As we look to conclude final changes to Project Nova's design, and as James continues to incorporate those last modifications into the digital models of the case, I figured that it was about time for another quick update on the state of the project, for those who might not be aware of everything that's gone on.

In the background, we've been working on a ton of stuff, from some web development and authoring, to business and other legal matters, to conversations with various manufacturers. And, very soon, we'll have all sorts of news and updates to that end - we're very excited to be ever-closer to both the crowdfunding campaign, and the production run. However, until that time, conversations surrounding Project Nova on the forums have focused on these last-minute design changes. So, let's go through some of the most recent ones that have come up!

 
The rails offer tremendous flexibility, and maximize the amount of vertical clearance that's useable for end users.

The rails offer tremendous flexibility, and maximize the amount of vertical clearance that's useable for end users.

#1: Sliding 120mm mounts on the front and bottom

Originally, the 120mm mount points on the front of Project Nova were fixed, since the power supply was stationary (thus eliminating any margins of space that could support adjustments). However, once we opted to support rear-mounted power supplies. we recognized that such a configuration opened up the entire front of the case for fans, storage, and other components to be mounted.

Consequently, we've elected to use "rails" on the front of Project Nova, which provide a significant amount of flexibility when attaching hardware. Using the included 3.5" drive bracket, for example, you can now push up drives to the front-top of the case, and have room for a 120mm fan below. Or, if you want to maximize cooling, you can precisely align fans vertically, ensuring more direct airflow across components.

Better yet, since we've completely maximized the amount of vertical space you can use, most 120mm radiators can now be mounted up front, while still leaving enough room for a 120mm fan to be placed above or below it. This makes AIO's and water loops far more practical with rear-mounted power supplies, which we think many will appreciate, given the limitation on CPU cooler clearance that such a configuration imposes.

Finally, we've also added these rails to the bottom of the case as well, so that these adjustment capabilities extend to every 120mm mount in the case. Overall, we're very satisfied that such a simple change can provide so much additional functionality.

 

#2: A smaller power button and I/O profile, to maximize width clearances

Another change to the front panel has been to go with a slightly smaller anti-vandal switch for power. Which, I'll admit, seems trivial at first, but the impact is notable, since by shrinking the horizontal clearance of the case I/O, we're able to allocate that space to whatever hardware that's mounted to the front!

In fact, by making this modification, we're now able to say that just about anything that fits on Project Nova's bottom, width-wise, will also fit on the front. When coupled with a ~3mm width increase to the case, this means that most any hardware you could want to place on the front and bottom will fit just fine, with regards to width. Which is pretty remarkable, and quite handy - we've all been frustrated with almost fitting components in tight spaces, so eliminating those scenarios wherever possible is always a boon.

 

#3: A ~1.5cm depth increase, to dramatically expand what's possible to build within Project Nova

Lastly, and after some considerable discussion, we've elected to add a small amount of depth to Project Nova - roughly 4.5% more, or 1.5cm. - in order to more broadly support mounted hardware and graphics cards. Although we don't take adding volume lightly at all (keeping Project Nova as small as possible is perhaps the most prominent factor in our decision making), such a small change in one dimension provides a massive list of benefits, while remaining practically unnoticeable. To give just a taste of some of them:

A screenshot of James's experimentation of various hardware configurations, as we first began to look at what would be possible with various dimension changes.

A screenshot of James's experimentation of various hardware configurations, as we first began to look at what would be possible with various dimension changes.

  1. In tandem with the sliding mounts, certain combinations of fans and hardware mounted to the front-bottom and bottom-front of Project Nova no longer intersect.
  2. Save for extra-long graphics cards such as the R9 295X2, essentially all video cards leave enough clearance for a front-mounted 120mm fan to be installed, providing direct airflow.
  3. For all of nVidia's flagship cards, and for most of AMD's flagships, there remains enough room at the front of the case for many-to-most 240mm radiators to be installed.
  4. In combination, these benefits now make it possible (if only just) to have a 2x240mm, fully water-cooled rig, replete with single or dual graphics, when you select reasonably-sized radiators, and use an integrated pump and reservoir.
  5. Using the 2.5" bracket piggyback-style on the PSU will no longer almost interfere with a thick side-mounted radiator and fan, when it is swung outward.
  6. Finally, certain challenges we were facing with regards to manufacturing tolerances and clearances are incidentally resolved.
 

Lastly, a bonus update: Testing the new Intel 750

When he hasn't been working on the design, James has also been playing with his brand new PCIe SSD, fresh from Intel's fabs. And to tell the truth, I'm supremely jealous. As he discussed on SFF Forum, in his testing of the SSD when sandwiched between two 980s:

Here it is, installed between the two reference GTX 980s. Side panel was installed when running the tests, though.

Tests were done with the 750 as a secondary drive using the Intel NVMe drivers. For stress testing the 750 I'm using Iometer w/4 workers @ QD32 running 4K aligned random writes to the entire drive (pretty much worst case scenario). For the GPUs I used Unigine Valley with the Ultra settings (except fullscreen). Iometer was left running for the entire testing period. Ran 3 tests, first no front fan, then front fan on, then front fan on and GPUs running Valley.

1 hour of Iometer, GPUs idling, front fan turned off
ambient: 24-25°C
750 temp: 53°C

1 hour of Iometer, GPUs idling, front fan @ 1020RPM
ambient: 26-27°C
750 temp: 49°C

1 hour of Iometer, GPUs running Valley, front fan @ 1020RPM
ambient: 28-29°C
750 temp: 72°C

Load testing on the SSD and graphics, captured with a thermal imager. A little toastier that we would have liked, but performance was not affected. Also: does anything *not* look cool through a thermal imager?

Load testing on the SSD and graphics, captured with a thermal imager. A little toastier that we would have liked, but performance was not affected. Also: does anything *not* look cool through a thermal imager?

Anyway, and as always, you can follow us on SFF Forum to contribute to the conversation or hear the latest news. We'll have pretty big updates in the coming weeks, so be sure to stay tuned, and feel free to subscribe to our newsletter if you want to be the first to know!