Introduction and First Impressions
The A4-SFX takes the minimalist, full-length GPU capable mini-ITX chassis design down to stunningly compact dimensions, and does so with a precise all-aluminum build and refined industrial design. Created by the one-man company DAN Cases and funded on Kickstarter, the A4-SFX share the spirit of the crowdfunded NCASE M1 that preceded it, but takes even that tiny enclosure's dimensions down considerably. It is, as the company puts it, "the world's smallest gaming tower case".
What was omitted to bring the size down this far? Comparing the A4-SFX to the aforementioned NCASE M1 (an inevitability as both were crowd-funded and manufactured by Lian Li), the A4-SFX drops support for compact ATX power supplies in favor of SFX/SFX-L units, and CPU cooling is limited to a height of 48 mm, with no liquid cooling support. Many low-profile CPU coolers - including Intel’s stock design - fit this description, but the cooling limitation suggests stock CPU speeds are the tradeoff for such a compact case design.
So how compact is this case, exactly? The A4-SFX has a volume of just 7.25L compared to the NCASE M1 at 12.6L. Yet the A4-SFX can still house a powerful, gaming-ready system with standard components including a full sized GPU (up to 295 mm in length) and any mini-ITX motherboard and CPU.
Introduction and Specifications
The PC-Q17 WX is a compact, all-aluminum mini-ITX enclosure designed to appeal to gamers, and it features certification from ASUS ROG (Republic of Gamers). As with so many mini-ITX cases on the market there is room for a full-length graphics card, allowing the case to house a powerful gaming build.
The PC-Q17 WX is smaller than the mini-ITX cases I have looked at recently, with the trend for larger, micro-ATX sized designs prevalent in the last year or two. It is still quite a bit larger compared to the smallest designs on the market, with the NCASE M1 the smallest I have reviewed thus far. There is always an advantage in component support from a slightly larger case, and this case boasts full-length GPU and ATX power supply compatibity - though you will need a compact PSU to fit both of those concurrently (more on this later in the review).
As expected from Lian Li, this small chassis doesn’t just feature aluminum, it is all aluminum, making it ultra light with a premium feel. Getting to your components is easy thanks to side and top panels that simply snap in place with the company’s push pin style connectors, and there is a large acrylic window to show off your mini-ITX build. If you like its looks the only thing left is too see what fits inside and find out how it performs!
Build and Upgrade Components
Spring is in the air! And while many traditionally use this season for cleaning out their homes, what could be the point of reclaiming all of that space besides filling it up again with new PC hardware and accessories? If you answered, "there is no point, other than what you just said," then you're absolutely right. Spring a great time to procrastinate about housework and build up a sweet new gaming PC (what else would you really want to use that tax return for?), so our staff has listed their favorite PC hardware right now, from build components to accessories, to make your life easier. (Let's make this season far more exciting than taking out the trash and filing taxes!)
While our venerable Hardware Leaderboard has been serving the PC community for many years, it's still worth listing some of our favorite PC hardware for builds at different price points here.
Processors - the heart of the system.
No doubt about it, AMD's Ryzen CPU launch has been the biggest news of the year so far for PC enthusiasts, and while the 6 and 4-core variants are right around the corner the 8-core R7 processors are still a great choice if you have the budget for a $300+ CPU. To that end, we really like the value proposition of the Ryzen R7 1700, which offers much of the performance of its more expensive siblings for a really compelling price, and can potentially be overclocked to match the higher-clocked members of the Ryzen lineup, though moving up to either the R7 1700X or R7 1800X will net you higher clocks (without increasing voltage and power draw) out of the box.
Really, any of these processors are going to provide a great overall PC experience with incredible multi-threaded performance for your dollar in many applications, and they can of course handle any game you throw at them - with optimizations already appearing to make them even better for gaming.
Don't forget about Intel, which has some really compelling options starting even at the very low end (Pentium G4560, when you can find one in stock near its ~$60 MSRP), thanks to their newest Kaby Lake CPUs. The high-end option from Intel's 7th-gen Core lineup is the Core i7-7700K (currently $345 on Amazon), which provides very fast gaming performance and plenty of power if you don't need as many cores as the R7 1700 (or Intel's high-end LGA-2011 parts). Core i5 processors provide a much more cost-effective way to power a gaming system, and an i5-7500 is nearly $150 less than the Core i7 while providing excellent performance if you don't need an unlocked multiplier or those additional threads.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | March 16, 2017 - 09:34 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: small form factor, SFX, SFF, Portal, mini-itx, enclosure, case, bitfenix, aluminum
BitFenix has announced the Portal, which is one of the more interesting-looking chassis designs to hit the market in recent memory. Available in both black and white, and with or without a top-mounted window to show off your GPU (thanks to the inverted motherboard layout), the Portal is a sleek mini-ITX enclosure with a smooth, rounded aluminum exterior that is certainly a departure from typical case designs.
One of the design concepts made possible by SFX power supplies is a slimming down of the standard tower concept, which leaving component layout identical. In the case of this mini-ITX mini tower case from BitFenix, you might at first think you are looking at a larger case, but that PSU opening is in fact SFX, and the case is just wide enough to accommodate a standard PCIe graphics card.
A smaller mini-ITX case is often more challenging to work in, but here BitFenix has a clever solution with their dual-frame design:
"Designed for ITX Motherboards, the striking key component of the interior is the Dual Frame Design for easy access and quick installation. The inner chamber, equipped with enough space for high-end components, slides into the housing via a ball bearing runner design."
The external housing slimply slides off to reveal a standard chassis frame, allowing for easy component installation. Beyond the requirements of mini-ITX motherboard and SFX power supply, the Portal allows for CPU coolers of up to 125 mm, and full size graphics cards up to 300 mm long.
- Chassis Type: ITX Chassis
- Colors: Black | White
- Materials: Aluminum | SECC Steel | ABS | Transparent acrylic
- Motherboard: Mini-ITX
- CPU Cooler: Up to 125mm height
- Graphic Card Length: Up to 300mm
- Power Supply: SFX Form Factor
- Storage Capacity: 3.5" HDD x2, 2.5" HDD 1+2
- Cooling Capacity: Front 120mm x1 (included), rear 80mm x1 (included)
- Radiator Capacity: (Front) Up to 120mm x1
- Front I/O ports: USB 3.0 x2 | HD Audio Mic & Headphone
- Dimensions (with stand): (WxHxD) 247 x 395 x 411 mm (9.72 x 15.55 x 16.18 inches)
- Weight: 5.81 kg (12.81 lbs)
Cooling is another area that has received BitFenix's attention, as they have implemented what they call their "intelligent cooling solution" with the Portal:
"To cool the built-in hardware, the portal is equipped with air inlets at all four corners and the bottom of the housing. The air-permeable inner chamber is further equipped with included 120mm intake and 80mm exhaust fan, for a stable airflow for basic Office and Home Theater PCs."
The BitFenix Portal is available now for $139.99 with your choice of color and window option (product pages already up on Newegg.com).
Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 20, 2017 - 04:16 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: in win, enclosure, CES 2017, CES, case, 303, 301
For those of you who haven't frequented the site in the past three years, you may not know that I have reviewed SEVERAL computer cases in my time. And while I could not make it to CES this year to pay my respects to all of the enclosure makers I love so much, I still followed the enclosure news from my hidden, case-lined fortress. Among the new designs was this beautiful looking case from In Win, and it is a smaller version of their 303 case design.
There is no official product page up, with just this image on their overview page, but Hardware Canucks posted video from their In Win booth visit on the show floor, which I have embedded below. The case certainly looks very good, and if it sells for less than the 303's $99 MSRP as speculated in the video below, it will be a very attractive option for a smaller - and very stylish, of course - system build.
(Video via Hardware Canucks)
If you watched the video you'll see that this is a very polished product, and I'm very impressed by the quality of the 300-series from In Win - especially considering its cost. Rest assured, I will be asking for a sample to review!
Subject: Graphics Cards | January 5, 2017 - 11:50 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: video card, thunderbolt 3, msi, gus, graphics, external gpu, enclosure, CES 2017, CES
You would need to go all the way back to CES 2012 to see our coverage of the GUS II external graphics enclosure, and now MSI has a new G.U.S. (Graphics Upgrade System) GPU enclosure to show, this time using Thunderbolt 3.
In addition to 40 Gbps Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, the G.U.S. includes a built-in 500W power supply with 80 Plus Gold certification, as well as USB 3.0 Type-C and Type-A ports including a quick-charge port on the front of the unit.
Ryan had a look at the G.U.S. (running an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080, no less) at MSI's booth:
Specifications from MSI:
- 1x Thunderbolt 3 (40 Gbps) port to connect to host PCs
- 2x USB 3.0 Type-A (rear)
- 1x USB 3.0 Type-C (rear)
- 1x USB 3.0 Type-A w/QC (front)
- 80 Plus Gold 500W internal PSU
We do not have specifics on pricing or availablity for the G.U.S. just yet.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at https://pcper.com/ces!
Introduction and First Impressions
The GENOME is the world’s first computer case with an integrated liquid-cooling system, and this unique design allows users to simply drop in the main system components and have a complete system with liquid cooling loop (and with very little effort).
“One of the first things many of us look at when considering the purchase of a new case is whether it will accommodate the cooling subsystem that we’d like to install in our next build. Can you install big enough radiators? Is there room in the main interior space for the reservoir and pump that you have your eye on? How will it look when everything is put together? To improve PC user experience is why DEEPCOOL comes up with GENOME, which is a PC hardware component, consists of an ATX PC case and an extreme liquid cooling system.”
When I first heard about the GENOME I was nonplussed - wondering how I would even go about reviewing at since it defies conventional classification. It’s as much a CPU cooler as a case, and DEEPCOOL calls this simply a “cooling system”. But however you label it there is no doubt that this novel concept has the potential to produce a polished build with a minimal effort (if it is well-designed, of course).
If you have switched cases as often as I do (no one should - I do it once every week or two), you might appreciate any sort of labor-saving design in a case. As a reviewer moving a test system from one enclosure to the next, I just want an easy build with adequate clearance and good cable management (these requirements are true for most normal people as well). Some cases are much easier to build in that others, and I was very curious to see how something which sounds quite complex would actually come together.
Introduction and Case Exterior
The Define Mini C is the micro-ATX variant in Fractal Design's excellent Define series, and this compact chassis is nearly as small as some of the mini-ITX cases we've looked at in recent months. The advantages of micro-ATX for a small form-factor build are undeniable, including added expansion slots (and multi-GPU support), and more robust power delivery for greater CPU flexibility including AMD socket AM3/AM3+ support.
I freely admit to being a small form-factor enthusiast myself, and as much as I like mini-ITX, there are times when micro-ATX just makes sense. I mentioned AMD compatibility above, but even if you're building with Intel there are reasons to consider mATX. One of these is Intel's enthusiast platform, as X99 requires at least a micro-ATX board for quad-channel memory and greater PCIe flexibility. (Naturally, at least one mITX X99 board is available, but this is limited to a pair of memory slots and - of course - has just one PCIe slot.)
As soon as I unpacked the Define Mini C, I knew it would make a perfect home for the EVGA X99 Micro2 motherboard I had on hand. This micro-ATX board makes a compelling argument for the smaller form-factor, as very little is lost vs. full ATX. The Mini C (which sounds like the name of a mini-ITX product, but Fractal's mITX variant is the called Nano S - which I reviewed a few months back) should make a great home for a powerful compact system. Let's get started!
Subject: Cases and Cooling | November 22, 2016 - 11:17 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: windowed, mid-tower, enclosure, corsair, chassis, case, carbide, 270R
Corsair introduced three new enclosures yesterday, with the Crystal 570X (our review for this case is already live), Crystal 460X (review coming soon!), and this new Carbide Series 270R mid-tower.
"Solid, sleek and understated, the CORSAIR Carbide Series 270R offers all the essentials of a high-end PC case, while retaining a spacious internal layout and versatile cooling options. Available with either a huge transparent window or solid side panel, the 270R’s minimalist exterior hides an expansive interior that’s designed to make building a PC as easy as possible. Deep cable routing channels, numerous tie-down points and convieniently located drive bays combine with a dedicated cable routing compartment that surrounds the PSU, making clean and professional builds simple.
The 270R windowed comes equipped with a red-LED lit AF120 120mm intake fan and black AF120 120mm exhaust fan, while the 270R non-windowed ships with a single black AF120 120mm exhaust . Whichever you choose, the 270R offers great out-of-box cooling while also supporting a wealth of liquid cooling radiators and cooling upgrades. Able to mount upto a 360mm radiator in the front and a 240mm radiator in the roof, the 270R can accommodate almost anything your next PC might require, both now and in the future. It’s everything PC builders need for the essential PC build."
While the other two announced cases feature tempered glass designs, the Carbide 270R is a practical alternative for shoppers on a budget. It combines an understated exterior with an internal layout that Corsair is calling "builder-friendly", and offers a compelling solution with an MSRP of only $69.99.
Corsair lists these features:
- Builder-friendly with simple and intuitive internal layout.
- Versatile cooling options with space for multiple radiator configurations.
- Clean and minimalist exterior design.
- 270R Windowed includes 1x red-LED lit AF120 120mm intake fan and 1x black AF120 120mm exhaust fan.
- 270R Non-Windowed includes 1x black AF120 120mm exhaust fan.
- Built-in cable routing compartments enables clean builds.
- Direct Airflow Path™ provides airflow to the hottest components.
Our review of the Carbide Series 270R will be completed soon, so stay tuned!!
Subject: Cases and Cooling | November 21, 2016 - 01:15 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: atx, case, corsair, Crystal Series, enclosure, RGB, tempered glass, tower, 460X
The Corsair Crystal Series 460X RGB is very similar to the 570X model which Sebastian just posted a review of, though there are some noticeable differences. It is slightly smaller in all dimensions, at 440x220x464mm and the removable top is metal as opposed to glass, which has also allowed the relocation to the front of the top panel controls and inputs. The case does use the same PSU shroud as the 570X as well as suffering from the same strain of RGB disease and it will sell for $40 less than the 570X at $140. Take a look at TechPowerUp's full review to see which of the two cases you prefer.
"After the huge success of their other cases, Corsair have now released the Crystal series, which concentrates on a clean, modern design while still being functional to both air and liquid cooling enthusiasts.The first of the Crystal Series is the 460X which comes with comes with RGB fans and tempered glass."
Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:
- Corsair Crystal 570X RGB chassis with with tempered glass @ Guru of 3D
- Corsair Crystal Series 570X RGB Tempered Glass Chassis @ Kitguru
- Lian Li PC-O9WX Tempered Glass Case @ Kitguru
- XFX Hard Swap Quick Change Fan Review @ OCC
- be quiet! Silent Base 600 Review @ OCC