Introduction, Specs, and First Impressions
BitFenix has been making enclosures for the PC market since 2010 (with the massive Colossus E-ATX case), and came to prominence a couple of years later with the introduction of the Prodigy enclosure. While the company has expanded to produce power supplies and peripherals they are still primarily a case manufacturer, as evidenced by the now 31 different models on their product page. Not content to iterate on their existing designs, BitFenix has consistently introduced new chassis ideas for different form-factors and needs.
We reviewed the Colossus Micro-ATX case back in March, and it is again an enclosure built for the venerable micro-ATX form-factor that we’re looking at here. Quite the opposite of the Colossus Micro-ATX's squat design, the Pandora is smooth and very slim.
In the world of computer cases there are many variations, but they are mostly boxes with splashes of style and the occasional window. Companies like In Win are at the opposite end of the spectrum, but the design choices for a case with commitment to artistic intent often entail a considerable price tag, and In Win consistently prices itself out of the mainstream market. So what about the middle ground? Enter the BitFenix Pandora. It boasts eye-catching looks, a slim design that seems even more so given the curved panels, and even has a color LCD screen that can be programmed with the image file of your choice!
The Pandora features a programmable color LCD display, which I affixed with this incredible logo
I don’t want to dissolve into meaningless superlatives, but the Pandora is a striking design. When it was shown at Computex earlier in 2014 it was listed as a mini-ITX enclosure, and while it definitely supports mini-ITX motherboards it is the final product’s micro-ATX support that we focus on in this review. And while it would have been large as a mini-ITX enclosure the Pandora is fairly small as an mini-ATX case, most notably due to that slim profile. This comes at a price, as there won’t be as much room for storage with such a narrow width (and those looking for any optical drive support must look elsewhere). And speaking of price, while the "core" version of the case starts at around $110, this version with programmable display is currently selling for just under $160. Steep, but not outrageous either.
Introduction: Caged Beast
The D Frame Mini from In Win is a wild-looking, wildly expensive case that defies convention in many ways.
First of all, calling the In Win D Frame mini an enclosure is a bit of a stretch. The design is part open-air case, part roll cage. Of course open air cases are not a new concept, but this is certainly a striking implementation; a design almost more akin to a testbench in some ways. When installed the components will be more open to the air than otherwise, as only the sides of the frame are covered (with panels made of tempered glass).
The most noticeable design aspect of the D Frame mini are the welded tubes that make up the frame. The tubes are aluminum and resemble the frame of an aluminum bicycle, right down to the carefully welded joints. Around the perimeter of the frame are rather sizable soft plastic/rubber bumpers that protect the enclosure and help eliminate vibrations. Due to the design there is no specific orientation required for the enclosure, and it sits equally well in each direction.
There is support for 240mm radiators, virtually unlimited water cooling support given the mostly open design, and room for extra-long graphics cards and power supplies. The frame looks and feels like it could withstand just about anything, but it should probably be kept away from small children and pets given the ease with which fans and other components could be touched. And the D Frame mini is extremely expensive at $350. Actually, it’s just kind of extreme in general!
Subject: Cases and Cooling | August 28, 2013 - 04:18 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Lian Li, Lian Li PC-A79, full tower, e-atx, XL-ATX, hptx, aluminum
Lian Li recently showed off a new full tower case -- clad in the company’s traditional brushed aluminum -- called the PC-A79. The PC-A79 measures 24.3” x 9” x 23.4” and offers up ample space for high end PC components.
On the outside, the Lian Li PC-A79 is covered in dark brushed aluminum. It has two front case feet and two rear wheels to make transporting the system easier. The front of the case hosts 12 individually filtered mesh 5.25” bay covers. There are also two LEDs for power and HDD activity in the top right corner of the front panel. The bezel surrounding the bay covers can be removed with needing tools to allow for easy removal of the bay covers and hard drives (depending on which way you install the hard drive cages). The left side panel comes with two pre-installed 120mm fans. Interestingly, Lian Li has designed a connector and routed the fan wires such that the side panel can be removed without needing to worry about disconnecting the fans. Additionally, the top of the case has a filtered vent that can hold up to two 140mm fans (or a 280mm radiator). The fans get screwed into a bracket which in turn is screwed into the top panel, making installation a bit easier.
Front IO on the PC-A79 is hidden under a cover on the front edge of the top panel. IO options include two audio jacks, four USB 3.0 ports, and a single eSATA port.
Rear IO includes six water cooling grommets, a single 120mm exhaust fan, a bottom-mounted PSU, and 11 PCI slots. There is a filter for the bottom mounted power supply that can be removed from the side of the case which is a nice option to have.
Internally, the full tower supports motherboards up to HTPX, E-ATX and XL-ATX in size, graphics cards up to 350mm (13.78”) in length, and CPU coolers up to 165mm (5.7”) tall. The PC-A79 comes with three hard drive cages, each of which can hold three 3.5” hard drives and two 2.5” solid state drives. In addition to the drive cages, users can mount two 2.5” drives on the bottom of the case for a total of nine 3.5” drives and eight SSDs. The drives mount into the cages using brushed aluminum brackets that double as handles. The drives slide into the cages and are locked in place by a thumbscrew latch. The case features a removable motherboard tray with a large CPU cutout and eight rubber grommets that allow for routing cables behind the motherboard tray.
The case supports up to seven total fans (not counting the PSU fan), including:
- 2 x 120mm side panel fans
- 3 x 120mm front panel fans (mounted on hard drive cages)
- 2 x 120 or 140mm fans on top panel
The massive full tower case will be available in September with an MSRP of $389. While PC gamers may opt for more sylish cases, the Lian Li PC-A79 would be a good fit for workstation builds.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | August 25, 2013 - 06:34 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: PC-Q33, mini ITX, Lian Li, aluminum
Lian Li recently posted information about a new prototype chassis on the Xtreme Systems forum. The new case, called the PC-Q33 is a Mini ITX chassis with a unique hinged front panel that allows unfettered access to the internal hardware. Coming in bare aluminum or black brushed aluminum, the case supports Mini ITX or Mini DTX motherboards, 220mm long graphics cards, 200mm long power supplies, and 180mm tall CPU coolers. The PC-Q33 itself measures 229mm (W) x 330mm (H) x 248mm (D) which works out to approximately 9” x 13” x 10”.
Silver case feet hold up the case which has mesh grills on the front and both side panels. There is a mesh vent for a 120mm fan on the back of the case along with a vent on the bottom of the case for the bottom mounted power supply. Lian Li has stated that a removable dust filter may be added to the case if there is enough interest. Users can unscrew the side panels to access the hardware or additionally unscrew two thumscrews to release the top and front panels which open on a hinge to make installing all of the components easier.
Internally, the case supports three 2.5” drives and two 3.5” drives. Drives can be installed in a cage below the motherboard or on the inside of the front panel. The back of the case features two grommets for water cooling tubes (for external radiators) along with a removable PSU bracket and two expansion slots (ie for a graphics card).
Lian Li has asked enthuiasts to comment on the new prototype case, which you can do here.
Personally, I think the PC-Q33 looks great and I hope that it comes to fruition as a real product. The hinged front panel is a neat idea and should make it extremely easy to work on the PC. I could definitely see myself using a case like this for my next Mini-ITX build along with a card like the ASUS GTX 760 Direct CU Mini. I’m also interested to see what the modders and water cooling enthusiasts are able to do with the new case!
Subject: Cases and Cooling | August 24, 2013 - 02:17 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: mid-tower, gamescom, cosmos se, cosmos, cooler master, aluminum
At GamesCom in Germany earlier this week, Cooler Master showed off an updated mid-tower version of its Cosmos S: the Cosmos SE. This new case was on display at the company's GamesCom booth and is an aluminum mid-tower clad in all black. The Cosmos SE shares a similar outward appearance and form factor to the existing (full tower) Cosmos S, except it is shorter and features a redesigned front bezel. The side panel window shape is the same on the two Cosmos S-series cases. The new Cosmos SE does keep the solid aluminum handles and raised legs, however. The front IO is located above the 5.25" bays on the top edge of the case and includes two USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, and two audio jacks.
Internally, the case can accommodate ATX motherboards, three 5.25" drives, and at least five 3.5" or 2.5" hard drives or SSDs. A bottom mounted power supply sits below the motherboard, but with enough room for two dual slot graphics cards.
As far as cooling, the Cosmos SE can fit a 240mm radiator on the top of the case and a 360mm radiator with the front hard drive bays removed. Cable management has reportedly been tweaked as well.
The case looks nice but the ability to mount a 360mm rad (even at the cost of removing the 5.25" bays) to the top of the case would have been a welcome feature.
Unfortunately, beyond the photos coming out of GamesCom, details on the new case are scarce. Pricing and availability in particular are still unknown.
Are you excited for the Cosmos SE?
Subject: Cases and Cooling | March 13, 2012 - 04:33 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: thin itx, mini ITX, Lian Li PC-Q05, Lian Li, case, aluminum
Lian Li, a case maker specializing in sleek brushed aluminum computer cases showed off (video link) several cases at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas a few months ago. One of the cases they touted was an extremely thin aluminum case that conforms to Intel's Thin Mini-ITX form factor. The super small case employs indirect cooling much like that found in laptops and utilizes Mini-ITX motherboards that use laptop style ram. As far as physical dimensions, the chassis measures 284 mm (W) x 47 mm (H) x 307 mm (D) according to the product page.
The silver version PC-Q05 Chassis
The new product page further details that the aluminum case has a gross weight of only 1.5 KG (about 3.3 lbs) and, in addition to housing the Mini-ITX motherboard, will hold up to two 2.5" hard drives (or SSDs). The skinny case will further be available in either silver or black colors. The front of the case is a curved piece of brushed aluminum interrupted by two status LEDs on the right of the panel (but no drive bays or buttons to speak of). The right side of the case houses the power button, and the sides and bottom of the case contain plenty of ventilation holes.
A top down view of the internals
I have to say that this PC-Q05 case would make for a sexy home theater PC (especially the black brushed aluminum case), though the case is certainly going to limit the amount of hardware you can have at your fingertips. Unfortunately, there is no word yet on pricing or availability.