Hi all, M1 designer here. I've been following the thread for a while, thought I'd chime in.
The primary design goal for the M1 was to pack as much performance into a case that's as small as reasonably possible, with the necessary cooling capability that entails. Noise was a consideration as well, which is part of the reason for watercooling support: with a full loop and 240mm radiator, both CPU and GPU can be sufficiently cooled with only moderate noise levels under load - as good or better than open GPU coolers in larger cases, and far superior to most blower coolers. Watercooling enables a balance between space efficiency, noise, and performance that air cooling can't match. That said, the target audience for the M1 isn't going to be quite as noise-sensitive as the SPCR crowd. The intention is more to be able to build a tiny beast of a gaming machine, that doesn't sound like a shopvac.
I think the reasons for designing this case are not very sound.
It is intended to be placed on a desk or table-like surface, but it's height and shape are not suitable for such a thing. It is being designed as an ATX tower case that you can put on your desk. However, I would never ever put such a thing on my desk.
Questions to ask:
- why do I want to place a tower PC on my desk?
- where is the benefit as opposed to a real "desk-top" model computer?
- did we really intend to introduce a new form-factor for PCs?
- did we not actually conceive of a hybrid that is neither fit for desktop nor floor-standing placement?
"how long will it take for me to become fed up with this monster sitting on top of my desk that shouldn't even have been placed there ever in the first place, and I will relegate it to some kind of server-closet where it doesn't matter what shape it has and where its looks will be wasted (or graciously hidden) anyway?"
Seriously folks it looks nice but not a lot of thought has been given to the "why".
"I personally think the dimensions or proportions are off for putting it on a desk. I was initially convinced that it was a floor or desk-floor standing case. So I couldn't understand anything about it. After a while it dawned on me that people want to place this thing on their desks. I was flabbergasted because to me it is either too tall or too wide."
Your criticism here seems to me entirely subjective and arbitrary. You seem to have an issue with the proportions of the case, rather than it's size. I wonder if you'd prefer it on its side? The layout is actually pretty similar to many "shoebox" or "cube"-style cases, such as the SG07/SG08 and Node304, only oriented vertically instead of horizontally. It just happens to be one of the most space-efficient layouts possible, which is why you see it so often in the 10-20L case range. I consciously wanted to avoid the shoebox style - I've personally never liked it. The M1 is in fact smaller than either the SG07 and Node304, and approaches the volume of the SG05 and Shuttle XPCs. The vertical orientation also has a smaller footprint, which seems better suited to desktop use.
The front door that looks like a front door and anyone would expect to operate as a front door is not a front door but rather something being designed as a front door while being nothing of the kind.
It's designed to be a front bezel or panel, like most cases (and electronics, for that matter) have. They certainly aren't all doors, and I'm not sure why you read it as such here. If it makes you feel better, it's removable. It just doesn't have hinges.
Keep in mind our material choice was pretty limited; creating something with a bit of character out of aluminum sheet is not the easiest - take a look at Lian Li's other cases.
NCASE M1 is unlike these cases. It was designed with functional requirements but without purpose.
I don't agree it's fit for nothing, but I do think this statement has merit. It was "designed by geeks for geeks" (like most non-Apple hardware?) and aesthetics and usability aren't generally the highest priority.
I'd love to see geeks design an optimal layout for a case, specify what's needed for cooling, and then hand it over to designers and artists to make it a delight to look at and a pleasure to use.
I take a bit of exception here; aesthetic design is very important to me, and was a significant consideration in the design of the M1. It might not be to your taste, and that's fine. My goals for the design were for an understated, minimalist aesthetic, but that retained a sense of identity. Again, the materials and processes I had to work with were pretty limited (aluminum sheet and Lian Li's existing tooling), so that does restrict what can be done in terms of design. I have no formal training in industrial design (or engineering, for that matter), and undoubtedly a team of seasoned ID guys and engineers could come up with something better (and having an actual budget for tooling wouldn't hurt). But enough people consider the case attractive that I think I can say the result is a cut above what you might expect from your average "geek."
Olaf van der Spek wrote:
I'd *love* to see (m)ATX cases with such a small (or even smaller) footprint.
An mATX case with a smaller *footprint* is a tall order (literally); if you want to keep the footprint the same, the height would have to increase. The area of an mATX board is about twice that of mini-ITX, and the M1 is already nearly as small as it could be with mini-ITX, given the requirement for long GPU support.
On the subject of a low-noise optimized mATX case, though, I have some thoughts:
CPU and GPU cooling - between the two, there's a certain minimum case width that's practically necessary. The M1 is 160mm wide, but the absolute maximum CPU cooler height is only 135mm - and that's with every possibility for width reduction already incorporated (e.g., minimized distance between the back of the motherboard and side panel). Likewise, big (wide) heatsinks on GPUs are often too big for the width of the M1 (the Accelero S1 is about an inch too wide). Assuming we consider 160mm+ CPU coolers and larger GPU coolers a requirement for low noise, we need to add a minimum of 30mm to the width, bringing it to 190mm. This has the side benefit of allowing a rear 120mm fan (vs. the 92mm in the M1).
The PSU is the other big issue (pun intended). SFX is out of consideration for low noise, at least for the time being. Silverstone's upcoming 500W SFX-L (which I might add came about because we approached High Power with the idea) might change things with its 120x15mm fan, but then again it might not. An ATX PSU is the safe bet, for now. But it means the case needs to be that much larger to accomodate it.
Realistically, the SG09 layout is about as small as you can go for an mATX + tall cooler + ATX PSU, but it's already 80% larger than the M1. Plus, the air vents on every side that's needed to make the layout perform thermally doesn't lend itself to low noise (or attractive looks). As it turns out, the optimal layout for low noise (straight-through airflow) tends to look pretty much like a typical tower case. That's not to say there isn't any space-savings possible by e.g. leaving off 5.25" bay support, but it's not going to have the kind of gains you can achieve with the more novel layouts of the SG09 or M1.