ULTRA m998 Case Review

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Attractive case – Kyle Lunau

Today’s PC case market is absolutely saturated with crazy and cool designs, with the occasional slick and cool offering. Ultra is going for slick and cool with their monolithic black colossus, the m998. For those of you who don’t know, the m998 is named after the US Army’s Humvee. Keep in mind that this review is very long and includes around 100 pictures, so I recommend grabbing a snack or hitting the bathroom before you start, but at the end you should know the case inside and out and you should be able to make an informed decision if you choose to purchase it. So enough talk! Time for some pictures!

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The front of the m998’s box shows a nice angled view of the case, plus gives a short feature rundown

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The back of the box gives us dimensions and specifications…

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…In five languages

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Opening up the box we can see the top of the case, as well as the manual. The whole package is wrapped in plastic and is protected from shipping damage by foam inserts.

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The easiest way to get the case out is to cut the top open, then flip the box upside-down and shake out the contents. This way the foam inserts are not damaged and frustration is minimal.

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Starting on the bottom of the case, we can see two of the firm rubber feet that the case sits on plus two sets of holes for the included casters. Thats right! You can put this thing on wheels! You also may notice the two large holes that along with the front bezel vent – this allows the front fan to intake air.

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Flipping the case over, we get a view of the side window and vents. You can also get a glimpse of the case’s awesome brushed aluminum finish.

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One of the thumbscrews and one of the window mounts were found loose in the package. Oh well, nothing ever arrives perfect!

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The box houses the case and the manual. All the hardware is inside the white boxes you see inside the case.

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The case window is protected on both sides by a protective film.

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The manual is a tad simplistic but hey, who needs a manual anyway? Out the window:

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The motherboard tray has an awesome mirror finish on it. The back of the m998 has more thumbscrews than I have ever seen. Also notice that ULTRA has used a low-restriction hexagonal vent hole arrangement. Very nice!

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The side window has two vents – one is for your video card, or any other card that could use extra airflow, the second is for your CPU fan and has a telescoping duct.

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An interesting feature about the window is that if it is viewed from an angle, it appears to be blue.

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The front panel is pretty bland but does incorporate a few interesting features.

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First there is the ULTRA logo at the bottom.

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Then the power and TWO hard drive LEDs, with the power switch at the top and the reset at the bottom.

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Behind this door lies one of the m998’s coolest features.

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Two USB ports and a PCI slot!?!!

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Thats right – a PCI slot. It comes default with a panel with audio, Firewire and eSATA installed, but you could install any type of expansion bracket here.

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Is there anything cooler than brushed aluminum?

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The back panel includes a 120mm fan, plus the usual expansion slots and PSU bay.

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The CPU duct can telescope between here….

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….and here

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This is where the window mount should have been – luckily it proved easily fixable.

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There, much better!

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The video card vent should let in a LOT of air, good news for those of you with fans mounted in this area.

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An ULTRA fan grill is included over the mesh of the CPU vent.

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In case you didn’t believe me that the motherboard tray is like a mirror, there you go.

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All the motherboard connections come zip-tied together at the bottom of the case.

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Here you can see the hardware boxes, the ULTRA power bar, and the long card supports.

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The front 120mm fan offers excellent cooling for up to five hard drives.

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Lets see what kind of goodies these two boxes are hiding!

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One box contains an I/O shield plate, screws, standoffs, and the cables for the ULTRA power bar. The other contains the casters.

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The SATA cable is to hook up the front panel eSATA connector. Also notice that two of the casters are equipped with brakes, just in case your PC is located on an incline (Ha – “in case”).

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The cables for the power bar are black FLEXFORCE cables. The cables include connections for both 6 and 8-pin PCI-e, SATA power, MOLEX, and floppy power.

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The casters are very well built and are mounted with four screws each.
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THE TEARDOWN

In this section of the review (and any case reviews I do in the future), I take the case down to the “studs”, so to speak.

After removing five thumbscrews on the outside and two normal screws on the inside (not sure what the inside screws are for), the motherboard tray slides smoothly out.

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The ULTRA power bar is attached to the motherboard tray, meaning that if you had numerous add-in cards that require addition power, you would only have to detach the four cables from the PSU to the power bar in order to remove the motherboard tray.

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The power bar takes in two molexes and two 6 or 8-pin PCI-e connections and turns them into four molexes and two 6 or 8-pin PCI-e connectors. Note that the molexes can be turned into SATA power, molex, or floppy power connections. Some of the cables that came with the case allow for multiple power connections off one of the molexes as well.

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The case speaker is integrated into the motherboard tray. This helps to minimize the number of cables that need to be unplugged prior to removing the motherboard tray from the case.

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Lets see – one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight PCI slots. Wait… hold on a sec (recounts slots in head). Holy crap, eight PCI slots! I haven’t seen this since AT. This is an EXTREMELY welcome addition. This means that I can use my PCI USB bracket that plugs into my motherboard WITHOUT using up space for add in cards. Kudos to ULTRA for an awesome design choice.

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See? Eight!

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Above the slots we have more ventilation and some break-out holes for older port connections.

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The whole motherboard tray assembly rides on this track at the bottom of the case…

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And this one towards the top of the case.

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From this angle you can get an idea of just how wide the m998 is. The space to the right of the hard drive bay is a great place to stow unused PSU cables (assuming you have a non-modular model).

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Off goes the left side panel – now this case is really starting to look bare.

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Heres a good view of the case’s 4 5.25-inch drive bays and its 7 3.5-inch drive bays.

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ULTRA includes cable clips to route the cables from the front panel.

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With the front bezel off we can see the front ports and switch/LED cluster. A nice surprise at this point was the filter on the front fan. I can’t stand dusty cases and this is an easy way to prevent dust buildup.

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The unused 5.25″ bays are covered with breakaway covers. These covers also have screw holes so you can reattach them later.

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As you can see from this picture, the front fan filter should allow excellent airflow while keeping the dust bunnies out of your case.

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The front fan uses the same type of grill as the rear fan, allowing for decent airflow throughout the case.

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The 3.5″ drive racks are removable and are held in with a combination of screws and these push pins. Yank the pin and the drive rack will come free.

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The racks attach to each other with “fingers” that go into the slots you can see at the bottom of the rack in this picture.

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Both internal and external 3.5″ drive racks come out quickly and easily.

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Many cases these days have support to keep a long and heavy PSU from sagging by supporting them with a cross member. Well, this case also supports the PSU from above with a second crossbar so that there is no chance of the PSU moving. It also adds structural rigidity.

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Oh yeah, did I mention that the top of the case comes off too?

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In case you have to install a super long PSU, you can take the crossbar out.

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On the subject of removing things, I took the ULTRA grill and the duct off the side panel. It’s a little more attractive now, in my opinion.

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This is what you can remove from the case…

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If you are using a heatsink like the Intel Stock heatsink, then it’s good to know that the side duct fits well.

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It’s also good to know that the front panel uses block connections for Firewire, USB….

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…and Audio.

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The fans use a standard 3-pin connection.

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You use the included SATA cable to hook up the front eSATA to a motherboard connector.

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The front panel is of pretty standard plastic construction and uses tabs to hold drive blanks in place.{mospagebreak}

THE BUILD

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Two blanks are removed to later accommodate a DVD burner and floppy drive.

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The hard drives are mounted in their cage with standard screws.

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The floppy drive is installed in its rack.

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The PSU can be mounted to this bracket before mounting it in the case.

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The motherboard is then installed on the motherboard tray.

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The CoolIt Eliminator is then mounted.

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The 8800, Audigy 2, and USR WIFI card are then mounted.

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All the hardware looks pretty slick installed on the motherboard tray.

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The motherboard tray with all its hardware are then slid into the case.

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The hard drive rack is then inserted into its position.

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Or almost.

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After removing the 8800, the hard drive rack slid in easily, although you could just pull out the motherboard tray (I forgot).

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The DVD burner is then installed, again with normal screws.

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Various data cables are then installed and connected.

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Then the ULTRA power bar connections are made.

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The PSU is dropped into place from the top.

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Then secured with 4 thumbscrews.

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Then all the power connections are made.

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The top support bar is reinstalled.

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Then the top panel.

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After the rest of the panels are installed, the view through the side window is quite nice.
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SIZING IT UP

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The m998 is pretty big next to my Thermaltake Xaser V (but keep in mind the m998 is on casters).

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It certainly is a bit wider.

The exact dimensions and weight of the Ultra m998 vs the Thermaltake:

Case

Length”

Width”

Height”

Weight lbs

Ultra m998

20.5

9.5

18.1

17.0

Thermaltake

23.2

8.2

19.6

34.2

So the ULTRA is smaller in every dimension except width, where it is over 1″ larger. This is great for hiding cables etc. Oddly, the case actually felt larger in every dimension as it was so easy to work in. The ULTRA case also weighs half as much as the Thermaltake, making it far more convenient for LAN Parties (and I did test that!).

COOLING

Cooling in the case normally comes from one front and one rear 120 mm fan. In my case, the rear fan had to be removed to accommodate the CoolIt Eliminator. This put the ULTRA at a one fan disadvantage against the Thermaltake. The Thermaltake had a pair of 120 mm fans stacked roughly in the center of the case, blowing backwards. The CoolIt Eliminator was left on medium for both tests. The temperatures were recorded after one run of 3DMark06.

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Check out the 7 degree reduction on the GPU! Keep in mind that the graphics card had a 120 mm fan blowing across it in the Thermaltake. The reduction on the hard drives was to be expected, since the hard drives had no direct cooling in the Thermaltake. The reduction on the CPU is likely thanks to the lower restriction grill on the m998. The increase on the motherboard is because the Thermaltake had a 120 mm fan blowing across the motherboard.

UNIQUE FEATURES

ULTRA POWER BAR:

The ULTRA power bar was an interesting addition to the chassis. Basically it acts as a modular connection panel and can be plugged into a wide range of devices. The power bar worked flawlessly and my system was as stable as ever with the 8800 and 4 hard drives plugged into the power bar.

9 PCI Slots:

A welcome edition that removes the downside of using motherboard expansion brackets.

Casters:

While it is nothing new putting casters on a PC case, it’s still pretty rare in the PC market. The casters make the case super portable and very easy to work on. It’s awesome being able to pull it out from under my desk enabling me to make connections. With the Thermaltake, I had to positively yank the thing out to overcome the carpet’s resistance.

Another cool side to having wheels on your case is that you can ride it around at a LAN Party, getting comments to mod it into a Kettenkrad (of course that didn’t actually happen…..). On that note, if one could mount a seat and motor to the case we could have a new LAN Party phenomenon!

FINAL THOUGHTS

My experience with the ULTRA m998 was extremely positive. No only is the case great looking and very portable, but it has room for a huge variety of gear. This, my second case review, was far more enjoyable than the first, and I remembered why I got into building PCs in the first place, because its FUN! The m998 had a couple of little touches that really pushed it over the top, in my mind. The first was the inclusion of 9 PCI slots in various locations on the chassis and the second was sheer number of removable components which makes installing components easy.

Pros:

  • Large enough to hold all manner of gear
  • Excellent cooling
  • 9 PCI slots
  • Dual HDD activity LEDs
  • Brushed aluminum finish throughout
  • Nice window with good vent locations
  • Almost every piece can be removed
  • Can be placed on wheels!
  • Easy component installation
  • Good variety of front ports
  • Relatively light
  • Mirror-like motherboard tray
  • ULTRA power bar for convenient, modular power connections
  • Space for a MASSIVE PSU
  • Excellent support for long and heavy PSUs
  • Excellent HDD cooling
  • Plenty of space to tuck spare wires
  • Front intake is filtered with a low restriction sponge material

Cons:

  • The holes for the intake fan in the front bezel are very restrictive (although it can also breathe through holes in the bottom)
  • Front panel is a little plain (some may find it ugly)
  • Manual does not document most of the features (the front PCI slot, removable drive racks etc.)
  • The only things that can be removed/mounted without tools are the top/side panels and rear PCI slots
  • Not all intake openings are filtered
  • Front fan cable is too short to reach some motherboard fan connections
  • Shows fingerprints
  • Front fan filter requires removal of both side panels and front bezel to access

Recommendations:

  • Replace the slots in the front panel with a mesh panel or similar to improve airflow
  • Document all the case’s features in the manual
  • Maybe improve the front panel aesthetics
  • Add a few inches to the front fan cable
  • Make the front filter easier to access and clean

Conclusion

The ULTRA m998 is a fantastic case for any enthusiast. Its simple design and rugged construction would make it a great clean slate for some modding too. Coming in at about $200 CAD (or a little more in USD 🙂 ) its a pretty good deal for such a feature packed case. Overall if you’re in the market for a big, tough case to hold all your precious gear the ULTRA m998 is worth a look.

PS: Some of you may have noticed that the m998 is a reworked Global Win YCC-61F1, at least as far as the design is concerned. That review can be found HERE.

Kyle Lunau

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