Jun 20, 2016

Case mod: Fractal Design Define Nano S

Maybe not that much electronics related, but lately I've been doing this computer case mod project. Last years my computers have been in a ~105x40x25 cm closet with three Mobo & PSU mounts and four 120mm Noctua fans. Since my main computer is on 24/7 and I'm sleeping in the same room, the box is covered with sound absorbing material.

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That's a good solution as long as I don't have to move the computer. But having a LAN Parties twice a year have been a bit problematic, since I have to disassemble the computer to the cardboard boxes and assemble it again at the party place. Also, the TV stand / Computer closet may not come along to my new apartment in the future, so its a good time to invest into a proper computer case. I already have some mATX cases and a huge full tower, but neither of them wouldn't fit into my needs. I've always liked the look of Fractal Design Define series cases, but they are just too big to fit nicely in my apartment, or to be carried around even twice a year. Lately Fractal Design released this very good looking Define Nano S case, which would be perfect unless it wouldn't support ITX motherboards (170x170 mm) only.

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But wait, the Nano S case measures 203x330x400 mm so the ATX motherboard (305x244 mm) would fit into it after a bit of dremeling. Because the placement of the power supply was changed and the hole for motherboard's I/O connector had to be moved upwards a bit, the easiest way was to buy a 1.5 mm thick aluminium sheet and re-make whole back side of the case. The motherboard tray was taken off from a full ATX tower and cut down to fit into this chassis.

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Maybe the worst thing in Fractal Design's Define cases are the overly bright blue PWR & HDD leds, which were replaced with dimmer green & orange leds. These won't illuminate the entire room at night. I have a 250 GB SSD for the operating system and 3 TB HDD for everything else. There's also a custom made HDD mount, which have a ~3 mm thick sheet of rubber between the HDD mount and the case. This absorbs very efficiently the constant humming noise of the 7200 RPM HDD. The plate on top of is sized so that the whole thing can be mounted easily to the 120 mm fan slot.

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Although the new placement of the PSU won't allow big CPU coolers to be used, my Prolimatech Samuel 17 seems to manage with the Xeon E3-1230v3 CPU just fine (idle: 38°C, load: 65°C). There's a 120 mm CPU fan blowing towards the PSU, so the hot air goes out directly, through the PSU.

Until now, my backing up solution has been a bit fiddly, but now I decided to include a 3.5" hot-swap HDD mount in the back side of the case, so I can easily insert a HDD maybe twice a month, and put it somewhere else, so it's completely offline when not used.

There's also four timelapse videos about the modding process and the end result (end of the part 4):

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