Looking for small, high-quality case

Enclosures and acoustic damping to help quiet them.

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tehcrazybob
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Looking for small, high-quality case

Post by tehcrazybob » Sun Nov 09, 2008 3:06 pm

I'm looking for a relatively small case with excellent build quality and appearance. As far as size is concerned, I'm mostly interested in something along the lines of the Antec NSK 3480; just barely big enough to hold a mATX motherboard, 120mm fan, and possibly a full-sized power supply (although a picoPSU is acceptable if necessary). Unfortunately, while I like the design of the 3480 and the actual quality is just fine, it feels cheaply made, with a matte, orange-peel paint finish and that plastic front. I'd prefer something with the finish quality of a Solo, with a metal faceplate and polished, glossy paint, or a Lian-Li case with quality brushed aluminum.

For this particular application, the primary goal is not silence. I'll still be building the computer with SPCR-approved parts (low-power dual-core, Minja or Xigmatek, slipstream fan, suspended 2.5" HDD), but the case doesn't need to have any particularly silence-oriented features.

All suggestions are welcome; I'd love to see what people can come up with!

Namheul
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Post by Namheul » Sun Nov 09, 2008 5:25 pm

I have a Silverstone TJ08, and i love it.

I think it is exactly the same, chassis wise, to a Coolermaster case, but i much prefer the looks of the TJ08.

tehcrazybob
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Post by tehcrazybob » Sun Nov 09, 2008 7:07 pm

Good call on the Silverstone; that's exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for. The only complaint I have is the stupid vent over the video card area, but that's nothing some hot glue and foam-core board won't correct.

Further suggestions are still welcome!

frostedflakes
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Post by frostedflakes » Sun Nov 09, 2008 9:06 pm

Do you like cube cases? Replacing the stock PSU in the NSK-1380 with a smaller DC-DC unit frees up a lot of room for a large CPU heatsink. Check out the gallery threads below for some ideas.

viewtopic.php?t=38787
viewtopic.php?t=50001
viewtopic.php?t=50626

Or if you want to stick with a tower, I think the NSK-3480 would be a good choice. Been very happy with my NSK-3300. :)

LongJan
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Post by LongJan » Sun Nov 09, 2008 9:19 pm

A year ago, I was looking for a nice mATX case too. However, I eventually realized that there aren't so many of that kind to choose from.

I finally ended up with the same case as Nameheul, Silverstone TJ08, and I agree, it's a nice case, but it has some flaws:
-I wouldn't call the build quality excellent
-thin and a bit flimsy steel panels
-sidepanels and front not that well fitted together (at least not in my sample)
-dust filter in the front very hard to reach for cleaning
-got a lot of cuts on my fingers, from sharp edges inside the case

Silverstone SST-SG03B is small and nice looking, but perhaps a bit of a challenge to build. Minja doesn't fit.
I like the look of Lian Li PC-V350 and the Minja fits, I think.

sdotmiles
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Post by sdotmiles » Mon Nov 10, 2008 7:19 pm

ive been very happy with my LIAN LI PC-A05B. its fairly cheap, small, can fit a full atx and full psu if necessary, and the build quality is typical lian-li greatness.

here is a great thread with a ton of pics and ideas for mods for the PC-A05B: http://www.hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1133290

tehcrazybob
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Post by tehcrazybob » Mon Nov 10, 2008 9:15 pm

I've taken a look at the Lian Li PC-a05 in the past, but it's actually fairly large. I've been comparing my options to my Solo, which I consider the upper limit for reasonable case size in most situations. The PC-a05, at 15"h x 19"d, is only two inches shorter and actually an inch deeper than my Solo. The gold standard is currently the NSK 3840, which, at 14" tall and deep, is just about the minimum size possible for a conventional layout using standard hardware.

I'm liking the suggestions for the NSK 1380, to be honest. For some reason it hadn't occurred to me that with a PicoPSU, I would be able to use a 120mm fan for ventilation; that may be the smallest case capable of accepting a 120. My only concern is with the heatsink - it seems the Minja is the smallest common heatsink which even comes close to fitting, and it requires some modification to be used with an optical drive. The Akasa Evo 120 used in one of the linked threads looks brilliant, but is no longer available anywhere I've looked. The closest I've come are the Silverstone NT-01, which looks a bit small, and the Masscool 7WD04L3, which isn't off-center like the Akasa and so might not work with all motherboards.

The Silverstone TJ08 looks like the most straightforward choice so far, but it doesn't appeal to me quite as much as the NSK 1380. I just need to work out a suitable heatsink choice for the Antec.

Again, thanks for the replies!

EDIT: The Lian Li PC-V350 also looks like a tolerable choice. If a Minja will fit, that gives it a pretty decent advantage over the Antec, despite being one inch deeper. I'll have to look into the heatsink a bit more fully to be sure. Still, I'm a bit concerned about the lack of a 120mm fan.
Last edited by tehcrazybob on Mon Nov 10, 2008 9:24 pm, edited 3 times in total.

LongJan
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Post by LongJan » Mon Nov 10, 2008 9:15 pm

Unfortunately, it's only small one way. Like many Lian Li cases, it's 49 cm deep.

Aris
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Post by Aris » Thu Nov 20, 2008 2:38 am

i'm always on the lookout for a better micro atx case, but i do believe the Antec 3480 is still the best. It cant really get any smaller unless you go with an external Power Supply. Has a 120mm fan for exhaust. PSU is thermally separated from the rest of the enclosure, keeping the fan from ramping up due to heat.

Plastic bezels are pretty much the norm now a days, its very rare you see a metal bezel. This seems to really be your only major quibble with this case. Your going to be hard pressed to find all the other great things about this case AND get a non plastic bezel.

You may be better off looking into ways to mod your 3480 to look how you want it to. Do a google search for custom paint jobs for computer cases. You could also custom make a metal bezel for the front of the case, and then paint it to match.

pony-tail
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Post by pony-tail » Thu Nov 20, 2008 6:32 pm

I have at times used the InWin V508 case and found it to be well made and able to be silenced effectively . It is smaller than the NSK 3480 but is easier to work with - and in some ways a little better laid out - The NSK is quieter out of the box but with a few mods there is very little difference . The PSU ( made by FSP ) in the InWin is a little lacking in the silence department but works well . It is very much a traditionally designed uATX case .

bgavin
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Post by bgavin » Sat Nov 22, 2008 12:59 pm

I have need for a similar case for standard PSU. My upper height limit is 15". Depth is not a problem. I'd like to find a bare case... I have no love for Antec power supplies other than the Signature series.

psiu
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Post by psiu » Sat Nov 22, 2008 5:55 pm

I would second the Inwin case recommendation.

Also I love my NZXT Duet upstairs in the bedroom for for an HTPC.

Driveman-32
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Post by Driveman-32 » Mon Nov 24, 2008 10:06 am

Which do you guys think is better, the NSK1380 or NSK3480? I was thinking of a micro-tower, but there don't seem to be many good ones around, so I got the NSK1380. But now I see I can get a 3480 locally for around the same price, so I could return the NSK1380. Is one better than the other? I think the 3480 has a smaller footprint, but 1380 looks a bit nicer.

(I also got a 4480B case new on Craigslist, but I think it's too big. Anybody in the northern Virginia area interested in that?)

The 1380 comes with a PCI slot blower fan that's apparently mandatory, so the 3480 will effectively have one more slot open for cards.

I have to decide soon, as my parts are coming today.

Aris
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Post by Aris » Mon Nov 24, 2008 7:21 pm

The 1380 is difficult to make quiet. Its really only effective with an external AC/DC converter with an internal DC/DC board like the Pico PSU. With the proper modifications though it can be a very quiet enclosure. But thats if you A. Know how to modify it properly, and B. Want to spend the time/money to do it.

Its not your basic drop in a system and power it on and its quiet sort of case, like the 3480 is.

Driveman-32
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Post by Driveman-32 » Tue Nov 25, 2008 2:30 pm

Aris wrote:The 1380 is difficult to make quiet. Its really only effective with an external AC/DC converter with an internal DC/DC board like the Pico PSU. With the proper modifications though it can be a very quiet enclosure. But thats if you A. Know how to modify it properly, and B. Want to spend the time/money to do it.

Its not your basic drop in a system and power it on and its quiet sort of case, like the 3480 is.
Is the difference big enough that it's worth it to return the NSK1380? The reviews on Newegg say the 1380 is pretty quiet. I'm not a silent-pc hobbyist, just a regular guy but I want something that's reasonably quiet, quieter than my current eMac at least. It doesn't have to be totally silent.

It will be sitting on my desk as a regular PC. I'll be using all stock coolers and everything.

Scottr
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Post by Scottr » Tue Nov 25, 2008 6:42 pm

How about a Silverstone SG02? It's relatively small and looks more appliance-like than a tower configuration. I just built a windows home server with this case. It's located directly behind my desk chair and runs cool/quiet. The build/pictures are posted at:
http://forum.wegotserved.co.uk/index.php?showtopic=4592

Regards,
Scott

Aris
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Post by Aris » Wed Nov 26, 2008 3:45 pm

if you put a really low power system in it it should be alright. like around 150w load or less. some of the problems you run into with this case in its stock configuration is first the power supply overhangs the CPU region, which means about the best cooler you can use is an old zalman 7000alcu. Also since the PSU is so close to the CPU and VGA card, if you put anything in there that generates too much heat it will cause the fan in the PSU to ramp up and be loud.

You could probably do a 65w core 2 duo and something like a 9600gt video card.

Driveman-32
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Post by Driveman-32 » Wed Nov 26, 2008 7:20 pm

Aris wrote:You could probably do a 65w core 2 duo and something like a 9600gt video card.
Actually that's pretty much what I was going to do, an E7200 45-nm C2D and an 8600GT. I returned it already though; for one thing, it was a little bigger on my desk than I would like. I'm not sure if I'm going to get the 3480, or go with the 4480B I have now which I can put on the floor.

AlpineCarver
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nsk-3480 design with lian li build quality!

Post by AlpineCarver » Tue Dec 09, 2008 8:49 pm

sorry i'm a little late to this discussion, but i've wished for a case with nsk-3480 design and lian-li build quality for a long, long time... since my first nsk-3300 build.

perhaps somebody reading this has enough connections with lian li that they could get someone in the company to consider the idea.

my fear would be that lian li would try to be too clever and monkey around with the cooling design. just copy it! 2x92 in the front and 1x120 in the back is perfect!

Kreed
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Re: nsk-3480 design with lian li build quality!

Post by Kreed » Sat Mar 21, 2009 7:32 am

AlpineCarver wrote:sorry i'm a little late to this discussion, but i've wished for a case with nsk-3480 design and lian-li build quality for a long, long time... since my first nsk-3300 build.

perhaps somebody reading this has enough connections with lian li that they could get someone in the company to consider the idea.

my fear would be that lian li would try to be too clever and monkey around with the cooling design. just copy it! 2x92 in the front and 1x120 in the back is perfect!
Agreed. I would love to see a case with dimensions similar to the NSK 3480 with a brushed/anodized aluminium exterior like some of the Lian Li cases.

Speaking of Lian Li, they have a new Micro-ATX tower case coming out called the PC-A03:

Image

It looks OK, but I am not keen on:

1. The depth. It's 44.7 cm deep as compared to 35.56 cm on the NSK 3480.
2. The width. At 18.5 cm wide, I don't think it would be easy to put in a Ninja or HR-01+ heat sink. It would be better if the width was 20 or 20.5 cm.
3. The front grill. I would prefer the grill to not be there like in the Lian Li PC-A05.
4. The 92 mm exhaust fan at the back. 120 mm would be much better for airflow.

AlpineCarver
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Post by AlpineCarver » Wed Apr 01, 2009 9:20 pm

i agree with all your criticisms.
the A03 is inferior to the NSK-3480 in every way, including looks.
but it is encouraging that they'd make one with this small a footprint; let's hope that trend continues.

ntavlas
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Post by ntavlas » Thu Apr 02, 2009 12:05 am

I think the NSK-3480 has the best layout of them all.
Lian Lis have by far the best fit and finish though their uatx cases leave something to be desired. The A5 is a good case though (it`s an atx case actually).
The tj 08 seems also worthy, good layout and though it doesn`t have the build quality of either the Antec or Lian Li it has a nice metallic bezel.

ghitz
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PC-A03

Post by ghitz » Mon Jul 13, 2009 8:08 am

Reviving an old thread. PC-A03, yeah the 92 mm back fan is not desired as much as I want a 120 mm but I doubt it will make a big difference overall, keep in mind that the Lian Li is .75 inches narrower than the NSK3480. Also the PS will exhaust heat coming from the Video card as it's an inverted motherboard layout.
The biggest advantage of this case is that you can have 3 or more HD's in there without cooking! I have one coming from SilverPCs and I will let you know my impressions once I finish the build. This is the plan:
Asus P5Q-EM, Q9550 Hope I get an E0, Xigmatek 120 mm rifle cooler, it fits, 3 1TB HDs, Antec TP-550, ATI 4830 + Thermalright VGA cooler.

http://www.lian-li.com/v2/tw/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=2922

erichatesmice
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Post by erichatesmice » Mon Jul 13, 2009 2:20 pm

I have a Lian-Li B25 and absolutely love it. It's a smaller mid tower computer case. It has sound dampened panels and door. The one thing to note though is that it has a blue ring on the front panel... you'll either love it or hate it. However, if you do love it, it IS very well made.

ghitz
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Post by ghitz » Mon Jul 13, 2009 2:40 pm

erichatesmice wrote:I have a Lian-Li B25 and absolutely love it. It's a smaller mid tower computer case. It has sound dampened panels and door. The one thing to note though is that it has a blue ring on the front panel... you'll either love it or hate it. However, if you do love it, it IS very well made.
Yeah the Lian-Li B25 is pretty nice, it's also big.

swivelguy2
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Post by swivelguy2 » Mon Jul 13, 2009 4:13 pm

I just got ahold of the case from an old HP Pavilion Xe734 (same case as the Pavilion 45xx too). The pavilion mobo is mini-atx, but the case has standoffs and room to fit micro-atx.

After pulling off the curvy molded plastic on the top and bottom as well as the bezel, we're left with a boring steel rectangle of these delicious dimensions:

11.2" deep
11.5" tall
7.7" wide


Using this case with a regular matx mobo would require a slim optical drive, a less-than-atx PSU, and a lot of modding, but I believe in the end I'll be able to fit a tower CPU cooler and a fairly large graphics card - or even two!

Trav1s
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Post by Trav1s » Mon Jul 13, 2009 5:39 pm


roystarman
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Post by roystarman » Fri Jul 17, 2009 5:09 am

I know you are leaning towards the Micro ATX The P180 Mini from Antec is designed for that. But for the price an ANTEC sonata with built in PS can be had in US for well under 100$ and comes with 500 watt PS.

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