The review system arrived via FEDEX Freight in a wooden crate on a pallet. A Smooth Creations rep stated that the company's high-end systems all ship this way, and its mid-range systems either ship in this manner or by regular FEDEX, depending on what the customer requests.
A quick note: This particular system has been making the rounds among various publications, which means we didn't receive this system directly from Smooth Creations. As such, some of the packaging might not be what a retail customer would receive. Similarly, the hard drive contained test software from other reviewers, so we aren't able to comment on the software configuration.
After removing the side of the crate, we see the interior box wedged among several pieces of foam blocking. Two smaller boxes hold the accessories/software binder and the separately packed video card.
After removing the white fabric cover, we get our first good look at this custom-painted chassis. The artwork looks great. The graphics are quite sharp, not grainy or pixilated. Given the chassis's large size, the non-windowed side of the computer serves as a rather large canvas, and the familiar Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is quite eye-catching.
Airbrushing on the rest of the chassis gives the system a smokey look.
Obviously, we had to pop the side panel off in order to install the video card, which shipped in an anti-static bag wrapped in thick bubble wrap. Some companies do this, others don't. Packaging the card separately (so the theory goes) just gives the GPU an extra measure of protection during transit. While we can't vouch for the overall efficacy of this method, it worked in this case. The builder had all the necessary connections in place, and installing the card was as simple as slipping it into the slot and plugging it in.
The top of the chassis sports a pop-up panel with 4xUSB 2.0, FireWire, mic & headphone jacks, and an eSATA port.
On the rear of the chassis, we find 6xUSB 2.0, a single PS/2 keyboard input (who still uses a PS/2 mouse anyway?), a CLR_CMOS button for resetting the BIOS, S/PDIF optical out, eSATA, FireWire, Ethernet port, multichannel analog audio outs and a "ROG Connect" port, which allows on-the-fly overclocking.
We also get two fan speed control knobs and a switch to turn off the case lighting.
Removing the side panel requires the loosening of three thumbscrews-two on the rear lip of the panel, and one securing the mechanism that unlocks the top edge of the panel.
Inside, we find an uncluttered layout. Cables are properly secured and tucked out of the way so as not to restrict airflow. This is a large chassis with plenty of room, which adds to the interior's neat appearance.
The chassis sports six hard drive bays and six 5.25" bays.
Documentation & Accessories
In addition to the separately packed video card, the accessories box held a black binder containing software and documentation. We received discs for Far Cry 2 and Nero 8.
The documentation in the binder consisted of various build checklists, benchmarks, system stats and warranty information.