Computer Builds Featured small form factor computers I've assembled

Modified Node 304

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In the Summer of 2013 I decided to use some of the money I had saved (plus a nice tax refund!) to build my first PC since 2004. In order to keep it portable–I bring my computer into the lab often–I settled on the Mini-ITX form factor and the Fractal Node 304, which gave a nice compromise of looks, compatibility with the parts I’d chosen, and ease of modding. I knew I wanted to go black and white with an accent color, and because the custom cabling required a shorter GPU, the accent was chosen for me with the Asus 670 Mini (the only option with that form factor and performance available). With the parts selected, it was time to build the thing!

The completed build with parts list can be found at the PCPartPicker site. The top window took the most time, and required the use of a jigsaw and dremel to cut out space for the window. I order the acrylic online and cut it down to size, then used a hole saw to cut a 140mm hole for a fan. The rear and front fans were all set to intakes, with the top fan used for exhausting the hot air.

The cables are semi-custom. I did not sleeve each cable, but instead ordered individual sleeved cables from FrozenCPU, and then reassembled the ATX, CPU, SATA, and Molex cables strand-by-strand using the new white sleeved cables. This turned out to be about the same price as doing the cables myself, but prevented me from customizing their lengths to make the build a bit neater. I think it still turned out OK though. After the window and cables were assembled, all that was left to put the parts into the case. This turned out to be a pretty easy task, despite the small form factor of the case. Take a look at the slideshow for the shots.

 

NCASE M1

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A few years after the Node 304 build, I decided to dive into water cooling. This was inspired by the case I chose–the NCASE M1–which was the result of a crowdfunded effort that began on [H]ard|forum, an online forum for computer hardware enthusiasts. You can view the original thread on the M1 for details about how it was created, although be warned–the thread is >10,000 posts long at this point. The main challenge of the M1 was to make a case as small as possible that still allowed for high-end hardware and limited water cooling. Naturally, given the challenge of fitting a full custom cooling loop in such a small space, I had to try it.

After a couple months of research and parts-gathering, I built the computer and loop without too much trouble. There was only one leak on the first attempt, but further modifications gave the result seen in the gallery above, and I could not have been happier. The computer is still my main desktop today, although since the photos above were taken, the computer has gone through multiple iterations. Sadly, the water cooling loop is no longer there–I switched it out for traditional air cooling in order to make it more TSA-friendly (I travel with this PC a lot).