Intro: So 18 months ago I replaced my previous ITX build with a 27" iMac 5K. Who the heck buys an iMac, right? Well, long story short, I had a utopian idea of getting an easy, powerful, all-in-one. I was sick of the disjointed and piecemeal nature of PCs. And Windows 10 was annoying me with its clunky Settings menu and half-baked touch/non-touch GUI.
Anyway, I got an iMac and suffered the consequences. MacOS is worse. And dual-boot into Windows 10 had its own incompatibility issues, especially related to video drivers, screen recording, and video editing.
So enough was enough. I dropped that steaming iTurd and bought another mini-ITX.
The Streacom DA2 had good reviews and you wouldn't say it's an ugly or chintzy case. One big selling point for me was front USB-C, which is hard to find on ITX cases. The DA2 is damn expensive though. It's a mid-to-large ITX enclosure, although slightly smaller than my previous Thermaltake Core V1 Snow (beautiful case). One of my images shows the DA2 next to a white keyboard for scale. The problem is if you go with too small a case, it just cannot handle the heat well from a GPU.
You know what's ********? The size of graphics cards. When will decent GPUs finally be as small as an M.2 SSD stick? If it weren't for the damn size of graphics cards, I wouldn't be making this post. I'd have an all-in-one PC built into a high-refresh-rate monitor and wouldn't be wasting my time taking photos of components :D
Motherboard/CPU/RAM: The Intel 9600K does not come with a heatsink, so I bought the Noctua NH-L9x65. I have no intention to overclock the CPU, so did not need a monstrous heatsink. The heatsink sits very close to the RAM, so you definitely don't want RAM that's any thicker than the Corsair Vengeance LPX... and even that RAM is quite thin as it is.
The ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming ITX motherboard has excellent specs, coming with 2x M.2 slots, USB-C, and Thunderbolt 3. Plus the usual back-of-the-box ******** about the board having some gold-plated shrapel they found lying around the warehouse one day.
It also has a set of customizable LEDs with different modes. I still have this enabled with a slow 'breathing' effect, but I may disable it later. The effect isn't bad though and it's unobtrusive when the case is sitting under the desk.
Storage: 2x M.2 SSDs: a 1TB Samsung 970 Evo Plus NVME for the operating system and apps, and a 1TB Samsung 860 Evo SATA for games and user files. You know, it doesn't matter how many terabytes you get, you will always eventually fill it up because it's THERE. I figure getting a smaller amount forces you to clean up old files more frequently and keep things somewhat more tidy. No more 2.5" drives, and I'm glad I made that decision because I would not want a 2.5" drive and extra cables obstructing the airflow.
GPU: The RTX 2060 Founders Edition is a damn good lookin' card. Honestly, I paused to admire it when opened the box. nVidia is having serious problems with its 2070 and 2080 cards, but I have not seen reports about the 2060 cards failing. The left fan on mine (closest to the display outputs) has a slight buzz when idle. I notice it when the room is quiet. This is a bummer since all my other fans are silent. But it is not enough to RMA the card, and someone else did mention they had the same issue on their 2060.
How is performance? Well at 1440p, I'm getting high 80s FPS average in Far Cry New Dawn with the high-res texture pack enabled, and almost all settings at the highest. It's a beautiful looking game.
Monitor: Dell S2719DGF 1440p, 155Hz, 27". Love it. It's classy, no lame LEDs or gaming brand ********, slim stand, pixel perfect, and Dell's reliable quality control. The color of the stand is a nice metallic blue which is very hard to pick up in photos and often looks grey. I was wary about the switch from my iMac 5K IPS to this TN screen. Yes, I have noticed it requires a stricter viewing angle than the IPS, but for me, the high refresh rate makes up for it.
Keyboard: This is the Ducky One 2, Skyline version. I thought I would point this out, since whoever added the keyboard to the PCPartPicker list didn't include the actual name of it.
Problems: Building this PC ended up more difficult than I anticipated...
Attaching the backing plate for the PSU: The DA2 case has a backing plate that you attach the PSU to, and then you attach the plate to rails that hang from the top of the case (see photo). The problem is that the backing plate had slightly misaligned screw holes when I was trying to attach the Corsair SF600 SFX. It caused one screw to be misthreaded. To resolve this I had to change from the recommended screws that came with the case, to the screws that came with the PSU. The slightly different screw design allowed me to secure the last screw better. It still wasn't perfect, but overall it's not an issue.
A couple DA2 users have also found another issue where the bezel for the PSU on/off switch (Corsair SF series) slightly interfered when attaching the backing plate. One person resolved this by using washers when attaching the plate, to give a slight gap between the PSU and the plate. I did not feel the need to do this for mine, but I could see how it would help.
Boot loop / resetting after 2 seconds: The PC seemed to go into a boot loop the first few times I powered it on. After much screwing around and totally rebuilding piece-by-piece, I think I found out the issue. I believe it was a motherboard vs RAM incompatibility. From what I've researched, the system was restarting so that the motherboard could try different settings to get itself working with the RAM. I upgraded the BIOS for good measure, and I have not had the issue since.
Unable to attach a DisplayPort cable to the GPU: The RTX Founders Edition cards have the display outputs very close to one edge of the card, rather than being in the center. Due to this and the fact that the case has a thick aluminum border around the PCI-E slots, a typical cable won't fit all the way in the port (see photos). I actually had to cut a portion of plastic off the DisplayPort cable in order to make it fit. I have ordered another cable with thinner plugs to replace it.
Graphics card heat: The GPU really heats this case up during load. I believe part of it is due to the RTX design. It blows heat out of the bottom of the card, which heats up the right side panel a lot. I suspect the thick aluminum side panel compounds the problem. The max GPU temp recorded is 82c (179F). When idle or general Windows usage, it's only about 31-35c. I have ordered a couple more fans and will see if I can cool the case down a bit. If I can edit this post, I will advise of the outcome.
Would I buy the DA2 case again?: At this stage, I don't think so. Especially for the price. During load, it seems to get hotter than it should for a slightly large ITX case. During idle it's no problem. Maybe I'm just expecting too much given the combination of the Founders Edition card and its fan blowing style, and my minimal case fans. Though I'm not convinced that a DAN A4 case or a Ghost S1 would do much better with the same components, given that those cases are even smaller.
I'm also a little disappointed with the side panel attachment. As you can see in photos, there's just some rubber on the corners to help the panels attach with friction, but the rubber doesn't cover the whole corner. The corner edge that's not rubberized slightly scrapes the case when you slot it in, so that function seems a bit unrefined.
The left side panel (where the GPU is) has a magnetic mesh dust filter. When my GPU cranked up the first time during a game and I felt the heatwave, I freaked out and removed the mesh filter. I haven't put it back since, as I suspect it blocks too much airflow.
The DA2 is still a nice looking case, and I tend to like the ability to attach components to the rails and move them around if necessary. I will continue tinkering a little with it to optimize my GPU temperature. I'm open to suggestions that don't involve watercooling or destructive methods.
Thanks for reading!