It’s been a long time since we’ve reviewed any mini-ITX cases. The standard system that we use for testing ATX cases includes a full-sized GPU, PSU, and CPU cooler, which may or may not fit in small form factor cases, as well as an ATX motherboard that definitely won’t. Even if our components were small enough to fit, ATX and mini-ITX enclosures are like apples and oranges--SFF cases often have specific uses and different priorities than standard mid-towers.
Enough time has passed that it’s worth it to put together a separate ITX benchmarking system with a separate table of results to compare. To start off our database, we’re doing a roundup of three not-so-new cases from our backlog: the Thermaltake V1, Silverstone SG13, and the Cryorig Taku. This will start our charts, and we intend to work toward expanding those charts with the full suite of cases, as usual, including several upcoming products at Computex.
Thermaltake’s Core P1 is a Mini-ITX, semi-open air chassis with a 5mm thick tempered glass side panel and wall mount support. The Core P1 was featured in our Best Gaming PC Cases of 2017 CES Round-Up article and video, though had no release date (or firm price) at the time of those content pieces. Thermaltake just recently announced that their Core P1 has become available for sale in the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, and Australia and announced a retail price of $100 USD.
Press embargo lifts today on a new mini-ITX case from BitFenix, the “subtle, yet remarkable” Portal. The “subtle” aspect might refer to the resemblance of the logo (and to some degree, the case), which appears to resemble the turrets from Valve’s video game of the same name, but that’s really a positive feature.
The Portal is, first and foremost, designed to house HTPCs. The space and thermal limitations of mini-ITX cases typically make it difficult to jam a real gaming PC inside, and the best chance for CPU cooling in this instance is a 120mm intake slot that can fit an AIO radiator. Still, Bitfenix does stress the versatility of the case: there are two 3.5”/2.5” bays and one 2.5” bay, so there should be enough for all the components of a decent gaming system. The 120mm is one of two fan mounts on the main chamber of the case: the other is a tiny 80mm fan (both contain fans by default), something we’re interested in noise testing later. Thermal tests will be interesting--although there’s very little space, the CPU is directly in the path of airflow and the GPU and PSU are thermally isolated, which is promising. Bitfenix describes the fans as “stable airflow for basic Office and Home Theater PCs.”
At the tail-end of our CES 2017 coverage, our visit to the Thermaltake showroom provided a look at upcoming cooling products – as the name might suggest – alongside some spin-offs of existing product lines. The more playful side of the room was outfitted with an original Donkey Kong arcade cabinet look-alike, a case mod by “Thermal Mike” for which we’ll post a separate video, while the rest of the room featured liquid and air cooling products.
Today's focus is on the Thermaltake P1 TG mini-ITX wall-mount enclosure, the Rainbow AIO CLC, and the Engine 27 Sandia-style ($50) cooler.
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.
The Star Wars Destroyer case mod was an obvious draw to MSI’s suite at CES 2016, thus far unrivaled in its seemingly monolithic artistry, and served as a magnetic pull for the company’s new products. That’s common in Convention Land – a fabled realm stocked with bags of chips and bottles of water – and a means for companies to generate outside interest in the passerby attendee crowd. The Destroyer was covered in our previous video and article; today’s content shifts focus to MSI’s new “Vortex” product, named for its approach to thermal dissipation through a vertical shaft.
SSD and GPU faceplates are often put front-and-center by case modders, perhaps despite manufacturers' best efforts to make ugly faceplates. System integrator (SI) iBUYPOWER recently figured it'd bypass the modding and sell flashy cases direct-to-consumer, planting the faceplates behind an acrylic window that lifts like a fighter plane's cockpit glass.
The new system and case amalgam, called the Revolt 2, tightly packs internals into a mini-ITX enclosure, using an inverted motherboard* to separate the GPU from the more thermally-constricted core components. We've got one on-hand for testing and intend to send the Revolt 2 through exhaustive thermal analysis, with a new focus on chipset and SSD thermal measurements, but won't be doing that until after CES. For the time being, we'll walk through the Revolt 2's case and talk design and test targets for the review.
Relative case and cooling newcomer Phanteks today announced its Enthoo Evolv ITX SE case. The Enthoo Evolv ITX case hosts mini-ITX motherboards in a 230 x 375 x 395mm enclosure. The SE version – Special Edition – is delivered in two new color combinations: Red/black and white/black.
The growing trend nowadays seems to be miniaturization, judging by phones, silicon chip sizes, and even computers. At one point, computers took up entire rooms, but over the years they have continued to shrink while becoming massively more powerful. Due to this trend, some see mITX as the next segment of the PC market that will substantially grow, which has caused mITX cases, coolers, and even GPUs to be released. Cougar looks to be the next company to make a name for themselves in the mITX market with its newest QBX, a compact gaming case meant for small form factor builds.
Gigabyte first debuted its Brix Pro Steambox at CES 2014, where we got a powered-down hands-on with the device. Steam's recent delay in the SteamBox -- a result of a major controller redesign -- has caused manufacturers to reconsider branding of their pending devices. Because Steam has to give the green light on licensing its name for system makers, and because Steam machines have been delayed, manufacturers are stuck with products that can't be sold until an unset date. That's a huge risk, and so we're seeing these companies rebrand their products as "MiniPCs" and HTPCs. Case and point: Zotac's EN760 was originally slated to be a Steam Box of sorts, but ended up shipping as a mini gaming PC.
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