Razorback (NCASE M1 + AMD) Build log

Paradyme

Chassis Packer
Original poster
Oct 10, 2019
16
6
I'll be documenting my build log in this thread, mostly for people interested in NCASE M1 watercooling builds & component compatibility.
[edit] Pictures in post #3

Step 1 - component selection:

Brief

The plan is to build a fully featured all AMD ITX build, with adequate cooling (temperatures here in Cairns summer are 30-40° C) and low noise.
Why AMD? Besides being an AMD fanboy, their Zen 2 (Ryzen 3rd gen) CPU's beat everything hands down - this will be used for mixed workload, not just gaming.
For GPU's, I will be going Radeon because of their support for open source graphics drivers. The current state of Windows 10 is basically malware at this point (plenty of references can be provided!), and I now use Linux exclusively for both gaming and work. Gaming support is great, and with Google Stadia and Valve/Steam Proton it's only getting better.
The GPU target is High/Ultra settings at 3440x1440, at a minimum average of 60 FPS.

I'd been eyeing up this case since V5, as the most compact case on the market without making any major compromises. Initially I had designed my own case, but manufacturing to a decent quality is tricky and/or expensive if you're not already setup for sheet metal work. Thanks to Necere and his amazing work, the M1 turned out to be the best option by far.
Cooling/airflow is always a problem in ITX builds so the ability to use 2 decent sized radiators without trying to accommodate every possible component combination is perfect - to the point I would consider any other case less than perfect ?
There's really only 4 X570 SFF options available, and I considered the ASUS ROG DTX board for a while. However, to even have a remote chance at using a bottom radiator I would have to use the 140mm mounting slots on one side only (which just irks my OCD), and I couldn't justify the $750 price tag for crazy overclocking features I would never use.
It's also pretty well established that the M.2/Chipset cooling configuration on the Gigabyte board is not great, which only left 2 options.
Since a big requirement is SPDIF/Optical audio out, the ASRock board was the only logical choice for me.
However if you don't need Optical out, the ASUS Strix X570-I is the better board - mostly because of M.2 placement and cooler.
For my use case, 8 cores/16 threads is the sweet spot (also slightly OCD about 6 cores ?), which leaves 2 options - the 3700X and 3800X.
Besides the value comparison with 3800X being a higher-binned CPU, the 65W TDP is a great fit for a compact build. In practice this is actually 80-90W, but is still 5-10W less that the 3800X.
Even though I will have 2 radiators, they will be operating with 15mm fans at low RPM, so the less power the better as long as I'm not making massive compromises.
Not to mention the 3700X is not just 'good enough' - it outperforms almost all of Intel's line up in both single and multi-thread performance!
Note: I've put 'TBC' just in case an 8 core APU is announced at CES in January - this would give me the option of GPU pass-through to a virtual machine.
Obviously the 5700 XT is the most powerful AMD Navi card available, and since I will be water cooling the GPU, the reference design is the best option.
According to Buildzoid the reference PCB is a very over-engineered design, which is encouraging.
Most of the aftermarket designs also extend too high above the PCI slot, not leaving room for the waterblock fittings/hoses.
Not only is the Sapphire reference card the cheapest available, they also have a history of producing some of the best AMD cards.
Note: I've put 'TBC' in the hopes that AMD announces a more powerful card at CES in January - although the 5700 XT meets my performance target, it does it just barely and won't leave much margin for future, more demanding games. I do plan to finish this build by March 2020, so unless a 5800 XT is announced then I will stick with my original pick.
When it comes to PCIe Gen4 SSD's, the only design available at the moment is the Phison E16 controller pared with Toshiba 96-layer NAND. There's the Gigabyte with a terrible cooler design (despite being solid copper), the Corsair, Sabrent and Seagate. The Sabrent has a hell of a cooler design, but there's no room for it with my rear mounted M.2 slot, and most other motherboards come with a M.2 heatsink anyway.
Also, of these options only Seagate is a proven manufacturer of HDD's and SSD's. Seagate is also the only manufacturer to develop it's own optimized firmware rather than the reference Phison firmware. For me, the icing on the cake is that Seagate are also the only brand that provides SSD software for Linux!

To compliment this drive, I will use the QNAP M.2 Heatsink (https://shop.qnap.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=168)
NAND actually lasts longer when drive writes are done at over 40° C, so I only want to cool the controller. I also only have 5-6mm clearance between the M.2 drive and the case panel.
When it comes to memory, I always use G.Skill since their TridentZ range is made up of cherry-picked chips and have excellent timings.
I don't want to muck around with overclocking, and their Neo sub-brand is tested for compatibility with Ryzen CPU's and motherboards.
Because I don't want to overclock or spend a ridiculous amount of money on RAM, I'm opting for the model with 16-19-19-39 timings.
This uses Hynix J/CJR die rather than their tip spec Samsung B die, but isn't far off in performance.
3600MHz is almost the fastest you can go (3733) using the 1:1 Ryzen InfinityFabic ratio, so it's my best off-the-shelf option.
For power supplies, I considered 3 brands; Seasonic, Silverstone and Corsair. I consider Seasonic to be the best power supply manufacturer, and of those 3 options they are the only OEM.
Silverstone does have some decent options using High Power as the OEM, but they measure 125x130mm - which is 5mm longer than it needs to be on one side!
Corsair seem to get rave reviews, and their smaller SFX rather than SFX-L form factor is compelling. However, on further research they use Great Wall as their OEM!! No thank you!
This leaves Seasonic, my preferred brand anyway, and they just announced their 800W Titanium (STX) and Platinum (SPX) SFX-L power supplies at Computex 2019.
These measure 125x125mm exactly, and use a 120x15mm fan. The 800W provides a comfortable margin for my build.
Note: I've put 'TBC' as they are not yet available for purchase. Given the March 2020 timeframe for my build, if they do not become available in time then I will be going with the Seasonic Focus SGX-650, which is a Gold rated 650W model in the same range.

I hope this has been an interesting and/or informative post. Stay tuned for more info and PICTURES!
 
Last edited:

Paradyme

Chassis Packer
Original poster
Oct 10, 2019
16
6
Step 2 - water loop design

Brief

Both CPU and GPU will be water cooled, with 2x 240mm radiators, 4x fans, external reservoir, integrated CPU block/pump, and the ability to remove any component without bleeding the system and worrying about spills. I'd like the ability to measure water temperature in the loop, and flow rate if possible.
Low-FPI is preferred, as low-RPM fans will be used. Space is a big constraint, so adequate clearance to allow airflow must be considered.

After studying many pictures of other M1 builds with bottom mounted radiators, I came to the conclusion that the thinnest possible radiator was required in order to get decent airflow. 22FPI helps compensate for the thinner design, and is not a problem for the fan since there is less material restricting air flow.
Most builds only have 4-5mm between the fan/radiator and the waterblock, which is counterproductive - some people also reported higher than expected temps.
Since I've got up to 30mm to play with, there were lots of options. I was initially considering Swiftech to match the other parts of the loop, but after seeing the integrated temperature sensor with LED/LCD screen from Barrowch I fell in love with it. I can simply take the top panel off the M1 and instantly see the water loop temperature!
This was a no-brainer, since Swiftech are pretty much the only manufacturer of block/pump combos given Asetek's stranglehold on the integrated design patent.
Alphacool does produce one, but the pump is tiny and is not designed for large loops. Even in a small loop the flow rate is very low.
At 18.5mm wide, this is the slimmest block available - a good 4-5mm thinner than Alphacool or EKWB's designs.
This is critical in providing clearance for the bottom radiator. There is also a single-slot PCIe bracket available, for a super clean look.
Another easy choice - this is the only reservoir specifically made for the M1, with 92mm mounts and ports that match up exactly with the water cooling holes.
Putting it on the back creates room in the case while still looking nice and tidy.
Swiftech make the shortest quick disconnects on the market, with these nifty fitting caps depending on if you need G1/4 male, 3/8-5/8 compression, etc.
Obviously space is a constraint so the shorter the better. With 5 - yes 5! of these in my loop, I need all the room I can get.
I really like the design of Swiftech's fittings, as you can easily fasten them with a 17mm spanner.
I'm going with 10-16mm hose since it will be a really tight fit and I don't want any kinks!
Barrowch also do a really cool in-line flow meter to match the temperature sensor (http://www.barrowint.com/plus/view.php?aid=1211)
I plan to use an elbow connector on the side radiator and connect the flow meter directly to it so I can see it with the top panel off.
After reading several reviews, it seems to be the best low-maintenance hose around besides the EKWB ZMT.
Since everything else in the loop besides the reservoir is covered, I'd like clear hosing to be able to see any air bubbles when bleeding the loop.


And that's a wrap for the bits and pieces, the rest should pretty much be just pictures!
 
Last edited:

beeknuckle

What's an ITX?
New User
Feb 3, 2020
1
1

May I ask how you solved the space issues with this motherboard and the Apogee Drive?

I have the same build, and the only way I was able to get the drive intake/outlet ports to fit between the motherboard heatsinks was to change the angle of the ports. The adjustable ports are an advertised feature of the pump, but as far as I can tell, you're supposed to keep the ports in one of 3 positions - straight, angled left, or angled right. If you angle them left or right I think you're supposed to keep the screws on opposite sides of the port. But then the ports still hit either the heatsinks or the mounting screws on the pump itself. I was able to get it to fit by leaving one of the screws in the middle position and shifting the other, but I think that means that the port opening doesn't perfectly align with the pump opening. I've been running it like this for a while with no leakage, but I did disassemble everything once to inspect the port o-rings, and it appears that the pump opening is just barely inside the ring (I think I can see an impression where the edge of the opening is digging into the o-ring).

I'm curious if this is how you got yours to fit, or if you discovered a different approach?

Thanks, and good luck with the rest of your build (if you aren't finished already!).
 
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Paradyme

Chassis Packer
Original poster
Oct 10, 2019
16
6
May I ask how you solved the space issues with this motherboard and the Apogee Drive?

I have the same build, and the only way I was able to get the drive intake/outlet ports to fit between the motherboard heatsinks was to change the angle of the ports. The adjustable ports are an advertised feature of the pump, but as far as I can tell, you're supposed to keep the ports in one of 3 positions - straight, angled left, or angled right. If you angle them left or right I think you're supposed to keep the screws on opposite sides of the port. But then the ports still hit either the heatsinks or the mounting screws on the pump itself. I was able to get it to fit by leaving one of the screws in the middle position and shifting the other, but I think that means that the port opening doesn't perfectly align with the pump opening. I've been running it like this for a while with no leakage, but I did disassemble everything once to inspect the port o-rings, and it appears that the pump opening is just barely inside the ring (I think I can see an impression where the edge of the opening is digging into the o-ring).

I'm curious if this is how you got yours to fit, or if you discovered a different approach?

Thanks, and good luck with the rest of your build (if you aren't finished already!).


Sorry for the late response on this, build is still only half finished - will post more pics soon!

The trick with the waterblock is to angle both ports towards the RAM slots, and take an angle-grinder (or dremel) to the 2 CPU mounting screws under those ports. The screws' head is countersunk by a good 5mm or so, so you can shave the edges down as far as the phillips head starts - don't go any further than this or you'll have no way to fasten the screw obviously. Put the screws back in and you should have *just* enough clearance to mount it properly.

This is much preferable than cutting into the headsinks - and the chipset heatsink has that heatpipe you don't want to muck with.
 

haoryouu

Chassis Packer
Bronze Supporter
May 1, 2019
17
4
Looking forward to seeing the finished build! I have quite a similar setup to what you have, but I went with the Iceman pump/res combo.
 
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MultiDoc

Airflow Optimizer
Bronze Supporter
Feb 2, 2018
303
197
Sorry for the late response on this, build is still only half finished - will post more pics soon!

The trick with the waterblock is to angle both ports towards the RAM slots, and take an angle-grinder (or dremel) to the 2 CPU mounting screws under those ports. The screws' head is countersunk by a good 5mm or so, so you can shave the edges down as far as the phillips head starts - don't go any further than this or you'll have no way to fasten the screw obviously. Put the screws back in and you should have *just* enough clearance to mount it properly.

This is much preferable than cutting into the headsinks - and the chipset heatsink has that heatpipe you don't want to muck with.

@Paradyme Any chance for some pics of the finished build ? Especially interested to see how you mo7nted the Apogee and what if any mods you had to do for it to fi.
 

Paradyme

Chassis Packer
Original poster
Oct 10, 2019
16
6
@Paradyme Any chance for some pics of the finished build ? Especially interested to see how you mo7nted the Apogee and what if any mods you had to do for it to fi.

Apogee mounting pics coming in the next week or so.
Build is 50% complete and on hold since I can't get some parts, and not sure how finances will go with the human virus situation.
 
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MultiDoc

Airflow Optimizer
Bronze Supporter
Feb 2, 2018
303
197
Apogee mounting pics coming in the next week or so.
Build is 50% complete and on hold since I can't get some parts, and not sure how finances will go with the human virus situation.
I’ll be eagerly waiting for your pics! I am also currently half way through my build and also have stalled waiting for some parts.

looking forward for those photos!
 
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Paradyme

Chassis Packer
Original poster
Oct 10, 2019
16
6
Ok finally got round to it - apologies for poor picture quality.

Step 1: Cut 2 of the recessed mounting screws right down to the phillips head (stop when you start to shave the black anodizing off)

Step 1a: heavily chamfer one of the screw heads (as pictured - make sure you leave the step at the bottom of the head, as the spring needs to sit against this). This is because one of the pump outlets sits a couple of mm lower than the other

Step 2: Adjust the pump nozzles towards the RAM slots - they will not fit in any other direction without modification to the heatsinks
Step 2a: fit the mounting screws underneath the nozzles - note they will be angled until they are tightened all the way or the spring is completely compressed

Step 3: Fasten the modified screws first, as they will be on an angle. You'll need to angle the nuts on the mounting plate underneath (otherwise the screws will likely crossthread), and gradually straighten them as the springs are compressed and create room under the pump nozzles

Step 3a: Fasten the 2 normal screws on the other side and make sure the mounting plate sits flat under the motherboard

Note: As you are not applying even pressure when mounting the waterblock/pump, you may need to adjust your thermal paste application.
For example, if you are using the 'dot' method, all your thermal paste will be mushed to one side and end up more cone shaped. You may have better luck with the 'X' or lines methods.

I'll let you know which method works for me when I can finish my build & start testing!
Please let me know if you have any questions or need clarification on one of the points above.
 

Paradyme

Chassis Packer
Original poster
Oct 10, 2019
16
6
May I ask how you solved the space issues with this motherboard and the Apogee Drive?

I have the same build, and the only way I was able to get the drive intake/outlet ports to fit between the motherboard heatsinks was to change the angle of the ports. The adjustable ports are an advertised feature of the pump, but as far as I can tell, you're supposed to keep the ports in one of 3 positions - straight, angled left, or angled right. If you angle them left or right I think you're supposed to keep the screws on opposite sides of the port. But then the ports still hit either the heatsinks or the mounting screws on the pump itself. I was able to get it to fit by leaving one of the screws in the middle position and shifting the other, but I think that means that the port opening doesn't perfectly align with the pump opening. I've been running it like this for a while with no leakage, but I did disassemble everything once to inspect the port o-rings, and it appears that the pump opening is just barely inside the ring (I think I can see an impression where the edge of the opening is digging into the o-ring).

I'm curious if this is how you got yours to fit, or if you discovered a different approach?

Thanks, and good luck with the rest of your build (if you aren't finished already!).

Photos of the mounting details in my last post if you're still interested!
 

MultiDoc

Airflow Optimizer
Bronze Supporter
Feb 2, 2018
303
197
Photos of the mounting details in my last post if you're still interested!

I‘d love to see the photos, but I can’t find the post you’re referring to ? Any chance for a link to that post you’re referring please ?