Introduction and First Impressions
The A4-SFX takes the minimalist, full-length GPU capable mini-ITX chassis design down to stunningly compact dimensions, and does so with a precise all-aluminum build and refined industrial design. Created by the one-man company DAN Cases and funded on Kickstarter, the A4-SFX share the spirit of the crowdfunded NCASE M1 that preceded it, but takes even that tiny enclosure's dimensions down considerably. It is, as the company puts it, "the world's smallest gaming tower case".
What was omitted to bring the size down this far? Comparing the A4-SFX to the aforementioned NCASE M1 (an inevitability as both were crowd-funded and manufactured by Lian Li), the A4-SFX drops support for compact ATX power supplies in favor of SFX/SFX-L units, and CPU cooling is limited to a height of 48 mm, with no liquid cooling support. Many low-profile CPU coolers - including Intel’s stock design - fit this description, but the cooling limitation suggests stock CPU speeds are the tradeoff for such a compact case design.
So how compact is this case, exactly? The A4-SFX has a volume of just 7.25L compared to the NCASE M1 at 12.6L. Yet the A4-SFX can still house a powerful, gaming-ready system with standard components including a full sized GPU (up to 295 mm in length) and any mini-ITX motherboard and CPU.
Introduction and Case Exterior
The Define Mini C is the micro-ATX variant in Fractal Design's excellent Define series, and this compact chassis is nearly as small as some of the mini-ITX cases we've looked at in recent months. The advantages of micro-ATX for a small form-factor build are undeniable, including added expansion slots (and multi-GPU support), and more robust power delivery for greater CPU flexibility including AMD socket AM3/AM3+ support.
I freely admit to being a small form-factor enthusiast myself, and as much as I like mini-ITX, there are times when micro-ATX just makes sense. I mentioned AMD compatibility above, but even if you're building with Intel there are reasons to consider mATX. One of these is Intel's enthusiast platform, as X99 requires at least a micro-ATX board for quad-channel memory and greater PCIe flexibility. (Naturally, at least one mITX X99 board is available, but this is limited to a pair of memory slots and - of course - has just one PCIe slot.)
As soon as I unpacked the Define Mini C, I knew it would make a perfect home for the EVGA X99 Micro2 motherboard I had on hand. This micro-ATX board makes a compelling argument for the smaller form-factor, as very little is lost vs. full ATX. The Mini C (which sounds like the name of a mini-ITX product, but Fractal's mITX variant is the called Nano S - which I reviewed a few months back) should make a great home for a powerful compact system. Let's get started!