September 11, 2001

Review: WindTunnel IV ATX case

Author: JT Smith

- By Jeff Field -
Some people spend all of their time doing mods on their cases. They add neon lights, cut holes for airflow, add fans, and other such things to make their "rigs" better than anyone else's at LAN parties. Other people, like me, just don't have the time for this. So, what should you do if you're a person who doesn't have the time to mod his case but still needs six fans? Well, the guys at CoolerGuys would like to offer their services, selling a line of pre-modded cases called the WindTunnels. Today, I review their new WindTunnel IV.

The case
The WindTunnel IV, from the front, looks like your average ATX case. Three external 5 1/4-inch bays and two 3 1/2-inch bays are visible, as is a power button, and the reset button. From the front, there is absolutely nothing of note. However, take a look around the case and suddenly the differences become clear. The WindTunnel IV has a total of six fans, in addition to the fan in the power supply. Two of the fans are on the top to move out heat that would otherwise sit at the top of the case, an intake fan in the front, an exhaust fan in the back, and the two large intake fans on the side of the case. Let me tell you, these things definitely move some air; when the machine is at my side, there's a noticeable air movement around me. That's an added benefit I had not expected -- the case works as a box fan as well as a computer case.

As for the usual case features, the WindTunnel IV certainly does not come up short. It has three 5 1/4-inch bays and five 3 1/2-inch bays (two of which are visible from the outside of the case). The motherboard tray (which is removable) has plenty of room, so much that for most of your operations inside the case you probably will not have to actually remove the motherboard tray, which is convenient, because removing the tray means disconnecting most of the connections from the motherboard. While working inside the case, I appreciated the smooth edges inside the case. I could not find a single sharp edge inside this thing, a blessing for those who've experienced a case cut. Blood and PCs generally do not mix, and the guys over at CoolerGuys took note of this, making sure their case was not only functional but easy to work in.

Another feature that makes the case easy to work with: CoolerGuys added a feature I wish PC and case makers had made a standard a long time ago -- they used thumbscrews. The case has thumbscrews for the case sides, the motherboard tray, and the internal drive bays. Four thumbscrews gets you into the case. Another one lets you slide the motherboard. Two more and you can remove the 3 1/2-inch drive bay for easy drive access, meaning you can mount the hard drive properly without having to access the other side of the case, something that has bugged me about many a case.

The power supply included with the case is a Fortron-Source ATX 2.03/P4-ready 350-watt ATX power supply. It did not even seem to break a sweat running two 7200-RPM hard drives, a 10,000-RPM hard drive, a CD burner, GeForce3, Athlon 1.33GHz, 768 megabytes of RAM, the fans and a SCSI card. And, despite all these components in the system, even when overclocking up to 1.5GHz, I had no stability problems when using the machine under full load (copying files from hard drive to hard drive, burning a CD, and running the Distributed.net client in the background). Perhaps the best testament to the cooling power of this case is the fact that the 10,000-RPM drive was only warm to the touch, not the normal scorching hot it used to be, thanks to the airflow around it. My only complaint here is that I could have used more 3 1/2-inch drive bays internally, so I could spread my drives out more, but otherwise, I had no complaints. The CPU temperature (measured at the outside of the CPU between the chip and the heatsync) measured at 43 degrees Celsius when clocked at 1.33GHz and using a Taisol-5000RPM CPU fan, which isn't very hot at all. The amount of air moving in the case was excellent. Once I tied off all the cables and made sure there was room for the air to flow, the Windtunnel IV did its thing well.

Perhaps the biggest problem with a case like this is the potential for noise. While I will not say the Windtunnel IV is a quiet case, I have to give it credit -- it has a low, non-obtrusive hum to it, sort of like an air conditioner or a fan. After a couple hours of using the system I built in it, I did not even notice the hum anymore. Unlike some modded cases I have heard with their high pitched whines, the Windtunnel IV is an easy case to live with, and this comes from a person who is sensitive to annoying noises. This was perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the Windtunnel IV -- finding that I could live with it.

Conclusion
In the end, I have to say I am very satisfied with the Windtunnel IV. To be honest, I had a bit of a bias going in -- I was sure that this case was going to be great for cooling but too loud to be useful. CoolerGuys managed to prove me wrong here, making a case that is both powerful and easy to live with. Beyond the cooling, the WindTunnel IV is an all around excellent case, with expandability and plenty of room to work with. As configured, with the 350-watt power supply, the case will come to about $209, not a bad price, especially considering all the work you are saving yourself if you are even the sort of person to cut up and mod a case on your own. This case is overkill for a lot of people but for those power users, gamers and tweakers who need to squeeze every ounce of performance out of a PC, the WindTunnel IV is definitely a case to consider. It is available here at CoolerGuys.com.

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