It's crazy to think that someone had to “innovate” – to use the word lightly – and apply non-beige paint to PC cases. There had to be a first for that – just like there was a first to package a case in a non-brown cardboard box. In the former instance, we believe NZXT to be the pioneer in painted cases, though Antec shares some credit for early industry innovations (like box art). NZXT's Guardian was among the first painted cases available for DIY enthusiasts, and further emphasized its rebellious nature by outfitting the left side panel with an acrylic window. For 2003, these were leading advancements in case design.
And it fits, too. We also see NZXT as the trend-setter for power supply shrouds with the launch of its critically acclaimed H440 chassis, then later its S340. Since the H440 launched, we've seen a market shift where nearly every $70-$100 enclosure is outfitted with a PSU shroud. Corsair's 400C and 600C cases, the Rosewill Gungnir and Cullinan, the Phanteks P400, the SilverStone RL05 – they all follow this trend.
Thermaltake's updated Riing RGB LED fans that we spotted at Computex have received a few final tweaks prior to production. The new fans succeed Thermaltake's trend-setting Riing RGB fans, building on initial designs by adding a USB-attached hardware controller that can daisy chain sets of 3 RGB LED fans.
This controller is leveraged to allow independent speed and brightness controls, without which both speed and brightness are impacted by regulating voltage delivered to the fan. With most LED-enabled fans, reducing the speed (to a quieter 30%, for example) would also reduce the brightness linearly. This is because the voltage is reduced by the motherboard or host, and therefore all fan components are affected. With the controller, a fixed supply of voltage is delivered to the LEDs, while the speed is independently managed through software. Conversely, if the user wanted to run LEDs at half brightness (or even off), that could be done while retaining 100% fan speed.
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.
We were able to get hands-on with the new NZXT S340 Elite enclosure, officially announced today at a $100 price-point. The case is an updated version of the NZXT S340 mid-tower, now two years old, and is primarily distinguished with its tempered glass and updated cable management.
This is the most similar enclosure we've yet seen to iBUYPOWER's Element that's based on the S340 (not available as a standalone product). The front panel sticks with a flat metal, the left side panel has been metamorphosed into a tempered glass window, and the window is fixed to the chassis with four screws. This is similar to all the other tempered glass panels we've seen lately, including the Cullinan and 460X.
NZXT's presence at the recent UCI eSports arena opening made for a silent unveil of new CAM software functionality, when coupled with the company's HUE+ RGB lighting controller. The software update ties Valve's official game state API to NZXT's CAM software, theoretically circumventing any potential anti-cheat concerns by nature of plugging straight into an official Valve programming interface.
At least a dozen game states are made accessible to developers, and NZXT may pick-and-choose which game states cue a visual reaction through attached HUE+ devices. For now, NZXT supports player health, grenade interactions (flashed, in smoke, on fire), and the C4 count-down. Users may customize individual colors of these events, but the demo offered a standard green/red for health, then used a white-ish LED illumination for flash bangs and a similar white-blue for smoke effects. Standing atop ground hit with incendiary grenades offered an orange hue from the HUE, and C4 instated a binary LED pulse – on and off – that matched the count-down timer.
Rosewill's Cullinan PC case is the company's most modern endeavor since the R5, and manages to get to the front of the case industry's current trends. It's a mid-tower with a PSU shroud and a full tempered glass side window, which is checking almost all the boxes created by NZXT's H440, In-Win's more expensive cases, and Corsair's 760T. The only 2016 trend missing from the Cullinan is a set of RGB LED fans, but they've still got blue LEDs.
We first saw the Rosewill Cullinan mid-tower at Computex 2016, but the case was impacted by shipping delays (and other internal delays) that pushed back its launch until now-ish. In theory, the ~$150 Cullinan will begin availability just before October, and should begin shipping to customers by the first week of October. That long lead-in to production has allowed competitors to enter the growing market of cases with tempered glass side panels, including Corsair with its brand new 460X, In Win with its 303, and Anidees with its identical AI Crystal ($150).
The Anidees AI Crystal and Rosewill Cullinan enclosures both boast 5mm thick tempered glass side windows and a 4mm thick tempered glass front panel. The enclosures target the front edge of a trend in the industry to adopt tempered glass on affordable cases (read: ~$100 to ~$200), replacing the cheaper acrylic that's found in almost all windowed panels. Rosewill and Anidees both use Chinese OEM designer Jonsbo, whom we believe to be a customer of case factory God Speed Casing. If that name's familiar, it's because God Speed Casing is the manufacturer used (and effectively grown) by NZXT; we've even toured their factories in China.
This week's news announcements include AMD AM4 Zen chipset naming (rumors, technically), NZXT's new RGB LED 'Aer' fans, and a pair of cases from Rosewill and Cooler Master.
AMD's initial AM4 chipset announcement was made at PAX, where the B350, A320, and XBA300 chipsets were announced for mainstream and low-end Gen 7 APUs. The high-end Zen chipset for Summit Ridge was concealed during this announcement, but is now known to be the X370 platform.
X370 will ship alongside the Summit Ridge CPUs and will add to the lanes available for high-speed IO devices, mostly SATA and new generation USB. Most of the IO with the Zen architecture will be piped through the CPU itself, with what remains of the chipset acting more as an IO controller than a full chipset.
Once a leading force in the industry with the Antec 900, the company has been mostly quiet for the last few years. Antec's newest endeavor is in partnership with Razer, similar to what NZXT did with the H440 (“By Razer”) and S340 (“By Razer”) cases. We're not completely sure of how much design involvement Razer had with Antec on the case, but previous partnerships were largely logo licensing/branding and green/black color schemes that were not otherwise available.
The case was at PAX West 2016 for the first time, where we got a few moments of unsupervised hands-on with the case (see video below) for the basic specs. Since shooting that video, we've also retrieved a specs table from Antec (also below) with the hard information.
EVGA's Power Link was shown briefly in our Computex coverage, but the unit has received a few updates since then and is closer to finalization. The idea of the Power Link is pretty straight-forward: It's an L-shaped enclosure with power rails that wraps around the right side of the card, and exists solely to manage cables away from the top power inputs. The cables instead connect to the Power Link, on the right side of the card, with the Link tapping into the video card's power more discreetly (under guise of an EVGA-branded “L”).
The new Power Link, shown for the first time at PAX West, has made it possible to shift the power headers connecting to the card so that more device layouts are accommodated. The Link still won't work for power headers that face their clip opposite the reference layout (clip toward the back of the card), but will now work better for cards where PCI-e connections are slightly left/right of where EVGA's might be located. We're told that this Link will fit most cards on the market (reverse clip orientation notwithstanding), and that includes non-EVGA cards.
Corsair announced its new 460X enclosure at PAX West today, demonstrated at the booth alongside the also-new Air 740 case. Both cases build upon familiar Corsair designs, but have made significant enough modifications to assign new SKUs.
The Corsair 460X is familiar to the 400C (reviewed) – the shroud, for one, is exactly the same – but has completely new tooling. The company has made a few changes to the cable routing holes (slight horizontal movement), added a few switches for fan and LED controls, improved radiator mounting support, and added tempered glass to the left and front of the enclosure. That glass measures in at 4mm thick, matching what most of the competition is producing for this year's trending tempered glass designs. As with other cases using tempered glass, In Win's lineup included, Corsair is using four flat-head thumbscrews that pass through the glass and thread into the steel on the other side.
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