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Hello and welcome to my in-depth review of this case. Here you will find a brutally honest opinion of the Advantages, Disadvantages and my highly valuable Recommended Installation Procedure.
*For looks and compact size this is very hard to beat. Might be best suited to smaller motherboards but it will take full size ATX as I tried.
The Blue LED's look good on the front along with the buttons and front USB/Firewire ports which are hidden under one of the small flaps.
*I bought this case because I liked the look and wanted to try a horizontal design case to clear some floor space in my office.
*The external 3.5" drive bay is nicely hidden under the right flap. (Covers that ugly floppy drive- which we only use for installing Windows 2000 four floppies)
*The way the DVD-ROM / CD-ROM drive door flaps work is truly awesome. It looks very cool and works very well.
*I broke one of the front door clips the first time I used it by standing the case up on its front face without realising one of the little doors was open. It took me about 2 hours to repair it using random bits of plastic and lots of super glue.
*You have to remove the front cover to install/change the power supply and installed optical drives (or a hard drive if you installed one in an adapter in one of the 5.25" bays)
*There is only 1 internal 3.5" drive bay on its side; NOT 3 as it said on eBuyer and on the actual box the product ships in from Aplus!
*I found that my PC components ran a good 10° hotter in this case than in the previous case these components were in which was a pretty cheap one!
*Airflow through the fan grills is not very good at all so I recommend drilling out the fan grilles on the back and maybe the sides too with an 80mm HSS Hole Saw (aka Tank Cutter)
*The pre-installed fans really don't push much air and make a small buzzing noise from their motors (the noise is not from the fan blades pushing air as they don't push much anyway). So I would recommend changing them for quieter ones.
*Since ideally you have to remove the pre-installed fans prior to installing a motherboard there is another problem. They are on a plastic plate that releases with 2 screws on the back on mine one of these holes in the plastic went; as in the screw could not bite into the plastic anymore, it still holds it on but the screw goes round and round and round if you try to tighten it.
*An absolute cabling nightmare, a modular cable PSU would be a good idea. But seriously there is almost no space for cables at all. In fact I stuffed most of mine where there is a space for a 120mm fan to go underneath the PSU
*The fan mounting holes in the case allow a choice of either 80mm or 120mm BUT you can only put an 80mm case fan next to CPU because generally a 120mm fan will be in the way of the heatsink/fan on the CPU. There would possibly be no room for a fan here at all if using a bigger heatsink.
*No hard drive cooling whatsoever really, they will run hot so some sort of HDD cooler like the one from Zalaman might be appropriate. Also, since they are at the front of the case you can hear them along with the PSU fan which is not really ideal since this is supposed to be HTPC case!
MY RECOMMENDED INSTALL ORDER:
1. Remove pre-installed fans
2. Remove front panel completely and remove 3.5" cover if your putting a floppy/card reader there but leave it on if it's going to be a hard drive
3. Now would be the time to drill out the fan grilles on the back, possibly on the sides too with an 80mm HSS Hole saw. You will need to thoroughly hoover up shards of steel (and file the sharp edges smooth if your concerned about safety) if you wish to carry out this step.
4. Snap off PCI slot covers you need to access. You should snap these off before motherboard install. I nearly knocked a few capacitors off my motherboard trying to remove them with motherboard installed.
5. Snap off covers you need that are blocked on the motherboard I/O plate now since they bend inwards to break off.
6. Install internal hard drive (side mounted one) - you wont get it in once the motherboard is in
7. Depending on your motherboard layout and size of CPU heatsink you may need to install the side case fan near to the CPU before fitting the motherboard. You may also be limited to 80mm fan rather than 120mm due to your internal components.
8. Install motherboard, CPU, RAM, GFX, SOUND, NETWORK CARD, USB card etc.
9. Install optical drives and/or second hard drive in 5" adapter
10. Connect all drives to motherboard and cables from front of case
11. Install PSU. Modular cable PSU would make wiring up simpler
12. Fix front panel on
13. Install floppy/floppy card reader/another hard drive in the externally accessible 3,5" drive bay in the bottom but don't screw it in (you'll need to poke it out the front of the case later on to be able to see the power connector and IDE connector to wire them up.
14. Connect power to everything tucking the excess power cables wherever you wish (I used the space where the fan under the power supply should go)
15. Fix the floppy/whatever you put in its place in with its 4 screws.
16. Fit as many fans as you like- one on each side up to 120mm, two on the back - I would recommend genuinely quiet ones that will shift more air than the pre-installed ones at less noise level, especially with the fan grilles drilled out. The only one I didn't fit was the one underneath the power supply. If you were desperate this space could somehow be used for another hard drive but I needed it for somewhere to put all the IDE cables, excess PSU cables, firewire and front panel audio wires.
17. Fit rear fans back in (I recommend using quieter ones than the pre-installed ones for a true HTPC)