In Win 303 Case Review vs. NZXT S340, Corsair 400C

By Published August 03, 2016 at 9:00 pm
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Additional Info

  • Component: Case
  • Awards: Editor's Choice, Quality Build
  • Original MSRP: 90
  • Manufacturer: In Win

Discussion of In Win is normally around trade show systems, often of the “$2400 animatronic deathbot” variety. The not-a-Transformer systems still exceed price-points of $400, as found with the trademark orange-and-glass D-Frame. In Win's image has firmly solidified as one of a designer company: the cases tend to be artful, of high build quality, and expensive, leaving the low-end market to peddle its flimsy steel panels and acrylic windows.

Today marks our first review of an affordable In Win case, and the first affordable In Win case we find legitimately innovative and well-suited for mainstream gaming PCs. The In Win 303 is a $90 enclosure with a full, 3mm-thick tempered glass side window, a half-chamber top-mounted PSU with unique radiator mounting, and a simplified (but not minimalistic) exterior. The case uses 1.2mm thick SECC steel paneling, making it one of the most rigid enclosures on the market – and that's across the entire sub-$200 price-range, not just the budget price-point; that said, most directly competing cases use 0.6mm or 0.8mm steel.

Prior to working on this case, we toured the In Win factory (while in Taipei for Computex – a short drive to Taoyuan) and got a first-hand look at the manufacturing process. The unique experience has afforded us a unique ability to judge the case for its engineering and materials. Check the In-Win Factory Tour content for that.

In Win 303 Video Review & Hands-On, Cable Management, etc.

(Note: Large portions of the below content are pasted from our video script. If you watch the video, you'll get mostly the same information. This is due to a time constraint with the forthcoming RX 470 review.)

In Win 303 Case Specs

 

Model 303
Color Black, White
Case Type Mid Tower
Case Material SECC, Tempered Glass
M/B Compatibility 12" x 10.7" ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX
Expansion Slots PCI-E x 7
Maximum Compatibility VGA Card Length:350mm
CPU Heatsink Height :160mm
Front Ports 2 x USB 3.0
2 x USB 2.0
HD Audio
Internal Drive Bays 2 x 3.5"
2 x 2.5"
Pre-installed (Max. up to 3 bays)
Thermal Solution Compatibility 1 x 120mm Rear Fan / 120mm Radiator
3 x 120mm Top Fan / 360mm Radiator
3 x 120mm Bottom Fan
Power Supply Compatibility PSII: ATX12V
- Length up to 200mm
Product Dimension
(H x W x D)
500mm x 215mm x 480mm
19.6" x 8.4" x 18.8"
Package Dimension
(H x W x D)
335mm x 610mm x 572mm
13.1" x 24" x 22.5"
Net Weight 10.88kg / 24lb
Gross Weight 13.02kg / 28.7lb

The In Win 303 enclosure ships in black and white models. Both versions of the case have a tinted, 3mm thick tempered glass side panel, and both use LED illuminated name tags and I/O ports.

The 303 is built of SECC steel that is 1.2mm thick, making the paneling one of the thickest on the case market. Most competition in this price range uses 0.8mm thick steel.

in-win-303-side-1

in-win-303-right

The case supports ATX, mATX, and mini-ITX motherboards, and we'll talk about some ATX fitment issues later. Expansion slot support is up to 7 PCI-e devices, which can be up to 350mm in length – that accommodates basically every video card on the market. Power supply support maxes out at 200mm long with the ATX12V specification. Maximum CPU heatsink height is 160mm.

The case we received included 0 fans. We have seen some folks receive the case with a rear fan pre-installed, but ours did not include one, and product listings on US retailers do not indicate inclusion of a fan. In Win's cooling support allows for 1x 120mm cooling devices in the rear slot, 3x 120mm bottom fans, and 3x 120mm top fans or a 360mm radiator.

For drives, the 303 can support 2x 3.5” HDDs and 2x 2.5” drives. Up to 3 bays can be used simultaneously.

The case weighs 24 pounds, a result of using thicker steel materials than found in most other cases at its price range.

The In Win 303 clearly subscribes to a trend that the company set a few years ago, at CES 2013, and has opted for a mix of strong metals and tinted, tempered glass paneling. The full-window side panel reminds us of Corsair's 760T, but the paneling is tinted and 3mm thick.

In Win 303 Looks & External Materials

Externally, In Win has taken a few small steps that diverge from an already mature case market. Cases have a fundamental set of rules that don't change – for the most part, anyway – but there's still room to innovate. It's small, but In Win's 303 uses an LED illuminated name tag and set of I/O ports, including a mechanically satisfying power switch. The LED illumination fits with the graceful aesthetic, and reminds us of some of the small steps NZXT took with its S340.

The case is otherwise barren on the front and top, bereft of any “gamer” edge and ventilation or cooling. The side panels are interesting, at least; In Win has opted for a full side window, like the Corsair 760T, and has used a honeycomb, top-mounted PSU cage at half width to create an illusion of greater interior space than is actually available. It's sort of like an interior design trick, but for computers. The right panel is secured with large thumb screws that protrude from the panel, resting just above a honeycomb design.

in-win-303-front

in-win-303-cage

There's some acoustic benefit to thicker paneling, but it's mostly a psychological thing. It feels sturdier, which tends to coincide with a perception of higher quality.

Ventilation intake is entirely through the bottom of the case, sort of following a Stack Effect cooling pattern. The bottom of the case can theoretically support up to 3x 120mm fans, but we had issues with fitment. Installed in the bottom-rear slots, some fans will collide with the motherboard or create issues with connecting FPC headers. We mostly relied on using the bottom front intake for fan mounting.

For the curious, the top fans don't actually mount to the top of the case – it's a little different than that. The sui generis setup of the interior sees the “top” fans mounting internally, vertically, against the power supply shelf – which is about half the width of the total case. The fans then pump the heat into the shelf, and the PSU handles dissipation out the back of the case. For almost all power supplies, this should not substantially increase heat within the unit. The only exception would be if you mounted a 120mm radiator straight in front of the PSU, then attached that to a hot CPU or GPU – we wouldn't recommend that. But for larger radiators, the heat is spread out enough over the surface area that it'll dissipate more evenly.

in-win-303-back

It's clear that the case was mostly built with radiators in mind. One note here: The top-mounted radiators are only supported in multiples of 120mm fans, even though the shelf would easily accommodate a 280mm radiator. We wish In Win would have included mount points for 280mm radiators.

CPU tower support is only 160mm, sort of weak in comparison to the rest of the specs. That eliminates a lot of the higher-end units from Be Quiet! and Noctua, all fitting for use with a full display style window. Still, a good amount of coolers just happen to be almost exactly 160mm.

Test Methodology

We tested using our Ivy Bridge test bench, detailed in the table below. This particular configuration has been retired and brought back into service, following some changes to our hardware availability. We’ve moved from a one-bench-fits-all setup (which uses a Haswell config in an mATX board) to multiple benches, one for mATX and small towers and one for ATX / mid-towers. This bench is for the latter.

Conducting thermal tests requires careful measurement of temperatures in the surrounding environment. We control for ambient by constantly measuring temperatures with thermocouples and laser readers. We then produce charts using a Delta T(emperature) over Ambient value. This value subtracts the thermo-logged ambient value from the measured diode temperatures, producing a delta report of thermals. AIDA64 is used for logging thermals of silicon components, including the GPU diode.

All case fans are manually configured to their maximum throughput using BIOS. If a fan controller is present, we opt-in and test on multiple settings. This forces testing of case fan performance in addition to the case's air channeling and airstream design. This also ensures minimal variance when testing, as automatically controlled fan speeds can reduce reliability of benchmarking. The CPU fan is set to use a custom fan curve that was devised in-house after a series of testing; setting the CPU fan to its maximum speed can limit the disparity shown from case-to-case as the CPU cooler is extremely efficient, and will create a ceiling for thermal performance if bottlenecked.

The CPU is overclocked to 3.6GHz with all power saving features disabled and EIST disabled.

  Component Courtesy Of Price
Video Card GTX 980 Reference
(PhysX) MSI GTX 980 Gaming
NVIDIA
CyberPower
$500
CPU Intel i5-3570K @ Stock GamersNexus -
Motherboard MSI Z77-GD65 GamersNexus -
Memory HyperX 2x4GB 1866MHz Fury Kingston $45
SSD HyperX Predator PCI-e 480GB Kingston $400
PSU Enermax Platimax 1350W Enermax $200
Case This is what we're testing! - -

The video card is configured to run at 55% fan speed at all times. Stock clocks are used. We employ an NVIDIA GTX 980 reference for the case test bench.

Prior to load testing, we collect idle temperature results for ten minutes to determine the unloaded cooling performance of a case's fans and air channels. Thermal benchmarking is conducted for twenty minutes, a period we've determined sufficient for achieving equilibrium. The over-time data is aggregated and will occasionally be compiled into charts, if interesting or relevant. The equilibrium performance is averaged to create the below charts.

Load testing is conducted using Prime95 LFFTs and Kombustor “Titan Lake” stress testing simultaneously. Testing is completely automated using in-house scripting, and executes with perfect accuracy on every run.

We recently validated our test methodology using a thermal chamber, finding our approach to be nearly perfectly accurate. Learn more here.

Noise measurements were taken 20" from the front panel of the case using a dB meter with logging.

In Win 303 Thermals – Average Peak Load

in-win-303-temps-cpu

in-win-303-temps-gpu

in-win-303-temps-cpu-v-time

Without any fans, we're seeing the In Win 303 sustain a CPU temperature of 37.3C delta T when under full CPU and GPU load, with the CPU fan at 100% and GPU fan at 55%. Idle is at 17.5C. NZXT's S340 is only marginally cooler than the 303, at 36.7C delta T, though its idle temperature is a full 3.5C lower at 14C.

Adding a bottom and rear fan to the 303 reduces idle temperatures noticeably, as does adding a bottom and rear fan, but we actually saw the load temperatures slightly increase. For clarity, this review was delayed about 5 days because we retested this a few different times just to validate the results. What we came up with is as follows: Bottom intake in the front-bottom position is propelling air up and past the GPU, reducing some of the blower fan's efficacy, especially considering our PCIe SSD. The PSU is also interfacing with air channels, as its fan is faced into the case and is not a standalone loop.

Thermally, the In Win 303 is pretty unimpressive – but it's really not bad. The case is fairly comparable to NZXT's S340, and we find that permissible within the world of case thermals for a single GPU configuration. The airflow is tricky with the PSU using its own power to siphon away some of the heat, but it appears that for our specific setup, no extra fans makes sense. Things change as you introduce radiators or use a GPU cooler with push fans.

In Win 303 Noise (dB)

in-win-303-noise-test

In Win's thick paneling and glass helps contain some of the noise, but the performance is more-or-less identical between the cases; at least, as far as human perception goes. We'll have to attempt testing a case dedicated to silence (Fractal and Be Quiet! come to mind) to see if a wider delta emerges.

In Win 303 Gaming Case Conclusion

in-win-303-hero-1

In terms of the big picture, the In Win 303 has a clean design that doesn't go crazy with minimalism, like the S340 does, and uses sturdy materials with a high build quality. The tempered glass is tinted and visually superior to the usual acrylic found on these cases, the honeycomb design helps bring some flair to the paneling and is well engineered, and LCS support is mostly top-notch – though we really do think In Win should have added mount points for 280mm radiators, as they'd easily fit.

In Win does a lot of small things right with the 303, too: The name tag and front I/O LEDs are unique and not too adolescent; the dust filter pulls out sideways, so the case doesn't have to be moved away from the wall; the paneling is made of far thicker steel than its competitors, lending a feeling of higher perceived quality; and there's even infinitesimal detail internally, like a pass-through for the screwdriver to access the bottom expansion slot without cross-threading.

quality-build-303

ed-choice-303

It's got room to improve, like better support for large width radiators. Better cable management pass-throughs for ATX motherboards would also be appreciated, since the current ones get blocked when you install the board, thus leaving cables plainly visible. Actually, cable management is the biggest point where the 303 could improve after the bottom fan clearance issues with some motherboards. We wouldn't use this case for a multi-GPU setup for thermal and clearance reasons.

But the small and big wins of the 303 design outweigh those growth points. This is one case that we can very confidently recommend for mid-range PC builds. It's one of the few recent cases that has made moves to differentiate from the market. We'd recommend looking into the 303 ($90), the 400C ($100), and NZXT S340 ($70) for comparable cases. Rosewill's Cullinan could also be a contender.

Editorial, Test Lead: Steve “Lelldorianx” Burke
Sr. Test Technician: Mike “Budekai?” Gaglione
Video Producer: Andrew “ColossalCake” Coleman

Last modified on August 03, 2016 at 9:00 pm
Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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