Manufacturer: Phanteks

Introduction and First Impressions

Phanteks has expanded their Enthoo enclosure lineup with a new ATX version of the popular EVOLV case, and it offers a striking design and some unique features to help it stand out in the mid-tower market.

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Introduction

Phanteks first came to my attention with their large double tower cooler PH-TC14, which competes directly with the Noctua NH-D14 in the CPU air-cooling market. But like a lot of other cooling companies (Cooler Master, Corsair, etc.) Phanteks also offers a full lineup of enclosures as well. Of these the Enthoo EVOLV, which until today has only been available in a micro-ATX and mini-ITX version, has been well-received and has a angular, minimalist look that I like quite a bit. Enter the EVOLV ATX.

With the larger size to this new EVOLV ATX there is not only room for a full-size motherboard, but much more room for components and cooling as well. The internal layout is very similar to the recently reviewed Fractal Design Define S enclosure, with no storage (5.25” or 3.5”) inside the front of the case, which gives the EVOLV ATX a totally open layout. The front is solid metal (though well vented) so we’ll see how this affects cooling, and it will be interesting to see how Phanteks has approached internal storage with the design as well. Let’s get started!

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Continue reading our review of the Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV ATX enclosure!!

Introduction and First Impressions

Supermicro recently entered the consumer space with a new line of enthusiast motherboards and today we’re looking at a gaming enclosure from the well-known enterprise manufacturer.

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While many component manufacturers have diversified their product offerings to include everything from cooling fans to thumb drives, Supermicro is not a name that anyone familiar with the company would have likely suspected of this trend. With recent Z97 and X99 motherboard offerings Supermicro has made an effort to enter the enthusiast market with boards that don’t exactly look like gaming products, but this is to be expected from a company that specializes in the enterprise market.

It was something of a surprise to hear that Supermicro had created a new enclosure for the consumer segment, and even more so to hear that it was to be a gaming enclosure. And while the term “gaming” gets thrown around quite a bit the new enclosure does have the look we tend to associate with the moniker, with flashy red accents and a brushed aluminum front panel to go along with all-black steel enclosure.

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Continue reading our review of the Supermicro SuperChassis S5 enclosure!!

Manufacturer: Fractal Design

Introduction and First Impressions

The Define S from Fractal Design is a mid-tower enclosure based on the company’s excellent Define R5, and this version has a new interior for enhanced cooling support with an innovative approach to storage.

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Introduction

I've mentioned before that the PC enclosure market is crowded with options at every price point, but this can actually be a good thing because of the high level of individual preference this permits. Selecting a case is a multi-faceted thing, and while they all (well, mostly) keep components safely housed, once that need has been met there's a lot more to consider. Let's face it, aesthetics are important since the enclosure is the outward-facing representation of your build (and personal style). Support for your preferred type of cooling, storage, and future expandability are high on the list when selecting a finalist as well, and then there's the thermal/noise performance element to consider. It was Fractal Design's own Define R5 (review here) which offered a balanced approach to these needs, and while not looking especially flashy with understated style and a standard ATX layout, the R5 was an exceptionally well-done effort overall. Now, months later, enter the Define S.

With the Define R5 offering a solid combination of silence, expandability, and build quality, why would Fractal Design create another very similar case right on its heels? It’s all about giving people choice, and that’s something I can certainly stand behind - even when it means further segmenting a market that seems almost impossibly crowded now. And when we dive deeper into the Define S we see what is essentially a companion to the Define R5, and not a replacement. At first glance this might appear to be an identical case, but the interior layout clearly separates the two. In summary, the Define S loses 5.25” storage support found in the R5, and while that previous model had no less than 8 hard drive trays the S employs a novel approach to HDD support, but cuts the drive support from 8 standard 3.5" drives to just 3 in the process.

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Continue reading our review of the Fractal Design Define S enclosure!!

NZXT Announces the Noctis 450 Gaming Mid-Tower Enclosure

Subject: Cases and Cooling | April 28, 2015 - 09:29 PM |
Tagged: nzxt, Noctis 450, mid-tower, enclosure, case

NZXT proclaims that “bold is back” with their new enclosure design, a striking-looking case based (at least internally) on the popular H440.

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The Noctis 450 takes the H440 and combines it with an angular external construction that looks similar to the company’s Phantom enclosure series. As the interior is identical to the H440 this new enclosure features the spacious interior and excellent cooling support from the previous model. As a nice addition the Noctis 450 adds a PWM fan controller (and includes 4 fans), further simplifying cooling for a build with this case.

NZXT has created a product video to showcase the new design:

In the appearance department the Noctis 450 really does look good (although style is always a personal thing), with dramatic black/red and the familiar NZXT white/black color schemes available to help accent the interesting angles, and there is an adjustable LED lighting system as well.

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Plenty of storage room (unless you're Allyn) with 5 slide-out HDD trays

The MSRP is set at $139.99 and the Noctis 450 is currently available for pre-order on the NZXT site.

Source: NZXT

In Win Announces the Affordable 503 Enclosure

Subject: Cases and Cooling | April 15, 2015 - 02:01 PM |
Tagged: mid-tower, In Win 503, in win, enclosure, case

In Win has announced an affordable new mid-tower option with the 503, and there is no shortage of the company's trademark style even at this low price point.

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A steel enclosure is to be expected for the $49.99 asking price, and though the company is known for its aluminum construction there is enough tempered glass to keep In Win fans happy. In fact, not only is the front of the In Win 503 made from glass, but it slides down to reveal a 5.25" optical drive bay. To say this is unexpected in a $50 case is a severe understatement.

In Win has posted a short product video which touches on the basic features of the 503:

Drive bays are toolless, and there seems to be a lot of room inside the case. The enclosure will be available in both black/red and white/black color schemes. I personally can't wait to get my hands on one of these and see if it lives up to the lofty standards of prior In Win cases, or if more was compromised than just material selection to meet the low price target.

Source: In Win
Manufacturer: SilverStone

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.

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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.

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The second-generation Fortress FT02 interior

Continue reading our review of the SilverStone Fortress FT05 enclosure!!

Manufacturer: Lian Li

Introduction and First Impressions

The Lian Li PC-Q33 is a mini-ITX enclosure with a cube-like appearance and a hinged construction that makes it easy to access the components within.

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Introduction

When a builder is contemplating a mini-ITX system the primary driver is going to be the size. It’s incredible that we've reached the point where we can have a powerful single-GPU system with minimal (if any) tradeoffs from the tiny mITX form-factor, but the components need to be housed in an appropriately small enclosure or the entire purpose is defeated. However working within small enclosures is often more difficult, unless the enclosure has been specifically designed to account for this. Certainly no slouch in the design department, Lian Li is no stranger to small, lightweight mini-ITX designs like this. The NCASE M1 (a personal favorite) was manufactured by the company after all, and in some ways the PC-Q33 is reminiscent of that design - in build quality and materials if nothing else. The Q33 features aluminum construction and is very light, and while compact the design of the enclosure allows for effortless component installation. The secret? A hinged design that allows the front of the enclosure to swing down providing full access to the interior.

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This approach to accessibility with a small enclosure is a welcome one, and especially so considering the price of the PC-Q33, which retails for $95 on Newegg and can be found for around $105 on Amazon as well. This is still a high cost for many considering a small build and enters the premium price range for an enclosure, but remember the Q33 features an aluminum construction which typically carries a considerably higher cost than steel and plastic. Of course if the case is frustrating to use or has poor thermals than the materials used are meaningless, so in this review we’ll look at the build process and thermal results with the Q33 to see if it’s a good value. My initial impression is that the price is actually low, but that’s coming from someone who looks at a lot of cases and develops a familiarity with the average retail prices in each category.

Continue reading our review of the Lian Li PC-Q33 SFF Chassis!!

Manufacturer: SilverStone

Introduction and First Impressions

The RV05 is the current iteration of SilverStone's Raven enclosure series, and a reinvention of their ATX enthusiast design with a revised layout that eliminates 5.25" drive bays for a smaller footprint.

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Return to Form

The fifth edition of SilverStone's Raven is a return to form of sorts, as it owes more to the design of the original RV01 than the next three to follow. The exterior again has an aggressive, angular look with the entire enclosure sitting up slightly at the rear and tilted forward. Though the overall effect is likely less visually exciting than the original, depending on taste, in its simplicity the design feels more refined and modern than the RV01. Some of the sharpest angles have been eliminated or softened, though the squat stance coupled with its smaller size gives the RV05 an energetic appearance - as if it's ready to strike. (OK, I know it's just a computer case, but still...)

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The Raven series is important to the case market as a pioneer of the 90º motherboard layout for ATX systems, expanding on the design originally developed by Intel for the short-lived BTX form-factor. In the layout implemented in the Raven series the motherboard is installed with the back IO panel facing up, which requires the graphics card to be installed vertically. This vertical orientation assists with heat removal by exploiting the tendency of warm air to rise, and when implemented in an enclosure like the RV05 it can create an excellent thermal environment for your components. The RV05 features large fans at the bottom of the case that push air upward and across the components on the motherboard, forcing warm air to exit through a well-ventilated top panel.

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And the RV05 isn't just a working example of an interesting thermal profile, it's actually a really cool-looking enclosure with some premium features and suprisingly low price for a product like this at $129 on Amazon as this was written. In our review of the RV05 we'll be taking a close look at the case and build process, and of course we'll test the thermal performance with some CPU and GPU workloads to find out just how well this design performs.

Continue reading our review of the SilverStone Raven RV05 enclosure!!

Want to Build Two Systems in One Case? Then You Need the Phanteks Enthoo Mini XL

Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 12, 2015 - 11:22 AM |
Tagged: phanteks, mini-itx, micro-atx, Enthoo Mini XL, enclosure, dual-motherboard, cases

Phanteks has introduced a computer enclosure with a new form-factor they are calling “super micro ATX”, a large alternative to standard mATX designs that has the advantage of supporting two complete systems within a single case.

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The second motherboard is supported via their ITX upgrade kit, and as the name indicates the second system must be built on the mini-ITX platform. While this might appeal to a very small market there is a need for running discrete systems for some users, and this design is certainly an interesting alternative to running two boxes. How it handles heat dissipation is a good question, but considering the “extreme cooling” capacity of the case - with up to 14x 120mm or 8x 140mm fan mounts - there would be plenty of room for a pair of AIO solutions to keep the CPU heat outside of the enclosure.

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The mini-ITX board is installed at the top (Image credit: cowcotland.com)

The enclosure’s dimensions are (WxHxD) 260mm x 550mm x 480mm (10.24” x 21.65” x 18.90”), and the feature list includes:

  • Dual removable hard drive cages
  • 2x removable Drop-N-Lock SSD brackets
  • Fully equipped with dustfilters (1x top, 1x front, 2x bottom)
  • Removable top panel for easy fan installation and dust filter cleaning
  • Compartment for fan installation in top panel
  • Clean cable management using Phanteks' preinstalled Hoop-N-Loop cable ties
  • Mod friendly structure uses screws NOT rivets
  • 10 color abient lighting controller
  • 2x USB 3.0, microphone, 3.5mm audio jack

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Two backplates! (Image credit: cowcotland.com)

For full specs see the product page at the Phanteks site. Pricing is not listed and searching for the product at the usual places doesn’t turn up any listings as of this morning.

Source: Phanteks

CES 2015: Deepcool Tristellar and Pentower Mini-ITX Cases Launched with Outlandish Designs

Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 9, 2015 - 04:02 PM |
Tagged: mini-itx, enclosure, Deepcool, ces 2015, CES, cases

Deepcool has announced a couple of new mini-ITX enclosures, and they are anything but average.

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The Deepcool Tristellar (Credit: Legit Reviews)

First we have one of the wildest looking enclosures at I’ve ever seen (other than the In Win D-Frame mini), and it looks very much like an Imperial shuttle (ROTJ, anyone?). With three sections connected to a central hub, the Tristellar has the look of some sort of spacecraft, and would appear at first glance to be rather complicated to build in (though I'd love to find out first-hand).

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Exploded view of the Tristellar (Credit: Legit Reviews)

The enclosure was featured as the basis of an upcoming gaming system from CyberPower, and it would indeed house a capable gaming machine with support for mini-ITX motherboards, full-size graphics cards, and standard ATX power supplies.

The second case is a little more conventional on the surface, but again we have a design that is quite a departure.

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The Pentower enclosure (Credit: Legit Reviews)

The upright Pentower enclosure seems to borrow from the design of the latest-gen Mac Pro (albeit in a less cylindrical fashion), but is not built upon the Mac’s cooling design (in which the CPU and GPU are directly connected to the large central heatsink). Such a design seems ideal for this enclosure shape, but Deepcool has implemented their own air cooling system here.

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The Mac Pro’s thermal design (Credit: Apple, Inc)

With the Pentower standard components can be used and installation should be relatively easy since “after the shell is removed, all of the panels and trestles are exposed (and) users can install units directly without uninstall(ing) any other part of the case“, according to the press release.

There is no listing for the Tristellar or Pentower cases on the Deepcool website as of today, and naturally pricing and availability have not been announced.

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