• SFF.N will be offline briefly for planned maintenance on May 24th, from 11:00 PM to 11:30 PM EDT.

The Dreamcast 'DC-PC' sleeper build

Ross Siggers

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Original poster
Nov 10, 2018
97
86
Hi all, figured I would share my first SFF build with you all 🙃 This whole ordeal started around a year and a half ago; there were long pauses waiting on components... not knowing what the hell I was doing... trial... error, and a sprinkling of 'losing faith', but we got there in the end.

One of my Dreamcasts died, and with an increasing interest in SFF I decided to give one a go. A Dreamcast is quite diminutive of a system, with a rough volume of 2.8 liters. I'd say once you take into account the curves, undercuts, and general design features, you're actually looking at less than that. I was also determined to build a system that wasn't APU, so a dedicated graphics card needed to be crammed inside too. There's a long thread over on the LinusTechTips forum documenting the trials and tribulations of the build process, but this is just a summary really;

Specs

Processor - i7-6700T
Motherboard - Asus H110S2
Memory - 2x4gb Corsair sodimm
Graphics - 4gb Zotac gtx1650 mini
Storage - 250gb Samsung 840evo ssd
Power - KMPKT 'Mini' pico-psu w/ external brick

-- The case was entirely hollowed out, and the motherboard faces downwards using the lowest profile cooler I could find, a Silverstone NT-07. There's an intake cut into the bottom of the case, and slightly thicker feet, so the sleeper aesthetic remains intact.

-- STX format motherboards don't have a PCIe slot, so the graphics card is running off of an M.2 adapter, and is bolted directly to the back of the motherboard, facing upwards. In fact, this also uses a Silverstone NT-07 cooler, albeit heavily modified, because the card had to be slimmed down to fit. It's just over a single-slot in height.

-- The KMPKT Mini sits nicely in the corner of the case where the Dreamcast's modem would have been. This conveniently means after reducing the length of the wires, all the power supply cables are tucked behind the modem cover, which can still be popped off for maintenance. It powers the graphics card and ssd, and is triggered to power on/off using the fan header on the motherboard.

-- Unfortunately due to the limited M.2 slots on this board, I couldn't run a ssd that way, so I removed a Samsung Evo from it's casing, and hard mounted it to the floor. using the worlds cutest, shortest Sata cable??? it's like...6cm or something silly.

-- Cooling is handled...surprisingly well. The back is completely opened up, and there's a 3D printed bracket available online to fit a 40mm Noctua in the space of the original Dreamcast fan. It behaves itself surprisingly well for content consumption, but it gets quite toasty gaming so the lid does have to come off for that. It's held on by magnets so it's a breeze to clip on and off, pun intended...I'm investigating the idea of 3D printed ducting, to make the controller ports functional exhaust.

-- Special shout out to everyone in this thread for their help...a combination of my lack of experience in SFF/custom electronics, compounded by a voltage typo in the manual of my motherboard made the power setup a very frustrating learn. Without your help this would have never been finished, so big props are in order.

-- Buttons and lights are functional; POWER is still power, OPEN is now reset, and the appropriate orange led is present. Because assembly/disassembly is so fiddly, I added quick disconnects for these. Unfortunately a lot of the front I/O of the motherboard is obscured, but I have a wireless keyboard/mouse dongle hidden in there. I could add USB and Audio ports beneath the controller ports, but undecided if I need them enough to spoil the aesthetic.





















happy to answer any questions you may have!
Thanks for looking!
 
Last edited:

Ross Siggers

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Original poster
Nov 10, 2018
97
86
Oh, someone is definitely going to spot it straight away so I'll beat them to it;

I know the shroud says GTX750. I used one as my mock-up card, and honestly this fits on the cooler where the 1650 one doesn't. So it's...a sleeper in side a sleeper? *inception horn blares*
 

Ross Siggers

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Original poster
Nov 10, 2018
97
86
It's so beautiful!!!
this is glorious, DEAR GOD i never knew i wanted a sleeper PC this badly.. well done, sir!
Now go play Hikaruga !!! Very well done, Sir.
Thanks all! I've seen a few Dreamcast builds floating about, but they all seem quite old, and incomplete/antiquated by today's standards. One of them had to be plugged into an external PSU, another had watercooling pipes out the side to a seperate pump/res...you get the idea. There is an exception; Kotaku did an article on one with a BluRay drive in it years ago, that thing's awesome.

I wanted an all-in-one solution, something with a bit of polish to it. It's been usable for about 6 months or so, but I've just been tweaking little bits here and there to make it neater, remaking parts etc. It's likely I'll remake the rear mesh when I delete the DVI connector from the graphics card; I never use it and it impedes airflow. Which leads me onto....

Out of curiousity, how are your thermals ?
They're quite acceptable actually, given the lack of ventilation inherent in the cases design. The front corner fan actually does less than I expected unfortunately, the opening in the case is about 2/3 than that of the fan shroud, so there's some restriction there for sure. I'd say the ambient indoors right now is about 16* celcius, and given that here are some figures. Obviously the gaming ones will vary a lot depending on what you're playing;

IDLE
cpu: 28*
gpu: 40*

CONTENT (4k YouTube)
cpu: 32*
gpu: 45*

GAMING
cpu: 45-55*
gpu: 70-80*

GAMING (LID OFF)
cpu: 40-50*
gpu: 55-60*

Volume wise, on idle and browsing situations it's no louder than say, a laptop fan, it's not obtrusive at all. With an intensive gaming load, it ramps up to noticeable volumes, especially with the lid on, but I mostly take it off for that stuff because I'm not a masochist!! Emulating, and less strenuous gaming, the lid can stay on and the graphics card will sit in the 60* area normally, with a medium level, audible fan noise. Unfortunately I can't be more specific than that without equipment.

Definitely some fiddling with the fan curves went on, and as mentioned in the original post, there are a few other things I could try. A false floor, seperating the top and bottom halves of the case into two separate cooling zones...ducting to direct the graphics cards hot air straight out the controller ports...definitely room for more experimentation 😆

What I will say, is it's definitely quieter than my PS4 when that's under load, and that thing was freshly cleaned and pasted this year...new games are really stretching the cooling solution on those consoles.
 
Last edited:

rfarmer

Shrink Way Wielder
Silver Supporter
Jul 7, 2017
1,748
1,709
What I will say, is it's definitely quieter than my PS4 when that's under load, and that thing was freshly cleaned and pasted this year...new games are really stretching the cooling solution on those consoles.
I recently picked up a PS4 so I could play Final Fantasy VII Remake and I couldn't believe the noise levels of the PS4 and people complain about slightly loud PCs. Great look build btw.
 

Ross Siggers

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Original poster
Nov 10, 2018
97
86
@rfarmer yeah in hindsight that may have been a bad comparison 😆

Maybe I should have said, it's nowhere near as bad as a PS4
 

Ross Siggers

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Original poster
Nov 10, 2018
97
86
@rfarmer haha it's cool, I'd love to build a silent system one day, but honestly acoustics aren't that high my my list of priorities. As long as a system isn't obtrusively loud, I don't need it to be silent either 🤷🏻‍♂️

The original goal was a media PC, so mainly content consumption, with the odd emulated game thrown in. It turned out quite a bit more powerful(bonus), but it can totally be used for the intended purpose and stay very quiet, lid on :)
 
  • Like
Reactions: rfarmer

vithrell

Case Bender
New User
Apr 7, 2019
2
1
That thing is SMALL! STX mobos and ITX GPUs are alike PB and jelly: great match to sandwitch together. Did you took inspiration in some other project like this? I was searching for ideas of going below ITX size (with dGPU), but they are scarce. Did you explore possibilities to go even smaller, like SBC (lattepanda) + low profile GPU?
 
  • Like
Reactions: Ross Siggers

Ross Siggers

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Original poster
Nov 10, 2018
97
86
@vithrell They're such a perfect combination aren't they? A chassis 20cm cubed would be more than you'd need for a pretty powerful build; That's the same floorplan as a Dreamcast, but with all that extra hight for internal AC-DC and better cooling.

Inspiration wise? Way back when, @Aibohphobia 's STX160 build that kicked it all off. I remember scrolling through that thread being amazed at what I saw whilst simultaneously understanding NOTHING about most of the components he was using 😅 It's also the reason I stumbled across @Josh | NFC build videos, because he did a teardown of the build. I love good presentation too, and despite completely opposite approaches(dremel and a file anyone?), I'm quite proud of the cleanliness and packaging of this build. Aside from that, I've always liked sleepers(not just computers, you can't beat a cool sleeper car either).

Regarding the form factor, I didn't really consider any smaller because I wanted to maintain flexibility and the ability to upgrade. Looking back, this was stupid, because everything is so tied up by the thermals it won't change spec now. The board supports 7th gen kabylake...but it would be a single generation jump, and limited to a 35W chip similar to what I already have. There's also a 6-pin power connector for bigger GPU's... but space and lack of venitllation force me to use a slot-powered card regardless. Touching on the low profile GPU point, they're narrower but that necessitates a taller cooler. My issue is in vertical height in this case, not width.

Had it not been for the whole aesthetic, it could have been the same power if not more than the STX160, given hardware advances. But I was commited to the bit 😎
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Soul_Est

TutorialIsland

Average Stuffer
Mar 19, 2020
55
13
Hi all, figured I would share my first SFF build with you all 🙃 This whole ordeal started around a year and a half ago; there were long pauses waiting on components... not knowing what the hell I was doing... trial... error, and a sprinkling of 'losing faith', but we got there in the end.

One of my Dreamcasts died, and with an increasing interest in SFF I decided to give one a go. A Dreamcast is quite diminutive of a system, with a rough volume of 2.8 liters. I'd say once you take into account the curves, undercuts, and general design features, you're actually looking at less than that. I was also determined to build a system that wasn't APU, so a dedicated graphics card needed to be crammed inside too. There's a long thread over on the LinusTechTips forum documenting the trials and tribulations of the build process, but this is just a summary really;

Specs

Processor - i7-6700T
Motherboard - Asus H110S2
Memory - 2x4gb Corsair sodimm
Graphics - 4gb Zotac gtx1650 mini
Storage - 250gb Samsung 840evo ssd
Power - KMPKT 'Mini' pico-psu w/ external brick

-- The case was entirely hollowed out, and the motherboard faces downwards using the lowest profile cooler I could find, a Silverstone NT-07. There's an intake cut into the bottom of the case, and slightly thicker feet, so the sleeper aesthetic remains intact.

-- STX format motherboards don't have a PCIe slot, so the graphics card is running off of an M.2 adapter, and is bolted directly to the back of the motherboard, facing upwards. In fact, this also uses a Silverstone NT-07 cooler, albeit heavily modified, because the card had to be slimmed down to fit. It's just over a single-slot in height.

-- The KMPKT Mini sits nicely in the corner of the case where the Dreamcast's modem would have been. This conveniently means after reducing the length of the wires, all the power supply cables are tucked behind the modem cover, which can still be popped off for maintenance. It powers the graphics card and ssd, and is triggered to power on/off using the fan header on the motherboard.

-- Unfortunately due to the limited M.2 slots on this board, I couldn't run a ssd that way, so I removed a Samsung Evo from it's casing, and hard mounted it to the floor. using the worlds cutest, shortest Sata cable??? it's like...6cm or something silly.

-- Cooling is handled...surprisingly well. The back is completely opened up, and there's a 3D printed bracket available online to fit a 40mm Noctua in the space of the original Dreamcast fan. It behaves itself surprisingly well for content consumption, but it gets quite toasty gaming so the lid does have to come off for that. It's held on by magnets so it's a breeze to clip on and off, pun intended...I'm investigating the idea of 3D printed ducting, to make the controller ports functional exhaust.

-- Special shout out to everyone in this thread for their help...a combination of my lack of experience in SFF/custom electronics, compounded by a voltage typo in the manual of my motherboard made the power setup a very frustrating learn. Without your help this would have never been finished, so big props are in order.

-- Buttons and lights are functional; POWER is still power, OPEN is now reset, and the appropriate orange led is present. Because assembly/disassembly is so fiddly, I added quick disconnects for these. Unfortunately a lot of the front I/O of the motherboard is obscured, but I have a wireless keyboard/mouse dongle hidden in there. I could add USB and Audio ports beneath the controller ports, but undecided if I need them enough to spoil the aesthetic.





















happy to answer any questions you may have!
Thanks for looking!
Sexy, but would be overkill if it had the sff 2070 super, a 750 these days is a tad dated.
 
  • Wow
Reactions: Ross Siggers

Ross Siggers

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Original poster
Nov 10, 2018
97
86
This is super awesome! kinda wanna cram pc components in an my agein PS2 now
I actually have an empty PS2 for this exact reason. When I have the money spare, I'd love to start work on it. The plan is AM4 and water cooled. Because with more room to play with, the only choice is to be more ambitious, right 💦 😉

One day, but I have big plans for my car this summer so funds may not permit in the near future.
 
Last edited: