Description

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!

Part Reviews

Motherboard

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!

Video Card

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.

Custom

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.

Custom

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.

Custom

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.

Custom

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. :)

Comments

  • 21 months ago
  • 3 points

I never noticed that the gigabyte sff 1060s had dual dvi... noted for future reference!

  • 21 months ago
  • 2 points

I'm thinking about doing a sff build with the 2200g/2400g but wasn't sure if a 120w psu would cut it. How does your psu seem to be handling the system. This is new territory for me so and advice is welcome I can only get Pico PSU where I live. Total power draw should be around the 110w mark. Anyway awesome build cant wait till I take the dive and order one of these +!

  • 21 months ago
  • 2 points

I just tested this last night with Heaven and 3D Mark (Firestrike). System was pulling anywhere from 190 ~ 215w, so I imagine this is right to the max the power supply is capable of delivering. Keep in mind this includes my portable USB-powered monitor pulling ~ 10w from the same unit.

It got pretty hot to the touch, but no issues, flickering, black screens, shutdowns, nothing like that occurred. I had been told by multiple people to trust that these HDPLEX units can deliver, and at least in limited testing so far that seems true!

Also in general, the advice I’ve seen is that most people massively overestimate power requirements. You should be able to add up the TDP of your CPU and GPU and that is pretty close to your actual wattage need from a quality PSU. I understand that older GPUs had a lot more volatility / power spiking, but that isn’t nearly as much of an issue with Pascal architecture.

Sorry but I don’t have any specific experience directly with those new AMD APUs. Here is a good article with power draw figures though: http://www.guru3d.com/articles-pages/amd-ryzen-5-2400g-review,6.html. They’re showing the 2200g system maxing out at ~ 100w and the 2400g at 115w, both under full iGPU load.

  • 21 months ago
  • 1 point

I don't know where you got that number but when I specced out a 2200g system (linked below) it came out to be around 150w, and unless you plan on seriously undervolting, or not using any spinners it will certainly be above 120w https://pcpartpicker.com/list/9bVt6s

  • 21 months ago
  • 1 point

Cheers will consider a 150w, did a similar parts list minus the hdd and ssd replaced with an m.2. Oh well 150/160 it is. Cheers

  • 21 months ago
  • 2 points

Very nice and smart build! I love that lean case.

And the keyboard looks cool, although I recently discovered that bigger buttons are actually easier to type on.

  • 20 months ago
  • 2 points

It's impressive what you're able to accomplish with that power supply stack. Seeing it all crammed in there... amazing. Now, you've just got to find a way of adding a UPS or something and you're all set!

  • 2 months ago
  • 2 points

Great brave m-itx build - hope you are having more success than you were - have you done any recent modifications and how happy are you with the Optane module to date?

  • 2 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks man. Yea, I actually got this build to a point I'm happy with and travel with it almost every week for work. It's even still capable of most AAA gaming -- with a little tweaking, here and there.

To stop the power issues, I reduced the power and thermal settings in MSI Afterburner. I keep it between 60 - 70%, which reduces overall system power draw enough to prevent the shutdowns. This does make the card run at lower clock speeds (1500 ~ 1600 as I recall), but note that after running a variety of benchmarks, it does NOT equate to a 30/40% drop in performance (more like 10 ~ 15%). It still performs far above a 1050 Ti, maybe kind of like a 1060-3gb?

I've been happy with this compromise. I think this is probably the absolute limit of computing power that's possible with a "brickless" build in this case (unless any new PSUs have come out since I did the build, which I haven't kept up with).

P.S. Optane was crap, I should have known. :) I actually upgraded to a 1TB SSD earlier this year -- and 16gb RAM as well.

  • 2 months ago
  • 2 points

Pleased you got it working as you want - Sounds like you made some sensible choices to create a build that does the NFC case proud using the HDPlex. Sorry you didn't get along with the Optane module mind - I've been running it for ~2 years now and have found it does pretty much what it claims.

  • 2 months ago
  • 2 points

Haha cool man, well maybe it's just a use case thing. I just know my HDD would get 100% throttled all the time, took forever to clear space, bottlenecking Steam downloads -- stuff like that. Perhaps since that's using new space vs. existing files that could leverage the cache, my habits just didn't align well with the Optane functionality. Shrug.

  • 19 months ago
  • 1 point

im having a hard time trying to get this cpu cooler on this motherboard