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NCASE M1 Mini-ITX Crowdfunded Case Review

Manufacturer: NCASE

Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging

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Image credit: NCASE

The NCASE M1 Mini-ITX case has been lusted after for about a year now by those of us interested in small form-factor (SFF) computing, ever since it made the news last spring by making its initial goal on the crowd-funding site Indiegogo. The last campaign to raise funds ended in August of last year, and not leaving anything up to chance the creators of the M1 contracted none other than Lian Li to make their dream a reality. Today, we have the privilege of seeing the finished product!

Making things happen

We’ve all talked about changing some existing product to fix problems or just add features that we’d like to have. But most of us probably wouldn’t take our idea to a public funding site to actually make it happen, and that’s exactly why the story of NCASE and the M1 is unique. The creators were members on hardforums, and the original thread for the M1 is now well over 500 pages long.

The story began with conversation about improving an existing mini-ITX design, with the SilverStone SG05 the original topic. (It's fascinating to watch the design evolve on the thread!) Two forum members joined forces and started creating designs, and ended up with the blueprint for an incredibly small case that still supported large GPU's and 240mm radiators. Then, it was on to Indiegogo to see if the interest was high enough to get this case built.

Judging by the results starting with that initial round of prototype funding, there has definitely been interest in this design! Lian Li's prototype case was a success, and the initial production run funding campaign quickly raised more than double the goal again… Fast forward to spring 2014, a black M1 case was delivered safely, and I for one can’t wait to get started building up a system with it!

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The M1 next to a BitFenix Prodigy: It's tiny!! (Image credit NCASE)

Continue reading our review of the NCASE M1 Mini-ITX Crowdfunded Case!!


From NCASE:

"The M1 is a mini-ITX, small form-factor case that doesn't sacrifice compact dimensions to support high-end hardware. Thanks to its innovative design, the M1 is able to support some of the most powerful PC components available, while still allowing tremendous build flexibility in a surprisingly small footprint. With its refined, understated aesthetics and quality all-aluminum construction, the NCASE M1 is the premiere choice for the discerning enthusiast."

Specifications:

•    250mm x 160mm x 338mm HxWxL
•    105mm CPU cooler height
•    3 x expansion slots
•    2 x 3.5" HDD mounts (up to 3 x 3.5")
•    2 x 2.5" HDD mounts (up to 4 x 2.5")
•    4 x 120mm fan mounts
•    1 x 80/92mm fan mount
•    Single or dual 120mm radiator capable
•    SFX power supply support
•    ATX power supply support
•    Slim optical disk drive support


Packaging and First Impressions

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The M1 arrived in a rather dramatic black box with minimal graphics. Inside, the case is well protected and emerged without any damage.

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Taking it out of the box the first impression is really just how incredibly light this is. Like, “there's no way this could be a computer case” light. (I felt like I was lifting just the packing material out without a case – no joke.) The feather-like qualities of the M1 are explained by its all-aluminum construction, along with its very small size of course.

The accessories pack includes grills and dust screens for up to four 120mm fans, along with the usual assortment of mounting hardware.

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Two extras of interest: the inclusion of rubber washers for hard drive mounting (always a welcome touch), and the addition of a full-size ATX power supply bracket. Yes, this tiny case supports full-size ATX PSU’s!

Next we'll take a closer look at the M1.

May 5, 2014 | 01:06 PM - Posted by SR (not verified)

Great article Mr. Peak. If you guys are ever revisit the M1, I'd love if you guys could throw together a worst case scenario build in terms of power consumption and push this case to its absolute limits. Something along the lines of a 4770k overlocked with an AIO cooler and an aftermarket Hawaii GPU.

The M1 was designed to offer no compromises in performance and I think a thermal torture test would go a long way toward verifying that claim. Enthusiasts have already shown that small cases like the Node 304 can handle that sort of setup and I'd like to see if the M1 can do the same while shrinking ITX cases even further.

May 5, 2014 | 05:29 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

Thanks! I wish we could cover every angle and I agree that pushing the limits really is the purpose of a small case like this. An overclcocked 4770K on a mITX Z87 board would be a good test, although a 240mm cooler like the H100 should easily cope with this (especially if it was pulling outside air)... But the aftermarket Hawaii GPU is really going to contribute to temps in the case. 80-90c air blowing inside the case with a non-blower R9 290X would be interesting. But in that instance you could have dual 120mm fans blowing up to force the air up... (There are many possibilities)

December 17, 2014 | 03:45 PM - Posted by aparsh335i (not verified)

Hawaii GPU + NZXT Kraken G10 + Corsair H80 AIO water cooler. That would be dope :).
I'm using a mATX build right now with 2x GTX 970, 2x NZXT Krakgen G10 & 2x Corsair H90. Works so well!

May 5, 2014 | 02:02 PM - Posted by Shambles (not verified)

Is the triple slot design only useful for triple slot PGU coolers? Is it possible to get an ITX board with 2 PCIE slots? That would be my ideal. I like the idea of ITX but if I don't have a single open slot I have no option for any sort of future comparability with products that may not exist yet but may be very useful. If I could get an ITX board with 2 slots and a case with 3 that allows for a double slot GPU + one expansion slot I'd be all over it. As I don't think that's possible I think I'm relegated for mATX for the next while.

May 5, 2014 | 03:29 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

I've never heard of a mini-ITX board with more than one PCIe slot (though it would awesome), so yeah the purpose of the extra slot is just for a triple-slot cooler. So I guess that means go ahead and put a TITAN-Z in there!

May 5, 2014 | 03:47 PM - Posted by biohazard918

Its called mini dtx its a 203mm × 170mm board vs the 170mm x 170mm of itx amd introduced the formfactor in 07 but sadly it hasn't really gained any traction. The M1 really screams for one but I can't find any for sale.

May 5, 2014 | 04:01 PM - Posted by NCASEdesign (not verified)

There are a handful of smaller microATX boards that will fit in the M1 - see this post for an example. There are also Mini-DTX boards with two slots, though they're quite rare, and are typically listed as mATX. ECS makes boards in this size, which you can see installed in the M1 here.

May 5, 2014 | 04:41 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

That's a good point - and it would substantially lower the cost of a build considering a board like that ECS H81H3-M4 is only $48. I bought that exact one on amazon last month for an unrelated project I haven't started - haha if I'd thought about it I could have tried the install. It's still in the box.

June 13, 2014 | 09:35 PM - Posted by Shaun (not verified)

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May 5, 2014 | 06:04 PM - Posted by Areus

I dig the idea of a Bespoke case for this niche market. Mini-itx is one of the more interesting things going in the PC space now IMHO, so it's cool to see these guys try to squeeze the package even smaller while still offering enthusiast level performance parts. Yeah there's a hefty pricetag, but when these little guys take risks on designs that the big guys aren't going for - and succeed - the net effects should hopefully ripple out into the rest of the case market. I for one wouldn't mind that.

The only company I see right now pushing the size envelope (or really just messing around with case design) is Apple, and obviously they don't jive well with DIY builders like us.

It's probably worth pointing out that when these guys started their indiegogo thing (with pics and design specs) in early 2013 there were far fewer available mini-itx case designs on the market. Interesting things like Corsair's Obsidian 250D, the Silverstone RVZ01, and the EVGA Hadron Air/Hydro didn't exist.

Also that would make a pretty cool Steambox, all things considered.

May 5, 2014 | 08:17 PM - Posted by icebug

I received this case Earlier this year and it is a very impressive piece of hardware! I have a 760k cooled with an H100i and the same PSU in this review allowing me to use my old Radeon HD 5850. PERFECT setup for a LAN rig since it weighs basically nothing more than the components themselves and haven't had an issue with temps after I got the H100i installed. (it was VERY loud with the stock AMD air cooler though)

There have been talks about another campaign running this year if anyone else is interested in purchasing one!

My Serial Number is 0414 so it's odd that this would have taken soo long to arrive since I got mine in December!

May 5, 2014 | 10:11 PM - Posted by PCPerFan (not verified)

CX750 is not 140mm. It is 160mm. 140mm would fit the longer graphics cards.

May 5, 2014 | 10:46 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

The CX750M is 140mm long - or at least claimed to be.

Here's Corsair's CX750M product page

May 6, 2014 | 06:37 AM - Posted by PCPerFan (not verified)

I see that, but it looks 160mm compared to other builds using 140mm and some websites indicate it is 160mm. Maybe they changed the specs and never updated the website? Can you measure it?

May 6, 2014 | 09:19 AM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

Well this what I get for trusting the spec sheet! You're right, and the CX750M measures exactly 160mm.

I'm also told that even at 140mm a modular PSU won't allow for longer GPU - the M1 builds with the long GPU/ATX PSU combo are using non-modular 140mm PSU's. The connectors for the modular supply complicate things apparently.

Regardless, I appreciate the correction and I've updated the review to remove this erroneous "140mm" spec. (I also ordered a SilverStone ST55F-G power supply which by all accounts truly is 140mm! I will retire the Corsair PSU from future small builds.)

May 6, 2014 | 04:59 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Any thoughts on the noise level for the silverstone PSU under load?

I ordered one recently for my SG08-Lite build but it was just too noise when compared to an ATX 140mm non modular seasonic I had laying around.

May 7, 2014 | 10:51 AM - Posted by obababoy (not verified)

Great review and I like the looks but I just don't feel it is worth it. I went with the CM Elite 130 and it fits a full size ATX PSU as well as any size GPU. Its only downside is it requires a low profile CPU cooler or a 120mm AIO liquid(which I went with). 240mm rad will not fit. Below is my setup without the video card in.

http://pcpartpicker.com/b/Olp

http://www.coolermaster.com/case/mini-itx-elite-series/elite130/

May 8, 2014 | 12:15 PM - Posted by VeritronX (not verified)

Here's a pic I took (with my potato) of mine to show scale.. This really is the smallest powerfull case I've ever seen, it makes the elite 130, fractal node etc seem big.

http://ocau.com/pix/jycib

May 10, 2014 | 01:36 AM - Posted by abem5497 (not verified)

What makes this case so expensive. Silverstone can design and build better itx than M1. If they can make the SG09/SG10 slimmer, it would be better for ITX.

May 10, 2014 | 10:18 AM - Posted by PaulDriver

Silverstone may be able to do better, but they haven't.

May 11, 2014 | 04:44 AM - Posted by zstormz (not verified)

the evga hadron hydro is way better then this case. the only downside on the hadron is the power supply.

June 4, 2014 | 05:30 AM - Posted by Redmond (not verified)

will ASUS Poseidon fit in this case?

June 12, 2014 | 02:47 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

i take back what i said about the hadron hydro. this case is much smaller then the hadron hydro.

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