In 2012, I bought a Lenovo ThinkCentre Edge 71 (released at the end of 2011) to use as my primary personal machine; however, I quickly realized that I had missed out on features of the then-current Ivy Bridge platform such as SATA III and USB 3.0. First, I replaced the 180-Watt power supply with an FSP brand 300W TFX unit to support the expansion to external graphics. Then, I added a low profile Radeon HD 6670 (since replaced) and a wireless-N adapter from TRENDnet. The memory was upgraded from 2 GB (single channel) to 8 GB (dual channel). The dual-core Celeron processor was replaced with a quad-core Core i7 with Hyper-Threading. The 320 GB hard drive was shelved and replaced with a 3.5-to-dual-2.5-inch bracket containing a 120 GB Kingston SSD and a 1 TB Western Digital HDD. After all these upgrades, there were enough compatible parts left over that I began exploring the possibility of a new(er) build to gain SATA III and USB 3.0 functionality and in general a more open space to allow for a large CPU cooler (now) and full-height graphics card (in the future).
In 2016, it wasn't as easy to find a Sandy Bridge/Ivy Bridge-compatible platform as I had expected, so I started with the rarest part -- the motherboard. I wanted not only the newer SATA and USB features but also rock-solid stability (as opposed to overclockability), preferably a board with all solid capacitors, Intel gigabit LAN, and still room to expand without a new graphics card potentially blocking another desirable expansion port (which was an issue with the Lenovo). What I ended up with was an industrial Q77 board from Jetway with dual Intel LAN and onboard headers for a total of TEN (10) serial ports which I may never use even one of, though I am aware they do come in handy for the odd (or old) application. Q77 is an Ivy Bridge (3rd generation Intel Core i7) platform fully backward-compatible with Sandy Bridge processors, allowing me to carry over the Core i7 2600 (95 Watt) I had been using in the Lenovo (the Lenovo once again using the old Celeron originally installed).
I decided on the Thermaltake Core V21 case for space as mentioned but also because of the orientation of the components installed. The motherboard lays flat on a raised surface above the power supply and disk drives, which -- if you think about it -- sets all rear-facing ports beside one another and not vertically, and the power cord is close to the bottom of the unit as opposed to with traditional ATX cases with a top-mounted power supply where the power cord dangles from the top of the back of the unit. The case is also reconfigurable both in the front panel (power button and USB/audio headers) and top/side doors. As such, it was shipped with the mesh doors on the top and right and the windowed door on the left alongside the front panel headers -- I rotated this setup 90 degrees so that the windowed door and front panel headers are now on top for easy access and a neat view inside the machine. Originally, I was going to install some plain Crucial Ballistix DDR3 (the yellow sticks), but after I realized I was able to reorient the window to the top (looking down upon the motherboard), I canceled the memory order and instead ordered a dual channel kit (16 GB) of Crucial Ballistix Tactical Tracer RAM which is very similar but has (programmable) activity LEDs along the top of the sticks and LED underglow facing the motherboard. Between that and the purple LED Corsair fan I chose for exhaust, I anticipate a pretty show inside of the case without the eyesore and distraction of some of those air-crazy builds out there with 6+ fans.
The first two pictures reflect a work in progress as some parts (including RAM) have not yet arrived and I pulled parts from the Lenovo in the meantime. I'll be using the Lenovo's low profile GeForce GTX 750 Ti (it came with backplates for both heights) likely until there is a full-sized Pascal (GTX 1000-series) card available. In addition, I happened to spot an ASUS Xonar Essence ST (PCI) sound card for $100 and didn't pass that up. The case's audio header will be connected to the sound card and the onboard Realtek will be disabled, good riddance.
Oddly, there is a cutout in the front of the bare case (sans grille) that suggests Thermaltake may have planned for a 5.25" drive bay (most commonly used for optical drives), and occasionally I do miss being able to play or burn a DVD without an external drive, but that is by and far the worst I have to say about this case. Technology trends (i.e., everything "going digital" or streamed/downloaded online) suggest I may not miss the DVD in the long run.
It sure may seem like an odd combination to some folks, but in my book, this build is a win. :)
Edit 5:51pm EDT: Observations.
Between the occasional **** friend who sabotages you for laughs and most OEM machines (the Lenovo included) not having a reset button, I never connected my case's reset to the motherboard. But I did play with everything just to know of any quirks. What we have here is a power button that leans (not much, but noticeably) in the direction being hardest pressed, not to mention it's no secret in the room when you press it. Some edges have the "stuck" feeling of your Game Boy with your friend's Swiss Cake Roll mashed into the 'A' button, not registering a press at all but not immediately coming back up either. Reset is a tad softer (think "Num Lock" as opposed to "Space" on those old IBM keyboards) and goes down (and comes back up) evenly every press. I have found my new power button.
All this tl;dr and no numbers. Room is 20C/68F. Warm idle (on all day) averages 33.5C/92F and heavy loads (8+ threads) top out at 59C/138F (these are internal sensor readings and not a thermometer) -- a little out of the cool kids' league, but it dissipates well within acceptable norms even before the arrival of the exhaust fan. The 2cm-or-so of CPU cooler offset from the case's exhaust isn't of grave concern to me. The entire case is practically holes and honeycombs. Even the bottom panel has a hole and a filter for PSU to pull fresh air in from underneath, and the feet are tall enough to overcome the carpet here. I'm sure that if I wanted an upside-down computer, I could change the top and bottom doors and flip the PSU. Oh yeah, speaking of. There's a 2-piece bracket held together by 1 screw with flat rubber grommets on the long side that's meant to stabilize and partially silence the PSU. However, there is a bit of shape to the outside of this PSU which led me to install PSU and bracket in the wrong order for my own sanity. But it is definitely better there as intended.
I love shopping online -- I'd never find this stuff around here -- and I have as much or more patience than the next guy knowing that shipping is a process in itself, but I cannot fathom the necessity of an entire day for a company like DHL that stopped delivering to homes to hand off to Postal. I swear, I can almost smell New Jersey from here.