Table of Contents
IN-WIN Development, Inc. has been around the block a time or ten. Founded in 1986 as a manufacturer of computer chassis, they have since expanded to include power supplies and digital storage devices, but their core business remains their cases. In 2009, they even opened a second factory, so it would seem business is good.
Today we’re going to be looking at their flagship, the full-tower IRONCLAD.
Packaging and Specifications
The IRONCLAD, unlike other cases I’ve reviewed, actually arrived in a box outside its own box. There was no padding in it, but it did protect the case’s own box quite well on the way here. Looking around the IRONCLAD’s box, we see a metal theme in keeping with its name. One side shows the name of the product, another a zoomed photo, with the specifications & features on the remaining sides.
Opening the box & pulling the case out, we see the typical case foam protection, which did a great job of keeping the case ding-free.
IN-WIN lists these specifications and features on their web site:
- Full Tower Chassis
External Drive Bay:
- 5.25” × 5
- 3.5” x 1 (Converted from one 5.25” drive bay)
- ATX 12V
- PS 2 or EPS Power
Internal Drive Bay:
- 3.5” x 6
- 2.5” x 1
- Front:12cm Fan x 1
- Rear: 12cm Fan x 1
- Top:12cm Fan x 1 (Maximum Supports 12cm Fan x 2)
- Side:22cm LED Fan with switch x 1 (Maximum Supports 12cm Fan x 6)
- Water-Cooling Hole Ready
I/O Expansion Slots:
- PCI-E/PCI/AGP SlotX8
M/B Form Factor:
- 550x225x566mm (21.7″x8.9″x22.3″)
- CE and FCC Class B Requirement
Top I/O Ports:
- HD/AC’97 Audio
- 1.0~0.8mm SECC Steel
- Excellent Thermal Solution
- Gaming Chassis utilizes 22cm side panel fan to accelerate air through and out of chassis to keep components cool.A ventilated floor panel, and a top vent with 12cm fan provide the optimal airflow on both intake and exhaust.
- Dust proof meshes
- The air filter meshes are built into the front bezel side panel top panel and floor that keeps out of the dust and extend the life of components.
- Tool-free mechanical design
- Screw-less I/O expansion slots make assembling a fun, easy and enjoyable experience.
- Metallic Warship Enhances the structural steel sturdiness
- Eight tool-free expansion slots
- Patented shock-free railing system
That is one long list! Let’s have a look around and see if we can spot it all.
When pulling this thing out of the box, it’s obvious this isn’t built of some namby-pamby thin steel. This is one heavy beat. It’s structurally sound to the nth degree, that’s for sure.
On the left side you can see the mesh side panel. There’s no window here, just a huge fan grille, which is appropriate since it comes with a HUGE fan – 220mm, by far the biggest computer fan I’ve seen in person. If the giant fan doesn’t suit your tastes, the panel has holes for mounting no less than six 120mm fans.
The right side panel is behind the motherboard tray and is plain black, as expected.
On the front you can see the IN WIN logo on what looks like an iron plate (it’s plastic). Aesthetically, this panel feels a little out of place. It’s a design choice, and some might like it, but there’s something to be said for uniformity. Definitely a matter of opinion though; it’s a good looking front panel regardless.
The rear shows off some of the features referenced earlier – eight expansion slots with mesh blanks for better air flow and four holes for water cooling. As mentioned in our previous review of the NZXT Tempest EVO, four is a bit unnecessary, but at least you have location options.
Now we’ll have a quick look at the I/O panel on top. There is a lot of connectivity up here. Two eSATA, one firewire and four USB ports, along with front panel mic and headphone connections. All within a nice looking panel that includes the power/reset buttons and emblazoned with the IRONCLAD name. The power and reset buttons have a nice feel to them too, not a lot of travel but they’re strong. Nothing to complain about here.
Overall, it’s a good looking case. Rugged, strong, heavy & huge. All good so far!
When you pull the side panels off this behemoth, their strength is evident in their weight. The metal on this case is some of the strongest I’ve experienced in a computer case.
The side panels also come with a bit of sound deadening that covers the entirety of the left side panel around the fan grille and covers part of the right side panel below where the motherboard tray stops.
Sometimes it would be nice to have sound effects for readers. When getting to the part of the review after pulling the side panel off, it would be nice to play the sound you hear in movies of a needle being scratched off of a record to stop the soundtrack…and then stunned silence. Let’s start with a photo and see if you notice what I did.
To borrow a term from the ever annoying comic strip “Cathy”, ‘Ack!’
It looks great. There’s no problem there, but what strikes wire management freaks the world over is that this full tower case has no wire management accommodations. That’s right, zero. Unless you count the little white clips and meager offering of four wire ties that come in the accessory pack, which are not quite what people usually have in mind for wire management.
Wire management isn’t everything, but in an enthusiast full tower case, you’d expect some sort of nod to those who like to keep their cases clean, not to mention the assistance wire management gives toward good case airflow. It’s not a deal breaker for a lot of people, but it’s not going to help anything either.
Looking at the rear of the case from the inside, you see two of the three included 120mm fans. They’re quiet and do a good job of moving air for you. Unless you prefer a different color, these will be just fine.
The tool-free accessory brackets are definitely a plus. They’re easier to use than a lot of cases and they are strong as well. You won’t need to replace these with screws as I’ve seen necessary in the past on some cases. Below these are the four water tubing holes mentioned previously.
Looking down you can see the PSU mount. The PSU sits on four rubber feet to help reduce vibration. If your PSU is shorter (like the one used here), they do include two extra feet to put in between these four, which was a welcome touch.
Also below the PSU is a removable air filter. It’s not easily removable in that you must remove the PSU to get to it, but it’s nice to have nonetheless.
Looking up you see the second of the included 120mm fans as well as mounting holes for an additional fan (not included). While the three fans they do include are appreciated, one more would have filled out the fan selection in its entirety and you wouldn’t have to worry about clashing with the included green fans.
You can see they did give you a hole behind the CPU for easy cooler mounting without removing the motherboard. It’s a bit small though, so you may need to at least loosen the motherboard’s mount to wiggle a backplate in or out.
The biggest downside to the top panel is the fan spacing. They put a nice IN WIN logo on the exterior, but didn’t consider that doing so keeps people that water cool from putting a dual 120mm radiator up there. Not that it would do a ton of good because of how high the motherboard tray sits, because you’d have to mount the radiator internally and put the fans outside, or vice versa.
Alas, another case that’s not interior water cooling friendly, even for so much as a dual 120mm radiator, which isn’t much to start with. Had they moved the MB tray down a few inches instead of leaving unused space at the bottom, and spaced the fans right, this case wouldn’t have any problem with one. Admittedly, water coolers aren’t a huge market segment, but it’s nice to be given more than the afterthought of filling space with tubing holes.
Completing the compartment tour, let’s have a look at the front. The last of the included 120mm fans serves as an intake and cools the hard drives. Speaking of hard drives, if you have a lot of storage, this case will make you quite happy with six 3.5″ drive bays. Just above those is the included 2.5″ bay for an SSD, which is nice to see. Further up are the five 5.25″ drive bays.
The tool-free system is nice, using rubber and hard plastic slides you put on a device to click it into place. The mount is secure and easy to use. Two items come pre-installed with them, the 5.25″ to 3.5″ adapter, which is metal and quite stout (for a floppy drive, card reader, etc) and a holder for the brackets. Most people won’t use all eleven bays anyway, so this was a great idea to keep everything together and easily accessible.
Enough gandering around an empty case, let’s install a system and see how it fares!
The system to be installed is the same that was used for the Tempest EVO review, minus the IDE hard drive:
- CPU: AMD 5000+ Black Edition
- HSF: Arctic Cooling Freezer 64 Pro
- Motherboard: abit AX78
- RAM: 2x1G OCZ Platinum DDR2-800
- GPU: MSI X1550
- ODD: Sony IDE CD-ROM
- HDD: Western Digital 160GB SATA
- Fan Controller: Lamptron FC-3
To be blunt, installation in this case is absolutely no fun for people that care about wire management. There are just no options to hide wires anywhere. There is no room between the motherboard tray and the right side panel at all. Even if there were, there are no holes to route cables through. So the picture of the back of the tray, which is usually filled with a rats nest of hidden wires, is rather barren.
There was just enough room to put the spare PSU cables between the rear case panel and the HDD cage to hide them under the drives.
The hole in the tray for cooler backplate mounting could definitely stand to be bigger. This particular board is an AM2+ board, which uses the same stock back plate as the AM3 boards. If you wanted to remove it without having to loosen the board, you can’t.
When first viewing the hard drive cage, you might think you can put your hard drives in there such that the wires are to the back and can be hidden. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Even if you wanted to, the brackets don’t work like that. Your hard drive wires, like every other wire in this case, are out there for the world to see in all their messy glory. If you fill up all six slots, you’ll have quite the management problem on your hands.
Stepping back, you will see the result of (sadly) well over an hour of trying to get these wires to look good. It just wasn’t having it. They can be pulled out of the way by using wire ties through holes in the MB tray. They can even be made to look better with wire loom. You just can’t hide them, it’s not possible.
It’s not horrible by any stretch, but it’s not pretty either. A few simple changes could have made this case so much better:
- Move the motherboard tray down an inch or an inch and a half.
- Add some space between the tray and the right side panel.
- Cut wire management holes in the MB tray (grommets aren’t even necessary…just the holes would suffice).
- An added bonus would be to use 15mm fan spacing up to so people could put a radiator up there if they wanted.
Fortunately, if you take the time to darken the cables using wire loom (or whatever you have) it doesn’t look bad at all when you put the left side panel back on. The giant 220mm fan looks nice when lit up. If you don’t want the lights, it even comes with a switch mounted in the panel to turn the lights off while the fan still runs.
One huge plus to this case is that it is quiet. I can barely tell the PC is on, especially compared to my main system with its five under-volted beastly screamers. Definitely a bonus for those that prefer to see their computer rather than hear it.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
This case is a mixed bag. There is a lot to like about it, compared to the relatively few things not to like. Unfortunately, the few things not to like aren’t insignificant, wire management being number one.
- Strength – this is a very strong case, it’ll stand up to some abuse and then some.
- Air Flow – with great air flow, this is definitely a strong case for those on air cooling.
- Quiet – possibly the quietest this system has ever been.
- Sound deadening foam pre-installed.
- Rolled steel panels – no jagged edges to eat your cables.
- Black painted interior.
- Excellent tool-free system.
- Three 120mm and one 220mm fans included.
- Lots of external I/O connectivity.
- Wire management. This one makes me want to scream at the designers. SO much room with so little options for hiding cables.
- CPU mounting bracket hole is too small.
- No internal water cooling option – move the MB tray down a bit into that wasted space below it, then space the top fan holes properly, that’s all it would take.
- Not all fans included – one more fan would have filled up the case with all identical fans. There’s no reason to leave that one out.
Overall, this is a very nice case. My inner wire management freak can’t be silenced, but even so, performance wins over cleanliness. If you can look past the lack of wire management ability, this case is a very, very strong contender. It looks great and is strong as an ox. The fact that you are able to use what’s available to get the wires out of the way and allow plenty of air flow means performance takes the day.
For $109.95 (plus shipping) at Newegg, if you aren’t nuts over wire management (or into water cooling), this case is a good investment. Not many full towers come in at that price point. Performance is what we seek, and the IRONCLAD delivers. This one is definitely Overclockers Approved.