NOTE TO READERS After some further testing, I can confirm this build has issues with random shutdowns during gaming sessions. I can't be positive if this is due to insufficient power, or excess heat (for example the motherboard sensors read very high), but either way the root cause is surely the internal brick which gets EXTREMELY hot under full load. Without some other mitigating solution, I'm considering moving to the standard Dell 330w external adapter and reworking my setup. I hope this info is at least helpful to anyone considering a similar setup.
This is my new NFC Skyreach 4 Mini build. The goal was to meet roughly minimum VR specs in a portable chassis, which I intend to pack in my suitcase for frequent work trips. Please note that "budget" in the name really just refers to the main components i.e. CPU, GPU, RAM, because as you will see the case and power supply are sort of specialty and definitely not cheap. :) Also, despite the name, I don't yet own the VR headset to go with this. I have a Vive but would rather pick up a cheaper Windows MR to pack up on the go (thinking about getting the Acer one).
Anyway... the S4 Mini is a really cool, TINY PC case that you can read about here if you aren't familiar: http://nfc-systems.com/skyreach-4-mini/. This case is so small it doesn't fit a regular power supply, so the "standard" build uses an external AC Adapter like a laptop. My build, however, uses "direct plug" DC-ATX + internal AC-DC units, i.e. "brickless". That Dynamo Mini is one of the coolest little things I've ever seen: https://www.sfflab.com/products/kmpkt_dynamo_psu. Note the name is a little deceptive as it is rated up to 200W peak power, and has been used by many folks for 65W CPU + 1060 builds. Also to give proper credit, this was inspired by a very popular build, "Orangulan", the original brickless S4M: http://nfc-systems.com/blog/2017/4/17/orangulan-the-brickless-s4-mini-build.
This case was surprisingly easy to work in... at least at first. I initially put all the parts together EXCEPT the HDPLEX 160W AC-DC unit. This was delayed because the case designer, a cool dude named Josh, modified it for me with a C8 jack to work in his case. I thought that once it arrived all I would have to do is remove the front plate, stick the PSU in, plug it in and close things up. Unfortunately, it turned out that thing is a lot bigger than I anticipated and it didn't fit into that opening behind the front panel. This is where my pictures begin chronologically.
After that, I faced a variety of additional challenges, including the GPU/PSU not technically fitting as expected (you can see how they make contact with each other), drive mount clearance/reversal/interference issues, etc. After a few tear downs and rebuilds everything is in place. :) In the end I had to follow this EXACT order to get everything to fit properly: GPU -> drive mount -> AC-DC unit -> connect 6+2 PCIe and C8 cables -> I/O shield (this opening is the only way to insert the drive mount!) -> mobo -> PCIe riser. The rest doesn't really matter, although I will say with so many cables shoved near the 24-pin (front of the case), I found it helpful to connect the front-panel power/LED before hooking up the CPU power, SATA, etc. Although I had already mounted the CPU cooler a few days prior, note that both sides of the case are removable, which would have made this easy to do at any point in the build.
I'm happy with the result and excited to put this thing through its paces! I don't believe you can possibly find a smaller form factor housing commercially available PC hardware with this kind of power. The last picture shows everything packed up, including the 13" monitor and a DS4 in a Steam controller case, which should be a good reference for scale. I haven't gotten around to testing everything yet, but I will post more asap. I'm not too worried about heat as reviews I've seen indicate this case handles it pretty well (check out all the ventilation).
Thanks for reading and let me know any questions or comments!
No H310 or whatever Coffee Lake budget chipset released yet, so had to go with Z370 even though I don't have a K chip. Was going to get the budget option (ASRock as always), but I wanted USB-C because I have a USB-C to USB-A/HDMI/Ethernet adapter that I really like.
The Gigabyte is priced between ASRock and MSI, but as far as I can tell it has all the features of the more expensive boards. USB-C, all USB 3.0 headers, 3 fan headers, decent looking heatsinks (including a nice M2 bay), wifi, BIOS seems to have all the features I need...
So far so good!
Note that I purchased this previously, in like Mar 2017 for ~ $250. Prices are fubar right now but luckily this was a hand-me-down. I originally had it in an NCASE M1, which actually supports full-length GPUs, but I KNEW one day I may want to buy the S4M (which only supports up to ~ 210mm).
2 of the games I've found most taxing on a system to this day are Witcher 3 and Rise of the Tomb Raider, so I used both of these for testing:
Temps aren't bad especially for such a small card with only 1 fan. In that NCASE M1 (small mini ITX case without a ton of airflow), this thing would run ~ 75C during extended sessions. No throttling... not bad!
I was also able to get a stable +100/500 on this card using the standard MSI Afterburner method. As I recall it jumps to 2000 mhz then settles at 1850 ~ 1900 mhz, again during long gaming sessions.
Picked this up because I'm using a tiny, portable case that I plan to travel with regularly, therefore I didn't want to carry around the bulky antenna my motherboard came with (nor risk snapping 3rd party bunny ears).
Needed something SMALL (so I can leave it plugged in) and also required bluetooth integrated. This little guy is only 802.11n (so 150 Mbps max), but I knew that going in, and it isn't too much of a problem for me since most hotels don't get that high anyway.
That being said, their website kind of sucks, I personally thought it was a little confusing getting the right drivers, and so far the bluetooth on this thing has been really janky (required multiple reinstalls). I would be willing to change the rating if I can get this working better moving forward.
Small, light weight, works as advertised and the touch screen really was plug-and-play, no issues at all. The included stand is even a little more sturdy than it seemed like in pictures. HOWEVER, every corner of this screen has backlight bleed, and I REALLY hate that. Seems to be a problem with multiple "cheap" IPS panels I've owned, unfortunately. So that is a quality control issue in my mind. I considered returning it but honestly, there's no guarantee they won't just keep coming with this problem over and over. Probably not worth the trouble.
Yes, I read all the reviews and saw small boot SSDs recommended time and time again instead of Optane. What can I say, I like new technology and I wanted to see how this worked. Also, I don't like having to choose which drive to use for any given installation, so I do think this still has a place in the market for that reason.
It's too early for me to really comment on performance, so I will have to update this with a "real" star rating in the future.
Works great, simple to set up, and SO SMALL. I got it because of its size but I was still shocked once it came. It's about the size of my hand all folded up. The only problem is that it's so small I have found it very difficult to type on. But I mean since I bought it because of its size in the first place, I'm not going to remove stars for that. :)