Well after a few weeks of playing it is time to talk about Project X-Ray. As any of you that are here often know I am the champion of the everyday computer builder. I look at budget as much as performance and seek a computing experience that is great not high benchmark numbers. However even I sometimes look longingly at some of the amazing parts that exist within the enthusiast segment of computing. You know what I mean those $200+ dollar motherboards, or the monster cases. I see those wonderful lights, and side windows and a part of my cries out, go for it.
So when I was given a chance to look at the ATI HD 5870 and the new Phenom II X6 1090T I decided that maybe it was time to indulge my inner enthusiast. I started calling around and put forward my build idea to a few companies to see what we could get in the way of higher end components for this build. Once I had everything I began the adventure of an enthusiast build, join me now as I describe my journey.
Every computer has to start somewhere and so we began this journey with the case we would use. I called up my friend Ramsom at Thermaltake and told him what I had planned. He laughed and said I have the perfect case for you, a few days later the Thermaltake Spedo showed up at my door.
This case is a BRUTE. A full tower design this thing is huge, barely fitting under my computer desk with clearances of mere fractions of an inch. The case has a stylized front bevel and a large easy to find power button. The front of the case is mesh and very open allowing for great air flow.
In the center of the front is a 140mm intake fan that has a red led in it. This creates a nice red color effect against the silver and black of the case, something I intend to take advantage of as you will see.
The front is lined with foam filtering and this is not easy to remove. However it does allow for you to run the vacuum over the front every few weeks and keep the dust count low, well at least that was the plan.
Above the fan on the front we have 4 bays for 5.25” drives to be mounted, the area the fan is in holds quick release bays for up to six 3.5” drives and then the lower three bays allow for 3 more 5.25” drives.
Now before we get to the rest of the outset let me take a moment here to explain a design flaw I found right away. The Spedo uses a tool less design to make installed the varies drives easy and it does work however for easy access the HD bays are installed across the bay, this creates a wind block for the 140 mm fan. I have comment on cases in the past that while I understand the ease of access this design is dumb because it reduces the very thing these cases are bought for, air flow.
Now the picture I have is a bit fuzzy, but I think it can make the point. Two of these are sitting in the exact angle I am picturing here directly in front of the 140mm fan. As you can see there is going to be SERIOUS airflow restriction.
The good news is that these bays can be removed and Thermaltake thought ahead and included adapters to mount these HD bays into the 5.25” bays. If you fully make the move this will leave you only a single 5.25” bay for use but then again who uses more than a single optical drive anymore? Not me, we are not using one at all on this build.
Getting back to the rest of the case you can see the right side of the case has a couple of vented areas. The front one opens to the area where the drive bays are originally. With the bays moved it opens a nice big area for easy air flow into the case. The smaller one to the rear can be used to mount a 120mm fan to cool the backside of the motherboard. Not sure how useful that is and frankly did not see a need.
Moving to the business side of the case we see the same front vented area as on the right. In this picture you can see the drive bays in their original position through the front vent, those are right in front of the 140mm fan.
You will also notice the large windows area and the 230mm fan than dominates it. This fan like the side fan in the Element G we reviewed, uses a no plug power system. This makes it really easy to get in and out of the case. The fan has no lots on it at all and provides a ton of air over the entire motherboard area.
The back of the case has dual 120mm fans for exhaust as well as water cooling cutouts in place. The PSU is bottom mount and has an opening at the case bottom for an air intake. This intake is filtered and the feet give enough rise to allow decent air intake for the PSU.
Finally we come to the top of the case which has a 230mm fan mounted at the back for exhaust and the front area is opened to allow air intake as needed. You then of course have your standard fair of 2xUSB, 1 ESATA and the Headphone and Mic jacks.
Now I screwed up with my pictures and did not take inside pics of the case until I had mounted some of the first round components for testing. However I can tell you the case is VERY roomy. The Crosshair is a full sized motherboard and at no time did I feel cramp or pressed for space.
The case also comes with a number of plastic pieces to compartmentalize the heat in the case. In this pic of the first configuration run you can see the compartment modules in place. This is with the Crosshair in place, look at the room at the top and the right of the motherboard. The grilled section is covering the video card and expansion slots and the bottom is covering the PSU.
In this shot you can see that I have moved the HD brackets and put them in the 5.25” bays. This creates a nice open area to allow that 140mm intake fan to work for full effect.
The case includes some thoughtful extra’s as well such as an extension cable for a 24 pin and 8 pin motherboard power connector. Also the back of the case comes with 4 easy to use plastic covers. These fit over the cabling you route to the back of the base and clean it up nicely and are super easy to use.
The Spedo case was a pure joy to build in. It has a ton of open room in the case meaning just about any configuration you can imagine can be put in. The open ventilation design gives impressive air flow meaning the cooling your enthusiast level PC should be no issue. The extras with the case just take it up a notch.
On the downside the basic case design has a serious flaw in my opinion with the basic HD placement. However a conversation with Thermaltake revealed they are aware of this and that everyone they have spoken with has done as I have and moved the bays. Hopefully this will mean that the next generation of this case will fix this issue. The filtering in the front seems like a great idea until you realize the side fan has no filter. This means all that effort to cut dust intake is essentially wasted. The fans on this case have no speed control so they run at a set speed all the time. This means the case is louder than some others. However the noise level it creates is subjective. In my home with the family awake the case was so quiet I could not hear it. When it was just me up in the wee hours of the morning the noise was noticeable.
Overall however I have to say the Spedo is a fun build. It is priced right with many other enthusiast level cases is comparable in features and function. While it might be a tight fit under my desk it does fit and the ease with which I can work on the parts if needed make this an awesome case.
I thought I would round out this review with the PSU we are using in the build. I spoke with Antec about this project and they figured I could use some more power than my usual Antec favorite Earthwatt series. So they sent me a Truepower New Blue 750 watt PSU.
If you are thinking I am going to give a long review of this PSU here then you will be in for a surprise. There is a simple truth about the Antec PSUs I have used over the years, they just work.
The TP series is an outstanding PSU that has hybrid modular cabling and is rated as 80Plus Bronze. The 750 watts easily provides all the power I need for the X-ray, the only thing I did not like was the blue light. (What is it with the PC industry and blue lights?)
It is a testament to the reliability of Antec PSUs in the fact that I got it, mounted it and threw out the packaging before I realized what I had done. No pictures, not worrying about needing to RAM, just put it in and go. This is why Antec has been the PSU I have recommended to people for years.
Okay so we have the PSU and the Case, next entry we will look at our cooling solution and begin putting this beast together.