Log Talos - a new living room-proof computer

robbee

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Sep 24, 2016
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With the new year, the time has come for a new case. And with a new case comes a new build log of course. This time, I will not be building my personal computer but will instead build a new enclosure for my HTPC, which currently resides in my Mikros enclosure.

Being an HTPC, it has a couple of different requirements and constraints than an ordinary computer. The hardware requirements will remain the same as before: a simple low power processor along with a low profile 75W graphics card with aftermarket fan(s), preferably with an internal power supply.

The most important requirement though is its looks: it should be living room-proof. By that, I mean that it should blend in with the room and not look like an odd box sitting on my cabinet. This is very subjective of course, but I'm trying to use materials and shapes which are more common in interior design.

To sum up, I'm making an enclosure inspired by interior design that houses a computer that is strong enough for some light couch gaming. This bring me to my new case.


1. Design

For the case design, I'm trying to find a blend between your typical PC case, being a black cube, and some other elements that are popular in interior design. I'm looking at lines, shapes and materials of other things you would often find in your living room (decoration, art, furniture, ...).

After a couple of months experimenting and iterating, this is what I came up with. I present to you, the Talos:



2. Materials

My material of choice to distinguish this case has become brass. This choice reflects not only in its looks, but also in its functionality. The core of the case is made of a 4mm thick brass sheet that will support all the hardware and give the case its rigidity and strength. Rather than hiding this core inside the enclosure, I chose to have the brass show slightly along the edges of the case. This look is complemented with a brass power button and case feet. The case feet have the typical reversed cone shape that's used often for furniture feet.

The rest of the case will be 3d printed in matte black, both to keep cost under control (the brass base plate is already expensive) and because my inner maker-geek longs to use my printer. It is also a very efficient way to make these custom one-off projects.

For the vents, I will be using some black painted mesh to allow for sufficient airflow in the case.


3. The case

The case dimensions will be 204mm x 247mm x 66mm, for a total of 3.3 liters (case feet excluded). It will be made of 4 major parts: the 4mm brass base plate, a 4mm thick printed bezel, a 3mm top plate and a 3mm bottom panel. For front IO, there will be a 12mm power button, USB type C header and a power LED. The cpu cooler limit is 38mm and the graphics card should be low profile and less than 172mm long. The graphics card uses a short PCB riser to rotate it 90 degrees. There will be the option to deshroud the graphics card, replacing the fans by aftermarket 60x25 ones. This should keep the case quiet under load.


4. A story of power

As noted in the introduction, I want to use an internal power supply in this case. Existing form factors like Flex and SFX all felt too chunky and overkill for a build like this. This left me with the less established options of HDPlex and 12V power supplies like Meanwell. I chose the Meanwell LSP 160 along with the Mini-box 160XT that I already owned. This choice is mainly a functional one, the Meanwell form factor looks as if it was made for my case and allows me to print the bezel in one piece. There is also the 200W UHP series, but this one is slightly too large for my print bed. The 160W power budget is rather limited though, so this requires me to be creative in my choice of hardware if I still want to use a 75W graphics card.


5. The hardware

With the power budget established, I could start my hunt for components. I had to decide on a CPU that offered enough performance for some light gaming but that would also leave enough power for my graphics card. The few '65W TDP' options all seemed too power hungry as their true power consumption went well above their rated TDP. This meant that AMD was no longer an option as they focus on the higher end of the spectrum and their Athlons are simply not potent enough. Intel, however, does still have some nice options that meet my requirements, and contrary to their high-end line-up, their mid-end line-up has its power consumption under control. I decided on an i3 from the 10th generation, a quadcore processor with hyperthreading that would be called an i7 a couple of generations ago (thanks AMD). Initially, I wanted to get an i3-10105, but I got a good deal on a 10100T, which is the 'low power' equivalent with a TDP of 35W. This should leave more than enough power for my graphics card.

The graphics card itself will be a hard choice, because at the moment there aren't really any interesting options. The long overdue 1050ti and 1650 by Nvidia have had their prices explode and the A2000 is actually a workstation card and is also way too expensive. With the 6500XT and the RTX 3050 being >100W cards, I don't think we will be seeing any low profile cards soon. Let's hope the upcoming Intel cards have something nice to offer.

The rest of the hardware will be simple: an M.2 SSD, a Noctua NH-l9i to cool the processor and two 60mm Noctua fans to replace the graphics card fans.


6. Result

Coming soon...
 

REVOCCASES

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very nice project, looking forward to your progress :)

The 160W power budget is rather limited though, so this requires me to be creative in my choice of hardware if I still want to use a 75W graphics card.

not sure if it would fit in your build as planned, but you could also have a look at some of those AIO PSUs from HP, DELL & Co.

I am using this HP 12V/200W Platinum unit in a couple of my builds and it performs very good. Maybe could even make use of the IEC connector somehow - or just de-solder it and wire it up to the back of your case as planned...

Bild_2022-01-13_131103.png


here I found one offer on eBay (not sure if it's legit though):

 

robbee

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Sep 24, 2016
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I am using this HP 12V/200W Platinum unit in a couple of my builds and it performs very good. Maybe could even make use of the IEC connector somehow - or just de-solder it and wire it up to the back of your case as planned...

That's an interesting PSU for sure! The AC in is in an awkward position though as it makes the required space a lot bigger if it's not mounted to the back of your case. I would probably go with your suggestion and desolder it. This could be a nice and quiet alternative for some Flex ATX cases though!

But I'm afraid the 74.8mm width is a little much for my case. The LSP-160 is only 55mm on that axis so it would add lot of extra unused space.
 

robbee

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Here's a first progress update. I'm sitting around at the moment mainly, waiting for components and parts to arrive. But in the meantime, I have printed the bezel and installed some stuff. Let's take a look:



3D printing in progress. As you can see, the part barely fits my printer! But after about 15 hours of printing time, the part came out very nice with minimal warping (about 0.5mm on the 2 back edges.)




Here you can see the finished bezel with threaded inserts. The banding on the part are a little too profound to my taste (the horizontal lines) because either the PLA had been laying around for too long or the extrusion multiplier wasn't dialed in perfectly. I may consider this a prototype and reprint later, we shall see.





Some parts have already arrived. The AC in is already soldered and wired from a previous project. The brass case feet and power button have arrived too. Those case feet are actually drawer handles that I drilled through and use upside down.




Ready to solder the power button. It is a teeny tiny 12mm button so the contact points are close together. Makes for some clumsy solder job! But I managed without joining the two contact points in the progress, yay! Then some heat shrink top insulate the solder points.




Everything I got so far put into place.


The next step will be the brass base plate. It is being laser cut as we speak so I should have it soon. I will need to thread some holes before I can use it though, which will be the first time I do that. Let's hope nothing goes wrong there!
 

BaK

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Did I hear 12V build?! I'm in!

The mix of brass and 3D print looks great, good choice!
In your pics the horizontal banding makes the PLA look like wood, which adds a nice touch to the whole.
That's definitely going to be more 'living room' compatible than my LiGHTPC!

Will there be some contact between the brass plate and the MW PSU to help its heat dissipation?
 

robbee

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Welcome @BaK , good to have you here! :D

There will be some contact between the brass plate and the Meanwell but not in the position Meanwell suggests. If heat becomes a problem (I actually except not), I can still try to add a 120mm fan to the cpu cooler to have it closer to the PSU. Alternatively, I can add some small 40mm fan above the unused USB ports on my motherboard blowing in the direction of the PSU.
 

BaK

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Welcome @BaK , good to have you here! :D

There will be some contact between the brass plate and the Meanwell but not in the position Meanwell suggests. If heat becomes a problem (I actually except not), I can still try to add a 120mm fan to the cpu cooler to have it closer to the PSU. Alternatively, I can add some small 40mm fan above the unused USB ports on my motherboard blowing in the direction of the PSU.
Thanks!

The 120mm fan could indeed be helpful in moving the hot air that gathers in the PSU / Pico area. I had this problem in my B01T3 and that's how I solved it. You need room for the fan above the RAM and Pico though.
Otherwise maybe a simple aluminium L shape support to attach the PSU on its larger side and on the brass plate could let you gain some °C.

I will need to thread some holes before I can use it though, which will be the first time I do that. Let's hope nothing goes wrong there!
Nothing to worry about, just don't rush at it!
The tool to thread small holes usually comes with 3 taps, you have to use them in the right order. Adding some oil helps and take care to stay perpendicular to the plate. Shouldn't happen with such a thin plate but go backward if you feel abnormal resistance. You really don't want to force and break the tool inside the hole!
 

robbee

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Sep 24, 2016
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The 120mm fan could indeed be helpful in moving the hot air that gathers in the PSU / Pico area. I had this problem in my B01T3 and that's how I solved it. You need room for the fan above the RAM and Pico though.
Otherwise maybe a simple aluminium L shape support to attach the PSU on its larger side and on the brass plate could let you gain some °C.

I do have some VLP ram that I can use for this project but you're right that it wont fit above the pico. Maybe I can attempt to make a duct that redirects the air that goes next to the heatsink, to the PSU. Some thing to consider.

Nothing to worry about, just don't rush at it!
The tool to thread small holes usually comes with 3 taps, you have to use them in the right order. Adding some oil helps and take care to stay perpendicular to the plate. Shouldn't happen with such a thin plate but go backward if you feel abnormal resistance. You really don't want to force and break the tool inside the hole!

The holes go all the way through the plate so one tap should do it. I don't have a drill press though so keeping the tap vertical will be the biggest challenge. Adam Savage has a good method to keep taps vertical using a mold though that I will try:
On another note, the base plate cutting is finished and should be shipped to me any time now. This is a picture I got from the manufacturer:



This sure seems to be the shape that I wanted! The large holes are m4 passthrough for the case feet, the middle sized ones are m3 passthrough to attach the plate to the bezel, the tiny holes are the ones that need m3 threading. They will be used to attach things to the base plate itself (fans and 2 of the 4 motherboard offsets). Then theres the gap for the back of the motherboard, the gap for the fans and the notch to give the AC in some more room.
 

robbee

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Time for another update! I managed to do quite a lot the past days so let's take a look.



As a first, I got confronted by a first component that would not fit. The modular cables on the 160XT are nice, but the connector for the CPU would clash with the Meanwell. I could choose to wrench off the connector and solder the cables to the pcb, or I could go for a little less destructive approach and solder the cables to the solder points on the opposite side of the pcb. I choice the latter.





The male side of the connector has to go. I left some slack on it so I can always solder it back if I should need it.




The solder points on the back side of the pcb were tightly packed and hard to reach, but after a lot of swearing, I managed to get it all together. I also bent the DC input cables a bit so they wouldn't conflict with he Meanwell.




On the the next task: the base plate. It has arrived and I'm very happy with it. It packs a total of almost 1kg of brass which I'm gonna try to leverage to cool the Meanwell.




Now to the threading. There is a total of 10 holes that need threads: 8 holes around the fan holes and 2 for the motherboard offsets on the top and bottom of the picture.




I don't have a lot of pictures of the threading itself but it went pretty well. I used a 3d printed 'tap guide' to have keep my tap vertical and attached that with a clamp. The guide itself also got threaded with the tap so that it would help put pressure on the tap. I had to use 3 of those blocks total because they would get stripped after a couple of holes and the tap would just twist aimlessly in the brass.






This concludes my update at the pictured state. Most parts are test fitted and had a test run apart from an obvious one: the graphics card. My 1050ti is too long (182mm, why MSI?!) so I'm now in search for a new one. A 1650 LP is barely in stock anywhere and too expensive for such an old card. I've decided to wait for Intel as they're rumoured to introduce a 75W card soon.

In the meantime, I took a chance by ordering an RTX A2000 at a price that is reasonably priced considering the MSRP but still ridiculously expensive at 640 euros. It is supposed to arrive next week but I'm not getting my hopes up too high. If I change my mind, I can still return or resell it. Secretly, I'm very excited about this card though XD

On to the next update!
 

BaK

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The solder points on the back side of the pcb were tightly packed and hard to reach, but after a lot of swearing, I managed to get it all together. I also bent the DC input cables a bit so they wouldn't conflict with he Meanwell.
Good job with the soldering!
Unlike you I chose to remove the connector from the PCB, but I remember having a hard time with that option too!

On the the next task: the base plate. It has arrived and I'm very happy with it. It packs a total of almost 1kg of brass which I'm gonna try to leverage to cool the Meanwell.
That's heavy!
Looking forward to seeing how you are going to manage the heat transfer!

Just noticed at the back the holes for attaching the C6 AC connector to.
Is your 3D print strong enough to not break when inserting the power cable into the C6 connector? This indeed requires a certain amount of force...
 

robbee

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Just noticed at the back the holes for attaching the C6 AC connector to.
Is your 3D print strong enough to not break when inserting the power cable into the C6 connector? This indeed requires a certain amount of force...

You're right! The C6 overlaps the base plate a bit so when inserting the AC cable, the plate takes the force. When pulling it out though, it's the printed part does so I have to be careful. My next iteration of the shell is much thicker there to solve that issue.
 
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Valantar

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Subbed, this looks fantastic. Looking forward to seeing it come together. Love the design, it's really gorgeous, and having the base plate work as both structural support for the printed parts, component mounting and (potentially) cooling while also giving the design some aesthetic identity is some great design thinking. An advantage of using brass is that you'd also be able to solder things like standoffs to it if you wanted/needed to (though with that kind of thermal mass you'd likely need a blowtorch to do so).

One suggestion: for thermally coupling the MW to the brass plate, try using Computer Systems' K5 Pro thermal goop? It's a (very) thick paste meant to replace thermal pads, with much better performance, and it should be pretty much ideal for an application like mating the ribbed side of the PSU to the flat metal panel. I haven't tried it myself, but LTT recently tested it on both GPU and motherboard VRMs with good results. Applying it looks like a mess, but that seems worth it to me at least.
 
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robbee

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Subbed, this looks fantastic. Looking forward to seeing it come together. Love the design, it's really gorgeous, and having the base plate work as both structural support for the printed parts, component mounting and (potentially) cooling while also giving the design some aesthetic identity is some great design thinking. An advantage of using brass is that you'd also be able to solder things like standoffs to it if you wanted/needed to (though with that kind of thermal mass you'd likely need a blowtorch to do so).

One suggestion: for thermally coupling the MW to the brass plate, try using Computer Systems' K5 Pro thermal goop? It's a (very) thick paste meant to replace thermal pads, with much better performance, and it should be pretty much ideal for an application like mating the ribbed side of the PSU to the flat metal panel. I haven't tried it myself, but LTT recently tested it on both GPU and motherboard VRMs with good results. Applying it looks like a mess, but that seems worth it to me at least.

Thanks! That thermal goop looks nice, watched the LTT video and it actually makes a lot of sense in my case. Only part I'm worried about is that I'll be assembling and disassembling the case a whole lot over the coming weeks so that will make a mess XD
 
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Valantar

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Thanks! That thermal goop looks nice, watched the LTT video and it actually makes a lot of sense in my case. Only part I'm worried about is that I'll be assembling and disassembling the case a whole lot over the coming weeks so that will make a mess XD
If my experiences from my UHP-350-12 are anything to go by, the cooling is barely necessary at all, so I would just keep it clean until the final assembly.
 

robbee

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Having recently become father again, progress has slowed down, but has not completely stopped! So today I have a small update for you: the GPU fan wiring. Having 2 separate fans with long wires adds a lot of bulk to the wire management. Time to do something about that.




The original Noctua fans. I will replace both wires with the fan splitter that comes with the fan. This will eliminate some connectors and shorten the wires.




Wires have been cut and soldering in progres... The last PWM cable is shrink wrapped and left unattached because I only need a PWM signal from one fan.







The whole thing put together. Nice and tidy!




No more bulky wires and connectors, but I did leave some slack to keep it compatible with other motherboards too.


On another note, the RTX A2000 wasn't delivered, like I was expecting. I haven't cancelled the order yet so we'll see if I hear about it soon. Prices on the GTX 1650 are dropping fast though, almost to a level I'm comfortable with. Let's see which one reaches my build first!
 

BaK

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Having recently become father again
Missed the biggest update, congrats!!! ✨🍼✨

Good job with the GPU fans too!

Just as side note, I had to temporarily run my B01T3 build without the slim 120mm top fan.
While the slim 80mm one under the Z39 cooler managed to keep the CPU at decent temps, the whole case became quite hot to the touch. Especially the front side where the MW PSU is attached to.
The good thing is that it should indicate a good thermal contact between the two, but also that the 120mm fan is really helpful in removing the heat from the PSU before its transfer to the case.
Both fans are in an exhaust orientation btw.
 

robbee

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Thanks for the kind words everyone!

The GPU situation has also been resolved now: I managed to score an RTX A2000 only to find a second hand GTX 1650 a couple of days later for 170 euros. I've decided to go with the 1650 in this build and I'm not sure yet what I'm doing with the A2000.

While the slim 80mm one under the Z39 cooler managed to keep the CPU at decent temps, the whole case became quite hot to the touch. Especially the front side where the MW PSU is attached to.
The good thing is that it should indicate a good thermal contact between the two, but also that the 120mm fan is really helpful in removing the heat from the PSU before its transfer to the case.

I haven't been able to do any temperature tests on the PSU because I don't own an IR thermometer, but while benchmarking both GPU and CPU, the PSU is still very cool touch. As far as I know, at 50C, components start to get too hot to touch so I think I'm well below it still.

Also, you mentioned "Prices on the GTX 1650 are dropping fast though" -> where exactly? 😄

Right now I'm seeing prices range from 260 to 280 euros for low profile 1650s without them selling out instantly here in Belgium, Netherlands and Germany. It's much better than a couple of weeks ago. Also RTX cards seem to be dropping in price.

Now for another update. I haven't been idle in my absense!



The bottom is printed and now looks like this. The cooling solution for the GPU works well, at full load the fans need to spin at around 1800 RPM to keep the GPU at 75C, which is still very quiet as they are small 60mm fans. I will add a mesh panel between the bottom part and the brass base plate which may increase fan speed a bit.




This version of the bezel is still a bit warped. It sticks to the bed perfectly while printing, but my print bed is a removable magnetic steel plate and just warps together with the bezel. I have printed clips to attach the bed to the printer so it doesn't warp anymore on the next iteration.

USB C also fits well but doesn't work for now. Wonder if I need to install a driver for it to work. Got to look a bit further.

The empty hole is for the power led which will be a simple white 3mm diode. It burns way too bright though when attaching it to the power led header so that's something I need to fix first.




The solderings on the back side of the 160-XT were too brittle so I soldered the thing to the front. Had to ruin the initial connector for it though o_O




With the GPU inserted, all components are now into place and the fit is great.




I prionted an aditional part to fix flex on the backside. This part attaches to the brass plate through the motherboard and to the back of the bezel. It's not very pretty but the flex is mostly gone.




The top part is also printed and I have tried a PVC mesh first. As you can see, there are some waves because it's very hard to keep it straight while the glue is drying. I'm not super happy about the result so I will attempt another version with steel mesh.

The PC is fully functional now. I have ran some benchmarks and tweaked the fans to be silent under load. Some numbers after an hour of benchmarking: I3-10100T is at 60C with the fan only at about 1000RPM, 1650 is at 75C with the 60mm fans at 1800RPM, the temperature of the PSU is unknown but comfortable to touch.
 
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BaK

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With the GPU inserted, all components are now into place and the fit is great.
Nice fit indeed! 😍

I haven't been able to do any temperature tests on the PSU because I don't own an IR thermometer, but while benchmarking both GPU and CPU, the PSU is still very cool touch. As far as I know, at 50C, components start to get too hot to touch so I think I'm well below it still.
Sounds great!
Do you achieve this simply with the thin side of the PSU touching the brass plate? Anything in between?
How is the PSU held in place btw?

The top part is also printed and I have tried a PVC mesh first. As you can see, there are some waves because it's very hard to keep it straight while the glue is drying. I'm not super happy about the result so I will attempt another version with steel mesh.
Maybe a PVC mesh requires some additional support from the top printed part, like a cross in its center, to prevent the waving.
Hopefully a more rigid steel mesh will stay flat with only a frame like you have it now.
 

robbee

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Sounds great!
Do you achieve this simply with the thin side of the PSU touching the brass plate? Anything in between?
How is the PSU held in place btw?

It is indeed just the thin side touching the brass plate with nothing inbetween. This does transfer the heat quite well as far as I can feel. But the problem is that I can not see or touch the hottest part (back side) because it is against the bezel. It is possible that the PSU is actually warmer than I think. But with these components, power draw will only be around 100w so I think this should be fine.
 
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