Completed Circle Pro - Solid Alu CNCed mini-itx case - 240mm liquid cooling

Necere

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Feb 22, 2015
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Hmm, fair point. I could swap the AC-DC with the DC-ATX on the other side perhaps. I was a little worried about minimum ATX cable lengths and whether they'd be a little cramped on the other side anyway.

In your experience, do you think HDPlex is the way to go?
Ideally you want to keep both components away from a major heat source like the GPU. Both are passive and rely on system cooling, and if they aren't kept cool enough, they'll hit their thermal limit and shut down.

As far as whether I think separate DC-DC/AC-DC is the way to go, my major issue with it is a lack of standardization. Because there's no standard form factor, you have to design the case for one or two different solutions, which in turn means you're reliant on one or two different vendors. If something happens to that company or product, where does that leave your case? Also, those specific products may have limited availability, and be entirely unavailable in some countries. So I think it's problematic to rely on proprietary solutions, especially in the long term.
 
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CircleTect

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So I think it's problematic to rely on proprietary solutions, especially in the long term.

Fair enough, will definitely consider this. I originally had an SFX-L in this design, but had to sacrifice it for full length reference GPU support. There is definitely the choice to restrict the GPU to mini-itx length for a standardised PSU. Decisions, decisions!

What's more important to people, reference length gpu support, or standardised PSU?
 

Necere

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Feb 22, 2015
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What's more important to people, reference length gpu support, or standardised PSU?
The thing about asking people what they want is that they aren't thinking about your long term business interests. "Standard PSU support" vs. "full length GPU" - obviously the second one is going to sound more exciting to a lot of people. Especially on forums like this one, which is mostly enthusiasts. That's your initial market, of course, but if you want to reach a broader market you also have to think in the longer term about the needs of less experienced users. For that group, even asking them to adopt something like SFX can get some resistance.
 

CircleTect

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The thing about asking people what they want is that they aren't thinking about your long term business interests.

I guess having gone through the gauntlet of starting and running a successful business in this field, you appreciate things like standardisation way more than someone like me who doesn't yet have to think about supply chain management :)

I'm not really sure what market I will end up serving yet, but I do know I won't be serving anyone until I make something useful that serves people's needs. I'm still in the validation process of working out what those needs are, hence the questions. I'm definitely taking the standardisation point seriously though.

How is NCASE addressing that resistance you mentioned from the less experienced users? Have you guys faced challenges transitioning from the enthusiast market to the more general PC case market?
 
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Necere

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How is NCASE addressing that resistance you mentioned from the less experienced users? Have you guys faced challenges transitioning from the enthusiast market to the more general PC case market?
From what I've seen it's mostly people that want to be able to just get a new motherboard and move the rest of their existing system into a new SFF case who would rather not have to buy a new PSU on top of it. The bigger issue is novice builders not doing their research and treating an SFF build like they would a regular full size ATX build. Probably two or three times a week I see people post their planned builds on reddit or elsewhere, and they've got one or more parts that obviously (to me) aren't going to fit in the case.

Build research is practically mandatory for SFF - much more so than full size systems - so to some extent it's unavoidable that an SFF case will be less novice-friendly in comparison. As a designer, there are ways you can mitigate some of that extra burden on the user: limit options to a few simple choices, document things well, and in general try to reduce complexity. The M1, for example, has a ton of flexibility built in, but that does come at a cost of being much less clear about what the options and trade offs actually are. It's very much a case for advanced users, who are willing to take the time to research and plan their build properly. Do it well and it can be very rewarding, but the other side of the coin is that it will punish you if you don't. So basically you need to decide how much you want to appeal to the enthusiasts - thereby limiting your potential market - or "dumb it down" for a wider audience. It's a lot of small and not so easy decisions to make during the design process.
 
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CircleTect

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I'd say go for ITX gpus with a standard SFX(-L) PSU. Makes it easier for new people to get into sff :)

This was my initial instinct too :)

So basically you need to decide how much you want to appeal to the enthusiasts, thereby limiting your potential market, or "dumb it down" for a wider audience.

My immediate question is then: how important is it to serve the needs of the enthusiast market to get a project like this off the ground? It seems that all the successful projects here have almost single mindedly served enthusiasts first. The M1 serves enthusiasts by being very flexible, making it a favourite for modders and advanced system builders. Would it have been as popular if it had been limited to using a mini-itx GPU?

By the way, thanks for the detailed and thoughtful feedback Necere, it's super appreciated and helps a lot.
 
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Necere

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My immediate question is then: how important is it to serve the needs of the enthusiast market to get a project like this off the ground? It seems that all the successful projects here have almost single mindedly served enthusiasts first. The M1 serves enthusiasts by being very flexible, making it a favourite for modders and advanced system builders. Would it have been as popular if it had been limited to using a mini-itx GPU?
The M1 would almost certainly not have been as successful had it not offered the flexibility and enthusiast features that it does. And for a first project, I think it does make a lot of sense to try to appeal to the much smaller enthusiast market. Particularly since you likely won't be able to compete price wise with mass market cases, anyway, so by virtue of that fact alone you'll be limited to a much narrower audience. Enthusiasts are generally less price-sensitive, or at least willing to spend more on their hobby.

So yeah - go all out, and build that exclusive halo product. Just be mindful of decisions that could affect the long term viability (which is where using standard components comes in).
 

Phuncz

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May 9, 2015
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I witnessed (as a customer but also a user trying to convince other users) the issues Necere said with the development of the Ncase M1. There was a seemingly even split among people wanting to use an ATX PSU and people ready to purchase an SFX PSU. Back then, a handfull of Silverstone 300W and 450W SFX PSUs were your options.

Even though it seems redundant to have ATX support now, SFX was very tiny in market share then and could have basically tanked there and then. It would have been good if in that scenario, ATX was still an option to fall back on.

I have no doubt that HDPlex and G-Unique will sell quite some PSUs before the year is over, but as Necere said the current lack of a single form factor does make it difficult for case designers (be it here or on the mass-production scale) to depend on these. What's the next size or shape going to be ? Where will the headers be located ? I'd like to see these transition into mounting brackets that fit an SFX PSU's mounting points, which would also allow it to easily be used in ATX-sized mounts with an ATX-to-SFX bracket. Maybe if TFX or FlexATX becomes a thing, that could be another standard mounting they could be developed towards.
 

cadiguno

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Oct 18, 2016
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I think for now designing for SFX/L is a better option. SFF is making progress into the mainstream, but most people aren't ready yet to make the jump to HDPlex / G-Unique, especially without mainstream reliable brands coming into play. SFX has Silverstone, Corsair, FSP, etc, and I think it's a good spot to be.

The niche enthusiasts market is always there (that's why there are PCs so small like the CustomMod Nano), but as Necere said it's hard to make it feasible for real businesses.
 

jmsantos1983

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May 12, 2017
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Wow. It looks beautiful. Now that a case that can't be ignored. Its beautiful.
If you going with a case that has water cooling, I guess that it water cooling for me(without the water cooling would make it smaller or can it go on top outside of the case? and Noctua made slim fans http://noctua.at/en/products/fan/nf-a12x15-pwm so could use it for the water cooling.)
Also, have you looked at the G-Unique PSU? https://smallformfactor.net/forum/t...bto-psus-are-now-available-direct-order.1983/
He is making his own case with a alternative AC-DC. It would be a great idea and a good risk to talk to him about what he is doing. This will really give your case an advantage. A simple detailed tutorial and options will make it easier for everyone to plan the parts for the case regarding the PSU.
If going with integrating a Meanwell for more options that could be great.
Also, don't be shy about making the case extremely compact. You only put it together one time.
I want your case to shine and as it is right now is shining. Easy on the eye, compact and cool. Great work!!!
How much you selling it? I want it in black.
 

CircleTect

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About the water cooler, is it for the slim version?
I'm using the Silverstone TD02-LITE, which as far as I'm aware is pretty standard. The reason I chose this cooler, apart from the no frills, low key looks, is that the pipes can be tilted on the CPU block. This might be important with the clearance between the CPU block and the front panel. Other coolers, like the new Corsair series might have an issue with the rigid pipes hitting the panel.
 
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CircleTect

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Any idea on when will the case be completed and how much?
Honestly it will take a while. My last case took three months from starting the project to the first prototype. I would estimate at the very least double that before something will be ready to sell. I wouldn't wait if you're wanting to buy something now :)

As for the price, my goal is to make the highest build quality case on the market. To do that I'm using premium materials and manufacturing processes, so this will definitely be one of the most expensive cases. I won't be able to give you a ballpark figure until I'm at least a few months into the project, but I'll keep you updated.
 
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iFreilicht

FlexATX Authority
Feb 28, 2015
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Honestly it will take a while. My last case took three months from starting the project to the first prototype.

That's pretty damn good, though. Most manufacturers I've talked to have a lead time of a month, especially for one-offs, so doing all the work from first concept over revisions to technical drawings for production is a lot in two months.
 

CircleTect

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That's pretty damn good, though. Most manufacturers I've talked to have a lead time of a month, especially for one-offs, so doing all the work from first concept over revisions to technical drawings for production is a lot in two months.

Thanks! My first case was a fairly simple design though. This one has a few more complex details so will definitely take longer, especially as I'm not working full time on it.

Regarding the water cooling part, any idea on a slim radiator made out of copper? Slim like less then 25mm?

None that I am familiar with. I'm designing the case to fit a standard width radiator, why are you interested in finding a slim one?
 
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