How does the DAN A4-SFX look?
With a quick glance at the A4-SFX you may be inclined to think of Lian Li, and isn’t that surprising? As DANS Original Equipment Manufacturer for this project is in fact Lian Li. An expensive choice, but one that comes with stellar build quality. Quality that you’ll get to see throughout the case, as we go through our overview.
Starting with the front of the case.
We are greeted with a reserved aesthetic with only 2 objects breaking through the solid, brushed, aluminium panel. A USB 3.0 plug, and a power button. The circular power button is unfortunately wobbly, and also does not feature a satisfying tactile click. To look at however, the power button manages to suit the case design perfectly, and almost fades away flush into the rest of the panel.
No lights or LEDs in the A4-SFX?
One important aspect to note here is that no illumination of any kind is built into the A4-SFX case. So for anybody interested in building a PC this small, but still wants their Case to show off some life, then I recommend getting an LED strip of some sort, in order to show signs that your computer is even actually on.
The side panels
Both of the side panels are more or less identical, featuring very large circular mesh areas. The A4SFX places your graphics card on the left hand side, whilst your CPU and power cooler situate on the right side of the case, giving plenty of room. As always with these tiny pc cases, the primary concern is heat, and the A4-SFX gives you the peace of mind that you need to know that all of your rig will breathe easy.
Both side panels are held on by a pair of screws at the bottom. The side panels are also held on by Lian Lis ball and socket pressure mounts, which are so stiff that if you are inclined to do so, you could ignore the screws all together with the confidence that your side panels are still secure. That’s actually pretty cool!
The top of the case also features a large, circular mesh. To remove the top unit in one piece, you first have to undo some screws on the top along with a couple on the bottom of the case to release it.
As you look at the bottom of the case you’ll see some styled air holes, and featuring a really weird Solid State Drive mounting system. It has easy to remove tool-less rubber mounts but then due to how they’re positioned and how the slots correspond, you still have to completely unscrew 2 of the slots in order to slide out and release the SSD.
It’s not that bad and it’s probably done this was just to make sure that the SSD is secure, but it probably would have been just fine to leave the screws in the parallel orientation so that you could just slide the SSD out easily. Oh well, not a big deal.
There’s also 4 feet on the bottom which unfortunately aren’t grippy, and they don’t really stick to anything very well, but they’re effective enough whilst only leaving a little to be desired.
At the back there’s nothing much to notice other than getting a first really good look at the scale of the A4-SFX. You can’t quite appreciate the scale an design until you have seen something like a known quantity, like the standard motherboard IO panel.
On the back I noticed a “gap thing?” above the expansion card slot. Now personally I don’t really mind it, but I do feel it could have been covered in some way to make the overall look and feel of the case polished.
So what does the A4-SFX offer?
Well the specifications of the A4-SFX are rather important. We’ve covered the overall look and design of the A4-SFX, now its time to review the inside of this small form factor case and dig a little deeper.
For your graphics card the A4-SFX can accommodate a maximum height of 144 mm from the bottom of the PCIe slot to the top of the card. The case supports a maximum width of 40 mm without a back plate, or 45 mm with one. It then supports a maximum length of 306 mm with the bracket, or 295 mm without.
Now this may seem scary and confining, but it’s really not all that bad. I was able to squeeze my Nvidia EVGA 8GB 1080 classified, a MASSIVE video card, into the case without any issue.
The A4-SFX offers great protection for your Video Card
At least part of the “no issues” with this build is thanks to the clear plastic shield that DAN included. This sturdy plastic shield will protect the back of your GPU that’s potentially not equipped with a protective back plate of its own. This will Protect your GPU from the metal internals of the A4-SFX case. A nice touch which will assuredly save someone a headache or two.
Motherboard compatibility in the A4-SFX is amazing in its unremarkable feat. To explain, the DAN case is only slightly larger than the Zotac Zbox Magnus EN980, however instead of a proprietary motherboard to go with the mxm form factor graphics card, you can decide to go with standard ITX in the A4-SFX instead, as long as you note the maximum height of 48 mm and 52 mm for the CPU cooler and memory respectively.
For the power supply in the A4-SFX you can choose either SFX or the slightly longer SFX-L form factor. Although it should be noted that whilst you’ll gain usually a quieter 120 mm fan, you will be restricting yourself from potentially 3 down to 2, 2.5 inch drives. With that being said I would recommend sticking with the front mount and the lower tray mount, leaving the upper tray mounted SSD out of the picture regardless, for easier cable management.
It’s fair to say the DAN Case A4-SFX is beautiful, efficient and actually rather fun to build. That being said I did find myself getting frustrated on a number of occasions while working with it, but they weren’t frustrations with this particular build. I got frustrated by other cases. For example whilst installing the GPU, which even with something like an over sized Nvidia classified, a really easy, logical and straight forward card, I marveled that even some mid sized towers could cause problems for me, when DAN in fact was able find an elegant solution to cram big GFX cards into his mere 7.24 liter total volume case.
Now speaking of graphics cards, DAN recommends a blower style GPU, and I second that. However I also recommend noting that even with my Nvidia EVGA 8GB 1080 classified installed, it did get hot, but nowhere near hot enough to throttle the video card. This means your video card may not be able to boost as high as it normally would in a bigger case with better air flow, but I personally found it to be fine.
On the CPU side of things the cooler is going to be pretty similar to any other cooler that would fit in the DAN A4-SFX Case. there’s no cooling substitute that will gain you more surface area and a little bit of mass, due to the restrictions of physics. So the results shown on their website are representative of what you’ll get with a Quad Core and so on.
The DAN Case A4-SFX was a crowed funded project and as such I have heard tales of shipping issues. However on the product side of things at least, I would say “Great Work Dan!” and we at Genius Tech Tips definitely hope to see more from them in the future.
Thank you for visiting my DAN Cases A4-SFX PC Review.