I've been building PCs for almost 20 years, both bad ones and good ones. This time I had to settle for a SFF-build since my workspace at home got cramped (small corner with a table). So small footprint was important when choosing the case, among other things. I also wanted a challenge, not just to copy one of 100 similar M1-builds out there. I like to thinker and mod things, so if I had to mod a case, then so be it.
So basically my criteria was:
- Small footprint (width & depth but should fit a full size GPU)
- Glass side panel (tempered & tinted)
- Ability to top-mount an AIO (suddenly got a hold of 8700K for a very good price, and decided to use an AIO on it)
Now, there are not many SFF cases out there that would cover all these "demands". I looked at the "Cerberus" and the "Sunmilo BG2" as the closest contenders, but did not like how the AIO fans would push the hot air towards the GPU fans. Plus a price of 360 USD + customs for Cerberus was a turnoff, and Sunmilo is kinda hard to order. "Ophion EVO" got released not that long ago, but the footprint was ~18cm and had glass panels on both sides by default. I guess the "ideal" case would be the upcoming "Geeek A60" but it's not released yet and no specs to be found.
I landed on the "NCASE M1" with the plan to mod it. I love the layout, great quality, it was easy to acquire and the price was bearable. Plus it would be interesting to create an M1 build that would fit an AIO with a glass side panel.
You could say that this build is a tribute to my ideal case, how I imagine my ideal SFF case to be. Basically an NCASE tall enough to fit an AIO :)
Taller aluminum case feet: Stackable 40x10mm amplifier feet from aliexpress. Bought 2 packs of 4 and stacked them to get good clearance for the GPU airflow.
Custom sleeved PSU cables: Got custom-length, 3-colored, sleeved PSU cables. Ordered on Etsy from a china-seller. Good price (35$) and quality, very happy with the purchase.
Tinted, tempered glass side panel: Based on the mod from OptimumTech. I also painted a "frame" along the edges to hide the imperfections from the double sided tape. The glass is a bit on the heavy side, only found 4mm thick glass that was pre-tinted.
3D-printed TopHat: I designed myself a 3D printable TopHat for the Ncase M1, that can be found on here. The large model (58mm) can house a 240mm AIO. I also created two other sizes (small & medium) in case someone wanted just to use fans at the top to improve airflow.
Asus Strix GTX 1080 Ti shroud: Removed the stock shroud and fans. Using two Noctua AF12-25 at the bottom to exhaust air out of the case. Both fans connect to the GPUs own two PWM headers.
Now just to be clear, I'm no a fan of the RGB-vomit, but I do like decent ambient light to showcase your hard work. The current photos don't do justice, never used LED/RGB before so I'm still fine-tuning everything. Also the RGB fans of the AIO will be replaced with two Noctuas.
Decided to print my TopHat with a "transparent/translucent" filament. I found this to be the best look for the Silver Ncase, perhaps a Black Ncase would mesh better with a black filament. But this way I could add some LED-stripes on the inside and make the TopHat "glow" as the translucent filament would diffuse the light in some way. Very happy with the result. Photos don't show the real deal, but the tophat has this mellow "water-flow" effect. :)
The motherboard is the ASUS Strix Z390-I, it had a good price at the time of purchase and a massive metal heatsink for the VRM. Just wanted the latest itx mobo so went with this one as my GPU is also ASUS and the color scheme goes well with my AIO pump tower. For the CPU I went for the Intel Core i7-8700K, I got it brand new for half the price, so it was a no brainer. And to cool it off I went with the DeepCool GamerStorm Castle 240 AIO. I liked the infinity-mirror look on the pump and the DeepCool AIOs are known to have shorter tubes than other AIOs. I will probably replace the included RGB fans to Noctua AF12-25 as the stock ones are loud at high load. The RAM is 2x8GB TridentZ from G.Skill, got these as well for half the price and they go nicely with the RGB AIO.
My original GPU for this build was a Gigabyte 1080 G1 Gaming, but I recently sold it for a good price and got a ASUS ROG Strix GTX 1080Ti for almost the same amount :) yeah, believe it (around 400$). I accompany it with two Noctua AF12-25 under to exhaust air (removed stock fans).
For storage I use a single Samsung EVO 970 512GB M.2, and if I want to expand, I have another M.2 slot on the back of the motherboard. Aside from this I also mounted a single Noctua NF-B9-redux fan as intake.
I was a bit worried when starting the build, there were a lot of unknowns here. I ordered a just-released ITX motherboard and AIO cooler, few reviews to be found and not to mention the compatibility between them was unknown. When I received the AIO I took a look at the instructions, and it only mentions EATX & ATX mounting, no mention of mATX or ITX. But I made it fit without many issues, just had to turn the pump-tubes away from the RAM and make sure the tubes where guided in a decent direction.
I also had no idea if my stunt with a 3d-printed tophat would even work. I did a fair amount of (small) test-prints to get each part to be compatible with the case, but had no clue that the final (large 58mm) print would work out. I'm glad it did :)
Building inside the case was fine for a SFF. I struggled a bit with the Strix 1080Ti even without the shroud and fans, because I mounted the Noctuas first. But after aligning and tilting the card just right, I got it to slide in the PCI port. The rest of the components went in easily, but the worst/hardest part was cable management. I used PWM splitters and extensions for fans and all rgb-connections. The result? A lot of cables. So I managed to cram them in under the front panel. I placed the front HDAudio and USB header-cables behind the bottom fans under the GPU. Must say I am very happy with the result as the build is very clean cable wise.
Fan configuration, airflow & temps
I decided currently on the following fan configuration, yet to decide if it is the best. There is one issue here and that is when the PC is under heavy GPU-load, the hot air from the bottom rises, and the 92mm intake fan draws some of it back inn.
- Top 2x120mm AIO-fans: Exhaust
- Rear 92mm fan: Intake
- Bottom 2x120mm fans: Exhaust
Temps at idle:
- CPU: 33 C
- Mobo: 35 C
- GPU: 37 C
Temps at high load (aida64 & Valley Bench):
- CPU: 64 C
- Mobo: 45 C
- GPU: 72 C
Temps at gaming (Battlefield V - 3440x1440 @100Hz - Ultra settings):
- CPU: 52 C
- Mobo: 50 C
- GPU: 65 C
Not bad at all! At idle the system is whisper quiet, don't hear a ting, and this thing sits above my head. As soon at the cpu or gpu get higher load, the fans kick in and you start to notice them. But mostly the stock AIO fans, plan to replace those in the future.
Don't know if there is more I could do to improve temps when it comes to fan config. Feel like this is the proper layout when having the AiO at the top. Could make the GPU as intake and rear 92mm as exhaust, but the then hot air from the GPU would rise and AIO would use very hot air to cool itself.
One thing I'm also thinking of doing in the future is to replace the stock GPU heatsink with the Arctic Accelero Xtreme III cooler, just without the fans, going to keep the Noctuas.