You may have heard the name Spotswood Computer Cases thrown around a few times, but they’re definitely not a mass producer of computer cases. What they are though is a company that makes tech stations and custom cases for the enthusiast community. Let’s take a look at their Compact Tech Station!
Before getting to the nitty gritty, here’s the specs as given by Spotswood:
- Support for ATX (8 expansion cards), XL-ATX, EATX, microATX and mini-ITX form factor motherboards.
- 7/8-inch tall aluminum motherboard standoffs.
- Mount 3 fans or any combination of 1-3 radiators on/in the bottom and/or top tiers.
- Extra extrusions and fasteners are included to mount pumps, reservoirs, etc. anywhere on the station.
- Bottom mounted PSU (vertical or horizontal).
- Drives mount to the station via soft rubber grommets.
- Install two 3.5-inch drives and any combination of three 2.5/3.5-inch drives on the lower level t-slot extrusions. Install additional drives with optional drive rails.
- All aluminum construction.
- Stainless steel fasteners.
- Size: 16.25 x 13.375 x 14.5-inches (W x D x H)
- Stackable (with extra posts).
- Weight: 4 pounds 13 ounces.
- Shipping container: 18x18x9-inches, 8-pounds 9-ounces.
Like all the parts we buy, the first thing we see is the shipping box. The tech station arrived perfectly safe in a nice thick box. Upon opening the box it can be seen that there’s space around the tech station.
And removing the tech station from the box, the plastic wrapper it is shipped in can be seen. This is a nice touch to keep it from getting scratched inside the box. Also, the expansion card bracket is mounted inside the main portion of the tech station to keep it from getting damaged during shipping.
Accessories and Spare Parts
Due to the nature of this tech station, it is highly customizeable. This means that there are going to be a load of accessories. The bags below include enough hardware to mount all your components, fans, radiators, and even kitchen sink. Okay, maybe not the sink, but it does have a dedicated reservoir mount. There are also a lot of spare parts in case you happen to lose a few pieces.
It’s also very nice that each bag is labeled so you can keep track of which is which and keep the accessories all organized down the road. Even though all the screws are hex head, fear not, as all the hex keys you need are included!
An Outside Look
The tech station is built completely out of aluminum extrusion. Mounting points for the motherboard are drilled out, allowing mounting posts to be installed, and other components are mounted using a nut that fits into the slot of the extrusion and tightens down. This means you can literally mount any component in almost any spot on the tech station. After moving the expansion card bracket up to its rightful place at the top, it looks like the picture below. Note, I did mount the motherboard standoffs before taking this picture, it wasn’t shipped with those installed.
Like any good case or tech station, this one has nice rubber feet on it. These will be plenty to keep the extrusion from scratching anything it’s sitting on. It will also help with keeping vibrations from transferring from fans/HDD’s/pumps to the table or floor the tech station is resting on.
Putting it all Together
Here’s a list of the components that will be used on the tech station today:
- Intel i7 4790K @ 4 GHz
- Cooler Master Glacer 240L
- ASRock Z87 OC Formula/ac
- G.SKILL TridentX 2x4GB 2400 9-11-10
- 256GB Samsung 850 Pro
- EVGA SuperNova G2 850W
- EVGA GTX 970 FTW ACX 2.0
- Swiftech PWM Splitter
Okay, since the motherboard standoffs are already on I’ll start with the motherboard, AIO, and PSU.
This station has pre-drilled mounting holes for up to ATX size motherboards. Larger motherboards will fit, but there are no motherboard standoffs past ATX. This made me wonder a bit about how my Z87 OC Formula/ac would fit. I knew there were other boards I could use, but it turns out that it fits perfectly fine! So, even though my motherboard is classified as E=ATX, there’s plenty of clearance for “slightly larger than ATX” motherboards like this one to fit.
As for radiators, you can mount one anywhere you like! The left and right sides both support 240mm radiators, while the front and rear support a 360mm radiator. Just make sure you don’t mount so many radiators that you can’t put your power supply anywhere though, as it has to mount on one of those sides as well. I’m sure someone creative could even mount a radiator vertically on the back, where the expansion card bracket is.
Here’s a closer look at how I chose to mount the radiator to this tech station. Now, the instructions show that you should use 4x of these metal plates, but I felt it was sufficiently secure with only two and then moving the aluminum extrusion up snug to the fans. This is simply my personal preference, and a testament to the flexibility of this tech station.
Next up, I’ll mount the GPU. Inside the expansion card bracket that runs horizontally, there are a series of those nuts that I mentioned earlier. Simply slide those around until they’re positioned where you’d like to mount your GPU (or other expansion card) and run a screw down until its snug. Easy enough, right? Right. It looks like this once you’re done.
Next, I mounted two more fans blowing air across the GPU, RAM, and VRM. These mount in the same manner as the radiator, except you have to use a nut on the back side of the fan. Fans can be mounted to literally any point on the tech station that there is a slot in a piece of extrusion, which lets you focus airflow over the hottest components of any system.
Now let’s mount the SSD. To do this you must first attach rubber grommets to the bottom of the SSD. If you tighten the screws holding these grommets on too far you can’t perform the next step. You only want these screws barely touching the rubber grommet.
And now you slide the grommets into the rails included for mounting HDD’s or SSD’s. Unfortunately, you can only do one or the other with this method at the same time due to the differences in screw spacing on 2.5″ and 3.5″ form factor drives.
That said, you can purchase a 3.5″/5.25″ drive cage to go with the tech stand to increase your drive capacity.
You can see how the drive rails mount on the bottom layer of the tech station in the next picture, which is also where I’ll show the final pictures! These last shots show how easy it is to wire manage everything on this tech station. It’s absolutely amazing having the extrusion running under the motherboard as it gives you so many places to hide wires and tie them up in bundles! Keeping all the wires tucked away nice and neat makes for a very aesthetic system once you’re done and also allows for easy swapping of parts at the same time.
For a quick temperature comparison we’ll run both Intel Burn Test and Unigine Heaven at the same time. The first picture is from the test being run on my normal open air test bench and the second is with all the components on the Spotswood tech station. Both tests were done on the same Windows install and on the exact same hardware. As seen below, the GPU temperatures are very comparable to what I got on my normal test bench and better on the CPU. This difference in CPU temperature is most likely due to better airflow to the radiator on this tech station as compared to my old one.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
The Spotswood Computer Cases Compact Tech Station is a top notch piece of equipment. Being made completely of aluminum the tech station itself is very light, coming in at just under 5 pounds. Assembly isn’t the easiest, but that’s unavoidable when you can customize every aspect of a tech station. Speaking of customizing, there are three other sizes of this tech station made by Spotswood (among other completely custom products), and you can add a lower tier for more radiators or add on lots of accessories.
Temperatures were an improvement from my test bench, which is always a good thing! The aluminum extrusion is great quality and the included fasteners are abundant, even including spares. There are no printed instructions included in the box, but there are roughly 20 pages of instructions on the Spotswood website. The instructions are thorough and were a great help for getting all the components mounted.
With this tech station coming in at only $110 (see Spotswood’s complete price list here), I would call this a bargain, especially considering the absolutely cheapest tech station I can find is $80 and the most expensive being $280. Also, these stations are only available through the Spotswood website.
Looking at the competitive price, great customization options, and superb build quality, this tech station is absolutely Overclockers Approved!