Concept The Slim Machine: a 4L gaming build

iFreilicht

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The sheet will be bought pre-anodized

How will the anodised layer hold up to the bending? Won't there be a lot of stress marks on the bends?

I have yet to test to see if the card would actually run stable without any problems.

It will be fine, I'm sure. People have built stable systems with longer and considerably less well made risers.
 

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Shrink Ray Wielder
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How will the anodised layer hold up to the bending? Won't there be a lot of stress marks on the bends?

It will be fine, I'm sure. People have built stable systems with longer and considerably less well made risers.

There will be some crazing on the bends, no doubt about that. They are all made of 5005 aluminum alloy which is easy to bend and form. The biggest risk is that crazing on the anodized coating can make those areas susceptible to corrosion, which would largely be a non-issue here because the case won't be exposed to water or very humid conditions. I have bent anodized pieces like this before, and held up fine.

Good to know about the stability of the risers. The Sintech ones look and feel well-made. I will begin testing the HD-PLEX today with my main build in the Jonsbo case, first without GPU and then with the GPU, once I can fashion a temporary 4-pin to 6-pin PEG adapter.
 
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So I sold some old parts yesterday, so more purchases incoming! The CPU cooler and aluminum sheet for this build. I'm getting a Scythe Kozuti cooler. SilentPCReview did a good job reviewing it and even provides audio samples for the fan. With my CPU it shouldn't be a problem setting a more conservative, quieter fan curve and still keeping it cool.

I've also been using the HD-PLEX to power my current system (without GPU) for over two days now and works like a charm. The PC is a lot quieter now with the Silverstone PSU fan not spinning. But the moment of truth will come when I try out the GPU with the HD-PLEX.

 
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Major update now! The case building begins anew!

First, re-taking measurements for the components to go inside the slim case. Spoiler: The CPU cooler pictured will not be in the final build.



Almost the same layout and design, but new building methods. I re-started making the case, which will use two L-shaped aluminum angle rods. Each 36" long and 1/2" wide, with a 1/16" thickness cross section. I already had a spare laying around. Gonna have to pick another one up at the hardware store for 3 bucks but not immediately. I can just form the motherboard try base with this one.



The rod has to be bent into a U-shape to line the back, bottom, and front of the case. To do this I cut two triangular gaps at the corners to be bent. The RTX motor died on me, and since I can't borrow my friend's Dremel at the moment, I have to improvise. I drilled three holes for each gap, then went in with a pair of small wire snips because the area was already weakened enough to trim the excess metal. Then I filed them down to straight lines.



Now to bend the piece. There should be enough to make two 13" sides and a bottom length of 9" with an inch left over. It's quite easy to bend but of course it "gives" back a bit, so the rectangle shape cannot hold until I screw on the motherboard base.



EDIT: More pics incoming. Here is the bottom side of the frame fully formed. Measurements came out perfect, it's exactly 9 inches on the inside. This is long enough to fit not just my graphics card but some other GPUs I'm looking at as possible upgrades in the future.





As luck would have it, I also had some scraps left from my previous custom build that are 9 inches long too, so I could hold it in place easily when attaching the motherboard tray to it.
 
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I got a SATA to PCI-e adapter yesterday and hooked it up to the GTX 950. It works but I have not done any intensive graphics benchmark tests yet, so it's still sipping a small amount of power.

But I also noticed something weird about the SATA and Molex power cable that was included with the HD-PLEX 160w PSU. With two of the three SATA connectors, the power pins look pushed out of place. I have only used the connector at the end which works no problem, but I cannot connect any SATA plugs on the other ones because these pins are pushed way out of the housing, instead of lying flat. So I can only connect one powered device with them. I have not noticed this before because I only had one hard drive connected.

I don't know if this cable was just a fluke because I haven't seen anyone else mention faulty cables when using the provided ones with their HD-PLEX PSU's. I'd be making my own custom cables for the final build, but for testing purposes, this kind of issue still holds me back.
 

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My Scythe Kozuti arrived today. It came pre-installed with the 80mm fan, and it's just about as big as the Noctua NH-L9i but a bit taller.


I sleeved it up and then had mixed the pins up by accident. Had to re-install, and put the pins in their proper location and the fan works again. Here is the complete setup without GPU using the new cooler. It's starting to look real compact already :D



With the default fan curve, I'm getting idle temperatures of upper 50's to 60 degrees C in Windows (compared to upper 40's with the Hyper 212) which is strangely high for 35w TDP. I may have put a bit too much thermal paste, but also, the base of the heatsink is not very smooth. It has a shiny brushed texture to it, and this probably hurts temps some more with less than ideal contact. So I'll have to sand the area smooth to get a better seal for the final case installation.

On the other hand, the system is super quiet. The fan is almost silent on idle, and still not very noticeable with most CPU loads. I find that a good enough tradeoff for the higher temperatures.
 
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Phuncz

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Your temperature problem will most likely be the amount of heatsink mass and the fan's performance, maybe improper mounting or too low of a fan speed. Polishing the base won't have that much of an effect unless you do it perfectly and it was very irregular to begin with. Thermal paste is there to alleviate the loss with scratches and pits and slight irregularities on both the heatsink base and the CPU.
 

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Your temperature problem will most likely be the amount of heatsink mass and the fan's performance, maybe improper mounting or too low of a fan speed. Polishing the base won't have that much of an effect unless you do it perfectly and it was very irregular to begin with. Thermal paste is there to alleviate the loss with scratches and pits and slight irregularities on both the heatsink base and the CPU.

Nice to know. That would save me lots of time, not having to sand the heastsink to a perfect finish. I'll just wait a bit longer and re-apply with a different thermal paste for the final installation.

Yesterday I made a custom wire harness from the 4+4-pin CPU cable from the HD-Plex. Since the 160w power supply doesn't have a dedicated header for PEG I have to split it to make my own. The first 4 pins connect to power the CPU as usual. The other 4 pins have been modified to run cables for a 6-pin PEG connector. Two 12v cables, and three ground. Two of the grounds merge into one going back to the 4+4 header on the HD-Plex.



So how did it turn out?



It turned out pretty awesome, I would say. The HD-Plex is handling it like a champ. You may notice the larger power brick on the left side being used. I chose not to use the Dell 150w brick to test this time, but instead the whole system is using a HP 200w brick in order to cut my risks of overload on a system where I'm still going in blind with power consumption.





I ran some Valley and Fire Strike benchmarks and then played some Borderlands 2 for a while. No problems noticed so far. In GPU-heavy workloads, the performance is capped by the TDP limit, just as I want it. Cables are cool to the touch, and any heat is from usual sources (HD-Plex heatsink, graphics card and power brick)
 
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I figured out my CPU temperature problem. With RealTemp (the program I was using to read temperatures first), the readouts were very inaccurate and out there. I looked for a second opinion with CoreTemp and got much lower readouts, like over 20 C lower. Also, the Tj Max values are also different on both programs, which is probably related to the screwy temperature readouts. HWmonitor showed similar readouts.

CoreTemp reads idle temps skimming the 40 degree mark and load temps are up to 60 to 65 C. This definitely makes more sense to me, as I usually see a 10 degree difference in idle temps between the BIOS screen and running Windows.

This is also convenient for programming the small display for the case, as there is already open source code to use GPU-Z and CoreTemp DLL to read temperatures and send the information over a serial connection. I forked the source code to make my own version that will be tailor made for my hardware requirements.
 
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I figure it's time for an update. Recently I chose to step back my choice of GPU for a while and sold my GTX 950 and use some of the money to buy a used EVGA 750 Ti. I've owned these cards before, and I trust them well enough. The main advantage here is no longer do I need a PEG connector and I can go back to using the 150W power brick with head room to spare.

Also, I expect to continue building the case tomorrow, finally!

While trying a cheap approach to whitebox photos, I took pics of my new setup.



 

Hahutzy

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Good stuff. Did they do a refresh on the 750 Tis? Mine from last year doesn't have a backplate.
 

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Good stuff. Did they do a refresh on the 750 Tis? Mine from last year doesn't have a backplate.

You still need to buy the backplate separately, which is what I did. Found one new for $17, a bit cheaper than on EVGA's website.

But there indeed was a refresh on the EVGA 750 Ti's from what I've see. However I don't know if they did anything to the specs other than cosmetic changes. The card I got is from the original batch.

The way you can tell is from the I/O bracket. The original cards have a flat black I/O bracket and the paint tends to wears off where you connect it (see the last photo). The refresh cards have a bare metal bracket, in a sort of dark gray/gunmetal color. Also on the SC editions, originals had the "SC" badge on as a sticker. Refresh cards had the "SC" etched directly on the cooler.
 

Hahutzy

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Going with the idea of cutting cords, how about ditching the 2.5" and going with an M.2?

The whole system would literally only need a 24-pin and a 4-pin to the motherboard.

Edit: With a Pico 160XT even. That'd look really really clean but between the 2.5" drive and already having the HDPLEX, maybe you're too deep invested into the current components to change ideas.
 

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I actually have an M.2 drive already :D It's a Sandisk X110 with 128GB capacity, using it for my OS drive. If I could I would probably go all out and get a 1TB drive but it's well more than what I'm willing to spend right now.

I'm still making do with a 3.5" drive for my data storage, and hopefully I can find a deal with a used 2.5" HDD where I can break even.
 

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So here's what went down last weekend. I tried to salvage the original metal that I intended to work on. I spent a few hours finishing some cuts, a LOT of filing, and surface brushing the metal. Then I started bending the frame and ran into a problem. The metal warped around the I/O shield cut, and when trying to re-straighten and re-bend, it began to fracture around the bend area.



This piece was meant to be the inner frame, which includes the motherboard tray. The scrap metal I was using was more brittle than I thought, so a fracture formed around the bend. Having the cuts made first actually made the bending more difficult. So, time to get softer anodized sheets after all ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I'm deciding to go simpler with the case design and settled on two designs to choose from- one resembles the Steam Machine external case cutout and another one is closer to the NFC S3 Mini. There will be no inner frame. Will post some pictures of the designs later.
 

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Forgot to post the updated design. Here it is!





(probably won't be painted white, this is just a mock material to make the lighting appear better)

As you can see, the curve around the top front corner is gone. And what you are seeing is all going to be made in aluminum. If I use additional materials (like acrylic) it will be for the side panel and perhaps a front bezel attached to it.

What you see here is made up of two parts. A removable side panel will make up the third part. I find putting standoffs on custom cases to be tricky, if they're to be flush with one side of the case. I decided to just use flat head screws and countersunk holes on the other side. I'm okay with more external screws there, it's not like that side is going to be very visible anyways.

Total case dimensions are 210mm x 340mm x 56mm, for a volume of 3.998 liters!
 
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iFreilicht

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Maybe a little too minimalist, your new design, but to each their own. How thick is the aluminium you're using? It seems like 1mm thick sheets would be too soft, but anything thicker might not permit to bend the back without warping the mainboard I/O cutout.
 

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Maybe a little too minimalist, your new design, but to each their own. How thick is the aluminium you're using? It seems like 1mm thick sheets would be too soft, but anything thicker might not permit to bend the back without warping the mainboard I/O cutout.

I plan to snazz up the case when I add vent holes, not sure yet what pattern I'll go with. And perhaps a clear side panel.

I will be using 14 gauge aluminum, which is roughly 1.6mm thick. This is probably at the limit that I can bend with my tools if not, then score the sheet a tiny bit. The outer bend radius is 2mm for all bends.

The I/O cutout warping was actually something that happened when I attempted to bend the last sheet. I did not clamp that sheet as well as I thought. That sheet slid and followed the path of least resistance. What I'll be doing this time, instead of doing the rear cutouts first, I'll make the bends first, then cut out the rear holes with a dremel. The other sheet was so thick it required a jigsaw to get good cuts, but not this time.
 
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Hahutzy

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Hm in the first picture, on the sides of the front-to-top edge, you have flanges that curl inward but don't have any length on the flange.

Are you going to bend them with a flange on them, and then cut the flanges off?

If you just try to bend it to shape like that, the edge won't curl properly.

You might want to change them to miter flanges.
 

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Hm in the first picture, on the sides of the front-to-top edge, you have flanges that curl inward but don't have any length on the flange.

Are you going to bend them with a flange on them, and then cut the flanges off?

If you just try to bend it to shape like that, the edge won't curl properly.

You might want to change them to miter flanges.

Hmm, good idea. The chopped off flanges do look a little awkward.

Maybe as an alternative to miter flanges, I will make the bend above the side flanges instead of being flush with them. Then no further cutting will be required. I can easily design the removable side panel around that.