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!
Introduction: The Core Series Shrinks Down
Image credit: Fractal Design
The Core 1100 from Fractal Design is a small micro-ATX case, essentially a miniature version of the previously reviewed Core 3300. With its small dimensions the Core 1100 targets micro-ATX and mini-ITX builders, and provides another option not only in Fractal Design's budget lineup, but in the crowded budget enclosure market.
The price level for the Core 1100 has fluctuated a bit on Amazon since I began this review, with prices ranging from a high of $50 down to a low of just $39. It is currently $39.99 at Newegg, so the price should soon stabilize at Amazon and other retailers. At the ~$40 level this could easily be a compelling option for a smaller build, though admittedly the design of these Core series cases is purely functional. Ultimately any enclosure recommendation will depend on ease of use and thermal performance/noise, which is exactly what we will look at in this review.
Introduction: The HTPC Slims Down
There are many reasons to consider a home theater PC (HTPC) these days, and aside from the full functionality of a personal computer an HTPC can provide unlimited access to digital content from various sources. “Cord-cutting”, the term adopted for cancelling one’s cable or satellite TV service in favor of streaming content online, is gaining steam. Of course there are great self-contained solutions for streaming like the Roku and Apple TV, and one doesn't have to be a cord-cutter to use an HTPC for TV content, as CableCard users will probably tell you. But for those of us who want more control over our entertainment experience the limitless options provided by a custom build makes HTPC compelling. Small form-factor (SFF) computing is easier than ever with the maturation of the Mini-ITX form factor and decreasing component costs.
The Case for HTPC
For many prospective HTPC builders the case is a major consideration rather than an afterthought (it certainly is for me, anyway). This computer build is not only going into the most visible room in many homes, but the level of noise generated by the system is of concern as well. Clearly, searching for the perfect enclosure for the living room can be a major undertaking depending on your needs and personal style. And as SFF computing has gained popularity in the marketplace there are a growing number of enclosures being introduced by various manufacturers, which can only help in the search for the perfect case.
A manufacturer new on the HTPC enclosure scene is a company called Perfect Home Theater, a distributor of high-end home theater components. The enclosures from P.H.T. are slick looking aluminum designs supporting the gamut of form-factors from ATX all the way down to thin mini-ITX. The owner of Perfect Home Theater, Zygmunt Wojewoda, is also the designer of the ultra low-profile enclosure we’re looking at today, the T-ITX-6.
As you can see it is a wide enclosure, built to match the width of standard components. And it’s really thin. Only 40mm tall, or 48mm total including the feet. Naturally this introduces more tradeoffs for the end user, as the build is strictly limited to thin mini-ITX motherboards. Though the enclosure is wide enough to theoretically house an ATX motherboard, the extremely low height would prevent it.
Introduction: A Crowded Market
The case market is not only saturated at every conceivable price point, but there is enough of a builder’s DNA in their enclosure selection that making recommendations in this area can be a galvanizing undertaking. The enclosure with less usefulness can have perceived deficiencies mitigated by style, and vice versa. For some, style is the most important attribute. But functionality alone, when unnecessary elements are stripped away, can be attractive as well. Here we have a bit of both.
Fractal Design is a Swedish company specializing in computer enclosures, though much like Corsair (which started life as a memory company) they have diversified their product offerings with a line power supplies and all-in-one liquid CPU coolers, as well as case fans and accessories. The company cites Scandinavian design as the influence behind their aesthetic, with the minimalist approach of 'less is more'. With the “Core” series Fractal Design has just what that nomenclature indicates. An entry-level offering that still provides the essentials for a solid build.
With the Core 3300 ATX case the basics are all represented, and it seems that nothing has been included for artistic reasons alone. The Core 3300 does not have a side window, and inside you won't see convenience features like toolless drive bays. Ultimately it’s a rather nondescript matte black case that’s mostly steel, but there are touches that help it stand out in this particular segment of a crowded market.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | June 19, 2014 - 05:22 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Silverstone, raven rv05, raven, enclosure, cases, atx case
SilverStone’s Raven series, what I would describe as the “Batmobile” of PC enclosures, has graduated from the Tim Burton-like approach of the RV01, to a little more of a Chris Nolan-reboot feel with its fifth incarnation. Announced today, the RV05 is a sharply angled matte black design sure to strike fear in the hearts of villains everywhere.
In the same move SilverStone is making with the upcoming Fortress series revision, the new Raven eliminates the 5.25" bays from the prior iterations and the result is a much smaller size overall.
Still utilizing the trademark inverted layout of the series, the RV05 includes two of their 180mm "Air Penetrator" fans at the bottom of the case to force warm air upwards and across components. The case also offers support for various watercooling radiators along the bottom in place of the included 180mm fans (up to 120mm x3 or 140mm x2), and 120mm support on the top.
The case retains the full ATX form factor with the new smaller footprint, which is listed as 242mm W x 529mm H x 498mm D - or 9.52” x 20.83” x 19.60” if you aren’t on the metric system.
The SilverStone Raven RV05 will be available next month and will be offered in two versions, the SST-RV05B (black) and SST-RV05B-W (black + window).
Subject: Cases and Cooling | June 13, 2014 - 11:31 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: enclosure, computex 2014, computex, cases, bitfenix pandora, bitfenix atlas, bitfenix aegis, bitfenix
Yes, Computex is over - and in its wake we’re still left with a ton of new product announcements. Three of these come from BitFenix, who unveiled new enclosures at their booth in Taipei last week.
The first is the BitFenix Atlas, which has incorporated some interesting design features including what they are calling “swappable chambers” and a “test-mode motherboard tray”. (Could this be an open test-bench feature?)
The design is very interesting (a bit along the lines of the Corsair Carbide Air 540), and the extra width allows for no less than ten 3.5” hard drive bays behind the motherboard tray! The Atlas also has six 2.5” bays for SSDs, and features a full array of dust filters and nifty RGB lighting.
Next we’ll look at the Aegis, a sleek minitower enclosure.
The Aegis supports micro-ATX and mini-ITX motherboards and features water cooling support and a built in fan controller. In addition to 240/280mm radiator support on the top, the Aegis also boasts 360mm radiator support up front.
Finally we have the Pandora, which in addition to streaming music (as I’ve been informed) is also apparently a PC case that looks like part of a stormtrooper’s armor.
Besides protecting imperial troops from rebel attacks, the Pandora offers a stylish take on a mini-ITX tower design and offers support for full-size ATX power supplies and (presumably) liquid cooling via two pairs of 120mm fan mounts.
No specifics on pricing or availability from BitFenix on these three new enclosures just yet, but expect them this year as they are part of the 2014 BitFenix catalog.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | June 3, 2014 - 05:45 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: enclosure, computex 2014, computex, cases, be quiet!, atx case
Today Be Quiet! - known for its line of quality power supplies (like the Power Zone 1000W PSU) - introduces their first PC enclosure, and the case (it has no apparent name as of yet) looks excellent, especially at the price point Be Quiet intends to target ($129).
The monolithic design will be available with your choice of three colors of accents
The Be Quiet! case supports ATX, micro-ATX, and mini-ITX motherboards, and has tons of room for your various components. It comes with three of the company's "Pure Wings 2" fans pre-installed (2x 140mm in front, and 1x 120mm in back), and will offer a lot of additional cooling flexibility. The case will support liquid cooling radiators up front (120/140mm), on the back (120mm), and on top (up to 240/280mm).
The Be Quiet! case is part of this balanced breakfast - er, build
Be Quiet! provided some specs for us:
- 3x 5.25” optical drive bays
- 7x 3.5” HDD bays
- 2x SSD behind motherboard
- 2x SSD inside HDD tray
- 2x 140mm front fan mounts
- 1x 120mm back, and 2x 120/140mm top fan mounts
- 1x 120/140mm bottom, and 1x 120mm side panel fan mounts
- Top-mounted USB 3.0 x2 and USB 2.0 x2 ports, plus audio
A larger enclosure, the Be Quiet! case will allow large components as well:
- CPU cooler max height 170mm
- PSU max length 290mm
- VGA max length standard (with HDD cage) 290mm
- VGA max length (without HDD cage) 400mm
An emphasis has been placed on noise reduction (no surprise here - see company name!) and the case will include noise-dampening mats as wekk as anti-noise HDD and Fan mounts. Adding to the premium feel, all of the numerous air intakes will have filters to keep dust away from your gear.
The (as yet unnamed) Be Quiet! case is set to launch in September with an MSRP of US $129, and will be available as a black chassis with silver, orange, or black inserts.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | May 10, 2011 - 03:51 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: htpx, eatx, enclosure, cubitek, tank
The aptly named Cubitek HPTX-Tank is a whopping 230 x 600 x 610mm (9" x 23.6" x 24") and is specifically designed to hold the largest of system components, such as HPTX, EATX and CEB form factor motherboards. You could put an mATX board in the case and probably house a small child in the spare area if you so desired. It is about half the price of other large sized cases, such as the Lian Li PC-V2120 which will run you about $400 which leaves more budget for your oversized components. Take a look over at TechPowerUp.
Yes that is a DVD at the bottom.
"Cubitek joins the ranks of Lian Li and Xigmatek with their HPTX-Tank chassis, which is one of three cases on the market capable of holding huge motherboards like the EVGA SR-2. With an unbelievable price tag for an Aluminum chassis, we take a close look to see if it manages to redefine the price / performance segment for such enclosures."
Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:
- IN-WIN BUC: Just How Much $100 Can Buy @ AnandTech
- Cooler Master Elite 371 Computer Case @ Benchmark Reviews
- SilverStone FT03 Micro ATX Chassis Review @ OCIA
- Corsair Obsidian 650D System Enclosure @ Metku.net
- IN WIN BUC Mid Tower Chassis @ Tweaktown
- Akasa Raptor White Chassis Review @ eTeknix
- Thermaltake Armor A60 System Enclosure @ Metku.net
- Azza Toledo 301 Budget Gaming Tower @ Pro-Clockers
- Deepcool Z5 Thermal Compound @ Overclockers Online
- Lamptron FC8 Fan Controller Review @ Techgage
- BitFenix Shinobi Chassis Review @ eTeknix
- Evercool Transformer 3 CPU Cooler Review @ Hardware Secrets
- Zalman CNPS11X Extreme CPU Cooler Review @ Hardware Secrets
- Noctua NH-C14 CPU Cooler Review @ t-break
- Scythe Mine 2 CPU @ iXBT Labs