Description

B-roll photos come first, then the rest of the photos are arranged in the process that the build came together

Project Ascension: Altair is the final culmination of my custom case project that has been bouncing around my head for quite a while, ever since I learned to CAD. This build reuses a bunch of still decent parts from my old rig, and will probably be with me for quite a while more. While I am getting a EVGA GTX 1060 6GB soon, I am still using my Gigabyte GTX 1050 until then.

The Case

The Altair case is one of 2 examples made, the other being for a friend who wanted one and helped subsidize the material cost for the case. Living in Hawaii, even a Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L can cost over $50 after shipping is factored in, making this case relatively cheap to make and helped me save money. The 1/8" thick 4'x8' sheet of MDF cost $10.99 (note all costs are in USD), the 0.093" thick acrylic for the build cost $20, the button (ordered off Amazon with Prime) cost $8, and the spray paint cost $10. All in, splitting the cost for the MDF in half to account for each case, and you come out with about $45 after tax.

Next was the design of the case. Custom designed in Onshape (an online CAD program), I was optimistic that I could fit all my components into a sub-20L case, thus making my rig SFF. (Small Form Factor) And it is barely so, at 19.99L, with dimensions of 10.9"x7"x16" (length by width by height). 3 acrylic panels that were able to be removed in one piece was also another design choice, letting me easily access my components when needed. Positive airflow was also done to help mitigate dust using 3 120mm fans in the front, the PSU was rotated to preserve space, and 3x 2.5" drive mounts were included, so I can just mount another HDD or SSD when I run out of space on my existing drives. There is a bit of room in the back for cable management. Thus the design was finalized and exported out of CAD.

Laser cutters are so versatile, cutting plastics and woods. All pieces for the case were cut on the laser cutter my school owns, which took about 1 hour all in. MDF is a nice material to cut, and cut very quickly. The acrylic panel allowed me to raster a nice custom logo on my side panel window, and when all panels were cut, the pieces were taken home.

The wood pieces were assembled and glued together with carpenters wood glue, and the acrylic was bonded with clear epoxy. I would've used actual acrylic cement, as that literally fuses together the panels to form a stronger bond, but I was unable to source it in Hawaii and shipping was crazy expensive to ship it here. The epoxy has held up so far, though.

Next was painting. Nothing much to say here but that I kinda underestimated how much it would take and had to run out to the hardware store to go get another can. But still, it now was finished.

The Motherboard/RAM

The motherboard/RAM were plastidipped.... Yes. I know. Don't worry. It isn't conductive, it isn't covering any major heat generating parts, and it still works fine and the temps are still under 70C... So don't think about it. It looks better than the green and blue it was, and it kinda blends into the case, so its fine. Note to all who actually attempt this after me: you must have a really steady hand, and put very thin coats. You will have to touch up with a paintbrush later to get the small things you missed. And please, for the love of god, remember to tape all you sockets, pins, slots, and IO up. If you forget.... RIP you using that slot ever again.

I took my 12 GB of RAM and motherboard and CPU from my XPS rebuild, aka Project: Resurrection. The CPU was stored while I painted it. I also had to modify the CPU backplate, as Dell has a proprietary backplate that also acts as the mounting bracket for their cooler. (Which totally sucks.) So after breaking about 5 cutting discs for my Dremel, the arms were cut off and it was ready for the new cooler!

The PSU The PSU is an 850W non-modular unit that I got from my dad's old i7-940 rig. I would've loved if I was able to get a modular PSU, but that never happened. Oh well, at least it is black.

Cooling

The case design presented me with cooling restrictions; I needed a CPU cooler that was under 100mm, (my case design is pretty slim) cooled not bad, and was able to be somewhat stealthy. Noctua coolers, while being very good, didn't suit my eyes. And just as I was browsing Amazon, the Scythe Big Shuriken 3 debuted, rivaling the Noctua NH-L12S in cooling performance while offering pretty good looks in a tidy 69mm tall package. I ordered it right away for $45. It cools very well, keeping my i7-4770 at 35C idle and 70C under full synthetic load. Note that I live in Hawaii, and thus the temperatures I get may be higher than others. Also that my PC is in sunlight for a few hours a day, which may lead to temps for me fluctuating. Overall, a great cooler, especially compared to Intel stock, which had 45C at idle and 100C at full synthetic load, aka bottlenecking and overheating.

RGB was somewhat of a priority for me this time around, and so was making a case that wouldn't inhale all the dust in my room, thus the positive airflow. So I needed fans. With only 1 fan header on the motherboard, I knew I probably would be either forced to buy a 3-pack or just go Molex and lose PWM. And so I went and bought a pack of 3 RGB fans and 2 RGB strips. Costing $39.50, they are actually pretty good, and at lower speed settings that you can set via the remote they are actually surprisingly silent. Sadly being proprietary connectors, you are unable to put other RGB stuff into it, but I have no idea when I will do that.

Finalized

After waiting for my parts to arrive from Amazon, I finally assembled it in it's new case for the second time. (The first time was me jumping the gun and then realizing I had to take the motherboard out to put on the new cooler) The button was soldered customly to the connector for the power button, and everything was plugged in.

It booted up for the first time, and all was- oh. Then Windows didn't like that I had literally taken out all the front IO, randomly restarted, which led me to re-install Windows, which led to more driver issues, which led to me installing drivers for a good 2 hours, which led to me having to install the driver for the ethernet first cause it didn't know how to connect to the internet, which FINALLY led to me noticing my HDD wasn't showing up, which led to me having to fix my silly mistake of forgetting to plug in the SATA power connector to it, which led my poor cable management for my non-modular PSU to pop the side panel off (which is still not seating fully, damn it, I wish I had a modular PSU...), which led to me fiddling with that for a while, which led to issues with the GPU being help up entirely by the PCI-E slot, which FINALLY led to me fixing everything and having a stable system. Ugh. Well it boots and runs like it's supposed to, so.... yay!

Critiques

  • I would've made a better way to get the GPU into the socket. You kinda have to modify and unscrew the PCI-E shield and pivot it into place.... ehhhh....
  • The motherboard and RAM could've been painted nicer.
  • I could've made a better cable management area.
  • The fans could have more airflow through the front of the case.

Overall, it's a good build for me. I finally have a case I like in a form factor I want. It runs smoothly. Next step is to get a better monitor. Then my battlestation will be complete. I love the custom logo rastered onto the acrylic, which lights up nicely with the RGB. The backplate I made for the 1060 I am receiving will be lit up too. Well, this is Brooklyn Tony, and I have officially joined the SFF club. And no longer am I modifying prebuilts. Although I guess I still am a budget builder and modder.... ;D

Part Reviews

CPU

Still a great CPU. Runs with current mid-level Ryzens and i5s!

CPU Cooler

This is a beastly cooler that is... well, let's just say it doesn't fit into a certain category. It is beastly for cooling my CPU, keeping temps that I'd say are pretty cool, but is 69mm tall, making it fit into only a few SFF cases. And you can buy a good tower cooler for the same price, giving better airflow through your PC. Overall, for my build clearances, it's great, but be wary about it's size. Also the way it is packed bends the fins on the bottom of the heatsink. All in all, 4 out of 5, mainly for the packaging.

Storage

Cheap, relatively fast, and pretty good.

Storage

Eh, it's a HDD. Nothing special. And super slow...

Power Supply

Not the best PSU. Don't get one if you can find a modular unit.

Keyboard

Rather good keyboard, lots of functional keys and 12 macros, as well as RGB and Windows lock!

Mouse

The mouse I have had since I was 10. Still works like a dream. Logitech mice never fail to disappoint.

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Comments

  • 12 months ago
  • 3 points

As many of us are probably thinking, "Eh, I probably would have paid 10$ more for a manufactured case," it's pretty cool that you made your own custom one. I would just say drilling a few holes on the acrylic panels where the PSU, CPU, and intake fans are would make a nice difference. +1

  • 12 months ago
  • 2 points

I'm just loling at the "SFF" tag but the front has room for 3x 120mm fans and PSU oriented in the least efficient way possible. Cool build but... case is a little nutty layout-wise.

  • 12 months ago
  • 1 point

Yeah, being my first custom case, I made some stupid mistakes when designing the layout. Hey, SFF is still SFF, no matter how close you are to the 20L mark. ;)