Like many enclosures being offered today, the m998 features an aluminum shell surrounding your vital system components. Though this is common, the use of 1.5mm metal is not. Most of the aluminum boxes we have seen to date make use of a lighter 1mm aluminum material that isn't quite as sturdy. The thicker metal panels will add stability to the entire case without adding much in the way of extra weight.
The front bezel is plastic and has a sleek design that is not out of the ordinary, but offered a look that is aesthetically pleasing. There are a few LED lights on the front that indicate power state and hard drive activity, and the power and reset buttons are easy to get to and slightly recessed to keep you from accidentally rebooting the machine all the time.
Just below those recessed buttons and the LED lights is a small door that gives access to the I/O ports. Included is a pair of USB ports, a IEEE1394 Firewire port, the expected speaker/headphone and microphone jacks and an eSATA port. All are mounted on the front for easy access but can be hidden behind the closed door if you are not using them.
If you look a little closer at the photo above you will see that the entire bottom portion of the front bezel is ported. This lets airflow to move from outside in, allowing for cool air to be added to the cooling system from the lower front area of the case. This has been shown to be the most effective manner of airflow planning, so you should be off to a good start without adding anything extra on your own.
Turning to the side shows a full sized acrylic window that allows you to show off your system to its fullest. It also offers a pair of vented holes, which lets more cool air to enter around the areas of the processor and the graphics adapter, the two biggest heat producers in the system.
The top vent has a telescoping funnel designed to maximize cool air intake to the processor. While it moves from the side panel inward, it does not have any other adjustments, so if your processor doesn't line up, you'll just need to keep it in its most outward position to allow for cool air to enter in the general area.
Also of note is the lack of filtration in these ports. The top one has a small hex shaped shield over it, but no real filter in place. The bottom vent doesn't even have this. To maximize your cooling, you should always have filters of some sort in place for any opening that can potentially allow air to enter the system.
Turning the enclosure once more shows the back side of the box. While layout is dictated by current industry standards, the mirror finish of the metal is not. For those who have their enclosures positioned in a manner that allows people to see it in its entirety, this will go far in making your case look good. This is also a handy feature for those who like to partake in the local LAN party since it will allow others to see your system always looking good. The back end will no longer be an eye sore.
Also of note are the thumb screws that are used over the entire design. Whether you are taking off a side panel or installing a power supply, thumb screws are already in place and ready for use. This will make installing a new system a breeze.
While many folks will feel right at home with their system situated low to the floor, some want a bit more flexibility. For those people, the folks at Ultra have included a set of casters that can be mounted to the bottom of the enclosure. This also adds mobility for those who have this need. It can also make your enclosure useful as a small server. It is good to see that Ultra looks at customer needs and addresses them.
As a side note, if you do not have a desire to install the wheels, there are still rubber feet on the bottom of the enclosure, so you can sit it directly on your floor without any issues coming up.