Manufacturer: BitFenix

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.

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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!

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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.

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Continue reading our review of the BitFenix Pandora micro-ATX enclosure!!

Lian Li Has Created a Case You Can Mount on the Wall: The PC-05S

Subject: Cases and Cooling | December 22, 2014 - 08:16 PM |
Tagged: wall mount, Steam Machine, PC-05S, mini-itx, Lian Li, enclosure, cases, aluminum case

Techspot posted a review of the unreleased Lian Li PC-05S case over the weekend, and as you can see it’s a lot more interesting than the generic name might suggest.

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The case features aluminum construction (of course - it’s a Lian Li!) and a tempered glass side to showcase the build. And what better way to show off a build than hanging it on the wall like a picture? Well, the reviewer didn’t show this but the case is described as a “wall mountable open-air chassis” by Lian Li on their site. Overall, Techspot liked the PC-05S and called it “a beautiful case that is well-designed inside and out”.

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Looks great on a desk!

At just over 14 lbs (without components) this will require some planning to mount on a wall. The dimensions (WHD) are 15.1” x 18.3” x 5.8”, and it has a similar layout to Steam Machine cases like the SilverStone RV01 which we reviewed back in January. Like the RV01, the PC-05S requires a mini-ITX motherboard and orients the GPU at a 90° angle (via an included ribbon adapter) to fit in such a slim enclosure. The PC-05S also requires an SFX power supply (such as the SilverStone SX600-G we reviewed recently) and supports 240mm radiators.

Many more photos and full specs are available on the main product page, and the Lian Li PC-05S is slated for a February 2015 release. The cost? $319.

Source: Techspot

Version 3 of the NCASE M1 Crowdfunded Mini-ITX Case up for Pre-Order

Subject: Cases and Cooling | December 15, 2014 - 08:36 PM |
Tagged: small form factor, SFF, ncase, mini-itx, m1, enclosure, case, aluminum case

The NCASE M1 once famously posed next to a can of soda, and the rest is (unlicensed) history...

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The M1 next to a can of some mystery drink that I've never seen before

Now the M1 is back for another round of pre-orders, with the price set at $185 for the microscopic, all-aluminum enclosure. The catch is that once again the enclosure ships directly from the OEM (Lian Li) in Taiwan, which means that import duty and taxes will be extra. Shipping this writer's abode in the province of the USA known as "Michigan" ranged from $30 for the slowest imaginable ocean freight, to a (comparatively) reasonable $55 for much faster air shipping.

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Christmas is coming... Why not order 2? Or 5?

You may have been one of the (approximately) millions who read our review of this fantastic little enclosure, but just for old time's sake you can always read it again! The review features many photos of the case interior and exterior, as well as a some build examples to give readers an idea of what to expect before committing to the case sight-unseen.

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Exploded view of the aluminum (or aluminium for our readers in the UK) construction

So what's different with the 3rd version? Here's the official change log from the hardforum page:

  • Braces added to bottom corners of chassis for increased rigidity/decreased probability of wobbling
  • 0.3mm decrease in side and front panel height
  • Extra QC for wobbling & panel uniformity
  • Changed model ID plate to read "V3.0" in place of "V2.0"
  • SFX bracket raised 2mm and flange trimmed for better SFX-L support
  • Additional motherboard standoffs added for compact mATX boards (226x173mm max w/SFX bracket)
  • Slightly increased CPU cutout size

The M1's dimensions are just (HxWxD) 240mm x 160mm x 328mm, which translates to 9.45" x 6.30" x 12.91". The pre-order is currently open, but no offical word on when the newest production run will be finished and shipping just yet.

Source: NCASE

Shrinking the silent system

Subject: Systems | December 5, 2014 - 04:57 PM |
Tagged: mini-itx, quiet computing, gaming machine

After finishing up their full sized quiet gaming system Silent PC Review upped the difficulty by shrinking the system down to a Mini-ITX board.  The system recommendations do have one thing in common, the quietly powerful ASUS STRIX GTX 980 but that is about the only similarity.  The i5-4690K is cooled by a Silverstone Argon AR03 and powered by a fanless Seasonic X-520 PSU.  Kingston HyperX Genesis DDR3-1866 has a low profile to keep it out of the way in this small build and the M.2 SSD also takes up very little room.  The motherboard they chose was the ASUS Z97I-PLUS and these components are all housed in the Rosewill Legacy W1-S.  They offer many alternatives for each component, catch them all in the full review.

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"A quiet system in a smaller form factor is our followup to the Quiet ATX Gaming Build Guide posted in the last couple of weeks. It is another high performance rig, but still quiet enough to be just about inaudible even atop your desk. Your family will never know that you're gaming on this machine unless your sound effects are on speakers and they can see the action on your monitor."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

ASUS Announces GeForce GTX 970 DirectCU Mini: More Mini-ITX Gaming Goodness

Subject: Graphics Cards | November 29, 2014 - 09:57 AM |
Tagged: pcie, PCI Express, nvidia, mini-itx, GTX 970, graphics card, geforce, directcu mini, DirectCU, asus

ASUS has announced a tiny new addition to their GTX 970 family, and it will be their most powerful mini-ITX friendly card yet with a full GeForce GTX 970 GPU.

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Image credit: ASUS

The ASUS 970 DirectCU Mini card will feature a modest factory overclock on the GTX 970 core running at 1088 MHz (stock 1050 MHz) with a 1228 MHz Boost Clock (stock 1178 MHz). Memory is not overclocked and remains at the stock 7 GHz speed.

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The GTX 970 DirectCU Mini features a full backplate. Image credit: ASUS

The ASUS GTX 970 DirectCU Mini uses a single 8-pin PCIe power connector in place of the standard dual 6-pin configuration, which shouldn’t be a problem considering the 150W spec of the larger connector (and 145W NVIDIA spec of the 970).

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Part of this complete mITX gaming breakfast. Image credit: ASUS

The tiny card offers a full array of display outputs including a pair of dual-link DVI connectors, HDMI 2.0, and DisplayPort 1.2. No word yet on pricing or availability, but the product page is up on the ASUS site.

Manufacturer: In Win

Introduction: Caged Beast

The D Frame Mini from In Win is a wild-looking, wildly expensive case that defies convention in many ways.

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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).

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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!

Continue reading our review of the In Win D Frame mini enclosure!!

Corsair's Carbide Series Air 240, dual chambered to reduce heat and increase free space

Subject: Cases and Cooling | November 18, 2014 - 02:34 PM |
Tagged: SFF, mini-itx, micro-atx, corsair, carbide series air 240

Corsair's new Air 240 is a decent choice for a high end Micro-ATX or Mini-ITX system as it is 15.6" x 10.2" x 12.6" (397 x 260 x 320 mm ) which is enough to squeeze in a larger sized GPU although not deep enough for most high end air coolers.  A self contained LCS is not a bad idea as the case ships with three 120mm fans and can fit another three 120mm fans and a pair of 80mm fans for air coolers, or up to a 240mm radiator instead if that is your preference.  The drive cages are all tool-less and strategically placed to give you more room for other components, it will be a tight squeeze for your hands while installing your system.  The Tech Report were impressed with the case and while it did lack some extra features like a fan controller it is worth the impressively low price, currently $90.

Ryan did a video review of this case back in August if you want a more visual overview.

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"The Carbide Series Air 240 is a small-form-factor case with an interesting dual-chamber design. We loaded it up with our Casewarmer system and took it for a spin."

Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:

CASES & COOLING

Manufacturer: Fractal Design

Introduction: The Core Series Shrinks Down

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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.

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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.

Continue reading our review of the Fractal Design Core 1100 case!!

Author:
Manufacturer: MSI

Mini-ITX Sized Package with a Full Sized GPU

PC components seem to be getting smaller.  Micro-ATX used to not be very popular for the mainstream enthusiast, but that has changed as of late.  Mini-ITX is now the hot form factor these days with plenty of integrated features on motherboards and interesting case designs to house them in.  Enthusiast graphics cards tend to be big, and that is a problem for some of these small cases.  Manufacturers are responding to this by squeezing every ounce of cooling performance into smaller cards that more adequately fit in these small chassis.

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MSI is currently offering their midrange cards in these mini-ITX liveries.  The card we have today is the GTX 760 Mini-ITX Gaming.  The GTX 760 is a fairly popular card due to it being fairly quick, but not too expensive.  It is still based on the GK104, though fairly heavily cut down from a fully functional die.  The GTX 760 features 1152 CUDA Cores divided into 6 SMXs.  A fully functional GK104 is 1536 CUDA Cores and 8 SMXs.  The stock clock on the GTX 760 is 980 MHz with a boost up to 1033 MHz.

The pricing for the GTX 760 cards is actually fairly high as compared to similarly performing products from AMD.  NVIDIA feels that they offer a very solid product at that price and do not need to compete directly with AMD on a performance per dollar basis.  Considering that NVIDIA has stayed very steady in terms of marketshare, they probably have a valid point.  Overall the GTX 760 performs in the same general area as a R9 270X and R9 280, but again the AMD parts have a significant advantage in terms of price.

The challenges for making a high performing, small form factor card are focused on power delivery and thermal dissipation.  Can the smaller PCB still have enough space for all of the VRMs required with such a design?  Can the manufacturer develop a cooling solution that will keep the GPU in the designed thermal envelope?  MSI has taken a shot at these issues with their GTX 760 Mini-ITX OC edition card.

Continue reading our review of the MSI GTX 760 Mini-ITX Graphics Card!!

Is it an Acura NSX or a Maserati; Corsair's Graphite 380T

Subject: Cases and Cooling | September 5, 2014 - 02:14 PM |
Tagged: mini-itx, mini ITX, graphite, corsair, 380t

You have seen Ryan's video review by now but you can also check out a different review of Corsair's Graphite Series 380T.  The so called drink cooler case was tested with an A10-7850K and an MSI A88XI AC motherboard which unfortunately blocked some of the bolt holes that would have attached the Cooler Master Seidon 120V so be sure to install any coolers which require a custom back plate before mounting the motherboard.   The radiator did fit in the side mounting points as it could not be placed in the front or back, something else to keep in mind if building a system in this tiny little cube of 8.2" x 10.3" x 11.1" (356 x  292 x 393 mm).  To complete The Tech Report's Casewarmer a GTX 660 Ti, SSD and Cooler Master V550 PSU were installed, all of which remained at decent temperatures under load and thanks to the integral fan controller did so without producing ridiculous amounts of noise.  If you are wondering about the handle, it did not feel at all strained when being carried even with all components installed.

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"Corsair's Graphite Series 380T is a supercar-themed Mini-ITX case designed for the PC enthusiast. Does it live up to its billing? We loaded it up with our Casewarmer build to find out."

Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:

CASES & COOLING