Why are ITX cases so damn big?

RedTomato

Minimal Tinkerer
Original poster
New User
Feb 28, 2018
4
3
Hiya, new member here, though been reading the forums a while so please be gentle. This is a bit of a rant so make yourself a cup of tea and settle in.

I used to build ATX boxes many years ago, and even then they were mostly just full of empty air. Fast forward a decade or two, during which I've been laptop-only, and been fiddling around with insides of various laptops and iphones, so I've become used to that kind of constrained space.

Been ill recently so I decided to treat myself to building a desktop, my first one in decades. It's just a hobby project so it has to be low-cost. ITX is a thing now? Great! So I got an ITX mobo, CPU (i3-6100), low profile cooler, 8GB RAM, £130 all in, got a 1050 off some guy in a dark alley who just happened to have 50 of them going cheap for £75 each.

In the interest of saving money, and cos I like making things, I decided to make my own case. Remember I haven't touched any kind of desktop box for about 15 years so I only vaguely remember what they're like inside, but what the hell, this is fun.

OK so ITX is 17cm x 17 cm, need a box a bit bigger than that. Found a nice red tin biscuit tin left over from Christmas, checked it passed the WAG (Wives And Girlfriends) test, ordered a vandalproof switch and a PCIE riser, chopped some holes for the backboard and switch and the power cable, put it all together. It was a bit shitty, of course, so I'm not posting pics here.

The size? 3.5 litres.

I'm not seeing anything unusual about this, remember I'm used to digging in laptops & iPhones.

Did I mention I got a 300W FSP Micro-ATX PSU off Ebay for £8 delivered? It was 780cm2 and far too big so I opened it up and modded it and cut it down to 550cm2. I also removed the plastic shroud from the 1050 as it was a big waste of space. At this point, my ITX box works, but it's a mess, some of the ports are in the wong place, and the sides flex too much when plugging in the power cable. Time for a new case.

I had more work coming in, so I gave up on the homebuild case and decided to look for a proper ITX / GPU capable case to tidy up and stuff it all in. I'm expecting them to all be 3-5 litres or so. Fark me! All the cases on the market are massive! 20 litres! A family of 5 could live in that! Stuff like the S4 Mini is lovely but I don't fancy paying for a team of red-haired Cuban virgins to hand-roll the case walls on their soft thighs (Sorry Dan and Joshua!).

I ended up getting a Fractal Node 202, the smallest cheap case I can find, for half-price (£45) off a local guy. The WAG doesn't like it. It's 10 litres, and whenever I open it, I gaze forlornly on the vast acres of empty space inside, with my components and drives huddled in the corners.

Why are ITX cases so damn big?
 

AleksandarK

/dev/null
May 14, 2017
703
773
General problem with ITX cases is that manufacturers try to comprehend for every situation out there. Small GPU, big GPU, tall CPU coolers, storage room for 2.5 and 3.5 inch drives, different PSUs like ATX and SFX.

There is only a small amount of cases that are space efficient like Dan A4, NCASE M1, NFC Skyreach 4 of S4M-C or other cases that are designed here by community. They are not for everyone, but they can accommodate even the best hardware out there. Many people dont realize this and often just grab one of the ITX cases from manufacturers that produce ATX cases too. Plus, those cases are often cheaper than the custom cases i mentioned because of the fact that they are produced in much larger quantities, so consumers choose the cheaper option. More consumers buying cheaper cases = more cases to produce = less cost. It is a loop that is almost impossible to break from.

Btw, do you have any pictures of your previous case?
 

zovc

King of Cable Management
Jan 5, 2017
852
602
Hey RedTomato!

I agree a lot with what the other two posters have to say. I actually have a Logic Supply MC600 that I started to mod and won't be able to continue working on, if you'd be willing to pay shipping, I'd happily send it to you. I have a few other doodads (G-Unique Power Supply) that might be useful to go along with it if you want to send me a message and work something out. Might be costly since it sounds like you're in Europe, though.

As far as "off the shelf" ITX cases, I'm pretty quick to recommend the Silverstone Sugo cases to folks who started a build without ITX in mind, if they already have an ITX motherboard, or have the ability to move to an ITX board without much cost. It accommodates a lot of conventional/ATX hardware, besides the motherboard, and all things considered is pretty space efficient. The newest one, the SG13, is my personal favorite--mind you I've never personally handled one of the cases. But reviews seem kind enough to them, and they can normally be found for less than $50 here in the US.

In terms of the smallest ITX cases from main manufacturers I'm aware of, it's the Node 202 you're referring to or Silverstone's RVZ series.

You really have to start digging into more enthusiast territory if you're wanting to go smaller than that simply because, like AleksandarK mentioned, the market hasn't been recognized by the big dogs yet. Love them or hate them, LTT showing this sphere a lot of recent attention will probably help things pick up some momentum!

All that said, Logic Supply's MC600 is definitely one of the most affordable options using the same kind of layout of NFC's most recent cases, which is a popular and efficient design. I understand them to be based out of the US, so transport might end up not making it such a good value for you. There's Geeek who makes very affordable cases primarily out of acrylic. Having handled only their test bench, I definitely felt like I received a "budget" product in terms of feel and the inconvenient assembly, but it's really hard to complain when the product was like $15.

Chances are, with the hardware you have, you could probably get away without really needing to modify a Logic Supply MC600, most users cut openings for air intake to help the CPU and GPU breathe, but your i3 and GTX1050 are both quite efficient and cool parts.

Edit: There are actually reviews (and I believe discussion threads) for the Geeek A30 and A10, and even the Logic Supply MC600 here on the news end of the site.
 
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calvinpp

Caliper Novice
Dec 9, 2017
32
24
Skyreach 4 Mini (and I guess the other cases on sale at SFF Lab) might seem a bit expensive at first but compared to the stuff coming out from the big manufacturers, it is totally worth it. Pair that with an HDPlex 400 and a GTX1080 and you've got tons of power in something smaller than a ps4. Most of the mainstream manufacturers are still stuck in the shoebox itx era.

Then again, I spent the last 17 years buying Macs so everything in the PC side looks really cheap in comparison.
 

Necere

Shrink Way Wielder
NCASE
Feb 22, 2015
1,630
3,126
Ironically, for a long time very small mini-ITX cases were the only kind available. You may just be looking in the wrong places; check e.g. mini-itx.com's list.

The thing is, those tiny cases aren't intended to support higher end (and higher TDP) components, and that limited their appeal. The bigger mini-ITX cases came about later with cases like the Bitfenix Prodigy, which were designed to support the full-size CPU coolers and GPUs demanded by the mid- to high-end gaming PC market.

It's only the ultra-SFF (<10L) cases that support higher end components that are a relatively new thing.
 

calvinpp

Caliper Novice
Dec 9, 2017
32
24
Ironically, for a long time very small mini-ITX cases were the only kind available. You may just be looking in the wrong places; check e.g. mini-itx.com's list.

The thing is, those tiny cases aren't intended to support higher end (and higher TDP) components, and that limited their appeal. The bigger mini-ITX cases came about later with cases like the Bitfenix Prodigy, which were designed to support the full-size CPU coolers and GPUs demanded by the mid- to high-end gaming PC market.

It's only the ultra-SFF (<10L) cases that support higher end components that are a relatively new thing.
The NCase M1 kickstarted a lot of it :cool::thumb:
 

RedTomato

Minimal Tinkerer
Original poster
New User
Feb 28, 2018
4
3
Hey guys, lots of amazing responses, thanks for the welcome and all your suggestions.

I'll try to take it from the top:
Logic Supply MC600 aka "The poor man's S4 mini. You're welcome ;)
Definitely small, and thanks for letting me know. Zero availability here though - not on Amazon UK or eBay or any of the various classified or PC suppliers here.
General problem with ITX cases is that manufacturers try to comprehend for every situation out there. Small GPU, big GPU, tall CPU coolers, storage room for 2.5 and 3.5 inch drives, different PSUs like ATX and SFX.

There is only a small amount of cases that are space efficient like Dan A4, NCASE M1, NFC Skyreach 4 of S4M-C or other cases that are designed here by community. They are not for everyone, but they can accommodate even the best hardware out there. Many people dont realize this and often just grab one of the ITX cases from manufacturers that produce ATX cases too. Plus, those cases are often cheaper than the custom cases i mentioned because of the fact that they are produced in much larger quantities, so consumers choose the cheaper option. More consumers buying cheaper cases = more cases to produce = less cost. It is a loop that is almost impossible to break from.

Btw, do you have any pictures of your previous case?
Mmm, I see your point, especially after looking at the other small cases recommended by others in this thread. Most can't fit a normal GTX.

I don't have a fully assembled pic, but I could look for some partly assembled pics. Warning, the PSU looks like it's been dropped off a tall building then run over. I had to make it kid safe as my biscuit tin has an easily removable lid, so I folded over the old PSU cover, cut off the extra and jammed it on.

What is the preferred picture host here?
Hey RedTomato!

I agree a lot with what the other two posters have to say. I actually have a Logic Supply MC600 that I started to mod and won't be able to continue working on, if you'd be willing to pay shipping, I'd happily send it to you. I have a few other doodads (G-Unique Power Supply) that might be useful to go along with it if you want to send me a message and work something out. Might be costly since it sounds like you're in Europe, though.
Hey thanks! Will PM. Yes I looked at the Sugo / RZRs but end of the day they were both bigger and double the price of my second hand Node 202.
There's quite a choice of small cases. Start on PCPartPicker or a price comparison website.
Silverstone's Milo series also has quite a few small options like the ML05, ML06 and ML06-E.
Yeah I looked at the Milos, and most can't fit a standard GTX, for reasons explained by the others here. I wasted about a month negotiating with a guy on r/hardwareswapuk for his ML06 (I hadn't bought my 1050 at that point) only to find out he'd made a mistake and it was actually a ML08, and he wanted far too much for it anyway.
Ironically, for a long time very small mini-ITX cases were the only kind available. You may just be looking in the wrong places; check e.g. mini-itx.com's list.
Hey thanks for the linky, and UK prices too. Had a look, and the Travla C292-1X Case with PCI Express Riser (no PSU) looks interesting at 5 litres. Shame the specs page is broken. It says single slot PCIe but I guess removing the shroud from my 1050 might fit it in - bit of a gamble though.
It's only the ultra-SFF (<10L) cases that support higher end components that are a relatively new thing.
Yeah I get that now. It seems powerful low wattage CPUs / GPUs / tiny PicoPSUs are so new case companies haven't caught up to the new possibilities they offer.

I'm now looking at laser cutting a wood or alu 3-5 litre case cover, there are some quite cheap laser cutters around here. I have no desire to manually lay out a file from scratch, so have been looking for blueprints to adopt. All the ones I can find are for 10+ litre cases. Anyone know where to find a really small case blueprint for laser cutting?
 

stree

Airflow Optimizer
Dec 10, 2016
307
177

I use MiniSYS s-197-80 and Realan EW-80 and these are what I regard as SFF
 

RedTomato

Minimal Tinkerer
Original poster
New User
Feb 28, 2018
4
3
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XeaLouS

Cable-Tie Ninja
Dec 29, 2015
180
123
Nice build, but the linky to the Imgur album is broken?

Hey thanks for that, definitely worth looking into. I'll see if I can smallify it even further to match my failed biscuit tin project.
I'm about to post a YASFF build. It's about $30-50 if you have free access to a laser cutter/3d printer. It cost me more because i spent about $30 on random stuff I didn't need. Comes in at 6.4L.
 

phaelax

Caliper Novice
Jul 7, 2017
23
23
I know what you mean Tomato, "mini" cases have become quite large. Design seems to have favored the gamer looking to put in full size graphics cards. It took me awhile to find the right case, which was the Jonsbo U2. It was even harder tracking one down online to buy. It's still a bit larger than what you're after, but I do have a dedicated gpu (mini) in mine.

But if you're just looking for something big enough to fit the motherboard into, there should be a lot of options, as one user already stated that's all you used to find for this form factor.