[NEWS] Casetronic C156 Review (Posted July 15th, 2005)
[NEWS] Casetronic C156 Review (Posted July 15th, 2005)
This is amongst the smallest Mini-ITX cases but it still manages to fit an EPIA M(II) motherboard, a slimline optical and a 2.5" HDD (or maybe even two?) and a 60W DC-DC adapter inside. Plus in my opinion it's very good looking case and I certainly wouldn't mind having it sit on my desk!
First of all I would like to thank VIA for supplying the motherboard used in the review and Casetronic for supplying the case.
Fits VIA EPIA-M, and EPIA-MII (max memory height 1 inch)
Low noise and lightweight
Compact size and carrying handle makes it perfect for portable applications
Excellent heat dissipation through extensive sets of vents
Standard case in Silver. Optional colours: Black, Blue, and Champagne colours
Today a Fedex van pulled up outside my house and my eyes lit up with joy. My cases had arrived. I was told they would be here on Thursday, but today was Monday and they were already here. I took the box to my office for a closer inspection.
There were two cases in this box, the C158 and the C156. (The review for the C158 will be posted soon.) I opened the package and took out the smaller of the two boxes. The writing on the side of the box specifies the colour of the case within. The IEC (kettle) power lead, Power brick, IDE Cable (not SP compatible), Instructions booklet, Power Splitter, laptop hard drive converter, spare I/O shield for classic M series boards, some sticky feet and the case. What it did not include was a Slim CD converter. Also the IDE cable only has one connector so if you wanted to add an optical drive you would need to use another IDE cable to attach it with. Another odd thing was the power splitter. It was a floppy to floppy and hard drive cable. As we will later see however the power supply already has 2 hard drive and one floppy connector available. Therefore, in a tiny case like this what can you possibly use 4 hard drive cables and a floppy cable for and yet still stay below the 55watt limit.
Like the Casetronic website states, the case will only accept EPIA M6000, EPIA M10000, EPIA MII6000, EPIA MII10000, EPIA MII12000 the reason for this is that there is a built in back plate that cannot be replaced or hacked apart.
What I couldn't understand was the two thumbscrews attaching the outer casing to the body. You can take off the case top without a screwdriver and do NOTHING more than look at the CD drive. For all maintenance a srewdriver is required. The thumbscrews do add to the overall look of the case though which is definitely a good thing.
Once I had removed the two thumb screws on either side I took off the lid. This was a very easy operation, I had to pull the top half an inch back using the handle and then it lifts straight up and away.
Upon opening we are immediately greeted by a fan. This works as a system exhaust, venting the hot air directly out the back of the case. Unfortunately due to reasons later explained I was unable to check the noise produced by the fan. This isn't your traditional axial fan, rather it's a radial one which exhausts the air on the side. For those who want to get rid of the fan there are only 2 screws holding on the "Fan Caddy". In the photo below there is a metal extension extending over the fan; this is part of the fan cage therefore it CANNOT be easily replaced. From the Casetronic site I extracted the following "Cooling: 45x7.5mm mini blower (1.5 CFM; 23dBA; one ball one sleeve)". For those who want to get to know the fan on a personal level (I know you exist) there is a close-up of the fan label.
Four other screws later and the drive bay holder is gone. We are now presented with a rather well packaged power supply. The unit is compact and compared to normal PSUs it was tiny and it suited this case perfectly in every way.
The PSU was wrapped quite well in the bubble wrap but I took it out before I remembered to take another photo. As I mentioned earlier, 2 hard drive cables and one for a floppy. For a case that takes one 2.5" drive and a slim optical drive that is too many cables. But they did throw the splitter in for good measure so you have to give them bonus points for giving you more than you paid for. The next step was installing the mainboard into the case. This seemed simple once I had read the instructions. At this point I would like to advise anybody buying this case that the instructions are there for a reason. Read them at least twice first, which isn't hard seeing as it is only a double side of A4 with 8 pictures. To install the board you need to remove the back plate and then slide it in from the rear. I've not seen another case install a board in this way without using a tray.
Note here, this was the one and only screwdriver I used throughout the entire review. Others were simply not required as all of the screws seemed to be the same. Next was to add the power supply, as I only have an SP13000 I couldn't use the supplied PSU. But for review purposes it will do. However since looking at it the first time it dawned on me that there would be no bad consequence to using an ATX extender. Though do so at your own risk and don't blame me if wires clip the fan. I see nothing wrong at all in using an ATX extension on a passive board like the SP8000. So this would definitely be an option.
Also on the Casetronic website the words "max memory height 1 inch" are displayed. As you can see in the picture I have a full size stick of memory with a built in heatspreader making it bigger than your average stick. Curiously I added the drive bay holder back on again, wondering if it would fit on at all. It did, perfectly. As you see in the next photo I have exactly (measured) an extra centimetre to spare.
Then I checked from the front again to see if there was any space left in the small enclosure. I found a lot. Definitely not enough to add a 3.5" drive but certainly enough for a 2.5" HDD. Then I remembered, the MII motherboards have the add-on PCMCIA and CF slot which would void this option.
With the MII boards though, you are able to remove the extra ports (PCMCIA and CF) and add a hard drive without any trouble. However, if you bought half height memory you could put it at the front of the case where it is meant to go and either have the PCMCIA slots or a second hard drive. Casetronic never actually mentioned this anywhere but if you look back at when I first opened the case you can see on the drive bay holder that there are 2 options for the placement of the drive. Either front or back. Then you can have it with full height memory OR 2 hard drives. Ask yourself this, how many other cases THIS small can support 2 hard drives. Simple, none. 3.5 is just too big and this has room for two 2.5". UNIQUE.
It's a lovely little case; I plan on getting another board in the future just so that I can use it. Also I would like to comment on the fact that I tried and tried to find a sharp edge but I failed miserably and came out with hands softer than when I started.
Looks very good
Available in 4 colours
95% Aluminium therefore VERY light and strong
Unable to cut yourself, even if you try
One screwdriver required throughout
External silent power supply
Lots of holes for airflow
Top of case comes off very easily
Can possibly support 2 laptop hard drives without modification
Handle included, very useful given its size
No CD drive bezels, they have to match when the case looks this good
Epia M(II) series only
Little rubber feet that you stick on yourself
No slimline CD converter included
No extra USB/Audio/Firewire ports
Supplied IDE cable only supports one device and is not SP compatible
Low profile memory for PCMCIA support
A few interesting things: two possible drive, get an EPIA SP motherboard to work with an ATX extender, etc. which I found out while reviewing the case. Does this mean they hide options in more of their products? You decide...