Geeek - A50 - Review/Buildlog/Mods

devinkato

Average Stuffer
Original poster
Oct 17, 2016
58
43
I've spent the past month or so building, tinkering, modding, and playing with the Geeek A50 case. I had the luxury/punishment of being at home on paternity leave, so I figured this would be a good project for me to take on. I wanted to put together a mix between a review, build log, and discussion starter post with the ultimate goal of helping the SFF community. I think that SFF should be the future of PC building. I hope that some of my build philosophies and choices make sense and would love to hear thoughts and opinions.

I’ll begin by discussing the A50 in the following sections:
1) A50 - out of the box impressions
2) My build/mods - what components I chose and why
3) Suggestions for improvements
4) Final thoughts - is this recommended?

Impressions:
For those that don’t know, the A50 is a “fast to market” case that comes in just under 10 liters. It retails for $69 without a riser, and $99 with. Instead of designing a traditional case that requires a factory to bend, press, or cut metal, Geeek uses off the shelf aluminum extrusions (common in the maker community) to build a skeleton for the case, and skins it with laser (or CNC?) cut acrylic panels. This reduces custom tooling time greatly and allows Geeek to bring cases to market very quickly and cheaply. Geeek then creatively uses simple off the shelf standoffs of different lengths to build out a very intelligent internal layout and design. All of these methods are reflected in their cases’ low cost and unique designs. It is much less risky for Geeek to design and build a case for a very niche community, as they do not have to recoup as large of R&D costs.

Not all is rosy in this case building approach. Durability definitely suffers. Aesthetically, acrylic is easily scratched and is obviously less durable than steel or aluminum. Handling or moving the case often will result in many fine noticeable scratches on the exterior. Structurally, Geeek chooses to thread the acrylic directly instead of using metal threaded inserts, resulting in stress points where metal screws are directly interfacing with acrylic threads. If one of these cases are taken apart often for upgrades or tinkering, these threads could definitely become stripped or worn.

My personal search brought me to the A50 as I was looking for a case that I could travel with to my parents’ house or vacation homes and could serve as a gaming computer. I did not want to compromise on performance from either the compute or gaming standpoint so I needed the case to be able to support a full sized graphics card and a powerful CPU (maybe even with some overclocking in the future). I liked the design of the DAN case and felt the layout was a great idea, but was worried about cooling and did not want to invest a large amount of money in a case that was destined for bumps and bruises with traveling. The A50 was good from a pricing perspective (I wouldn’t feel so bad about getting it scratched) and the simple paneled modular design provided some good possibilities to beef up durability as well as customize cooling solutions.

I ordered the A50 and was extremely impressed with how quickly it arrived at my doorstep in a very low profile box. Flat pack seems to be a much more efficient way of shipping a case. Of course, the case requires assembly, which has been documented on several build vlogs, but if someone is qualified to take on the challenge of building a SFF PC, they’ll be able to build this case with their eyes closed. Everything was clearly identifiable in the packaging and the most up-to-date instructions were available on their website. Screws and fasteners were included in a mini latchable parts box and all panels were protected by adhesive plastic. Well done.

The included feet are fairly nice looking and raise the case by a decent amount. They’re made of plastic and affix with very short self tapping screws. They could be a bit taller to give the bottom intake better flow, but they’re much better than stick on rubber feet that could have easily been substituted at this price point without raising suspicion.

The power button was of good quality and came pre-wired ready for installation. I believe the only option for the LED is blue, so if that doesn’t match your scheme, you’re out of luck.

My Build/Mods:

Personally, I took the time to identify which screws and standoffs were structural (screw in once and never remove them), and which ones were functional (stuff you need to remove to take the case apart for maintenance/upgrades). All structural fasteners were attached during assembly using red Loctite to prevent any sort of loosening in the future. Might have been a bit overkill on my part, but gives me good peace of mind.

Building the case went very smoothly with no surprises. I didn’t time myself, but it was probably less than an hour total excluding allowing the Loctite time to dry as I went along. I liked the stretch hex pattern used for the venting as the panels still felt very rigid. Overall a very simple looking and clean case.

I find that many PC building enthusiasts have “roots” in a certain goals for builds that drew them into building PCs. Some builders just wanted to have cool lighting, others want to play with water, some with monster SLI’ed systems. My personal area that drew me into PC building was building for complete silence as I slept in the same room as my PC for years while attending college. Shout out to SCPR where I really learned concepts that I’ve carried with my PC builds ever since. My personal goals of my A50 build were to optimize airflow as much as possible via 2 methods. The first was to optimize the flow path of bottom intake to top exhaust as much as possible. The second was to create cold air intake ducting for the hottest components of my PC (the CPU and GPU).

The A50 features a single 92mm fan intake at the bottom front of the case and 2 92mm fan exhausts at the top of the case. The bottom 92mm fan intake supports a standard 25mm thick fan. I chose a Noctua NF-B9 for this. I personally prefer to use Noctua fans not because they perform so much better than competitors, but because they tend to develop less noise over time. I’ve had countless Scythe, Corsair, Cooler Master, etc. fans start out extremely quiet, but a year later, develop buzzing or ticking. The top 2 92mm mounts only support thin fans. This basically forces you to pick up a pair of the pricey and questionably colored NF-A9x14s. With real estate being so tight in the case, I picked up some fan grills as well to avoid having to deal with wires hitting the fan blades. With the bottom intake fan being so close to the PSU wires, I’d HEAVILY recommend getting a grill for that fan at the minimum. I’ve seen reviewers try and bend the PSU wires out of the way, but I personally would rather be safe than sorry.


Installation of the bottom fan is fairly easy as you can simply unscrew the bottom panel, screw in the fan, then reattach the panel to the case skeleton. The top requires more planning, as the PSU mounts to the top panel. You’ll either have to install the fans first, or unscrew the PSU and let it “hang” in the case in order to take the top panel off. I took the time to rewire the fans to custom lengths and sleeve the cables as the stock Noctua sleeving is terrible, non-flexible, and ugly. I chose to go with grey because that’s what I had on hand.

With space at a premium and with most ITX boards featuring 2-3 fan headers, I opted to run all of my case fans to a single point/hub. I purchased a PWM fan splitter from Amazon, desoldered the input and ran some custom lengths of solid core wire to the motherboard before mounting it to the rear of the case with 3m mounting tape. Came out very clean. I’m super happy with this feature of my build.





I’ve noticed 2 main trends in terms of case airflow in the past few years. The first is to to say “screw airflow, this needs to look cool” and create flat paneled (usually tempered glass) cases with terrible performance. The second has been around a bit longer and is more of “screw airflow, just make everything open.” If I had to choose between the two, I’d choose the latter for sure. The A50 is in the second camp, which is a camp that definitely makes more sense. Without knowing the exact placement or type of components, it’s very difficult to create a clear path for fresh air for specific components like the CPU/GPU.

The third, more difficult option is fresh air ducting. Ducting intakes or exhausts is the absolute best way to avoid heat saturating a case and is fantastic for thermal performance. Unfortunately this isn’t really practical for a case manufacturer to do since there areso many different fitting components on the market. However, in SFF building, I’m noticing many case designers “prescribe” specific components for use in their cases since they’re so customized. I’m hoping that we start seeing case manufacturers start utilizing ducting in some ways (even as optional parts), in the future. Perhaps they could make ducted side panels available for specific recommended components.

Back to the A50 - In my silent computing past, I’ve created ducts using molded plastic, mini HVAC parts, and even foamcore board. There are 2 huge benefits of the A50 that made me excited in this regard. Firstly, the A50 is small. No matter what I chose for the GPU or CPU, I would be mere millimeters from the sides of the case, making ducting extremely simple. Secondly, the panels of the A50 are simple sheets of acrylic. I could easily cut my own panels to custom fit the components that I chose.

For the CPU, I set out to find the tallest cooler that would fit, as I wanted the fan to get as close to the side panel as possible. Geeek listed clearance as 66mm for the CPU cooler. The obvious choice was the Noctua L9 which comes in at just 65mm (perfect). I almost pulled the trigger for that cooler, but kept poking around. I came across the Reeven Steropes (name needs some major help) which actually had a 120mm fan and a height of 60mm. The cooler looked very promising, but the fan looked to be a weak point being only 12mm thick and looking pretty cheap. With the extra 5mm of clearance, I figured I could toss the 12mm Reeven fan and replace it with a Noctua 15mm fan, bringing the overall cooler height to 63mm, only 3mm away from the side panel.

Having never heard of Reeven before, I had no idea what to expect in terms of build quality. Upon receipt, I was surprised that my box had a shipping address of Scythe (hmm…). Does Scythe manufacture Reeven’s coolers? The plot further thickened as I was greeted by an instruction manual and hardware that was very Scythe-esque. No idea… Nonetheless, build quality of the heatsink was very good and installation was easy. One thing to call out is that the A50 GPU riser bracket needs to be removed if you want to install the heatsink with the motherboard in the case. Doing so gives full access to the back of the motherboard , making it very easy to swap CPU coolers of any size or mounting style.

The Reeven cooler’s clip mechanism is designed for a 12mm fan and would not work with the 15mm thick Noctua fan. I busted out my trusty Dremel and cut 3-4 mm channels in the Noctua for the clip to sit within. Fitment was easy after this point. I was very happy with the fit of the Reeven cooler in the A50. I don’t think there is another cooler that fits as well and provides as much cooling surface area. I am extremely happy with finding this cooler for my build. Not sure why it’s not talked about more.



For the CPU, I chose the new Intel i5 9400F. Mainly because it was the a cheap 6 core Intel and boosts up to 4.1ghz which I figured would be fine for most use. I skipped the K chip since I wanted to keep the TDP low as I wasn’t sure how effective cooling would be. Looking back, I should have splurged and gotten an unlocked chip as my cooling was much better than I anticipated. I picked up the Asrock Phantom ITX Z390 board since it had the best VRMs and had a good layout for CPU heatsink placement without interfering with RAM or the PCIE slot.

GPU choice was much less thoughtful. I have a Founder’s Edition GTX 1080 that was going into this build. I don’t necessarily have a preference for a blower design or a traditional design. The blower is definitely louder, but can be of benefit in cases with limited overall airflow since the exhaust is dumped out of the case. I feel that the 2 92mm exhaust fans in the A50 could deal decently with a traditional cooled GPU (I didn’t try it though). Unlike the CPU side, I wasn’t able to choose components that would get the GPU fan closer to the side panel, so I determined I’d need to fabricate a short duct between the side panel and blower intake.

After digesting all of this, I set out to design new side panels for the A50 to allow for fresh air intake. My goal was to reduce the “leaky-ness” of the stock panels and give the GPU and CPU direct and isolated access to outside air. The stock panels have ok ventilation and should work okay with a variety of components, but custom ducted panels should perform even better when designed for specific ones. A few measurements and designs later, I came up with a vector file that I sent over to Ponoko for cutting.


Another hobby of mine is woodworking and building speakers, so I figured that wood side panels might be cool. Based on the materials that Ponoko had, I landed on quarter inch MDF with walnut veneer. This is approximately 2x the thickness of the stock A50 panels which would add ~ a quarter inch to the overall width of the case, not a bad increase in size in exchange for a bit more rigidity. The stock screws are 8mm long, I went ahead and ordered 12mm long screws along with washers from Amazon. I also designed a middle screw mounting point for each side to more securely attach the side panels to the case skeleton. This added a even more strength.

It’s always exciting to have something you design on a computer come to life in a material you can touch and hold, so I was delighted when Ponoko’s shipment made it to my door after about a week of placing my order online. Everything looked as I designed. The walnut veneer comes pretty raw with no sealer.


I decided on using spray lacquer to treat the veneer mainly because it is one of the easiest finishes to apply or reapply if the case ends up getting too scratched to bear. I built up a base of gloss lacquer with 4 coats before wet sanding the raised grain with 600 grit paper. After it was smoothed out, I shot 1 more coat of gloss lacquer and then finished with a satin coat. In the past, I’ve learned that it is better to build with coats of clear and finish with matte since matte coatings are basically clear with impurities. If you spend time building layers of matte, it can come out uneven and cloudy since all the impurities are stacked on each other 3. Pro tip!


Along with the side panels, I had a few rings lasered which I then glued together to make the GPU duct.



I also had a bit of extra space on the material and included a side panel with the Geeek hex vent pattern. My vertical vent design has a bit more airflow and matches the GPU side, so I’ll just keep the extra hex panel for fun (if someone wants it let me know). Overall, I was very happy with Ponoko’s service and $20 off coupon for first time customers. If I ever get a new GPU, I can simply design a new panel and have Ponoko cut a new one. Super cool, probably the neatest part of the build.

As I’m sure everyone knows, cabling in a SFF case is always the most challenging aspect of the build. In addition to the case fan wires, I shortened and sleeved the CPU fan wire for a hidden run to the mobo header.

I then did full custom cables from the PSU to mobo and GPU. I didn’t bother sleeving them since its a ton of work and adds extra bulk. For the 24pin connector, I did a bit of a split/overlap of the wire lengths to ensure that they’d exit the PSU at as close to 90 degrees as possible. Makes it look a little messy, but very functional.



I then shortened the power button lead and got a switch that was “led-less” to further minimize the wires needed to be run. My motherboard has a RGB power led, so I can see a bit of a glow through the top vents, letting me know the system is running.


The power cable that runs from the rear of the case to the PSU is about 4 inches too long for a perfect run, so I shortened it, crimped spade connectors onto the wires, then installed a standard IEC plug in the back.

I also want to call attention to that the USB 3.0 cable was impossible to run without causing undue stress on my motherboard plug and the front panel. There simply isn’t enough room up front with the 92mm fan and PSU cables. The shielding is just too thick on the cable, so I quickly gave up on installation of the front ports and left them empty. I don’t fully blame the A50 for this. Pretty much all USB 3.0 internal cables are ridiculously thick and unforgiving. If having front panel USB is important, you might want to look elsewhere.

The stock feet utilize self tapping screws to affix themselves. I knew immediately that this would be a problem as the screws were very short with coarse threads. Of course, when installing the feet and tightening them to be level, the acrylic was stripped out on one of the holes. I drilled out the acrylic and heat-pressed brass inserts into the plastic. These are durable and will be a much better option than the stock method.




All the hard work paid off, the system runs extremely quietly and with excellent temperatures. Since the CPU and GPU are getting 100% fresh air, I’m seeing full load temps of 55 and 65 respectively. I use Furmark and Prime95 for testing and saw absolutely no throttling whatsoever. The CPU remained very quiet under load, while the GPU blower fan did what blower fans do, and was pretty loud under load. Thankfully I’m a headset gamer, so it doesn’t bother me. I could have definitely gotten an unlocked CPU, delidded, and overclocked to at least 4.6ghz without issue. I definitely underestimated the effectiveness of the CPU cooling and am kicking myself a little bit for not splurging on the unlocked i5. Live and learn.




(sorry I'm missing 2 screws on the GPU side - dumb T-nuts are in the mail)

Improvements
Better panels - I really like the “skinning” of a frame idea. I think it is an excellent way to get product into enthusiast's hands quickly and with lower cost. I simply don’t think acrylic is the best material for the job. It scratches easily, does not do well with threading, and can chip/crack if stressed. Introducing options for powercoated aluminum panels or more durable ABS could be a nice option. At least put in threaded inserts where needed. As is - the acrylic panels give it a “temporary project case” feel, not something that I’d leave a system in for years. I’ve gone ahead and taken all measurements of the panels and may be replacing them with more durable material in the future. I personally observed some spider cracking on the rear panel, leading me to replace the screws with button head screws and washers to help distribute the force. I also mentioned above that I stripped out one of the feet mounting points.

Drilling and tapping extrusions instead of nuts - I don’t like the T-nuts used to affix the panels. Period. Yes, they do the job, but they’re annoying. Especially if you need to open the case often. Geeek could tap the skeleton of the case to accept threaded screws, negating the need for these T-nuts (would make assembly a little more complicated). Or provide a long runner that slides into the extrusion and provides tapped mounting points. Anything would be better than the current option.

Increase height for normal 92mm fans - I know the goal of SFF is to be small, but I would really like to see the case be raised just a few millimeters to allow for standard thickness 92mm fans at the top. With the Noctua slim fans as the only current option, we’re forced to look at the beige color scheme through the top grill. Builders are also left without a budget fan option. I’m imagining lots of builders would simply forgo the top fans, which is one of the case’s strengths from a airflow perspective.

Modify PSU placement - The PSU is set pretty deeply into the case, down and away from the top panel. This leaves very little room underneath for the 92mm fan and PSU cables. It is nice to be able to access the PSU on/off switch in the gap above, but I think it would be a better design to bring the PSU as high as possible in the case. This would make for much more room underneath, allowing for better use of stock cables (not everyone wants to make custom cables), or even the possibility of a 92mm AIO. Again, the stock configuration and limited space may discourage builders from using the 92mm intake, which would be a mistake.

USB 3.0 ports - dump em/maybe replace with audio jack - I hate USB 3.0 internal cables. Why are they so thick? I’d recommend that Geeek simply removes the USB 3.0 sockets and saves some money. Another solution could be implementing 3.5mm headphone/mic jacks in the front instead. Yet another solution would be to utilize side mount USB ports for better cable management and a low profile mobo plug (rare).

IEC plug placement - The rear panel has an awkward mounting point for the IEC plug, placing the plug housing over the corner panel screw. Either move the IEC plug up, or have it line up with the corner screw mount for a single screw point. Nitpicking, but it’s kinda funky.


Conclusion
That’s about it, hopefully it was helpful. Would I recommend this case? For most people, I’d say no. It simply doesn’t feel like a production ready case. It’s much more of a project case due to the questionable durability, fit and fitment, and material selection. However, if you’re looking for a case that is cheap, or are willing to look at it as a blank canvas for your own mods, I’d wholeheartedly recommend it. Cooling performance is excellent in it and it is extremely easy to mod due to the modular construction. I don’t regret picking up the case (until I saw the the new Sliger cases (@KSliger - they’re looking awesome)), as this was a very fun project that has very real performance to back it up. Let me know your thoughts and questions!
 
Last edited:

Weredawg

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Apr 5, 2017
119
162
This is awesome and looks amazing! I've been sketching out a solid wood case from scratch for a while but wondered if buying a case and replacing the panels would be better. I even looked at the Geeek cases with that in mind. Glad someone finally did it. How much did Ponoko charge? I never heard of them but they seem like a great option.
 

princess_daphie

Average Stuffer
Jan 26, 2019
84
43
one word: WOW!

love the geeek cases and their layouts and simplicity! i have an A30 and i love it. i wish i was as skilled at modding, but i still managed to make custom cables i love. i still have some potential work to do though :) your build is perfect! kudos!
 
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devinkato

Average Stuffer
Original poster
Oct 17, 2016
58
43
This is awesome and looks amazing! I've been sketching out a solid wood case from scratch for a while but wondered if buying a case and replacing the panels would be better. I even looked at the Geeek cases with that in mind. Glad someone finally did it. How much did Ponoko charge? I never heard of them but they seem like a great option.

Ponoko has a 20 dollar off coupon for new users. Using that coupon and getting 3 panels cut on their largest piece of material, it cost ~ 55 shipped. Acrylic was very similar in price as well. You could probably fit 2 side panels, the front panel, and maybe the top panel on one of their largest pieces of material. I'd bet it would be ~ 65 bucks.

This case seems like it would be perfect for your use. Wood cases need some sort of internal skeleton for the components to mount to, which is exactly what this case provides. You could go even a step further and connect the top and front panel together and round the edge over, would look better (and fit better) than treating it as 2 separate panels.
 
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Weredawg

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Apr 5, 2017
119
162
Ponoko has a 20 dollar off coupon for new users. Using that coupon and getting 3 panels cut on their largest piece of material, it cost ~ 55 shipped. Acrylic was very similar in price as well. You could probably fit 2 side panels, the front panel, and maybe the top panel on one of their largest pieces of material. I'd bet it would be ~ 65 bucks.

This case seems like it would be perfect for your use. Wood cases need some sort of internal skeleton for the components to mount to, which is exactly what this case provides. You could go even a step further and connect the top and front panel together and round the edge over, would look better (and fit better) than treating it as 2 separate panels.

Those are some really reasonable prices. I thought about it some more and I'm gonna go with an SG05, strip its panels, and build wood ones around that frame. I think that'll be the cheapest and easiest route. Going to rotate the case so that the GPU faces the bottom and I'm going to add feet to give it breathing room.
 

devinkato

Average Stuffer
Original poster
Oct 17, 2016
58
43
Those are some really reasonable prices. I thought about it some more and I'm gonna go with an SG05, strip its panels, and build wood ones around that frame. I think that'll be the cheapest and easiest route. Going to rotate the case so that the GPU faces the bottom and I'm going to add feet to give it breathing room.

Not the way I'd go, it'll be hard to mate up the wood panels at the joints unless you have some woodworking experience, but I applaud your ambition! Good luck and keep us updated!
 
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Weredawg

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Apr 5, 2017
119
162
Not the way I'd go, it'll be hard to mate up the wood panels at the joints unless you have some woodworking experience, but I applaud your ambition! Good luck and keep us updated!

Thanks! The panels won't be attached directly to the frame. It'll be a wooden box that the internals can slide in and out of. My father in law is a woodworker and will be helping build it. I'll definitely post it here when it's done
 

punksinatra

Cable Smoosher
Dec 13, 2017
9
0
@devinkato hi was wondering if you had any issues with the psu bracket with your PSU? did you have to mod it or mounted it in reverse? reason I ask is the bracket is hitting the power switch near the power connector when I am trying to mount it
 

devinkato

Average Stuffer
Original poster
Oct 17, 2016
58
43
@devinkato hi was wondering if you had any issues with the psu bracket with your PSU? did you have to mod it or mounted it in reverse? reason I ask is the bracket is hitting the power switch near the power connector when I am trying to mount it
Nope no issues. What psu are you using?
 
D

Deleted member 14114

Guest
Very nice mod. I think this case has to be modded a little bit.
Do you think there is a chance to install 1x 3,5" HDD in this case?