In Win A1 Mini-ITX Case Review: If Ikea Made Cases

By Published July 15, 2018 at 11:00 pm
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We’ve been following the In Win’s A1 since CES 2017, where we saw it in a trio of cases with wood accents. The final version was at CES this year, now with some slightly different specs and no wood (although it’s still a possibility in the future).

In Win describes the A1’s design as “modern Scandinavian style,” which might be an attempt to say “Ikea-ish” without attracting litigious attention. It looks unique even without the wood veneer: the base and legs are made of clear acrylic, ringed on the inside with RGB LEDs. It doesn’t really create the illusion of “floating in A1r” as In Win says, but it does make the case stand out.

Our review of the In Win A1 mini-ITX case looks at overall build quality, ease-of-installation features, and temperature results in various tests. The case is presently ~$170 via Amazon, and includes a 600W 80 Plus Bronze PSU.

In Win A1 Specs

Model

A1

Colors

Black, White

Case Type

Mini ITX Tower

Case Material

SECC, Tempered Glass

M/B Compatibility

Mini-ITX

Expansion Slots

PCI-E x 2

Maximum Compatibility

VGA Card Length: 300mm

CPU Heatsink Height :160mm

Front Ports

2 x USB 3.0

HD Audio

Internal Drive Bays

2 x 2.5"

Thermal Solution Compatibility

1 x 120mm Side Fan

1 x 120mm Rear Fan / 120mm Radiator

2 x 120mm Bottom Fan

Power Supply Compatibility

In Win 600W PSU Included (ATX 140 x 150 x 86mm)

Product Dimension

(H x W x D)

with screw & handle height

273 x 216 x 355.5mm

(10.7" x 8.2" x 14")

Product Dimension

(H x W x D)

273 x 210 x 355.5mm

(10.7" x 8.2" x 14")

Package Dimension

(H x W x D)

344 x 295 x 414 mm

(13.5" x 11.6" x 16.2")

Net Weight

6 kg/ 13.2lbs

Gross Weight

6.9 kg/ 15.3lbs

In Win A1 PC Build

The A1 is a small and uncomplicated case, which is good, because there’s no physical manual--just a card with a QR code on it. The power supply is pre-installed, so a big portion of the build is taken care of before the case is even out of the box. As we pointed out at CES, the advantages of including the PSU are ease-of-installation and avoiding compatibility issues with larger PSUs.

in win a1 inside

The downside is that the case is built with one specific PSU in mind, and it’s not intended to be swapped out. We use an SFX PSU for mini-ITX case testing, and to install it we had to get rid of the plastic shield (they call it the “top PSU chamber”) placed between the PSU and the glass panel. Modular PSUs like ours may be more difficult to fit than non-modular, since the case isn’t tailored to that arrangement of cables. Like the Silverstone SG13 we reviewed recently, cable management boils down to bundling cables together and hoping they don’t touch a fan blade, which is another reason to stick with the pre-tidied-up PSU that In Win provides. The bottom line is that the power supply is definitely factored in to the overall cost, so don’t buy this case with the intention of replacing it. It’s 600W, 80+ Bronze, and non-modular, and if any of that is a dealbreaker, don’t buy the case.

The steel side panel is held in with captive thumbscrews at the top and plastic tabs at the bottom, an In Win feature we’ve appreciated in the past. The glass side panel uses two extremely easy-to-use plastic snaps at the top. It’s a bit overkill for a panel that’s only a foot wide, but it’s a great idea and we hope In Win makes use of it on some full-size cases.

in win a1 qi

The Qi charger is powered via a micro USB cable, and the stock PSU has a dedicated cable for this purpose. If the stock PSU is used, the charger will remain active when the system is powered off. The Qi charger in general is sort of odd: These are something that, typically, users want so they’re not constantly unplugging phones to reply to texts. Being an SFF case that’s likely positioned 6-10 feet away for an HTPC, it seems like a less-than-useful deployment. Efficacy through a thick piece of acrylic is also suspect.

The A1 doesn’t come with any fans. As our testing with the In Win 303 two years ago proves, it is possible to run a PC with no case fans, but it’s not a great idea. All fan slots are 120mm and the two bottom fans are filtered by mesh that’s glued on to the acrylic base.

Mini-ITX Case Testing Methodology

Our hardware was chosen for maximum compatibility with a wide range of mini-ITX cases: we’re using a low-profile cooler, small PSU, short GPU, and an APU for any cases where a discrete GPU doesn’t fit at all. The 2400G is configured to a fixed 3.7GHz in order to ensure consistent frequency performance under benchmarks.

Mini-ITX reviews are the least scientific of any case reviews. They’re difficult to do, and it’s a challenge to look at huge lists of thermal benchmarks to determine an obvious “best.” With ITX cases, the subjective enters play to an extreme that we can’t just “review” -- a lot of that will be up to viewers. For examples of this, Case A might be half the size of Case B (in volume), and while both are still significantly smaller than even Micro-ATX boxes, Case B might be “too big” for some users. ITX cases range between true-to-form shuttle boxes and cases that are functionally mid-towers, with some oddballs in the set-top box category (read: no dGPU support at all). While something like the SG13 (11.5 liters) might seem the incarnation of a perfect ITX box, it does suffer from reduced ease-of-installation and cable management -- that’s the nature of such a small box; then again, another user might see the Thermaltake Core V1 -- still a verifiably small case -- and think that 22.7 liters is simply too large.

Component compatibility is also a large question mark with ITX case reviews: When considering GPU lengths, for instance, many modern ITX cases can fit full-length reference cards, but that doesn’t mean they should be outfitted with those cards. Thermal considerations would sometimes dictate that a half-length/mini card is a better choice. Other boxes simply won’t support full-length cards, and thus would be incompatible with a test bench that standardizes full-length GPUs.

Then you have instances of cooling support: Unlike ATX cases, where we’re 90% guaranteed that all cases will support at least a 150mm tower or at least a 240mm CLC, ITX cases are all over the place. Some demand a less-than 50mm-tall heatsink, others can support mini-towers up to 92mm, some have 0 CLC support, some specialize in CLC support. In order to standardize for the least common denominator and support the most cases, we opted for a 50mm cooler height; unfortunately, cases that can legitimately support larger coolers will appear marginally ‘gimped’ in these tests, comparatively, as we’re restricting them to a smaller standard.

The point is, despite all efforts to control for the test environment, sometimes science isn’t the only proper approach to a benchmark. In these instances of ITX reviews, we’ll provide standardized thermal tests, then also ask that you consider more subjective factors. We’ll lay those out in the text sections in each review.

Here’s the parts listing:

Mini-ITX Case Test Bench, Sponsored by Gigabyte & Enermax

  Part Name Provided by 
CPU  AMD R5 2400G @ 3.7GHz, 1.225V @ LLC5 GamersNexus
RAM  GSkill Trident Z 3200MHz CL14 GSkill
Motherboard Gigabyte AB350N ITX Gigabyte
PSU Enermax Revolution SFX 650W Enermax
GPU Gigabyte GTX 1070 Mini Gigabyte
Cooler  Cryorig C7 Cryorig
SSD Samsung 850 Evo GamersNexus

Noise testing is still being refined, as we’re somewhat bound by the CPU cooler right now (more than the cases). Anything involving noise -- which will primarily be focused on in future reviews, not this one -- is measured at the usual 20” distance range for our testing. The noise floor is ~26dB.

Thermal testing is where it gets more detailed: We’ve added frequency over time charts for GPU core clocks, useful for determining the impact of poor cooling, and we’ve also added VRM thermal measurements by placing thermocouples on the MOSFETs. This will mostly help to identify weak spots in case cooling capabilities. As always, all tests are conducted for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Thermals & Noise

The A1 doesn’t come with any fans, so we added some for testing. Everyone knows a case will get hot without fans, we don’t need to prove that point. We added NZXT Aer F120 fans that we grabbed out of an H400. The “stock” configuration we settled on was with one exhaust fan in the rear and one intake fan in the frontmost bottom slot. We also tested with two bottom intake/one rear exhaust, one side intake/one rear exhaust, and again with the stock configuration but with the case flipped onto its front. We chose that last test because the bottom intake fans have barely any clearance, and we wanted to see if temperatures would improve by allowing them to breathe.

CPU Torture

in win a1 cpu only

Average CPU temperature with the configuration we chose as baseline (bottom in, rear out) was 62.1 degrees Celsius over ambient, and then 61.5C when we did a second test pass. Flipping the case onto its face helped the intake fan supply more air to the CPU, lowering temperature to 57 degrees delta T over ambient. Adding another fan to the bottom, directly under the GPU, lowered CPU temperature by a couple degrees from baseline. This brought us down to 59.4 degrees Celsius, an understandably small change because of the obstruction. Using side intake rather than bottom intake fell right between the two baseline tests at 61.7C dT, so there was no significant difference.

CPU Torture (Comparative)

in win a1 torture all

Compared to the other cases, CPU temperatures are decent but unimpressive. Baseline temperatures were most similar to the SG13 with the front filter removed, which is also fairly close in form factor to the A1. Cube-style mini-ITX cases tend to have clearance for CPU tower coolers, like 160mm in the A1, so our low-profile Cryorig C7 doesn’t take full advantage of the space provided. This is the nature of testing ITX. We might as well use a bigger cooler for this one, but we don’t yet have a separate bench and test data for that. At present, our results put us around the H200i with front intake, and the SG13 without a filter.

GPU Torture

in win a1 gpu only

GPU testing was more unpredictable. Baseline was 41.1 degrees Celsius over ambient, and 40.2C dT when retested, just within our 1C margin of error. Side intake supplied less air to the GPU and averaged 43.9C dT. The GPU we use for mini-ITX testing is a short, single-fan design, so with the bottom intake fan towards the front of the case and away from the GPU in our baseline tests we didn’t expect the GPU to get much airflow. Logically, the two bottom intake fan configuration should have done better, since one of the fans was pointed directly into the GPU cooler; however, that test averaged five degrees above baseline (45.3C dT). The face-down test that allowed the bottom intake fan to pull in more air also averaged above baseline at 43.3C dT. Our working theory is that with two fans, one obstructed intake and one unobstructed exhaust, the case was under negative pressure and pulled air in in a way that benefited the GPU more than the other configurations.

GPU Torture (Comparative)

in win a1 torture gpu all

Despite the bottom intake fans being nearly flush with the desk underneath, the A1 has the lowest average GPU dT on our chart, below even the RVZ03 with optimal fan placement. That’s thanks to the NZXT fans that we stuck into it, but even so it’s indicative of good airflow and pressure patterns--the H200 comes with identical fans, and the A1 was several degrees cooler than it. Most of this advantage is because the path to components is so short. Even with the fans nearly flush against the table, the airflow path is only inches to get to the components, so static pressure is less relevant than in a case with impeding filters and 8-inch travel distances to components.

Firestrike

in win a1 3dmark

Firestrike GPU temperatures averaged 40.7C dT, equivalent to the torture test. That’s again better than the H200, which uses the same fans. The GPU temperatures we recorded in the A1 are surprising, but they remained consistently good in every test we ran.

Blender

CPU rendering averaged 44.5C dT on the CPU, between the NZXT H200 and Corsair 280X and again right in the middle of the pack.

in win a1 blender cpu

GPU rendering averaged 24.9C dT on the GPU, beating the previous best of 30.7C dT for the H200. We only use the stock or baseline configuration when testing in Blender and Firestrike, so the RVZ03’s optimal fan configuration isn’t on this chart.

in win a1 blender gpu

In Win A1 Conclusion

We’d like to see a completely bare-bones version of this case, or at least a version that provides fans but not a PSU and Qi charger. Power supplies are one of the most reusable parts in any PC, and many system builders will already have a good one that they’ve invested some money in. The main obstacles to offering a PSU-less version is the configuration of the case. In Win would need to change the plastic shroud at the top of the case to fit other PSUs and make it so the front I/O doesn’t need to be removed in order to access the PSU screws.

As of this writing, finding the A1 for sale anywhere is nearly impossible. It seems like $170 is MSRP (we haven’t verified this), but we can no longer find a Newegg listing and the single case available on Amazon is $200. If the power supply is worth roughly $50-$60, that means at the very least $110 is going towards the case. The cost of a couple high quality fans like the ones we used could add another $30 on top of that. The A1 looks good and performs really well, but we can’t recommend it at this price, even for those who do want to use the built-in PSU and Qi charger. The Corsair 280X costs $110, the NZXT H200 costs $90, both of them come with two fans, and even in those reviews we concluded by saying there were even cheaper options.

Editorial, Testing: Patrick Lathan
Host, Test Lead: Steve Burke
Video: Keegan Gallick

Last modified on July 15, 2018 at 11:00 pm

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