Homebrew gaming NUC.

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Homebrew gaming NUC.

Postposted on Tue Jul 29, 2014 2:27 pm

So, given the noisy, ugly, expensive Brix that TR has just reviewed, what - hypothetically - is the smallest, most potent, gaming PC you can build on the DIY front?

Money is no problem, because the Brix is already way too expensive.
Form factor is no problem, because the Brix is already bespoke.
I'm probably not going to build this, but it's just an interesting thought and I wondered if anyone had any bright ideas.

I was thinking you could do something funky with an mITX board, PicoPSU, horizontal PCIe Riser and 750Ti. Heatpipes, Dremelling, whatever.
Not only could you mount a GPU direclty over the CPU socket if both CPU and GPU had heatpipes to elsewhere - laptop style - but you could also probably fit it into something that had an external heatsink without being any larger than Antec's tiny ISK 110. I have no idea how hard it is to bend your own heatpipes, or even if it's possible, but heatpipes do awesome things in laptops, so a DIY heatpipe kit needs to be A Real Thing!

Discuss :)
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Chrispy_
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Re: Homebrew gaming NUC.

Postposted on Tue Jul 29, 2014 2:39 pm

I recall drawing up plans on building a 21 inch laptop that used a mITX board, flexible PCI-E cable, and an external fanless PSU. CPU was to be cooled with a small GPU heatsink taken from a single-slot GPU.

Incorporating a battery into the design would've required some deep knowledge about electricity.
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Re: Homebrew gaming NUC.

Postposted on Tue Jul 29, 2014 3:11 pm

Well, with a PCI Express riser or the right height, and a very low profile CPU cooler, you could probably fit something like that into an ISK 300. With a single slot card, but no limitation on card height, you could line it up along the top of the case and secure it to the backplate, above the motherboard's port cluster.

The heatsink that comes with the Core i3-4130T is only 40mm tall, and the ISK 300, with the bracket in place for the drives, has clearance up to about 65mm for a heatsink. So a heatsink of that size, with the bracket removed, ought to leave enough room for a single slot (but full height) video card.

If you start with an ISK 300-150 and remove the power supply and drive cage / bracket, you'd need a few other things:

1a) motherboard with mSATA or m.2 storage available
-or-
1b) 2.5" SSD sitting where the stock PSU used to be (can be secured with velcro or, depending on the model, low power craft magnets - very effective for unorthodox mounting locations)
2) Pico PSU to replace stock PSU
3) PCIe riser
4) very low profile CPU heatsink
5) dremel / some other sort of powered device

You'd want to add additional ventilation along the top of the case, and cut extra space out of the back to have a place for the video card to attach, but I don't see a reason that it wouldn't work. The biggest concern would be cooling, but with a PCIe riser and the video card oriented parallel to the motherboard, those two 80mm fans on the side of the system could be set as intakes and they'd blow air right out the vents on the other side of the case. Extra ventilation in the top would give the video card room to breathe.

I think the closest you could get to a NUC, though, would be with a case that really is more of a wrap for a mini-ITX motherboard. You could use a Kaveri APU - the A10-7850K, for instance - and no discrete video, in something like an ISK 110. With the right ventilation, heat wouldn't be an issue, and it'd do well enough for gaming that you might not be hurting for a video card. You might even be able to run off of the ISK 110's built-in power supply with an A10-7800 or A8-7600, since they have a lower TDP, but it's anyone's guess as to when (if?) we'll see those.

I expect DDR4 will be a big help for IGP performance, and will make the "gaming system without a GPU" more palatable to more people.
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Re: Homebrew gaming NUC.

Postposted on Tue Jul 29, 2014 3:44 pm

I've been wanting to try a Silverstone ML05 case. The ML05 is the same volume as an Antec ISK300-150, but it's oriented better for housing full size graphics cards, and has that nifty 4-in-1 bracket over the CPU.
Using a PCIe riser to orient the GPU horizonally gives you room for a full height GPU. Then a thin PSU like this that sits above the GPU. The GPU would need an opening cut in the bottom panel for fan intake...not difficult with a hole saw.
Sure, its still about 8x the volume of a Brix (however, it is 40% the volume of a CM Elite 130 or 65% the volume of a Silverstone SG05), but you shouldn't have any heat/noise implications for whatever CPU / GPU you want to use.
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Re: Homebrew gaming NUC.

Postposted on Tue Jul 29, 2014 4:44 pm

I was thinking of just plonking a copper block onto the CPU and then bolting the upside-down graphics card (sans cooler) on top of it. Heatpipes get heat away from the interior and you could cover the entire case in fins for huge surface area without making it much larger than an ITX board with the height of the IO shield. Given that you can get 150W passively cooled graphics cards, I would imagine this can handle a 60W 750Ti and ordinary processor no problemo. APU's suck too hard, DDR3-based GPUs can't handle 1080p well and there are plenty of case offerings already if you ditch the discrete GPU.

The "magic" would be to get a discrete card into something teeny-tiny without resorting to mobile variants and horrible noisy cooling :P
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Re: Homebrew gaming NUC.

Postposted on Tue Jul 29, 2014 4:55 pm

We would need to find a heatpipe manufacturer that can build that kind of pipe.

I recall coming across a website of such manufacturer, although they do charge a lot for custom bending unless if you order in sufficiently large bulk.
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Re: Homebrew gaming NUC.

Postposted on Tue Jul 29, 2014 8:17 pm

Being a automotive mechanic and not a bad solderer theoretically you could bend the heatpipes yourself with a fuel line or brake line tubing bender..or even use a broom handle to bend the pipes around so they do not kink. Since i would think finding strait heatpipes would be much cheaper and I could Probably even cut them to size without loosing the ammonia and fuzzy copper brillo pad or whatever is in them.

I wish you lived next store to me or vise versa Chrispy cause you do a lot of fun projects that are interesting and would love to lend a hand.
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Re: Homebrew gaming NUC.

Postposted on Wed Jul 30, 2014 4:36 am

Yeah all the fun went out of my creativity when I graduated - I no longer had access to (literally) an aircraft hangar full of CAD/CAM workshops with all the manual tools too.
Hell, these days it's hard enough to do simple welding because I lack a welder and, uh, somewhere I can weld.
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Re: Homebrew gaming NUC.

Postposted on Wed Jul 30, 2014 5:02 am

Chrispy_ wrote:*awesome drawing*


I've visualized nearly that exact same design and can't figure out why no one has made a case like that yet. Wonder if it has anything to do with Apple and the new Mac Pro (which doesn't even use the heat pipes)...
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Re: Homebrew gaming NUC.

Postposted on Wed Jul 30, 2014 6:18 am

The idea isn't too far off from how some laptop coolers work - a single block over the CPU and GPU, with a heatpipe running to another block which is cooled by a fan.

The only issue I can see with a DIY design like that (or a prefabbed one) is that you'd have to have very specific requirements for the placement of the GPU on the video card PCB. Although if there was a way to get an MXM card into the design (like the one on this ebay listing it might be a little easier. I'm not sure what would be involved in adapting that for PCI Express.
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Re: Homebrew gaming NUC.

Postposted on Wed Jul 30, 2014 7:07 am

Yeah, but I figure they make aftermarket GPU coolers with pretty wide compatibility so this could be done somehow. Even without heatpipes, you could slap a cooler on the CPU and GPU that was designed for the fins to nest together and have a fan blow though them (again like the Mac Pro more than a little).

I still might mess with this idea someday but only when I same some better information about the bandwidth constraints. Plus I really don't need new computer for anything right now, have too many experiments lying around already.
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Re: Homebrew gaming NUC.

Postposted on Wed Jul 30, 2014 8:30 am

A CPU cooler with a block base (not direct contact) would work best if you could find one that the heatpipes were centered (vertically) in the CPU block. this beasty ought to have enough heatpipes for a pretty high end CPU+GPU combo.

On a side note Chrispy, this setup you're discussing sounds pretty involved for a homebrew project. At any rate, this case comes with DIY heatpipes! Something like that might be able to handle a 750Ti strapped to the top of the CPU block...Only one way to find out!
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Re: Homebrew gaming NUC.

Postposted on Wed Jul 30, 2014 8:40 am

Alternatively, we could use two heatsinks so we have more flexibility over what kind of GPU card to use:

Image


In fact, we could simply use a dual-slot reference GPU cooler since they have plenty of cooling.
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