Prototyping Worst idea ever? A slightly different SFF case: the G-Design GD47

GDesign

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Aug 22, 2019
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Hi all,​
I'm testing the appetite of the market for a SFF design which I am considering manufacturing on a small scale. If it interests you, I'd love to hear your comments in the reply section below or by e-mail at: [email protected]

Introducing the G-Design GD47:

(X-box controller and home cinema system not included)




Why is it so great?
Well, it might not be. At 4.72 litres, the GD47 is an ultra-compact SFF case. However, there are plenty of great cases already available at similar, and even smaller sizes.​

What makes the GD47 case different is how the case ventilation works with graphics card and CPU coolers. This has enabled an aesthetically clean design not currently seen among similarly sized SFF cases.​

The result: a blank canvas, perfect for users to add their own custom designs and colour schemes. With no ventilation holes or front I/O (to fit in with the aesthetics), the GD47 is ideal for spray painting, laser etching, adhesive decals and possibly vinyl wrapping. Such simplicity makes sanding down to apply a new design incredibly straightforward. Alternatively, the size and design of the GD47 means that it can also be highly discrete if needed. With airflow occurring through the front (intake) and rear (exhaust) of the case only, it can be located in a relatively confined space (see example photos).​

Design ideas:
The case would be sold either unpainted (bare aluminium) or single colour powder coated. Below are a couple of examples:

Iron Man image: here
Apex Legends image: here




Specifications:
Specifications of the GD47 prototype (manufactured product may differ slightly) are as follows:​
  • Dimensions: 230 x 225 x 90 mm​
  • Volume: 4.72 litres​
  • Materials: 2 mm aluminium sheet, joined by steel/aluminium rivets​
  • Finish: aim to sell either powder coated or unpainted​
Example build:
My current system:​
  • CPU: Intel i7 6700 (65W TDP)​
  • Graphics card: Gigabyte 1070 mini (150W TDP)​
  • Motherboard: Asrock Z270-ITX​
  • RAM: 16Gb DDR4 2400​
  • PSU: Seasonic Flex ATX 300W modular​
  • Storage: 1Tb m.2 SSD.​
Performance under stress testing (Furmark + Intel Burn Test): CPU max temp: 79 degrees C, GPU max temp: 73 degrees C, Max noise (measured at 30 cm): 49.3 dBA, Max power draw: 216W (270W with 80% efficiency).​



Limitations:
I’m not going to market this as “the ultimate, no compromise SFF case!”. It’s not. As with most SFF cases, performance is limited by space. The GD47 is the result of a series of revisions, adopted according to my specific requirements and taste and factors in certain compromises I have been willing to make. It will not be for everyone. However, as indicated by the specifications of my current system (Intel i7 6700 and nVidia GTX 1070), this should still allow for acceptable gaming performance for many users.​
Limitations are as follows:​
  • Power supply: Limited to by space and to Flex ATX PSU or the HDPLEX 400W HiFi DC-ATX converter and therefore maximum of approximately 400W.​
  • CPU: Limited by power supply and cooler performance.​
  • CPU cooling: Limited by internal space (height <30 mm). Blower style 1U cooler strongly recommended.​
  • Graphics card: limited by internal space to short (<190 mm) dual slot graphics cards and PSU wattage.​
  • GPU cooling: More details to follow - options to be confirmed following further testing.​
  • Memory: limited by space to low profile RAM modules only.​
  • Storage: limited by space to 1 x 2.5 inch drive and m.2 drive (if supported by motherboard).​
  • Cabling: Limited by space. Effective cable management is essential with customised cabling being recommended for certain builds.​
Pricing:
This is something I am particularly keen for comment on. This depends on the scale of manufacture along with other current 'unknowns'. I would initially aim to make the case available for between $/£/€ 150-250 (+ shipping).​

What next:
If there is sufficient interest (and I have no idea what 'sufficient' is at this stage!), the next steps prior to manufacture would be:
  • Revise the case in accordance with any requirements (UK trading standards, compliance with General Product Safety Regulations etc.)
  • Minor modifications to current design (remove the need for the 4 external screws on the left panel)
  • Further components testing (cooling performance for higher TDP CPUs and graphics card)
  • Set up sales website (perhaps sell through eBay initially).
  • Probably some businessy stuff.
Comments gratefully received!
 
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CountNoctua

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Jul 11, 2019
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That has to be one of the cleanest designs I've ever seen. So clean that I can't actually fault anything as far as appearance. Makes perfect sense to match the style of a home theater/bookshelf speaker, and the front fans fit in really well. There are a lot of people who go for the all-white aesthetic for their desktop and room setups, as well, so it wouldn't be out of place in any computer room, either (would actually match well with my white desk, white Kanto speakers, and white mouse better than my chocolate case, though I do like some splashes of color in the room).

Any plans for filters (possibly speaker-like mesh)? I don't particularly need them - I will always take the airflow - but I think it would be a requested option.
Pricing seems fair to me. Would love to buy an unpainted option once you start selling them (or earlier if you want someone to test an early one :D).

I would be tempted to paint it with Black 3.0... forget "discreet", it would be practically invisible on a black shelf or windowed cabinet. Black hole computer, anyone? :D But I probably would use it for a mini server rather than a HTPC, though it really does look like a perfect tower-layout HTPC case.

I think only the "clean front" contingent won't like this case, but you can't please everyone. :p
 
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GDesign

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Aug 22, 2019
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That has to be one of the cleanest designs I've ever seen. Makes perfect sense to match the style of a home theater/bookshelf speaker, and the front fans fit in really well. There are a lot of people who go for the all-white aesthetic for their desktop and room setups, as well, so it wouldn't be out of place in any computer room, either (would actually match well with my white desk, white Kanto speakers, and white mouse better than my chocolate case, though I do like some splashes of color in the room).

Any plans for filters (possibly speaker-like mesh)? I don't particularly need them, but I think it would be a requested option.
Hi CountNoctua,
Thanks very much for your comments. I'm not planning on developing filters as an option, but it would be possible to insert a mesh between the fan hole and the fan. I imagine it would probably affect air flow, but if that's something the user would be happy with, then nothing theoretically stopping it.
 
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Necere

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Feb 22, 2015
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I dig it. Though I worry about airflow. GPU fan will be choked by the side panel, while on the motherboard side you'd really want to use VLP RAM or else it will act as a barrier for a lot of the air coming in the front. Blower cooler is bound to be noisy as well. Have you tried a passive 1U heatsink, just relying on the front 80mm fans? Also those exposed fans are a little impractical; would suggest grilles to prevent injuries.
 

CountNoctua

(no relation)
Jul 11, 2019
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Hi CountNoctua,
Thanks very much for your comments. I'm not planning on developing filters as an option, but it would be possible to insert a mesh between the fan hole and the fan. I imagine it would probably affect air flow, but if that's something the user would be happy with, then nothing theoretically stopping it.
Good to know! Yeah, I personally don't care, as I regularly dust out my cases and don't like airflow impedance, but some people may want to do it and/or add grilles (particularly where small kids and animals are involved).

EDIT: Necere beat me to it :) There are grille designs that wouldn't limit the airflow by any detectable amount versus completely exposed fans. Would love to test this myself, to have a reason to use my anemometer (though really just judging by temps is fine). :p
 
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GDesign

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Aug 22, 2019
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I dig it. Though I worry about airflow. GPU fan will be choked by the side panel, while on the motherboard side you'd really want to use VLP RAM or else it will act as a barrier for a lot of the air coming in the front. Blower cooler is bound to be noisy as well. Have you tried a passive 1U heatsink, just relying on the front 80mm fans? Also those exposed fans are a little impractical; would suggest grilles to prevent injuries.
Hi Necere, The way it's designed means the GPU fan choking isn't an issue - Furmark temps for my 1070 were 72 degrees (occasional spike to 73) with 23 degrees ambient. You are quite right regarding the VLP RAM - that is one of the limitations. Total system noise maxed at 49.3 dBA during stress test, but this was at 30 cm (background in my probably-not-THX-certified testing room [my bedroom!] is about 34 dBA). It's not what you would call quiet, but from 1 m, it's reading about 41.4 dBA which doesn't seem too bad from various cooler reviews I've looked at - there will certainly be a matter of preference to this, but I find it OK, particularly as I usually game with headphones and rarely stress the CPU enough for it to need the higher fan speeds. I do have a passive heatsink which, as you suggest, might be an option for something like an i3 or Pentium, but I've been trying to push the boundaries with an i7. Something else to test!
 
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CountNoctua

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I think the SFF community has gotten used to vertical GPU mounts, horizontal "sandwich" cooling, and blank front panels, forgetting how effective front-to-back cooling can be. And with this volume case and necessary limitations that follow, we're talking about a high likelihood of people using midrange and possibly mini versions of high-end(ish) cards, if not APUs; probably not 2080 Tis (not that there are any that would fit without extreme modification). Would love to have a new Navi-based Nano in a case like this, though (please, AMD?).

For CPU I think I would use a low-profile cooler like the Thermaltake Engine 27, which should fit, correct?
 
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GDesign

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Aug 22, 2019
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I think the SFF community has gotten used to vertical GPU mounts, horizontal "sandwich" cooling, and blank front panels, forgetting how effective front-to-back cooling can be. And with this volume case and necessary limitations that follow, we're talking about a high likelihood of people using midrange and mini versions of high-end cards, if not APUs; probably not 2080 Tis (not that there are any that would fit without extreme modification).

For CPU I think I would use a low-profile cooler like the Thermaltake Engine 27, which should fit, correct?
Yes, the Thermaltake 27 should fit - funny you should mention that as I was hovering over one of those on Amazon the other day! I've tried an old Akasa AK-K25 fan (29.5 mm) in the system, and it didn't work particularly well with the i7. With being slightly lower profile and a generally better cooler, the Thermaltake 27 might be OK, but proof of the pudding would definitely be in the eating.
 
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CountNoctua

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Jul 11, 2019
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Looks amazing. Might be impractical, but my favorite part are those exposed fans!
Me too! Especially with some sexy fans in there, like with Akasa's S-flow blade design, or Enermax Twister. Or Zalman Shark's Fin (would have to name such a build "Great White" or "Baby Shark"... doo doo doo) or dual impeller, but I don't think they come in 80mm. I mean obviously the look of the fan blades doesn't matter when they are spinning, but when off and for photos it would look cool. 😎

If just going for white case and quiet build, though, I would color match with Arctic, which makes decent 80mm fans.
 
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CC Ricers

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Nov 1, 2015
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I like it. Looks reminiscent of the Lone L5 with the dual front fans, but with the bump up in power thanks to supporting full height GPUs in a sandwich layout. And I also get the design. The cooling functions like a rack server, you get all the cooling from the front fans and pushing all the hot air out the back. I figure you can push all the air you need with the fans and have a semi-passive setup with the CPU, just using a tall 2U heatsink with the front fans doing the work.
 

duynguyenle

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Aug 20, 2019
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I second the idea of having some sort of fan grille/guard, either for dust filter (though I don't particularly mind cleaning out the system often for SFF builds) for me it's more important to keep things bigger than dust from getting into the system i.e. bugs/spiders, dogs, cats, toddler's fingers etc etc )

As mentioned be someone above, there are fan guard patterns out there that doesn't add a massive amount of flow impedance (something like a wire guard like this Wire Fan Guard) or even something like speaker mesh fabric that would fit in quite well with the bookshelf-speaker type aesthetic you're going for here.
 

rfarmer

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Jul 7, 2017
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I second the idea of having some sort of fan grille/guard, either for dust filter (though I don't particularly mind cleaning out the system often for SFF builds) for me it's more important to keep things bigger than dust from getting into the system i.e. bugs/spiders, dogs, cats, toddler's fingers etc etc )

As mentioned be someone above, there are fan guard patterns out there that doesn't add a massive amount of flow impedance (something like a wire guard like this Wire Fan Guard) or even something like speaker mesh fabric that would fit in quite well with the bookshelf-speaker type aesthetic you're going for here.
I like the mesh idea, something like a speaker cover. Would look like a small bookshelf speaker.
 

GDesign

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Aug 22, 2019
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I like it. Looks reminiscent of the Lone L5 with the dual front fans, but with the bump up in power thanks to supporting full height GPUs in a sandwich layout. And I also get the design. The cooling functions like a rack server, you get all the cooling from the front fans and pushing all the hot air out the back. I figure you can push all the air you need with the fans and have a semi-passive setup with the CPU, just using a tall 2U heatsink with the front fans doing the work.
You'd need to forgo the graphics card, but you could have a CPU cooler up to approx. 70 mm in height and as you say, the main fans should keep everything cool.
 
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GDesign

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Aug 22, 2019
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Me too! Especially with some sexy fans in there, like with Akasa's S-flow blade design, or Enermax Twister. Or Zalman Shark's Fin (would have to name such a build "Great White" or "Baby Shark"... doo doo doo) or dual impeller, but I don't think they come in 80mm. I mean obviously the look of the fan blades doesn't matter when they are spinning, but when off and for photos it would look cool.

If just going for white case and quiet build, though, I would color match with Arctic, which makes decent 80mm fans.
For some odd reason, I had you down as a Noctua guy/gal?! Could always do a custom cookie dough beige powder coat to go with a couple of Noctua NF-A8s!
 
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CountNoctua

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Jul 11, 2019
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For some odd reason, I had you down as a Noctua guy/gal?! Could always do a custom cookie dough beige powder coat to go with a couple of Noctua NF-A8s!
I'm more of a be quiet! person, (and my next build will be all be quiets!) though I do like Noctua a lot, as well as just good fans in general. My username is the name of my recently finished Sliger SM580 build, which was chocolate bar brown and Noctua-themed.

Cookie dough beige does sound interesting, but I probably won't do that color for a while. :)
 
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GDesign

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Aug 22, 2019
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That is one clean design. It took me quite a while to spot in your home system
Sadly, it's a friends home theatre system who kindly let me use it for the photo shoot. Mine is a) considerably less impressive and b) covered in particularly hefty hand prints (I have a two year old and a five year old boys!)
 
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GDesign

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Aug 22, 2019
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Hmmm if my ambient is 30 degrees, then..

Anyway, pics of the internal layout would be great.
If you ended up close to 80 under load, you'd still be within fairly safe operating temperatures for a 1070. I'd suggest either increasing fan speeds or if you're not happy to compromise on the associated noise levels, look for a more suitable case fitting your specific circumstances. If my ambient was 30 degrees, I'd strongly consider heading to the beach.

As far as internal pics, I'm holding back before releasing further details of the internal layout until I'm closer to a production run. I've adopted a slightly novel approach to cooling, and (from what I understand) whilst the design of the GD47 could be patented, the approach itself can not so I'd like to get a couple of production runs out before somebody gets 'inspiration' from the approach and does a much better job of it! Apologies for this - I hope this is understandable, but I'll provide details on this closer to the final design and manufacture of the case.