Need guidance for SFF Ryzen (3900X ?) mini ITX build - how do I get small, cool and quiet ?

Linuxguy123

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
Jun 7, 2019
11
11
I need to build myself a small, cool, quiet and portable workstation computer. I am not a gamer. I do lots of design and development work in multiple locations, so this computer has to travel with me from location to location, where I have a display, keyboard and mouse set up at each one.

I do lots of processing and simulation. I need a ton of processing power.

I've used high end laptops and most recently the Gigabyte Brix i7-5775R as my computers in the past. I am so sick of high end laptops. And the fan on my Brix is driving me crazy lately and I need more processing power too. The i7-5775R was no slouch in its day. It scores nearly 11,000 on the Passmark benchmark, about the same as an i7 6700K or i74770K. But there are much better solutions these days. (Finally).

I'm eyeing a Ryzen AM4 processor, thus I want to go with an X570 mini ITX MB. I haven't decided on a 2700X, 3800X, 3900X or 3950X when it comes out. I'll see what the benchmarks are when they come out and what prices do. I can always upgrade the processor.

I don't need a super fancy graphics card. I generally use a 4K monitor. No gaming, remember ?

I want a small case. Sub 11 litres. I'm a good fabricator/welder, so I'll build it myself if necessary. The T1 Sidearm is looking really good at the moment. I'll probably put a handle on the top for portability. Maybe I'll get a cover sewn up to keep it from getting scratched. I will be carrying it from location to location.

I'm worried about building something cool and quiet. All my laptops and the Brix have screaming fans when they are working hard. I'm sick of that. I want something that can run full throttle all day in an office and not throttle down thermally and be very quiet. How do I achieve this ?
 
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Linuxguy123

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
Jun 7, 2019
11
11
Is the Noctua NHL12S a good cooler ? 70mm high (with fan or plus fan ?) Takes 120mm fan. Or should I go water cooled ?

Will I be happy with a short (mini ITX length) graphics card or should I go long, or at least allow the option of a long card in the future ?

SFX power supply ? Or ATX power supply ?
 
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ermac318

King of Cable Management
Mar 10, 2019
652
505
First thing you should do is decide how you're going to cool your CPU. The second thing is what case, and lastly is everything else.

CPU: Water or Air? The 12 core Ryzen has a TDP of 105W, which means unless you are picking a small cooler with a very loud fan, you're stuck with non-sandwich style cases. Most "normal" layout cases are significantly larger than sandwich-style cases. NCase M1 v6 should be out next few months (check the thread for latest updates), and that's ~12L. It can handle a Noctua U9S or C14S cooler, both of which are pretty quiet and high performing air coolers.

Water cooling opens up a lot more options. Even very small cases like the S4 Mini, the Node 202, the Dan A4, or the SM550 support some kind of AIO, depending on what compromises you make. With the "console" style cases, you can sometimes fit a 120mm AIO with certain limitations on PSU or GPU size. With the A4 or SM550, you can get a 92mm AIO from Asetek (the 645LT) which can cool pretty monster chips, but it won't be as effective or as quiet as a 120mm AIO or higher. If you step up to slightly larger cases, like the NCase M1 again or some Taobao cases, you can get a 240mm AIO for your CPU which will absolutely tame even the 16 core Ryzen 3000 when it releases.

Everything else (PSU, GPU, HDDs) will be dictated by those two choices. Some options will force you into "ITX" graphics cards, such as the Zotac or Gigabyte "mini" cards. Some will force you into PSUs like the DC-DC HDPLEX with an external brick.

Hope that helps
 

dfrgu

Trash Compacter
Mar 11, 2019
51
43
You have to prioritize the most important aspect to you, small? cool? or quiet? Because for most of the time, you cannot get all of them when you are using powerful components.
Small and Cool usually turns out to be a very loud configuration(very high rpm fan in action); Cool and quiet usually means larger builds, for better airflow and larger heatsinks; small and quiet will result in some temperature issues, sometimes even cause thermal throttling.
 

sheepdog43

Caliper Novice
Feb 17, 2019
25
12
3rd gen Ryzen has a 65watt option, I'd start with that.

Do you even really need a dedicated gpu? If you can get away without you can seriously reduce the system size.
If you do need a gpu, get a passive cooled gtx 1050, Dancase A4, Corsair 600 watt psu, and the new 92mm watercooler.
 

ermac318

King of Cable Management
Mar 10, 2019
652
505
Do you even really need a dedicated gpu?
There are no proper Zen 2 APUs yet. The new Matisse ones are still 12nm, not the new 7nm chiplet design. He specifically asked for a lot of cores, so that means he needs SOME kind of GPU, even if it's only a cheapie passive one like a GT1030.
 
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Soul_Est

SFF Guru
Moderator
Silver Supporter
Feb 12, 2016
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@Linuxguy123 Just to add to the others:
  • The case and cooling are your biggest considerations
  • You can undervolt the 3900X to make keep it from generating too much heat
On the latter point, I have done so with my 2700X (-0.08125V so far), and it can boost to over 4.1GHz with my L9a-AM4 cooling it (the fan is audible though).
 

Linuxguy123

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
Jun 7, 2019
11
11
First thing you should do is decide how you're going to cool your CPU. The second thing is what case, and lastly is everything else.

I agree. Looking at this video at 4:34 it appears that a CM240 AIO provides way more cooling and is quieter than all the other options. Especially for my loads, which are usually short burst loads. So an AIO cooler is a must. So priority #1 is a case that holds an AIO cooler.

CPU: Water or Air? The 12 core Ryzen has a TDP of 105W, which means unless you are picking a small cooler with a very loud fan, you're stuck with non-sandwich style cases.
What is a sandwich style case ?

Most "normal" layout cases are significantly larger than sandwich-style cases. NCase M1 v6 should be out next few months (check the thread for latest updates)
Good to know this ! Thanks for pointing it out.

and that's ~12L. It can handle a Noctua U9S or C14S cooler, both of which are pretty quiet and high performing air coolers.
OK

Water cooling opens up a lot more options. Even very small cases like the S4 Mini, the Node 202, the Dan A4, or the SM550 support some kind of AIO, depending on what compromises you make.

Did I see Linux Tech tips put a 240mm cooler at the top of a Dan A4 ?

With the "console" style cases, you can sometimes fit a 120mm AIO with certain limitations on PSU or GPU size. With the A4 or SM550, you can get a 92mm AIO from Asetek (the 645LT) which can cool pretty monster chips, but it won't be as effective or as quiet as a 120mm AIO or higher. If you step up to slightly larger cases, like the NCase M1 again or some Taobao cases, you can get a 240mm AIO for your CPU which will absolutely tame even the 16 core Ryzen 3000 when it releases.

Prior to starting this, I thought AIOs were for over clocking gamers. Now I think I want a 240mm AIO. Did I mention how tired I am of working next to a computer with a screaming fan ?

Everything else (PSU, GPU, HDDs) will be dictated by those two choices. Some options will force you into "ITX" graphics cards, such as the Zotac or Gigabyte "mini" cards. Some will force you into PSUs like the DC-DC HDPLEX with an external brick.

Thus far I like the T1 Sidearm with the mini ITX and PSU on one side of the divider and the GPU on the other side and the 240mm AIO on the top of the case. If I was scratch building a case I'd have the hard drives on the under side of the case for ease of access.

What other cases are set up like this ?
 

ermac318

King of Cable Management
Mar 10, 2019
652
505
What is a sandwich style case ?
Sandwich-style cases use a Riser to have the motherboard and PSU on one side, and the GPU on the other, split vertically by a "spine" in the middle of the case. The Dan A4 pioneered this layout and there are now many cases that use this concept. Its biggest limitation is CPU cooler height, because you are squeezing the case to be narrower by rotating the GPU to be vertically mounted like the motherboard, so the distance between the CPU and the side of the case tends to get limited.
Did I see Linux Tech tips put a 240mm cooler at the top of a Dan A4 ?
Negative, they did get a 92mm AIO in the Dan A4 but it has no space for a 240mm AIO. The Louqe Ghost S1 with a Large Top Hat would fit a 240mm AIO just fine, I forgot to mention that case last time.
Thus far I like the T1 Sidearm with the mini ITX and PSU on one side of the divider and the GPU on the other side and the 240mm AIO on the top of the case. If I was scratch building a case I'd have the hard drives on the under side of the case for ease of access.
The Sidearm looks awesome but it is not out yet and there will most likely be quite some time before it becomes available. If you can find it in stock, a Ghost S1 + Large Top Hat would tick all your boxes, or something like the Sunmilo T03 from Taobao/SuperBuy would be a more budget option.
 

Linuxguy123

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
Jun 7, 2019
11
11
Thanks for all the replies. They've been very helpful.

Question: if the GPU on these sandwich style cases was moved around (up) a bit, would there be room to have a full length GPU and a 120 mm cooler on the same side of the divider ? Could one put an ITX length GPU and a 120mm AIO cooler on the same side ?

Would a 120mm AIO cooler keep a 16 core Ryzen processor cool ?

I love the sandwich style cases. Everything is so easy to get to. I might fab up a custom one myself.

OTOH, the Nouvolo Steck is $150 and available now.

 
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