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[Build Complete] - Little Mac - World's Smallest 4.2L Gaming HTPC Steam Machine?

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Little Mac
The world's smallest gaming HTPC?

Weighing in at 4.2L with an Intel i5 CPU and an nVIdia GTX 970 GPU,
Little Mac want to be the HTPC Gaming FPS / Liter champion!

900x900px-LL-5485c0e3_WP_20150129_22_04_08_Pro.jpeg

Like this, but want smaller? Qnix has the H2O Micro. Custom case water cooled
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http://imgur.com/a/TLaX9
2015.png


Full Imgur Gallery

About Me
I am a Software Developer / Analyst. This is my second build log. The first was the 2013 Torch GP, a twin (CPU/GPU) AIO watercooled gaming HTPC.

Why this case?
Bragging rights mostly, Could we go this small? But, on a more practical note, I had recently moved and upgraded from a DLP TV to a flat panel. I switched out my first build and upgraded to an Intel NUC and a soundbar. In the process, I ditched the entertainment center and mounted everything behind the HDTV. I loved the look. Very clean. No wires. But the NUC wasn't strong enough for gaming. A new build was needed. One that could fit behind the TV, without compromises..

I had three goals.
Small enough to fit behind a wall-mounted television (sub 100m height for me),
Quiet enough for general HTPC use
Powerful enough for gaming.

In November 2014, two things happened in the market that allowed this build to take off. First, Gigabyte released the world's first stubby GTX 970 card. It fit into a mITX motherboard, the GV-N970IXOC-4GD. Second, Logic Supply released the MC600 and I stumbled upon this Reddit PC build thread using a it. I contacted the thread's author - who is also one of the engineers/designers of the case - and he turned out to be an all-around classy dude. I told him I was inspired, and he offered up one of Logic Supply's MC600 to be part of this build and I was determined to make it work. But industrial PC chassis' aren't meant to cool the consumer parts used in gaming PCs.

Case design and modifications
In order to fit everything inside, an unconventional layout is being used. It involves laying the GPU down next to the motherboard and using a flexible PCIe riser ribbon in order to connect the two. This is sometimes referred to as a Steam Machine layout, because of Valve's popularization of the design with it's prototype Steam Machines. Another trick used to reduce the footprint, is electing to use a DC power board instead of a traditional ATX Power Supply. This allowed most of the PSU to live in an external power brick similar to a laptop or Xbox One. (Props to Sony for not needing this!) The last hurdle was thermals. The stock airflow pattern of the Logic Supply MC600 was not engineered with the intention of dissipating 150 Watts worth enthusiast grade GPU heat. To fix this, I sketched out a crude CAD drawing and took it to a local CNC place. I had them cut two 120mm holes into the top panel. One above CPU and another above the GPU. Two fans were mounted there and blow cool air onto the components. Since the GPU side generates twice the heat, it gets two assistance of two additional 60mm exhaust fans.

Parts List
PC Part Picker List
Case - Logic Supply MC600
Mobo - Asus H97I Plus
CPU - Intel i5 4690K
GPU - Gigabyte Mini-ITX GTX 970
PSU - HDPLEX 250W + Voodoo Firebird 350w Power brick
RAM - 8GB Crucial Ballistix Very Low Profile DDR3
SSD - Transcend MTS800 256GB

CPU Cooling - Noctua L9i Heatsink (with 120mm Cougar Vortex)
GPU Cooling - Stock Gigabyte heatsink + 120mm Yate Loon D12SM-12C
Case Exhuast - 2x 60mm Evercool

Additional Items: LiHeat 250mm PCIe Gen 3.0 Shielded riser. Silverstone mesh grill covers.
41 - 60 of 95 Posts

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Discussion Starter · #42 ·
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smanci View Post

I wonder if Lian Li sells separately their riser cable bundled with the PC-O5S-case? Should be quality stuff.
Have a link to Lian Li's cable? I've been shopping PCIe risers lately. Of course there is the 3M, but overclock.net member b16984901 has posted a link their test of LiHeat's PCIe cable and listed it for sale on LiHeat on ebay, but no takers. It's also on the Ruten site here.

If the foil/vinyl proves unstable or troublesome, then I might give LiHeat's cable a run. .
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Runamok81 View Post

Will do on the pics. For the risers, I wasn't using the true $100 3M riser cables. On a hunch, I 3M foil wrapped and vinyl'd a set of daisy-chained generics. This worked like a charm, and I didn't think much of it. During this last reverse course, I tested different lengths, positions, and shielding and came to think more of it.

Using a single un-shielded 200mm or 300mm gave me no issues. Good boot, good performance. As soon as I removed the GPU out of the case and ran two naked daisy chained ribbons, no boot. I quickly added some shielding to the ribbons, tried again, and I got boot! But, HDMI audio was distorted and frame rates plunged, basically unplayable. Pretty interesting, really. Geeked out for a bit trying different combinations, checking the solder points.

Only then did I do a more thorough reading of Show4Pro's experience with risers and EMI interference. He's already done the research and testing on this.
here
here
here

In short, I witnessed the same thing. I agree, EMI interference is not a myth! Having the PCIe riser ribbons protected from interference (inside the steel case / foil wrapped / not doubled over one another) made a difference.

To help the riser routing - and because I can't use the standard right handed 90 degree risers - I called up SuperMicro and placed an order for the only left hand side riser I could fine. The RSC-R1UFF-E16 risers. You can see it on this page. Maybe they will help?
Nice build.

Though the foil wraps work to some degree for external interference it is not the same as what 3M is doing in their riser which effectively has an impedance controlled, grounded and shielded twin-axial path for each signal. If you could ground the foil it might work a bit better though results may vary quite a bit as it's not an ideal situation to begin with as it's difficult to wrap right to the connector. When you daisy chain riser cables, each connector is an impedance change/discontinuity and will cause a signal reflection which interferes with the propagating signal so things get progressively worse down the line. Foil will only buy you so much there and will not affect reflections. When you see this affect on signals it's amazing anything works.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time-domain_reflectometer
 

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Discussion Starter · #44 ·
Quote:
Originally Posted by frack0 View Post

Nice build.

Though the foil wraps work to some degree for external interference it is not the same as what 3M is doing in their riser which effectively has an impedance controlled, grounded and shielded twin-axial path for each signal. If you could ground the foil it might work a bit better though results may vary quite a bit as it's not an ideal situation to begin with as it's difficult to wrap right to the connector. When you daisy chain riser cables, each connector is an impedance change/discontinuity and will cause a signal reflection which interferes with the propagating signal so things get progressively worse down the line. Foil will only buy you so much there and will not affect reflections. When you see this affect on signals it's amazing anything works.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time-domain_reflectometer
Let's start his out by saying, I'm not an electrical engineers. But I know a few, so that helps. The impedance issue can be solved by using one-long riser, correct? No extra interconnects. The grounding issue isn't completely solved but is mitigated by anchoring the foiled riser to the steel case. So, that leaves us with the EMI shielding issue we observed. I have no doubt that 3M Twin Axial cable would solve my problems, but is it overkill? 3M describes the shielding properties of their plain old foil tape as this
Quote:
Many factors determine the true shielding effectiveness of a shielding tape, including type
and thickness of foil, adhesive type, intimacy of contact, smoothness of application
surface, strength and frequency of the EMI signal, etc. However, using standard tests and
fixtures, it is possible to determine a value for the attenuation. For 1345 tape, typical
shielding effectiveness (far field) is in the range of 75dB to 95dB (30 MHz to 1 GHz).
In addition we two instances of anecdotal evidence suggesting that regular foil -Show4Pro - and tin foil tape - myself - works. We have none suggesting it doesn't. I'm not going to take it that far,this is a PC modding and overclocking community... but has anyone actually used the -amazing name by the way - TIme domain reflectometer to do a quantitative analysis and comparison? Till then, why underestimate tin foil wrap? It could be perfectly suited for this application.

Edit: Also thank you frack0 for the scientific discussion and advice. You're obviously knowledgeable. Just continuing the conversation the best a layman can.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Runamok81 View Post

Let's start his out by saying, I'm not an electrical engineers. But I know a few, so that helps. The impedance issue can be solved by using one-long riser, correct? No extra interconnects. The grounding issue isn't completely solved but is mitigated by anchoring the foiled riser to the steel case. So, that leaves us with the EMI shielding issue we observed. I have no doubt that 3M Twin Axial cable would solve my problems, but is it overkill? 3M describes the shielding properties of their plain old foil tape as this
In addition we two instances of anecdotal evidence suggesting that regular foil -Show4Pro - and tin foil tape - myself - works. We have none suggesting it doesn't. I'm not going to take it that far,this is a PC modding and overclocking community... but has anyone actually used the -amazing name by the way - TIme domain reflectometer to do a quantitative analysis and comparison? Till then, why underestimate tin foil wrap? It could be perfectly suited for this application.

Edit: Also thank you frack0 for the scientific discussion and advice. You're obviously knowledgeable. Just continuing the conversation the best a layman can.
I think you misunderstood my original post a bit, as I said the foil wrap will help with EMI especially if you can ground it like you're apparently doing with the steel case(it appeared from photo that the electrical tape might have wrapped it but perhaps it just goes over it. It just won't help with reflections. I actually am an electrical engineer and have had to deal with this in the past connecting two computers over 10ft of 100-pin flat shielded ribbon cable(and circuits on both sides), now I just deal with ASICs though similar issues exist both on chip and especially in the packaging thru wire bonds, flip-chip bumps, TSVs, Cu pillars.

The less connectors the better, the reflections do not just occur just in one direction or just one time, so between each set of connectors you set up a ping-pong sort of condition in between with signals bouncing back and forth(though there is loss in amplitude each time they reflect so it decays out after a few).
 

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Discussion Starter · #50 ·
Quote:
Originally Posted by Reindoonicorn View Post

Photos of what? If you mean their response, they haven't replied yet!
biggrin.gif


If you mean the riser, obviously I haven't got one yet, but here are some review pics:
Yes, the riser. Ha ha. Oh, man... is that the PC-05S? It's not out till February and the price is ALOT to swallow, but just wow. Sexy case. Just saw a Techspot review of it today. Can't tell what they are using for a riser but it does look vinyl wrapped.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Runamok81 View Post

Yes, the riser. Ha ha. Oh, man... is that the PC-05S? It's not out till February and the price is ALOT to swallow, but just wow. Sexy case. Just saw a Techspot review of it today. Can't tell what they are using for a riser but it does look vinyl wrapped.
Yeah, you and Smanci were discussing it and its riser earlier, I believe.

And yes, it does have that Lian Li class, doesn't it!
biggrin.gif
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Runamok81 View Post

Big update. It's alive!
biggrin.gif


Little Mac had first startup today.
This is just great. Its inspired me to finally do an HTPC. Quick question, I was actually thinking of building one for my parents but do you think it could actively act as their central storage as well? Could it be their main hard drive/computer? I lied, because here comes a second question. Any good resources for strictly htpc builds that you could recommend? I find cheesy how-to's al the time but Id like to find a good dedicated forum that covers every possible in-and-out
 

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Discussion Starter · #55 ·
Quote:
Originally Posted by DMatthewStewart View Post

This is just great. Its inspired me to finally do an HTPC. Quick question, I was actually thinking of building one for my parents but do you think it could actively act as their central storage as well? Could it be their main hard drive/computer? I lied, because here comes a second question. Any good resources for strictly htpc builds that you could recommend? I find cheesy how-to's al the time but Id like to find a good dedicated forum that covers every possible in-and-out
For building your own you'll need to be somewhat comfortable working on them, and that comes with experience and making lots of mistakes. The case in this thread is pretty extreme. The 4.2L size dictates everything and makes it very challenging. Of course, bragging rights if you can pull it off!

Best places for information? This forum and [H]ardFoum are great for Q and A on bleeding edge and experimental builds. I think Reddit's buildapc has a supportive community. Those guys will steer you right. I'll probably post my build there when it's done. For your case have you considered the Silverstone Raven RVZ01 / ML07 / ML08 / FTZ01. That's a larger case, but much friendlier and could accommodate the HDD spaced you may be need. Check the owner's club, good info there, and active.

Edit: To further address... for strictly HTPC builds? Noise is a big concern. Gaming rigs tend to end up sounding like a vacuum cleaner in the background of quiet movie dialogue. Check SPCR and the forums. I've tried watercooling and even the pumps were too loud for HTPC case. Honestly, the NUC I am currently using is perfect for an HTPC. It just can't game. But it is whisper quiet, does 1080P, office etc.. and they have one where you can add additional HDD space.
 

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Thanks @Runamok

I like those Silverstone cases and I will take all of your suggestions, start bookmarking the proper pages, and let my brain melt. I think I am going to have to really finish my acrylic conversions and proper cable management projects before I take the HTPC thing on. It seems that its going to be more involved that I originally thought.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Runamok81 View Post

For building your own you'll need to be somewhat comfortable working on them, and that comes with experience and making lots of mistakes. (SNIPPED)
 

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Discussion Starter · #58 ·
Yeah, I noticed your non-newb history after I started making a response. Apologies. You're obviously experienced. In short, any normal PC is an HTPC once you move it to the living room and connect the TV. Genre specific concerns are noise, integration (AV connections), installation (hidden or need to look like audio gear?) The Logitech K400 is a great lapable keyboard /trackpad combination. Also, text on Windows can be an issue. Up the DPI to 150% and either bigger TV or move closer. Alternately use apps with 10-foot interfaces, XBMC / PLEX / Netflix.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Runamok81 View Post

To help the riser routing - and because I can't use the standard right handed 90 degree risers - I called up SuperMicro and placed an order for the only left hand side riser I could fine. The RSC-R1UFF-E16 risers. You can see it on this page. Maybe they will help?
There's also this one: http://www.delock.de/produkte/F_380_PCIe-x16_41788/merkmale.html

And the li heat risers seem to be of quite good quality. They might be something to consider! Also it seems like they're sold with a left angle, so you won't have to worry about the bend so much.
 
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