December 4, 2000

Review: In-Win Q500N case

Author: JT Smith

By Jeff Field

Linux, Windows, BeOS, OpenBSD, FreeBSD. All of these operating systems have different sorts of users with different needs. All support different hardware in different ways, and so most hardware reviews have to cater to one or two of these choices at most. Some things, on the other hand, are applicable to every OS, and one of these things is cases. To many people, their case is their computer and what goes on inside might as well be magic. While most people reading this will understand that a case is simply some nicely designed metal, it is still important. Having the right case can affect how how stable your computer is, how easy it is to work with and for those who customize their cases, what kind of person you are.

The case

The In-Win Q500N is an improved version of the popular Q500 case. From the front, the Q500N looks the same as the Q500. The changes are in the rear, where there is now room for one 80mm fan at the top and another down by the ATX backplane in order to blow air over or suck air from the CPU. That's a change from two fans at the top of the Q500, which really didn't help in cooling the CPU(s) at all. The other changes are smaller, such as the removal of the silly single 3.5-inch drive bay in the top of the case, arguably the worst place to mount a hard drive as far as the cooling goes because it was such a cramped area. Also changed were the vents on the side -- they now run up and down along the front of the sides, rather than along the bottom. Curiously, the In-Win's Web site has no pictures or information regarding this version of the case, even though it has been around more than a year.

The case is a full tower ATX case, capable of holding six 3.5-inch drives (One external, five internal), five 5.25-inch drives (all external) and up to seven devices in the expansion slots. The case I have shipped with a 250-watt ATX 2.01 compliant power supply that was set to suck air in rather than to move air out, which I thought was odd. I prefer to have the hot air removed from the case rather than forcing cooler air in.

Installation and cooling

One of the big factor in deciding on a case is how easy it is to work with. The Q500N is a true pleasure to work with, thanks to In-Win's excellent design. The first, and best, of these features is the fact there are no sharp edges. I've worked with hundreds of computer cases, and I can tell you there is nothing more annoying than removing a cable and slicing your hand on a sharp edge within the case.

In order to make motherboard and expansion card installation easier, the Q500N has a slide-out motherboard tray which is really nice to work with. You simply remove four screws and slide the tray out. You can then mount your motherboard, CPU, RAM and expansion cards without having to worry about being limited for space. Then you simply slide the tray back in, connect LEDs and wires, and you are done. The tray slides in and out smoothly and is very well designed. You can purchase trays for this case that will allow you to use AT all-in-one, AT standard or LPX motherboards, another nice feature that allows you to keep your case as standards change.

In order to access the inside of the case, you simple remove the screws from side and top of the case, and the panels easily slide off. The panels are easy to remove and reinstall, which is a plus, because with some models of panel-cases the panels can be a pain to reinstall once you remove them, as you have to line them up in various odd ways. My only gripes are that in order to access the side panel I had to remove the top one, which seemed unneccesary, and in order to access screws on the right (if looking from the front) side of the 3.5-inch bays you need to move the motherboard tray.

As for cooling, as I mentioned earlier, the Q500N has room for two 80mm fans in the rear of the case. It also has room for one in the front to blow directly on the motherboard and expansion cards, which can really help stability in overclocked or multiprocessor systems. Also, the inclusion of ample ventilations through the sides and rear really helps dissipate air from the hard drives mounted in the front. I could not successfully get i2c working on this system to read the temperatures from the motherboard, but with a 750MHz Athlon, a 7200RPM IDE drive and a heavily-accessed 75gig 10,000 RPM SCSI drive, the system ran completely stable, even through functions that require a lot of hard drive access such as kernel compiles and hard drive benchmarks done repeatedly for other reviews.

Conclusion
The In-Win Q500 is a wonderful case to work with and has ample expansion capabilities and a lot of room. It is the case I choose for my Linux system, as it is easy to work with with great features and excellent cooling, all things neccesary for a system I rely on daily. I feel safe recommending it to all of you out there in the market for a quality full tower case. I purchased mine for $83 (after shipping) by finding the case on Pricewatch.com

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