Like its older and larger sibling, the Raven RV01 (reviewed April 2009 as part of our full-tower roundup), Silverstone’s Raven RV02 is an all-black steel and plastic chassis with a defining feature: The motherboard orientation is rotated 90 degrees from the standard layout. But the Raven RV02 is even less orthodox than the RV01, which seems positively pedestrian by comparison. Unlike its full-tower predecessor, the RV02 is deeper than it is tall—25 inches deep by 20 inches tall by 8.3 inches wide, so it sits low to the ground. The front of the case is chunky stealth-inspired plastic, but is much more restrained on the RV02 than on the RV01, with a garage door–style front bezel. The side panels and frame are steel, and the case is black inside and out.
Building a system in the RV02 is a vertiginous experience. At first glance, nothing seems to be in the right place—the right-side panel has an optional plastic window, while the left-side panel is the one behind the motherboard tray. Furthermore, not only do the PCI expansion slots and I/O shield mount to the top of the case, but so does the power supply, which sits to the right of the motherboard at the back of the case, and is held in place by four screws, a Velcro strap, and a plastic bracket. The case’s five 5.25-inch bays and 3-inch-bay hard drive cage sit at the front of the case. The hard drive cage isn’t as user-friendly as we’re used to seeing—to install a drive, you must first remove eight thumbscrews, take out the cage, and use four long screws to attach the drive to the rubber shock-absorbing mounts in the cage. Thankfully, four of the optical-drive slots use Silverstone’s familiar toolless retention mechanism.
Lian Li has long had a reputation for crafting excellent cases at exorbitant prices, and the Tyr PC-X1000 upholds both standards. Like the PC-X2000 (rebadged as the ABS Canyon 695 and reviewed in December 2008), the PC-X1000 swaps depth for height, measuring more than 26 inches tall but less than 18 inches wide and 9 inches deep. The Tyr PC-X1000 offers a lot of compelling features, from five 14cm fans to thermally isolated compartments to 2.5-inch hard drive mounts. It’s visually striking, packed with amenities, and (of course) expensive. Is it worth it?
Thanks to its height, the Lian Li Tyr PC-X1000 looks much thinner than it actually is. The black brushed-aluminum design is minimalist but attractive, eschewing LED fans and internal lighting altogether—fine by us, especially as the side panels lack windows. The X1000 has plenty of front connectors: four USB 2.0 ports, FireWire, eSATA, and audio.
What it lacks in flash, the PC-X1000 makes up for in features: Like its predecessor, the X1000 is divided into three thermal zones. The bottom zone holds the PSU, a three-slot removable hard drive bay, and a 14cm intake fan. The main compartment has two dust-filtered 14cm intake fans and one 14cm exhaust fan, a removable motherboard tray, two toolless 2.5-inch hard drive brackets, a toolless PCI retention bracket, and the same useless retention bar that we removed from the X2000. The top compartment holds two stealthed 5.25-inch optical drive slots, one 5.25-inch/3.5-inch combo slot, and another three-slot removable hard drive cage, as well as an additional 14cm exhaust fan.
When we first saw prototypes of Thermaltake’s Level 10 concept chassis back in May, we were intrigued by its unique design but skeptical as to whether Thermaltake would ever actually produce it—and if it did, whether it would be any good. The answer to the first question is yes—it should be shipping by the time you read this. But is the most inventive chassis we’ve laid hands on since the Antec Skeleton actually a good case?
The Level 10, which Thermaltake designed with BMW, is not your standard ATX full-tower. Instead of a simple box shape, the Level 10 hangs its components from a central wall—basically a reinforced version of a standard case’s right side and frame. From this central wall protrude individual hinged covers: one each for PSU, optical drives, and the main motherboard compartment, as well as six SATA drive bays connected to a vertical aluminum heatsink. All cables between compartments are routed through the central pillar, behind the motherboard and drive trays, just like a standard case, resulting in an incredibly clean look—at least when the covers are closed. Red LEDs light a strip running from the front panel (with its four USB ports, one eSATA port, and audio ports), along the top to the rear. The case is huge, too, weighing 47 pounds and measuring 12.5 inches wide by 2 feet deep by 26 inches high.
Cooler Master wowed us last year with its full-tower HAF 932, which garnered Maximum PC’s coveted Kick Ass Award (November 2008). Now we’ve gotten our hands on the midtower version of the HAF, the 922, and it looks awfully familiar.
Superficially, the HAF 922 is like a cross between the full-tower HAF 932 and last month’s CM Storm Sniper. In fact, HAF 922’s interior is virtually identical to the Sniper’s—it has the same fixed motherboard tray with the CPU backplate cutout, cable tie-downs, and cable-routing holes. The five 5.25-inch drive bays use the same toolless retaining mechanism, and the five 3.5-inch hard drive bays use the same slide-out toolless trays. But where the Sniper had toolless PCI locking mechanisms, the HAF opts for more-traditional thumbscrews. And the interior of the HAF, unlike the Sniper’s, is unpainted metal (although the Sniper’s motherboard tray isn’t painted, either).
The Cooler Master Storm Sniper, with its matte-black, mesh-covered shell and blue-glowing fans, looks like a prop from a sci-fi movie, the kind where cyber-soldiers rush into a building and start furiously hacking its defenses. And that’s awesome. It’s large for a midtower case, and looks even larger than it is, thanks to bowed-out side panels and feet that raise the bottom of the case an inch above the ground.
The Storm line is all about sturdiness, style, and portability—Cooler Master is apparently targeting LAN gamers—which it delivers. At 22.7 inches tall, 22.3 inches deep, 10 inches wide, and weighing in at more than 23 pounds, the Sniper is big-boned, but with sturdy handles on top, surprisingly luggable.
The Mesh bezels run from the bottom of the front panel all the way to the top, and the top panel has black mesh between its sturdy steel handles. The side panels are steel and bulge outward. The left side-panel has a large window covered by black mesh, to allow for air flow, and contains mounts for one 20cm or two 12cm fans.
Say you’re a content creator—video, graphic design, whatever. You want a computer that’s quiet, functional, and hopefully doesn’t look like it was designed by a candy raver, or worse, Apple. That’s what Thermaltake is betting on with its Element S, an understated black midtower case with restrained red accents and plenty of drive space that’s marketed toward content creators.
The Element S is built from steel, painted black inside and out, and decked with black plastic trim on the top and a red-rimmed, black-plastic front-panel door. It weighs close to 18 pounds, and measures 21.3x9.1x20 inches. The model we tested included three fans: a 12cm, 1,300rpm front intake fan, a 14cm 1,000rpm rear output fan, and a 23cm 800rpm red LED fan on top. The case also includes rear mounts for two 6cm VGA exhaust fans, which is rare, but makes sense if you’re encoding video using a high-end graphics card. The Element S also has two holes for water-cooling tubes, but doesn’t include rubber grommets in them—they’re just bare metal punchouts in the case that could puncture the tubing over time.
Hiper may not be well-known in the States, but in Europe it’s big in the power supply and chassis markets. Now, Hiper is branching into the American market and has brought at least one solid contender to the great case race.
The Hiper Osiris is a midtower ATX case constructed of 6063-T5 aluminum alloy, which makes it very sturdy. The top, clip-on front panel, and side panels are all finished in black brushed aluminum, which looks quite fine. Frankly, we’d expect a little less heft from an all-aluminum chassis, but the beast clocks in at more than 18 pounds. On the other hand, it’s certainly not going to break on you.
Inside, the Osiris is finished in black, except for the unpainted motherboard backplate, which takes up only the space required for an ATX motherboard, leaving plenty of room for cable routing and tie-downs (with the included Velcro straps). The Osiris includes three 12cm fans—front, top, and rear. PCI slot covers are of the flimsy snap-off variety, but Hiper includes several ventilated replacement covers—a nice touch.
Silverstone is well-known for releasing a few solid chassis every year, usually rehashes of its Temjin full-tower line. But this year has already brought two excellent cases that mark departures from the tried-and-true: the full-tower Raven RV01 (reviewed in our March full-tower roundup) and the mid-tower Fortress FT01.
The Fortress FT01 is a solidly constructed aluminum unibody case that just screams attention-to-detail. Mid-tower cases often lack the amenities of their full-size cousins (compare Silverstone’s own Kublai line with its mighty full-tower Temjin series), but the Fortress handily escapes that trap.
After the chunky, plastic, stealth-bomber-like trappings of the RV01—which we dug, don’t get us wrong—it’s nice to see Silverstone back to the classy brushed-metal look it’s known for. The Fortress’s side panels and front bezels are black brushed aluminum, while the rest of the machine has a dusty matte-black finish, with a bit of wicked-looking mesh covering the intake fans.
To quote Yogi Berra, “It’s like déjà vu all over again!” The Antec Nine Hundred Two is a refresh of Antec’s well-loved and much-imitated Nine Hundred midtower gaming chassis. And although the Nine Hundred Two does boast several refinements over its predecessor, it’s not exactly revolutionary.
First we’ll talk about what the Nine Hundred Two has in common with its predecessor. Both cases are matte black steel with plastic side windows, mesh-style front bezels, and are nearly the same size: At 19.4 x 8.6 x 18.6 inches, the Nine Hundred Two is barely a half-inch wider than the Nine Hundred and a fifth of an inch deeper.
Like the Nine Hundred, the Nine Hundred Two comes with four fans: a 20cm low-rpm Big Boy on top, and three 12cm blue LED fans—one in the rear and one on the front of each three-slot hard drive bay. Here we see some improvements on the Nine Hundred: All the fans now include blue LEDs (and the front ones have intake filters). Fan speed controllers are now mounted directly into the case, with the two front fans controlled by variable speed knobs in the front bezels and the top and rear fans controlled by switches on the case’s back plate. On the Nine Hundred, the fan controllers were ugly white and dangled loose inside the case.
The Thermaltake Spedo is big and bold, with gray plastic trim and black honeycomb mesh running up the front of the case and the top plate. It sounds awkward, but it mostly works, just like the mishmash of features inside.
The 21.1x24x9.1-inch Spedo starts strong with seven external 5.25-inch slots and two removable hard drive bays with three slots each, all completely screwless. Add in two low-rpm 23cm fans (one on top and one on the side), and six smaller, faster fans, including a red LED fan in front of one of the hard drive bays, and airflow is great.
The Spedo ships with an array of flimsy plastic panels billed as the “Advanced Thermal Chamber 3,” which separate the PSU area from the PCI cards from the CPU cooler. In our experience, removing and installing the panels is more trouble than it’s worth; after our initial install we just left them outside the case.