Like Bill’s Hanzo sword, Luke’s lightsaber, and Gordon Freeman’s crowbar, Thermaltake’s newest chassis appears unconvincingly plain—until you take it out for a spin. The SwordM dices through our typical chassis frustrations like a chain saw through a burrito. This is truly a next-generation case.
Sweet mercy, at first glance Koolance’s PC4-1025BK case seems like a perfect power-user box. Unfortunately, this water-cooling-enriched case is simply too small to contain certain enthusiast hardware and too complicated for the average user.
There are apparently two versions of the English language going around the technological world: One is the version manufacturers use when they say things like, “The NZXT Alpha also enables the user to fit large expansion cards like the Nvidia 8800 GTX.” The other version is the kind we use, where the word “fit” doesn’t suggest a large bucket of grease, a hammer, and profanity that would make a longshoreman blush.
In our last big case roundup (April 2007), Gigabyte’s Aurora 570 earned top marks for its excellent design and convenience as a chassis. But Gigabyte certainly hasn’t rested on its laurels since then—the company’s designers have gone back to the drawing board and given us a case that rivals the coolness of its predecessor. Gigabyte calls it the Mercury Pro; we would have named it the Monstrosity Pro if we were in charge. That’s because this case isn’t just a run-of-the-mill chassis. It’s a fully functional (armed and operational?) water-cooling/case hybrid. Take a moment if you need to collect yourself.
For a change of pace, we’ll start with our biggest critique
first—literally, the biggest. Thermaltake’s Xaser VI chassis (the
air-cooling-specific VG4000 model) is the Godzilla of cases. It’s heavy
enough to make carrying it an awkward, hernia-inducing experience, and
that’s before you slap a system inside. Heaven forbid you make full use
of the case’s eight (?!) hard drive bays and seven (?!?!) 5.25-inch
expansion slots. Add water cooling and you might want to invest in some
wheels and a dolly for transporting the beast.
In yet another example of a design that likely looked way better on
paper than in practice, we find ourselves struggling to come to terms
with the Cooler Master 690’s more unique features. We can’t fault the
company for trying; in some ways, we applaud Cooler Master’s attempts
at distinguishing the 690 from the rest of its cadre in the crowded
Ultra’s m998 is a sad combination of two phrases: “Looks are deceiving.” and “A for effort.” Funny, because when we consider the case strictly on face value, it’s anything but a cliché. For starters, the m998 is wider than the standard cases we’ve tested, but the aluminum body keeps the enclosure rather light.
The ongoing joke at Maximum PC is that SilverStone releases a new TJ series case but once a year. Like the arrival of Punxsutawney Phil, the Video Music Awards, and the Dream Machine, this glorious event is marked with celebrations and drunken revelry—only this time around, instead of booze, we’re tipping back kegs of awesome. SilverStone’s TJ10 case is a welcome addition to the company’s strong dynasty of chassis. Like its father before it, the TJ10 is polished and almost perfect… almost.
Oh, NZXT, you had some truly great ideas on the ol’ chassis drawing board. Alas, we can’t give a 10 Kick Ass award for dreams. The Blackline case is a personal ad in case form—it certainly looks wonderful on NZXT’s website, but seeing it in person is an entirely different experience.
Consider this month’s batch of case reviews to be a second chance of sorts, as both companies highlighted this month have previously built total clunkers. Cooler Master threw down the iTower 930 in February, which was the functional equivalent of bringing a wiffle bat to a gunfight. And NZXT troubled us with the Adamas—which sported a relatively mediocre design when stacked up against its competitors.