Log mATX SFF research + prep work (Mesh-mATX)

hrh_ginsterbusch

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+1 for the Mortar literally just because it looks cool lol.
I'm going to order a (DDR4) 16 GB kit for my current system soonish, and test with that if 32 GB is enough for my purposes. If so, then I just gonna stick with the Mortar. My current mainboard also is an MSI (B550), and aside of the Bios UI, I havent had any issues with any kind of MSI boards so far.

cu, w0lf.
 

hrh_ginsterbusch

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Re: Silent Loop 2 - I contacted the be quiet! support and asked them about the z690 board issues. Their reply reads a bit boiler plate / copy + paste:

In unserem Mainboardcheck sind lediglich nur Luftkühler angegeben.

Allerdings sollte die Wasserkühlung und deren Schläuche keine Probleme mit den RAM Bänken machen.



Alternativ könnten Sie auch den Pumpenkopf um 90 Grad auf dem Sockel montieren.

Mit dieser Montage würden dann die Schläuche nach oben oder unten zeigen.

roughly translates to:

"We only have air coolers assigned to our mainboardcheck.
But the water cooling and its hoses should lead to no issues with the RAM banks.

Alternatively you may set up the pump head turned by 90° onto the socket.
With this kind of montage the hoses would point to the top or bottom."

TL;DR: Try it yourself. YMMV.

Meh. I was hoping for a less generic reply, eg. if the M.2 cover might (or might not) interfere with the fittings on the pump head, etc.
Guess its a good thing there is a 14 days return option guaranteed by law in Germany (Fernabsatzgesetz).

cu, w0lf.
 

hrh_ginsterbusch

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Insane sunday morning ideas: Set mainboard tray into the "4 slot GPU position", use a 3x 80 radiator (with 60 mm depth, ie. the Alphacool NexXxoS UT60 ..), turn it by 90° towards the "radiator" side - et voila: we're now able to use one part of the radiator mounts of the Meshlicious again :D

Probably needs some adapter plates, but could work. Would leave plenty of room for a pump + reservoir combo, no spacing issues with the PSU, and might even have space left to add an additional 120 mm radiator, eg. if I wanted to cool the GPU at some point.

cu, w0lf.
 

hrh_ginsterbusch

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+1 for the Mortar literally just because it looks cool lol.
Just checked the DDR5 prices in Germany; they have lowered to a level where it's actually okayish to even go for 64 GB.
Did a quick check with 32 GB + the Mortar, and the price for my purchase list is nearly identical (ie. roughly 1200 Euro incl. shipping costs, obv. without GPU).

And the Arctic Liquid Freezer II seems to have no issues with the board either.

cu, w0lf.
 

hrh_ginsterbusch

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A variation to this which I've been testing out with cardboard dummies: If I wanted to go with the more classic GPU + Radiator setup, and still stick to my approach of "all extension slots stay usable", something like the Silverstone FX600 (FlexATX) or the Silverstone TX700 would be the best choice to use. Although I could even use them with the original plan, ie. PSU + Radiator, and Mainboard / CPU + GPU.

Wattage examples (calculated using PCPartPicker.com, 12700k + 32 GB RAM etc.):
- RTX 3060 (Asus GeForce Dual, 200 mm) - 460 W
- RTX 3060 Ti LHR (Asus GeForce RTX 3060 Ti LHR 8 GB DUAL MINI, 200 mm) - 490 W
- PNY RTX A4000 - 430 W
- RTX 3070 (Nvidia Founders Edition, 242 mm) - 510 W
- RTX 3080 12 GB LHR - 640 W

Only disadvantage to the GPU + Radiator version would be that I'd have to resort to a custom loop, with a thick 240 mm radiator (at least 45 mm depth).

Example custom loop setups:

a) Radiators:
- XSPC RX240 V3 (56 mm), Raijintek Calore C240D (65 mm), Alphacool NexXxoS UT60 (60 mm) - have ports both on the side as well as on top
- Hardware Labs Black Ice SR2 240MP (60mm) - has ports in just about any direction (top, both wide sides, both small sides), but only on one end
- Corsair Hydro X Series XR7 (55 mm), Bykski B-RD240-TK60 (60 mm) - ports only facing to one side

b) Pump w/ reservoir:
- EK-Quantum Kinetic FLT 80 DDC PWM D-RGB (120 x 80 x 64 mm)
- EK-Quantum Kinetic FLT 128 DDC PWM D-RGB (120 x 125 x 58 mm)
- EK-Quantum Kinetic TBE 120 DDC (60 x 60 x 131 mm)
- EK-Quantum Kinetic TBE 160 DDC (70 x 70 x 137 mm)

c) CPU block w/ reservoir:
- Alphacool Eisbaer Aurora Pro (Solo) - yes, the very same name as the open loop AIO (listed as "Alphacool 13000" on geizhals)
- Nouvolo Aquanaut
- Barrow? (if even available for 1700)

cu, w0lf.
 

hrh_ginsterbusch

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Brooding over other stuff:

a) in theory, mATX allows the same "PSU to bottom" approach as seen in the Densium 4; maybe even with the GPU + Rad option, if the GPU is not too tall (2.5 slots should still fit, but 3 slots probably conflicts with the 2 - 4ish cm of the SFX PSU).

b) ATX board (with PSU bottom approach) would require a different case, so I did some calculations, and came up with 42 x 28 x 15 (Volume of 17.64 L), which would also allow for a regular-sized ATX PSU. ATX PSU height is 84 mm, regular ATX board size is 244 x 300 (WxH), and to keep it usable, we need to add at least a 1.5 or 2 cm margin to the top of the case, so the calculation is as follows:

42 - 30 - 8.4 - 2 = 1.6

.. so there would be a padding of roughly 1.5 cm (because there is a case bottom) between the PSU top and the ATX board.

Oh, and another factor I kept in mind: 360 mm Rad - most of them start at 390 mm, so those 3 cm would mean: enough space for fittings and tubes.

If one would go with different mainboard tray options, eg. sandwich-style like the Meshlicious, and a classic one like in the NR200, with optional standoffs for mITX, mATX AND ATX, one could do quite the number of configurations and combinations, all in a SFF format, and even switch between tower and M1/NR200/A4/shoebox-style.

But these are just my ponderings .. :)

cu, w0lf.
 
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hrh_ginsterbusch

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Yet another update:

a) Radiator size measurements with the Arctic P14 PST Slim in mind - give us VERY good results, ie. 54 mm. That's exactly the same width one would get when using the fallback AIO option, ie. Be Quiet Silent Loop 2 280, with the P14 / P14 A-RGB fans.

Also see that particular review (in German, but the graphs should be self-explaining), which shows that the difference between the regular and the slim P14 is marginally slim as well.

b) I might be going with the DDR4 version of my build, as its seems to be the most reasonably price vs. performance ratio. For this purpose, I've created 4 different wishlists on geizhals, one with AM4, the Alder Lake DDR4 and DDR5 version, plus a socket 1200 version; although the latter one is the cheapest, it also is the worst performance-wise, as one would have to with a 11700k if one wanted to properly use PCI 4 plus the second M2 slot (remember the GN quote: "a waste of sand").

The disadvantage of AM4 is, at least for my purposes, the lack of built-in iGPU, so I would have to go with a GPU right from the start.

c) Thirdly: Also pondering about going with the PNY RTX A4000 - as my system is definitely workstation, and not gaming-oriented. An RTX 3070-ish GPU in slimline format (ie. single slot)? Way to go :D

cu, w0lf.
 
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Youper

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So, my future first SFF system is going to be an mATX SFF system. Mostly, because the goal is to have a portable workstation, so a bit more RAM (esp. with the current pricing situation with DDR5) and more PCIe slots might come in handy, but also, because of the unfortunate issues with AIO liquid cooling and the placement / direction of the tubes on ITX boards. And thirdly, because its also a bit of a challenge :)

.. and I like challenges.

My ORIGINAL plan was to use the NR200P in Sunset Orange with additional mATX brackets, but NOW, in early April 2022, I've changed gears, and decided to go even further down the semi-custom road, and persue a "Mesh-mATX" (MeshiMatx? Meshematx? "Meshem-atecs" .. something along these lines). Kind of like a v2.0 or v1.5 variant of this concept.

For more context, see the reddit posts: MeshATX : Transforms the Meshlicious ITX case into the smallest ATX case - SonGay Custom

Current plans (2022-07-18):

Case: SSUPD Meshlicious in black, with all mesh panels.

Mainboard:

a) DDR 4 version: MSI MAG B660M Mortar Wifi - most reasonable priced, and also (sadly) the only mATX Mortar option available.
Both the Z690 and the B660 (no matter which RAM type) share the same VRM, so not much is lost. I want Z690 mostly out of UV reasons, anyway. OC is NOT the game here :D

b) DDR 5 version: MSI MAG Z690M Mortar Wifi - the DDR5 prices are down to something more reasonable, but also: The Gigabyte ITX / mATX boards seem to suffer from various issues, including very limited CPU cooling support, but also overheating issues, etc. Essentially not worth the saved moneys over DDR5 boards.

RAM: 32 GB for starters (DDR5 CL 36 seems to reasonable available by now)

CPU: Intel i7-12700k

CPU Cooling: AIO, either Arctic Liquid Freezer II 280 A-RGB or Be Quiet Silent Loop II 280. But the Arctic should fit, albeit a bit tight. Might switch the fans out with the SilverStone Air Penetrator 140i ARGB, the Be Quiet Light Wings or maybe even the Noctua NF14 IndustrialPPC. I'd like to stick to RGB, but a bit more classy than just your regular rainbow unicorn vomit.

PSU: Sticking to the Corsair SF 750 SFX; measurings and test fits with cardboard dummies showed, that there should be at least 5 mm distance even with the PSU located inside the case (vs. my "1 - 2 cm" outbound location on the GPU + Radiator side). The radiator of the Liquid Freezer II is only 138 mm wide (see Specs Sheet at the Arctic website), vs. the usual 140 + something of others.

Second option would be to go with the original Mesh-ATX / Meshlicious method, ie. placing the PSU on the mainboard side, but with one particular change: Placing the PSU on the OTHER side, ie. right below the RAM banks etc. So it wont block the extension slots.

I even came up with a third, experimental version, which would require to replace the mainboard tray with a custom one, with a custom opening on its bottom half, that allows the PSU to be placed right below the mainboard, similar to how its done in the Densium 4 (plus) case; although, of corpse, it'd be a SFX and not a Flex ATX unit.

GPU: RTX 3060 Ti or 3070, maybe Founders Edition, but essentially anything very short, not larger than 2.5 slots.
Original plan is to place it on the mainboard side, with a PCIe 4 riser cable. But with the second choice detailed above, the original approach of GPU on the other side should work, too - although we'd have to watch out for the width not becoming an issue.

According to the NVidia website, both the 3070 as well as the 3070 Ti FE are only 112 mm wide, so perfect for our purposes (aside of the fact that they're also very short; the regular 3070 FE might even fit at the mainboard side, with a bit of adaption of the former PSU opening).

VRM cooling: When using the Arctic Liquid Freezer II, its automagically taken care of. Else, a 40 or 60 mm fan positioned above the VRM should do.

Case modifications: As a potential weight reduction option, I am planning to either replace the mesh steel panels with similar ones made out of aluminium, or maybe even with custom 3D printed ones. A nice method to cheap-skate on the radiator bracket might be to "abuse" the solid steel panel and just add a nice fat cutout into it. Secure the panel with screws instead of the original Lian Li pins, and depending on where the fans are located, add a dust filter on top.

Also, the original Mesh ATX calls for a slightly thicker side panel (where normally the radiator would be placed), which I might extend by 1 - 2 cm instead, eg. for better cable routing, SSD locations etc. This would enlarge the volume to approx 16 - 16.5 L.

Right now, April 9th, 2022, the Meshlicious in black, with all mesh panels and PCIe 3 riser has been ordered, and should arrive at the 11th (ie. Monday).

Aside of that, the plans are now as follows:

Mainboard: Going with the Gigabyte Z690M Aorus Elite AX DDR4, because it seems to be the most reasonable one. The Asus Prime Z690M-D4 just looks so bad in terms of VRM load (the manual / specs just mention 10 + 1 + 1, probably 50A, but nothing else), and the Gigabyte seems to use almost the same setup as the MSI B660 / Z690 mATX boards. Yes, less extension ports, but if push comes to shove, and a PCIe 1x is required, one can still pick a nice NGFF-to-PCIe adapter and incorporate that.

Although, if I cannot solve the AIO compatibility issue (see latest post in this thread), I might have to switch back to the Asus Prime, or even the MSI Mortar (which is a DDR5 board, which all the issues attached, esp. RAM cost).

RAM: Sticking to 64 GB DDR 4 , 3600 XMP. I'm permanently clocking out 11 GB during regular work, and plans go towards running a VM for streaming (OBS / Audio / VJing), which should have enough RAM, too.

Case: As already mentioned, its the Meshlicious in black with all mesh panels, PCIe 3.0 riser. For a future GPU (probably RTX 2060 or 3060), I need to purchase a proper PCIe 4.0 riser anyway. There will be a few small case modifications, most prominently, the cutout on one side of the upper case beam, to settle the mainboard properly into the case.

Case weight notices: Without side panels, the case only weights about 1.5 kg, but with side panels attached, its roughly 3.7 kg.
Correction: Its only 3.3 kg! See my post about the weight check below.
Maybe replacing at least some of those with something more light weight (but with similar "air flow" specs) might be worth the effort.

PSU: Will be positioned on the "GPU" side of the Meshlicious. Also, switching back to the Corsair SF 750, although I'm also pondering about a TFX or FlexATX, because of size restraints (not wanting to bond with the radiator too much). As soon as the case is there, I'm planning to do excessive cardboard mockups, to see if the PSU would be too "touchy" with the radiator, or if its a neglectable issue.

CPU: 12700k (no changes)

GPU: Intel + Nvidia (no changes), but with the new case, Riser PCIe 4.0, and "ITX appropriate" length; something along the lines of a RTX 2060 or 3060. Positioned on the "CPU" side, in the place where normally the PSU would reside.

Storage: Pre-existing FireCuda 510, maybe add another 520 or 530 to act as addition. Probably going with a 2 TB SATA Raid, too.

CPU Cooling, Revision #2 ( as of April 12th, 2022):
The case is here, and reality has settled in; mockups and pre-calculation can only go that far. So: a 280 mm is not gonna fit. Or more like, its going to fit waaay too snug = 140 mm radiator width + 100 mm PSU width = 240 mm = THE WIDTH OF THE CASE. 😅

Hence, the revised options look like this

a) Semi-open AIO: Alphacool Aurora Pro 240, etc.
b) Regular AIO: any decent 240 mm, eg. Arctic Freezer II or be!quiet Silent Loop. Although the temps might not be that nice.
c) Case Mod: outbound PSU - as seen with eg. the Cooler Master HAF XB Evo; in theory, grinding down a bit of the part what would normally be the opening for the vertical "small" GPU position, would open up to the 64 mm of a SFX PSU.
d) custom loop, eg. 200 mm radiator

VRM cooling: Don't know if all out mesh is enough, so there might be an attempt with a slow running 60 mm fan pushing air over the MB from the side.

CPU cooling: As one can see from the MeshATX original videos / posts, the radiator is positioned on the other side, where normally the GPU would sit. I'm going to try "classic" AIO first, and if that does not work out as expected, Iit's obviously down the custom loop road.

a) AIO: Arctic Freezer II 280 should be doable, esp. with an mATX board. Mostly because of the superb performance, although I might have to remove the VRM heatsink; other option would be the be!quiet Silent Loop 2 280mm, and replace the default fans with Arctic P14 / P140 Bionix.
b) Semi custom loop: If Freezer II or Silent Loop 2 fail, the third option for an AIO would be the Alphacool Eisbaer Pro Aurora 280. Tubing length should be decent / similar to the "normal" AIOs.
c) Custom loop: Alphacool 280 mm radiator, maybe also Alphacool cooler / pump combo, soft tubes, Arctic P14 / P140 Bionix fans. It'd be my first custom loop, so I want to go slow :)

Radiator bracket: Multiple choices available. Either find a nice 280 STL, dig out one on the interwebs (Amazon, Ebay) and adapt it, "borrow" it from another case (eg. Core 500) - or the brutal way: Build one myself from fine paper-thin steel :)

My current plan is to use the NR200P (if possible, in "sunset orange") with additional mATX brackets (there are 3D print templates for that, but might also make them myself using steel or aluminium plate) and the power supply bracket set in the front position.

For those who it may concern, there is a page in my own wiki listing some of the research of suitable cases for mATX SFF. Its written in German, because I put it together for my best friend, whose understanding of the english language is not that good, but most of it should still be pretty self-explaining :)

NR200P is going to be ordered in a bit, and then the prep work is mostly going to be mocking up things, esp. radiator / liquid cooling in regards of what may or may not fit. For "the real deal", ie. setting up the mATX board, I've got an old mATX intel board (Sandy Bridge) sitting around, so I can do actual tests and not have to rely on mockup templates.

System-wise, its going to be along the lines of roughly the following specs:

CPU: i7 12700k - the 12900k seems to be way too much of a challenge, cooling-wise

RAM: 32 GB DDR5 or 64 GB DDR4

Board with DDR5: its probably going to be either the MSI MAG Z690M Mortar Wifi, or the Asus ROG Strix B660-G Gaming Wifi

Board with DDR4: the Asus Prime Z690M-D4, as this one seems to be the most versatile currently available in Germany, because of the amount of extension slots, ie. both a PCIe 5 x16 and also a PCIe 4 x16, which may come in handy if I ever decide to run two different GPUs (eg. small consumer AMDGPU + workstation NVidia GPU), Thunderbolt, and more; VRM is lower-tier, but acc. to the spec overview its still 10 + 1 (50A).

Update: OR the MSI MAG B660M Mortar WIFI DDR4 - read & seen a few tests of "more budget-oriented boards", and the MSI B660 has shown to perform extremely solid. Not 100% happy with the placement of the extension slots, but aside of that, it has got everything I'm expecting from a well-built mATX board, including nicer looking heatsinks, so in theory, AIO / Custom Loop shouldnt have too many issues.

CPU cooling: Either AIO, maybe Arctic Freezer II 280 or be!quiet Silent Loop, or an open AIO like the Alphacool Aurora 240 or 280

GPU: Intel + NVidia; originally wanted to go with AMDGPU only, but those plans aimed for an AMD-only system, so the GPU would have been a neccessity (and AMDGPU is much more reliable under Linux than NVidia) - but I've scraped that in favor for going with the latest Intel; with iGPU, the nastier issues with NVidia should be avoidable (I'd need it only for streaming / video rendering, and very VERY rarely, playing a game, so, once in a blue moon)

Storage: I got a few pre-existing SSDs plus a FireCuda 510 1 TB NVMe, which is gonna stay as my main system disk, although I might switch back to MX Linux, cause (K)Ubuntu offers quite a few annoyances that tick me off on a daily base. Dedoimedo recently wrote a raving review of MX Linux MX-21 KDE, so that might be a good option for a "glorious" return.

PSU: Going with the Cooler Master V-Series V850 SFX Gold, over the very classic SF750

DDR4 vs. DDR5 depends on whether 32 GB is enough for now, or if I indeed need 64 GB RAM. My current system only has got 16 GB, which I gonna change soon (probably next week), because with just a bit more work-intense loads, I've already managed to max out my system quite a few times (read: web developer / frontend designer with lots of backend / database work, but also extensive JS development, which easily may chew up lots of system resources).

cu, w0lf.
Already at the plan stage it looks very interesting, I see that progress is being made and a couple of changes have already been made but is there any photo report? I'd like to see maybe a little more of the process and probably a concept.
 

hrh_ginsterbusch

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Already at the plan stage it looks very interesting, I see that progress is being made and a couple of changes have already been made but is there any photo report? I'd like to see maybe a little more of the process and probably a concept.
Its simply thanks to both monetarial AND time-related issues that there has been not much progress in the last few months. As much as I'd like to do more, the big chunk, ie. CPU + mainboard + RAM, is still not doable.

But if all goes well, jobs (I'm a freelance web developer / frontend designer) should bring in enough money that I'm going to be able to make some progress in September, or early October 2022 at the latest.

cu, w0lf.