Joined on 10/11/04
Good value despite a few annoyances
Pros: Solidly built case. It isn't the most vault-like rackmount case I have ever handled, but there is nothing to complain about, especially at this price. The black finish looks good. Overall a nice clean design. There is a generously-sized vent over the PSU to allow the bottom fan to pull in fresh air directly. This way the PSU runs cooler and soaks less heat into the case which helps keep the ambient air temperature down. Front air filter for the intake fans (which are not included) Nice compact form factor at only 15" deep -- however, as a result you must plan carefully depending on what you want to fit inside.
Cons: Main chassis edges are rolled, but everything else is rough cut and there are plenty of nasty edges to slice yourself on if you aren't careful. Tedious to build in. Front panel has to come off and apart to change the fan filter -- 15 screws! Will require plenty of trial and error to figure out how components and cables fit best. The plate on which the front intake fans mount is flat, meaning the fan mounts flat against the plate. If you mount the fans blowing inward, the fan hub will be pressed against the plate and unable to spin. Adding 2-3 flat washers on each corner is an easy fix, but the mounting points really ought to be stamped for clearance. 5.25" drive cage had to be bent outward a about a quarter inch as it was interfering with the door mechanism of my hotswap bay (Icy Dock TurboSwap 3.5") USB 2.0 only on the front panel. 3.0 would be nice, though it's not going to be an issue for me since I will be getting a 3.0 internal card reader and hub (Atech PRO-77U) No support for full size cards. Well, it *is* a 2U case.
Overall Review: I chose this for my home desktop PC so it can be mounted under a desk. Main use is for Lightroom and Photoshop, so my needs were to fit two SSDs (boot drive and cache), one 3.5" hard drive, a hotswap bay for backups, and an internal card reader. I was not able to fit my existing power supply, an Antec BP550 Plus, inside the case and had to run it outside until I could get a smaller PSU. The Silverstone ST45SF-G turns out to be ideally suited -- it frees up the space behind the 5.25" bays, the 24-pin ATX and SATA cables are perfect length, and it's fully modular. If you aren't using the bays, a full size ATX supply with a big fan should be a little quieter, but I am very happy with the SFX unit so far and the space savings inside the case are tremendous. Additionally, 10" and 6" SATA cables and a couple of SATA power Y-splitters are very helpful for keeping the inside of this case tidy.
Comments: Set up this board a couple days ago with an A64 2800+, 1GB DDR, and GeForce 6600GT. It's been solid thus far but with a couple caveats. First, the Serial ATA on this board is not a chipset function, which I would prefer for simplicity, but a separate onboard chip with RAID functionality. (Who puts a RAID array in a Micro ATX system? Pointless!) Well it works I suppose, but it cannot handle even the slightest tweaking of FSB speeds - freezes up detecting the hard drive or fails to see it entirely. Even enabling spread spectrum is enough to give it conniption fits. So much for overclocking. Also, the driver packages included on the CD as well as for download on AOpen's site are fairly disorganized and obtuse. I stuck a bad driver on and bluescreened at one point. Last Known Good Configuration fixed that easily though. Once set up there's nothing to complain about except the complete inability to overclock. I don't know if that's just my board or a model-wide problem, either way ponder it before you buy. Fortunately CPU power is cheap, especially in Socket 754.