LCD on a Side Panel – Adding Light Guides to the Snowblind

By Published October 11, 2016 at 12:57 pm
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The Intel booth at PAX West hosted iBUYPOWER's Snowblind case mod, an early mock-up made to integrate an LCD panel into an NZXT Noctis 450 side panel. The team has since improved its mod by adding a light guide, useful for darkening the black colors and reducing “fuzziness” of the output, increasing contrast overall. The side of the case has also now moved the LCD PCB and wiring to the top of the panel, nearer the CPU, as an effort to improve viewing angles and reduce the discoloration observed from non-oblique angles. As a side effect, this improves cable management by rerouting the monitor wiring through the top of the case, more concealable with an N450, rather than through the PSU shroud.

The goal of this revisit was to get a better understanding of how the Snowblind works, since our PAX coverage was entirely based on a quick study on the show floor. The enclosure mounts a 5:4 (1280x1024) resolution LCD to the side of an NZXT Noctis 450, which has its left side panel manually punched by NZXT's factory that we previously toured. You can actually see some of the machines responsible for this process in our video tour of the Shenzhen-based God Speed Casing factory. This is a one-off punch done by the factory team, but could be tooled-up for mass production if the Snowblind ends up as an actual product.

Once the steel panel is punched, the iBUYPOWER team sets forth on embedding the 5:4 LCD in the new-formed hole. The LCD is purchased as sort of an all-in-one solution, then parts are extracted as needed. Wiring for the panel feeds into an expansion slot box, which is another existing display splitter solution that's been encased in a plastic shell made by iBUYPOWER.

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Above: Super bright LEDs (nearly 100) provide a natural backlight for the panel.

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Above, right: The original panel design -- greatly revamped on the left.

Videos are played back from the host machine, though the panel can technically also act as a monitor (e.g. extended display or cloned, which we show in the video). Contrast isn't ideal for normal monitor use since you're still seeing the system internals, but it does work. Things look a bit better in person than on camera; our cameras seem to have some trouble seeing through the light guide.

At this point, the team knows that manufacturing is feasible. The folks at iBUYPOWER are trying to figure out the manufacturing cost, getting it to an affordable consumer level, and determine if there is demand for the product. Minimally, the Snowblind can be used as sort of an H-Tower equivalent – an exhibitor rig for showcasing eSports sponsor adverts or generally attracting booth visitors. Ideally, though, iBUYPOWER hopes to find a way to make the enclosure publicly available.

Be sure to leave a comment on what you'd pay for something like this and if you'd even want one. That seems to be what the team is most after right now.

Editorial: Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke
Video: Andrew "ColossalCake" Coleman

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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