Ah, spring: when a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of upgrading. But, alas! Your fancy new videocard is too big for your tiny case, and you’re running out of hard drive bays for your RAID. Fear not! A classy full-tower chassis can be just the solution.
In this roundup we’ve collected five full-tower cases—big and tall enclosures with all the bells and whistles: new looks, toolless expansion slots, intake filters, drive bays aplenty, and more. Space-saving isn’t a priority here: The focus is on features, with room for as much hardware as you need to cram in. If you want a portable rig or something to nestle under your desk, these aren’t the cases for you. But if you’re looking to make the most of your computer, portability be damned, one of these beauts could be your huckleberry.
In evaluating these cases, we focused on a few key points: overall build quality, aesthetics, ease of installation, cooling options, convenience, and features like front-panel connectors. We kept price in mind, too, but only to a degree: After all, we’re Maximum PC. We don’t mind paying for excellence; we just object when gear is offensively overpriced.
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.
Installing a system in the NZXT Zero II is like taking a trip back to the first half of this decade. Although the front panel cover is nice—all smooth, curved lines and blue lighting, with a handy magnetic clasp—the interior of this 21x21.1x8.2-inch case seems downright primitive and unfinished compared to the other cases in this roundup. The five 5.25-inch drive bays as well as the two external and six internal 3.5-inch HDD bays are toolless, albeit utilizing old-fashioned clip-in rails rather than an in-case mechanism or fancier bracket.
The case comes with three fans and slots for six more—four on the door, one on the bottom, and one on the top—but the net effect is that it looks incomplete. The Zero II is built of flimsier metal than the rest of the cases covered here, although the Zero is roughly a third of the price of Cooler Master’s offering, and less than a sixth the price of the ABS Canyon.
While most Silverstone cases tend toward polished metal and (if you’re lucky) a side window, the Raven’s hard plastic exterior takes its stylistic cues from a stealth bomber. Appropriately, everything on this 24.3x26x11-inch beaut is hidden behind panels: the front connectors (two USB, audio, FireWire) behind a flip-up, and the five 5.25-inch drives behind a garage door–like sliding panel.
The most striking thing about the Raven, besides its appearance, is that its motherboard mount is rotated 90 degrees clockwise—the I/O ports and PCI expansion slots, normally situated on the back of a case, are on the top and covered by a shroud that allows cables to be routed neatly to the back. This improves airflow (allowing air drawn in by two 18cm fans to rise from the bottom of the case to the top) and takes the stress of weighty PCI-E cards (like, say, dual-GPU offerings from Nvidia and ATI) off of the motherboard.
At 26x17x9 inches, the ABS Canyon 695 is a tall and svelte aluminum “supertower,” and its design is certainly striking. Remove the smooth front-panel cover and you’ll find the entire front of the case taken up by three 14cm intake fans, with a sliding lint-trap-like dust filter in front of them. This means the optical drive bays are rotated 90 degrees to accommodate the fans; they actually open into holes in the case’s side panels, giving the exterior an unusual look.
Inside, the case is separated into three “thermal zones”—the PSU, two 5.25-inch bays, and one external 3.5-inch bay reside at the top; the middle section holds the motherboard, PCI cards, etc.; the bottom can accommodate six SATA drives and even includes a hot-swappable backplate. Airflow is great, thanks to a generous array of fans—six in all.
We loved the features of Cooler Master’s HAF case but weren’t thrilled with its looks. Now comes the ATCS 840, billed as a “classic” model by Cooler Master. It combines the useful amenities we’ve come to expect from Cooler Master with a sexy brushed-metal, no-window, no-nonsense exterior, and nary an LED to be seen.
The roomy (22.8x24.8x9.8 inches) ATCS 840 is packed: removable dust filters on its intake ports, the sturdy slide-out motherboard tray with CPU-backplate cutout (so you don’t have to remove the motherboard to switch CPU coolers, even those that require a backplate). The tray even includes the full rear I/O area, so your PCI cards can come too! There’s even space for a second PSU or water-cooling reservoir up top. Three 23cm, 700rpm fans—one in front, two on the top—provide big airflow with little noise. There’s a 12cm output fan in the back, too.
Samsung today announces three new LCD displays as part of its 70 Series family, the P2070, P3270, and P2370HD. The first two rock a 30mm (1.18-inch) slim form factor, while the HD model checks in a little thicker at 65.5mm (2.58 inches.).
"The 70 Series offers our customers a sophisticated-looking LCD monitor with the performance capability of our televisions," said J.H. Kim, President of Samsung Electronics America's Information Technology Division. "The 70 Series is the new standard as more people upgrade their monitors for additional uses, like watching television programs and playing video games."
Power users will be most interested in the P2370HD, which boasts full 1080p HD (1920x1080) and comes with a built-in HDTV tuner, integrated speakers with SRS TruSurround, and a remote control. Other specs include a 5ms GTG response time, 50,000:1 contrast ration, and HDMI and component inputs.
Probably the only one blindsided by the NPD Group's latest numbers is Sony, which according to a new report shows first-quarter Blu-ray player sales increasing by 72 percent to over 400,000 units. It's no coincidence that the average selling price for a stand-alone Blu-ray player has gone down 34 percent from this same time last year, with the average player now selling for $261 instead of $393.
"The rising penetration of high-definition televisions and lower Blu-ray player prices are broadening the format's market opportunity," said Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis at NPD. "Even as options expand for accessing movies digitally, Blu-ray is carrying forward the widespread appeal of DVD into the high-definition marketplace."
Along with more players finding their way into the mainstream market, sales of Blu-ray movies are up significantly, too. U.S. residents bought about 9 million Blu-ray flicks in the first quarter, compared to 4.8 million during the same quarter last year.
It makes us sick to our stomach to think we used to pay $300 and up for premium 2GB memory kits just a few short years ago, when now you can get twice the capacity for roughly the cost of a Happy Meal, sans toy. If you're new to computing, trust us when we say that most of today's memory kits are a steal at their current price points.
Whether the same will be said about Patriot's newest SODIMM memory kits remains to be seen, but hey, we're stoked to see the higher capacity parts being offered in mobile form. The memory maker just announced two new additions to its Signature series, 4GB and 8GB DDR2-800 dual-channel SODIMMs.
"The performance gap between mobile and desktop computing has reduced significantly over the recent introduction of more powerful mobile platforms," commented Les Henry, Director of Engineering at Patriot. "By adding Patriot's DDR2 4GB module or 8GB in dual-channel mode, mobile systems can eliminate that gap and perform like a true desktop replacement."
No official word yet on pricing or availability (Newegg lists the not-yet-stocked 8GB kit for $299), but 8GB? Suck it, netbooks.
To those looking for another venue to get their very own supercomputer, you’re in luck! Nvidia has recently announced that their CUDA-based Tesla C1060 GPU is available in Dell’s Precision R5400, T5500 and T7500 workstations effective immediately.
If you’re worried that just one of these GPUs isn’t enough to handle your hardcore needs, worry not – just one C1060 has enough power to control the main system of the European Extremely Large Telescope project (reportedly the world’s largest). According to Jeff Meisel with National Instruments, a workstation “equipped with a single Tesla C1060 can achieve near real-time control of the mirror simulation and controller, which before wouldn't be possible in a single machine without the computational density offered by GPUs."