Some people spend all of their time doing different mods on their cases. Adding neon lights, cutting holes for airflow, adding fans, and other such things to make their "rig" better than anyone elses at LAN parties. Some people, such as myself, just don't have the time for this. So, what is the person who doesn't have the time to mod their case but still needs six fans to do? 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 Windtunnel IV, from the front, looks like your average ATX case. Three external 5 1/4" bays and two 3 1/2" bays are visible, a power button, and the reset button. Absolutely nothing of note. However, take a look around the case and suddenly the differences become clear. The Windtunnel IV from Coolerguys.com has a total of six fans, in addition to the fan in the power supply. Two on the top to move heat that would otherwise sit at the top of the case out, an intake fan in the front, an exhaust fan in the back, and the two large intake fans on the side of the case, and let me tell you these things definately move some air, with the airflow from the machine being by my side making a noticeable amount of air moving around me, an added benefit which I had not expected - it works as a box fan as well as a computer case.
As for the usual case specifications, this thing certainly does not lack. It has three 5 1/4" bays and 5 3 1/2" 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 operations inside the case you probably will not have to acctually remove the motherboard tray, which is very nice, since removing the tray means disconnecting most of the connections from the motherboard. While working inside the case, I definately appreciated the smooth edges inside the case. I could not find a single sharp edge inside this thing, a blessing for those who know what it is like to get 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.
As for how easy to acctually work with the case is, CoolerGuys did something that 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" drive bay for easy drive access, very nice since it means 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 in the past few years.
The powersupply 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 that was in it 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" 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 celcius when clocked at 1.33GHz and using a Taisol 5000RPM CPU fan, which isn't bad 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.
Perhaps the biggest potential 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, no-obtrusive hum to it, sort of like an air conditioner or a fan. After a couple hour 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 a very easy case to live with, and this comes from a person who is very sensitive to annoying noises. This was perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the Windtunnel IV - finding that I could live with it.
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 power 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 for something like this, 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 definately a case to consider. It is available here at CoolerGuys.com.