Here at Computer Ed our Summer of Cases continues and to say we are overwhelmed with cases is an understatement. People think, when I explain to them what we do, that reviewing cases is easy, they could not be more wrong. Cases are one of those things that have a large aesthetic component to it and so a great deal of determining a great case is personal choice. To counter this many reviewer will look at a case with a feature check list and judge based on the list but this in my opinion is wrong as it leaves out that entire aesthetic component and fails to look at the case as a whole.
The next case up on the Computer Ed work bench is the Fractal Design Core 3000. Fractal is a smaller company that has really begun to make it’s move into the US market. They essentially have two product lines, their quiet computing live, the Define series and their gaming line up that is currently led by the Arc. The Core 3000 is their value entry in that gaming line up.
Looking at the packaging, a simple brown box with a picture of the case in black line art and then seeing the case itself you can see an obvious pattern, subdued. This case right from the start does not seek to grab your attention or stand out in any way. The front bevel is essentially a grill design with 2 external 5.25” bays at the top and the rest is for a 140mm stock intake fan with the mount to hold an additional 120mm fan. The subdued look continues even to the logo at the top of the bevel with is engraved into the base, no extra color added.
The top of the case has room for dual 140/120mm fans with a single 140mm fan coming with the case stock. The front panel sports the traditional power button, power LED, HD activity LED, reset, headset jacks and 4 USB 2.0 ports. I am torn in my thoughts about the 4 front ports. I mean having 4 front ports is a good thing, lots of easy access however the lack of USB 3.0 ports seems an oversight. This is especially true with the appearance of USB headers on more motherboards, not just Intel either, I have a 970 based board with it sitting in the lab right now.
Moving to the bottom of the case we find an easy access filter for a PSU air intake as well as an area for a bottom fan intake, un-filtered. Note the case feet, they provide a good lift for air intake space and the rubber bottoms mean the case does not move around a lot plus does not transmit any noise through the floor or desk.
The sides of the case as with all of the exterior are understated with the left side panel having a vented area for a 120/140mm fan and the right being a blank slate. The rear of the case allows for 7 expansion slots, all of the covers are in a nice white, providing a bit of contrast to the rest of the black case. We also find the PSU opening, 2 water cooling holes and a 120mm exhaust fan.
Opening the side panel we now look at the inside of the Core 3000. The first thing you will notice is the 6 easy to remove HD trays. They are hard to miss with their white paint job in the back case. The trays are metal, making them very sturdy and use screws to hold the drives into place. Unlike most HD mounting systems these make use of the bottom mounting holes of a 3.5” drive, with rubber grommets to help reduce vibration. Each of the trays also has holes for mounting 2.5” drives as well.
Normally at this point I would be having my normal tirade about mounting the HD bays across the intake fan axis and reducing air flow. However it seems Fractal noticed this as well and put in a feature to correct this for people wanting the intake fan to be more effective. The top tray area is removable and can be rotated 90 degrees to allow it to act as achannel for the 140 mm stock fan. This is a great idea that is very well implemented. If you have a large video card, removing the bay gives you all the room you will need. If you have a normal sized or even smaller card and want better air flow then you rotate the HD bay and remove the mounting trays. The bay then acts as a tunnel for the intake, keeping the air directed right toward the video card. It is a simple design that performs it’s function perfectly and shows attention to detail.
The bottom of the case houses the PSU as we noted with an intake for cool air through the bottom, it also has room for mounting a 120mm intake fan. I really wish they would have extended the PSU filter to include this intake. A bottom intake is a good idea as it brings in cool air and channels it up to take advantage of the natural air flow created by the cases warm internal air. However it is also a potential dust magnet that really should be filtered. The PSU has rubber mounts to reduce noise and right in front of the PSU is an elongated cutout for routing power cables behind the motherboard tray. The back plate has two more elongated cutouts running up the tray area for cable management and there is a nice cutout for CPU cooler back plates.
As with the Define, which we reviewed a few weeks ago, the looks of the Core 3000 are subdued, they do not draw attention to themselves but that is NOT a bad thing. There has been a slow and quite movement within the DIY community away from the bling and noisy looking cases to the more stately, simple look. For those that want a louder appearance though the Core 3000 offers a great blank slate for case modding.
Opening up the case you find a design that takes into account people will actually build a computer in this case. The HD mounting system appeals to those that like the easy drive access of the side mount setup and those that want max air flow provided by the inline system. The solution they came up with keeps both happy, works really well and offers a good option set. The cable management is adequate, especially since there is no stock side window. You can get a clean tidy build with a little bit of effort.
From a cooling perspective the stock setup gets the job done, a three fan setup at this price point is pretty much par for the course and the use of 140mm fans over 120mm fans means we get a quieter experience. You have good fan options being able to use two more 120mm intake fans as well as another 140mm top exhaust and still can add a 120 or 140 to the side panel. The Fractal fans provided with the case however play a large part in the quiet operation of this case, and it is quiet. These fans do not move a ton of air, but they move air quietly. With a full fan load this case is still quieter than many cases with less fans.
We began this review by using the word subdued when describing this case and that is a word that is used often and fits through this entire review. Price at $75 on Newegg this case is in the middle of the road on price point. It’s feature set is solid but nothing that screams out in a crowd and it’s looks can be described the same way. However this is NOT a bad thing. You often see people get caught up in the extremes, be it extreme looks, feature or price. I am not just talking upper extremes but lower as well. The truth however is usually not found in the extremes but in the middle and the same can be said for value.
At $75 the Core 3000 gives you a case with classic, stately, simple looks as well as solid construction and a good feature set that makes building a PC an enjoyable process. It has enough cooling potential for an overclocker and can handle even some of the most high end hardware when it comes to room for mounting. While this may not be a case that screams for attention it is deserving of some and should be in anyone’s short list of looking for a value case.
For more pictures of the Core 3000 case head over to our Facebook page, Facebook.com/computered.
Core 3000 review segment aired live 4 September 2011
Computer Ed (Edward Crisler) takes at look that the Chaser Mk I case.
While the movie industry has had their Summer of Heroes, here at the Computer Ed Show our test area looks like we are experiencing the Summer of Computer Cases. Our most recent subject on the bench is the Thermaltake Chaser Mk I. With a tag line of “Pursuit without Fear” and a sticker on the front of the big stating that this is an “Extra Big ATX Tower”, it is obvious the pursuit they are thinking of is the pursuit of room to build a PC. This is a large full tower case, just a bit smaller than a Level 10 GT.
Opening the box we find a case with very aggressive styling. While the box art made me think of mages, the actual case design to me has a much more Transformer look to it. I kept waiting for it to turn into a nasty little robot and demand I give it the Allspark.
The front has 4 bay openings and the covers are all easily removed from outside the case. The clips that hold them in place are highlighted with a pale blue coloring. In fact that highlight can be found in many places on this case. Remember that blue I said I hated so much that so many Gigabyte boards used, now I think it could be useful as it is almost a perfect match. You can see the aggressive styling of the case is on the right side panel, with raised areas.
The aggressive styling continues to the top with the angular lines and the blue trim. The center of this area is dominated by the power button and LED. We we first looked at this we though perhaps the button was broke because it had some play to it. A look at the mechanism revealed that in fact it was floating on top of the switch. Despite it’s slight wobble when touched it was actually securely mounted.
Directly behind the power button we have a 3.5” / 2.5” hot swap drive mount. While I am not typically a big fan of hot swap bays, I just do not see people making a lot of use with them every day. This one is s step up from what most offer since it can easily handle both drive sizes.
The left side of the top is has buttons to control the fan speed low/high of the two factory installed 200 mm fans as well as a light switch. These fans use the same tri-color fans we have seen before in other Thermaltake products and in our included video you can see the various lighting options. Just behind the fan speed buttons we have the reset button as well as our headset jacks. I have to tell you I hate the reset button being there. In the dark reaching down to turn up the fan speed I can easily image someone pressing the reset by mistake. Now I usually do not hook up reset buttons but on this case I would say it is nearly a MUST to not hook up the reset. The last thing you want is during heavy gaming needing to kick up the fans and suddenly mid game you are rebooting.
On the right side we have our I/O access with dual USB 2 and USB 3 as well as an ESATA connection. With the hot swap bay I have to ask WHY did we put an ESATA port in the front of this case? I mean come on, they barely get used anyway and with this case the odds of it being used are further reduced by a very simple to use hot swap.
Moving back from the front we come to a two tiered grilled top area. The upper tier, back most, houses the factory installed 200mm fan the front area however has the mounts for a second 200mm fan. These of course can be removed and a 240mm or 360mm radiator can be mounted.
Looking at the bottom of the case we see large fold out feet for stability as well a filter that covers the PSU air intake and an options bottom air intake fan mount. Now it is rough to tell from these pictures but the design of the feet BEG for them to be turned out. Their angular cut is done in a manner that when folded just look way wrong. The fleet have a blue highlighted trim and provide almost a full 1.5” lift to the case. This gives a lot of room under the case for the intake fan and PSU to pull in cool air.
The left side panel has of the the aggressive styling added to it along with a good sized window and a mount for a 200mm fan. The fan area is filtered, which is good. However the filter is attached to the case and that means a fan will cover it meaning easy removal is gone, that is bad. You will also notice that the headphone clip we saw on the Level 10 GT is not permanently attached to the side of the Chaser. I am torn about if I like this solution better. On the plus side it means the clip cannot be lost and is not going to fall off if you grab your headset to fast. On the down side it means that if it is out and get slammed against it will break instead of just fall off.
As we open the case to look inside lets begin at the top and front. Both the top cover and front bevel are easily removed with no tools needed. The top opens up to reveal the mounting area for the 200mm fans. The front opens to reveal the 200mm intake fan and it’s filter.
Opening up the case we are greeted with more of the blue highlights and a nice all black interior. The optical drive bays use a tool less design that worked okay. I would have liked it to be a bit more secure but it is adequate as well as 6 pull out HD bays. Now I know and you know my ugly little soapbox is about to come out, well not really this time. While the cross mounting does block the air flow, Thermaltake has cut the number of drives being held down and opened up the space between them. The result is actually a fairly open area to reduce the restrictions this style usually creates. While it is still not as good for air flow as a more open design it is better than this mounting method traditionally does.
The motherboard tray has a generous number of rubber grommeted cutouts to allow for some great cable management options. The case can easily be described as roomy and from an easy of build point of view it rivals the Level 10 GT. If you feel cramped in this case I suggest you quite trying to sleep in it and just use it for your computer.
This is OBVIOUSLY a case aimed at the geeky/gamer audience. The aggressive styling is something that will either appeal to you or turn you off, there is no middle ground. The stock air flow of this case with it’s dual 200mm fans and 140mm exhaust fan at the rear provides really good cooling and air flow. The ability to add a 200 mm on the side and a second 200 mm to the top pushes that air flow to great and beyond. While the case has some nice liquid cooling options, the air flow design of the case begs for a big air cooler to be used. In fact the cases blue highlights practically scream for the Frio OCK, it’s like they where design for each other.
Speaking of the fan, I love that Thermaltake is trying to give us choices with the fan colors. I said this with the Element G and the Level 10 GT, the option to change the color is just something very cool. However as with both of those cases the color is not persistent and when the system goes into sleep mode or shuts down the colors revert to the native blue. In the case of the Chaser this is not a bad thing. The blue highlights on the case make the native blue LED colors a natural choice, I honestly am not sure why they even offered the tri-color. Below you can see a video we did of the lighting options in the Chaser Mk I if you want to see the various color options.
Still on the fans I want to talk about the hi/low option that Thermaltake has now shown us on two cases. I am not a big fan of manually controlled fans. Personally I would prefer we fix even the case fans to adjust their speed based on the component temps. I mean when your PC is not working hard, like me working on this blog, there is no need for fans jacked to take off speeds for cooling, even on an overclocked system. The fans only need the speed when the system is getting warm. Now that said I do like the compromise that Thermaltake has done with the Chaser and Level 10 GT. When I am not gaming I reach down and the system is instantly in near silent operation. As I get ready to game I reach down and move the fans to high to ensure the best cooling, easy to do and access. By the way even on high these fans are not even close to what you would call loud.
Still on the fans the controller that allows the two fans to have their LEDs and speeds controlled together does not have any openings for additional fans so this means that even if you get the same fans as are used stock for your optional fans, they cannot be added to the controller. While I understand the reason for this this, barely, I think Thermaltake missed a serious opportunity here to raise the bar. I mean seriously how cool would it be to be able to order two 200 mm fans from Thermaltake and then plug them into the controller to give this case it’s max air flow and the look and speeds stay consistent.
The construction quality of the case is outstanding and the design well thought out for someone that likes to tinker in their PC. The CPU cooler back plate opening is HUGE and makes it easy to swap out coolers. The case has excellent cable management options and the nice little extras like grommeting is well done. Building in this case was a painless and fun operation.
On the topic of building, this is one of those cases that you build as much for looks as for performance. Yeah I know I am just silly like that. With that in mind this case is a near perfect fit for any of Gigabytes middle range motherboards. Their light blue coloring is a great match to the blue highlights. Add this to the blue LEDs and you can actually make that baby blue I have commented on hating so much look good.
Priced at around $160 this calls falls into the upper levels of what we would dub a performance product. As a full tower case it is not meant for travel of LAN parties, the case is large and heavy when fully loaded. I actually say two different reviews of this case online that said it was meant for LAN parties, I guess the reviews are built like Arnold. The full tower in my option is a stay at home build my monster PC case and this case fits that bill. While it’s aggressive looks may not be acceptable in the living room, they would be awesome for the geek room or man cave if these are the looks you like in your PC case.
Feature packed, excellent build quality, great stocking cooling with cooling potential the goes to amazing, aggressive styling and great cable management, what more can you for out of a case? The Chaser Mk I is chasing nobody, it is leading the pack for great computer cases.
If you would like to see more pictures of our look at the Chaser Mk I case visit our Facebook page for the Computer Ed Radio Show and check out the Chaser Mk I Album.
Review as aired live 21 August 2011
I deal with a lot of home users everyday, during these phone calls or even face to face discussions we often talk about how they make use of their PC. Without fail one of the first things out of their mouth is, “But I am not a gamer.” The tone used is similar to what you would expect to someone denying they had AIDs, I am not exaggerating. I can work on a PC and have met people proud of their adult material collection or the number of pirate movies or music they have but the term gamer sends them into fits of throwing out crosses and chanting prayers to ward off satan.
You really have to wonder why this stigma when it comes to being gamer. Some people look at me like I am a nut when I talk about gaming and make a point of stressing my age. News flash folks gamers come in all shapes, sizes and ages. In fact in a recant study by the Entertainment Software Associations, they have found that the average age of a video gamer is around 37 years of age. When you limit the games to just PC based that number jumps to 41. Does not sound like gaming is just for kids does it. In fact the same study found that 29% of Americans over the age of 50 regularly plays video games.
If age and being mature is not the issue, how about being a waste of time? There is a story I have told many times. I was back from the Navy and working part time for a pen and paper game company doing demos and playing testing games, I was also doing some beta testing for a number of video games. My mother was talking to me one day and spent about an hour lecturing me on how all my time spent involved with games was a waste and I needed to do something useful with my life. Those games BTW led to contacts within the computer world as well as drove my interest in making the hardware do more for less cost. The result off those games is a business I own that has been successful as well as a radio show that is growing every year not just locally but world wide. (Thank you to all of you out there that listen online BTW) About a year and a half ago I ask my mother if she remembered that conversation and still thought I was wasting my time?
Now do not get me wrong I am not saying all gamers are heading for a successful life because of gaming but it is hardly the waste people think and less of a waste than other people do every day and society does not look down on them. How useful is the person sitting in a bar 3 nights a week? What about the person that spends all their time looking for new sex partners? How about the person that even just has a weekly dining group that tries a new restaurant each week? Or the people that sit glued to their TV at least once a week for sporting events? Tell someone you do ANY of these activities and they would not look at you like the village idiot.
The most likely cause of this sigma was the behavior of the early geeks, particularly those that attended Star Trek or Star Wars conventions. You know the people I mean, the ones that would attend in full costume and actually act the role they had dressed for. However is that fair either? I mean I have seen people at sporting events dress and act in a manner that makes you wonder if they have a single functional brain cell or if the beer has floated them all away. Yet no one considers all sports fans losers? I have watched people get so drunk in bars that they have come out of the bathroom naked with TP trailing behind them on fire while they danced to Walk Like and Egyptian, and yet no one thinks all people in bars are morons? (BTW that is a true story)
Besides, what most of these people do not know is they likely are gamers at some level. Play solitaire often enough to keep saved game codes? How about Angry Birds? Video games are a part of the American and world culture whether we like it or not. Gaming is not small potatoes when it comes to economics either. Estimates place video gaming as an industry that generates $25 BILLION plus last year. Literally hundreds of thousands of jobs world wide exist in this industry.
While computer gaming is not something that will appeal to everyone, just as many of us do not like beer, there are some real reasons outside the fun of gaming to play. As a parent gaming can be a great teaching tool. Lisa and I have used an MMO to help our 7 year old learn to read better. He has to read what the game says if he wants to succeed and he really hates losing so his reading has improved. Some games like Civilization can even take a bit of educational material,. like history and sneak it in during play. Of course many games are great tools to teach critical thinking, make up for some of the lack of it in public schools today. Parents gaming with the kids can be a great way to develop a relationship with the kids, find a real common interest and share it.
Gaming for adults has benefits as well. Studies have shown that if the mind is kept active and engaged that Alzheimer risks are drastically reduced. Computer gaming can be a great way to relieve stress, create family time and socialize. Not to mention that as far as entertainment goes gaming can actually be a great low cost alternative to other options. Getting a free to play game like Champions, Tank World or even LOTRO can provide more entertainment than a ton of movie rentals and not cost a dime other than the cost of the Internet and PC which you have anyway.
Is there a downside to gaming, well of course there is. Like anything else it can be abused. I have seen people use video games as their way to tear up marriages and even lose jobs. To be honest thought I know of more marriages and jobs lost from booze, yet we accept that.
The next time you meet a gamer, do not roll your eyes at them. Instead talk with them, see what they have to say. Listen to what they like about the games they play and approach it with an open mind. You might find a whole new world to explore and a new way to have some fun.
When we started our build a PC series this year Doug went out on a limb and picked a case he had not seen except in pictures, the Antec One Hundred. Priced at around $50 this case sits squarely at the bottom of Antec’s Gamer lineup. It’s price point puts it below the Two Hundred and the Three Hundred at suggested prices but right with them in the real world. According to it’s publicist the One Hundred is, “More Features, Less Funds” for gamers, lets find out.
The box as you can see is typical Antec in it’s design with a lot of information on the box about the case you are getting. Prominently displayed on the front of the box is the large tray at the top front of the case as well as the front panel showing 4 USB ports.
I think a bit of history is in order before we begin. When the Three Hundred was released I was one of the first to review it and I fell in love. A $50 case that offered great cooling and was well made, what more could we ask for? Since it’s release I have been firm in my belief that the Antec Three Hundred was one of the best value cases on the market.
So when I saw the pictures of the One Hundred I could not help but see how it resembled the Three Hundred in style. Opening the box I was even more convinced this was a Three Hundred with some new clothes.
From the front it is easy to see that the Three Hundred played a large part in this design. The case has three 5.25” bays for optical drives at the top as well as adding a 3.5” bay between it and the lower bays for hard drives as well as the mounting of two 120mm fans for air intake. While the 3.5” bay is new the real think to first grab my attention is the addition to the top.
Gone is the flat top of the Three Hundred with it’s straight out facing front panel. In it’s place is a riser that holds a beautiful and very functional tray area. This is one the features I have loved from back with the Nine Hundred. While it might not be the sexiest tech or make the case cool better, it does have the advantage of being a feature that is used every day in the real world. I use my PC as a Phone charger, Nook charger as well as use the tray to hold various USB keys I need access to quickly so an easy access tray at the top of my PC case is a god send. This new tray is designed much better than the ones on the Nine Hundred and Twelve Hundred, a nice soft interior cover and raised sides makes it great for change, wallets and keys if need be, a real world useful feature like I said.
Another change that caught my eye is slight angling of the front access panel, a feature we have seen in the Nine Hundred, Twelve Hundred and Six Hundred. While this might not seem like a big deal it is a small change that makes a huge difference in everyday use. The light angle makes it much easier to put in USB devices if you are using this case on the floor as it is intended. Again, this might not be impressive tech but it shows an attention to real world functionality that is thoughtful and very helpful. This access has been enhanced with 4 USB ports as well as the clearly color coded headphone and mic jacks, no hard to read etchings here. While it does not have a USB 3 port the extra USB 2 ports are a welcome addition.
Opening the side panel you can see how more the the Three Hundred’s influence on this cases design. The picture at the right is a Three Hundred and One Hundred side by side. The first change most will notice is the painting of the cases interior, not really a performance changer but it shows an attention to detail You will also notice the massive CPU back plate cutout, this is huge, seriously the largest I have seen in any kind of budget case.
A closer look shows that the case uses a hybrid approach to cable management. The PSU cables can be routed behind the tray or they can use the area created next to the HD bay, like the design of the Three Hundred.
I want you to look closely at the cables we have pushed up through the PSU cable hole. Those are the front panel cables. As you can see I routed them through the top behind the tray area and out the bottom and still had enough cable to EASILY reach the connections on most ATX Boards. This is really nice as all to often in budget cases these cables seem to barely reach if ran straight down.
There is however one aspect to this interior I did not like. Notice in the picture on the right, the mounts for the motherboard are too close to the 140mm exhaust fan at the top. This narrow area will make mounting a motherboard a bit tougher as you need a long and narrow shaft screw driver to get into the space effectively. We looked at the interior vs. the Three Hundred and it has a lot more room in this spot, the cases are basically identical in height taking off the tray area so I am not sure why this part of the case would have such a tight fit.
The top and rear fans are both 2 speed fans using the newer Antec fan design. This new design has cut almost a full half inch of diameter off the center hub meaning more blade area for air flow. The front of the case allows the addition of two 120mm fans for air intake as well as one 120mm fan can be mounted in the side panel. The Three Hundred had two drive cages on the front of the case for these fans, where as the One Hundred removes the cages and mounts the fans directly to the front bevel. This results in a less open area at the case front than the Three Hundred when you compare the front covers. However this also removes the grid work built into those cages which created obstructions to air flow, meaning the new design actually should see better airflow.
The cases promotional material says it comes with washable filtering, this is only true in the rawest sense of the word. The 5.25” and 3.5” covers have a foam piece in them that could be considered a filter. Notice I said could be, the reason is these are not great at letting air through and are so dense that they will clog with dust near instantly. They are held in place by folded metal clips which means after being removed a few times the clips will likely break. Additionallly none of these “filters” are in a position to actually filter the air intake from the two optional fans. The simple fact is this case does not have any filtering, despite claiming it does. In place of the filters Antec has made the grill work finer than on it’s other cases of this line, this will reduce the dust a little by catching some as it passes but is not in anyway a filter.
The rear of the case is pretty basic with the 120mm exhaust as well as the speed controls for the top and rear fan. The expansion covers are the popout type which is disappointing but to be expected at this price point. There is also the expected water cooling cutouts.
The Antec One Hundred is not a flashy or gimmicky case. It is a solid, functional case with simple looks and features that are useful in not just the computer build and use but in the everyday life of the PC user. The plain looks however are actually a feature for some. The basic design means this case is a blank canvas for anyone that wants to mod it. This might not sound like a selling point but speaking to some case modders I have met this is a big deal to them. The fact they do not need to work around a lot of features is worth a lot to them, as is the low cost. After all working on a case mod and having it go wrong, ruining the case is easier to swallow when the case costs $50 than when it cost $150.
For the price this case is a great buy. It has some excellent features and the real world functionality is just Bac-O’s. The lack of the filter and the narrow top area are definite dings to rating this case. However condiering the cases price and the other great features these can be worked around.
Since it came out the Three Hundred has been my go to budget gamer case however with the One Hundred the Three Hundred has been retired. The One Hundred has a great feature set, nice improvements over the Three Hundred and costs less money.
At the beginning of this article we quoted the tag line Antec has for this case, ““More Features, Less Funds”. This is definitely true, the One Hundred is a great budget gaming case.
Antec One Hundred Review Segment Aired Live 3 April 2011