The first thing i had to figure out was what format board I wanted to use. The obvious choice was the mItx board, but its limited to 16 gigs of ram. I was looking to go big on this one as Photoshop tends to use as much as you can feed it. I typically have a lot of things going on in my computer too, so ram is a big deal. Matx is the next choice. it has a lot of solid options and can support 32 gigs of ram. it also has more than a single pci slot, which would be nice in the storage arena as it would allow me to add more sata ports.
After looking long and hard at the cases available for matx, there just didn't seem to be any choices of box that was very small. Size is the absolute most important feature of this build, I really need it small enough to put ON the desk, not under it, and be able to cart it around in my truck with the billion other things i drive around with.
So since matx is out, mitx is in.
Now that I know which form factor I want, I've got to look for some boxes.
I want a box i can put up on the desk, under my monitor, so I don't mind if it has a large footprint, but "thickness" is something that I'd like to keep on the minimum. Looking around the net, I found a great many nice thin cases, but non of them supported a full size GPU. I'm not sure why theres no such thing as a 90° PCIE adapter, so that the gpu can lay flat instead of standing, but there just isn't anything like that, that I was able to find. so no thin cases with full size GPU capability.
Looking in the "full size" case arena, There was a number of options, but the Lian-li TU200 looked to be tailor made for what I want to do.
Its rugged construction, large drive bay design, handle at the top and very small size are pretty much exactly what the doctor ordered. Its still as thick as a normal desktop case, but there really isn't any way to design it any other way and still do what it can do.
The features of the case include room for a full size PSU, full size GPU, single 5.25" front slot, 4 hot swappable 3.5" hard drive bays, a mounting kit for 2 x 2.5" Hard drives (or ssd), Thats room for 4 full size hard drives and 2 small drives of any flavor I want. The 2.5" mounting kits mean that I don't have to use up a 3.5" bay for a boot SSD, and can keep it for a large capacity drive. Front panel ports are 2 x USB 3 ports and an E-SATA port which will give me fast connections to any external drives i still use. The fact that its just about the smallest mitx case i could find, gives it some pretty amazing potential.
Because i'm a photographer, I do a lot of uploading of data from memory cards. My cameras use compact flash, so I thought I would look around for a good card reader for the optical drive slot. While I was browsing around at those, I came across something by Vantec called the EZ swap F4. This little gem allows you to add a 4 bay 2.5" HDD hot swap rack to the 5.25" optical slot in the front of your computer. This had me pretty intrigued as storage for me never ends. There is no "wow man, you'll never use all that" so more for me, is definitely better. And it was purdy too.
I decided that I just HAD to have this rack. its so awesome. But of course this is going to present a few challenges of its own.
The box already has room for 6 hard drives, with the other 4 from the rack, that makes 10. Last time I checked, there weren't any mitx boards with that many sata ports, so I'll have to add some. The next issue is that adding ports to a board is usually done through a pci/e slot… mitx only has one, and I intend to use that for the GPU. Port multipliers are not so common, but with the help of Arinoth, I was able to locate one online. It didn't come cheap though, but it did give me 4 extra ports. (5, but since I lost a port to multiply it, the fifth one really just gave me back the one I lost) So with the addition of the port multiplier I be able to add a few more sata drives, and that hdd rack will be mine!
Next part that needs consideration is the motherboard itself. I need to know what I have there so that I can match the rest of the parts properly.
This computer is destined to gaming and photo editing, with an emphasis on storage and performance. The motherboard is going to need to put out, so to speak. After looking at a number of mitx boards, I decided on a MSI Z87 GAMING AC. The board is designed with gaming in mind, and boasts 5 internal SATA ports, 4 external USB3 ports and a bus for front panel USB3 as well. On board high speed wireless will make my life a lot easier too, as most desktop machines are hard wired, or require separate wireless radios. Being on the road, wireless is king, so this board has everything I need, and easy OC too.
Now that we have the box and the board, its time to figure on ram. Gskill tridents are a good bang for your buck and OC well. Nice and fast, so i picked up a pair of 8 gig sticks.
I'm out of time for this post, so I'll post some more later.