Relan E-i7 HTPC build and mods

smitty2k1

King of Cable Management
Original poster
Dec 3, 2016
917
455
In 2013 I decided it was time to build a new HTPC. At the time I was just starting my SFF obsession and found a forum member at AVS Forums who was importing these little Realan E-i7 cases. In addition to importing them, he was also modifying them with little windows for internal IR receivers and getting the factory to produce versions without the ODD slot.

Here are photos from my initial 2013 build:
imgur.com/a/5PqwV

The PC gets tons of use as my HTPC for Netflix, big screen party games, Kodi, and general web browsing from the couch with a wireless keyboard/mouse combo. It got an upgrade from a 2.5” SSD to a mSATA drive in a PCIe adapter, but other than that the little PC has been chugging away happily for 5 years.

Then I found this forum and stumbled across the post by @theGryphon (https://smallformfactor.net/forum/threads/i-think-i-found-a-little-gem-realan-e-i7.6175/). His post inspired me to dust off my case and think about improving it. The shoddy power button was certainly the first thing to be changed.

Here is a little album of that mod – I have captions for the photos that explain some more items in detail:
imgur.com/a/Tv2M7ee

Next up was getting rid of the unsightly power brick. The AV stand I keep my components on has basic glass shelves and no great way of hiding the power brick. This led me down weeks of researching 12V power supplies, crimping tools, and sourcing connectors, cabling, and tools. I settled on the somewhat popular Mean Well EPP-200-12 power supply as it would interface directly with the 12V DC-ATX board that came with my Realan case and was a small enough footprint (4" x 2") that it should fit in the case.

Here is my initial work getting the Mean Well AC-DC unit to fit:
imgur.com/a/f7FKZXX

While some of this DC power supply stuff is second nature to you pros around here, it was a whole new world to me. The 25 or so computers I’d built over the years all just used off the shelf power supplies of various form factors. There was a lot of trial and error in ordering the right components from DigiKey and Mouser and learning to crimp and re-learning how to solder.

Here is an album outlining the power supply wiring and installation – captions included in Imgur album:
imgur.com/a/oCJeb9j

So that’s where things stand now. Although I have no need to, I’m getting the itch to upgrade the internals. I’m almost certainly going to go with the Ryzen 2400g and I’m eagerly waiting on some B450 motherboard reviews in the coming weeks. Because the little 180W DC-ATX board that came with the E-i7 only outputs 6A on the 12V rail, I went ahead and ordered the upgraded 250W board from Realan which has 10A on the 12V rail in anticipation of an upgrade. The board was only $22 shipped but is estimated to take 6 weeks to be delivered from China.

When I upgrade to a more powerful processor, I’ll also be taking a look at the heatsink. I initially chose this low profile Scythe cooler because the old 2.5” mounting bracket reduced the clearance in this case. Now that I’ll have my M.2 SSD mounted directly to the board, I have another ¼” or so for a larger cooler. However, that might put the fan too close to the case lid, so I may need to cut some new vent holes in the case lid. The upgrades never end!

EDIT: vent holes have been cut! imgur.com/a/t1W9ytc

Big thanks to all the awesome forum members here for inspiration and for answering my questions! I’ll definitely be posting again when I finally waste $500 buying a new CPU, motherboard, RAM, and SSD.

Edit: well I went ahead and bought a new 2400G, ASrock B450 itx motherboard, 2x4GB RAM, and a M.2 ssd. Just got done installing the new components in the case! imgur.com/a/Yj6LmcN

Edit2: Upgraded the heatsink to a Noctua NH-L12s. Fits like a glove in this case. Also ran some stress tests on with Prime95 and Furmark to ensure power delivery and cooling were adequate. imgur link

Edit3: Upgraded the Realan DC-DC power board to the PicoPSU plug in board. imgur link

Edit4: Installed a GTX 1050 ti low profile graphics card and two low profile Coolermaster case fans to act as the graphics card fans. Drilled out the side fan intakes with an 80mm hole saw and installed wire fan grilles. Significantly lowered required fan speed and improved both noise levels and sound signature (no more whistle). imgur link
 
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xcrco

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Apr 16, 2017
111
84
Awesome build man, that looks like a lot of work! thanks for sharing it to the community.
 

xcrco

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Apr 16, 2017
111
84
sweet thats tiggght fit! wish meanwell psu is readily available in my country. :(
 

smitty2k1

King of Cable Management
Original poster
Dec 3, 2016
917
455
sweet thats tiggght fit! wish meanwell psu is readily available in my country. :(
Have you looked for the Mean Well part number RPS-200-12? That's the 'updated' version of the EPP series and it may be availble. The RPS-200-12-C is the one with the case as shown in my build.
 

comagoosie

sff is life
Bronze Supporter
May 8, 2018
72
86
Hey thanks for sharing your build! Really enjoying your setup. I feel like there is a dearth of builds with pico / plugin psu and NH-L12S as compatibility seems to be in question (a pico 150 xt seems to avoid this by being able to fit completely underneath the NH-L12S). In your build, is the fit pretty natural or is the NH-L12S pushing on the capacitor?
 

smitty2k1

King of Cable Management
Original poster
Dec 3, 2016
917
455
Hey thanks for sharing your build! Really enjoying your setup. I feel like there is a dearth of builds with pico / plugin psu and NH-L12S as compatibility seems to be in question (a pico 150 xt seems to avoid this by being able to fit completely underneath the NH-L12S). In your build, is the fit pretty natural or is the NH-L12S pushing on the capacitor?

Glad you like it! This case has been very versatile and I can't believe how much I put in there. All inspiration is from @theGryphon, who managed to cram a 140mm cooler in theirs. If I ever buy a universal remote, I may even try to squeeze an internal IR receiver in the bottom of my unit, as it was a special run unit I got many years ago that includes a small transparent window in the bottom left.

As for compatibility between the 160XT and the L12s, I'd say they are a 'perfect' fit. A capacitor on the 160XT just touches the Noctua fan, but do note that the fan can slide along that axis due to the way the mounting mechanism works, so you definitely have some wiggle room. I'm 100% happy with the CPU cooling setup. If you're using a 75w GPU with your setup (like the GTX 1050 or GTX 1050ti) I'd definitely get the 160XT, otherwise I'm sure you will be more than happy with the 150XT. Or check out @Thehack 's new 120w plug in board (https://j-hackcompany.com/).

I do have one funky quirk that I assume is caused by my power setup. If I disconnect AC power from my Mean Well AC/DC and PicoPSU DC-DC and then plug it back in to AC power, it takes about 45 seconds or so before I can use the case's power button to turn on the computer. I'm not sure if this is some wonky side effect from my setup, or some sort of incompatibility between my components (motherboard, AC/DC, DC-DC). AFAIK, other users do not experience this same issue.

Edit: I figured out the power issues I was having were not related to the PSU setup. I ran a traditional ATX PSU setup for a while on a bench top and continued having the same power behavior. I then replaced the CMOS batter (I noticed that Windows/BIOS were not keeping accurate time) and the issues have *mostly* gone away.
 
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vlad1966

Caliper Novice
Sep 21, 2017
31
15
I've got a Realan E-i7 silver case. Just bought the Zotac GTX 1650 LP on NewEgg for it. Still putting together my build. Trying to decide on Ryzen 5 3600 or maybe i5-8500T - 9th gen T's are impossible to find anywhere. I'll also be using the HDPLEX 200W DC-ATX PSU with Dell 230W PA-19 AC Adapter. HSF will be Noctua NH-L9x65.

I'm having a devil of a time though deciding on the CPU. Thinking Ryzen 5 3600 but worried about the heat output/Watts. Even though they are 65W, I get the sneaky suspicion they run more than 65W & pretty hot when pushed in games.

Thinking about an i5-8500T from eBay for about $150 might be the "safer" bet? Not an engineering sample, or maybe even an i5-9400.

Thoughts?