SFF Inception: NFC Skyreach 4 MINI Brickless Build Log

seven7thirty30

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Jun 2, 2019
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Welcome...
I want to start off by saying that this community has inspired me to make the jump from the traditional to the creative world of SFF PCs. I have been a long time lurker on this forum and only recently decided to jump in. I have been modding computers for over a decade (not professionally) as a hobby. I like to take my time, and most of the time I have no choice since my family and career take priority. I love the bravery and creativity that you all have expressed on this forum, and I want to thank you for taking the time to visit my build log and welcoming me to the forum.

I've titled this build SFF Inception, because I have always built full-size ATX and EATX PCs. I was "that guy" with dual, triple, and quad-SLI rigs because I always approached it with a "go big or don't go at all" attitude. I no longer have this attitude thanks to recent tech achievements in both size and power that no longer make it as desirable as before. However, I'm still an avid fan of custom water cooling, and it will be hard for me to go from water to air. Hopefully, in the near future I will start a build that will take on the challenge of putting a full custom water cooling loop into a SFF case. I'm currently disassembling my main rig. I will be selling most of it and keeping a few items to put into this new build. Let's get into it!

Color Scheme: Black and Gold

Main components of this build:


CASE: NFC SkyReach 4 Mini (S4M)
MOBO: AsRock Z390 Phantom Gaming ITX/ac
CPU: i5-9600K
GPU: Zotac 1080ti MINI
RAM: 16GB G.Skill DDR4-4266
PSU: HDPLEX 400W HI-FI DC-ATX with HDPLEX 400W AC-DC
SSD: Samsung 970 Evo Plus 1TB NVMe M.2 and Samsung 960 PRO 512GB NVMe M.2



Now, I know what you're thinking. He's not going to be able to fit all that in the S4M. You may be right, but I'm also hard headed and damn determined to try. Otherwise, what's the point? I'm not timid when it comes to making the modifications necessary, and I know they will be necessary. Also, I currently do not have the S4M. It's on pre-order (JULY 19), and I'm also in the middle of moving my family across the country. I could wait til I have everything that I need on hand, but I can still do a little at a time. This will give me the opportunity to take feedback and make any necessary changes. I don't want to rush it if I don't have to.



Delid and re-lid of the i5-9600K with liquid metal TIM using the Rockit Cool kit. I had the direct-to-die mounting kit on hand (compatible with water cooling blocks and limited Noctua rear plate mounted air coolers), and after trying it with the two air coolers that I have for this build (Noctua NH-L9i and the Alpenfoehn Black Ridge) I quickly discovered that it isn't going to work.





Die exposed with solder ready for removal.



The Rockit Cool Quicksilver solder removal kit was too easy. It only took about 15-20 mins to remove all the solder and polish the die.



I applied Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut and resealed the CPU with the original IHS using a very small amount of High temp RTV silicon.



These are the 2 air coolers that I'm going to use in this build. The Noctua NH-L9i (left) and the Alpenfoehn Black Ridge (right). The Alpenfoehn Black Ridge is from the latest batch (previous batches had issues). I know the Noctua cooler will definitely fit in the S4M, but the Alpenfoehn will require case modifications. I'm hoping that I can make it work, do a performance comparison between the two, then pick the winner for the final build. Regardless, the Noctua 92mm fan will be used no matter which cooler I use.





RAM height is an issue. I cannot use Black Ridge cooler with the G.Skill Trident Z modules' stock heat spreaders. I'll have to order after market heat spreaders. An order has already been place for low profile all copper heat spreaders.

 

seven7thirty30

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Jun 2, 2019
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Purchased a 3D bezel for the S4M direct from NFC. It came oiled, but it looked too dull for my taste. I sanded it down and applied a few coats of poly. It really makes a difference.

Oiled


Sanded with poly coat.
 

seven7thirty30

Chassis Packer
Original poster
Jun 2, 2019
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The Zotac 1080Ti MINI that I pulled from another system is a few years old. I want to maximize this cards' ability to stay cool in the S4M. I disassembled the heat sink/shroud/fan assembly and cleaned it out.









The original thermal pads for the GPU RAM and MOSFETS looked terrible. They were caked with dust and they were getting dry and cracked, so I discarded them. I have Fujipoly Ultra thermal pads from past builds that are just sitting around, so why not?



Since I've gone this far, I might was well polish the heat sink too.



Heat sink is ready for new thermal pads and the liquid metal TIM treatment.



I applied liquid electrical tape around the GPU die to protect it from the liquid metal, in case it spills or seeps out.





I never noticed before, but the aluminum back plate doesn't have any thermal padding for the backside of the GPU and the MOSFETS to transfer heat. There is a thin plastic film to prevent metal to metal contact. I carefully cut the film away over the MOSFETS and GPU because I'm going to add some thermal pads.





Back plate has been sanded and primed for painting.

 

Curiosity

Case addict
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Apr 30, 2016
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Looks good so far.
How did you determine direct-die cooling wouldn't work? Was it a mounting hardware issue or what?
 

seven7thirty30

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Jun 2, 2019
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18
Looks good so far.
How did you determine direct-die cooling wouldn't work? Was it a mounting hardware issue or what?
The mounting brackets on both the Noctua NH-L9i and the Black Ridge are too tall. They don't allow the heat sink to come into contact with the die. At first it looked like they did, but I couldn't tell. I applied a dab of cheap TIM onto the die then mounted each cooler. After removing both coolers it was apparent that the TIM didn't even touch the bottom of the heat sink.
 

Soul_Est

SFF Guru
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Feb 12, 2016
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Really liking how this is coming along so far. I definitely look forward to seeing the Black Ridge in the case and how much room there is to spare.
 
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seven7thirty30

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Jun 2, 2019
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Update: GPU has been given the full FujiPoly and Conductonaut treatment. The back plate base color (black) has been completed and the 1080ti has been reassembled. I have a few ideas for a gold design that will be painted on the back plate at a later date. I still haven't decided on the final design, but I have time (waiting for the S4M pre-order). Right now I'm really leaning towards a Deus Ex: Mankind Divided/Human Revolution theme.









I also received the Pelican Vault 300 travel case that I will use to transport the S4M. You better believe that after all the work I'm putting into this build, that it will be secure and safe during travel.





After brain storming on the NFC Discord channel, and the recent success that [email protected] had with building a brickless S4M with an RTX 2070, I came up with a solution to make this build brickless with a 1080ti. The rear IO bracket on the GPU can be modified to fit, if the IO ports and mounting holes are shifted 10mm towards the PCIE connection on the bottom of the card. There is room to do it on the bracket, but it will require 3D modeling and 3D printing a new bracket. This will allow the HDPLEX 400W AC-DC to fit between the top of the card and the case side panel. Without the modification there is 30mm of space between the top of the Zotac 1080ti MINI PCB and the case side panel. The HDPLEX is exactly 39.8mm wide, so if I'm able to make a bracket with the 10mm off set, then it should work. I'm also exploring the possibility of using another aftermarket bracket (or one from another GPU) that might do the same thing, but I haven't found one yet.



 

seven7thirty30

Chassis Packer
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Jun 2, 2019
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Full copper ram heat spreaders installed because the height of the original G.Skill heat spreaders conflicted with the Black Ridge CPU cooler. Shame to let the originals go to waste so I'm going to use one as a heat spreader for the M.2 drive mounted on the back side of the motherboard. Might find another place inside the S4M case.









 

seven7thirty30

Chassis Packer
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Jun 2, 2019
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Update: Decided to go with the Deus Ex Mankind Divided/Human Revolution theme for the build. Gold and black with several design pieces for the case and components. Since the back plate of the GPU will be visible through the vents in the S4M it's the first to get the Deus Ex treatment.











 

seven7thirty30

Chassis Packer
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Jun 2, 2019
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Update: I made the modifications to the leftover G.Skill RAM heat spreaders to use as an M.2 heat sink for the M.2 slot on the back of the motherboard.





The hexagon pattern that I used on the GPU back plate looked pretty good, but the triangle pattern looks better because of the smaller size. I also painted the S4M case feet to match the color scheme.





 

Curiosity

Case addict
Silver Supporter
Apr 30, 2016
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I really dig the gskill heatspreaders on the m.2 drive, what are you using to hold it in place? I assume thermal tape, but what kind
 

seven7thirty30

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Original poster
Jun 2, 2019
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I really dig the gskill heatspreaders on the m.2 drive, what are you using to hold it in place? I assume thermal tape, but what kind
Thanks! I used Aikenuo high performance double sided thermal adhesive tape. Still debating whether I'll use the hexagon or triangle pattern. I'll have to wait and see how it looks when the case panels are on.
 

seven7thirty30

Chassis Packer
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Jun 2, 2019
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Update: I believe I may have a solution to a brickless S4M with a Zotac 1080ti MINI and HDPlex 400W AC-DC power supply. The GPU PCIe bracket can be modified to shift the GPU 10mm closer to the PCIe slot on the motherboard. I thought that I would have to 3D print a new bracket, but the existing bracket can be slightly modified without losing it's original function and the newer 10mm offset. Check out my veteran Dremel skills.



The areas highlighted in YELLOW were either cut or drilled. This allows the top of the bracket to move closer to the top of the GPU. It's a 10mm offset that will allow the HDPlex 400W AC/DC power supply to fit between the GPU and the side panel of the S4M. The brace marked in BLUE was left to keep the bracket rigid. Unfortunately this method will make DP2 and DP3 unusable (unless you do more cutting, but I wanted to keep the structure of the bracket strong and since I only use DP1 and the HDMI port it was unnecessary). The mounting points under DP1 and DP2 will shift to the left and fall within one of the small triangle cut outs already present. The heads of the original screws will fit into the corners of the triangles and will hold the bracket securely. The DVI port will require a small washer to hold one of it's screws in place.



After the 10mm shift the top of the GPU PCB is now closer to the top of the PCIe bracket. The PCIe bracket mount "A" will require a thin plastic washer to fit between it and the PCB to prevent metal to metal contact with components. A new hole has to be cut into the GPU back plate to secure it. The PCIe bracket mount "B" will require some silicon adhesive to secure it since the GPU back plate does not cover the area, and drilling a hole through the PCB is not an option. Even without securing "B" the bracket and GPU are very secure.



Since I had to drill a hole into the back plate I decided to just repaint the GPU back plate and another M.2 heat spreader. I also decided to paint the rear motherboard bracket for the CPU socket. After the paint and clear coat is dry, then I'll put the card together with the 10mm offset and provide finished photos.
 
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seven7thirty30

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Jun 2, 2019
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Update: I reassembled the GPU with the modified bracket and back plate, installed the newly painted motherboard socket mounting plate, and the M.2 heat spreader.







Tomorrow I will start on the Aviation Connection for the power cord.
 

seven7thirty30

Chassis Packer
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Jun 2, 2019
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Update: Completed the aviation connector mod for the power cord. I really like how it turned out.





I built and painted the custom GPU shroud. The shroud is more cosmetic than function. I just don't want to paint the Noctua 92mm fans, but I don't want to see them either. Tomorrow I'll work on the fan cable assembly that will plug into the GPU fan header.



The travel case is primed and ready for paint. Stencils are complete and the first stage is finished. Need a few more details like the "PRAXIS KIT" placard to replace the "Vault" that came stock.







I also decided to try a mod that I'm going to save as a surprise til the end. I'm pretty excited about it. More later...
 
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seven7thirty30

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Jun 2, 2019
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Update: GPU fan shroud complete. It doesn't completely hide Noctuas' ugly color scheme, but it's enough. Card sides won't be visible when installed anyway. Kept a low profile to make installation in the S4M easier. Fan cables were cut to length and sleeved.



 

seven7thirty30

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Jun 2, 2019
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Update: System is up and running in it's temporary home (Raijintek Ophion Evo). I had to extend the motherboard mounting to compensate for running the PCIe ribbon cable behind it with the M.2 heat spreader on the back. I installed Win 10 Pro and played some Deus Ex: Mankind Divided with maxed settings without CPU or GPU overclocking to see what system power draw looked like. Average was around 390W with peak draw around 440W. It looks like I will need to under volt the GPU with the HDPlex 400W AC-DC, but I'll do testing when I get there. Overall the Noctua 92mm fans do a great job at noticeably lower noise levels. The Noctua 92mm fan on the Black Ridge CPU cooler is currently set to blow through the heatsink (opposed to pulling air) and the turbulent noise is louder than the massive EVGA 1200W PS fan and the GPU fans combined. I plan to switch the fan orientation and compare noise and cooling levels. All of the results and future build work will be on hold temporarily while I move across the country this week. Til then, take care.



 

seven7thirty30

Chassis Packer
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Jun 2, 2019
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Update: One more for the road. Paint job complete. Laser engraved black anodized brass plates with "PRAXIS KIT" and my name are being made.