Powerful gaming rigs with smaller and smaller footprints; that’s where the enthusiast PC market is headed. Thus far we’ve seen an influx of exclusive small form factor PC case designs from companies like Falcon Northwest, iBuyPower, and Digital Storm lately. With the advent of Steam Machines, that trend will only intensify. Enter boutique PC builder Velocity Micro.
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The Richmond, Virginia-based company has debuted the SmallBlock (yep, inspired by Chevrolet’s long-running V8 engine), a new line of Mini ITX workstations and gaming desktops. The compact chassis was designed by Velocity Micro’s engineers with an emphasis on aesthetics, performance, and cooling. It measures 12.75”H x 8”W x 9.1”D and still accommodates full-sized ATX power supplies and double width graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia.
Perhaps crucially, the SmallBlock is completely fanless.
I asked Velocity Micro’s Josh Covington if the company had any heat concerns with the passive cooling design. “The first (and possibly most important) thing we’ve done is engineered these systems to generate less heat overall with more efficient PSUs, better CPU thermals thanks to [Intel's] Haswell, and by using pretested GPUs we know to be efficient,” Covington said. “The cooling in mainly done by the case itself. It’s 100% aluminum, which acts as a massive heat sink for the unit to dissipate that heat. It’s also raised about half an inch above the ground, which gives the unit an additional surface for cooling.”
As with most boutique vendors, the SmallBlock will be customizable, but it carries certain restrictions in order to reinforce the passive cooling design. For example, graphics card support will top out at Nvidia’s GTX 760 and AMD’s R9 270. On the CPU end of things, the SmallBlock supports Intel Core i3, i5, i7 and Xeon, or AMD A10 APUs. Users can also squeeze in two SSDs or standard hard drives and a single optical drive.
Designing your own chassis in-house instead of relying on existing designs from dedicated case manufacturers is a bold and expensive step, and represents a company going all-in. It’s certainly an attractive box, but will it dethrone Falcon Northwest’s Tiki from my “Perfect PC” perch? I’ll attempt to answer that question as the company will be sending a review unit along in the coming weeks.
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