The FormD T1 is one of the best small form factor pc cases currently on the market and capable of packing some incredible components and cooling solutions into a sub-10L footprint. Today we’re doing an in-depth FormD T1 review, which is our pick of the the best mini itx case currently on the market.
Following its public announcement at Computex in 2019, the FormD T1 (originally marketed as the Sidearmd T1, but renamed in June of 2020 due to some amusing banking policy) promised an innovative fully modular aluminum CNC Mini-ITX case capable of supporting 2 or 3 slot GPU configurations AND maintaining class leading thermals.
Table of Contents
- Shipping and packaging
- FormD T1 Assembly & Build Guide
- FormD T1 Hardware Installation
- Formd T1 Finished Build
- Value and Conclusion
Sidearmd T1 becomes FormD T1
Having taken a page from the popularity defined by other SFF projects like the Louqe Ghost S1 and Dan Case A4, the FormD T1 has been a two-man collaboration with extensive community support to produce an extremely efficient, performance optimized sandwich enclosure that has finally reached the market. Though getting your hands on the T1 is still reliant on a hotly contested preorder process with an extensive shipping timeline, if you’re willing to wait, you’ll be rewarded with one of the best computer cases available today.
FormD T1 Specifications
|Material||Anodized CNC machined aluminum|
|Weight||5.5lbs / 2.5kg (7.3lbs / 3.3kg with packaging)|
|GPU Slot Configuration||2-slot & 3-slot (up to 60mm)|
|GPU Compatibility||312mm Length 140mm High|
|HDD Bays||1 x 2.5” fitting (with additional 2 5″ space if replacing fans)|
|Motherboard Form Factor||Mini-ITX|
|Dimensions||133mm Wide 217mm High 330mm Deep|
|Front Door/Cover||Top of front panel can slide off|
|Top or Bottom Fans||2 x 120mm fan (optional)|
|Front I/O||None Default – Optional upgrade front panel|
|CPU Cooler Compatibility||50mm or 70mm CPU cooler|
|PSU / Power Supply Compatibility||SFX|
|PCIe Riser Cable||PCIex16 Gen3.0 included|
|Water cooling support||Official 120mm AIO (240mm with custom loop)|
Shipping and packaging
The FormD T1 comes shipped in the smallest package possible to reduce shipping costs and further protect components. The already diminutive 9.5L volume of the assembled case is reduced further by flat packing the components in four different foam protected layers. On opening the package you’re greeted with the major structural components of the face plate and the rear supporting structure. There’s also the three main connecting struts and a healthy serving of ITX spacers and screws for good measure.
Though currently only available in black and silver, community requests for additional colors mean a white FormD T1 variant should be available for preorder soon too. We managed to pick up the black version and can happily report the powder coat finishing on the aluminum is superb.
Mesh Side Panels
Removing the top shipping layer of the package reveals the mesh side panels, accessory mounting components and the top and bottom plates of the case along with a Gen 3 riser cable to support the vertical mounting of your graphics card. Also contained within the FormD T1 accessory section is a single silver power button which screws into the back of the case to maintain the clean lines of the front panel.
Interestingly, there’s no instruction manual shipped here (and no tools provided) so make sure you’re appropriately setup with the basics prior to getting started. The build process isn’t going to be the same for everyone either as the case is capable of supporting dual slot and triple graphics cards, there’s a huge amount of flexibility available to you and will change your build order. For some additional resources that can help you out, imgur is hosting the complete FormD T1 contents and there’s an excellent T1 build process over on flickr.
FormD T1 Assembly & Build Guide
Assembling the supports
The first step is to assemble the three spines which connect the front and rear panel via precision cut-outs. This is where you’ll need to determine if you’ll be assembling the FormD T1 in 2 slot or 3 slot GPU mode. We’ve opted for the 2-slot configuration here to accommodate a mid-range Gigabyte RTX 2070 Super Windforce GPU. This has the added benefit of providing a little more headroom to subsequently route the CPU AIO and power cables later on as well.
The quality of machining here is absolutely first class. The carefully considered design ensures each of the side spine supports only fit one-way with subtly different front and back inserts (trust us, we tried the wrong way first). The main center spine can be installed either way, though it’s thankfully easy to reverse if you get it wrong (us, again).
The FormD T1 includes several rear plate options to accommodate the GPU layout you’ve chosen. Below you can see the dual slot GPU plate, and there’s something distinctly rewarding about placing together the pieces and admiring the precision T1 build quality that extends to every part. Look at those flush lines!
GPU Riser Strut
Next up you install the FormD T1 GPU bracket which pulls double duty as the riser strut stand and mini-ITX bracket. You’ll need to select the appropriate offset pins to match your chosen GPU size, but it’s an easy event. Follow this by installing the power supply mounting plate, which fits to the front of the top spine and front plate by default (shown below in top right of frame, just behind the centre strut).
Keep in mind the FormD T1 case will only support an SFX power supply – though that shouldn’t limit components. Here we’re using a Corsair 750W platinum SFX unit that’ll need minimal active cooling while being able to keep up with the most demanding setups.
One of the incredible advantages of the FormD T1 is the modularity with which you can change the setup. Although in the build guide picture above you can see the PSU bracket installed in it’s default position (top right of frame), we eventually offset the PSU, lowered it AND inverted it to give better cable management flexibility (at the questionable expense of worse thermals – more on that later). The same offset customization is possible with the riser strut by extending the offsets if using the case in 3 slot mode too and a variety of other smaller adjustments.
Included in the case is an ADT PCIex16 Gen3.0 riser cable. This will suit most systems on the market, but if you’re putting in the very latest GPU and motherboard combination, you’ll need to upgrade to a Gen4.0 riser cable. The length of cable you’ll need depends on how flexible the riser is and also if you purchase on with the ends vertically mounted. Make sure you check out our motherboard installation below for tips on Riser Cable installation. Here’s a close up of the installed riser cable against the bracket for reference.
The FormD T1 ships with four small rubber feet that screw through the CNC holes in the bottom/top panel. In true customizable fashion you can place them wherever you’d like. As with the rest of the case, the top and bottom panel are interchangeable and snap precisely into position, holding the mesh side panels firmly in place when installed.
Along the front edge of each of the top and bottom panels is two small metal feet which link into the front CNC FormD T1 plate locking the whole unit securely in place when installed. At the back of the panel is the mounting bracket for two screws which go through the rear plate so the panels can be secured for a move as shown.
One Power Button – Two Options
Due to early production issues, V1 FormD T1 was shipping without a power button, thankfully that’s been fixed with V1.1 and all cases now come with the switch. Installed on the rear plate is dual G1/4 threads which will fit the included polished metal power button.
The threads also double as water fitment sockets enabling you to install an external reservoir or to fill your custom loop externally with quick-disconnect sockets if that’s the direction you want to take. We’ve stuck with the AIO solution here so you can see one of the FormD T1 sockets it left blank. You can also see the two holes on the rear panel which feed the screws into the top and bottom panels as we saw above to keep them securely in place.
Now onto the fun part, time to build a small form factor computer!
FormD T1 Hardware Installation
|CPU||Intel Core i5-9600K|
|Motherboard||ASUS ROG Strix Z-390 I Gaming|
|RAM||Corsair LPX 16GB DDR4-3200MHz (2x8GB kit)|
|Storage (M 2)||Samsung 1TB M.2 SSD 970 Evo Plus|
|GPU (2 slot)||NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Super|
|PSU||Corsair SFX 750W Platinum|
|CPU Cooler||Corsair H60 AIO Liquid CPU Cooler|
Installing the components became a hugely iterative process as we tried and failed and correctly order our build process. We’ve highlighted all our errors along the way to better help guide your own case construction.
Luckily because of the open nature of the spine setup during build, accessibility to all the components is excellent, so even when you do get something wrong it’s not the end of the world.
First to go in, the PSU. Below you can see the corsair SFX PSU installed in the default position. This has the distinct advantage of drawing air from the motherboard side of the case and exhausting it out the top (where the power cable is installed). The disadvantage of this method is the tight cable management you’ll be forced to contend with on the underside of the PSU, especially if you’re planning on using a 3 slot GPU or on installing a 120mm AIO as we’ll get to.
You can also see the 120mm fan brackets installed at the base of the side spines. As you’d expect, a selection of fan brackets is provided so you’re able to choose a smaller single 120mm bracket if you’d like.
Installing the GPU in the FormD T1 is a completely painless affair, the Wind Force Gigabyte RTX 2070 shown here is well within the size limitations of the case, despite being a triple fan design. Being only a 2 slot card and having plenty of headroom on the vertical height limit of 140mm or the length limit of 312mm.
Remember you’ll need to keep 10-15mm of additional clearance height above your card for cables depending on your GPU setup. Although the FormD T1 has been shown to fit an FE RTX3090 in 3 slot mode, we can’t recommend it as the sandwich layout doesn’t lend itself to efficient pass through cooling.
After installing the GPU and admiring the setup we quickly came to realise this isn’t best stage to lock this item in place. Access to screw the bottom fans or radiators in place is restricted by the GPU. We also found it easier to route cables from the motherboard to the PSU without the graphics cards in place, our suggestion is to leave this to one of the last items!
Just a few disclaimers for this part: make sure any rear-mounted M.2 Drives are installed prior to installing the board as the FormD T1 riser cable will block access, and less intuitively, make sure you connect the riser PRIOR to screwing down the ITX board. Because of the tight tolerances on the cables there’s no chance to bend the riser cable once the board has been screwed down. Instead, installing the riser cable first and then carefully bend the cable so the board sits in place is our recommended order. You can see below our initial failed attempt.
The cables might need some delicate encouragement to eventually flatten in place.
AIO CPU Cooler
With up to 70mm of CPU cooler clearance you’ll be able to fit a huge variety of watercoolers, but you’ll be restricted if air cooling (especially in 3 slot mode with only 50mm of clearance) so don’t expect to get an NH D15 in here!
Installing the Corsair H60 was initially challenging as the radiator exhaust fan beneath the PSU was catching on the braided power cables that refused to bend to our will. In the end we decided invert the PSU and offset it from the center spine which provided a clear area between the radiator exhaust fans and the PSU by containing the bulk of cables between the top of the power supply and case top. The added benefit of offsetting the PSU is it provided a routing area for cables in between the backplate of the GPU and PSU.
Admittedly the H60 isn’t perfect for the FormD T1 as it requires an additional SATA cable to power the pump and the fan curve can’t be adjusted as easily as other models – not to mention you also can’t switch off the lights on the CPU block…. Use of dual Noctua NF A12x25 fans would also be preferable here. This would mean you’d have even less space to organize connections at the bottom of the PSU but it’s worth considering if you’re chasing the very best performance.
Having no front IO, and the flexibility to place the case feet on either the top or bottom of the FormD T1 enables you to flip the case to have the exhaust fans at the top or keep them at the bottom as you see best. You can see we’ve opted for the better thermals by flipping the case and installing the 120mm AIO at the top of the case with a slimline Noctua NF A12x15 120mm exhaust fan next to the full size 120x25mm case fan. The only outward facing functional difference from flipping the case is whether the power switch will be located at the top or bottom of the case.
The lowered, offset and inverted PSU can be seen above allowing for better airflow clearance between the water cooler exhaust and the case internals. Though this does open potential for recirculated hot air from the power supply to be fed into the CPU cooler, given the PSU is passively cooled with the FAN off under all but the most demanding loads we consider the better airflow clearance and tidier finished look worth the tradeoff.
The final piece to the puzzle is carefully routing all those cables and making sure there’s nothing obstructing your fans. If you’re after a sleeker look than the standard manufacturer power cables, we can thoroughly recommend PSlate Customs. From here you just slide need to slide the side panels and you’re ready to go.
Formd T1 Finished Build
- 9.5L Volume
- Great Build Quality
- CNC Aluminum with superb engineering
- Excellent component compatibility
- Intuitive construction
- Additional extras and cable ties included
- 2 & 3-slot GPU compatible
- Fantastic cooling with mesh sides
- Available in Black, Silver and White TBA
- Class leading thermals
- No external IO
- Limited availability
- Tempered glass side panel currently not available
- Potential to inspire custom loop spending spree
Value and Conclusion
The FormD T1 is an incredible case which brings unprecedented capability and flexibility to pack class leading components with a 3 slot or 2 slot GPU to produce a space optimized small form factor enclosure with incredible build quality. Although this case won’t be perfect if you need to install multiple PCI-e expansion slots, tv cards, or have huge storage requirements, we’d wager it’d suit the vast majority of users today.
The modularity of its design along with the open construction framework takes the best qualities of its predecessors (like the Louqe Ghost S1) and improves on them in almost every way. The T1 isn’t the cheapest case available, but considering the flexibility and longevity promised by the construction, there’s immense value in our opinion despite the price-tag.
The one common complaint is trying to get your hands on it! Unfortunately, the shipping issues and quality control standards that have troubled other small form factor projects exist here too. New T1 batches are currently available for pre-order over at FormDWorks every Friday from 9AM PDT until inventory sells out. Whilst it means you will be guaranteed a world-class product, waiting on the item to be in stock might just be a deal breaker for some.
We made a lot of errors along the way but thoroughly enjoyed the process; but how would you build it differently? Let us know in the comments below if you’re planning your own build or can suggest improvements to the setup!