I've had a bit of experience building systems, but never anything where I had any desire/need to mod...until now. I found out I was leaving the country for about three months, and not satisfied with my laptop, I decided the best option would be to see how much power I could shove in a portable, little box to take with me without breaking the bank. I've been lurking lately and really getting into the idea of working on some of my own crazy mod projects when I get home but for now I'm working on something of a minor/mid-mod project depending which way I go with it.
Here are my specs in case its relevant:
Intel Core i5 750
Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD2 mATX
G.Skill Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 2000 (PC3 16000)
ASUS Radeon 4770 512MB 128-bit GDDR5
OCZ Vertex 60GB SSD
Seagate Barracuda LP 1.5TB
OCZ ModXStream 600W PSU
bGears b-Envi SFF case
I used a lot of parts I already had but even if I included their original prices my total was only $832 after taxes and shipping, and total weight is about 15lbs. After getting double checked about fifty times at the airport for carrying around a black box with bundles of visible wires inside, I made my trip and the computer is now up and running with me in Paris...adequately.
I know SFF computers are not a good choice for overclocking, because of typical compromises one must make like bad airflow and small heatsinks, but I think I can overcome these. In any case I'm really just doing it for kicks so the most I have to lose is time. It would seem that there is no real "practical" means of creating a cool running system with my setup as is, which is why I'm posting here for the first time. I got my bGears b-Envi for $36 during the Xoxide clearance (before it was resurrected a day later by the new owners) and its worked perfectly for me, but I'm not afraid to hack this thing up. Perhaps its actually a good thing that the whole thing feels a bit flimsy.
My first mod ever, if it even counts, was carving up the removable 2.5" bay this thing has to house my SSD, and it makes up the only bay actually in use. I decided not to install an optical drive, in order to keep things uncluttered, so surprisingly I have a lot of space to work with. Current cooling involves only an 80mm Scythe Kama Flex attached as a front intake and one of the newer Cooler Master R4 120mm fans that claim 90cfm as a replacement for the original exhaust. I know a smaller PSU may give me some extra room, and I can use this one elsewhere, but as of right now it seems unnecessary.
Above all, I'd like to figure out a way to install an effective CPU cooler, then comes good overall airflow. Not that I would use it anyway because of its poor performance, but for reference a Cooler Master TX3 is slightly too tall and too wide so I've estimated I have a limit of about 130mm before hitting the PSU and 45mm before hitting the support bars.
Here are some of my thoughts:
1. Wait for a Zalman 1156 adapter to come out and attempt to install a CNPS8700 or similar low profile/high airflow cooler. Problem: Diameter may be too great to avoid RAM and GPU.
2. Find a short tower cooler, cutting away part of support bars if necessary. Problem: I can't find anything short that would make a significant enough difference to be worth it.
3. Something like the Corsair H-50? I haven't explored these self-contained water cooling systems enough yet, but so far the reviews seem mixed. While normally it doesn't seem worth it over something like a Megahalem, it would also seem that the tubes are somewhat flexible, allowing for installation into tight quarters like mineâ€¦
I'm not opposed to spending a bit of money if I'm buying quality parts I can potentially swap in and out of my own three computers or use in builds for friends, so lets say my budget on this is $150 or so. If anyone has any suggestions at all of how you would handle this, I'd really appreciate it; thanks in advance and for reading this incredibly long post.
(These pictures should show you what I'm working with, but try not to look at how horrible that bundle of cables is. I do my cable management with zip ties and since I'm going to be doing a lot of work on this thing soon I just haven't bothered.)
Full shot to give an idea of overall size:
Top (the terrible green screws were the only rubber ones I could get):
Open area/drive bays: