Thin/slimline/"pizza box" gaming chassis

PSU internal, GPU "right side up"

PSU internal, GPU "upside down"

PSU external, GPU "right side up"

PSU external, GPU "upside down"

See also the Modivio xCase has a version for every category.

What distinguishes a pizzabox?

I decided long ago on a 92mm CPU fan, not a 120mm beast straddling the whole motherboard blocking DIMM and M.2 slots and giving the case the experience of a cramped cupboard. I don't like "efficient" when it leads to that. A stationary computer is partly an art piece for me, I want to feel peace and harmony when I look into it!

That's the upside of the classic ATX miditower: the experience of roominess and easy access, and I've seen 1990s pizzaboxes that created the same experience. To do so, the case should leave about 5 centimeters of margin around every component (and between the component and outer panels), allowing cables to go around the components as if they were roads around buildings.

The best modern example I've seen is the HDPLEX H5, but there's surely room for improvement. It holds no candle to the unidentified 90s cases I've seen—I wish I could link to those.

In my mind, "pizzabox" refers to those 90s cases that didn't try to be small-form-factor, just thin. They emphasised easy access. You didn't have the typical trouble with modern SFF (small-form-factor) PCs where you must try to get your hands in under other components to make adjustments in nooks and crannies, nor did you have to remove other components to get them out of the way — you could access any one component in isolation and swap it out in isolation! That's my pizza-box dream.

For another distinguishing trait, you know those roof brackets, whatever they're called, that run across the middle of many modern slimline chassis to help with sturdiness? The thinner the case, the sillier this looks. In a 1990s pizzabox, you didn't have that – you just had full-blown walls, i.e. the pizzabox could be divided into 2-5 separate compartments. They could do this because they didn't put so much of a premium on low volume per se, just thinness.

I'm biased, but I think here's an unexploited market segment. That's particularly true for 1U-thin cases, because there are at least three tricks that become obvious once you permit yourself to be generous with the X and Y dimensions, but I've never seen them in the wild:

  • Water cooling: 1U gives just enough headroom (44mm) for a radiator plus slim fans.
    • (And it'd easily look fantastic)
  • The FlexATX PSU can be quiet if you cool it with a slim 80-120mm fan in front of the PSU – you simply remove the builtin 40mm fan and perforate extra air grilles in the PSU enclosure.
  • Even if you don't watercool, It would be easy in a 44mm headroom to perfectly plan the airflow and thus force regular chassis airflow right through the CPU and GPU heatsinks on its way out. (As an illustrative example, you could file down an Artic Passive AM4 heatsink to fit.) Thus, you don't need any fans hugging the heatsink diretly, the fans can be elsewhere in the chassis, and as a consequence the chassis can permit heatsinks of reasonable mass.
    • Imagine a three-compartment pizzabox: along one edge sits three 120mm+ slim fans… one for the PSU compartment, one for the entire CPU compartment, one for the GPU compartment.
    • As an aside, it seems to me the small-form-factor market would be interested if someone made a mini-ITX motherboard with a boxed CPU heatsink that perfectly fits the motherboard in question, using all the free volume over its 170x170mm area (and for non-pizzaboxes, inviting an 170mm fan on top of it all)!

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  • Things I (don't) care about
Created (14 months ago)