Articles: Cases/PSU

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Internal Structure and System Assembly

Now let’s take off the U-shaped cover and take a look inside.

The interior is ascetic but there are a lot of cables in it. The chassis is rigid and high quality. Everything is solid and serious, there are no sharp, unfinished edges. The mainboard’s installation posts are already inserted into the bottom of the case.

The most interesting things can be found near the front panel. It is the hardware part of the management system I described above: a card with a bunch of cables.

A slim optical drive is accommodated in the center of the front panel. Such models are employed in notebooks. It is a DVD/CD-RW drive from Panasonic (the CW-8124-B model). What I don’t like in this drive is that it cannot even burn DVDs, let alone read BDs. Moreover, it has a PATA interface. This interface is steadily being abandoned by mainboard makers, but GMC sticks to it for some reason. Laying out a broad PATA cable in such a compact system case is no fun, really.

The single HDD bay is to the right of the optical drive in the photo.

The HDD is fastened with screws to a detachable metallic thing that can hardly be called rails or a cage. The bottom part of the thing is empty and might let in another HDD, but this space is partially taken by the internal part of the card-reader. I guess the component layout might have been changed to accommodate two HDDs. Having only one HDD is not a problem today as modern HDDs offer large storage and there are also external storage media like NASes, but two internal HDDs would be even better.

All of this is fastened to the chassis with ordinary screws.

There is indeed a riser card near the PSU, above the mainboard’s expansion slots. That’s where I was disappointed again: the card supports PCI devices only. It is meant for a TV-tuner obviously, but even tuners have begun to transition to PCIe x1 interface. A user may also want to install a single-slot graphics card or a discrete sound card instead of a TV-tuner. So, although this riser card is better than no expansion cards at all, but I would like to see a PCI-E riser card instead (it is hard to buy one in retail and harder yet to install).

Winding up the descriptive section of the review, I want to show you the most appropriate accessory to this system case, a low-profile cooler. To remind you, the system case has a very small height. There is a mere 55 millimeters from the mainboard to the top panel, so even not all of low-profile coolers will fit in. Therefore GMC supplies a cooler together with the system case. The cooler represents a standard design similar to the popular Zalman CNPS7700. It is all copper and should be efficient enough. But again GMC is lagging behind somewhat. The cooler’s fan has a 3-pin connector and is going to work at full speed only on most modern mainboards whose fan management systems are meant for 4-pin fan connection.

It is easy to install the cooler: it can be secured on Socket 939 by means of clips on the cooler itself. For Socket 775, there is a simple installation frame which is fastened to the mainboard with four pegs.

I had little problems assembling a computer in this small system case. I did not even have to remove the central strut: I just put the mainboard’s end under it. Laying out the cables was not easy as there is little room inside the case. And there should be some free space in the assembled case for some air flow. So, I tucked most of the cables under the optical drive whereas the unused cables of the PSU were placed neatly near the HDD.

It is these power cables that presented the biggest problem to me. While most of the power connectors are not needed (the case cannot accommodate so many devices), the 4-pin 12V connector did not reach to the mainboard’s header by about 3 centimeters. That’s a problem indeed because this header is located in that very corner, behind the CPU, on most mainboards. I had to use an old adapter from a Molex connector to power the mainboard, but I doubt many users have it.

I decided to assemble and test this system in two variants because I had a boxed cooler included with Intel’s junior processors – it is a small aluminum “pancake” that fits nicely into this system case. I used this opportunity to check out the efficiency of the cooler included with the system case.

When the system case is turned on, the LED of the Power button looks too bright to me. If you leave the computer working for a night, it can serve as a night lamp. Compared with it, text on the display looks somewhat dull. To read it from a distance, you will have to strain your eyes, especially if the ambient lighting is more or less good.

It is not the problem of the display, which is appropriately bright, but rather of the too dark plastic of the flip-down cover in front of it. This problem can’t be solved without changing the design of that cover.

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