Hardware

The Versa J24 TG RGB Edition is a budget case from Thermaltake. Our understanding is that the J22/J23/J24/J25 are basically the same chassis with the same number of fans and different front panels, but trying to remember Thermaltake case SKUs is a great way to go crazy. The sample sent to us for review is specifically the RGB edition and not the newer ARGB edition, which may or may not have been a mistake on Thermaltake’s part, but saving $10 over an extra vowel is a win in our book.

The case interior is just big enough to fit an ATX motherboard with little room to spare on any side, but there are adequate cutouts along the front edge to route all the cables. The case is about as small as it can be without entering Q500L territory, almost exactly the same dimensions as the Meshify C but slightly longer. Cable management room is understandably restricted. There is space under the PSU shroud, but users with one or more 3.5” drives will struggle to find a place for power cables. The HDD cage can be removed or shifted 2.5cm back towards the rear of the case, a welcome change from budget cases that usually rivet the HDD cage in place.

We recently revamped our CPU benchmarking for significantly expanded workstation benchmarks, allowing us to better analyze CPU performance in non-gaming scenarios. Of course, this methodology update wouldn’t be complete without revisions to our gaming tests. These updates include more games, better testing in games where we’ve encountered GPU bottlenecks (that limit usefulness in CPU reviews), and improved accuracy of results. This takes the knowledgebase of what we’ve learned over the past year and builds upon shortcomings we’ve found.

With Ryzen 3000 CPUs just around the corner, likely announced at Computex next week, we have begun the process of preparing our test bench for the inevitable 3700X (or whatever they end up calling it). This means re-running CPUs through our testing until we repopulate the charts in time for Ryzen 3’s release, which is a process that we’ll begin publishing today.

Fractal’s Define S2 Vision RGB takes the glass-and-LED approach to cases that most manufacturers discovered a few years ago. This particular approach, as we’ve discussed in years prior, is to take an existing chassis that’s reasonably good, then glue glass to metal panel carriers and stick some RGB LED fans in the case. It’s a few minutes of PM work, but allows a case to be refreshed and upsold for more.

The trouble is that Fractal has already used this particular body in minimally half a dozen SKUs, with the R6 serving as the baseline, the Define S2 following, the S2 Meshify after that, and then all the variants with windows, solid panels, or color variations. We reviewed the R6 a while ago, and all those build notes apply here. We also reviewed the S2, where we said to read the R6 review for build quality notes. None of that has really changed, or at least, very little of it has.

The refresh is absolutely on the lazy side, as it really just is a re-refresh of a case with glass and LEDs. It’s an old approach to glass and LEDs. Although the body is fine, we need to see a lot more action to justify a $240 price, or $190 for the glass version without RGB LED fans (sticking a $50 price tag on LEDs alone).

AMD didn’t claim that its R7 2700X Gold Edition would be special in any frequency or binning sense of the word, but exposure to the Intel i7-8086K has obviously led us to project our hopes onto AMD that it would be binned. This is, of course, a fault of our own and not of AMD’s, as it’s not like the company claimed binning, but we still wanted to try and see if we could get a golden Gold Edition sample. In this content, we’ll be establishing that the special 50th anniversary edition 2700X doesn’t come with higher clocks than stock (but it’s not like AMD claimed otherwise), then attempting to find more overclocking headroom than our 2700X and 2700 original samples.

For the most part, this CPU was released as a commemorative item. It has a laser engraving of CEO Lisa Su’s signature (not an actual signature), which clearly illustrates its purpose as more of one for display than some special bin. Despite the 50th Anniversary gift being gold, it would seem the 2700X Gold Edition is named more for its bundling with The Division 2 Gold Edition and a 1-year season pass, alongside World War Z. If you were buying these anyway, it’s not a bad deal. If not, you’d still be better off buying a 2700 and overclocking it – purely from a financial standpoint – than spending the extra money on the Gold Edition. That said, you wouldn’t get the box or laser-etched name, so once again, this is very obviously priced higher for AMD purists and fans.

We saw the yet-unnamed ASUS ROG Strix Helios at Computex 2018, where it landed a spot on our Most Room For Improvement list alongside the other two cases ASUS showed. ASUS doesn’t make cases--the company’s been around for 30 years, so we won’t say it’s never happened, but it’s definitely a rare occurrence. They worked with In Win to create the concept shown off at Computex, but the ASUS x In Win branding has disappeared from the production version and it’s our understanding that In Win is not involved in manufacturing. The Helios has to stand up to extra scrutiny as part of ASUS’ first foray into the case market. The ROG line has a reputation for solid hardware despite the over-the-top gamer branding, so it has big shoes to fill.The case is packed with as many features as possible, necessary or otherwise. The most distinctive is the velcro strap laced over the top panel, ostensibly an “ergonomic and stylish” handle for carrying the system to LAN parties. It helps a little for hoisting the case up on to a table, but this is not the enclosure to bring to a LAN party, even for the rare person that attends more than one per decade. Most of the case’s surface is glass and it weighs 18kg empty. At least the straps and the rails that they’re looped through are massive overkill, tested up to 50kg according to ASUS, so the most likely point of failure is the person lugging it around. The strap is fastened with velcro and can easily be removed before it gets dusty and gross, and we’d recommend doing so, since the case looks perfectly normal without it.

When we first received our sample, the “multifunction cover” over the cutouts to the side of the motherboard was knocked sideways in a way that looked like serious damage, but it was just loose. There was also a mysterious loose screw wedged into it, which we later discovered was from the front panel. The cover slides backwards and forwards to allow room for E-ATX motherboards, and it contains a 2.5” drive mount and built-in GPU braces. The braces are of limited usefulness since they mostly support the edge of the GPU closest to the motherboard, which is already held up by the PCIe slot. The rails for the supports are unpainted to allow the supports to slide up and down and stand out harshly against the black interior. GPU sag is a problem, but one without an elegant solution. The cover functions normally otherwise but offers very little clearance for plugs on the edge of the motherboard, and connecting the SATA cable for our boot drive was difficult.

NVIDIA’s GTX 1650 was sworn to secrecy, with drivers held for “unification” reasons up until actual launch date. The GTX 1650 comes in variants ranging from 75W to 90W and above, meaning that some options will run without a power connector while others will focus on boosted clocks, power target, and require a 6-pin connector. GTX 1650s start at $150, with this model costing $170 and running a higher power target, more overclocking headroom, and potentially better challenging some of NVIDIA’s past-generation products. We’ll see how far we can push the 1650 in today’s benchmarks, including overclock testing to look at maximum potential versus a GTX 1660. We’re using the official, unmodified GTX 1650 430.39 public driver from NVIDIA for this review.

We got our card two hours before product launch and got the drivers at launch, but noticed that NVIDIA tried to push drivers heavily through GeForce Experience. We pulled them standalone instead.

Cooler Master sent over its NR600 enclosure at the same time as the Q500L, but we judged it a little less time sensitive since there wasn’t any melting candy inside of it. The NR600 is a budget mesh-fronted mid tower moving in on the market segment that the RL06 used to occupy, back when it was around $70.

At first glance, the Cooler Master MasterBox NR600 bears a strong resemblance to the NZXT H500, mostly thanks to the partial glass panel that cuts off at the level of the PSU shroud, but also the flat, unadorned exterior. Cooler Master has gone increasingly minimalist with their branding, which is limited to a logo-shaped power button and an embossed hexagon on the side of the PSU shroud. We went so far as to put the NR600 side-by-side with the H500 for comparison, but their glass panels are in fact slightly different sizes.

The Cooler Master Q500L is an ATX retrofit of the micro-ATX Q300L, designed to fit full-sized ATX motherboards and components. All of this is done entirely within the footprint of the existing SFF case, which is the gimmick of Cooler Master’s Q series: multiple different cases, one (small) external size. That’s good, because Cooler Master decided to fill the entire thing with Reese’s Cups before they sent it to us, and if they’d done that with something from the Cosmos line we’d be in serious trouble. We have been well-fed, though, and we’ve learned that freezing them makes them much better. Seriously.

We’re definitely losing money on this review, and it’s not just because we had to hire an intern to eat the 18 pounds of Reese’s cups that Cooler Master included in the case. We tried hard to make the Q500L perform well in testing – we tried to force it, with Patrick spending a week longer working on this case testing than we typically spend. This is Cooler Master’s Q500L mini case for full ATX motherboards, re-using the Q300 tooling from a micro-ATX case design, but shifting the power supply around to accommodate ATX motherboards. It’s a unique approach to an enclosure and, at $60, we can overlook a lot of limitations in favor of affordability.

Asetek has a stranglehold on most of the closed-loop liquid cooler market for PC hardware, easily holding majority placement in all CLCs sold in the US. CoolIT has long been a contender of Asetek’s, with the two having battled legally over Asetek’s patents on pump-in-block design, and has also been one of Corsair’s two liquid cooling partners. Both Asetek and CoolIT make the Corsair liquid coolers, though the latter fell out of popularity for a number of years. Finally, with the Platinum line, Corsair is working with CoolIT in a mainstream product. The H115i Platinum uses a new pump and block design, and that’s something we’ll show off thoroughly in our upcoming liquid cooler internals comparison video. For today, we’re focusing on reviewing the $160 H115i Platinum for thermals, acoustics, and overall value at the price point.

Asetek has previously received settlements in legal disputes against CoolIT, the other supplier of Corsair’s closed-loop liquid coolers, and has also won legal battles against Cooler Master for its Seidon series. Asetek, it seems, has a patent on the pump-in-block design approach, and has had judges rule in its favor. This has led to an exodus of non-Asetek coolers in the US market, with companies like Swiftech and Be Quiet! pulling their similarly-made (but non-Asetek) coolers out of the US market. We’re left with a few braver souls, like those using Apaltek-made designs, and some companies that have worked around the patents. DeepCool would be an example, which uses a three-chamber, very complicated approach to its pump manufacturing.

CaseLabs Revisit: What We Lost, Ft. Magnum SMA-8

By Published April 02, 2019 at 11:06 pm

CaseLabs was a small manufacturer of high-end PC cases that went out of business in August of last year, bankrupted by a combination of new (American) tariffs and the loss of a major account, not to mention an ongoing legal battle with Thermaltake. We’d been in contact with CaseLabs in the months leading to the company’s demise and received one of the SMA8-A Magnum enclosures for review. With about a month to spare before the company shuttered, we knew no better that it’d soon be over for CaseLabs, and as we were in the middle of a move into our office, we shelved the review until the dust settled. By the time that dust settled, the company was done for. It stopped being a priority after that (since reviews of products that nobody can buy aren’t especially helpful), and it’s been sitting in storage ever since, unopened. Now that even more time has passed, it’s worth a revisit to see what everyone is missing out on with CaseLabs gone.

For this “review,” we’re really focusing more on build quality, some basic history, and looking at what we lost from CaseLabs’ unique approach to cases. We typically focus case reviews on thermals and acoustics, not on boutique, ultra-expensive cases, and so our review process is not well-suited for the CaseLabs SMA8. This case is meant for servers (we’re building one in the case now) or for dual-loop liquid setups, so our standard review test bench really doesn’t work here -- it fits, technically, and we did do some thermal tests for posterity, but that’s not at all the focus of what we’re doing.

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