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Thread: Zotac SFF Build! Completed 2-25-08

  1. #1
    Master Modder Tazz's Avatar
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    Zotac SFF Build! Completed 2-25-08

    Well not to long ago while AmericanFreak and I was in the process of working on the two Cooler Master mods. We was contacted about building a couple of mods for another company. We would need to build two mods that are both slated to their debut at Cebit. Our deadline for the builds would be a short 2 month time frame.

    We had two cases presented to us to build the mods off of. Like always, budgets are a must . So with a set budget, set cases to be used as the base. We both started talking about who would do which case and what we had in mind. Well I wont spoil AF's build but I will start slipping in some images on mine. I have been working on my plans for about a month, while waiting for parts to start rolling in so I can start the process.

    The case I am working with is the Apevia QPack2 case. Choosing this one out of the two was pretty easy for me seeing that I had already played with a couple of the Micro-Fly cases which are basically the same case but a little longer.

    The Starting Point:

    As I stated the cases had already been picked out and we simply have to go from there. I did want to go with a non-windowed case so that I could cut the windows different from the standard. They didn't offer the Gold version without windows so windowed it was.







    Above we see the stock form of the QPack2 and how its laid out. Originally I had thought about just doing something quick and simple. I didn't really have a lot of time to play around and already had a pretty hefty work schedule with other stuff for the site.

    With winter being here and seeing the problems I ran into trying to get the CM mod painted in the cold weather. We decided early on that we would be farming out some of the painting that I would need done for this mod. This would allow me to focus on the main modding side of it and still be able to work on my other stuff.

    My first rough draft I had pitched to Zotac for this was based off of my Sli-Fly mod that I done a little while back. I originally didn't plan on going to hardcore on the mod (yes that changes).



    So after grabbing a few images to use for the mockup, I photochopped my way through it to just give a basic design of the case. I explained all the issues that this case brings with it so that they didnt have to worry about having to many surprises during the build.

    It was a pretty simple design. Planning on doing a yellowish orange to flames over a black main body and then some logos and characters from Zotac on the case.

    At this point we started locking down the parts list for the build so that we could work around everything. Once I knew what hardware would be running in this we listed up some alternate parts that we could use to do the pre-builds, get the systems up and running. Tweak anything that needs it.

    So now we are waiting for the parts to start coming in the door. We still have yet to decide on exactly what added components we would be using (lights, fans, all that stuff). In this stage of the process, I had already started re-thinking my design and started to get the urge to change it up a little bit. Unfortunately, I had already either given awy or sold any and all Small Form Factor parts I had .

    So I had to wait for the case to come before I could decide on what to do.

    The Case will be relatively clean on the inside. They plan on using a USB optical drive, a 160 GB hard drive, and then the video card (named at a later date), motherboard (named at a later date), and CPU (named at a later date). I know this was going to be housing a motherboard and video card that have yet to be released when it was all said and done. So that brings in the next issue. This had to be easy for someone else to swap out the Video, Mobo, and CPU.

    These cases are not the funnest things to work on due to the tight constraints. In stock form the case also has very limited viewing from the windows. With the PSU taking up most of the left and top, then the optical drive covering a large portion. You catch a glimpse of whats in side and thats about it. Well seeing that this is going to be a display case for the Zotac products, that just wouldn't cut it. At this point I planed on removing all inner brackets on the case and planed on using a rod on the right side like is used on the left (small chrome rod that goes from the front to back for support). I just happened to have one left over from a previous mod (the only thing I had left ). This would allow me to open things up a bit and allow people to be able to see much more of whats in the case.

    So at this point I am waiting on the case and other parts to show up.... More to come

  2. #2

    Zotac SFF Build! Completed 2-25-08

    This looks like an exciting prospect for a build, I'm looking forward to more progress.

  3. #3

    Zotac SFF Build! Completed 2-25-08

    Looks pretty cool to start with .. I can't wait to see how it evolves

  4. #4
    Wet Sanded XcaliburFX's Avatar
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    Zotac SFF Build! Completed 2-25-08

    I like the looks of it a lot. Can't wait to see what emerges from the depths of your imagination.

  5. #5
    Master Modder Tazz's Avatar
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    Zotac SFF Build! Completed 2-25-08

    Ok time for a little catchup post ...

    For The Zotac SFF build we planed on getting me the full setup to work with so I can have everything here I need to make it run (not the final parts but enough to run for installing the OS and testing).

    Parts List:

    Case = Apevia X-Qpack2-GD (Windowed - Gold)
    Video Card = An 8800 ? series card to simply use for the build.
    Motherboard = Intel based setup to accept a Quad Core
    CPU = Intell Core 2 Duo E4500
    CPU Cooler = Zalman CNPS7000B-CU
    Hard Drive = Western Digital Caviar SE WD1600AAJS 160GB
    Memory = A-DATA 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800
    Power Supply = Thermaltake Purepower W0100RU ATX 12V 2.0 500W
    Keyboard = Logitech G15 V2
    Mouse = Logitech MX518
    OS = Windows Vista Ultimate
    Monitor = To Be Decided

    So now that we have the base parts for the build selected. It's time to get them all here ASAP. Time is limited and there are still a lot of unanswered questions on the plate.

    The Case, keyboard, and mouse where the first priority pieces I was looking for. The design is going to be utilizing painting and decal work done elsewhere due to the time constraints that we are working with. Its colder than hell here and I don't plan on trying to piss the wife off painting another case in the house like I did on the Cooler Master case I just finished .



    First up was pulling the mouse apart. Pretty simple task with the Logitech mice. I didn't take shots of the entire process though. I simply took it down far enough to remove the button insert. I will be removing the logo and filling in the void and having this painted an orange to match the flames on the case.







    ef="http://www.modders-inc.com/images/Zotac/Zotac-SFF-Mod-23.jpg">



    The next step was pulling down the G15 and slipping the insert out of it. I plan to retain a two-tone look with the keyboard and mouse. I am also doing both keyboards and mice for both builds. This is easier for me right now with American Freak pulling some long ours at work and they both needed to go to the same location for painting. I figured it would be easier for me to just tear them both down and ship the parts all at one time, plus save a little money .

    As you can see by the photos above, tearing down a keyboard does take a little bit. I actually took the first one down further than I needed to. After getting the insert out I slipped the extra parts back in on it. Once I had the mice and keyboards apart, I bagged all the hardware for each of them individually and tagged them so I can keep track of them.

    After that I slipped the main cover off the case and pulled the windows out of it. Pulled the front panel and removed any hardware from it. Sorry guys I forgot to get pics on that step ... I then boxed the case panel, front panel, both keyboard inserts, both mice and filled the box with shipping peanuts... Off to the shop it went.

  6. #6
    Master Modder Tazz's Avatar
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    Zotac SFF Build! Completed 2-25-08

    Now that the parts are out to the painter, I started thinking on the main chassis. I had previously done a couple of the Ultra Micro-Fly mods with pretty much just paint jobs. I kind of wanted to take this Apevia to the next level but wasn't sure if I had the time to pull it off.

    So while looking over the main chassis. I already knew that I wouldn't be running an optical drive in the case (will be using a USB drive). This would open the upper window up a little more and allow people to see the hardware better. Most SFF builders know just how tight this style of case is and how limited you are on the hardware. This is part of the reason we opted for the Zalman cooler to keep the overall height of it down. The PSU, and video card size is limited just as much. Well with removing the optical drive out of the case, this opened up more room for a larger PSU if they wanted. It also left the cluttered looking bay area still intact. After thinking on the design a few days, I finally decided that I was going to remove all the stock support brackets for the main chassis and optical drives. I started sketching up how the new look would be.



    For those familiar with a Micro Fly, Qpack, or Qpack2, you will know just how tight things are in this case. The Qpack2 is a little shorter than a Micro Fly. Looking at the orignal mockup image you can see that there isn't any good views of the hardware. Well seeing that this is going to be a display case and is meant to show off the Video Card and Motherboard. I decided it was time to make things even tighter :twisted: and more challenging.

    The plan entails moving the PSU and hard drive to the lower part of the case, and moving the motherboard tray above it. This would require all the support brackets to be replaced and relocated, as well as a new rear panel made.

    Again, I am sorry, I skipped a few photos here... I know I know, it only takes a second to snap a shot or two. Anyways I pulled out the ol drill and removed the stock brackets, and optical drive mounts. I took the chrome rod that ran under the outer edge of the PSU and moved it to the upper left where the PSU was. I then took a spare one from one of my Mirco-Fly builds and cut it to length. I then put it at the opposite side in the upper corner. This was originally done to give the chassis a little support while I was fitting the new mobo tray support brackets in.



    I also made a solid rear panel and had it simply screwed on the back of the original to give it a little extra strength, while I was working with the lightweight aluminum. The above shots show the two motherboard support brackets. I will be using the stock motherboard tray, but I will not have it removable like the stock case does. With the design I am using, there really is no need to have it easily removable. Once you remove the top of the case, everything is going to be completely open and you can easily install or uninstall anything you want hardware wise.



    So I slip the tray inside the case and align it to where I want it. I then marked and drilled four mounting holes for it. I then started working out the details on the rear of the case. With the motherboard tray being moved up, and the hard drive and PSU being in the bottom of the case. I had to re-think the airflow in the case. The stock form would have worked fairly decent (better than a stock Mirco-Fly). So my initial plan is to add two 80mm fans to the front upper section, and two rear fans of unknown size at this time. I knew dual 80mm rear fans would be extremely tight, but I also knew I didn't want to really downgrade to a pair of 60mm fans. The stock front fan will be blowing directly on the hard drive, and the PSU will be intaking its fresh air from under the case. So I needed to add an exhaust fan to the lower section while I was at it.

    So I marked up a 80mm rear fan on the lower section and also marked up the PSU mounting and intake hole. I then started cutting on the new rear panel. Once I had the main areas lined out, it was very easy to see that I had absolutely no room for error. Things are going to be tighter than before. The rear fan was going to have to be trimmed to clear the mobo support bracket. The PSU fits in sitting on the stock bottom of the case and the mobo tray will actually be resting on the top of the PSU. This will give me only a few mm's to play with on spacing before I actually get close to causing problems with other things.



    So after a little cutting and some fine tunning I had the lower exhaust fan mocked up and installed. The PSU went in pretty easily as well. I then cut out the area for the I/0 Panel and PCI slots trying to leave as much material above the I/O plate as possible. I then started playing with the rear upper exhaust section. I really wanted to squeeze in a pair of 80mm fans rather than the lower CFM higher RPM 60mm fans.

    As you can see in the second photo above. I opted for the 80mm fans, and cut a rough opening for them. The metal behind it is part of the original mobo tray. This will be trimmed out after I know if I can squeeze the 80's in or not.



    I made a filler panel out of a piece of aluminum angle stock to fill the gap that the Mobo Tray left open. This would also give me some extra support . More to come.... :twisted:

  7. #7
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    Zotac SFF Build! Completed 2-25-08

    coool looks intresting so do you get anything for building this case then???

  8. #8
    Wet Sanded XcaliburFX's Avatar
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    Zotac SFF Build! Completed 2-25-08

    I'd be happy to "" Display"" it in my house after you finish buddy. No problem here at all with that scenario.

    Looking fantastic!!

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    Zotac SFF Build! Completed 2-25-08

    The more I see of this mod the more I want to see. lol This is shaping up to be a sweet unit. It just might give me the urge to get my own SFF unit. Happy Modding to ya.

  10. #10
    Master Modder Tazz's Avatar
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    Zotac SFF Build! Completed 2-25-08

    @ razer121 - Yes, we are getting paid for doing these mods. When we do mods like this, we try to get something out of the deal even if we swap hardware and goods for our labor.

    @ XcaliburFX - LOL, I wouldn't mind having it sitting on my desk either ... Already teased them a bit by saying I might just loose this one in shipping :twisted: (LOL I probably shouldnt have done that, it could come back and bite me).

    @ em3bilko - SFF builds are great. They are small and compact, easy to take places. If you can achieve two things you will enjoy one. A) Get it to run cool - most SFF cases have limited air flow and tend to run a little warmer than a standard case would. Some sort of cooling mod is a must. B) Build it with hardware that you know you don't need to take back out anytime soon. My last one I built with the hardware I used in reviews and it definitely got old real quick pulling the crap out to run in another case, then putting it back in. This mod wouldn't be quite as bad if all I needed was the mobo, cpu, and vga card. But if I needed the PSU it would be a lot more work .

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