HardOCP forum designs and crowd-funds enthusiast-grade Mini-ITX case

The folks who hang out at PC enthusiast websites are usually pretty opinionated about how products should be designed. Now, a couple of guys over at the HardOCP forums are turning that community’s collective creativity into something more tangible. They’ve come up with a custom Mini-ITX enclosure and funded the thing via Indiegogo. With three days to spare, the crowdfunding drive has more than doubled its initial $67,500 goal. This is what the fuss is all about:

The Ncase M1 is quite the looker, so I can understand why there’s been so much interest. It should be well built, too. Lian Li is handling construction of the all-aluminum chassis.

With 9.8" x 6.3" x 13.3" dimensions, the M1 is relatively compact. However, it can still accommodate high-end hardware. The case accepts dual-slot graphics cards up to 12.5" long. It’s compatible with water coolers, including some dual-slot radiators, and you can stuff in a decent-sized ATX PSU. There’s also room for multiple 3.5" hard drives and 2.5" SSDs. And a slim optical drive. The list goes on.

Although the Ncase site says all 600 units are sold out, the Indiegogo page indicates that 627 of 660 units have been sold. You can secure one of the remaining units for $205, which includes shipping within the US.  It looks like the number of units will increase to meet demand until the end of the crowdfunding campaign. However, the FAQ says the case won’t be available after the Indiegogo drive wraps up.

The more I look at it, the more I like the M1’s design. It looks like a nice balance between size and capacity, with plenty of thoughtful touches throughout and lots of cooling potential. I’m even more excited about the fact that the case was designed and funded by the enthusiast community—and that Lian Li was amenable to manufacturing the thing. Kudos to all involved for making this happen, and thanks to Oliver for the tip.

Comments closed
    • Johnny Rotten
    • 6 years ago

    the indiegogo site says they dont recommend using ATX power supplies due to limited space for PS cables and AFAIK, SFX power supplies top out at 450 watts? Seems somewhat… limited?

      • Machupo
      • 6 years ago

      If you want to use a full-length graphics card, you will probably need to limit your ATX power supply to 140mm in length in order to allow sufficient room to perform cable management.

      Or you could mod something completely different into the case.

      I bought two, so one will be with a SFX 450 watter and the other will be the experimental rig (going to try SLI vid cards on a shuttle 2011 platform w/ an ATX power supply and watercooling).

    • floodo1
    • 6 years ago

    In terms of high end internal cooling, it’s just too small. Obviously the point of Mini-ITX is to be SMALL, but if you’re going to make a point of featuring 240mm radiator and water blocks I’d hope it would have better airflow than this. The video card blocks the lower intake fans dividing the chassis into upper and lower portions. The radiator blocks the rear fan location. The power supply and the motherboard block the right vents. The power supply and radiator combine to block the majority of the upper vents. No fans fit anywhere in the upper portion if you put a 240mm radiator in there, and the sum total of the vent area (perforated) is probably something like 1-1.25 120mm fan worth 🙁

    For everyone else that isn’t trying to have madd water cooling this thing is pretty rad though. Video card isolates itself so the bottom of the case is it’s intake, and stock air cooler exhausts out back. Drop 120mm fan in back of upper portion, plus 120mm fan on left side at the front and a nice tower air cooler and you’ve got a pretty good tunnel setup (even if it turns 90deg) with a dedicated intake and exhaust fan for your CPU….also exhausting out the back. Power supply does it’s own thing.

    All in all a pretty rad case. If you want to go high end water cooling with it just go external 🙂 Iwaki needs your money 🙂 For everyone else, buy it already !!!

    • albundy
    • 6 years ago

    freakin sweet case has lian li quality written all over it. they only thing that’s keeping me away are the connector ports /power button at the bottom. most if not all good cases have these things at the top for easy use with a minimal amount of dust entering the ports.

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 6 years ago

    I think Cyril should review one of these. Just NCase…

    • NeelyCam
    • 6 years ago

    This is pretty cool. But I still prefer something even smaller

    • wierdo
    • 6 years ago

    Looks pretty cool, but I wish the power switch and ports were at the top, would make plugging USB keys more convenient.

      • Peldor
      • 6 years ago

      Power / reset should never be right next to other sockets. It’s most inconvenient when you accidentally tap the reset switch plugging in your headphones or flash drive.

      Still it looks like a nicely designed case for packing a lot of power in an ITX system.

    • Flying Fox
    • 6 years ago

    This is more performance oriented so it is too big for what I have in mind for a mini ITX system that I want to build. I want much smaller, low power, quiet, but still not look ugly.

    Do we need to wait for SPCR to create a similar project?

      • Srsly_Bro
      • 6 years ago

      No, only you do.

      • Thrashdog
      • 6 years ago

      You might take a look at Lian Li’s other mITX options, or the ones made by Jonsbo. The M1 is very much built around full-length graphics cards, so it can’t match the small footprints of other designs — the whole point was to strike a balance between tiny mITX cases that can’t fit anything, and stuff like the BitFenix Prodigy that are mostly air inside the case.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 6 years ago

    This is great! I don’t have the spare change now but hopefully I can grab a used one off of ebay down the line when its time.

    • odizzido
    • 6 years ago

    4X120mm fans in a case that small?….so good. Someone needs to go build a full sized case with a single 400mm fan though

    • chuckula
    • 6 years ago

    Interesting note about Lian-Li: I have a business contact who contracted with them to build a series of custom-built cases for special purpose servers he we was selling. The cases started as standard full-tower PC cases, but he got them to do custom coloring and logos and the front of the cases was heavily modified with a built-in LCD display and control panel that was used for quick walk-up administration of the box. It wasn’t cheap, but the cases did look very very nice.

    • puppetworx
    • 6 years ago

    This is really cool. I love that the internet can bring people together with niche interests in order to get products made just for them that would probably never be made otherwise. Very cool.

    • cobalt
    • 6 years ago

    Wow, thanks for the heads-up. It’s the first I’ve heard of this, and it looks fantastic. The existing mini-ITX cases are universally ugly, and generally have other problems. I’m not in a hurry to replace my (Lian-Li) mATX PC-V354, but when I am, this may be the top of the list. I abandoned full ATX in the mid-2000’s, and I just don’t need more than one video card, so I’m thinking mini-ITX is probably fine for me.

    I’d love to see efforts towards other mini-ITX variants. I’d like to see a wider HTPC shape, maybe with a half-height or riser card support for modest discrete GPUs. Something that eschews the slots entirely to support these newfangled CPUs with slowly-becoming-somewhat-viable integrated GPUs and doesn’t have a tacky dual-tone or glossy plastic fascia. A file server variant with no expansion slots but a bunch of 3.5″ SATA docks. You know, I just want some good not-ugly compact well-designed cases.

    • Xenolith
    • 6 years ago

    What is the best external power brick option for a PC?

      • Duck
      • 6 years ago

      xbox360 or Dell DS-2 with Pico PSU?

    • HisDivineOrder
    • 6 years ago

    This is the only mITX case I’ve ever seen that lived up to the promise of the spec. I’ve yet to see a case by anyone other than Silverstone live up to the promise of mATX, either.

    That’s why when you have people saying, “The new standard should be mATX, not ATX,” I think, “Well, I’m on board just as soon as you can show me mATX cases that aren’t ATX cases with less holes in the motherboard plate.” Because I don’t want to lose options and basically get nothing in return.

      • libradude
      • 6 years ago

      You seem almost speechless. 😉

      • internetsandman
      • 6 years ago

      Well Silverstone’s Fortress series is top pick for me for both ITX and mATX, but after that it really doesn’t seem like anyone’s innovating on the space saving features. Corsair has nice mATX cases but as you said they’re basically ATX cases shrunk down slightly. Bitfenix has a nice ITX case but everyone complains that it’s just an mATX case that trades three expansion slots for watercooling support because it’s so big.

    • Chrispy_
    • 6 years ago

    I have been eagerly following progress of this for about six months now.
    Tax and shipping to me would make this extremely expensive, but the design is near-flawless.

    With a bit of luck, Lian-Li will continue to license this design and I’ll be able to buy it at normal prices in Europe

    I’m also waiting to see what the Coolermaster Elite 130 brings to the table next month, since that is supposed to be an update to the Elite 120 which was a groundbreakingly good mITX case, but old and in need of an update.

      • Chrispy_
      • 6 years ago

      Scrap that, the Elite 130 doesn’t appear to have been modernized enough for my tastes – it still uses an 80mm fan in the side panel and the basic layout is exactly the same as the 120 🙁

      Come on Lian-Li, start licensing the design – there’s a market for the Ncase M1 for sure!

        • Price0331
        • 6 years ago

        Check out the fractal design node 304, it’s like the same layout as this, just laid out flat. There is also more room for disk drives.

          • DarkMikaru
          • 6 years ago

          Which is exactly my reason for not going for the CM 120. It is the perfect economical mini PC case in my view. But 1 HDD & 1 SSD… I like having a little more expandability than that. Now for most casual users, such as my father. This case might the deal for his next upgrade, whenever that might be.

          • Machupo
          • 6 years ago

          The 304 is quite a bit larger than the M1: [url<]http://i.imgur.com/hhUZsF5.jpg[/url<]

            • Chrispy_
            • 6 years ago

            Yeah, the 304 is a horizontal board layout – meaning that it takes an mITX board and completely misses the point of mITX by consuming LOTS OF SPACE.

            The sole reason mITX exists is to make systems [b<]smaller[/b<]; Nothing else matters.

      • phez
      • 6 years ago

      My only concern is the fact this is a kickstarter. Lets be honest with ourselves, most kickstarter products dont exactly always turn out as promised. Not that I am critisizing their effort, I’d probably wait for a “V2” to address any unforseen issues with this product before seriously thinking about laying down the cash (which is alot, to be honest)

        • Machupo
        • 6 years ago

        There were already a couple rounds of prototypes funded from an earlier (prototype-specific) campaign: [url<]http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ncase-m1-prototype-a-mini-itx-case[/url<] Could there still be issues? Sure. The obvious ones have likely been ironed out due to some thorough testing of a variety of components.

    • 5150
    • 6 years ago

    Seeing “HardOCP” in the title of a Tech Report article pretty much ruined my morning.

    • shaurz
    • 6 years ago

    This looks really awesome.

    • JohnC
    • 6 years ago

    All those holes will just increase the amount of noise and let more dust/pet hair in (which will worsen the cooling of CPU/GPU/chipsets)… Plus the case is fucking tiny. Meh. I like my Antec p183v2 and have no plans of replacing this perfect (for my needs) case with any shiney crap.

      • Spunjji
      • 6 years ago

      Indeed. Curse that small case for being small! /derp

      (Thing is, I agree about the holes… but don’t knock something for having a genuinely appealing feature just because you don’t like it)

      • libradude
      • 6 years ago

      How many pets do you have up on your desk? I guess you could tell me your cats get up there, but you could easily mount dust filters that wouldn’t impede the airflow in any significant way. Also, I’m guessing this thing isn’t designed to go on the floor, hence the placement of the power button / USB ports.

      And for the last time, 120mm fans are not noisy. My SG05 has one front-mounted, and it is the quietest, smallest, yet most powerful PC I’ve ever built. I’ve found that the fans on most graphics cards are noisier than my whole PC.

      Quit ragging on mITX for being hot and loud, already – it’s getting old.

    • TREE
    • 6 years ago

    This is exactly the case I’ve been looking for. I just went and ordered one… hopefully I’ll still be working in the same address come January 2014.

      • oldog
      • 6 years ago

      I bought one in silver a couple of weeks ago. It will be an interesting build.

    • jessterman21
    • 6 years ago

    That is one sexy toaster.

    • Sahrin
    • 6 years ago

    I’ve been looking for this exact case since I accidentally ended up with a microATX board a few years ago only to be delighted at the compact efficient layout.

    The huuuuge ATX boards are a waste of space for the vast majority of system builders. The price is a little wonky, but take note case ODM’s – there is a serious market for functional enthusiast-class ITX cases.

    • Decelerate
    • 6 years ago

    Wow, I’m impressed!

    This should give a hint to the manufacturers to “source up” more actively in social media, where their end customers are. If I was Lian-Li, I’d “license” it right out (ex: fork half of the cost to the backers) and send this to mass-production.

    Then again, I could be wrong…

    • Parallax
    • 6 years ago

    Might also be of interest: HardOCP user DrinkTea and others are working on a high-PPI standalone display around 12″ in size. The original thread is [url=http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1756005&page=4<]here[/url<], and though it hasn't been updated in a while, they supposedly have working prototypes now. Crowdfunding will probably be done in the near-ish future. Personally I find this exciting since there is a huge lack of high-PPI displays for desktop systems, and they would be ideal for reading/writing papers and layout.

    • Bauxite
    • 6 years ago

    Its a nice super compact micro atx case that forgot the fourth slot. They got called out for this a couple times during the design phase but remain oblivious 🙂

      • Pbryanw
      • 6 years ago

      I see on the Indiegogo page they’ve said that: [quote<]"MicroATX boards are not just one more slot, they are also much longer than Mini-ITX (244mm vs. 170mm). The extra space required for an mATX board is occupied by the power supply; changing the design to accommodate the larger board would necessitate an unacceptable increase in size".[/quote<] I wonder if you'd consider this a good reason not to add a fourth slot?

      • mark625
      • 6 years ago

      As Pbryanw also replied, it’s not the extra slot, it’s the extra depth of the Micro-ATX motherboard standard that precludes its use. From their FAQ page:

      Q: Mini-ITX boards only have one expansion slot and video cards usually only use two, so why does the case have three slots?

      A: To accomodate the following:
      – GPUs with triple-slot coolers
      – Slot mounted accessories, e.g. fan controllers
      – Mini-DTX motherboards (which allows a second card in addition to a dual slot GPU)
      – Drives / fans / cables (not wasted space if third slot is left unused)

      Q: Since it has three slots already, why not just add one more and make it microATX?

      A: MicroATX boards are not just one more slot, they are also much longer than Mini-ITX (244mm vs. 170mm). The extra space required for an mATX board is occupied by the power supply; changing the design to accommodate the larger board would necessitate an unacceptable increase in size (and would result in a layout very much like the Silverstone SG09).

      Also, I must admit that this is the first time that I have seen anyone mention the DTX standard in quite a while. The AMD-sponsored DTX standard was launched with great fanfare and then sunk beneath the waves immediately, never to be heard from again.

    • Bensam123
    • 6 years ago

    Hey this finally found it’s way to the front page here! We talked about it a few times in the comments on other case news posts.

    The only thing I don’t like about the case is the perforated side panel and you don’t get a 120mm fan on the back. Having a perforated panel means you hear all the fans through it, so if it’s on your desk… you get to hear your fans go up and down. Better for ventilation, worse for noise. A 120mm fan on the front and back would’ve been prime with some positive airflow.

    • tanker27
    • 6 years ago

    That’s actually really cool. I wonder if they will go into mass production.

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