Introduction and First Impressions
The Fortress FT05 is the fifth iteration of SilverStone's Fortress series of enclosures, and, like the latest Raven case, this leverages the complete removal of 5.25" bays to reduce its overall size. We've seen this before as the FT03 completely removed optical support, but this enclosure is related far more closely to the current Raven enclosure than any of its predecessors.
Introduction: The Heart of a Raven
If you're familiar with SilverStone's product lineup you'll know about the Fortress and Raven enclosures which both currently feature an unusual 90° motherboard orientation. This layout places I/O on the top of the case, and helps expel warm air straight up. The Fortress was originally a more conventional design with a standard motherboard layout, but SilverStone switched this to mirror the Raven series with the second version, the FT02. However, just as the Raven series diverged from the original design language and layout of the RV01 with later versions, the Fortress series has undergone some radical changes since its introduction. With this fifth version of the Fortress SilverStone has converged the two enclosure lines, and the FT05 is essentially a more businesslike version of the Raven RV05 - though the design's more conventional exterior also contains noise-dampening material which helps to further differentiate the two enclosures.
Much as the current Raven owes much of its design to an earlier version, in that case the RV01, this new Fortress is a return to the design of the FT02. That earlier Fortress was a large (and quite expensive) case that combined great expandability with excellent cooling, taking the RV01's 90° layout and opening up the interior for an expansive, easy-to-manage interior. A considerable amount of the second gen's interior was devoted to storage, and the front of the case was dominated by 5.25" drive bays.
The second-generation Fortress FT02 interior
Subject: Motherboards | March 14, 2015 - 12:33 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: usb 3.1, msi, FX, atx, asmedia asm1352r, amd, am3+
MSI recently announced a torrent of new motherboards that feature USB 3.1 ports. The refreshed lineup includes ten Intel models and, in an interesting twist, two AMD motherboards. MSI’s new motherboards support USB 3.1 by using an Asmedia ASM1352R controller that interfaces with the system via two PCI-E 2.0 lanes (PCI-E 2.0 x2). The controller is rated for the full 10Gbps USB 3.1 speeds.
It is worth noting that the boards use the traditional USB Type-A connector with one exception. The MSI Z97A Gaming 6 features the new reversible Type-C connector in the form of a single Type-C USB 3.1 port on the rear I/O panel. The other boards have at least two USB 3.1 ports on their rear I/O panels.
The new USB 3.1-supporting lineup is listed below:
- AMD (970 chipset):
- SLI Krait Edition
- AMD (990FX chipset):
- 990FXA Gaming
- Intel (Z97 chipset):
- Z97A Gaming 9 ACK
- Z97A Gaming 7
- Z97A Gaming 6
- Intel (X99 chipset):
- X99A Gaming 9 ACK
- X99A Gaming 7
- X99A Xpower AC
- X99A Mpower
- X99A SLI Krait Edition
- X99A SLI Plus
- X99A Raider
These new boards are all essentially minor refreshes of previous versions that add the Asmedia controller and faster USB 3.1 ports. You can expect all the multi-GPU and overclocking-friendly features to remain present on these new motherboards.
MSI's X99 Xpower AC (left) and Z97A Gaming 9 ACK (right) now support 10Gbps USB 3.1 ports.
AM3+ is still technically AMD's enthusiast platform, but it is still somewhat odd that MSI chose to add USB 3.1 support to AM3+ motherboards with AMD’s aging 990FX and 970 chipsets rather than FM2+ boards with the newer A88X chipset. On the other hand, you can now add much faster external storage to your AM3+ system to give it a bit more life.
There is no word on pricing but expect the USB 3.1 models to come at a slight premium over the older models in each respective series.
In the last few years NZXT has emerged as a popular choice for computer builds with stylish cases for a variety of needs. The newest member of the H series, the H440, promises quiet performance and offers a clean look by eliminating optical drive bays entirely from the design. While this might be a deal-breaker for some, the days of the ODD seem to be numbered as more enclosures are making the move away from the 5.25" bay.
Image credit: NZXT
But we aren't looking at just any H440 today, as NZXT has sent along a completely custom version designed in alliance with gaming accessory maker Razer to be "the ultimate gamer's chassis". (This case is currently available direct from NZXT's online store.) In this review we'll look at just what makes this H440 different, and test out a complete build while we're at it. Performance will be as big a metric as appearance here since the H440 is after all an enclosure designed for silence, with noise dampening an integral part of NZXT's construction of the case.
Green with Envy?
From the outset you'll notice the Razer branding extends beyond just special paint and trim, as custom lighting is installed right out of the box to give this incarnation of the H440 a little more gaming personality (though this lighting can be switched off, if desired). Not only do the front and side logos and power button light up green, but the bottom of the case features effects lighting to cast an eerie green glow on your desktop or floor.
Image credit: NZXT
Subject: Cases and Cooling | November 7, 2014 - 12:45 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: water cooling, thermaltake, mid-tower, liquid cooling, core v41, atx
Thermaltake added a new mid-tower case to its Core series this week that is well-suited to water cooling systems. The new Core V41 is the smallest chassis in the family which includes the full tower Core V71 and the Core V51 mid-tower. Thermaltake's new case is a slightly more compact version of the Core V51 that maintains the curved metal mesh design. The Core V51 supports full ATX motherboards, multiple graphics cards, tool-free storage, and a large acrylic window.
The Core V41 has a full mesh front panel with two externally-accessible 5.25" drive bays, two audio ports, and two USB 3.0 ports. The case has eight PCI expansion slots on the rear. It supports up to ATX motherboards, 170mm processor heatsinks, 275mm long graphics cards, and 180mm power supplies. Thermaltake includes a massive CPU cutout that should accommodate installation of just about any CPU backplate without needing to remove the motherboard. There are four large cable routing cutouts (sans grommets) around the motherboard tray as well as three water cooling grommets to allow external radiators and up to 1/2" diameter tubing.
Storage consists of two 5.25" drive bays, six 3.5" bays, and two stealth 2.5"/3.5" bays behind the motherboard tray. In a neat twist, all three tool-free bays are removable to allow for longer graphics cards and top-mounted liquid cooling radiators.
The case supports a wide range of cooling configurations with vents along the top, front, rear, and bottom of the case (the Core V41 has rather tall feet which should make a bottom-mounted fan actually useful). Thermaltake includes magnetic dust filters on the top and front of the case, and it has been designed with front-to-back intake/exhaust airflow in mind. Thermaltake bundles the case with a single 120mm front intake and one 120mm rear exhaust.
For air cooling, users can add two 120mm fans to the bottom and two 200mm fans to the top of the case. Alternatively, water cooling radiators can be set up as follows:
- 1 x 360mm radiator in the front
- 1 x 360mm radiator up top
- 1 x 120mm radiator (common for sealed loop CPU coolers) in place of the rear exhaust fan.
There are some minor compromises, but overall the Core V41 looks to be a decent case with some useful features for its price range. Thermaltake has not yet revealed pricing or availability, but it should hit below the $100 mark at retail. For reference, the Core V51 retails for just under $110 USD and you are getting slightly less case with the V41.
- Thermaltake's Core V51 offers a lot of choice to the system builder
- Thermaltake Launches Full Tower Core V71 Case
Subject: Motherboards | August 30, 2014 - 01:43 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: X99, socket 2011-3, lga 2011, Haswell-E, atx, asrock
Today, ASRock unveiled the X99 Extreme6 motherboard, a high end board for enthusiasts featuring Intel's X99 chipset and support for Haswell-E processors and all of the latest connectivity options (short of SATA Express).
This ATX motherboard uses a black PCB, gold capacitors, and blue heatsinks to create an appealing color scheme. A 12 power phase "Digi Power" design feeds the LGA 2011-3 CPU socket. Eight total DDR4 memory slots surround the processor socket (four on each side) with support for up to 128GB of DDR4 running at 3000+MHz (w/ requisite CPU/IMC overclock).
The bottom half of the motherboard hosts the PCI-E slots, PCH, and 10 SATA 3 ports. Specifically, the X99 Extreme6 features three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots (supporting Triple SLI or CrossFire), two PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots, a single Mini PCI-E connector, and one "Ultra M.2" PCI-E 3.0 x4 M.2 slot for SSDs. Ten right angled SATA III 6Gbps ports sit to the right of the southbridge.
Using internal headers, users can add four USB 3.0, four USB 2.0, one Thunderbolt port (requires an add-on card to work), and one COM port(s) for additional connectivity and connecting case front panel ports.
Rear IO on the Extreme6 includes:
- 1 x PS/2
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 6 x USB 3.0
- 1 x eSATA
- 7.1 Channel Purity Sound 2 Audio (Realtek ALC1150)
- 5 x Analog audio
- 1 x Optical audio output
- 2 x Gigabit Ethernet ports
- 1 x Intel 1218V NIC
- 1 x Qualcomm Atheros NIC
The X99 Extreme6 is part of ASRock's new "Super Alloy X99" lineup. It is available now from retailers for $279.99 with a three year manufacturer warranty.
Also read: Haswell-E: The Intel Core i7-5960X 8-core Processor Review at PC Perspective.
Subject: Motherboards | March 24, 2014 - 05:39 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: gigabyte, Z87X-UD7-TH, lga 1150, atx, Thunderbolt 2
Gigabyte's Z87X-UD7-TH goes all out in terms of expansion slots with 5 PCIe 3.0 16x capable of running 4 cards at 8x simultaneously, along with two PCIe 2.0 1x slots in case you need even more cards to be plugged in. The Intel DSL5520 adds support for Thunderbolt 2 and there are 10 SATA 6Gbps ports, 10 USB 3.0 ports and even 4 legacy USB ports which should be enough for just about any user. Peripheral support is not everything though, find out about overclocking and stability under load in [H]ard|OCP's full review.
"We’ve covered a lot of budget motherboards lately and shown that you can get quite a lot for your dollar. The GIGABYTE motherboard we are looking at today is not a budget motherboard. In fact it’s on the complete opposite of the spectrum, competing with ASUS’ WS offerings and MSI’s Big Bang XPower series."
Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:
- Gigabyte's G1.Sniper 5 @ The Tech Report
- Asus Gryphon Z87 LGA 1150 @ X-bit Labs
- Gigabyte Z87X-UD7 TH Motherboard @ Hardware Secrets
- ASUS H87-PRO Motherboard @ Hardware Secrets
- Asus Z87-Deluxe/Quad @ Kitguru
- MSI Z87I Gaming AC @ eTeknix
- ASRock Z87 Extreme11/ac @ The SSD Review
- ASUS Z87 Maximus VI Impact ITX Motherboard Review @ Hardware Canucks
- Gigabyte mITX Z87N-WIFI Motherboard Review @ Madshrimps
- ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Killer @ Hardware Secrets
- ASRock Fatal1ty FM2A88X+ Killer Motherboard @ Hardware Secrets
Subject: Motherboards | February 28, 2014 - 01:23 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: msi, A58, Kaveri, FM2+, micro ATX, atx
MSI has launched three new low cost FM2+ motherboards based around AMD's budget A58 chipset. The new boards include an ATX form factor MSI A58-G41 PC Mate and two micro ATX boards: the A58M-E35 and the A58M-E33. The boards are compatible with AMD's Richland, Trinity, and Kaveri APUs and support PCI-E 3.0. The cost savings come from using the A58 chipset which drops support for SATA III 6Gpbs and USB 3.0. The boards further have smaller heatsinks and fewer overclocking features. Despite the restrictions, the new MSI A58 FM2+ motherboards still incorporate MSI's OC Genie 4, Click BIOS 4, and Command Center technologies along with the company's Military Class 4 hardware components.
The MSI A58-G41 PC Mate is an ATX form factor board with an FM2+ CPU socket, two DDR3 DIMM slots, six SATA II 3Gbps ports, two PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, two PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots, and three legacy PCI expansion slots. Rear IO on this board includes two PS/2 ports, six USB 2.0 ports, a single Gigabit LAN port, three analog audio jacks, and three video outputs (HDMI, VGA, and DVI).
The Micro ATX A58M-E35 also has an FM2+ socket, two DDR3 DIMM slots, and six SATA II ports, but the expansion slot layout is scaled down. There is a single PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot, one PCI-E 3.0 x1 slot, and one PCI slot. Rear IO on this board is identical to the A58-G41 board above (six USB 2.0, two PS/2, one GbE port, three audio, and three video outputs).
Finally, MSI's lowest-end A58M-E33 is a Micro ATX board similar in layout to the A58-E35, but with fewer port options. The expansion slot and memory slot configuration stays the same as the E35, but there are two fewer SATA II ports (four total) and two fewer USB 2.0 ports on the rear IO panel. Speaking of I/O, the board is similar to the E35 except that it lacks a DVI video output and two USB 2.0 ports.
MSI has not yet released exact pricing, but expect these boards to be well under $100, and the two micro ATX variants to be closer to the $50 mark based on prices of the higher-end A78 and A88 chipset-based motherboards. All three will be available for purchase later this year.
Subject: General Tech | November 14, 2013 - 07:21 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: corsair, Graphite Series 230T, atx
You may recognize the Corsair Graphite Series 230T ATX from the Halloween contest which has yet to be won, Ryan promises to do it soon. While you wait you can read [H]ard|OCP's review of this case and their thoughts on its construction. As you can see from the picture below the case can hold GTX 280 cards, it is 505x210x440mm (19.9x8.3x17.3") which gives you quite a bit of space to work with. It is not often you see a case that costs less than $90 picking up a Silver Award.
"Corsair has been known for RAM for well over a decade now, but it has become a big player in the computer case market in the last few years. The Corsair Graphite Series 230T ATX case is designed for "fast and straightforward system building, by design." Its list of features is impressive, so let's see how it hold up under pressure."
Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:
- Lian Li PC10-N Mid-Tower Case Review @HiTech Legion
- Fractal Arc Midi R2 Midtower Case Review @ Modders-Inc
- In Win H-Frame Mini mITX Aluminium Chassis @ eTeknix
- BitFenix Prodigy M Micro-ATX Chassis @ eTeknix
- BitFenix Ronin @ techPowerUp
- Raidmax Vampire Case Review @ OCC
- Enermax Ostrog Limited Edition Mid-Tower Chassis @ eTeknix
- NZXT H230 @ techPowerUp
- Enermax iVektor Case Review @ Hardware Asylum
- SilverStone Kublai KL04 Mid-Tower ATX Chassis @ Benchmark Reviews
- Phanteks Enthoo Primo: Giant Tower Case @ SPCR
- SilverStone Raven RV04 Case Review @ OCIA
- Fractal Design Adjust 108 Fan Controller Review@ TechwareLabs
- Lamptron FC-10 fan controller @ DVHardware
- Raijintek Ereboss CPU Cooler @ eTeknix
- CoolerMaster Glacier 240L @ LanOC Reviews
- Noctua NH-L9i Low Profile Heatsink Review @ Frostytech
- Noctua NH-U12S Cooler & NF-F12 Fan @ Funky Kit
- Thermalright HR-22 CPU @ SPCR
- Project Build: Lunchbox v3 Part 3 @ LanOC Reviews
- Antec Kuhler H2O 650 AIO CPU Water Cooler @ eTeknix
Subject: Cases and Cooling | September 6, 2013 - 01:12 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: in win, tou, full tower, atx, tempered glass
In Win, a manufacturer of cases, power supplies, and storage drives showed off a prototype full tower ATX case at Computex 2013 that is now officially launching as a production model in limited quantities. The case, called the Tou, is constructed of a sand case aluminum frame and surrounded by tempered glass with a mirror finish.
The glass is such that when the internal case LEDs are off, the various case panels act as mirrors. However, when the internal blue LEDs are turned on, light passes through the glass and users can see the PC internals through the glass panels.
The full tower chassis is roughly rectangular with angular edges, a large mesh vent on the top panel, bottom mounted 5.25” drive bay, and two handles attached to the front panel. The front panel has two skinny vents on either side to allow the front 120mm intake fan to pull in cool air. The top panel supports 360mm water cooling radiators or three 120mm fans. Front IO includes two USB 3.0 ports and two audio ports.
Internally, the In Win Tou case supports ATX motherboards, ATX power supplies, three 3.5” hard drives, two 2.5” SSDs, and GPUs up to 380mm in length.
According to Hexus.net, the limited edition Tou case will be available soon for around $800. IT is an interesting design, and the mirrored panels are unique. I don't care for the particular angular edges and bolt pattern on the side panel, and the internal features are at a bare minimum, which is less than I would have expected from an $800 case. I'm interested to see what case modders are able to do with it though, and how enthusiasts take advantage of the mirrored glass to show off their systems.
Subject: General Tech | August 25, 2013 - 03:09 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: msi, haswell, h81-p33, H81, atx
MSI recently launched its own Haswell-ready motherboard equipped with Intel’s H81 chipset. Aimed at budget builds, the new MSI H81-P33 is a sub-$100 ATX board.
The H81-P33 features an LGA 1150 CPU socket and two DDR3 DIMM slots (32GB DDR3 1600 MHz maximum) fed by a 6-phase VRM. Below the CPU socket is a single PCI-E 2.0 x16 slot, two PCI-E 2.0 x1 slots, and three legacy PCI connectors. To the left of the PCI slots sit two SATA III 6Gbps ports and two SATA II 3Gbps ports. A USB 3.0 header sits at the bottom of the board.
Rear IO on the MSI H81-P33 includes:
- 2 x PS/2
- 4 x USB 2.0
- 2 x USB 3.0
- 1 x DVI
- 1 x VGA
- 1 x RJ45
- 3 x Analog audio jacks
MSI has not announced specific pricing or availability, but expect it to be under $100. It should be a good starting point for a budget Haswell build.