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Case Concept: 10L ITX with full custom watercooling (formerly portrait A(MD)4-SFX)

Discussion in 'Modding' started by OCMunkee, Jul 6, 2021.

  1. OCMunkee

    OCMunkee Member

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    Hi everyone,

    TL;DR: I turned my A4-SFX on it's end, now I need to fit a bigger GPU and make it less ugly.

    :: WAFFLE ::
    I've been building SFF machines for years, usually a hodge-podge of DIY and some form of miniature parts (PicoPSU, early VIA-based ITX boards, DIY heatpipe passive cooling etc.) then a plethora of different ITX retail cases but none of them were every QUITE right.

    Along came the DAN A4-SFX, and it was love at first sight, but unfortunately it wasn't available to purchase. After months of watching, polls, prototypes, redesigns, the Kickstarter was released and AU$456 later I was the proud owner of a place in line for the case.

    Another waiting game until, finally, March 2017 arrives along with my A4-SFX v1 (#574 of the original 950 expected to be produced).
    20170307_073830593_iOS.jpg
    Size comparison between: Rosewill Legacy W1B (~31L), Silverstone RVZ01 (~14L) and DAN A4-SFX (~7.2L)

    Original build (March 2017)

    • Asus Z97I Plus mITX
    • Intel Core i5 4570 + Cryorig C7
    • 2x8GB Corsair Vengeance LPX
    • Asus GTX 970 Strix -> (April 2017) Gigabyte GTX1080 Founders Edition
    • 1TB Samsung 840 SATA SSD + 2TB Seagate SATA HDD
    • Silverstone SX500-LG 500W with flat/ITX cables
    20170307_090520161_iOS.jpg
    Mmm Haswell build with shitty NVMe boot support

    My PC sat in basically this state until recently, when I was messing around with some Apple VMs and needed AMD cards, did some switcheroos and ended up with a 5700XT instead and a couple of older AMD cards in the VM box, eventually they were switched over to the burn-the-planet work of ethereum mining.

    Late last year I decided a full rebuild was due. Of course, there was a pandemic, and a world-wide semiconductor/microchip shortage, and Zen3/Ampere/Navi2 were nowhere to be found, certainly not at reasonable prices. Boo.

    IT'S REBUILD TIME, MOTHERFLIPPERS!
    Well now, thanks to a bit of patience, the goodness of OCAU forum members and spending a little too many of my dollarydoos, I now have:
    ASRock B550 Phantom Gaming/AX mITX
    • AMD Ryzen 5 5600X + Noctua L9A-AM4
    • 2x16GB GSkill TridentZ 3600 C16
    • AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT (reference) -> (Pending delivery) AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT (reference)
    • 250GB SM961 + 500GB XP941 M.2 SSDs (to be upgraded eventually)
    • Silverstone SX650 650W with flat/ITX cables
    • A little bit of ARGB for funsies
    eRCNoYy.jpg H7w9yLh.jpg 8k8hlOh.jpg QQcW03L.jpg 2TmQRO0.jpg
    Team red all the way, with bonus grumpy bear and OCAU page

    Uhh, "Portrait"? this is just an A4...?
    Yeah ok, so here's the first "mod". Be warned it's fairly high tech and I haven't done detailed progress shots:
    aDws0CT.jpg RM3hG1s.jpg CP4egnP.jpg
    Step 1: Put rubber feet on the case front. Step 2: Stand up the case. Step 3: Plug in cables. Ooft, take a break.

    :: ACTUAL MODDING STUFF ::
    Wait, isn't the RX6800XT 2.5 slots wide? You bet it is, it's mod time motherflippers!

    Here are the current problems to be solved/modded:
    A) The DAN A4-SFX fits "2 slot cards up to 295mm", and I need to fit a 2.5-slot wide RX6800 XT.
    Option 1: 3d print a spacer for the side panel
    Option 2: 3d print a replacement GPU mount / shorten standoff from midplate to riser
    Option 3: ???​

    B) The cables at the top are super-mega-ugly.
    Option 1: make some sort of cover or replacement panel that for the 'top', use right-angle adapters and add front USB/pwr
    Option 2: flip the whole thing over, add some feet so the 'rear' is now the base (issues with exhaust? not with the 6800XT!)​

    C) The lovely curved front of the A4 is relegated to a baseplate, boo, oh and I guess the power button and front USB are tricky to get to, meh.
    Hopefully, solved by the solution for problem B, above​

    D) Because I don't like messy cabling I want custom-length cables
    I have a Silverstone SX650 power supply, and need to buy/create only three cables:
    1x ATX12V 24-pin -> ATX12V 24-pin
    1x EPS12V 8-pin -> EPS12V 4+4-pin
    1x PCIE 8-pin -> PCIE 6+2-pin + PCIE 6+2-pin
    0x SATA
    0x Molex​
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2021
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  2. OP
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    OCMunkee

    OCMunkee Member

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    :: Reserved for 'mod' updates ::

    Current state: Proof-of-Concept (see post #7 for details)

    seWLyen.jpg oVDAx1m.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2021
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    OCMunkee

    OCMunkee Member

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    My 6800XT has arrived!

    It's pretty immediately obvious that it's too big for the DAN A4-SFX.
    - The length is clearly fine, as is the height, but it's a 2.5 slot card and the shroud fouls against the lip of the frame.
    - It's currently "installed" by removing the riser screws/standoffs, and wedging it in place with the riser hanging freely, an iPhone charging stand serves as a makeshift stand to reduce tension
    - Definitely not safe for portrait orientation!
    6800xt-running.jpg

    My plans to get around this issue are one (or both) of these options:
    1) A replacement GPU riser bracket designed by Dan himself (posted on Hard Forum here, direct STL link: https://dan-cases.com/downloads/gpu_bracket.STL)
    2) A side-panel spacer to add some extra space from the frame to the panel to allow the GPU to fit (Thingiverse link: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2771844)

    I picked up a 2TB Crucial P2 today from the local computer shop. Not the highest performing drive but as it's only the storage/games drive, I don't mind.
    I'll be waiting until PCIe 4.0 SSDs come down in price before upgrading the boot drive.

    I've also ordered some extra parts to make this work, including:
    • LinkUp PCIe 4.0 riser,
    • Angled cables/adapters to reduce the cabling height,
    • USB Type-C panel mount connector (with USB-C front panel connector),
    • Momentary switch with a red LED power icon
    A(MD)4-SFX_ordered-parts.png
     
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    OCMunkee

    OCMunkee Member

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    So I can either go the internal spacer or external spacer, I'm going to try both to see which I prefer.

    Internal one, Dan's post on SFFnet here: https://smallformfactor.net/forum/threads/dan-a4-sfx.252/post-243985


    Anyone know if we can add a poll?
    I want some help to decide which colour to print / order the external spacer in.


    I'm thinking either:
    1) Black - safe and easy, blends with case

    2)
    White - with (red/ARGB?) lighting (ideally 'frosted' to diffuse the LEDs)

    3) Red - with (white/red/ARGB?) lighting?

    A few images to aide the thought process:
    blkspacer.png cbjaust-7990.png diffused spacer.png navi-wallpaper.png whitespacer.png radeon.png radeon2.png
     
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    OCMunkee

    OCMunkee Member

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    One frustration stemming from the current PCIe 3.0 riser, if I have to reset CMOS (e.g. due to a failed memory timing setting), the board reverts to 'auto' and PCIe 4.0.
    With the 5700XT I could access the UEFI, but Windows was laggy and awful. Sadly, with the new Navi2 GPU, there's no display output at all!

    Had to pull the 6800XT and throw a shitty GPU in temporarily. This proceeded with the usual steps of forgetting to connect the HDMI cable to the monitor input and then forgetting to swap from DP to HDMI inputs, resulting in a few temporary panic moments.

    Now it's forced back to PCIe 3.0 the 6800XT works fine. Can't wait until the LINKUP cable arrives, I ended up going with a slightly longer 25cm cable as I'm considering relocating the GPU slightly to accommodate one/some fan(s) underneath.
     
  6. Elmf

    Elmf Member

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    My vote is black spacer, just blend it in with black case. Diffuse does look ok but thats alot of light
     
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    OCMunkee

    OCMunkee Member

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    Still waiting for the new riser, right angle DP and USB, and printed bracket.

    But, nevertheless the PoC is functional:

    seWLyen.jpg oVDAx1m.jpg 2POBGAw.jpg dPcCbwf.jpg

    For the proof-of-concept, I used some parts I had on hand (except for the new 90 degree USB-C adapter)
    2x Square adhesive rubber feet (Rubber Feet - Large Stick On - Pk.4 | Jaycar Electronics)
    1x Aluminium laptop stand (Vertical Laptop Stand | Amazon)
    1x Kmart 90 degree HDMI cable (High Speed 4K HDMI Cable 90' - 1.5m | Kmart)
    1x Right-angle USB-C (USB C Adapter, CableCreation | Amazon)
    1x USB-C to USB-A adapter (ARKTEK USB C to USB Adapter | Amazon)​
    Thankfully, as you can see above, the laptop stand parts provide just enough clearance for the HDMI cable.
    The antenna wiring is definitely bent hard against the desk which needs to be fixed.

    I also had to remove the original C13/C14 power socket extension from the rear panel, as the power cable (2M Upward Right Angle C13 Power Cable | www.powercord.com.au) I wanted to use is SUPER chunky. It may actually be bigger than a straight cable with a safe radius!

    I'm debating whether or not to use panel mount connectors to relocate power and I/O to the base of the rear panel (previously the bottom panel).
    Has anyone had experience doing this with displayport/HDMI? (I think Meshlicious has a ~25-30cm extension doesn't it?)
     
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  8. argent

    argent Member

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    Thats looking really good man!! Definitely viable in upright position!
     
  9. OP
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    OCMunkee

    OCMunkee Member

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    Yeah I'm pretty happy with it already, but once the 6800XT is actually securely fastened (instead of hanging loose with some rubber bump-stops) I'll be happier!

    If I keep it in this orientation (i.e. front => up) I don't need to bother with relocating the IO, and the right-angle adapters/cables should suffice.
    The C13 input is another story though, without a low-profile right-angle cable it'll be a bitch to fit with the available clearance.

    So the question becomes - "do I make taller feet/risers, or do I relocate some connections?"

    The current PCIe riser cable is definitely having a shit-fit though, pre-boot the UEFI is completely unusable now, and the boot splash screen is a lovely artefacting-yellow (even with PCIe 3.0 forced in UEFI).
    I suspect the short length (22cm with no 'reverse' connectors) means it's getting damaged a bit more every time I move the GPU. Whoops. Oh well, the LINKUP riser is on it's way, expected late next week!

    For anyone wondering what you can do with a 5600x and 6800xt in a (U?)SFF case, 3DMark results:
    timespy.png
    TimeSpy (https://www.3dmark.com/spy/21399329)
    firestrike-extreme.png
    Fire Strike Extreme (https://www.3dmark.com/fs/25874740)
     
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    OCMunkee

    OCMunkee Member

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    OCMunkee

    OCMunkee Member

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    3E404A96-3B1F-4017-963E-7A0043B4B063.jpeg Good news, everyone!

    FD0E96A1-1BB2-4D36-AA12-1C785AC2EC20.jpeg

    LINKUP riser arrived today, happy given it had an ETA of Thursday! Oh and a right-angle USB 3.0 cable.
     
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    OCMunkee

    OCMunkee Member

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    Latest update.

    The GPU is a lot more secure now, I can shake the case and it doesn’t budge:
    - Removed the square feet from IO end of the GPU,
    - removed the plastic shielding (6800xt has full cover backplate anyway),
    - added thin round rubber feet as spacers to protect the PCIe riser cable,
    - added a thin strip of 3M Velcro adhesive tape between GPU/PSU

    B08E0060-B4C4-4F11-A322-19939D16CF1E.jpeg 5235FAA9-3012-45BD-8BBA-66A2D70CAA12.jpeg

    I also needed to work out correct lengths for PSU cables to make/buy, so cable ties and a ruler came to my aid:
    BCA51A96-6FD4-40F3-8F9A-F599C94F16DC.jpeg FA4BB6D5-7879-4F72-AFFD-D00ECBEE2A25.jpeg 177C297B-6B23-458D-BD80-6B689115BB4E.jpeg

    And here’s how they look installed:
    E4A20906-7D70-49DF-8704-FCDFA4074014.jpeg AEF45672-9670-4BCD-BE04-7680C031A456.jpeg 2492F835-4B47-47FA-931B-FA2C7E18B90F.jpeg F2120A14-9182-4713-BA13-C90487F62846.jpeg F689653F-1B4F-4B5B-A4FD-F52173B04505.jpeg

    I’m considering shortening one side of the wires slightly so that the cables have inbuilt curves, but not sure whether that impacts voltages / sensors, probably not with this kind of length at 16-18awg. Anyone know?

    You’ll also notice in the images above, I replaced the 20+4 pin connector with a 24-pin one, and the 6+2 pin connectors with 8-pin ones.

    Frustratingly, the 4+4 EPS is a different keying to the 8-pin at the PSU end (I was sourcing the connectors from spare PSU cables).

    Now I’m fairly confident with de-pinning, I need to practice doing the crimps so I can be sure the pins will be physically and electrically secure.

    Still waiting on the right angle DisplayPort, and haven’t yet decided what to do about the ports. Currently it’s working fine with a right angle HDMI and USB.

    Debating whether I:
    - integrate wifi antenna with case ?
    - relocate IO ports (internal USB 3.x, DP, HDMI, C14 240v) ?
     
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    OCMunkee

    OCMunkee Member

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    === PLANNING UPDATE ===
    So the right-angle Displayport cable works perfectly, and I'm fairly sure I'll move the C14 socket to the new rear of the case (previously the bottom).

    I've ripped a pair of wifi antenna PCBs out of an old Asus antenna which I plan to integrate into the (yet to be) 3D-printed side panel extension to improve wifi signal without adding to the external protrusions, but needs to be plastic / non-metal to pass the radio signals through.

    I'll also be integrating front USB-A / USB-C somehow, at the moment it's just a pair of right-angle extension cables, which works fine. The Link-Up USB-C front panel connector is a screw-onto-panel type, so it would have visible screws should I choose to keep it. I may end up getting the Lian Li one, which extends out further so the connector reaches the exterior wall but without visible fasteners.

    === OVERCLOCKING & BENCHMARKS ===
    While I wait on some parts to be made or arrive (or even to be selected / funded) I've started doing some tuning.

    GPU has been overclocked in Radeon software to 2567-2667MHz core with 950mV, 2150MHz memory using fast timings, 115% PL (with increased PPT via MorePowerTool)
    CPU is set to PBO with +175MHz boost override, curve optimiser at 0,-15,0,-15,-15,-15
    RAM (and Infinity Fabric) is set to 1933MHz CL-16 RCD-19 tRP-21 RAS-34 at 1.45V which required tuning a variety of RAM related settings. Might be able to squeeze a tiny bit more out with some more testing.

    Anyway, the result is a slight improvement in TimeSpy bench results :)
    Will be very happy if I can crack the Top 10 of TimeSpy leaderboard (for 5600x/6800XT), was getting close but a couple of other high results in last day or two has pushed me back down to #14 again. 3DMark-TimeSpy-17597.png
     
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    OCMunkee

    OCMunkee Member

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    Some British prick knocked me down to #15 :(
    upload_2021-7-23_12-50-36.png
     
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    OCMunkee

    OCMunkee Member

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    Minor update
    1) Pulled the slim 92mm fan off the Noctua, and sat a 120mm Gentle Typhoon over the board for benchmarking.
    I've decided if I can mount it properly I may as well keep the 120mm as the L9A benefits from the extra airflow, and it definitely can't hurt the other onboard components & M.2

    2) Power button arrived, I'm pretty happy with the way it looks. (Original power button is now a CMOS reset :p)
    The LED colour is hard to photograph but matches the GPU quite well so I'm chuffed.

    3) De-branded the TridentZ Neo RGB light bars, as it ruined the lines for me.
    (Don't worry, it'll be going back to red soon! Is anyone sensing a theme?)

    4) I think I may have to change my avatar to be grumpy bear, as my unofficial mascot...

    ZG6NxVf-.jpg 89CsomA-.jpg WtrJ2sU-.jpg

    Benchmarks
    Also managed a pretty good result for an SFF build: #1 on leaderboard for TimeSpy (with Ryzen 5 5600X and Radeon RX6800 XT)
    timespy-number1.png

    Next steps

    1) Swap the PSU or at least the fan inside. It's using an 80mm fan, and the bearing is showing signs of age given I can hear the damn thing spin up/down.
    - PSU swap will mean more $, and delaying the cables until I can measure new ones.
    - Fan swap will mean modding the PSU housing to fit the 92mm Noctua, or finding a quiet 80mm.
    - I've ordered a crimper to use for the PSU pins, hopefully I can do the short cables once I decide what to do with the PSU itself.

    2) Work out a way to mount the 120mm fan over the cooler/board
    - Currently it sticks out so side panel wouldn't fit, no way around this yet as it clashes with the VRM heatsinks and RAM so can't sit flush with the CPU heatsink.
    - Will need to fabricate either:
    -- a bracket to hold it over the bare heatsink & board, mounted to the case,
    or
    -- a fan duct that screws onto the Noctua and mount the fan to it.

    3) Start planning the panels and extensions that may be required
    a) PCIe riser mount has been 3d-printed, have yet to pick it up, hopefully this weekend
    b) GPU sidepanel extendsion has yet to be fabricated, waiting to see if I can find someone with a large enough printer to do it in one piece.
    c) Re-designed front/top panels to include new power button, USBA/C ports somewhere
    d) Re-designed rear/bottom panel for main ports if redirecting IO out the rear
    e) Work out how to attach the antenna PCBs to internal wiring so I can avoid using bulky SMA connectors and extra wire, and where to mount the PCBs themselves for good signal and invisible/subtle looks.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2021
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    OCMunkee

    OCMunkee Member

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    Whelp, doesn’t last long. Already knocked down from #1 TimeSpy. Oh well.

    Minor updates this weekend:

    I picked up the 3D-printed bracket for the GPU but after installing it, I decided it doesn’t actually place it where I want. i.e. higher up the case so the GPU’s top exhaust is almost at the edge
    The rear spacer is definitely helpful, though as it’s way more uniform than a few rubber feet. Cheers Renza for the parts!

    Can’t decide whether I prefer IO down or up, I’m leaning towards IO facing up at the moment as it is easier to access but will mean more work to hide the cables etc.

    I’ve put the A9x14 back on for now, I’m concerned the 120mm may bend the single mounting hole /bracket on the L9A that I could screw it into. It also meant it wasn’t super secure so introduced an occasional rattle which I just can’t stand.

    Which brings me to the next candidate for CPU cooling, the Corsair H60 (thanks wendersnaven ) which I’m trying to work out how I might be able to install once I’ve cleared the cable bulk under the PSU. However I’ve realised that (probably obviously) the rad is actually not 120x120 but needs additional length for tubing etc! Damn. Relocating the PSU will be a bitch but is a potential option for that.

    Current state:
    89D86FC5-75B6-4F80-8620-CE6E1099353E.jpeg D2B4C252-D072-4B55-B3B5-54E06D8F4473.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2021
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    OCMunkee

    OCMunkee Member

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    Well she’s under water now. Left the H60 to leak test last night and installed this evening.

    The white LEDs are ABSURDLY bright when not covered. But it meant I could throw some extra red cellophane in to red-ify the lighting. Relatively easy mod, pop cover off, unscrew light diffuser and add some cellophane with double-sided tape.

    Neato.

    06B2B6D0-98BB-4A6D-9618-087B9D074F3C.jpeg D92EB8B6-46EC-454C-B33D-4863A9C343F7.jpeg 50ED884E-1EA9-4968-8EDE-1635F05A8E77.jpeg E49811CE-FE28-4859-8682-172837507C84.jpeg
     
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    OCMunkee

    OCMunkee Member

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    I noticed something peculiar over the last few days, when I was running benchmarks I was getting serious crashes and couldn't work out why.

    Turns out the 6800XT cooler is significantly less effective in vertical orientation when IO is facing upwards. The GPU hot spot was hitting 110C or more, according to HWInfo, and presumably the cards activated protection mechanisms to shut off. As soon as I turned the case to normal orientation or vertical (with IO down) the hot spot wasn't going above 80C.

    Interesting!
     
  19. 151528

    151528 Member

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    I guess that makes sense, hot air not being able to rise from between the fins.. I wonder if adding air in the right spot could get it to just about the same performance as when horizontal
     
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    OCMunkee Member

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    Except that the exhaust on a 6800XT is top/bottom, and it works fine mounted vertically in the opposing orientation. I suspect it’s to do with heatpipes but beyond my understanding tbh
     

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