Apex MI-008: A Cheap Quiet mini-ITX Case?

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Lawrence Lee
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Apex MI-008: A Cheap Quiet mini-ITX Case?

Post by Lawrence Lee » Sat Jan 17, 2009 9:07 pm


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Post by NeilBlanchard » Sun Jan 18, 2009 2:47 am

Hi Lawrence,

I'm assuming that the stock PSU does not have APFC, since it has a voltage switch, right? A pleasant surprise that it is so quiet.

The photo with the blue scale showing the heatsink clearance, appears to have a different motherboard in the picture -- did you contemplate using the system with a hotter running CPU?
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Post by MoJo » Sun Jan 18, 2009 6:59 am

Thanks for the review. It looks like finally ITX is becoming a viable platform, with cheap but good cases and mobos available.

I think Apex have got this one spot on. Most ITX systems are going to be either embedded (routers, file servers, WHS etc) or low end desktop systems. In either case, you don't need a particularly high end box to put the system in.

Until now there has been very little reason to bother with ITX, since you can build a better performing, lower power and more flexible mATX system for a fraction of the cost.

I think this quote from the article sums it up pretty well:
if this particular system was run with the stock power supply instead of a picoPSU and power brick 24-7, it would put a $5.16 CDN dent into SPCR lab's electric bill after one year — it would take many years before we would re-coup the cost of a picoPSU.
These days you very quickly reach the point where a tiny amount of space and energy savings cost exponentially more. Apex and Intel have finally made ITX just about justifiable.
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Post by DaveLessnau » Sun Jan 18, 2009 7:13 am

Lawrence,

One of the recurring comments on Newegg about this case is that the front panel wires are too short. Did you have any such problem with this case and the D945GCLF2?

Since you used the Yate Loon, I assume it took up the side-mounting space for the hard drive (and the pictures imply that the hard drive is mounted under the optical drive). Were all the thermal measurements (particularly the hard drive's) taken with the hard drive there?

Also (and I'm embarrassed to ask this), you mention you're undervolting the Yate Loon to 5V with a Fanmate. I notice in the pictures a spare fan header on the motherboard. Don't those normally push 5V on their own?

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Post by frank2003 » Sun Jan 18, 2009 7:18 am

Great review.

I have this case and have found the PSU fan to be completely ineffective in removing the heat from the case. I don't feel much heat coming out of the exhaust vent. I read somewhere that the fan actually turns off under low load but I have not verified this.

I didn't know you could put in a 120mm fan where the side vent is. I just installed a 120mm Antec Tricool fan set to the lowest speed. It's now taking out a lot of the heat from the case and is keeping it really cool. Thanks for the tip.

I also found the PSU, while surprisingly quiet, is far from being effecient (it draws 8W-10W more compared to picoPSU). I'm willing to live with the increased power draw for the case's compactness (no external brick) and quiet operation.

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Post by frank2003 » Sun Jan 18, 2009 7:32 am

One glaring omission under the "Pro" column: It accepts full height 5.25" ODD :)

This is one of the few, if not the only one, inexpensive, good looking, compact mini-ITX cases that accept full height ODD. It's perfect for housing a 5.25" Blu-ray drive and was one of the reasons I bought it.

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Post by croddie » Sun Jan 18, 2009 9:33 am

Great choice for a review, and very good to know that we have an off the shelf mini-itx case that is useable.
Very good that it can accept a 120mm fan. Would an 80mm fan be easy to mount? It would be a more appropriate side but you'd need to attach it to the side of the case rather than just slot it in.
I think most people here won't be using the included psu so that increases space and reduces noise a bit.

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Post by Lawrence Lee » Sun Jan 18, 2009 10:18 am

NeilBlanchard wrote: I'm assuming that the stock PSU does not have APFC, since it has a voltage switch, right? A pleasant surprise that it is so quiet.

The photo with the blue scale showing the heatsink clearance, appears to have a different motherboard in the picture -- did you contemplate using the system with a hotter running CPU?
I believe so.

The photo is of the Zotac GeForce 8200-ITX - I needed a "regular" mobo to measure heatsink clearance. Forgot to include it in the caption.

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Post by Lawrence Lee » Sun Jan 18, 2009 10:19 am

DaveLessnau wrote: One of the recurring comments on Newegg about this case is that the front panel wires are too short. Did you have any such problem with this case and the D945GCLF2?

Since you used the Yate Loon, I assume it took up the side-mounting space for the hard drive (and the pictures imply that the hard drive is mounted under the optical drive). Were all the thermal measurements (particularly the hard drive's) taken with the hard drive there?

Also (and I'm embarrassed to ask this), you mention you're undervolting the Yate Loon to 5V with a Fanmate. I notice in the pictures a spare fan header on the motherboard. Don't those normally push 5V on their own?
The front panel wires were more than long enough. In fact I routed them through the opposite side of the front panel they were original on to make them shorter.

The hard drive was suspended in the optical drive bay - no optical drive was used during testing.

There are two fan headers - one that runs at 12V and the other which is adjustable. The chipset fan was hooked up to the adjustable one.

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Fan Fight

Post by Broadleaf » Sun Jan 18, 2009 11:21 am

The fans are fighting against each other for air.
Last edited by Broadleaf on Fri Jun 19, 2009 1:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by fri2219 » Sun Jan 18, 2009 1:50 pm

the Seasonic has a pertruding fan that interferes with the metal guide that sits between the power supply and the I/O panel. That made the decision to leave the power supply be an easy one.
pertruding?

That's a usefication of the language of the English that I'm familiar with not. Perhaps protruding would be a better term. :]

Thanks for the review, I can't wait to try this out with an Ion-based board and Darwin.

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Post by Shaman » Sun Jan 18, 2009 3:29 pm

If a PicoPSU was used, would a Mini Ninja fit in there or would the optical drive cage get in the way?

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Post by Lawrence Lee » Sun Jan 18, 2009 4:12 pm

Shaman wrote:If a PicoPSU was used, would a Mini Ninja fit in there or would the optical drive cage get in the way?
A Ninja Mini will not fit as it is 1.5cm too tall. There is only 10cm between the surface of the CPU and the case ceiling (measured using the Zotac 8200-ITX).

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Post by Shaman » Sun Jan 18, 2009 5:22 pm

I see, thanks.. I saw the 120mm fan and automatically thought the Ninja would fit like it does in the NSK2480.

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Post by warriorpoet » Sun Jan 18, 2009 9:00 pm

I have to know: any chance of fitting a super-low profile Core2Duo cooler in there? I'd love to use this cute little thing in the kids' room.
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Dual 3.5" disks?

Post by fishmonger » Mon Jan 19, 2009 3:06 am

So am I correct in saying this case has room for two 3.5" hard disk drives?

I've been looking for a good value mini-ITX case which can do this and haven't found one so far.

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Post by Lawrence Lee » Mon Jan 19, 2009 10:36 am

warriorpoet wrote:I have to know: any chance of fitting a super-low profile Core2Duo cooler in there? I'd love to use this cute little thing in the kids' room.
If its under 4cm in height.

fishmonger wrote:So am I correct in saying this case has room for two 3.5" hard disk drives?.
Yes, one beneath the optical drive bay, one on the side. But mounting one on the side completely blocks off the main side vent. Also I imagine the vibrations would be pretty bad.

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Post by Jipa » Mon Jan 19, 2009 10:41 am

Despite the cons I'd say it offers pretty nice value for money and doesn't look too bad either. In such a small case I can't really see being flimsy as a huge con...
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Post by Matija » Mon Jan 19, 2009 11:02 am

Going offtopic: there's a KMZ (?!) case available in my country. I found a review from a neighbouring country - http://www.itsvet.com/tekst/kmzmini-tower/1829/

Looks fairly pretty, judging by the pictures, it's a bit taller, and seems to have better ventilation. One could even play around with suspending a HDD while having an optical drive installed, since there are two 3.5" slots available.

I wonder what the PSU noise is like...

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Post by ajira99 » Mon Jan 19, 2009 2:01 pm

Glad to see such a favorable review. I just got this case and the new MINIX 780G board as the base for my new SageTV server build. The main problem (for me) is the lack of compelling heatsink choices. I did get a NT07-AM2, but I'm not that impressed by the finish. Plus, on the MINIX, I can't use my Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-1600 tuner card in the PCI slot (too much of a gap between the rear panel). I'm hoping that a custom PCI bracket will help with that.

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Post by Mariner » Tue Jan 20, 2009 9:59 am

I'm note sure how it compares to the Silverstone cooler, but I use the physically similar Hiper HFC-30820-C1 cooler on my AM2 motherboard and have been very happy with the performance:

http://www.hipergroup.com/products.php? ... 13&pid=132

My CPU is a Brisbane X2 3600+ which runs at stock clocks of 1.9GHz but undervolted to 1.0V. I actually run the 80x15mm fan which came with the Hiper cooler at just 5V and it is inaudible from more than around 50cm. The fan pushes very little air but seems to provide more than enough cooling for my very low-powered system.

The fan on the Hiper cooler was surprisingly good which was useful because my system doesn't have room for anything of larger dimensions!

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Post by johpe » Tue Jan 20, 2009 10:50 am

Great review, I see that you tested some HD material (720p and 1080p) and I'm really curious to whether the dual core Atom 330 processor manages to playback 1080p material without any problems?

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Post by Lawrence Lee » Tue Jan 20, 2009 1:48 pm

johpe wrote:Great review, I see that you tested some HD material (720p and 1080p) and I'm really curious to whether the dual core Atom 330 processor manages to playback 1080p material without any problems?
Page 6 - "For more test data regarding the Intel D945GCLF2, please refer to our mCubed HFX Micro review."

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Post by kieran45 » Tue Jan 20, 2009 7:46 pm

I am wondering about clearance from the motherboard with the 120mm fan on the side.

I am thinking of pulling out the PSU, using a picoPSU and a DG45FC with something like a scythe shuriken on it. The only thing is, I think that a shuriken will overhang the motherboard by 2-3mm, so if the motherboard is right up against the side fan, I will have to rethink.

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Post by ilovejedd » Wed Jan 21, 2009 3:58 pm

Great review. I'm interested in seeing a comparison between this case and an Apex MW-100 which is smaller and comes with a 60W DC-DC PSU.

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Post by warriorpoet » Wed Jan 21, 2009 6:17 pm

Well, I decided to give this one a try. It looks to me like a side-blowing cooler will work best as a down-blowing one will fight with the PSU, so I went with this cooler: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6835114075

I imagine exhausting the CPU air into the side-mounted exhaust fan will give a nice little performance boost.

Will post impressions of the case + cooler later on.
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8200?

Post by ist.martin » Thu Jan 22, 2009 10:36 am

You wrote:
For those hoping to get a bit more computing power by using an AM2 or LGA775 board with a more capable CPU, the MI-008 still has some potential if the power supply is replaced with something like a picoPSU with an external power brick.
Is that just to allow room for a larger CPU heatsink? (It seems the PS should be fine for supplying power to an 8200/e5200 system.)

Does that mean the following build would not be practical, because the CPU can not be adequately cooled?

Apex MI-008
Zotac GeForce 8200-ITX
e5200 CPU
optical drive (full size?)
2.5" suspended hdd
120mm side fan @ 5v


Thanks.

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Re: 8200?

Post by warriorpoet » Thu Jan 22, 2009 12:16 pm

ist.martin wrote:You wrote:
For those hoping to get a bit more computing power by using an AM2 or LGA775 board with a more capable CPU, the MI-008 still has some potential if the power supply is replaced with something like a picoPSU with an external power brick.
Is that just to allow room for a larger CPU heatsink? (It seems the PS should be fine for supplying power to an 8200/e5200 system.)

Does that mean the following build would not be practical, because the CPU can not be adequately cooled?

Apex MI-008
Zotac GeForce 8200-ITX
e5200 CPU
optical drive (full size?)
2.5" suspended hdd
120mm side fan @ 5v


Thanks.
I'll be running a similar setup by the end of this weekend. I'll be sure to post pics/ temps.
ATCS840/ Seasonic X-750/ 2500k 4.4 GHz (Koolance CPU-370)/ Gigabyte z68xp-ud4/ eVGA 570 865,1730,1950 (Koolance VID-580)/ 8Gb G.Skill DDR3 1866/ Corsair Force 3 120Gb, Samsung 470 128 Gb, Scorpio Black 750 2.5" (Quiet Drive)/ EK DCP-2.2 (res., gel-stuff)/ XSPC RX360, Swiftech MCR220QP/ 3 Scythe GT ~300-550RPM, 3 NB Multi-frame ~400-600RPM, 3 230mm 300RPM-> Lamptron FC-4/ Akasa AcoustiPack

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Re: 8200?

Post by jessekopelman » Thu Jan 22, 2009 2:11 pm

ist.martin wrote:You wrote:
For those hoping to get a bit more computing power by using an AM2 or LGA775 board with a more capable CPU, the MI-008 still has some potential if the power supply is replaced with something like a picoPSU with an external power brick.
Is that just to allow room for a larger CPU heatsink? (It seems the PS should be fine for supplying power to an 8200/e5200 system.)
I think the line of thought is that even the stock retail HSF will not fit under the MI-008's PSU. This is certainly the case for all AMD and any non-45mm Intel. For 45mm the situation is less clear. You will note that warriorpoet is planning to use a replacement HSF.

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Re: 8200?

Post by warriorpoet » Thu Jan 22, 2009 6:53 pm

jessekopelman wrote:
ist.martin wrote:You wrote:
For those hoping to get a bit more computing power by using an AM2 or LGA775 board with a more capable CPU, the MI-008 still has some potential if the power supply is replaced with something like a picoPSU with an external power brick.
Is that just to allow room for a larger CPU heatsink? (It seems the PS should be fine for supplying power to an 8200/e5200 system.)
I think the line of thought is that even the stock retail HSF will not fit under the MI-008's PSU. This is certainly the case for all AMD and any non-45mm Intel. For 45mm the situation is less clear. You will note that warriorpoet is planning to use a replacement HSF.
True, but I'm also trying a 65nm c2d as well. I'm being feisty all-round :lol:
ATCS840/ Seasonic X-750/ 2500k 4.4 GHz (Koolance CPU-370)/ Gigabyte z68xp-ud4/ eVGA 570 865,1730,1950 (Koolance VID-580)/ 8Gb G.Skill DDR3 1866/ Corsair Force 3 120Gb, Samsung 470 128 Gb, Scorpio Black 750 2.5" (Quiet Drive)/ EK DCP-2.2 (res., gel-stuff)/ XSPC RX360, Swiftech MCR220QP/ 3 Scythe GT ~300-550RPM, 3 NB Multi-frame ~400-600RPM, 3 230mm 300RPM-> Lamptron FC-4/ Akasa AcoustiPack

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