This has been months of brainstorming, one day of “oh $h!7 this is happening”, followed by a week of waiting, test fitting, buying more things, waiting three more weeks… all to surprise my girlfriend with a brand new portable & powerful gaming PC.
PCPartPicker Part List: System Builder - Ryzen 5 3600 3.6 GHz 6-Core, GeForce GTX 1070 Ti 8 GB MINI - PCPartPicker
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600 3.6 GHz 6-Core Processor
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-L9a-AM4 chromax.black 33.8 CFM CPU Cooler
Motherboard: Gigabyte B550I AORUS PRO AX Mini ITX AM4 Motherboard
Memory: G.Skill Trident Z Neo 32 GB (2 x 16 GB) DDR4-3600 CL16 Memory
Storage: HP EX920 1 TB M.2-2280 NVME Solid State Drive
Storage: Inland Premium 1 TB M.2-2280 NVME Solid State Drive
Video Card: Zotac GeForce GTX 1070 Ti 8 GB MINI Video Card [From Project ITNOS ]
Power Supply: Enhance 600 W 80+ Platinum Certified Flex ATX Power Supply
Custom: Velka 5
Generated by PCPartPicker 2021-07-13 16:00 EDT-0400
Firstly, a special thanks to @Den for nabbing an Open Box Motherboard deal at Microcenter as well as the CPU, RAM and storage used. He actually had a few parts from decommissioned builds that he was willing to sell me which I am very thankful for, as there was no way I would have gotten or even considered 32GB CL16 RAM which, hilariously enough wasn’t even intentional (He quoted me for 16gb and later realized he only had 32gb LOL).
This build stemmed from the idea that my girlfriend wanted to get into PC gaming but we had multiple ideas on what that PC would look like. Many ideas were presented including an ATX PC with the inside decorated to look like the bottom of the ocean floor (still a great idea) however her potential life plans might involve moving from state to state in the near future temporarily, so a more portable PC would benefit such necessity. So tentatively I created multiple preliminary builds as simple concepts. Fast Forward to Early June 2021, and I found a listing on R/hardwareswap for the Velka 5 V2.0 PC case, the ENP-7660B-VK FlexATX PSU (made special for this case), and a Noctua NH-L9a-AM4 chromax heatsink. Guy wanted to sell the whole thing as a set and would not part out which I was okay with. Before I even could think about if this was even a good idea I had purchased it. [Bad Influence. Avoid.] With that in motion, I quickly scrambled to get all the other parts in place. Only the CPU and one of the two SSD’s are technically brand new, but all parts minus the GPU were only “lightly used”.
The case, PSU and cooler arrived before a majority of the parts so out of curiosity, I decided to do a test fit as I knew I wanted to use either of the 1070ti’s I had in Project ITNOS; my [email protected] rig because as we all know prices for GPU’s are insane (but they’re getting better!) and it would come down to which one fit. For reference, I had a Zotac Mini and a EVGA FTW2; two very different cards in terms of form factors but both very capable cards that performed nearly identically even when pushed to the limits.
So I shut Down ITNOS, Pulled out the FTW2 card and attempted to fit it. After a lot of wiggling and a large amount of disassembling, it was a Success!.. Or so it would seem…
Now the FTW2 card is 267mm long, the EXACT length that is officially supported by this case (technically its 270mm but the end of the GPU is touching the end of the case, so one of these two measurements is fudged). However the max height that this case is reference height; meaning the card cant be taller than a PCI-E slot. The FTW2 is about 1" taller than a PCI-E bracket, which pushed up your PCIE connectors. In most ATX cases, this would be no issues (I say most, because anyone with a PC-O11D and a tall GPU knows whats coming next…)
-----THE CARD WONT FIT-----
This card uses the standard Flush-Mount PCI-E power connectors typically found on most cards. Now if this had been something like a modern MSI RTX Gaming X series card, the Power connectors would actually be recessed into the shroud, giving us the clearance we needed. Panic! What do we do??? Even the Zotac Mini despite being “Mini” has the same height issue! Our only two options are to get a new GPU (yay shortage pricing! ) or to try to find some sort of adapter. After doing some googling, we found a few options…
FOR REFERENCE ONLY, DO NOT BUY THESE. I REPEAT, DO NOT BUY!!!
This popped up amongst the searched items for “Low profile PCI-E power adapter” which at first glance look pretty slick and an ingenious idea, right? Well I know someone who used these before, and trust me when I say this, it did not end well . The entire PC caught on fire and a AMD Threadripper and two 2080’s all water-cooled were destroyed by a $7 connector. So again, please, for the safety of your components I recommend you do not buy these. I’m only leaving this here as a PSA.
Assuming something like this concept did work without destroying property, I ran into another issue.
The Connectors, assuming they angled 180º up and to the backplate of the GPU, would immediately hit the PSU and/or cover up the are where a 2.5" drive would be (there isnt one in this build but it’s an easy add in in the future). This means a Low profile cable would be needed for this application. I found a few options but ended up going with ModDIY’s low profile Extensions (down and right angles) which two over two weeks to ship from china, but they worked perfectly!
Meanwhile @Den was busy gathering the troops on the other side of the case…
Source: Courtesy of @Den
Source: Courtesy of @Den
few days later
Shocking to go from to photo quality isnt it? I apologize to your eyes
-----Everything Comes Together-----
With all of the parts in, I finally invited my girlfriend over to surprise her with everything, and we got started on having her build the PC. Typically I have the person who will be the end user build as much of the PC as possible with minimal labor on my end so they can get the satisfaction of saying “I built it” (I being themselves) but given the challenges faced, I lent more of a hand than I typically do. That being said, I still had her walk through all of the steps needed to assemble the PC (and even had her disassemble parts like removing the CPU & Ram just so that she had the experience of doing so)
Both M.2 slots are occupied with 1TB drives, which should be plenty for what 'he’s going to use this PC for. With everything set, we can finally get to the good part of the build.
-----Velka 5 V2.0: Inside the Case-----
This might arguably be the most premium case I’ve worked with (runner up would be PC-O11D in build quality, and Thermaltake Level 10 GT in price); it’s not exactly a huge contest as typically the builds I put together for people use sub $100 cases as they tend to offer better value or at least leave room for more powerful hardware. But in this instance, I dont think you can buy a smaller case that will still fit a 270mm long GPU (I’ve double checked using this SFF Google Doc) and it doesnt compromise in performance either. My biggest concern was noise, but we’ll get to that later.
The entire side is Honey comb mesh which structurally is the strongest shape as well as allowing the most amount of airflow (compared to circular designs in mesh panels like Phanteks cases) Neither of these facts are going to make a significant impact on the case since it’s not going to be supporting weight or make-or-break the CPU/GPU from being o the verge of thermal shut downs, just some nerdy things that make this case cool to me. Like the PC-O11D, There’s one major panel that needs to come off first in order to get the rest off (in this instance, it’s the front panel which covers three screws on the front supports) and it’s easily removed by the four counter sunk screws on the top/bottom.
The side panels have six screws each; three countersunk at the front and three button-heads in the rear. This seems like a lot of screws but it goes pretty quickly as the tolerances are solid and the screws only need a few turns each to be completely removed. You may notice slots on the rear and multiple hole slots at the front. This is to allow “experimental” clearances according to Velkase’s literature, and the only reason taller ram like the Trident Z fits.
At this point in the build, most normal cases would be as stripped down as you can get, but this case can go much father, removing basically everything and leaving you with essentially a pile of parts which is pretty neat if you can put it all back together again. For most SFF cases in this price category, this is par for the course but as a first time SFF user, this is awesome to work with and a significant change of pace from the typical mATX or ATX builds I build. The Steel supports on the outside of the frame come off, as well as the entire main frame from the motherboard tray itself!
Even the PCI-E bracket can be removed front he motherboard tray (and other than the steel supports it’s notably the only non black part in the entire case. Its at this point users should turn to the manual to figure out the best way to assemble the PC. We did not do this and initially tried to assemble the Motherboard to the case frame while it was still partially assembled. This is not only difficult for a multitude of reasons, but it’s also impossible to later install the Video Out extension cables needed for the GPU.
When doing the research on this case I tried to locate build logs and ended up falling short; Many of the builds were of the old Velka 5 V1.0/V1.1, which became as far as I’m aware the current Velka 7, having an SFF PSU and a larger GPU chamber. Of all the builds I could find, only one or two used the rev 2.0 which I studied with a critical eye (though not critical enough as I still made mistakes), and many of the issues I encountered were both verified and resolved based on their experiences. Some of the issues I did not have thanks to the upgraded PSU, more on that later.
Shot of the Sub assembly in the Case. It’s a lot easier to install this when the motherboard tray is outside the case frame, so listen to the manual, not these assembly photos!
The Vertical riser cable bends… feel like the first time I held a CPU; If I hold/fold it the wrong way I’m gonna break it. Fortunately the cable is more resilient than I think most people realize, and the hard part was getting the bend just right to make the weird turn. I used the steel supports to help make the alignment bends (the full instructions nd where/how to line everything up is in the manual) At first it felt impossible but after a few tries I actually got the bend to work out pretty okay. It’s not pretty, but the GPU still works! So it’s not broken or shorted.
It was at this point that we realized we should have consulted the manual, and realized you could take the motherboard tray out (and it was necessary for many of the install steps)
This is how it should have been installed; separate from the main shell and with all the items plugged in. This is arguably my favorite photo of the entire build as it really illustrates the compactness of everything. It’s at this point we could reinstall the inner guts of the system to the shell. Notably not all screw hole lines back up (the two rear exterior screws, specifically), likely due to the sheer size of the GPU being squeezed into it, but there’s so little room and a number of points of contact with the main shell that its still structurally sound and shouldnt have any issues.
Here you can see how much of a difference the low profile connectors make. Some people may not like the colors, partial sleeving or the shrink wrap, which is fine because A; the connectors themselves cannot be seen at all once the build is complete an dB, it’s my build, you are free to use your own solution if you decide to mimic something similar.
The PSU is the unsung hero of this entire build; it’s a custom PSU that comes in the same black as the case with all black cables, shortened lengths and an upgraded PSU fan (the non -VK part number has none of these features) All of this does matter from a aesthetics perspective as the black cables ARE visible if you have lights in the case, and the fan is SUPER quiet; I thought it was off at first (like a Zero RPM mode) but alas, it does function! This was my biggest concern of the whole build as I had heard many-a-complaint about the non-custom version being too loud and users switching out their power supplies for something more like the HDPlex 400.
For this specific board, the front panel connectors were directly next to the 24 pin power connector, so routing the cables took a lot of re-doing of some of the cables. Thankfully everything is short enough that there’s not a tangled mess of cables. It should also be noted that despite the PSU being specific to this case, I still had the issue of the board’s 24 pin being so close to the edge of the internal volume that the 24 pin cable latch prevented the front panel from being installed, so we sniped it off with some very sharp scissors. I am unsure if this is just a Gotcha of Gigabyte boards, or if other boards have the 24 pin plug that close to the internal volume edge as well, but my gut would be that most users will need to make this small edit which isnt too much of a big deal since most users will probably only use their PSU’s with this case anyways.
The 1070ti FTW2 fills the space so well! Now time to take a few assembled photos…
To the surprise of no one, the aluminum front panel is a finger print magnet
Powered off side view, really showcasing how crammed the FTW2 is, but also how great it looks!
Rear I/o. You can see the screws that didnt aalign perfectly here. The I/O cutout also looks a bit larger than they typically are, but otherwise nothing vvery exciting here.
The board has it’s own RGB lights but they’re completely covered by the front panel. I might consider adding an RGB strip in here later if I have the space just to even out the lighting in the entire case.
One of the top screws did NOT want to go in. Ii could sit there and re-drill it or strip the screws (they come with extras) but I decided to just say screw it, I’m not screwing it.
The case comes with multiple sets of stick-on feet. Some OCD persons might get upset about the top-left foot, but I did not want to cover up the screw holes for the 2.5" SSD mount even though it will never be used. Also RIP paint, at least the scratch is on the bottom.
Here you can see the “experimental” hole mounts to offset the panels a few mm to allow for extra space. We actually assembled the GPU side completely flush, but adjusted it when one of the GPU fans was touching the side panel (just the middle hub not any of the blades, thankfully) Most likely the middle adjustment options could have been used but we decided to make it “symmetrical” and use the larger of the two optional points.
Shot of the low profile GPU cables. Because I didnt have a 2.5" SSD, I was able to use the cavity between the PSU and GPU for cables like the SATA power cables (they give you two plugs but have support for up to four SSD’s…) and the power button wire.
Another shot of the trimmed 24 pin power cable latch
Cables were actually very simple to work with; they’re a bit thinner than most cables with a lot of sleeving so they’re a LOT easier to bend and tuck where you need them to be. I also used the metal supports to help hold everything within the internal volume of the case.
I will never get tired of this view.
Some final Isometric view shots:
I dont have screenshots, but here’s the gist. The R5 3600 scored roughly 3500 in R20 on PBO settings, all while running 85ºC of the L9a-AM4. The cooler seems to run at 100% fan speed at around 60ºC, which seems excessive but isnt too terribly loud. So far it’s definitely the loudest part of the system, and my girlfriend isnt bothered by it so I’m not gonna head into the BIOS to update it.
The GPU doesn’t go above 70ºC in a unigine heaven test (not the heaviest work load but a decent indication of the older games she’d be more likely to play) A custom fan curve was set to not go above 35% fan speed at 60ºC so it’s pretty quiet even when under load.
The PSU, I haven’t even heard yet (possibly because the CPU cooler is decently loud) which as mentioned previously was whisper quiet and my biggest concern of this entire build.