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NUC in a Mac Mini case

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May 27, 2010
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Zotac Z77-ITX
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i5-2500K
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HD 3000 + GTX 660
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In case it helps anyone, here is a picture story of shortening the Bitfenix Front Panel USB cables and putting male USB plugs on one end of them.

Took ages……












Edit: Did a quick test fit and will have to remove the heatshrink and sleeving as they make the cables too stiff to manipulate in the confines of the case. New plan is that once final positioning is decided on I will wrap them in wiring loom type tape as this should protect them and also will fix their bends/curves to be in the right places.
 
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Before I do the audio cable adaption I thought I would just try the original combined front audio port with my iPhone headset to see if there is any problem with selection of ports if the connection is permanently plugged in.

Although everything is selectable in the System Preferences and will happily manually switch between the HDMI audio and the headset etc, it seemed to me that it made the NUC less responsive than usual. Especially, it seemed sometimes to cause my EyeTV to go no-responsive at random intervals, I am not sure but maybe there is some sort of monitoring process going on in the background when the headset jack is plugged in??

This is causing me to wonder whether I should bother to have audio on the rear panel as I am in reality unlikely to ever use the headset outputs and a fully responsive NUC is far more important to me than having rear panel audio.

…...It does bug me though, as I like my mods to be fully functional in terms of IO ports. I'll do some more testing and then come to a decision.
 
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Just scared myself.

The brick I have been using is one of those variable voltage universal laptop supplies with different power supply tips that join using 2 prongs of slightly different circumference. These are supposed to be safe so that the big prong cannot go into the small "hole" in the tip.

I just found out it is not so foolproof as fiddling around the back of the case it came loose and so I went to plug it back in and somehow the reverse voltages got applied momentarily (with an accompanying small puff of smoke!).

I disconnected and re-tested and waited.....eventually it came back to life. The CMOS was reset, but apart from that it all seems okay.

I have now swapped power bricks for one without the removable tips. Actually I have changed for a 12V brick from my Cube build. So far it looks to be all okay.....
 
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I found the headset splitter item I linked earlier to be impossible to splice, but I have found a couple of items that I am hopeful will allow the front combined audio port of the NUC to be used with.

The first is this one:

$_57-4.JPG

and the second is this.

$_57-5.JPG

These items look much more hopeful and I have ordered both, so as to keep my options open.

I have a few possible implementations to try out -
(a) use the first item to hook up the front port to the twin audio plugs of the Bit Fenix part;
(b) abandon the bit fenix part and use the first item to route to a combined audio socket on the rear (to save a little rear panel space;
( c ) use the second item in the way it is intended, i.e. as a complete extension cord and keep the cord coiled within the base of the NUC, so that it can be uncoiled and used whenever wanted. As the front port of the NUC is easily accessed from the base, a small notch could be made in the base cover to let the cord be attached to pass out of the base cover and then used when needed. In reality this might actually be the most user friendly option as it removes clutter from the rear panel (potentially allowing more USB ports etc) and also the length of the cord would allow greater freedom for hooking up headsets/mic/headphones.

Edit 13 May: So these bits arrived. After testing and playing around I decided to go with option ( c). Reason: I am convinced that when the headset connection is plugged in to the NUC at the same time as using HDMI audio there is an impact on system resources that affects my EyeTV viewing in the form of occasional stuttering of the TV output. As for the foreseeable future I am unlikely to need analog audio except for my iMovie projects I am just leaving the analog audio connection to hand so it can be plugged in on demand. This also gives me more back panel room for alternative use.
 
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A small task today. I made up a plate for bringing the wifi antennae inside the case so that they are not on the base.

IMG_1263.jpg

IMG_1264.jpg

The wifi symbol in the middle is engraved and then filled in with correction fluid (!) and the wifi antennae are stuck underneath it. This board also stabilises the hard drive in the case - it is attached to the plate using a couple of M3 standoffs and screws - as well as making it look a little nicer in that area.

I am still thinking about the final form now of the rear panel and the connectivity.
 
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Just a small update (in case you thought this had ground to a halt!).

I am using the Nuc Mini every day now for TV viewing and as media store. It is not finished yet, as I am still awaiting a thin backplate piece that I hope will fit and bond to the Mac Mini plastic plate I have as a nice finishing piece.

I am also building my little companion mini which has a genuine Mac Mini PSU onboard, a pair of hardware 500GB Raid0 2.5" drives and will soon also include a USB 3.0 4 port hub. This module will sit under the NUC mini most of the time and act as Time Machine Volume and extra Hub for periperals. It'll also be the power supply for the NUC mini itself so that there is only one mains power connection and no external brick.

Here are the components I selected to do the stuff inside my NUC companion box:

XG3517-U3-02.jpg

This is an Orico USB 3.0 hard drive adapter and the important thing for me is the sideways USB 3 connection allows enough space so that the PCB on which it is mounted can plug into the double raid PCB from this:

download.jpg

This is an IcyDock MB982SPR-2S and a pair of 2.5 drives plugged into it and then into the PCB from the Orico adapter will just fit sideways inside the Mac Mini enclosure pushed up against the Mac Mini 85W PSU.

Before dismantling I have tested the Orico and it works well with OS X and is recognised and I have also tried the Icy Dock with it - and speed tested the combination over USB. Even with a pair of mechanical hard drives it shifts along pretty speedily.

The little USB 3 Hub I am going to be putting into the case is this one:

cliptec.jpg

cliptecrear.jpg

The cheap surround of this hub won't be seen and I like that it has one port that will face inside the case and three ports to the rear - I hope that I'll be able to hook up the USB 3 connection from the Orico board to the inward facing connection so that then I can just use a single USB 3.0 cable to the companion box which will be then a single connection for USB external drive and 3 port hub...I'll need to do some testing though to see if speed of the drive connection would be acceptable for me. I think it should be okay as long as I only plug USB 3 devices into the 3 port hub. It'll then give everything a much cleaner cabling.

The hub is unpowered, but does have the possibility for powering via a 5v connection. The Orico is of course powered and only needs 12v and so will get that direct from the Mac Mini PSU. I'll try the hub as a basic unpowered config first, but (if needs be) I do have room in the Mac Min case for a small 12v-5v buck converter.

What I will have when this companion box is finished is my own take on something that is a half way cross between the NewerTech Ministack (which is a aluminium hd enclosure having the footprint of a Mac Mini) and the Ministack Max (which is taller and uglier than the Mac Mini - it has a plastic "aluminium finish" body - but includes a USB hub and an Optical drive).
 
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