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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, I' thought I'd do a write-up, as I got some great advice from this thread by gwpjr:
And I'd like to help out future builders once this gets crawled by search engines.

Goal: Sell off old Mac Mini (done) and Sony Vaio Z PMD (to do), consolidate external RAID devices into a quiet SFF computer, to replace laptop so I can actually do some light gaming (Path of Exile).
Priority list (decreasing order): Size (mATX), Silence (previous tower was passively watercooled), Storage (3.5in expansion, Stingy (on the electric bill)

First off--Pics (with PSU/Without PSU):

Hardware List (for fitment purposes--I'll try to explain these individually):
Case: Lian Li PV-254
Mobo: AsRock z77 Professional-M (aka the Fatal1ty Edition)
Cooling: Zalman LQ-320
VGA: Sapphire HD 7770 (will be replaced by XFX Double-D (non-Black) HD 7850)
PSU: Corsair AX650

Misc Hardware:
CPU: i5 3570K
Sound: Asus Xonar D2X
RAM: Corsair Vengeance
5.25" device: hot-swap 3.5in SATA II bay
Drives: An upper-mounted SSD, Corsair Force 120
Drives: 3.5in and 2.5in Mounted in top cage, to be replaced by two 4TB drives--had to install and activate W8 on the bottom drive earlier this month because of the Media Center Promo

· Registered
26 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Issues/Build Discussion: Cooling
First off, the biggest issue I had with this case was CPU cooler fitment--I wanted something quiet and efficient (no 92mm fans, please). The Xigmatek Dark Knight II Hawk Edition seemed like a top performer and I picked it up. I read gwpjr's post but still only felt 80% confident that this cooler was going to fit, as the AsRock mobo has the CPU socket located a bit lower than his AMD board.
Well, I was right--it won't fit. I did a test fit before all my components came in (still waiting on CPU, hence the tape on the waterblock, to protect my lapped surface), and found that I was off by about 4mm, so I tried clipping off the corner of the heatsink. Then when I tried to fit it again, i realized that my estimates were quite off. I'd have to cut into a major portion of the fins on one side of the cooler in order ot make everything fit. Furthermore, I would have RAM clearance issues in at least the first slot.
So let me make this clear:
(and in related notes, I'm selling my slightly hacked-at cooler)

To my luck, the Zalman LQ-320 was on sale and I just went with it. It's installed in the bottom drive cage area (Dark Knight fan currently as intake as the included Zalman fan doesn't have "font" mounting holes to mount into the case). Unfortunately, this means that I'll be sacrificing 4 HDD bays; the HDD bays was partially the reason I chose this case (you can't find too many SFF cases that do more than 3-4 hard drive bays. This one can handle 4x2.5" + 7x3.5" drives. This, however, can be rectified by drilling out some holes in the back of the case and mounting the radiator on the outside of the case (or you can sacrificed the 140mm fan, but the Xigmatek 140mm Crystal fan that I replaced it with was dead silent and moves a ton more air than the stock cooler (it was also a steal at $7--I clipped the LED leads). However, I cannot recommend the Xigmatek 120mm Crystal fans--I got the 2-pack, but they had a very noticeable motor whine, and didn't move noticeably more air than the stock fans. I'm keeping them for now until I spot another sale on good fans (maybe the Cougars?)

I have yet to obtain temperature numbers, but I'll include them once my computer is up.

· Registered
26 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Issues/Build Discussion: Fitment

This case requires a well planned-out route of attack, as certain things MUST be done before the others. The order I followed is:
  1. Strip down the case--remove all case fans (and the fan speed controller) and hard drive cages (including the support mount that screws into the front of the case)
  2. 5.25in bay device--If you want an internal disk drive, you have to install this first. You'll want to install the top fan much later.
  3. Top 2.5in drive ( I used velcro to eliminate vibration)
  4. Left/motherboard panel--you could do this later, if you have a steady hand, as installing this will make some cable routing tasks a bit harder. I had a friend to steady the lift off its side, so I installed it later.
  5. Front Panel Routing (underneath the mobo)! (this could take like 30-45min if you're a perfectionist like me) --I wish I had a photo of the way I routed the cables, but here's a tip: keep note of where your socket/backplate is relative to the mounting pins as you route your cables. Lay down your flat Power/LED wires down first, then the card reader and audio cables (I did a crossover near the top PCI-E/central mounting post)
  6. Set in your mobo now
  7. Install your top case fan, if you can. If not, switch this and the previous step, and pray that you can still screw in your mobo mounting screws (the top right one is a tight fit unless you have a long screwdriver)
  8. I installed the rest of my case fans, routed the fans to the fan controller, hard drives will be reverse-mounted (although 2.5" drives in the top cage can only be installed normally)
  9. Route your mobo power connections now (I went along the top fans, and clamped them there for a simple install when the PSU comes in)
  10. Power to all my devices is supplied via molex and adapters (a bit risky of a move, but estimating max 150W through those wires, but PSU has only a single 12V rail)
  11. (my hot swap bay has a SATA connection piggybacking off of it, as there will always be a boot drive there)
  12. (VGA is a single 6-pin, and the Double D HD 7850 is just a bit longer. My Double D Black HD 7770 is a bit long though (also a massive power hog), but should still fit with the lower drive cage)
  13. CPU cooler is installed (tubing facing motherboard side of case), if you align the CPU block the way I did, you'll have plenty of clearance for tall RAM, and you won't bump into the drive cage.
  14. Re-attach the drive cage support mount, and install the drive cage
  15. Check everything, install your PSU, and finish up your power connections (it's mentioned that this corsair PSU's fan grille sticks out--you can install it with the grille, but you'll deform your case slightly every time you move it. I just removed the grille and screwed the PSU fan into place--with it facing the motherboard, there's no way to cut your finger on it (not that you should be poking at running power supplies anyways...)
  16. Hope everything works

· Registered
26 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Final Thoughts:

This was a fun build, mainly because I had really cute company and a well-deserved burger and beer afterwards, heh.

Total time was ~4.5hrs to perfect everything (a couple of re-installs when something didn't fit, and a lot of perfection.
I love how I only have 1 cable to power all my devices--the 6-pin cables that come with this PSU are dual connections, so I had this entire 3/4 of a 6-pin cable tucked away. It's nice to know that I can reverse-mount my two storage drives to ensure clear airflow from the radiator, too. I was actually considering getting a Seasonic X750 because of the more cable length choices, but this works even better.

Any questions? Feel free to ask!
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