Today, we have something out of the ordinary for the general consumers out there, but for those enthusiasts and benchmarkers, it’s a fairly common sight. So, what am I talking about? An open bench/tech station, the Microcool Banchetto K to be specific. These bench/tech stations typically allow easy access to hardware for those that tinker, swap out components frequently, and/or use extreme cooling for benchmarking.
Specifications & Features
(Courtesy of Microcool)
We’ll start off with Microcool’s pitch…
The Banchetto K is the Microcool proposal for those who are getting to know modding for the first time and for those who are already experts in overclocking and want an ergonomic support for their hardware. Its compact structure allows for easy access to all system components and provides hardware in an orderly and rational manner. You can house up to 4 fans and, if you want, use it as a starting point for liquid nitrogen cooling. The Banchetto K offers exceptional compatibility with all standard motherboards and will allow you to easily assemble and disassemble components.
|Microcool Banchetto K Specifications|
|Dimensions||645 x 348 x 35 mm|
|Materials||Expansive polyurethane, steel|
|Motherboard Support||ATX, E-ATX, XL-ATX, micro-ATX|
|2.5″ Housing||Up to 2|
|Cooling System||Up to four 120 mm fans|
- Made from expansive polyurethane
- Light and resistant to shocks and chemical agents
- Easy to use
- Rapid access to all PC components
- Rational hardware setup
- Fast locking system for motherboards, VGA and PCI
- Up to 4 fans to cool the motherboard
- Maximum compatibility with ATX power supplies
- Especially designed for liquid nitrogen cooling
Packaging & Accessories
The packaging is plain with the product name on the top. When opening the box, there isn’t any padding, but the Banchetto K is wrapped in a few layer of plastic. I’m honestly not too concerned about such a thick piece of plastic being damaged during shipping. It would have to be something SERIOUS to damage the Banchetto K while shipping, like the delivery truck colliding with a fuel tank causing a massive explosion and hours of burning.
The accessories include four 120 x 25 mm fan mounts, two 2.5″ drive adapters, seven expansion card braces, power switch, power switch wire, 20 chrome standoffs, and a bag of 30 flat head thumbscrews. I would have preferred that the thumbscrews have Phillips heads instead of flat heads since flat head screwdrivers are more prone to slip while tightening the screws.
There isn’t much to the instructions. They’re quick, simple, and to the point while providing the necessary information.
Microcool Banchetto K
The Banchetto K may not look like much out-of-the-box, but it’s simple and efficient for its purpose. That’s what I call good designing. You can see that the station has cutouts on its ends so that it can easily be picked up and moved around, which is something I was glad to see when taking it out of the box.
There are brass inserts throughout the surface of the Banchetto K to serve as mounting points for the motherboard, fans, and expansion card braces. The underside has around 1.25″ worth of space, and this is where the SATA cable(s) will be routed. It’s interesting that there are not any other holes for routing PSU cables to other sections of the station.
A Closer Look
The specific holes and slots are labeled even though they would probably be obvious to a computer enthusiast purchasing the Banchetto K. The SATA cable(s) can be routed underneath the station from the HDD/SSD to the SATA ports on the motherboard. The PSU slot is rather large and should support the majority of PSUs out there. The HDD/SSD slot supports either one 3.5″ HDD or up to two 2.5″ HDD/SSD (more details further down).
The Banchetto K has places to mount up to four 120 x 25 mm fans, but first we have to attach the mounting brackets. The fan mounting brackets are easily installed with two thumbscrews each.
Now the details about the HDD/SSD mounting. There is no permanency when putting drives on the Banchetto K, making it quicker and easier to swap them out when needed. A 3.5″ HDD fits right into the slot and you don’t have to worry about it sliding off the station, even when moving the entire system. For 2.5″ drive support, there are two foam “adapters” that fit into the slot to allow either one or two 2.5″ drives to be installed. My dual 2.5″ adapter was a little squished, but it still does the job well.
By now, I’m sure you have noticed all of the brass inserts all over the place. The Banchetto K comes with 20 chrome standoffs to be placed in the brass inserts about the station.
After installing all 20 chrome standoffs, I realized that there are actually 22 brass inserts that could use chrome standoffs. Looking back at the instructions, 20 was the number Microcool meant to include, so I wasn’t shafted by QC. I’m not sure why they didn’t include two more standoffs, but in the instructions it shows two of the expansion brace brass inserts without chrome standoffs.
Installing the power switch is simple. First, the hex nut has to be removed from the switch, then the switch slides into its hole and the hex nut can be tightened down to hold the switch in place. Once the switch is in place, the wire plug has to be attached so the switch can be connected to the motherboard. To attach the wire plug, just loosen the small screws on the switch a little bit so that the wires can slide below the screws, then tighten the screws down onto the wires. Last, feed the wire through the hole beside the power switch so it comes out on top of the Banchetto K.
Installing expansion braces is easy as well; just screw in the chrome rod. Thumbscrews will be used to hold the expansion cards in place.
Installing the motherboard is rather simple by placing it on the mounting standoffs and using the thumbscrews to secure it to the Banchetto K. Like I mentioned before, I would have liked to see Phillips heads on the thumbscrews to avoid the annoyance of dealing with the screwdriver slipping, but that’s not a big deal really. To me, having to secure the motherboard in place with thumbscrews seems to go against the purpose of having all hardware easily removable and/or swappable, but I have an idea to change that further down in the article.
Expansion card installation couldn’t be much simpler than the Banchetto K solution. It only takes three steps and no tools: screw in the bracing rod, install the expansion card, and secure it with a thumbscrew.
When using a 3.5″ drive, all that has to be done is dropping it into the labeled slot so that the SATA connectors are out of the hole and facing the SATA cable routing hole. There’s only one more step involved if you plan on running 2.5″ drives like SSDs. The foam adapter fits into the slot first, then the drive(s) can be placed into the slot(s) in the foam. I’m using the single 2.5″ drive adapter since I only have one spare 2.5″ drive. The drive is meant to be installed so that the SATA connectors are pointing up in the air, but I didn’t think my SATA cable could route underneath the surface of the station if I kept the drive installed like that. So, I decided to stick it into the slot at an angle so that the SATA connectors are pointing the way I want them to for cable routing.
Like the 3.5″ HDD above, the PSU just drops into its slot without any mounting screws for easy removal.
Now, let’s plug everything in for the final shots. The Banchetto K looks pretty good when decked out with hardware and fans. The only knock on the looks would be the 24-pin and PCIe power cables, which would look nicer if they could be routed underneath the station like the SATA cable. There is plenty of room on the Banchetto K, and the hardware isn’t crowded at all which leaves plenty of room for upgrades.
Possible Mods & Improvements
After spending time with the Banchetto K, I came up with a few things that I thought could make it better. The following things are not deal breakers for the Banchetto K, just areas that I thought could be improved by some modification.
Personally, I would like my motherboard to be easily removable like the rest of the hardware. An easy way for me to make that happen would be to buy some threaded rod, cut it into small 0.5″ pieces, and screw those into the standoffs. Then, the motherboard can be placed onto the standoffs with the threaded rod sticking up through the mounting holes of the motherboard, which makes the motherboard unable to slide off the standoffs. Now, if was going to manufacture something like this, then I would make the standoffs double-sided with threaded rod and include thumbnuts. That way the user can either have the motherboard just sitting in place unable to slide or the user could secure the motherboard to the standoffs with thumbnuts. Giving the user more options is always a plus.
When looking at how the PSU wires were routed, I noticed there could be an easy mod for those who like to hide their wires. I’m thinking that the bottom left corner of the inner wall of the PSU slot could be cut out to allow the 24-pin, 6/8-pin PCIe, and 4/8-pin to be fed to their location on the Banchetto K. Then, a couple holes could be cut near where those power cords are typical connected to on the motherboard: one above the Banchetto K logo for the 24-pin and 6/8-pin PCIe, and one between the fan mount and PSU slot for the 4/8-pin CPU power. Of course, the downside to this mod is that it could make the PSU not as easily removable.
Last, I think the fan mounts could have been designed to have 15 mm spacing between the fan mounting holes, which is the standard spacing for water cooling radiators. Of course, single 120 mm radiators can still be mounted securely. Larger radiators can be mounted by only securing to a single fan mount, but that may put too much pressure on the fan mount, depending on the size of the radiator. With the rise of all-in-one units, I think that would have been a nice to see the gap between mounting holes closed from ~20+ mm to 15 mm to better support 240+ mm radiators.
Microcool’s Banchetto K is a simple, yet functional bench station. “Simple, yet functional” is my favorite type of design since it means efficiency. All of the hardware components are situated neatly, not too cramped, and in a way that makes them easily accessible. That’s what’s needed in a bench/tech station above all else.
The looks of the Banchetto K are nice with the matte black and chrome theme. In all honesty, the Banchetto K is mostly hidden once all of the hardware is installed, so there isn’t much to see anyway.
There are a few things that could be done to improve it for my personal use, but these aren’t deal breakers for me when considering the purpose of the Banchetto K. I like my motherboards to be easily removable, so I would prefer a semi-secure motherboard. A few more holes could be cut to allow routing of some PSU cables for those who like more more neat look. The only other thing would be having the fan mounts designed so that the fan mounting holes have 15 mm spacing instead of 20+ mm.
The Banchetto K comes in at around $130 at PerformancePCs, which may seem like a little much, but not insanely high. I think the compact design and the ease of use while keeping components secure enough to move the station around are a big plus (for me at least). I’m a DIY’er myself and I like to build my own designs when possible, but for those that like to keep it simple, the Banchetto K is definitely that.
– Matt T. Green (MattNo5ss)