QMicra from PC Design Lab: SFF Super-sized

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Discovering how to remove the outer cover proved a bit of a challenge initially, especially since there was no manual included to tell us what to do (we are assured that a manual is in the works). Eventually we realized that the feet could be unscrewed, releasing the cover from the body, as shown in the photo below. The feet are made of rubber that is intended to reduce vibration, but they are probably too hard to help much.

Special rubber feet serve two purposes: Vibration damping and securing the cover to the base.

The two handles also needed to be removed before the cover could be pulled off. The handles are secured with thumbscrews (anodized blue on our sample) that unscrew easily. That done, the cover can be pulled off — stiffly — by pulling the two sides apart and up. The cover flexes several inches in the process, but it must be stronger than it looks as it survived several installations without any apparent damage.

The U-shaped cover flexes as it is removed.

The inside of the cover is covered with a soft foam. The foam is Akasa Pax Mate, which we didn't think much of in comparison with AcousticPack and some other panel damping products. It does not have enough mass to stop low frequency resonance, but it should help smooth out the sharp higher frequencies.

The edges of the cover are lined with rubber sealing strips that prevent metal on metal contact between the cover and the rest of the case. Although effective at doing its job, the strips easily slip off the edge, ruining the attempt at improving fit and finish. A little glue would go a long way!

The top panel uses rubber sealing strips and Akasa Pax Mate to cut down on vibration noise.

The interior of the case is divided into two sections: A main section for the motherboard and expansion cards on the bottom, and a tray for the power supply and the drives up top. The two sections are not isolated from each other, although it would not be difficult to construct a duct for the power supply. The majority of airflow should pass through the bottom of the case in a straight line from front to back. A power supply with straight-through airflow should be able to pull a little air towards the top of the case, but the only parts that would really benefit are the optical drives, so the effort may not be worth it.

The top tray holds the power supply and the optical drives.

The QMicra boasts enough room for four hard drives, but at first glance it's hard to see where they fit because there are no conventional drive bays. Instead, the drives hang from an aluminum harness that suspends two drives along each side of the case. The harness is made of thin, flexible aluminum, and is meant to absorb drive vibration, acting as a spring that isolates the drive from the rest of the case.

Hard drives hang from a harness that straddles the optical drive bays.

Below the drives, the intake vents both have wire filters that obstruct the air even further. The wire mesh is quite small, and will probably need regular cleaning to ensure that they don't block the vent entirely. They are easily removable, so if extra cooling is needed, removing the filters is a good place to start. However, once the system is assembled, accessing those filters will be much more difficult.

Wire filters for the intake vents add further restriction.

The back half of the tray is reserved for the power supply. When it is all screwed in, the power supply clamps the whole case together; without the power supply installed, the upper tray is not fixed to the back panel. The power supply forms an integral part of the internal structure, and greatly strengthens the case when installed.

Power supply goes here, clamping the tray to the back panel when screwed in.

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