of the demand and bring similar products to market.

As the TDP of gaming components drops, small form factor builds like this are possible with very few compromises.

Would love to see how a Ryzen/Vega build in this form factor compares for price/performance/thermals when they are released. Competition is a good thing!

  • 29 months ago
  • 2 points

The only case I've seen that is about as small is the NFC S4. It's slightly cheaper, but it can only house a HDPLEX DC-ATX PSU, which tops out at like 300W. Not enough to build a real beefy system, but great for mobile VR.

  • 28 months ago
  • 1 point

I've never played around with the DC-PSU's but I gather that that HDPLEX model can draw a fair bit more than 300W. And parts seem to be getting more and more efficient. That said, I don't really feel the need to go to a smaller case than this one - especially if you'd need an external power brick.

  • 28 months ago
  • 1 point

try the Silver stone SFX fully moddular 800watt psu bro!!!! Freaking sweeeeeettt!!!!!

  • 30 months ago
  • 1 point

Also please add more photos :D

  • 29 months ago
  • 1 point

Added a few pics with the custom cables that I built. Any other photo requests?

  • 30 months ago
  • 1 point

Awesome build! I read your description and I can tell you that I can not keep constant 60 fps on my 60 Hz 34" 3440x1440 in The Witcher 3 with a GTX 1080 and 6700k when absolutely everything is maxed out (incl. hairworks). Nothing thermal throttles and there are often dips to 50 fps. So if you like what you get with the 1070 on your monitor stick with it.

  • 30 months ago
  • 1 point

Yeah the hairworks really hits the fps. I've just got it enabled for Geralt for that sweet ponytail action ;)

I hear what you're saying - if the step up to 1440p would require a bump in CPU/GPU power to keep the frame rate smooth it might not be worth it. I'd probably go for just a 16:9 screen if I do, maybe with GSync to handle the dips more gracefully.

I'd think I'd rather spend the money on some VR gear. Although I haven't seen any VR games that really grab me yet (other than Star Citizen but it's still quite a ways off).

  • 30 months ago
  • 1 point

I wanted one of those DanCases for a show piece for my business... but i just could not justifie the $350 price tag associated with it. I actually had it on order when it was released this past week, but I canceled it.

Great case dude!

+1

  • 30 months ago
  • 1 point
Fingerprints...

Nooooooooooooooooooooooo.......

+1

  • 30 months ago
  • 1 point

Love the build, I was one of the unfortunate people that was unable to purchase the DAN A4 SFX during the short period it was available on Overclockers UK. Hoping to get one in the summer!

What are the noise levels of the C7 like during gaming? I've seen quite a few reports that the fan is extremely noisy under load caused by air turbulence due to the close proximity of the side panel.

Oh, +1 too :D

  • 30 months ago
  • 1 point

Yeah, it's pretty noisy under load, but I don't find it that annoying. The way I have the case positioned on my desk the CPU is facing away from me - so it's actually the GPU cooler noise that I notice more.

It's very quiet at idle, and as I pretty much always game with closed headphones on (Sennheiser GSP 300) and they're very good at blocking any outside noise, it's a good solution for me.

Someone has posted up a video of the C7 running in the case here that will give you and idea of the noise at max fan speed with and without the side panel on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzpO4kL7a9o

I think Dan is working on a new CPU cooler project to match the case, so if that goes ahead it could be a better alternative. And I've seen reports that the Noctua NH L9i is a quieter alternative (although doesn't have as good cooling performance as the C7).

  • 30 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks for the reply.

Yeah I've been lurking around the thread on [H]ardForum seeing what others are doing, the videos uploaded by Meccabolix are a great help but I just wanted another opinion.

I feel that this is the best cooler for this case (at least until Dan release's his) at the moment and have been trying to decide whether the extra cooling performance is worth the extra noise.

I thought about using the NHL9i but would like to run an i7700k @4.5Ghz in this case, would probably need to delid the i7 in order to keeps temps from reaching TJ Max in Prime 95 though.

Thanks again!

  • 30 months ago
  • 1 point

If I was going for a silent build then the NH-L9i would probably be fine at cooling my 65W i5 6500 and quieter. But the beige and brown really would have messed up my black and white theme ;)

But I reckon for an i7 the C7 is the go unless you're up for modding a larger cooler to try and get something quieter with comparable cooling to fit.

  • 29 months ago
  • 1 point

I want a DAN Case so bad... I have an email notification to let me know when they are available again. I believe it will be some time in July.

What are the thermals like?

I know you said it was pretty loud trying to keep them in check, and I see you're using a blower style card, which are usually less efficient at dissipating heat. I know the case is pretty limiting on what you can use for a CPU cooler (although I have seen AIO water-cooling done lol), so I was pretty concerned putting an expensive beefy chip in there if it's just going to thermal throttle.

I'm pretty sure overclocking is out of the picture, since the cooling solution just won't be able to handle the heat.

  • 29 months ago
  • 1 point

The i5 runs relatively cool with the C7 cooler - temps during a prime95 stress test maxing out at 74C with a 29C ambient (so 45C delta). I think cooling a higher wattage CPU in this case with this cooler would be pushing it though.

The blower style GTX 1070 gets hot though - during Unigine Heaven 87C max with at 29C ambient (so 58C delta) and the fan gets noisy as a result. But it doesn't throttle.

That said these are very similar results to what I was getting in the Tt F1 case that is about double the volume and has a 200mm intake fan.

I've seen reports from other A4-SFX builders using non-blower style GPU coolers that have better temps so if I was to build this again, I'd probably get an open style GPU cooler card. And there's plenty of folks using higher wattage CPUs in this case (e.g. i7 7700k's) but they are undervolting, delidding and modding larger cooling solutions to fit in the case to keep temps reasonable.

FYI - this doc list a bunch of thermal results from different builders in this case: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1aZfTysWc4dtJC33qkLCjLkhPnzVLtbCtjpxoZeT92ZA/edit#gid=547611973

  • 28 months ago
  • 1 point

Sweet dope af build dude!!! Can the dan case do AIO water cooling?? If not what small sfx case can??

  • 28 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks. The case isn't designed for water cooling, but this amazing build has an AIO: https://pcpartpicker.com/b/Q6XPxr

The NCASE M1 is the only small form factor case I'm aware of that is specifically designed for water cooled builds. Great looking case. I've never built in one through.

  • 28 months ago
  • 1 point

Hi, 1. The case, how much does it cost?. 2. What is the length of the custom cables?, I would like to do the same.

  • 27 months ago
  • 1 point

Just got in on the second kickstarter offering for one of these cases, pretty excited. Your cabling looks great and seems like it saves a lot of space. I'd love to do something similar, did you make/order them? how long did you need them?

  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

I made them myself - although it took so bloody long that I'm not sure I would recommend it. Here's a pinout diagram I made with the cable lengths (the cables on the 24 pin vary in length so that it twists better): https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1yQvwmUKvj8ld_DCGe0wSg8pBuVPXVNRCRLUIehmBHdY/edit?usp=sharing

I think a better option would be ordering through CableMod - apparently you can request custom lengths shorter than the minimum length by contacting their customer support after submitting your order. Might not get it quite as tidy, but much more straightforward!

  • 19 months ago
  • 2 points

Thanks for the info! I’ve never made cables so ill check out cablemod.

  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

Hey, does your ram hinder your gaming?

Cause I'm thinking about going for that ram.

  • 24 months ago
  • 1 point

Not at all. There are faster kits around, but I don't think it would make an appreciable difference in my build.

  • 13 months ago
  • 1 point

How did you build your own custom cables? Did you follow a a youtube video or a blog post? Sweet build!

  • 11 months ago
  • 1 point

How log was the custom cables?

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  • 30 months ago
  • 1 point

Both of you went there? Both of you! :)

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  • 30 months ago
  • 1 point

Both of you went there? Both of you! :)