Building the Box
The first major challenge presented by this build was the very limited number of cooling vents on the right side and rear of the case. Perhaps Silverstone thought that it was conjuring up some special airflow voodoo here, but we’d say it’s a flat-out bad design. Not enough points of entry or exit once you install a video card in this case. So we knew we’d need to optimize our semi-passive setup to the utmost to make it work here. Note that because Silverstone has designed the case to direct all CPU and motherboard heat out of the little vent on the lower-right side of the case, a tower-style cooler cannot be used with this case, even if it fits. As shown below, there is zero venting in the rear of the case. Shame.
The next challenge we faced was one that we knew Silverstone had set up for us. The power supply was supposed to be non-modular in order to fit a video card in the case. But it was far worse than we had imagined. We thought we could cut down on modular cables just enough to get a 10.5” video card in without overlapping the modular jacks. We needed at least three modular cables in addition to the fixed motherboard and CPU cables on our power supply: one SATA power cable and two PCIe power cables. These simply weren't going to allow our GTX 780 Ti to be installed (but would probably work fine with a video card 9.5”-long or shorter).
Unfortunately, we ran into another problem that we hadn’t anticipated, and apparently, neither had Silverstone. As shown to the right, the PSU’s power plug hit the cable box for the front-mounted USB 3.0 and audio ports, as shown at right. Silverstone may have tested this case with its own Strider series of power supplies, but it certainly didn’t try to install one of the most popular modular power supply series on the market, namely Corsair’s CX line. Power supply plug placement is not standardized, because with 99.9% of builds, the plug sits outside of the case, where there are no clearance issues. But this is Project ITX, so things are not going to go according to plan.
So we did things differently. We jacked the PSU up and transverse-mounted that puppy. Of course that meant that the custom-made power supply bracket, the optical drive mount, and the hard drive caddy, all shown to the left, were getting tossed. Just a few of the causalities on the road to Project ITX. Oh, and we had to zip-tie the PSU into place, Yikes! But that freed up plenty of space for the massive video card, and even meant the cabling was going to be a bit easier.
We weren't through the woods yet, though. Remember, we are installing a huge CPU cooler in a tiny case with no motherboard cutout. That meant that the cooler had to be bolted on outside of the case, and then the entire motherboard/CPU/cooler assembly had to be lowered down into the chassis. That went smoothly enough, thanks to the fact the top fan mount is removable. So, luckily we got it all in, although plugging in all the cables with the motherboard and cooler already in the case was one heck of a challenge. Get your surgeon's hands ready!
Have a look at that beautiful CPU cooler, installed with nary a fan in sight. Plus, with the transverse-mounted power supply, there's plenty of room for tucking those big motherboard cables between the board and the PSU. And we still have room for our little hard drive, uncermoniously perched on top of the PSU with double-stick tape. Ah well, it'll work, but trust us, this little box isn't going to make it in the mail!
Remember how we criticized Silverstone’s ventilation scheme on this case? Well, the big wall of metal on the side of the CPU cooler wasn't going to play nice with the puny little vent cut out in the right side of the case, as it basically blocks most of the airflow going to that vent. We’ll solve that problem later, though. For now, let’s take a closer look at how close the tolerances were with this build by checking out a top-down view:
Ouch, is that the CPU cooler coming within a millimeter of the video card? Why, yes it is! And is the end of the 780 Ti actually touching the power supply? Well, it’s awfully close…but ultimately everything fit, and yes, we got darn lucky here, because no one, no matter how detail-oriented they are, could have measured these tolerances within a few millimeters based on published specs, and that's how tight the confines of this build are.
Ok, time to install the one and only fan we'd be adding to this build. In the picture below, the 120mm top-mounted fan is oriented to blow air down on the motherboard. Makes sense for most setups, and it's probably what Silverstone had in mind when it designed this case. Only testing the system under load, however, would determine if this cooling setup was actually going to work.
A pretty face is nice, but this baby was born to run. So let's give it some gas!