Introduction: The Elements of (Life)Style
If this review began by describing this mini-ITX enclosure's all metal and glass construction, its rounded corners, and the premium price tag, it might easily start to sound like it came from that company in Cupertino. Come to think of it, this case would look right at home in a lifestyle magazine photo shoot...
Living the IN WIN 901 lifestyle?
The 901 is definitely stylish, and this is in keeping with the design philosophy of a company that promotes the aesthetics of products first and foremost. So where does this design merge with functionality? This question is a fundamental part of industrial design (ID as it's known in the industry), and in our look at this striking enclosure we'll see how much substance there is to go along with all of that IN WIN style.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Computer cases are a personal thing, which is why we hesitate to make recommendations in this area. Within a certain price point there might be dozens of options for just about any need. But whether or not you're a fan of the sleek styling of a product like the 901, it's different beyond that first impression. The case starts with an aluminum quasi-unibody construction with tempered glass panels on both sides. There is a rather complex structure within this simple exterior, but it is well organized with some thoughtful (and some really smart) design choices.
IN WIN says the 901 mini-ITX case is an example of “precision craftsmanship with no compromises”, and an initial inspection would leave one hard pressed to disagree. It's apparent that some serious engineering has gone into this enclosure, and there is a high level of quality befitting something with this price tag. At $179.99 this is geared toward the high-end enthusiast community, and even a smaller subset considering it is only compatible with mini-ITX motherboards. And while mini-ITX is the supported form-factor, this is definitely not a SFF case. In fact, it’s almost big enough to be a micro-ATX enclosure, but this isn't a complaint. The size of the 901 allows it a unique internal layout.
Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging
Image credit: NCASE
The NCASE M1 Mini-ITX case has been lusted after for about a year now by those of us interested in small form-factor (SFF) computing, ever since it made the news last spring by making its initial goal on the crowd-funding site Indiegogo. The last campaign to raise funds ended in August of last year, and not leaving anything up to chance the creators of the M1 contracted none other than Lian Li to make their dream a reality. Today, we have the privilege of seeing the finished product!
Making things happen
We’ve all talked about changing some existing product to fix problems or just add features that we’d like to have. But most of us probably wouldn’t take our idea to a public funding site to actually make it happen, and that’s exactly why the story of NCASE and the M1 is unique. The creators were members on hardforums, and the original thread for the M1 is now well over 500 pages long.
The story began with conversation about improving an existing mini-ITX design, with the SilverStone SG05 the original topic. (It's fascinating to watch the design evolve on the thread!) Two forum members joined forces and started creating designs, and ended up with the blueprint for an incredibly small case that still supported large GPU's and 240mm radiators. Then, it was on to Indiegogo to see if the interest was high enough to get this case built.
Judging by the results starting with that initial round of prototype funding, there has definitely been interest in this design! Lian Li's prototype case was a success, and the initial production run funding campaign quickly raised more than double the goal again… Fast forward to spring 2014, a black M1 case was delivered safely, and I for one can’t wait to get started building up a system with it!
The M1 next to a BitFenix Prodigy: It's tiny!! (Image credit NCASE)
Subject: Cases and Cooling | April 15, 2014 - 07:36 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: cooler master, Elite 110, mini-itx
The CoolerMaster Elite 110 can give your next mini-ITX system build a unique look. The squarish case is 280x260x208mm (11.1x10.3x8.2") and can house a GPU of up to 210mm in length and cooler with a maximum height of 76mm, somewhat limiting your choice of components but not ridiculously so. It can handle a 120 or 140mm fan or radiator in the front and two 80mm fans on the side and also has space for 3 HDDs or 4 SSDs. [H]ard|OCP encountered some difficulties when installing multiple HDDs but not enough to stop them from awarding this case with a Silver Award; with the caveat that you should only purchase it at the MSRP of $49.99.
"Many enthusiasts now days are trying their hands at minimizing their PC footprint. Mini-ITX motherboards have progressed a long ways in terms of stability and feature set in the last three years. Cooler Master has a new solution for those looking to minimize while not giving up cooling or features in their Mini-ITX enclosure."
Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:
- In Win 901 Mini-ITX Case Review @ Hardware Asylum
- Thermaltake Urban T81 Full Tower @ NikKTech
- Cooler Master HAF Stacker @ techPowerUp
- Zalman Z3 Plus White Mid-Tower Case Review @HiTech Legion
- Thermaltake Urban T81 Extreme Full Tower Chassis @ eTeknix
- BitFenix Prodigy M Case Review @HiTech Legion
- NZXT Source 530 @ Kitguru
- Coolermaster HAF Stacker 935, 315R & 315F Modular Chassis @ eTeknix
- Fractal ARC MINI R2 Computer Case Review @ Madshrimps
- NZXT H440 Silent Mid-tower Case Review @ Modders-Inc
- XSPC Razor R9 290/290X Full Cover Cooling Block Review @HiTech Legion
- ARCTIC Accelero Hybrid II-120 Air/Liquid Cooler @ NikKTech
- Cooler Master Glacer 240L AIO Liquid CPU Cooler @ [H]ard|OCP
- Enermax ETS-T40 Black Twister @ techPowerUp
- Thermalright Silver Arrow IB-E CPU Cooler @ NikKTech
- Deepcool Gamer Storm Gabriel Review @ Modders-Inc
- Dark Rock Pro 3 by beQuiet! Review @ TechwareLabs
- Cooler Master Nepton 140XL CPU Cooler Review @ Hardware Secrets
- SilentiumPC Fera 2 HE 1224 CPU Cooler Review @ Madshrimps
- Noctua NH-D15 Dual-Tower CPU Cooler Review @ Modders-Inc
Ultra-Speed RAM, APU-Style
In our review of the Kingston HyperX Predator 2666MHz kit, we discovered what those knowledgeable about Intel memory scaling already knew: for most applications, and specifically games, there is no significant advantage to increases in memory speed past the current 1600MHz DDR3 standard. But this was only half of the story. What about memory scaling with an AMD processor, and specifically an APU? To find out, we put AMD’s top APU, the A10-7850K, to the test!
Ready for some APU memory testing!
AMD has created a compelling option with their APU lineup, and the inclusion of powerful integrated graphics allows for interesting build options with lower power and space requirements, and even make building tiny mini-ITX systems for gaming realistic. It’s this graphical prowess compared to any other onboard solution that creates an interesting value proposition for any gamer looking at a new low-cost build. The newest Kaveri APU’s are getting a lot of attention and they beg the question, is a discrete graphics card really needed for gaming at reasonable settings?
Subject: Systems | April 10, 2014 - 06:57 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: linux, mini-itx, AAEON, EMB-BT1, Bay Trail, SFF, htpc
You may not recognize the name AAEON but you will recognize its parent company, ASUS. AAEON makes low power small form factor single board SoCs and with the introduction of Bay Trail they may become more common. The EMB-BT1-A10-3825 sports a quad-core Atom E3845 @ 1.33GHz and Ivy Bridge era Intel HD graphics with support for up to 4GB of DDR3-1067. It has a total TDP of 6W but unfortunately Phoronix's WattsUp meter was busy on another system so you will need to wait for an update on total power consumption.
The connectivity on this SoC is incredible, mSATA for an SSD, two SATA 6Gbps ports and two SATA-2 ports, dual gigabit LAN ports, a pair of USB 2.0 ports and a single 3.0 port, HDMI, VGA, COM, and audio jacks. You could configure this as a small media server or as it supports dual displays it would serve wonderfully as an HTPC.
"For those after a low-cost mini-ITX board for use within an HTPC, SOHO file server, or other low-power situations, AAEON has out an interesting board called the EMB-BT1, or more formally the AAEON EMB-BT1-A10-3825. This mini-ITX motherboard has onboard an Intel Atom E3825 "Bay Trail" SoC for delivering decent performance out of the six Watt SoC and having open-source-friendly graphics under Linux."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Acer DA241HL Android all in one @ The Inquirer
- MSI Nightblade Barebone System Review @ Modders-Inc
- Cyberpower Zeus Mini - Review! @ Bjorn3D
- Cube Gaming PC Core i7 Overclocked Assassin /w MSI GTX 770 @ Kitguru
Subject: Motherboards | January 24, 2014 - 09:25 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: msi, Z87I GAMING AC, mini-itx, z87
MSI's Z87I GAMING AC is a mini-ITX board suitable for a small mobile gaming machine thanks to a 16x PCIe 3.0 port and both a KillerNIC for wired connectivity and dual band WiFi thanks to the onboard Intel 7260 chip. Also worth noting is the PS/2 port, aka the gaming port, which has been modified to accept a polling rate of 1000Hz for either a mouse or keyboard. [H]ard|OCP had some small difficulty with the extra drivers for the KillerNIC and Command Centre but as they are optional that did not concern them overly; especially once they got around to overclocking with this board. Check out the full review here.
"With gigantic towers going the way of the dinosaur and power coming in smaller and smaller configurations mini-ITX gaming oriented motherboards are more attractive than ever before. We put the Z87I GAMING AC to the test and find out if good things come in small packages or big headaches do. "
Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:
- MSI Goes Mini! Z87I Gaming and GTX 760 Mini ITX Gaming Review! @ Bjorn3D
- Gigabyte G1 Sniper Z87 @ eTeknix
- ASRock Fatal1ty B85 Killer @ eTeknix
- Gigabyte G1.Sniper 5 Z87 Motherboard Review @ Hardware Canucks
- Asrock Z87 Extreme11/ac @ Legion Hardware
- ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition Motherboard Review @ Bjorn3D
- Gigabyte F2A88XM-DS2 @ Kitguru
Small form factor cases and the push to Mini ITX designs took a dramatic journey during 2013 as the popularity of the smaller PC once again became a popular trend. Though a company like Shuttle, that hardly exists in the form it did in 2004, was the first PC hardware company to really drive home the idea of an SFF system design, many other players have released compelling products helping to strengthen it as one of the unique possibilities for enthusiast PCs.
Even better, though a Mini-ITX based platform could mean limited options for hardware and performance, with companies like ASUS, EVGA, BitFenix and others in the mix, building an incredibly fast and powerful gaming machine using small hardware is not only easy but can be done at a lower price than you might expect.
One entry that found its way to our offices this December comes from Silverstone in the form of the Raven Z, RVZ01 case. This case includes unique features and capabilities including the ability to support nearly any high end graphics card on the market (dual slot or single), space for larger heatsinks and even liquid coolers along with a home theater friendly look and style. Oh, and it's
the same almost the same design that Valve used for its beta Steam Machines as well. (Update: Turns out the size of the Steam Machine is actually a fair bit smaller than the Silverstone RVZ01.)
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Motherboards | December 4, 2013 - 05:02 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: uppercase, msi, mini-itx
MSI is calling these products, "Mini, but Mighty". These components are designed for the mini-ITX form factor which is smaller than 7 inches in length and width. Its size makes it very useful for home theater PCs (HTPCs) and other places where discretion is valuable. You also want these machines to be quiet, which MSI claims this product series is.
The name is also written in full uppercase so you imagine yourself yelling every time you read it.
The MSI Z87I GAMING AC Motherboard comes with an Intel 802.11ac (hence, "GAMING AC", I assume) wireless adapter. If you are using a wired connection, it comes with a Killer E2205 Ethernet adapter from Qualcomm's BigFoot Networks (even small PCs can be BigFoot). Also included is an HDMI 1.4 output capable of 4K video (HDMI 1.4 is limited to 30Hz output at 2160p).
Good features to have, especially for an HTPC build.
The other launch is the GTX 760 GAMING ITX video card. This card is a miniature GeForce 760 designed to fit in mini-ITX cases. If your box is a Home Theater PC, expect it to run just about any game at 1080p.
No information on pricing and availability yet. Check out the press release after the break.
Subject: Cases and Cooling | July 7, 2013 - 09:28 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: mini-itx, mini ITX, micro ATX, anidees, aluminum case
Anidees (roughly translates to "ideas" in English) recently launched a new PC case for micro ATX or mini ITX motherboards called the AI-4B. It is a steel and aluminum chassis measuring 429 x 186 x 420mm (HxWxD) and weighing 6.06 kg. Its design is somewhat similar to the company's previous AI-6 mid-tower case and includes curved edges and a black textured exterior. The front of the case is covered by a door that can be made to hinge from the left or right side, depending on user preference. Behind the door is a large mesh vent with removable dust filter that holds two 120mm Nano Tech fans (which come bundled with the case).
The front IO is located on the top of the case and includes two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, and two analog audio jacks (mic and headphone).
The interior of the case is also all black. Features include five PCI slots, support for a top-mounted ATX PSU, and space for two 5.25" drives and four 3.5" drives. Other features include cable clips to aid in cable management, anti-vibration rubber mounting options for the fans and hard drives to reduce noise, and optional sound dampening material.
The Anidees AI-4B supports graphics cards up to 318mm in length and CPU coolers up to 168mm tall. Cooling options include two 120mm fans in the front and a single 120mm fan in the rear of the case. Anidees packs in three 120mm Nano Tech fans, which come pre-installed. The fans are connected to a fan controller (located under the front IO panel) that will run the fans at one of three selectable speeds.
The new Micro ATX chassis is available now in Europe for 79.90 Euros or 79.99 pounds (UK). The SKU with sound dampening material is 10 Euros or 10 pounds more at 89.90 Euros or 89.99 pounds. These prices translate to approximately $103 for the base model or $115 for the model with sound dampening material. The AI-4B is available now from Caseking or Amazon in Europe. Direct US availability and pricing has not yet been announced, but if it really strikes your fancy it should be possible to import it for a slight premium and shipping costs via Amazon or other retailers.
Subject: General Tech | June 27, 2013 - 06:07 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: H87, zotac, haswell, mini-itx, mini ITX, 802.11n, msata
Zotac has announced a new H87ITX-A-E motherboard, which is a mini-ITX form factor board for Intel's latest generation "Haswell" 4th Generation Core processors. The board is designed for small form factor systems and should enable some low power PCs for HTPC, DVR, home server and desktop tasks.
The board has a unique layout. Zotac has placed four SATA III 6Gbps ports, a single Mini-PCI-E slot, one mSATA (6Gbps) connector, and hte PCH at the top of the board where the CPU socket would traditionally be. The LGA 1150 CPU socket sits just above the single PCI-E x 16 slot and between the VRMs and two DDR3 DIMM slots (maximum of 16GB RAM). There are also headers for four additional USB 2.0 ports and two additional USB 3.0 ports. Zotac is bundling a pre-installed 802.11n Wi-Fi card in the Mini-PCI-E slot.
The Zotac H87 Mini ITX Wi-Fi series board has robust IO that includes:
- 4 x USB 3.0
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 2 x Gigabit Ethernet
- 5 x Analog audio jacks
- 1 x Optical S/PDIF
- 2 x Wi-Fi antennas
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x DisplayPort
- 1 x DVI
The Mini-ITX motherboard appears to be available in Japan via Amazon's Japanese site, but US pricing and availability are still unkown. From the specifications though, it looks like a capable motherboard that is worth keeping an eye on. If the price translation is accurate, the board may be around $150 when it hits US shores, though that is not the official MSRP (which could change).