Tasked with trying to build "the smallest, fastest computer" I put together this build as a follow-up to the tiny NCASE VR rig I built a few copies of last year.
This build started with this post on the SFF forums, and from there I updated the components to what's big in 2019.
The main goal was just to pack the most power into the smallest case possible, with no big consideration for how loud the case was. The biggest constraint was that the case obviously shouldn't melt when anything intensive ran. More tangibly, the computer was meant to be really great at processing large photogrammetry scans, running high-end VR experiences without hitching, and rapidly develop and iterate on high end VR applications (minimize light baking times, etc.).
The hardest part of the build came from the photogrammetry need, which benefits mainly from having a ton of RAM. Cramming a lot of RAM into an ITX board is not normally done, and most ITX boards only have 2 DIMM slots so you're looking at either having to compromise on total RAM or spend an incredible amount of money for single 32GB sticks.
Luckily the ASRock X299-E ITX exists, which crams an incredible amount of ports onto a board and allows the build to push into the 64GB territory. It's also one of one two boards I found in the ITX form factor that have 4 DIMM slots and a 64GB capacity, so the rest of the computer was built around its limitations.
I was really amazed by how well designed the Loque case is, and found building this PC MUCH EASIER than building with the NCASE M1. Because of the underslung PCIe port, being able to mostly "fit it and forget it" the 2080 made working with the rest of the case easier. The NCASE's PCIe slot falls right below the bottom of the PSU, which makes cable management on the NCASE with a full length GPU be a nightmare. I found myself having to trying installing parts in different orders over and over until I found a sequence that worked.
On the Louqe, this is far less of an issue, with the only strangeness coming for the fact the motherboard power cord is jammed against the PSU and needs to be routed down the middle of the case.
As is the case with ITX boards, finding an orientation for the CPU cooler was difficult. The main issue with this Cooler/Board combo is that the heatsink pipes kind of bow out pretty far from the base of the cooler where the CPU is to the actual heatsink, which means the clearance for the base of the cooler is about as wide as the heatsink itself.
Additionally, the way the X299-E-ITX crams a lot of its stated functionality onto the board is through small connections of the board that small cards connect to to provide an additional M.2 slot, SATA ports, etc. However, with these cards installed, it was hard to properly place the HSF. Luckily, these cards are removable! I didn't need either of them (M.2 installed on the back of the Mobo, no additional Sata requirement), so I just unscrewed them at their mounting points and removed them from the board.
I had wanted to slot in the bigger fan (pictured in the part picture) into the heatsink, but even with the expansion boards removed, the fan was too low to the mobo and collided with the top of the installed RAM, making it impossible to attach the HSF to the mobo.
For the GPU, because the case is so small I knew that the heat dissipation strategy would basically be "get all the heat directly out of the case as fast as possible". With that in mind, I knew I needed a blower card. Unfortunately, blower cards seem to be falling out of fashion, so the only real option I had for a 2080ti was the Asus card. This is actually a bit of trend with this build — based on the requirements, it felt like I didn't have a ton of choices and so most of the parts were picked because they were the only ones that satisfied the requirements.
So all this would be bunk if the computer didn't actually perform, but I'm happy to say it's doing well and exceeding my expectations in terms of performance and temps! The CPU idles at around 35ºC, and the GPU at 33ºC.
Additionally, I'm pleased to say that the case runs relatively quiet, and even during the following benchmarks wasn't too loud. I've heard it really rear up a few times, and when it does it is definitely loud (think small vacuum), but that seems to be a rarity for now.
Here's the 3D Mark scores, with the images of the benchmarks attached to the build above.
Port Royal (Raytracing): 7424 Fire Strike: 24547
I'll update once we run a big photogrammetry process with images/processing time.
Overall, really happy with how this build is turning out and happy to really put it through its paces soon! I also can't emphasize enough how great the Loque case is, and as I type this am looking into buying a few more while the next batch is in stock!