Clean, Compact, Powerful, Quiet
My primary goals when planning this project were based around making a small and powerful workstation that could be displayed on my desk in my office. I wanted something to showcase my interest in computers while maintaining a small footprint. I also wanted it to look clean, mostly professional, and operate silently.
This build evolved a lot in the planning stages. I really wanted to get the build off the floor, while not dominating the desktop space. Once I started looking at Mini-ITX, I discovered the Enthoo Evolv Shift-X. It looks like an amazing case for showcasing hardware and has a minimal footprint. At this point I wanted to do a high-end vanity build with an 8700k and 1080ti. The cost of water cooling was adding up, and I think having a good chair and peripherals can be just as important, so I didn't go that route.
Air cooling was making a lot more sense than just being less expensive. Like most things I design, it can be helpful to draw inspiration from somewhere. In this case, it was a motorcycle. It was lean, no superfluous components but, the pieces it did have worked in harmony together and were well coordinated. Using a tower style cooler would allow me to run a couple of fans at low rpm, as well as be easy to maintain, and minimize downtime in case of a failure. It was just as many fans as an AIO but less complexity, therefore more lean. I also liked the similarities between look of a tower cooler and the fins on an air cooled V-Twin.
The overall idea of the build had now come together. A compact air-cooled build that would showcase the components while hopefully maintaining a somewhat refined aesthetic. Now what was I going to house this in? I liked the Nano S from Fractal Design and the H200 from NZXT (especially when paired with Noctua's Chromax heatsink covers). I had also known about the NCASE M1 and discovered there was a side panel window option available for it. It was a decision between the H200 and the M1. The M1 was more compact and the thought of pairing it with the Strix's silver accents reminded me of the DMC Delorean, which also guided some aesthetic choices.
All along I had been planning having an i7 as the processor. The programs I use daily are AutoCAD and SketchUp, which are primarily single threaded. The remainder of tasks are office based, with some occasional photo editing. Originally, I was shopping around for an 8700 when I stumbled across a bundle deal for the 8700K and the Z370 in July.
There are a couple of popular tower style coolers used in M1 builds. The Noctua NH-U9S and the NH-D9L. After watching a comparison review by Optimum Tech, the difference in performance was more clear and I went with the U9S.
For the GPU, I went with the 1070ti Founder's Edition. While the programs I use aren't heavily demanding in the graphics department, I'm currently running a 3440x1440 monitor and thought this would be a good pair for that and the 8700K. At the time of purchase, the FE was less expensive than other variants, and was looking for a blower style to expel hot air from the case. I also liked the shroud on blower style cards tends to be a little cleaner looking as it wraps around the cooling solution, fitting tightly up to the PCB
Overall the NCASE M1 was a lot easier to work inside of than one might think. All of the panels are easily removable. The trickiest thing to keep neat are the cables. There are some points in the case for zip ties to secure them. I would suggest connecting the case's front panel cables to the motherboard before installing the PSU. It also helps to run the cables for the PSU before installing it. I'm also really pleased with the quality of the case. There are even more options to what one can fit inside if one is using the standard side panel and bracket option instead of the tempered glass side panel.
This will be an awesome production machine for many years to come; as well as a compact, 1440p ultra-wide gaming build.