CPU Why are all SFFPC cases nowadays mostly watercool / sandwich?

jaeparku

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Oct 19, 2018
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Apart from a few cases like NR200, NCase that can support a large air cooler height, I feel like a crapton of new cases are all sandwich and focused on AIOs. For example, look at the new upcoming Meshlicious. 14-15 L which is quite big for SFF, but can only support up to 70mm CPU height (pathetic). Compare that with N case which is 12.8 L and supports 130mm height.

I get it, watercool is effective. But aircooling is still very popular and I would argue that more people aircool than watercool if you include the "casuals". Even the new "premium" cases like Form T1 / Iqunix ZX-1 are all focused on watercooling.

The "classic" layout may be deemed boring but it's proven to be effective.

I mean, I feel like current market is diluted with watercooling sandwich cases. Thor Mjolnir, Sliger 580, Ghost S1 (top hats), etc. Are we going to continue seeing this boring trend of new sandwich AIO cases constantly for SFFPC? Where are the aircooled cases at? I apologize for the rant. I just really hate seeing a big sff case that is 15L+ and only accomodates up to 60-70mm of cpu height.
 

bigwhiteyeti

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Jan 27, 2020
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Apart from a few cases like NR200, NCase that can support a large air cooler height, I feel like a crapton of new cases are all sandwich and focused on AIOs. For example, look at the new upcoming Meshlicious. 14-15 L which is quite big for SFF, but can only support up to 70mm CPU height (pathetic). Compare that with N case which is 12.8 L and supports 130mm height.

I get it, watercool is effective. But aircooling is still very popular and I would argue that more people aircool than watercool if you include the "casuals". Even the new "premium" cases like Form T1 / Iqunix ZX-1 are all focused on watercooling.

The "classic" layout may be deemed boring but it's proven to be effective.

I mean, I feel like current market is diluted with watercooling sandwich cases. Thor Mjolnir, Sliger 580, Ghost S1 (top hats), etc. Are we going to continue seeing this boring trend of new sandwich AIO cases constantly for SFFPC? Where are the aircooled cases at? I apologize for the rant. I just really hate seeing a big sff case that is 15L+ and only accomodates up to 60-70mm of cpu height.
There are still plenty of options if you want to go air-cooled. The trend is towards sandwich layout because it offers greater space efficiency and modern AIO's are as good or more effective at cooling modern hot components as air coolers (with very few tradeoffs unlike traditional water cooling with a custom loop).

Sliger just put out the S620 which supports the NH-D15: S620 | Sliger

There are options out there if that's what you're looking for, there will likely just be fewer given the heat output of modern components and the corresponding size of air coolers that are required to deal with them.
 
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jaeparku

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The trend is towards sandwich layout because it offers greater space efficiency and modern AIO's are as good or more effective at cooling modern hot components as air coolers (with very few tradeoffs unlike traditional water cooling with a custom loop).

I agree modern AIOs are good.

I disagree that sandwich layout is greater space efficiency.

Generally the width of the case is (how many slot GPU) + cpu cooler height in a sandwich layout. This seems kinda silly because you are compromising the two critically important space required areas and pitting them against each other. The larger your CPU cooler height is, the less GPU slots you can use. The larger your GPU, the less space you have for your CPU. I dont think this is effective.

Take classic layout for example. Your CPU height can be increased without hindering your GPU / PCIe slots. But I understand why sandwich doesn't care much about cpu cooler height - it's because you can still effectively watercool as long as you have space in the tophat area.
 

tinyitx

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A great improvement on a sandwich style case would be to have a movable spine that can be moved all the way from a central position (thus acting as a sandwich style case) to the right side panel position (thus acting as a traditional style layout). I reckon this can be done, with some serious thinking.

To me, the limited CPU cooler clearance of a sandwich style case is only a secondary drawback. The primary one is the usage of a riser cable.

Anyway, there are still many good traditional layout SFF cases to be found in Taobao.
 

yawacool

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www.liheat.com.tw
We are designing a new concept case
(SFX All-By-one computer case)
The IO of the motherboard is output at the front
The GPU cable is behind the case
PSU will be outside the chassis
The biggest feature is that it can be assembled with the screen (VESA)
This design concept perhaps you will feel interestMaybe you are interested in such a design concept?
 

nero626

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Dec 8, 2016
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I actually went the exact opposite way, from a custom watercooled sandwich layout to a traditional layout sunmilo c01s


I agree with a lot of what you said and the reason I went this route is because of the effectiveness of deshrouding w/ 120s + CPU cooler clearance, I got tired of maintaining the loop, wanted something with thick 120mm fans the main cooling for CPU and GPU, aircooling sandwich layout is out of the equation

This case is around 11.5L with mods, even though I have 2x 80mm in this config I run them pretty slow, still waiting for my silver arrow 130 but I believe this setup gives me the perfect balance of size and noice + thermals without having to go back to watercooling (AIO or not)

Not to mention the lack of pcie4.0 riser headaches

Once I get my cooler I don't think there will be any negative space left, it will just be bare heatsinks and fans
 

Bubba

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Nov 4, 2019
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smallformfactor.net
I actually went the exact opposite way, from a custom watercooled sandwich layout to a traditional layout sunmilo c01s

In my opinion, sunmilo makes the most beautiful cases. If only they were easy to order.
My ideal case would have the appearance of a sunmilo case but with metal side panel (for ventilation),
no thumb screws because thumb screws protrude out.

My ideal dimensions are: 250mmx250mmx150mm. Supports full size (or almost full size) mATX boards.
No Riser cable. Requires TFX PSU (or smaller PSU).
PSU is mounted at top/front and will overlap motherboard.
Low profile ram may be required but full size air cooler will fit.
Or mount TFX PSU at front bottom (will also overlap motherboard)
Max gpu length ~185mm (with TFX PSU).
With a short TFX psu, then gpu length up to 250mm.
Or use pico PSU.

See attached photo.

 
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Kommando

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Dec 19, 2020
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Apart from a few cases like NR200, NCase that can support a large air cooler height, I feel like a crapton of new cases are all sandwich and focused on AIOs. For example, look at the new upcoming Meshlicious. 14-15 L which is quite big for SFF, but can only support up to 70mm CPU height (pathetic). Compare that with N case which is 12.8 L and supports 130mm height.

I get it, watercool is effective. But aircooling is still very popular and I would argue that more people aircool than watercool if you include the "casuals". Even the new "premium" cases like Form T1 / Iqunix ZX-1 are all focused on watercooling.

The "classic" layout may be deemed boring but it's proven to be effective.

I mean, I feel like current market is diluted with watercooling sandwich cases. Thor Mjolnir, Sliger 580, Ghost S1 (top hats), etc. Are we going to continue seeing this boring trend of new sandwich AIO cases constantly for SFFPC? Where are the aircooled cases at? I apologize for the rant. I just really hate seeing a big sff case that is 15L+ and only accomodates up to 60-70mm of cpu height.
I definitely see your point, but I still think there are a lot of good choices available.
Also lets not forget, that SFF is about getting along with limited space.
There are so many good air coolers available at different heights (C14S, L12S, Big Shuriken 3, IS 60 Evo, Black Ridge, L9a) that finding the best air cooler for the respective size is an art of its own.

So yeah, it's not a good air-cooled case if it is thick and bulky with not much supported height. But then just don't buy them. ;-)
 

Skripka

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May 18, 2020
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Apart from a few cases like NR200, NCase that can support a large air cooler height, I feel like a crapton of new cases are all sandwich and focused on AIOs. For example, look at the new upcoming Meshlicious. 14-15 L which is quite big for SFF, but can only support up to 70mm CPU height (pathetic). Compare that with N case which is 12.8 L and supports 130mm height.

I get it, watercool is effective. But aircooling is still very popular and I would argue that more people aircool than watercool if you include the "casuals". Even the new "premium" cases like Form T1 / Iqunix ZX-1 are all focused on watercooling.

The "classic" layout may be deemed boring but it's proven to be effective.

I mean, I feel like current market is diluted with watercooling sandwich cases. Thor Mjolnir, Sliger 580, Ghost S1 (top hats), etc. Are we going to continue seeing this boring trend of new sandwich AIO cases constantly for SFFPC? Where are the aircooled cases at? I apologize for the rant. I just really hate seeing a big sff case that is 15L+ and only accomodates up to 60-70mm of cpu height.

I think you're greatly mistaken here. Mjolnir barely has room for AIOs. Ghost S1 is designed without AIO support, hence the top hats that you need as a costly add on. The smaller half of the Sliger lineup has no AIO support. etc. The iQunix has both a watercooling SKU and a smaller non-watercooling SKU. The T1 is as smaller than most of those cases I just mentioned while still having the option to support watercooling-it is in no way required.

Sandwich is simply more volumetrically efficient.


Which brings us to the other issue. Heat. Enthusiast grade CPUs generate a lot of it. Without gimping performance, you're going to struggle to cool most all of them without an AIO in an SFF case. Just about all of the downdraft CPU coolers have a 95W thermal limit, and just about all enthusiast CPUs generate as much or more than that at stock boost behavior. My old Ryzen 5 3600 was branded a '65W' part, IRL it of course at stock pulled about 90W at stock boost behavior. Accommodating tower coolers larger than a U9S hardcaps your size--you can't make a case meaningfully smaller than an NCase M1...and the NCase is now 'large' for SFF cases. If you want those giant tower coolers, the smallest you can go is NR200 or TU150; AKA not-that-small.

The smallest you can possible go is motherboard size times height. For ITX, that would by 170mm x 170mm x YYYmm....add in a PSU and a GPU....and suddenly you're into space inefficient territory and TU150 sized.
 
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Valantar

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Jan 20, 2018
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The smallest you can possible go is motherboard size times height. For ITX, that would by 170mm x 170mm x YYYmm....add in a PSU and a GPU....and suddenly you're into space inefficient territory and TU150 sized.
This is exactly the thing. Traditional layouts lock the GPU and motherboard together, so you literally can't make a case smaller than the motherboard width+overhanging GPU thickness x GPU length x GPU/CPU cooler height. This is fundamentally inefficient as SFX PSUs are far shorter than the height of a GPU, meaning that unless you put the PSU above the motherboard, dramatically reducing CPU cooler height, you're locking yourself into a relatively space-inefficient layout. Decoupling the GPU from the motherboard through the use of a riser dramatically increases flexibility.

You're right that this limits compatibility with large air coolers, which is an understandable objection towards these designs, but again, these are overall a poor fit for SFF. Something like an NH-D15 is too large to really fit an ITX build anyway (it's likely to collide with a GPU in the first slot), and isn't well suited to the types of airflow paths that make sense in SFF - the PSU will be in the way.

There are also many excellent options for "traditional" layout SFF cases - the upcoming Dan C4, the CM NR200, the Ncase M1, Lian-Li TU150, and heaps and heaps of other designs. You're right that there isn't a lot of innovation in these types of layouts (the C4, for example, innovates through letting you choose), but this is very understandable: once you've locked in the use of an ITX motherboard with a GPU installed into the slot and decided on your maximum supported GPU size, you have the minimum bounds of the box surrounding these components. If space efficiency is what you want, then what remains is just to figure out how you'll be utilizing the unused space in the upper right corner of the case, above the front end of the GPU and next to the motherboard. Typically that means putting the PSU there and possibly a drive cage or side panel radiator mount. There isn't much more that can be done without either reducing GPU size or removing the GPU from the slot.
 

tinyitx

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Jan 25, 2018
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and we all know how that is going to be moving forward 🤣 🤣 🤣
You can call it wishful thinking but I I really really hope Intel's entrance into the discrete display card market will make a radical change in card's size. Raw performance wise, I think we have all we need (at least, most of us). But size wise, there are a lot that can be done.
 

k0n

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Jul 3, 2019
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This is exactly the thing. Traditional layouts lock the GPU and motherboard together, so you literally can't make a case smaller than the motherboard width+overhanging GPU thickness x GPU length x GPU/CPU cooler height. This is fundamentally inefficient as SFX PSUs are far shorter than the height of a GPU, meaning that unless you put the PSU above the motherboard, dramatically reducing CPU cooler height, you're locking yourself into a relatively space-inefficient layout. Decoupling the GPU from the motherboard through the use of a riser dramatically increases flexibility.

If we look at the mentioned 15L Meshlicious and it's measurements... . 245 × 166 × 360 mm.

245mm, that's enough for a Mini-ITX board with a Triple-Slot GPU ('locked together' without a riser).

166mm, leaves plenty room for the GPU height AND maybe even a D15 on the CPU side... ;)

Now with 360mm I don't even know what to do... A card this long? 60mm of empty space between SFX PSU and Mini-ITX Board? ATX PSU?


As soon as the sandwich case is wider than the board with a graphics card in it it becomes pointless. Not pointless DAN A4… pointless Meshlicious.
 
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Valantar

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If we look at the mentioned 15L Meshlicious and it's measurements... . 245 × 166 × 360 mm.

245mm, that's enough for a Mini-ITX board with a Triple-Slot GPU ('locked together' without a riser).

166mm, leaves plenty room for the GPU height AND maybe even a D15 on the CPU side... ;)

Now with 360mm I don't even know what to do... A card this long? 60mm of empty space between SFX PSU and Mini-ITX Board? ATX PSU?


As soon as the sandwich case is wider than the board with a graphics card in it it becomes pointless. Not pointless DAN A4… pointless Meshlicious.
But nobody is claiming that the Meshlicious is the most space efficient case ever. It does however use its sandwich layout for a few advantages: a vertical layout with the motherboard I/O on the back rather than the bottom/top (which necessitates extending the case to hide wires, increasing total volume), ATX PSU support, the option for short GPU+ 3.5" HDD support, and space for a big radiator and plenty of airflow. It even opens the window for bifurcated builds with multiple AICs thanks to the 4-slot option. Managing to fit all of these options and features into its volume is pretty good, and I think you'd struggle quite a lot to do the same with a traditional layout. Every design is an exercise in compromise. If these compromises don't fit your needs, then there are still plenty of options to look at. But there will always be less variety in traditional cases vs. sandwich cases simply because the latter affords much more layout creativity.
 

dieaready

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Jan 29, 2021
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Apart from a few cases like NR200, NCase that can support a large air cooler height, I feel like a crapton of new cases are all sandwich and focused on AIOs. For example, look at the new upcoming Meshlicious. 14-15 L which is quite big for SFF, but can only support up to 70mm CPU height (pathetic). Compare that with N case which is 12.8 L and supports 130mm height.

I get it, watercool is effective. But aircooling is still very popular and I would argue that more people aircool than watercool if you include the "casuals". Even the new "premium" cases like Form T1 / Iqunix ZX-1 are all focused on watercooling.

The "classic" layout may be deemed boring but it's proven to be effective.

I mean, I feel like current market is diluted with watercooling sandwich cases. Thor Mjolnir, Sliger 580, Ghost S1 (top hats), etc. Are we going to continue seeing this boring trend of new sandwich AIO cases constantly for SFFPC? Where are the aircooled cases at? I apologize for the rant. I just really hate seeing a big sff case that is 15L+ and only accomodates up to 60-70mm of cpu height.
I understand how you feel, I just started learning about SFF late last year and preferring big air coolers. Felt it was such a pity that there was no optimized cases for air cooler focused builds so I designed my own to take a NH-D15 and up to a 325mm GPU (and somehow I ended up with a 3080 suprim which is still too big) while maintaining a smooth airflow with no thermal recirculation, at ~16.8L. If I'd drop the cooler size down to a fuma 2, it would be 15.9L, including the feet (my peeve is that cases don't count the feet to cheat on the volume).

IMO there is plenty of room to grow for aircooling in SFF if there is a change in thinking on how air cooled SFF cases are to be designed and built. Also the lower cost of aircooling would help much more people get into SFF IMO, as the cost of custom cooling or AIOs is often a big fraction of the added cost of changing to SFF.
 
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Analogue Blacksheep

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*Random spitballing time*

I think the answer to a shift in case design lies with smaller PSU's. Something like a Flex ATX/TFX unit that is modular and is actually silent (A Corsiar SF750 in a Flex ATX form factor) or a mass produced plug in DC-ATX/AC-DC combo that can handle 600W/800W. GaN technology might help with that? I'm surprised no one has look at the new 700W TFX unit that Silverstone has made.

To digress, I noticed the 6.2L ZS A4S the other day with it's flex ATX unit and felt the concept should be explored more.
 
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Phuncz

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I'm surprised no one has look at the new 700W TFX unit that Silverstone has made.
When I was around the earlier SFF case projects like the Ncase M1 and DAN A4, it was sometimes said that it's risky to develop a case around a component with only a handful of options (SFX PSUs or specific GPUs back then). We're talking a niche within a niche, if SFX or DC-DC doesn't already provide good options.
 

Analogue Blacksheep

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@Phuncz - Yeah, I caught the tail end when those cases were coming into public focus. It was the video Linus and Luke did with the Dan A4 back in 2016 that got me into SFF.

I think Flex ATX/1U is the one with the most realistic potential right now for interesting ideas (In the context of ATX/SFX PSU alternatives). There's a good number of cases here (Velka, ZS A4S, Pure X, Hutzy XS Concept - going back to 2016) and elsewere (Taobao, Aliexpress) that use it. You can get a 600W Enhance from GEEEK or Velkase or maybe one of the ones from FSP or Silverstone. Just needs a sensible appoarch to modular cables and the noisy 40mm elephant in the room dealt with. Just needs a Corsair, a Seasonic or an EVGA to be convinced, but as you say that might still be seen as too risky.

Then again, SFX has made drastic leaps and bounds over the past few years.
 
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Skripka

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*Random spitballing time*

I think the answer to a shift in case design lies with smaller PSU's. Something like a Flex ATX/TFX unit that is modular and is actually silent (A Corsiar SF750 in a Flex ATX form factor) or a mass produced plug in DC-ATX/AC-DC combo that can handle 600W/800W. GaN technology might help with that? I'm surprised no one has look at the new 700W TFX unit that Silverstone has made.

To digress, I noticed the 6.2L ZS A4S the other day with it's flex ATX unit and felt the concept should be explored more.
I'd sooner point to motherboards, and GPUs. They're both bigger in any dimension than a PSU. In a way, we already have the answer for motherboards--STX. But there's no enthusiast level product there. With Intel's performance NUC, there's some interest from suppliers...but with lackluster sales due to being very pricey and underperforming for it--I doubt they see dollar signs.

The problem being GPUs are getting bigger and more power hungry, at least for the time being