Today I will be reviewing the “Dragon Slayer” case, provided to me by the manufacturer, In-Win Development Inc. According to their website, In-Win has been in the computer case business since 1985. I personally have been aware of them for more than a decade, and most, if not all of what I’ve heard has been positive. Let’s see how well the “Dragon Slayer” lives up to In-Win’s reputation.
First lets discuss the shipping. I won’t say much about delivery as I’m not reviewing Purolator’s services. Suffice it to say it made its way to me fairly quickly and the box was largely intact. There was one small puncture in the cardboard box, but fortunately it was on a side that was completely protected by a foam insert. I can’t say if it happened during shipping or at the manufacturing plant but either way it was a non issue for me.
The packaging was what you’d expect for a computer case, a cardboard box only a few inches bigger than the case itself with molded foam on opposite ends to keep the case centered and protected from damage.
The package was light, only about 14 lbs. I was met with a pungent smell once I opened the top of the box. The kind of smell that new rubber and plastics can sometimes give off. It was not overwhelming, nor even strong, but was noticeable. Once removed from the box I rapped my finger tips along the top side of the case. The high pitch of the reverberation had me concerned about the strength and durability of the case’s outer shell. It sounded pretty flimsy compared to most other cases I’ve used.
Now that the case has been removed from the packaging, I took off the side door to check the contents that come with the case. Inside I found several small bags containing screws (black to match the case’s finish), hard drive mounting rails (yellow to match the fans), some black plastic clips with sticky tape on one side to help with cable management, and the manual.
The slide rails have rubber grommets to cut down on vibration, file that under “little details” along with their color matching the fan blades. The manual for this particular case is not a booklet but comes as one long sheet folded back upon itself like and accordion. The manual has several pages of specs, package content, case structure and warranty information repeated in English, French, German, Spanish, Turkish, Russian, Japanese and Chinese as well as a few pages (in English only) giving instructions for installing drives, motherboard, PSU, etc. The combination of textual and pictorial instructions makes installation pretty easy to understand. No complaints here.
Now onto the case. Once I had set aside the secondary pieces, I looked at the overall presentation of the case. It has ventilation on all 6 sides (top and bottom incl.) The two side doors are held on with large thumbscrews. I’ve had cases with thumbscrews before but these ones are bigger than ones I’ve used before and I found them easier to grasp as a result. The finish on the two doors, along with the top, bottom and back sides, is a matte black, with a bit of a grainy texture, both on the outside and the inside. I found no flaws in the finish, no splotches or other inconsistencies and there were no scratches or scuff marks. All the various pieces were assembled very precisely. There were no gaps or edges sticking out, no pieces misaligned during assembly.
The front side is the only side that does not have the grainy black metal. Like most cases the front bezel of the Dragon Slayer is made of plastic.
The plastic is a dull black that matches the color of the metal very well and it is held in place by six tabs, three on each side of the bezel at the top corners, bottom corners and along the middle sides. These tabs also help keep the case doors aligned properly as the doors have slots that, when properly closed, sync up with the tabs. The bezel snaps in place and fits perfectly with the metal frame. One of the tabs felt a little weak to me as I removed the front face. I had some concerns that it might lend it self to snapping off more readily than the others. I also found the same to be true for one of the tabs that lock the drive bay covers in place. To put in or take out the drive bay covers you need to press in on the tabs that are on both sides of the bay cover, and one felt just a little bit too soft for my liking.
Much of the front surface of the case (including the three 5 ¼” and one 3 ½” bay covers) has a small hexagonal grid metal wire grill to let air in. The outer grid holes are approximately 3 mm wide which by themselves could let a fair bit of dust in but all of the air intake areas have a removable, secondary inner mesh that has much smaller holes that should keep most of the dust out. The outer grid is for show, to make the case look like it’s armored. I mean, surely you’re not going to go out and slay a dragon without armor, right? The outer mesh also serves to protect the inner mesh, which is fairly soft. The inner mesh is clearly there to keep out dust and such. It’s fine enough to catch much of the airborne dust and pet hair, but is far too soft to serve on its own without some protection. A pen or other pointed object held carelessly in hand while turning the computer on or while inserting a CD into a drive could easily puncture it, so it needs that outer layer. Air output holes, such as the fan at the back of the case, do not have the secondary inner mesh as that would just trap dust inside the case. The lone exception to this is the top mounted 140mm fan, and given that it it is on top of the case I think it makes sense to have a bit of extra protection in case something small is dropped onto the case and to help prevent dust from settling down into the case when the computer is not on. The few places on the front that do not have the wire mesh are the front connectors area (one USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, headphones and mic), the power button and the large, light-up “In Win” logo. The USB connectors are differentiated by color, the blue one is for the 3.0 standard. I found the logo to be much too bright for my eyes when on and as an owner of two cats and a bunny who are all at eye level with this part of the case I will be either disconnecting or dimming the light down before I need to buy my pets dark glasses and white canes. It isn’t too bright for me where it is, but that’s only because the case is down on the floor. If the case were on the desk right next to my monitor it would be too much for me as well. It doesn’t show up too bad in pictures, but in person it is very difficult to look at for more than a few seconds.
The case has four external bays on the front. At the top of the front face is a 5 ¼“ bay, right below that is a single 3 ½“, below that are the front audio and USB ports, the power button, fan grill, light up In-Win logo and finally, at the bottom, the last two 5 ¼“ bays.
Now onto the interior, starting with the finish. As I mentioned the interior has the same finish as the exterior and is just as flawless.
I like that the interior finish is just as flawless as the exterior, it shows good quality control. If there was a blemish on the inside of the case, under the motherboard or tucked up inside one of the drive bays, you’re not really going to notice it from day to day. It would not be a glaring problem. Nevertheless they’ve made sure that even unseen errors like that do not get through QC. Note the significant number and size or holes in the motherboard tray in the above picture. These provide many options for cable management.
Now for the doors. As I said earlier the doors were held on by large thumb screws. The thumb screws are black and match the rest of the case. In-Win could have gone with yellow to match the fan blades but what if you want to change the fans out for ones that aren’t yellow? I think black was the better choice. It is a small detail, but the little things do add up overall. Once I had removed the thumb screws from both doors (again, good attention to detail. If you want to adjust your cable management on the back side of the motherboard you don’t have to go looking for a screwdriver to take the second door off) I removed the doors with ease. Unlike some cases I’ve used, this one does not provide any resistance or difficulty putting on or taking off the doors. I don’t have to fight with it to make sure every clip is engaged on all sides of the door. I should also point out that when the doors are on there are no gaps or edges sticking out. They fit just as seamlessly to the rest of the case as the front bezel does.
The component side door is mostly mesh with rubber mount points for four 120mm fans in a 2×2 configuration. The fan mount area is raised out away from the case by about ½” which gives more depth for thicker case fans to be added to the door or taller CPU coolers to be used. The rubber fan mount grommets cut down on vibration and the outer mesh has the smaller inner lining to help prevent dust accumulation.
The other door is mostly plain with just a few vent holes near the bottom. These holes do not have the mesh filter on them, but given the number of intake fans on this case those holes are really more for output than intake so again the mesh really isn’t needed here.
Looking from either side of the case, we see lots of holes for wire management as mentioned above. Aside from this we can also see that the opening for heatsink back-plate installation is fairly large and should give access to the mounting holes for most motherboards without issue (see picture of empty case above and case with mother board installed below).The space between the underside of the motherboard tray and the door on that side is over half an inch wide, so there is plenty of room for wires to be routed, even two layers thick if necessary. As you can see from the image below, the ruler is pressed up against the back of the motherboard tray and the ruler measures a full centimeter before reaching the edge, add to that the 7 or so millimeters space before the markings on the ruler start and you’ve got almost two cm of depth to hide your cables in.
Now the fans. There are the following fans in the case. One 140 mm fan in the middle of the front of the case. This fan is installed for intake. Below that, on the very bottom of the front side, there is an 80 mm fan, also set to intake. This fan is hidden from view behind the two lower 5 ¼” face plates. These two fans can be seen behind the front bezel in the image below. In the middle of the back side of the case there is a 92 mm output fan. The final fan is in the top side of the case at the very back. It is a 140 mm fan set to output. These two fans can be seen in the previous images showing the back side and top side of the case. All fans have yellow blades, all but the 92 mm fan has a smaller grill on it to help keep out dust and all of them except the 92 mm fan (again) use a standard molex connector to power them. The 92 mm fan has a 3 pin connector to plug into a fan header on the motherboard. Those are the fans the case comes with, but there are other fan mounting points. As mentioned the case has room for four 120 mm fans on the component side door with double mesh protection, and there is a vent (again with both types of mesh) in the bottom of the case for the power supply to draw in air if it has a modern top-mount 120 mm cooling fan instead of the older PSUs with rear-mount 80 mm fan. Two more small details to note are first, the PSU mount holes at the back of the case allow the PSU to be mounted “top side” up or “top side down,” so if you want to take advantage of the case bottom intake vent, then you don’t have to worry about your PSU mounting with the fan on the wrong side, facing into the case. The second small detail to note is that both of the 140 mm fans mounts have secondary 120 mm mounts in the same area. So if you want to switch out one or both of the 140’s for your favorite 120 mm fan you can do so with no problem.
Drive bays. I’ve already described what the drive bays look like from the outside, and you’ve seen the images showing the drive bay covers earlier and you can also see them in the image immediately above. Now we see what awaits within. Up top it is pretty simple. A single 5 ¼” external bay, followed by a single 3 ½” external bay below that and finally a single 2 ½” internal drive bay below that. You can see the clips that lock the 5 ¼” and 3 ½” drives in place in the pic below. The red lines underline the mounting points for the 2 ½” drive. Simple.
Now onto the bottom. Here’s where it gets complex. At first glance the bottom seems to have a drive cage for three 3 ½” interior drives with an 80 mm fan in front of them for cooling but, the two front face plates can be removed and the fan mounts unscrewed and you now have three exterior 3 ½” drive bays. But wait, there’s more. The inner drive cage can be easily removed by sliding it forward, revealing a second, larger drive cage that can accommodate two 5 ¼” drives, interior or exterior. The point is you’ve got choices. I should also add that removing the smaller drive cage from the bigger one was easy to do, just make sure the locking tabs on the outside the drive cage are disengaged and gently slide the cage forward.
Next, lets take a look at what I’m installing. Not top of the line by any means, but it by and large the components are somewhat up to date. Everything except the second optical drive with the red “X” through it will be used. I could have put both optical drives in by using the lower bays, it really would not have been a problem, but the second drive really was unnecessary for the system so I just left it out. So what we do have is an ATX PSU, one 5 ¼” optical drive, one 3 ½” floppy drive, one 3 ½” hard drive, one AGP video card with a modified Intel P3 cooler on it and one mATX form factor LGA775 motherboard with a Conroe L Celeron cooled by the Cooler Master Hyper TX2 HSF.
Then we take a look at a shot of how the system looked in the old case.
Ugly inside, ugly outside but at least it worked. The motherboard tray ends wrap around the back and almost touch the door, there’s barely 2mm of clearance. So hiding the various cables behind the system was not possible. What a mess!
So now let’s see what happens when I try to install the system into this case. The first thing to go in was the PSU. It’s not like some of the new extra long ones that put out 1kw or more, this one is a Sparkle 350 w and measures 140 mm deep according the the spec page at the manufacturer’s website. Then I decided to temporarily mount one of the optical drives in the lower bay to see how much space there would be between it and the PSU. Not a lot of room to spare but enough to get your fingers in to move a jumper or swap cables if necessary. I’m not going to buy one of every PSU and one of every drive that exists to make a list but I did a bit or research and found that some high powered PSU’s are 160 mm long and some are 180 mm long. Not know how long the drives that could be paired with such power supplies I will say this: A 160 mm long PSU would be a tight fit at best and a 180 mm PSU would almost certainly be a no go with an optical drive in the lower bay unless the optical drive was very short. Given that this case is a MATX case I don’t think the small space is anything to complain about, I’m actually pleased to see that it is possible to put full sized optical drives in the lower bay with the 350 w PSU. Compact size and functionality.
Screwing the slide rails into the hard drive was easy, then I just slid the drive into the inner cage and slid the cage back into the case before locking it in. The upper drive bays went just as easy. Just slide in the the drives and lock them in place. The “action” for all of these maneuvers, putting drives in and taking them out, was very smooth. No snags or getting caught on anything. Let’s hear it once more for good attention to detail. Speaking of which, the back edges of the upper drive cage are not 90o, it’s slightly tapered such that it does not come back as far on the motherboard tray side as it does on the component side. I found this was very useful in helping me install the motherboard. It gave me the extra room to move that made installation a breeze. Again note the red line showing the 2 ½” drive mounts.
So here is what we see with everything installed.
The motherboard I’m using is a mATX that meets the proper dimensions for the mATX standard. While putting the motherboard in place, I did not have a lot of clearance, but I didn’t have to wiggle it in or remove the PSU or drives first, I didn’t even have to remove the CPU cooler (Cooler Master Hyper TX2, a “standard sized” heat-pipe tower with 92 mm fan), I just angled it into place and it aligned with the mounting holes perfectly. Once mounted I could see that there was little headroom above the cooler, very little.
Most, if not all 120 mm tower coolers won’t fit, especially if you plan on putting fans on the door. Heck I couldn’t even put a thin (25 mm thick) fan on the upper/back 120 mm fan mount on the door without it hitting the top of my TX2. So, if you’re gonna use a cooler with a 120 mm fan you’ll have to keep it to a max height of about 145 mm from top to bottom or the door won’t shut. In the picture below, we can see the ruler measuring 145 mm from the top of the motherboard to the edge of the case. To this number we must add the 7-8 mm distance from the start of the ruler to the actual beginning of the markings on it (see the above image regarding the depth of room to hide cables behind the mother board) but then we must also subtract a similar amount for the distance from the top of the motherboard to the top of the processor once installed in the socket. This is for socket LGA775. Any other sockets and your mileage may vary but probably not much. So your best bet is to pick a 92 mm cooler or use a cooler where the bulk of the setup runs parallel to the motherboard instead of perpendicular.
At this point you might be asking why I’m complaining about this, after all it is a mATX case, it’s supposed to be small. Well the answer is I’m not complaining, I’m just letting you all know what to expect. Well what about water cooling? Room for that in a mATX case? In this one there is. I can think of several configurations to use. Look at all that empty space above the lower drive cage near the front 140 mm fan in the image above. Also notice the three (not two, three!) rubber access ports at the back of the case. You could use two of them to run to and from the CPU block while keeping the bulk of the components outside the case, or going to and from an external rad while keeping most of the components inside the case, and still have one access port available for a fill port t-line. Or just keep everything internal by mounting a small rad on the top 140 mm fan with the pump near the front 140 mm fan and the block on the core (obviously). The point is once you take out the heatsink you gain enough room to go with several different layouts, as long as you choose the right parts for your loop. Also, in spite of my initial concerns, I do believe the shell does have the structural integrity to handle the weight of a H2O loop.
The USB and front audio pin outs were labeled clearly in the manual and the pins were arranged in the proper manner. I connected and tested them, the audio and USB front ports work fine, as does the power switch and the activity LEDs.
Now that I’ve hooked up all the cables, routing them through the back side of the mother board tray of course, it was ready to go. Hit the switch and it fired up just fine. Fan noise? Near silent. Very quiet, all of them. I placed my hand on the case when the machine was on and felt very little vibration.
So now that I’ve poked and prodded the thing, put the parts in and fired it up I should get to my conclusions. I want to say that my initial fears of the fragility of some of the plastic tabs was unfounded. I popped the front bezel on and off more than once and the same can be said for all of the drive bay covers, and they all held up just fine. The initial smell I was met with upon opening the packaging? Once I had the case out of the packaging and it was getting some air it was gone within 10 minutes, tops. The structure of the metal was stronger than my initial “finger-rap” led me to suspect. I didn’t put it into a car-crusher or sledge hammer it to see how easily it would buckle, but a bit of gentle, consistent twisting pressure on the shell did not cause it to yield in the slightest. Nothing bent, nothing warped, no rivets came out, no problem with the structure at all.
However, I did notice a small scratch in the finish on the outside of the bottom of the case. This must have happened while I was installing the components because it was not there when I first examined the case. I’m surprised that it happened at all as I wasn’t manhandling the unit despite the above sentence about “gentle twisting.” I must have accidentally set it down on something with an edge at one point and not realized it. The blemish which I caused is noticeable. It shows up as a mark that is a slightly lighter shade. I’ve no doubt that part of the reason I’m aware of the scratch is that I’m looking the whole thing over with a very critical eye, but if the scratch were big enough and on the top or one of the sides I think most people would notice it. I’m not saying it looks terrible, but I would have thought that the grainy matte finish would hide it better than a scratch on a shiny smooth finish but this is just not the case. Based on my own previous experiences and observations, I’d have to say this finish is neither better nor worse at hiding blemishes than a glossy, smooth finish. It’s not a negative, just not the bonus I had hoped it would be. I’ve avoided posting an image of the bottom of the case until now because my pre-scratch shots did not turn out right and I didn’t want to show the scratch until I had a chance to state that it was my fault for causing it. So now that that is out of the way allow me to show what the bottom of the case looks like (it’s not a lot different than the top really, just add the feet) and the scratch.
So in the end, what problems did I have with this case? Well the illuminated In-Win logo is way too bright for my comfort. Also scratches in the finish are fairly easy to notice. Other than that I can’t really say anything bad about it.
What did I like about it? Wheeew! Where to start… Well the manual is laid out very clearly, it’s easy to follow the instructions and if you do you shouldn’t get lost along the way. It’s very quiet, especially when you consider it’s got four fans in it. You get a lot of room to work with for a case in its size category. The drive bays provide a lot of versatility with many configuration options possible. The construction is sturdy. Then there’s all the little things, the rubber grommets to dampen vibration, the secondary mesh to keep out dust, the way all the bits and pieces fit together effortlessly.
Other thoughts? Well I could say it would be nicer to have a case that can house a full height 120 mm tower cooler, but it is a mATX case that I’m reviewing. Complaining that it’s not bigger would be like reviewing the design for the new penny and then complaining that it’s bad because it’s not a dollar. Also, the style of the face, which I did not really touch on much in this review, is in my opinion purely a matter of personal aesthetics. I can’t tell you if it looks good to you or not. You don’t need me to help you make that decision. Just look at the pictures. If you really want my opinion though I do like the look of it. The lines are clean, nothing looks out of place like a clown’s nose on a fashion model wearing a new tuxedo, and the mesh does give it something of an armored feel (so watch out dragons, this case is ready for battle!) I think most people will like the look of it too, but everybody has the right to their own opinion. So you tell me. Do you like the way it looks?