My Stealth Ghost build is the latest incarnation (RIP Stealth Node) of my SFF PC fixation. Stealth Node was built in a Fractal Design Node 304 case as at the time it was one of the smallest mITX cases available. Over the past few years though, several new start-ups have designed SFF cases pushing size limits into thermally restricted and performance limited territory. Few have managed to design a case that’s versatile yet subtle enough for my taste. Louqe has not only designed such a case – but have delivered.
The timing of my old PC failure was impeccable as the Ghost S1 was able to be ordered in 2019. I managed to order it via Amazon with a 10% discount due to Louqe cancelling their website orders. The discount helped as I’m from Australia and had to ship the case to my USA address and then forward it to Australia (using Australia Post Shopmate). I paid a lot more shipping/insurance/tax for the sake of getting the case ASAP as Australian orders from Louqe were indefinite.
I’ve been building and modifying PCs since the early 2000’s when having cold-cathode lighting and a non-beige case was considered extreme. Over the years I have opted for more subtle (stealthy) looking PCs with grunt under the panels, similar concept to ‘sleeper’ vehicles. I chose the Pangea coloured Ghost S1 just to have something different to stare at in my home office, I’m glad I did as the colour is beautiful.
Many hours since February have gone into researching every component of this build and I’ve been waiting on AMD Ryzen 3rd gen CPUs to hit the shelves. Not knowing what the demand would be like – I was one of the first in Australia to buy the processor minutes after the pre midnight release on 8 July. eBay conveniently had a 10% discount code which meant the cheapest price in Oz on launch day with free shipping from my local computer store – trifecta!
I chose the 3700X as it was the best 65W TDP CPU available and SFF PCs always suffer from cooling limitations. I’m not a heavy PC user but when I game/CAD I don’t want to have to push the hardware to its limits. I don’t overclock hardware as it will reduce its MTBF and increase power draw which in turn increases cooling requirements which in turn increases fan noise. A key feature I value over slightly extra performance is silence and the PSU was analysed carefully for this build.
My last build was based on a Corsair AX760 PSU because I had a theory I wanted to test. The specifications have a fan speed/noise to wattage graph and an efficient feature of the PSU is that the fan won’t spin up until 40% power load. I purposefully select a PSU around double the wattage that I require in order to hopefully have it running below the load it starts to add noise into the system with the fan. Conveniently this wattage zone is in the platinum efficiency sweet spot so it’s not just about noise, it’s also saving electrons. The same concept was applied to my previous GPU, the EVGA GTX 980 didn’t spin its fans up until a certain power load was reached. This meant that unless gaming the GPU was also silent, effectively nearly a passively cooled system.
With all of the above in mind here is my component list and justification:
Case (Louqe Ghost S1): Extremely small (8.2L volume) case with subtle appearance yet fits full length GPUs etc. Expensive, but I don’t put a budget on engineering and looks, it will likely be my case for future builds.
PSU (Corsair SF750): Case requires SFX form factor – not negotiable. 7-year warranty and platinum efficiency rating are nice but low noise level and individually sleeved modular cables sealed the deal. I planned to shorten the OEM wires to fit my case but it was difficult to achieve a nice-looking termination and eventually I managed to contort the OEM wires in the tight Ghost S1.
Mobo (Gigabyte X570 I Aorus Pro Wi-Fi): Only X570 chipset mITX mobo available on launch. Considered getting a X470 mobo as I prefer ASUS boards but I’m very impressed with this mobo. The I/O shield could be nicer but the rest of the board screams quality and is very solidly built. It too was 10% off via eBay and time will tell as it was my mobo that died in my Stealth Node build.
CPU (AMD Ryzen 7 3700X): I tried AMD once nearly 15 years ago but was disappointed, fast forward to 2019 and they’re amazingly delivering a 7nm processor which will outperform Intel offerings in the same TDP bracket. The price is great value and I’m sure I won’t be disappointed with the performance of 8 cores.
CPU Cooler (Noctua NH-L12 with NF-A9 PWM Fan): Louqe designed the Ghost S1 when the NH-L12 was the ideal SFF cooler however it’s now discontinued. The latest NH-L12S cooler is too tall to fit the case and requires modification to fit. I prefer elegant solutions and sourced a used NH-L12 which will fit the case as intended. Due to tight height clearances between the heatsink and RAM, I couldn’t fit a NF-A12x15 fan for the CPU cooler. A single 92mm NF-A9 PWM fan will have the responsibility of keeping my 8 cores from throttling. The 92mm also uses the correct mounting clips to hold it securely to the heatsink achieving OEM installation specs. Another reason why I don’t intend to overclock this CPU and one of the sacrifices you must make when going down the SFF route.
Case Fan (Noctua NF-A12x15 PWM): Since there is space for an additional case fan as I haven’t installed a 2.5” SSD, I’ve taken the opportunity to help increase some airflow with the thin profile 120mm offering from Noctua. I had to use the anti-vibration mounts from the NF-A9 though as the slimline fan come with unusually long mounts.
RAM (Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB 3200 MHz): LPX was chosen as I’d hoped the 120x15mm CPU fan would fit however it didn’t work out. The speed and CAS timing combinations were all the same latency however I hadn’t committed to a mobo yet and some X470 mITX contenders may have had compatibility/stability issues with 3600 MHz sticks. The RAM is still worthy to be part of this build so no harm no foul – plus I got it 20% off thanks to eBay.
SSD (Samsung 970 Evo Plus 1TB M.2 NVMe): My introduction to the M.2 form factor and a huge step forward for SFF enthusiasts since it allows one less separate component in PC builds. 1TB was chosen as this matched my existing SSD volume and I hope to transfer everything across seamlessly. I keep half of it free for when I’m editing videos since I temporarily transfer a few hundred GBs onto the SSD for better performance. Again, eBay helped me score 20% off this guy, making it incredible value. There’s also a cashback from Samsung I’ll qualify for so a very good buy indeed.
GPU (Nvidia RTX 2080): I bought this GPU on release day and it delivered, it’s the only component I’ve carried over from my previous build. It was the GPU that finally gave me 60 FPS UHD gaming and is staying for the foreseeable future.
Enough verbiage from me though – tell me what you think!