Completed Project Thin-X case: Super small, super flexible

CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
Original poster
Bronze Supporter
Nov 1, 2015
2,049
2,198
Project Thin-X
Working title- Thin-X stands for Thin mini-ITX with eXpansion card support.

Taking pre-orders for the first batch (2 cases left). More details in this post. Base price is $95 + shipping.

You can use this form to make a pre-order.

Project Thin X is case for mini PCs, and can be used in one of two configurations:
  • Mini-ITX motherboard with iGPU or APU
  • Thin Mini-ITX motherboard with discrete GPU (single slot low profile)
At only 2.6 liters, the second configuration can offer more powerful graphics performance for a very small size.



Front-side view of case, with power button installed. Blank front (no I/O).



Production design, ~95% complete. Front power button not installed.

Status: Production case ready. New build pictures can be viewed here!

Model view with thin Mini ITX configuration



Top view



Rear IO


Photo of 1st prototype



Sample build with Ryzen APU. The Noctua NH-L9a-AM4 works great for this case!​

Background:


I've been speculating on what is possible to do with a Thin mini ITX build as discussed in this topic on the forums. For a while the idea seemed to be out of reach- a Thin Mini ITX board for one of the slimmest possible profiles in a PC but with added support for an expansion card.

So I've gotten more interested in having a mini PC with a very small footprint, but still have a reasonable amount of power. This case is meant to rival the size of the smallest Steam Machines that have either components soldered on, or non-upgradeable. Something that you can easily pick up, put in your bag, or to your living room where it can be nearly invisible next to a big TV. For graphics, a 1050 Ti would suffice for me, and the smallest such card is low profile and single slot, perfect for this case.

Design:

The case will be made out of 3D printed ABS plastic for the exterior frame, and 3mm acrylic for the panels. All panels are screwed in with countersunk screws. The panels can be interchangeable with different cutouts and colors. Metal panels could also be an option.

This case does not have room for an internal AC-DC PSU, but I may make a larger one that will. Both will be square in shape. It can support a single slot, low-profile card with a 2.5" hard drive, or a full-height card without. You will need to use m.2 or mini PCIe for storage with a full-height card.

Quick specs:
  • Motherboard support: Mini ITX, Thin Mini ITX
  • Front panel I/O: Dual USB ports, vandal resistant power switch
  • Materials: 3D printed (SLS) plastic frame with acrylic side panels
  • Expansion slots: 1 slot low-profile or full-height (Thin Mini ITX only)
  • Storage: 1x 2.5" hard drive (with a low-profile card installed) 2x 2.5" (without)
  • Power: internal DC-ATX with external AC adapter, possible AC-DC support (2 x 4 inch footprint)
  • Dimensions: 20cm x 20.3cm x 6.35cm*
  • Volume: 2.57L*
* Measurements are for first batch only, and are subject to change.
 
Last edited:

Zackmd1

Airflow Optimizer
Jun 3, 2016
347
558
Looks like an interesting project! Question though, why does the GPU have to be single slot? From what I can see from your render, if you lay the low profile card flat you could easily fit a dual slot low profile card in there. Maybe with some modification to the cooling you could fit a MSI 1050 ti low profile card in there.
 

aquelito

King of Cable Management
Piccolo PC
Feb 16, 2016
947
1,115
I'm running the same build, with a G4600T and a dual slot GTX 1050 Ti.

Both CPU and GPU passively cooled.
The whole build is powered by a single 12V AC adapter.





By using a singe-slot GTX 1050 Ti, I figured you could go down to around 3L, that is with an external adapter.

You could certainly lower the volume by using a short GPU such as the GT 1030.
 

aquelito

King of Cable Management
Piccolo PC
Feb 16, 2016
947
1,115
Top panel is perforated.



Next step is to replace both the front and top panel by simple aluminium panels perforated with larger holes.
 

aquelito

King of Cable Management
Piccolo PC
Feb 16, 2016
947
1,115
Custom powered riser from @QinX in the first picture, Vary Tech flexible powered riser in the second.
 

CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
Original poster
Bronze Supporter
Nov 1, 2015
2,049
2,198
Looks like an interesting project! Question though, why does the GPU have to be single slot? From what I can see from your render, if you lay the low profile card flat you could easily fit a dual slot low profile card in there. Maybe with some modification to the cooling you could fit a MSI 1050 ti low profile card in there.

Looks like it could be if I made the case all with thin walls. Just how I have it envisioned some of the walls would be 5mm thick, mostly for the clean look so I can screw on the front and top, but without screws having to go completely through the walls.

This would be the perfect graphicscard for your project, if you can find it anywhere on the market:
ASL GTX 1050 Ti

Yep, and I almost forgot I was the one that tipped off the staff about that news tidbit :)

@aquelito I see the black molex connector going to the powered riser but what is the other two-wire connector for? The one right above the black molex one in your picture.
 
  • Like
Reactions: owliwar

aquelito

King of Cable Management
Piccolo PC
Feb 16, 2016
947
1,115
@CC Ricers : this is just a spare Molex power connector, to be used for a fan, hard drive, etc.
I'm using the internal 4-Pin power connector (hence the dual Molex) as a "splitter" to output the 12V current from the 12V AC adapter to anything that needs 12V, the powered riser for instance.

Pros : two cables, one 12V AC adapter to power a 35W CPU and a 1050 Ti.
Cons : the onboard 5.5 x 2.5mm barrel connector is only rated for 10A, which means 120W max :(
 
  • Like
Reactions: CC Ricers

CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
Original poster
Bronze Supporter
Nov 1, 2015
2,049
2,198
Oh, cool. That's so straightforward to use the 4-pin power connector then. I will only use max one 2.5" SATA drive.

I just realized that the Arctic MC101 is only 32mm in height. Wow! And the aluminum shell takes a good 4-5mm of that. It's smaller than I thought.

I would like to get my case to less than 40mm in height/thickness. But realistically it will severely limit the CPU cooler height. I guess a custom aluminum heatsink with a slim fan is in order. @sergiiua seems to know a thing or two about custom small coolers, so something like what the CustomMOD Nano will do.
 

CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
Original poster
Bronze Supporter
Nov 1, 2015
2,049
2,198
Yeah, though the MC101 is still even a bit smaller. I'm wondering if I should sell my current setup to get started with testing the parts. I am in the transition of jobs but not quite there yet.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Therandomness

CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
Original poster
Bronze Supporter
Nov 1, 2015
2,049
2,198
Here is my current parts list for the build. Everything is priced below $500, which is great considering the SSD and RAM.

The GPU and motherboard are very set in- it's unlikely that I will change these. The other parts I may change if I find something worth a better value (DD4 SODIMM is pricey!) and CPU cooler options are still anyone's guess. I don't know how such a low profile cooler would perform with ventilation only in the sides of the case. To add: a 12V power brick that should support at least 100W.
 
  • Like
Reactions: owliwar

CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
Original poster
Bronze Supporter
Nov 1, 2015
2,049
2,198
I've settled on a form factor for the case, which is to put it nicely, a "mini console" form factor. One similar to the Alienware Alpha or the HP Z2 workstation. It's around 1.5L without external power brick and will rely on a longer riser cable to mount the discrete GPU.

Here's a mockup layout with parts only:



I'm thinking maybe the Sintech 10cm PCI Express cable to hook up the card. That allows me to move it to the top where I can allow headroom for the CPU cooler.



The cooler itself will be a 1U blower style fan just like in most of these little pre-built computers, and not a top-down cooler which I'm using as a size reference only. The exhaust vents will be in the front, only cut out for the part directly in front of the CPU, so one half of the panel will be vent-free.
 

CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
Original poster
Bronze Supporter
Nov 1, 2015
2,049
2,198
After catching my eye on a new SuperMicro chassis I think that they have a case that I could cannibalize for my project idea, thus it will become a case mod rather than a custom case project. What do you think? Here is the SuperChassis 101S.



It is 1U or 45mm in height and so would use special I/O backplates designed for 1U cases. If I get this case, I'll mod it by adding custom cut vent covers in the front and on the top. A custom backplate will also be needed for the H110 board and low profile card.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Saici and Soul_Est