ATX System Cases from Ascot, InWin and Scythe

Of course, system cases for powerful gaming rigs are very exciting to read about, but their functionality may be excessive for some users. Today we are going to talk about four system cases from the more mainstream category, which do not set any cooling, size or extravagancy records, but offer everything most of us will ever need from a system case.

by Dmitry Vasiliev
12/02/2011 | 09:00 AM

Some users just don’t need a huge computer with superior cooling and capable of accommodating any graphics subsystem possible, and they don’t want to pay extra for features they won’t use. On the other hand, they have no use for a $30-40 tin box with all the downsides of an entry-level system case such as very thin sheets of metal with poorly finished edges, a low-quality bundled power supply, etc. However, there is a multitude of system cases in between the two extremes, and I am going to have a look at some of them in this review.

 

 

Ascot’s products are known to have a very attractive price/performance ratio. Hopefully, the 6ZRX model will live up to the brand’s reputation.

A decade ago, InWin system cases used to be highly popular due to very modest pricing. Having lost its leading position since then, the company is now just one among many makers of affordable products. InWin has recently introduced a few new models that seem to have good specs, though. I will have a look at two of them: IW-PE689 and IW-MG133.

The last product in this review, the Gekkou Standard, is manufactured by Scythe, the well-known maker of coolers. It is only half as expensive as Scythe’s first system case Fenris Wolf.

Ascot 6ZRX

Ascot wrote its name in history by introducing its legendary 6AR model which was to become a long-time etalon of an affordable, yet user-friendly and high-quality system case. Can the new 6ZRX model keep up that glorious tradition?

  

The exterior design follows today’s trends. The 6ZRX is black and has a fine-mesh front panel with buttons and connectors in its top part. The glossy plastic of the face panel molding enlivens the product’s appearance somewhat (it is black in my sample but there are also silvery and red versions available). So, the 6ZRX looks cute enough.

The rubber strips in the front part of the top panel will prevent a hard disk you may put down there from scratching the surface.

The system case’s I/O ports will be easily accessible irrespective of where you place it. We’ve got microphone and headphone connectors, one eSATA, one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 port here.

The USB 3.0 port is supposed to be linked to the mainboard’s back-panel connector with a cable that goes through the entire chassis although the latest mainboards already offer internal USB 3.0 headers.

The Power and Reset buttons are implemented perfectly. They are rather stiff and have a long travel distance with a sharp click to help you avoid accidental presses.

The HDD activity indicator is built into the Reset button. The Power indicator is in the Power button. The indicators are blue and bright, yet not irritating.

 

As opposed to the exterior design which follows the latest fashion trends, the interior of the 6ZRX is conservative. The PSU compartment is at the top of the chassis. No fans other than 120mm ones are supported. There is no hidden compartment for cables behind the mainboard’s mounting plate and there is no cutout in the latter for installing/uninstalling the CPU cooler. There are as many as two external 3.5-inch bays (both are suitable for internal 3.5-inch disks, though) but only four internal HDD bays.

Despite the old-fashioned layout, the 6ZRX offers a lot of space for expansion cards. It can accommodate any card up to 275 millimeters long.

 

There are some cheap elements about the 6ZRX. The rear feet are made of pieces of hard plastic, although the front feet are soft rubber. The mainboard is installed not on threaded poles but on the pimples pressed out in its mounting plate.

On the other hand, a few things that the manufacturers often try to cut the cost on are high quality. The expansion-slot brackets are reusable and shaped for higher rigidity (the single-use face-panel brackets are shaped in the same way, too). The chassis has vibration-absorbing inserts for the side panels.

Included with the system case are fasteners (particularly, screws for extra fans and a couple of vibration-absorbing pads for HDDs), a user manual and a black-and-silver Ascot sticker.

The fan screws are cut-down versions of ordinary screws as they have three rather than five turns of the threading. The default system fans have silvery screws whereas the included screws for extra fans are black.

I must confess it wasn’t very easy to assemble my test PC configuration in the Ascot 6ZRX.

 

The front panel is fastened in a very original way. There is a couple of ordinary plastic prongs at its top but the middle and bottom points of fastening are designed as metallic “flowers” with four “petals” each.

It is possible, but not easy, to remove the decorative faceplates out of the front panel without taking the latter off. You have to push them into the chassis and can cut your fingers on the sharp edges of the top opening which has no faceplate.

Anyway, I wouldn’t recommend you to take the front panel off even though this is required by the user manual. It takes a strong effort to force the steel “petals” out of their sockets, so the front panel goes off with a jerk that can easily break the top plastic locks. And when you put the front panel back in its place, it doesn’t press tight against the chassis anymore.

  

The quick fastening system for the 5.25- and 3.5-inch bays doesn’t look secure at first sight: a device is fixed from one side with only two prongs. However, my 5.25-inch optical drive seemed to sit quite snugly in there. The prongs fixed its front part whereas the rear part of the drive was held with the plastic swinging bar.

As for the open 3.5-inch bays that can be used for internal devices, their fastening is awful. The extended prongs prove to be too short to fix a device properly. Moreover, an HDD installed into one of these bays won’t be cooled adequately since the front-panel fan is located lower and can only cool the main HDD rack.

The fasteners of the main HDD rack are much better. These are plastic guides that feature vibration-absorbing pads and are compatible with 2.5-inch devices.

 

You often have to pull a guide over your drive with many solutions of this kind, but Ascot’s is a composite design: you first put your HDD down on a guide and then fix it from the sides with pronged plastic pieces.

 

The HDD bays are rather too close to each other, which may have a negative effect on their cooling.

  

The expansion-slot fasteners are downright bad. The locks themselves can easily fall out if you give the case a strong shake, so you can’t rely on them when it comes to holding your expansion cards. You may want to replace them with good old screws right away.

The 6ZRX is cooled with two 12cm fans from Young Lin Tech which rotate at about 1300 RPM (about 950 RPM when I chose Silent mode on my mainboard). There are seats for three more 120mm fans: two on the side panel and one at the top.

The efficiency of the top fan would be questionable, though. In a system case with a bottom PSU compartment, the top fan is usually placed above the CPU socket and helps take the heat off the CPU, but the Ascot 6ZRX has a top PSU compartment, so the top fan is closer to the front panel where there is no so much heat.

  

The front fan is installed in a frame you can easily take off by unfastening one thumbscrew. Behind it you will see rather large vent holes in the HDD rack.

There are no dust filters in this system case. Although the foam-rubber sheet in between the front panel and the front fan makes it difficult for dust to come in, this protection can’t match a normal filter.

The Ascot 6ZRX comes with a Cougar 620AR power supply that has a wattage rating of 620 watts (up to 576 watts on the three +12V output lines). I had no problems with the PSU during my tests. It wasn’t very hot but its fan was rather noisy (noisier than the system fans). With punched-out vent holes instead of an aerodynamic grid and a high rotation speed, the fan just couldn’t be expected to be quiet.

The PSU has the following cables and connectors:

 

We’ve got a sufficient number of connectors and cables here, and the cables are long. However, in this particular system case, the cables are rather too long and produce a mess inside since there is no dedicated compartment to tuck them into.

The assembled system looks nice and is quite easy to use but the assembly process itself is far from user-friendly.

Highs:

Lows:

InWin IW-PE689

The first system case from InWin I am going to discuss today comes under the unassuming name of IW-PE689. Like Ascot’s 6ZRX, this is not as memorable as other makers’ Centurions, Elites, Cyclones, Elements, etc. Perhaps the system case itself is far more impressive than its name?

 

The exterior design isn't original, though. It can be described as practical and classic. The appearance of the IW-PE689 is somewhat enlivened by the unusual shape of the front vent grid, the smooth and glossy edging of the front and the protrusion with vent holes on the side panel.

This design is going to be appropriate in any environment, both home and office. The front panel represents an eye-pleasing diversion from the standard meshed design.

 

A manufacturer logo might have made an eye-catching element on the faceplate of the bottom 5.25-inch bay, but InWin saved on it. Instead of a bulging metallized sticker there is just a small silver-painted speck.

The front panel isn’t very functional. The buttons are okay (the Reset is much smaller than the Power button but can be pressed with a finger) whereas the connectors are limited to only two USB 2.0 ports (placed close to each other, so it can be difficult to use them both simultaneously) and two audio sockets (headphones and microphone).

 

Placed below the buttons, the Power and HDD indicators don't add much beauty to the system case. The blue light of the Power indicator is too intensive when you are looking directly at it, but does not irritate the eye otherwise.

We’ve got a bare minimum of accessories here. You won’t even find a user manual among them. There is just a sealed pack of fasteners without a single spare piece and a mains cord for the power supply. No extras like cable straps or a PC speaker.

 

The side and front panels can be removed easily. The side one is fastened with a pair of plastic locks but you can also fasten it with screws if necessary.

The other side panel is fastened with ordinary screws. You’ll need a screwdriver to take it off.

 

It’s also easy to take off the decorative face panel. You only have to release the three plastic locks to do that.

 

It is at this step that I was disappointed with this system case. Its single preinstalled fan is located at the back and exhausts the air from the inside whereas the empty front fan seat portends harsh conditions for HDDs you install into the rack behind. Therefore I had to install an additional front fan in there for my tests, just to avoid burning my WD Raptor disks.

The IW-PE689 stands on low feet which are made of robust and elastic vibration-absorbing rubber.

This is the only system case in this review to have a case-open sensor which may come in handy at serious organization but not at home.

The quick fastening mechanisms are not perfect, but efficient enough.

 

To install a device into an open bay, you use tack-like fasteners. You pull the tacks out, align your device with them and press on the tack to fix your device in place. The fastening is quite secure but not as secure as with screws. You can shift the device in its bay by inserting the tacks into another pair of sockets.

5.25-inch devices are fastened with two tacks whereas the single open 3.5-inch bay has only one such tack.

 

The expansion-slot brackets are fastened with a single plastic bar with two locks. This fastening is secure and more reliable than that of the above-discussed Ascot. You can also use conventional screws (but InWin has saved on them as the top three brackets are only held in place with the plastic bar). You don’t have to take off the fastening bar because it has openings for screw heads. I guess the bar alone is quite enough, though (the fastening seems loose with the thin expansion-slot brackets but is tighter with the thicker metal of expansion cards’ mounting brackets).

Now what about the HDD rack? Like in the above-discussed Ascot, there are five guides for both 3.5- and 2.5-inch HDDs. As opposed to the 6ZRX, the guides are put on HDDs and lack vibration-absorbing elements.

HDD bays are positioned with rather large gaps and there are very large vent holes in the sides of the rack. This should ensure efficient cooling from the front fan.

 

The four bottom bays are already equipped with SATA cables (both data and power), so you only have to connect them to the PSU’s two SATA power connectors and to the mainboard’s onboard SATA headers. The mounting holes for 2.5-inch disks are positioned in such a way as to align the disk’s connectors with the bay’s ones.

This solution prevents you from using legacy PATA disks anywhere save for the topmost bay, which lacks any cooling, being higher than the front fan.

Well, I don’t think that the manufacturer thought about PATA disks at all. The lack of hot-plugging for the top bay must be due to cost-cutting reasons rather than to ensure PATA compatibility.

The mainboard’s mounting bracket has a cutout for the CPU cooler’s back-plate of a rather modest size. It may turn out to be too small for some mainboards.

The cable compartment isn’t deep but that’s not a problem. HDDs are connected in a special way in this system case, so their cables do not get in the way whereas the other cables don’t need much space.

The default ventilation system of the IW-PE689 consists of a single exhaust fan on the back panel.

This Y.S. Tech fan has a classic 7-blade design and a rated speed of 1300 RPM. It rotated at 750 RPM when I selected the mainboard’s Silent mode.

The fan was audible at its full speed but very quiet in the Silent mode.

The fan’s grid has an original pattern, but it can hardly improve anything in terms of air flow.

 

You can additionally install a 92 or 100mm fan to the front panel (into a removable metallic frame with a square grid). Two 120mm fans can be put on the side panel.

The side panel’s vent grid is designed in such a way that the fan’s mounting holes are not conspicuous as in other system cases. They are fitted into the geometrical pattern, being but barely larger than the other openings.

 

The IW-PE689 is easy to assemble and looks very neat, which is not often to be seen with system cases of this class.

The IW-PE689 comes with a bundled power supply Power Man IP-S500AQ3-0 that has a wattage rating of 500 watts (up to 480 watts on the three +12V output lines). The PSU worked without problems during my tests but was rather loud (louder than the Ascot’s PSU which itself was far from quiet). The PSU’s fan was noisy even in idle mode. But when under load, the PSU’s case remained cold, which indicates a suboptimal algorithm of fan speed regulation.

The PSU has the following cables and connectors:

The InWin’s PSU is inferior to the Ascot’s in cable length and in the number of graphics card connectors, but the shorter cables are even handier since both system cases have a top PSU bay. You don’t need a 60cm CPU power cable if there is only 20 centimeters from the PSU to the appropriate connector.

The assembled computer looks quite impressive for a rather inexpensive system case.

Highs:

Lows:

InWin IW-MG133

The second InWin is cheaper but seems to have the same specs as its more expensive cousin. Let’s see what you have to compromise with if you prefer the IW-MG133 to the IW-PE689.

  

The IW-MG133 looks even more original than the previous model, but hardly beautiful. The protruding belly of its front panel is far from elegant.

The plump outline with only three open 5.25-inch bays makes you think about mATX products, so the IW-MG133 seems more compact than it really is. It looks smaller than the IW-PE689 although their dimensions are actually similar.

The 5.25-inch bay faceplates can be easily taken out from the outside and fixed in two positions, with their front slanting upwards or downwards.

The Power and Reset buttons are simply cut out in the front panel below the open bays. The front panel is decorated by the manufacturer’s emblem and the checkerboard pattern on its edging.

There are a few cheap elements here but they are different from those of the IW-PE689. For example, the mainboard, like in the Ascot system case, stands on poles which are pressed out of the mounting plate. The feet of the case are made of hard plastic. The expansion-slot brackets are not reusable, except for the topmost one, and the quick fastening mechanism is far more primitive than in the more expensive InWin.

 

On the other hand, the IW-MG133 ensures protection against dust: its front fan is equipped with a mesh filter whereas the PSU fan is covered with a perforated sheet of plastic. You can install a second fan to cool the top of the HDD rack but a dust filter is not included for it.

As opposed to the IW-PE689, the accessories are normal including fasteners, a user manual, a set of single-use plastic straps, a PC speaker, a 35cm extension cable for the mainboard’s power cable (you still have to lay this cable out in the main compartment because there’s no hole for it in the mainboard’s mounting plate).

The I/O ports are the same as with the IW-PE689 but they are located better: the USB 2.0 connectors are separated with headphone and microphone sockets. One more USB port (version 3.0 as is indicated by the label SS) may be implemented but it was blocked in my sample of the system case.

The front panel is fastened in the same way as in the IW-PE689 and is as easy to take off.

 

 

The IW-MG133 is quite easy to deal with but cannot match the user-friendliness of its cousin. The fastening of the side panels and expansion-slot brackets is less handy. The PSU’s cables are not as long as necessary. It is much more difficult to connect HDDs.

5.25-inch devices are fastened from one side only using a lock with a couple of prongs. This solution ensures reliable fastening, at least if you’ve got only one optical drive.

HDDs are fastened in the same way as in the Thermaltake Element G. The difference boils down to the shape of the screw heads and their rails. The locks that fix the HDDs in their bays work properly in the InWin case.

 

This fastening mechanism is hardly any better than conventional screws. You have to spend the same amount of time and effort but do not get any benefits in terms of noise or vibrations. And if you lose one of the nonstandard screws, you won’t be able to install HDDs into all of the bays. Besides, there is no compatibility with 2.5-inch disks (but you can fasten a couple of such devices right to the bottom of the case).

The expansion-slot brackets are fastened in the same way as in the IW-PE689, using a common bar for every bracket, but you have to use a screwdriver here to remove and attach that bar. The fastening is less tight, too.

The hidden cable compartment is not as deep as in the more expensive InWin model but has to take in more cables because the IW-MG133 doesn’t have the handy HDD connection system of its cousin. Closing that side panel may be a problem.

The cutout for the CPU cooler’s back-plate is rather large, yet may turn out to be not large enough in some situations (when the CPU socket is close to the top of the mainboard).

 

It’s rather easy to assemble a PC in the IW-MG133, yet the other InWin is far easier to deal with.

 

The default ventilation system includes one 120mm fan at the bottom of the front panel. It’s covered with a dust filter and has blue highlighting. The fan is labeled as InWin but its DFS122512L part number suggests that it’s a rebranded Scythe with a simplified connection (to a PATA power connector only). So, the fan is always working at its full speed of 1200 RPM (which is another proof of its origin, by the way). There is another fan seat above it, opposite the top of the HDD rack. It has the same locks for a fan and a dust filter but neither is included by default.

You can also install two 120mm fans on the side panel (their mounting holes slightly differ from the vent openings around them) and one fan on the back of the chassis.

This system case comes with a Power Rebel RB-S500HQ7-0 power supply with a wattage rating of 500 watts (up to 360 watts across its +12V power rail split into two output lines).

The PSU worked normally during my tests and its noise was the lowest among the bundled PSUs, yet quite audible. There is a punched-out vent grid in front of the PSU fan.

The PSU has the following cables and connectors:

The PSU specs are far from impressive. The load capacity of the +12V lines is only 360 watts or 72% of the PSU’s full output power. This is rather low by today’s standards, corresponding to a modern PSU with a wattage rating of about 400 watts. Judging by the input voltage specs, this PSU lacks any kind of power factor correction.

The extremely low weight of the PSU also raises my apprehensions. Its manufacturer seems to have saved on everything possible. So, even though I had no problems during my tests, I wouldn't rely on the bundled PSU in the long run.

You should also note that the PSU's cables are very short. Although there are enough of SATA power connectors, I had to use a PATA-SATA adapter in order to power my optical drive. The main 24-pin power cable could barely reach to the mainboard's plug directly, let alone via the hidden compartment behind the mainboard.

Highs:

Lows:

 

When assembled, the InWin IW-MG133 can hardly impress anyone. On the other hand, it is not meant for beauty contests whereas it is quite easy to assemble and comes at an affordable price.

Scythe Gekkou Standard

We already tested one system case from Scythe, the well-known maker of cooling systems. It was the top-end Fenris Wolf and we were pleased with its test results.

The Gekkou Standard is cheaper but looks nice, too. The simple shapes, noble black color and flip-back front door with aluminum coating endow this system case with a demure and serious appearance.

 

The front panel of the case, as I’ve noted above, has a door with a black aluminum insert (although all Gekkou series products are black, this insert can also be silvery or mirror-like). As opposed to the Fenris Wolf, the door can be attached to the other side of the case. The holes for the Power and HDD indicators are placed in such a way that they remain visible irrespective of the position of the door.

There is one shortcoming, though. Changing the position of the door wouldn’t cause any inconvenience if the I/O connectors were on the top panel, like with the Fenris Wolf for example, but the Gekkou's connectors are on the left and become hard to access after you readjust the door.

If accessing the front-panel bays is more important than aesthetics for you, you can take the door off altogether. There is a pair of plugs for the hinges. It may be useful for people who frequently access devices installed in the open bays or want to improve the cooling of HDDs, but there's no point in paying for the unused door then.

There are vent openings in the door for the fresh air to be able to get to the front fan. They are not large in the fan area, so the air flow is not going to be very strong.

There is a decorative front panel behind the door. It is fastened with conventional plastic locks but the mounting holes have sleek plastic inserts, making it easier to take the panel off.

The I/O connectors are located to the left of the front panel and include two USB 2.0 ports, one eSATA and microphone/headphones connectors. That’s quite sufficient, but I guess a USB 3.0 connector would also be appropriate considering the growing popularity of that interface.

The Power and Reset buttons are inconveniently placed on the top of the case, right behind the front door. They are not labeled, so you can only make out which is which by trying. It turns out that the Reset button is on the left (if you look at the system case from the front) and the Power one is on the right, although the logical and conventional positioning would be just the opposite.

The buttons stick out above the surface of the case. They are soft and have a very short travel distance. As a result, you will be risking pressing the Reset button when opening the door (or the Power button, if you've readjusted the door).

It is also not easy to open the door without touching the buttons. If you pull at its middle, the three magnets are going to resist noticeably. If the system case stands on the floor or in a desk niche, pulling at the bottom of the door won't be an option, either. It turns out that the risky way of opening the door by pulling at its top is the most convenient one.

This problem wouldn’t even exist if the buttons were sunken into the case and/or had a longer travel distance.

The Gekkou Standard comes with a user manual and a pack with fasteners, a couple of plugs for the door hinges, and a PC speaker.

There are no cheap details in this system case. Its expansion-slot brackets are reusable and its feet are composite, with soft rubber soles.

The internal volume and the permissible length of expansion cards are almost the same as with the InWin-PE689 but the Scythe Gekkou lacks a cable compartment behind the mainboard.

 

As a result, the assembled system does not look as neat as with the InWin cases.

One of the external 5.25-inch bays can be converted into a 3.5-inch one and used for a 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch disk. This disk will not have much cooling because the front fan is located lower.

Devices are fastened in the open bays by means of preinstalled thumbscrews from one side only. The fastening is secure enough.

 

The detachable HDD rack can take in up to four disks. Other makers would have fitted five HDD bays into the same space, but I prefer Scythe’s approach which leaves large gaps between the bays for better cooling. This should make up for the weak air flow from the front fan. It is also good for cooling that the HDD bays are oriented lengthwise.

However, this component layout may prevent you from installing a long graphics card if the latter takes up more than the top pair of expansion slots. Although there is as much as 290 millimeters of free space from the back panel to the HDD rack, the installed HDD is going to eat up some 30 millimeters with its case and connectors sticking out of the rack.

 

The manufacturer has taken care to minimize noise and vibrations from HDDs. Their guides are made of soft flexible plastic with retention prongs sunken into vibration-absorbing pads. There are also such pads between the plastic of the guide and the HDD case. The HDD bays themselves have rubber coatings for the same purpose. They support 2.5-inch disks as well.

There is a hidden compartment with a cover in the plastic bottom of the HDD rack. You can reach it from behind or by taking off the rack. It is too small for storing the remaining mounting screws, but can easily take in a folded banknote. So you can use it for stashing away your money.

The mainboard is installed on pre-inserted poles that are somewhat longer than usual.

There’s a large cutout in the mainboard’s mounting plate. It allows replacing the CPU cooler without taking the mainboard off.

 

The default cooling system of the Gekkou Standard includes two preinstalled Scythe Slip Stream fans at 800 RPM (an intake front fan + an exhaust rear fan). These fans do not need my recommendations as they have already earned the reputation of a quiet and efficient solution.

I must note that under our standard testing conditions in the mainboard’s Silent fan regulation mode (about 600 RPM) these fans were less efficient than expected. They should be set at their full speed because this won't affect their noisiness.

Besides, there are two seats on the side panel for 80/92/120/140mm fans. You can also install an 80 or 92mm fan on the 5.25-3.5-inch adapter (to cool a mobile rack with HDD in a 5.25-inch bay, for example) or into any free HDD bay.

The rear exhaust fan is covered with a wire grid, which is quite a rare feature in midrange system cases. This grid offers less resistance to air flow compared to punched-out ones and contributes to acoustic comfort.

  

The front fan has a mesh filter which keeps dust off without resisting the air flow much. The filter can be easily taken out of its frame for cleaning.

Unfortunately, there are no such filters on the vent grid in the bottom panel (for the PSU) and on the side-panel seats for optional fans.

When assembled, the Scythe Gekkou has a solid and restrained appearance but the Power and HDD indicators do not look right in the opposite corners of the front panel.

By the way, besides the Standard version, Scythe offers a Silent Gekkou. The latter has a layer of noise-insulating materials on the exterior panels and lacks fan seats on the side panel. The Silent version costs a mere $6 more according to the manufacturer's American online shop.

Highs:

Lows:

Testbed and Testing Methodology

We test assembled system cases at a constant ambient temperature of 23°C maintained by an air conditioner. As we assume that most users prefer low-noise computers, we set the speed of the CPU and system fans (those connected to the mainboard’s 3-pin connectors) into Silent mode (the quietest mode in the mainboard’s BIOS). If a system case has its own speed controller, we switch it to minimum and maximum speed to check out both modes. We do not change the default configuration of air flows determined by system case design.

The following components are installed into each system case:

We test system cases with their bundled PSUs if they have one.

If not stated otherwise, the HDDs are listed in the order of their placement from the top main HDD bay downwards without any gaps.

The temperature of the CPU is measured with Core Temp 0.99.8. HDDs, GPU and mainboard temperatures are measured with CPUID Hardware Monitor. The speed of the fans is measured with an optical tachometer Velleman DTO2234. There are the following test modes:

Every temperature is read after the system has worked for half an hour in the current test mode.

The following table shows the temperatures of the components if the system is assembled without an enclosure (“open testbed”).

Open Testbed

The noise level is evaluated subjectively.

Test Results

First I want to describe the digressions from our standard testing procedure and the reason for them.

We test system cases with their default ventilation systems, but the InWin IW-PE689 is an exception. The lack of a front fan deprived my HDDs of any cooling, so I had to add such a fan myself (ExeGate 12025M12B/Blue LED; about 1400 RPM in the mainboard’s Silent mode).

Besides, I also changed the order of HDDs in both InWin cases. I installed them into the bottom four bays rather than top ones since they were cooled better (and could also be connected easier in the IW-PE689). Otherwise, I followed our long-established testing methods.

Ascot 6ZRX

The Ascot 6ZRX isn’t very good at cooling, especially when it comes to cooling HDDs. That’s quite a surprise as the fan speed is quite high even in the mainboard’s Silent mode and there are no serious obstacles in the way of the air, yet the outcome is rather poor.

The Ascot’s results might be called average if it were not for the bad cooling of HDDs. You should consider other options if you care about your HDDs and data you store on them.

InWin IW-PE689

The benefits of the more expensive of the two InWins are not limited to offering a very simple way to assemble your computer. Its ventilation is effective as well.

The only shortcoming is that the graphics card’s temperature is as high as in the Ascot and somewhat higher than in the other tested system cases. On the other hand, it is a considerable 7°C better than the Ascot 6ZRX in terms of the temperature of the coldest HDD in idle mode and as much as 16°C better in terms of the hottest HDD in IOMeter!

Well, we shouldn’t forget that the excellent cooling of HDDs is only due to the additional fan I had installed before the test. I guess the IW-PE689 would have been inferior even to the Ascot without it.

InWin IW-MG133

The second InWin doesn’t have additional cooling (its single preinstalled fan is located correctly, in front of the HDD bays) but performs just as well as its more expensive cousin.

It is only at the back of the case that the temperature is higher than in the IW-PE689: the lack of an exhaust fan affects the cooling of the mainboard and CPU.

As for the HDDs, they feel even better than in the senior InWin model as is indicated by the small difference in temperature between the coldest and hottest HDD. Well, this is also due to the fact that the well-cooled bottom bays were occupied by the hottest HDDs (according to the open-testbed test) whereas the coldest HDD was in the zone of the missing top front fan, receiving very little of the preinstalled fan’s air flow.

Scythe Gekkou Standard

The Scythe Gekkou Standard produces the best results in this test session for each component, except for the HDDs, notwithstanding its lowest fan speed.

The HDDs are hot, but not as hot as in the Ascot. The temperature could be lowered by switching the fans to their full speed (800 RPM won’t be uncomfortable) and opening the front door (to provide more air for the front fan).

The next diagrams compare the performance of the system cases to the open testbed.

Conclusion

The Ascot 6ZRX is a disappointment. It is not user-friendly with its poor quick fastening mechanism for expansion cards and open 3.5-inch bays. It lacks dust filters and has the worst ventilation among the four tested products despite the rather high speed of the fans. The advantages of the Ascot 6ZRX include a rather high-quality bundled PSU with a rich selection of connectors (but with too long cables for this particular chassis) and a handy panel with buttons and I/O ports. In fact, this system case can do for everyday use but you may want to make sure it’s not you who puts the components into it.

The InWin IW-PE689 is the easiest to assemble a computer system in. It is also the roomiest, has a respectable exterior design and ensures the best cooling for HDDs (if you install an additional fan). This model isn't free from downsides, though. It lacks dust protection and its PSU is the noisiest of all. Its front-panel I/O ports aren’t implemented well and it lacks a front fan by default. Anyway, for all these downsides, the IW-PE689 turns out to be the friendliest system case of the four. Its exterior design and specifications make it versatile. You can use it for a multimedia (even gaming) computer or an office machine with the same success.

Some ideas implemented in the affordable InWin IW-MG133 should have been used in its elder cousin. I mean the rational and easily accessible positioning of the I/O ports, the dust filter and even the normal accessories this model comes with. Its test results are close to those of the IW-PE689 although I didn't use an additional fan for the IW-MG133. However, the latter is overall inferior to its cousin as it is not so easy to assemble a computer in, doesn't look that good (that's a matter of personal taste, though) and has a lower-quality bundled PSU (which is more or less good in terms of noisiness). All of these downsides make up for the difference in price, I guess.

Hopefully, InWin will keep on polishing its products off. If the advantages of the IW-PE689 and IW-MG133 were mixed up in a single product, it would be an almost perfect, yet quite affordable, system case.

The Scythe Gekkou Standard is second in my personal chart even though it is superior to the InWin IW-PE689 in a number of important aspects (dust protection, noise and vibration insulation of HDD bays, out-of-the-box cooling, I/O ports). However, it is somewhat less easy to assemble a computer in but costs more considering that you have to buy a PSU for it. The position and implementation of its Power and Reset buttons is the biggest downside of this model.

It’s unclear for me why Scythe released the Standard version of its Gekkou in addition to the Silent one. The whole concept of the system case is focused on minimizing noise and vibrations and the Silent modification adds to this concept with blank noise- and vibration-insulated external panels. The Standard version is rather quiet, too, yet the extra measures would make it unrivalled in its price segment in terms of noiselessness. Users who need better cooling or lower price will prefer other products anyway whereas the key advantage of the Gekkou design is not so clear in the Standard version.