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Describe your ideal mATX mini tower

Posted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 5:23 pm
by Kreed
In case a case manufacturer is reading this forum, describe your ideal mATX mini tower.

I would like to see something like the Antec NSK3480 with features from the Antec Solo:

- Suspension mounts for HDDs
- Dual-layer sound deadening panels
- The width can probably be just a bit wider say 20 or 20.5 cm, providing sufficient room for Heatsinks like the HR-01+.
- The Depth can possibly be a bit longer. I remember cutting my hands trying to connect the fan cable to the fan port.
- Not sure if this will make a difference, but 120mm fan mount at the front as opposed to two 92mm mounts. This is what they've done with the Cooler Master Elite 340 and 341.
- All Black with a new fascia. The current exterior on the NSK3480 looks kinda dated.
- eSATA port at the front like the Cooler Master Elite 341

Posted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 6:31 pm
by Lawrence Lee
-5.25" bays from top to bottom
-well ventilated front bezel
-deep enough to accomodate longer graphics cards
-120mm fan places in the front/top/rear
-PSU on the bottom
-thick steel construction

Basically I want a mATX version of the Centurion 590 but with thicker side panels and minus all the excess fan placements.

Posted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 7:31 pm
by tehcrazybob
•5½" bays from top to bottom, with provisions to suspend a hard drive in any of them.
•If you insist on tool-free assembly, give me thumbscrews instead of horrible plastic latches...but I'd prefer normal screws and easy access to them.
•Soft silicone case feet.
•Free-flowing 120mm intake and exhaust fans in standard positions (bottom front, top rear) and no more (I'm looking at you, Antec, and your silly obsession with big blowholes).
•Glossy, automotive-quality paint job (as in the Antec Solo).
•Bottom-mounted power supply - separate airflow path is optional; I just don't like all the waste heat from my computer getting pulled through the PSU.
•Behind-motherboard cable routing
•Provisions for solid-mounting at least one 2½" drive - with the increasing popularity of SSDs and manufacturers refusal to make 3½" versions, this will be useful.
•High-quality plastic or metal front bezel - the Antec NSK 3480 would be brilliant if the front bezel didn't feel so cheap.
•IGNORE INTEL'S "THERMALLY ADVANTAGED CHASSIS" GUIDELINES! There's nothing, and I mean honestly nothing, I hate more in a case than those stupid sound-releasing perforations over the PCI and CPU areas.

I'd be totally content with a mini Solo with the PSU on the bottom. Saying that would have been easier than compiling that whole list.

Posted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 8:34 pm
by ntavlas
I agree with the mini-solo-with-bottom-mounted-psu concept. Perhaps it would be interesting to see some bottom mounted intakes as well. No more noise releasing ports at the front.

Posted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 9:03 pm
by QuietOC
Small as possible
Card reader/front ports mounted high
No external bays
No vents in front or sides
No hard materials

Strange that a PC silencing crowd want metal cases. I have no reason to have an optical drive running inside a case anymore. I don't see how suspending drives requires 5.25" of width. The front and side vents are the most horrible thing about my current case.

Posted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 2:27 am
by porkchop
- small as possible
- 1x external 5.25"
- 1x internal 3.5" hdd suspension
- bottom intakes
- pre-applied noise stuff, foam etc.
- buttons/usb near the top

Posted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 2:44 am
by thejamppa
Something with Solo's appareance with intake fan 120mm at bottom of the case. That would help cooling VGA cards nicely.

Suspension for HDD's.

120mm exhaust fan placement.

NO BRIGHT BLUE LEDS!!! Or any other bright light stuff. Simply green and a,berish yellow like old SLK3000B had would work wonderfully.

PSU taking air from the top.

Cable management similar way as P182 / Solo has. So you can do clean cabling by running them behindm otherboard tray.

Posted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 6:34 am
by Tzupy
I already presented my uATX case concept here, this what I believe would be almost ideal:
viewtopic.php?t=46400&highlight=uatx+ca ... 90d4891901

Posted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 7:32 am
by b3nbranch
I'm a member of the smaller-is-better crowd. No need for a built-in
optical drive (don't use it that often, so use an eSATA or USB external
drive). 3 x 2.5" drive spots (1 SSD for boot/applications and 2 HDD
in RAID 1 for my stuff), and you can use the power supply area for
some of that 'cause I'll use a picoPSU with external brick. Without
the PSU or optical drive, you can shorten and skinny or otherwise
alter your typical mATX case quite a bit.

Posted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:58 am
by tehcrazybob
b3nbranch wrote:I'm a member of the smaller-is-better crowd. No need for a built-in
optical drive (don't use it that often, so use an eSATA or USB external
drive). 3 x 2.5" drive spots (1 SSD for boot/applications and 2 HDD
in RAID 1 for my stuff), and you can use the power supply area for
some of that 'cause I'll use a picoPSU with external brick. Without
the PSU or optical drive, you can shorten and skinny or otherwise
alter your typical mATX case quite a bit.
I'm fond of small computers, but I disagree about the optical drive and conventional power supply. Take a look at the NSK 1380; it's the absolute minimum size for a case using mATX motherboards and a 120mm exhaust fan, and it's still got room for an optical drive. Of course, the 120mm exhaust fan can only be had with a PicoPSU, but you're at least provided with the choice between a standard fan and a standard power supply.

Posted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 12:52 pm
by psyopper
I want a Silverstone TJ08 with the build quality and silent features of a P180. I would settle for a mATX P150/Solo.

Posted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 1:29 pm
by nutball
I'd like something with a clean front. Power button, slot for a slot-loading optical drive and little else. I don't want external drive bays, especially not 3.5" which are 100% useless these days. I'd rather not have a reset button, but I say that in the sense that I'd rather have a PC that doesn't require the use of one.

Size-wise no bigger than a 3480. And all the other silent-oriented stuff that others have already mentioned. :)

Posted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 1:56 pm
by Strid
Something along the lines of NSK3480 - I would like to have it sold without PSU, though. I'd rather pick my own PSU.

No bright LEDs.

A black interior would be killer.

Behind-the-motherboard-tray cable routing options.

120 mm exhaust with unrestrictive wire grill. UNRESTRIVTIVE 120 mm intake in the front or even better ... in the bottom! Why do they make intakes behind the front bezel so restricted - all we need is basically just a hole!

1x internal 3.5" hdd suspension.

Preapplied thick, multilayer, vibration dampening noisebarrier.

No useless 80/92 mm side vent.

Only screws or quality mounting - no cheap plastic clip mounting please!

Large, soft sorbothane feet.

Subtle exterior with no flashy do-dads.

Please, thick steel plates - nothing feels better and more qualityish than this!

eSATA + power in the front or top would be great! Front USB I like.

Wide enough to house the larger coolers like Ninjas and so on.

I prefer PicoPSUs, so bottom mounted PSUs are not that important to me. If bottom mounting is an option, then having the PSU intake (assuming it has a bottom 120 mm fan) facing down through the bottom of the case would be a plus. Having the options of mounting the PSU upside down and "downside down" would be cool.

Something you can screw your 2.5" SSD onto, where it's out of harms way, would be a plus.

That's all I can think of right now! I guess I stole most of it from others, though. :lol: I guess I could make pretty much my ideal case out of an NSK3480 with a little modding. Project for the holidays, maybe??

Posted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 3:22 pm
by merlyn
Lawrence Lee wrote:-5.25" bays from top to bottom
-well ventilated front bezel
think CMStacker. reason being you can suspend hd enclosures like the scythe quiet drive.

and no odd sized psu's either!

Posted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 6:48 pm
by Moogles
As far as I'm concerned the ideal uATX case already exists. It's Soldam's Windy FC300: There are different color schemes, but this is the only picture I could find showing the interior of the case. Soldam is basically what Lian-Li should be. Cases are built with extreme attention to detail out of very thick aluminium as opposed to Lian-Li's uber cheap aluminium foil cases with poor airflow patterns and bizarro inverted motherboard designs.

Unfortunately they are very expensive and Soldam has no distribution channels outside of Japan. Importing is an option, but the cost is more than prohibitive. It would be insane.

Posted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 7:34 pm
by tehcrazybob
That Soldam Windy is compelling. It's not really built with silence in mind; there are no special features and no real attempt at silence. However, it's probably the prettiest case I've seen, and I'd love to try my hand at silencing it.

Here's hoping we get some distributors soon.

Posted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 8:29 pm
by Asulc
Great ideas from all of you. I would really like something like this to affect some case manufacturer in the future.

Here is my idea...

Section 1 is the motherboard section. It recieves air from the optional 120mm fan (or through the cutout) at the from of the case. Two low speed 120mm fans exhaust heat through the top and back of the case. It can hold a standard uATX case as well as full sized graphics cards and heatsinks. There are three cable management holes in the motherboard tray placed according to the standard placement of the P4 ATX, 24 pin ATX, PCIe locations and the Sata locations.
Section 2 is the drive bay chamber. There are mounts for six full sized DVD drives or six suspended hard drives, in any combination. There is a mount for an optional 120mm fan. I forgot to draw it, but there would be a few cutouts in the back of the drive bay chamber to route the cables.
Section 3 is the power supply chamber. It is sealed off from the rest of the case and the power supply draws air from underneath the case and exhausts it out the back. Three cable management holes are placed so that a power supply from 5 to 9 inches long with modular or un-modular cables could take advantage of the cable management holes.
Section 4 is the designated hard drive chamber. Unlike how it appears in the picture, section 2 and 4 are connected. This provides a total of 8 positions to mount drives or hard drives.

I also forgot to draw the other views of the case. Basically my idea is something like this for the front. The motherboard tray also has multiple extra holes to attach zip ties to to aid in cable management. There would be plenty of room for even the 24 pin ATX cable to fit behind the tray.

:arrow: Smart design of cable management to prevent airflow restriction and provide a clean look to the case
:arrow: Plenty of flexibility for motherboard and cooling
:arrow: Different management locations allow a variety of power supplies
:arrow: Plenty of mounting locations for hard drives allow the case to hold a large amount of data

Posted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 8:43 pm
by xan_user

pico only-no psu spot.

no HD mount. (just enough room to suspend one 2.5 drive.)

single middle mounted 120 fan like the windy.

power button/usb near the top.

slim line dvd.

Posted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:49 pm
by Shamgar
I can't say I'm a fan of mATX, although I understand why some prefer them. "No need for any larger; has everything you'll ever need; lighter; smaller, better; cuter (subjective); cheaper (not always); more environmentally friendly (relative); etc; etc". The same reasons why people buy small cars...

As for mATX tower setups, I have used them before, but mostly to my frustration and disappointment. I don't mind mATX desktops though, like the 2480/Fusion.

There seems to be two (and a half?) schools of thought on what will make an ideal mATX mini tower case:

1). An all encompassing design, smaller version of a Solo with the inherent airflow and silencing qualities of P150, P180, 2400/Fusion series and their descendants. Users have the choice of building a general work computer or a high performance one.
2). A minimalist design, small as possible, no regard for common bay devices or even 3.5" hard drives. A "necessities" system restricting choices of hardware, but if carefully selected, can do all that you need it to.
2.5). A reworked NSK3480 with minor/major improvements.

The problem with 1) is that the case manufacturer might argue, "Hmm, all the greatness of a Solo, but a little smaller and lighter than a Solo. Why don't you just get a Solo?" Solo is quite a small tower case anyway. "But we want something better!" I'm sure Antec are/will be working on a revision or replacement for the Solo/Sonata Designer and would want ATX compatibility retained. Still, if there is a strong enough collective voice on the matter, Antec might surprise us with a new model altogether.

The problem with 2.5) is that it's not in the same class as 1). The NSK is Antec's budget line and it shows. I know the 3480 has its supporters but it is not built to the same quality and standards of a Solo, which itself could do with some improvements in that regard. (I own a Solo and have used an NSK). Making a 3480 into a Solo or P1 standard case would force it out of the NSK line and into the Sonata or P1 line, and hence, make it more expensive.

I tend to favour 2). If you're going smaller profile, then go as small as you can without sacrificing usability and upgradability. Keep an ATX system in a Solo, P18x or the case you prefer, and have the mATX as a second system, backup, server or media centre.

High quality, all encompassing mATX mini towers that satisfy silencers, high performance users and the budget conscious all at the same time are difficult for manufacturers to produce. It seems that the smaller things go, the more costly they are. Take slim/slot optical drives and SSDs for example. There is a certain exclusivity to smaller profile yet high performance in computers akin to the hothatch minicar craze in recent times.

If manufacturers can address these issues on all sized cases, I'll be happier with my purchases:

- Good quality steel that doesn't bend or warp. Antec Solo and older Performance cases are a good example.
- Get rid of the bright blue LEDs! A soft warm white or yellow LED. Or the tried and true light green.
- Get rid of pseudo quiet fans with 3 speed switches and put in proper ones that won't increase landfill dramatically.
- Space for or included proper 120mm fan at front intake.
- Proper 2.5" HDD soft silicone drive trays as well as/instead of 3.5"
- Durable power and reset buttons. No need for bling either.
- Stronger front bezel that won't crack, scratch, warp or break.
- No side or top vent openings. No top blowhole.
- Soft mounting hardware for ALL components included in tools bag/box/tray.
- More secure, easier PSU mounting. PSU replacement should not require motherboard removal like on Solo.
- A separated PSU chamber will fix the above.
- Better QC&A on included PSUs! No PSU included may be better.
- Both side panels should be easily accessible and removable. And include the two thumbscrews for the right side panel!
- Smooth finish semi-gloss high quality paintjob like old AMG/B Antec Metallic Grey/Black that doesn't attract dust and fingerprints.
- Probably a few more, but I'll leave it there.

Posted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:59 am
by Strid
I forgot this one: NO SHARP EDGES for crying out loud. My hands always looks like I've been in a cat-fight after installing just a single component in my current ThermalTake chassis.

Posted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 1:20 pm
by ryboto
Give me a case, with a clean front, 4xUSB, and if it must have audio/mic, hide them. No optical drive. 1xinternal 3.5'' bay, mounted vertically to conserve space. No internal power supply, PW-200, or PicoPSU as add-ons with a brick that actually works with them. The size of my NSK1300 would be perfect. Maybe a tiny bit longer to accomodate larger video cards, and maybe 2x120mm intake fans, find somewhere else to mount the HDD.

You could just take the NSK1300, add intake fan mounts, but don't provide fans, use screws instead of rivets to mount all the hardware, and give the front bezel a modern makeover, and a stealth drive cover for the optical bay if you choose not to use one. Maybe also design a better HDD mount so you don't need to take up so much space using the standard internal bay.

Posted: Sat Dec 20, 2008 6:01 pm
by Kreed
Taking some of your comments into consideration, I've put together a little design. This is for the all encompassing mATX tower case mentioned in Shamgar's post.


For the suspended HDD at the top (below the 5.25" Optical drive), I am not sure if there is enough clearance between the motherboard and the back of the drive.

Posted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 5:37 am
by DaveD
My vote is with Kreed and Strid. The NSK3480 is a nice sized case, but it is too narrow for the big tower coolers. This fact and that there are no suspended HDD mounts built into the case is the reason I passed on the NSK3480 and went with the Solo instead.

QuietOC brings up another good point, along with porkchop and Strid. Place all of the buttons/ports, etc. at/near the top. I have seen so many cases lately with the ports at the bottom of the case. With a case as tall as the NSK3480, even at the top is low enough.

Posted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 12:24 pm
by psyopper
Actually, if this is a total dream wish then I have a completely new design idea that has never been tried before, at least to my knowledge, in any form factor. What I want is a completely modular case.

What I imagine is a case that offers "rack" style modularity on the front for all size drive bays and fan mounts. Think of it as a mini rack. Replace the "1u" measurement for a base measurement of a 5 1/4" drive as a single "slot". Offer modular 5/14" bays in 1, 2 or 3 configurations. Offer 80, 92, 120 and 140mm fan mounts. Offer a "divider tray" that goes the length/width/depth of the case to mount and create your own airflow sections. Offer a mount for a PSU here as well if you like. Offer a 3 1/2" drive suspension bay, a 3 1/2" hard mount bay, and a 2 1/2" of both of these as well. Offer a 1 slot button/input panel too so we can put it wherever we like, top, bottom, somewhere in the middle.

Make the case vertically reversable ie. foot provisions on both top/bottom so that there really is no top or bottom. Hard mount the PSU at one end, but if you want the PSU at the top or bottom you just swap the feet around and turn the case over. For that matter, make the motherboard tray reversible as well so that you can turn the case over but keep the motherboard aligned the way you like.

As far as side/top/bottom panel construction goes, use a 3 layer design ala the P180. Use the base premise of "side intake" on the front panel like the P150/Solo/P180/miniP180. The bay covers should be modular (of course) and also in a 3 layer design for noise control.

Top/bottom blowholes may or may not be OK. Could be useful if you want to mount your PSU inverted to draw and expel air completely independently from the case. Offer blanking plates for them. Presuming a manufacturer actually reads this - no side vents please, but I will live with them if you offer a plain side option, or blanking plates. I am more than happy to make concessions on side and top/bottom vents to get the base system available to the widest possible target audience, including myself and other silencers.

Offer the system in a number of heights to accomodate mATX, ATX and even maybe pATX. With modularity comes cost savings in design. The manufacturer designs a base system of modules and are done. The user actually designs the "case" by placing mounts and dividers and fans wherever they like. With a base module and offering varying "heights" the manufacturers job is completed with minimal work and far reduced costs.

Posted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 5:30 am
by Kreed
For the time being, I would be content if Antec was to release a luxury or Sonata/Solo-class version of the NSK3480 with the following modifications:

1. Replace the cheap looking plastic bezel with a brushed aluminium one (black). They should take a leaf out of Lian Li's books when it comes to beautifying the exterior. Of course, looks are always subjective, but I seem to think Lian Li cases look pretty good.

2. Replace the 2 front 92mm fan slots with a single 120mm fan slot at the bottom, like in the Silverstone TJ08.


Replace the 2 front 92mm fan slots with 2 x 120mm fan slots and remove the 3.5" drive cage.

or offer both versions.

3. Replace the mesh for the front and back fans with a circular hole like in the Silverstone TJ08.

4. Provide holes in the motherboard try for cable management.

5. Add drive suspension capabilities to the 5.25" cage.

6. Get rid of the side vent.

7. Sell a version of the case without a PSU included.

I don't think these mods are too difficult to implement and Antec would surely have a winner on their hands if they were to release such a case in 2009.

Posted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 9:35 am
by Moon GT
There are a few improvements I'd make to the NSK3480.

1. front 120mm fan mount instead of 2x 92mm.
2. holes for the cables to exit the PSU on the other side so cable management can be done at the back of the motherboard (a fairly common mod here, I see)
3. hole cut out under the PSU so you can use a downwards-facing 12cm fan PSU if you want (I've never been convinced by the PSU at the bottom setup to be honest). With the stock Earthwatts installed the hole would be blocked anyway so it wouldn't make any difference. Plus they'd save on some metal.
4. the SATA power cables on the Earthwatts that comes with the NSK3480 are very odd lengths, especially with it mounted that way round, the first plug on each lead doesn't even nearly reach the drives, while the second one will reach all the way down to the bottom of the case. One short SATA power lead just long enough to reach both drives in the upper compartment would be better.

Another thing I've been considering lately is that a Flex ATX PSU would fit nicely in front of the PCI slots at the bottom of the case, which means you could put two more drives in the upper compartment where the ATX PSU used to be. You could even implement two standard backwards-facing 5.25" drive bays. That way you could get two optical drives (or an optical drive and a Thermaltake iBox like I've got) and two elastically-suspended hard drives at the top.

Posted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 9:43 am
by Moon GT
psyopper wrote:Actually, if this is a total dream wish then I have a completely new design idea that has never been tried before, at least to my knowledge, in any form factor. What I want is a completely modular case.
You know what, I've had exactly the same idea. In fact what really would be interesting to see is a motherboard that fit into a 5.25" drive bay, plus graphics card that fits in same, a PCI riser with two PCI slots would fit in same... your case would basically be two stacks of drive bays, one at the front and one at the back. A standard PSU is the same size as two 5.25" drive bays already so all you'd need to do is provide mounting holes on the side and you could mount it wherever you wanted, top or bottom.

Posted: Fri Apr 03, 2009 9:46 am
by Matija
I'd be perfectly happy with an affordable Solo (instead of it having a 100€ price tag).

Posted: Sat Apr 04, 2009 3:22 am
by kevral
An NSK-type case with a full front of 5.25 bays (6?).

That would give me room for 10 disks in hotswap bays and I'd be ecstatic.

Posted: Sat Jun 27, 2009 6:08 pm
by mark19891989
My Ideal case would be the following:

Space for full size PCI cards but not much higher
No power supply space. so it works well with a pico psu
1 external 3.5" bay for a card reader
1 external 5.25" bay
1 internal 3.5" and 2.5" bay

the current case i brought on ebuyer, is small, is wide enough to fit full pci cards, and a minja ,and a 5.25" bay, but has wasted space at the top from where the original psu was, has 3 internal 3.5" bays, but they are internal, so no room for a card reader.

i think the sort of case i would want is a big ask