IN WIN Is still a relatively new company in the large scope of things. From my first time looking at their products, I have seen more and more their name coming up in conversations on forums. I think more and more of the masses are seeing just what IN WIN is doing and have taken notice. With both my first look at the Matrix from them at a previous employers site and the X-Fighter I reviewed some time ago, I was taken aback by the out of the box ideas and the way they incorporated them into that chassis.
The Matrix was well over a year ago, and the X-Fighter some nine months later. The Matrix offered subtleties in both looks and the fact that it was tiny and attractive, while the X-Fighter was larger and is bolder in design. Both were well thought out cases in designs, but the X-Fighter offered a full line up of options and unique features. I hope all of this isn't lost with IN WIN and they are still offering both to their customers.
Today we are going to take an in depth look at the Maelstrom, one of IN WIN's full tower chassis'. Aside from what I have seen online and a bit of poking around on their site, my first impressions are that IN WIN kept with making a chassis that houses some ideas we have seen before, but also seems to offer a few new tweaks along the way. Let's take a look at the Maelstrom and see if it follows everything I have come to know and like in the IN WIN products.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The Maelstrom isn't as bold as the X-fighter we looked at, but does offer its own flash. The majority of the chassis is built from SECC steel and painted externally with a textured black finish. This finish is mimicked in the black plastic front panel that has large vent holes in the drive bay covers and holds two bolt green bars that stick out from the front panel. Structurally the chassis is sound for a full tower chassis and is ventilated at every turn. From the very open front mesh to the rear of the chassis, IN WIN tried to keep the chassis as "opened" as possible.
Cooling is handled in the Maelstrom out of the box with four fans. There are three 120mm fans; one placed in the top, another in the front and yet another in the rear for exhaust. Looking on site, it is tough to find any specs on any of the fans, but if I had to guess, I would say these fans run in the 70-80 CFM range and are quiet doing so. The 200mm fan placed in the door moves quite a bit of air and offers a good solution to through-the-door cooling. IN WIN didn't stop there, though. They left you with optional mounting holes that allow you to pick fans that best suit your needs, along with the placement of a total of up to six 120mm fans on this panel. Inside the Maelstrom you are greeted with an all black interior that utilizes tool-less bays for its 5 external and 6 internal drive bays.
Everything I have seen from IN WIN to date has been priced very well in the corresponding segments. Again IN WIN keeps pricing down with the Maelstrom full tower, from their "Destiny-Extreme Series" of cases. There is a more military based version of this chassis in the same series if camouflage is more your "thing". With our version of the Maelstrom, I located it for sale in quite a few locations, so obtaining one shouldn't be an issue, especially at some of the pricings I have seen currently. Right now, if you would like to purchase the Maelstrom, it is listed at Newegg for $109.99. Now, that is before you look at the fact that is has free shipping and a $20 mail-in rebate currently. That means the Maelstrom can be at your door for just about $90 total.
The Maelstrom is shipped from IN WIN in an all-black box, highlighted with a green swirl and a full on case image centred on the front. Just above the chassis image is the tag line "ready to sweep across the world". As we progress I will see if in fact this chassis is ready to "sweep across" anything.
This side of the box is plain black, housing the specifications chart along with a couple of IN WIN's in house stocking stickers.
The opposing large side of the box holds another image, this time a profile shot of the Maelstrom. At the bottom IN WIN placed fourteen reddish colored "icons" that show off the features of the Maelstrom.
The last side panel shows six of the main features on an all-black background, this time with a bit more text to help the buyer understand what IN WIN offers inside.
Unlike the typical Styrofoam caps to surround the chassis, IN WIN went with high density foam to protect this chassis in shipping. These are a bit more secure than Styrofoam, as they don't break apart if they are crunched and still stay functional in case of a second good bump in shipping. Under the caps, the Maelstrom is wrapped in a plastic liner and just before it's boxed up, the hardware goes into a cut out and the instructions are slipped in as well.
The IN WIN Maelstrom Full Tower Case
With all the pacing materials out of the way, we can get a good look at what's inside. The front of the Maelstrom has a panel that stands proud on the outside edge and is beveled to allow those huge openings in the 5.25" bay covers to draw in large amounts of air. Just below center are two green bars used to accent the chassis.
As you can see, the sticker on the top bar states this is not a handle; it is more of a design element. Since this chassis didn't have a military feel or remind me of a hazardous waste area, I pulled the sticker off. We've got the point that we shouldn't carry or lift our case from these, so let's get the "out of place" yellow sticker off.
Looking down at the top of the chassis, IN WIN has provided the Maelstrom with two 120mm fan holes for exhaust, but only equips the chassis with one fan. The other is optional, whether you add another fan to the top. At the bottom of this image, or the front of the chassis, is where the front I/O panel is located. This I/O had a brushed aluminum panel backing the ports and the raised section holds the Maelstrom name in bright green paint.
The front I/O panel consists of both microphone and headphone 3.5mm jacks to the left followed by four USB 2.0 ports. The right half contains both the IEEE-1394 (Firewire) and dual front e-SATA connections. At the bottom is the larger power button followed by the smaller reset button. To the right you see the HDD designation; this is backlit with an LED once the chassis is powered.
The left side panel is well ventilated with a rather large square cut out covered in hexagonal mesh. This mesh is backed from IN WIN with a 200mm blue LED fan held in with the four screws and yellow/green washers. As you look around the mesh, there are all the black washers set into the mesh. This allows for the end user to fill this panel with up to six 120mm fans of their choosing. At the front, the front panel wraps around the door a bit and actually helps to guide the doors on and off.
The rear of the Maelstrom is topped with the rear I/O panel hole and another green bladed, 120mm fan for exhaust. Under these you will find seven, not eight as IN WIN's site specifications would lead you to believe, ventilated expansion slot covers. While I liked the looks of the tight mesh on the cover, I don't think it is ventilated enough to do any real good for helping air flow. However, the large area to the right and the area below the expansion slots is very well ventilated, and even offers a way to get four " I.D. tubes to pass out the back of the chassis. This leaves us with the PSU mounting area at the bottom, which has a removable frame that mounts to the PSU to aid in its installation.
The right panel of the Maelstrom is just painted in the textured black paint, nothing special to see here. Again, the front wraps around the panel and allows you a bit of a "groove" to set these panels into, and keeps the panels tight against the inner frame.
The underside of the Maelstrom holds a couple nice features as well. There are the "swing out" feet that make the chassis feel a bit more stable on the desktop. The other nice feature is that they have "punched out" a rather large area of venting in the rear to allow you to install the PSU in the fan down position with ease.
Inside The IN WIN Maelstrom Full Tower Case
I wanted to show off the inside of the door. The outside edges are backed with "egg crate" foam as a sound deadener. Any chassis with a window or mesh is going to be inherently louder; IN WIN tries to compensate for that here and on the bottom third of the rear panel IN WIN backs it with a 200mm fan out of the box. This fan is wired to the switch you could see on the other side. The switch is for the LEDs. As long as the fan is connected to the 4-pin Molex, it will run when the chassis is powered up.
Looking inside the chassis with both panels off, it looks like there is a bunch of room to get things mounted with this "open" chassis design. Most notable is the lack of the bottom third of the motherboard tray. This area allows cables to easily pass through and get to the drive bays. Once the back panel is back in place, this area is backed with more of that "egg crate" foam stuck to the back panel. There is a CPU back plate access hole which is becoming more normal and almost a must in chassis design. Look closely at the floor where the PSU should set. IN WIN used rubber "risers" to support the PSU and includes extras for longer PSU's.
Untying all the wiring and setting it up for an image, I was pleased in both the length of said wires, as well as the black coatings to make them "disappear" in all the black of the chassis insides.
The drive bays are separated in two sections. The five 5.25" bays at the top are all tool-less, utilizing the pieces found in the tray locked into the bottom drive bay. It's a bit hard to see, but the top bay has a 3.5" floppy drive tray that allows you to use it in the 5.25" bays for all those "old school" BIOS flashers out there. Just below is a 3.5" bay that will hold an SSD, too.
When we get to the 3.5" drive rack, IN WIN has turned it to the door for ease of access. Again, these bays are all tool-less, with pieces found in the above tray. The front intake fan is placed between the front and the drive bays. This should cool the drives pretty well, but there isn't a whole lot of that flow that makes it through the other side of the bays.
Looking at the rear panel against the white back drop, you can see the rear is very well ventilated. Aside from the rear I/O and the PSU area, IN WIN has tried to offer the ultimate in airflow and ease of your build, even if you want to go with water cooling.
I laid the chassis on its back again, but this time with the panel off you can see inside the top. IN WIN ships the chassis with the one fan in place which can be moved, as it may have a clearance issue with some coolers in its current position. They do give you the option to move it to the other holes, or if room allows, you can add another next to it.
Accessories and Documentation
The Maelstrom's owner's manual. If you can't figure something out, look in here. The drawings are good and the text is easy to follow. I looked it over just before this image was taken, but the chassis design is very intuitive and I had little need for this book.
Remember when I opened the box and there was that bag of goods stuffed into a cut out in the foam? This is what I found inside mine. A couple of wire management ties, some fan power adapters and a couple extra PSU support "risers" are up top. The bottom half has the supplied motherboard speaker and the bag of hardware, stand off's and a multitude of fan mounting screws.
Here is the tray that holds the tool-less "slides" for the drives. This side holds eight slim slides to use with the hard drives. The two other slides are what IN WIN set into the tray to lock it into the 5.25" bays for shipping.
Flipping the tray over, you will find room for all eight of the optical drive bay slides; the two empty holes are for the two that held this tray in place. The other four on this side are some more of the slimmer HDD slides. Even if you don't leave the tray in the bays while in use, this is a handy place to keep track of all those parts.
I pulled the floppy drive adapter from the chassis. Even this bay is tool-less on the outside, but screws need to be used to mount the floppy directly to the tray, then they both go in using the slides and lock into place.
The Build and Finished Product
The build went very smooth and there really weren't any problems. Keeping things tidy is another story. There isn't a lot of room behind the drive bays where the motherboard tray meets it. This means if you even want it to look this clean, both some creativity and a better PSU choice than mine comes into play. There was plenty of length in the case cabling, as I was able to hide almost all of those. Running the power lines is another story. There are no holes in the tray to run them behind it, so you are left running them up the front and doing what you can to keep them out of the way. On a side note, look at the coolers position on this motherboard. Had I used a typical tower cooler, you can see where that top fan could become an issue.
With all the pieces in place, the rear of the chassis fills right up and looks clean in its finished product.
There isn't much to see on the back side. I was only able to route some fan wires through here to keep them from cluttering the front. Other than that, I hid all the extra wires at the bottom of the HDD bays. The large opening made wiring easy, but I would have liked a couple of holes in the tray to attempt to allow me to hide a bit more.
With bright light in the room, it is hard to see through the mesh and look at your components. I wanted to point out that the fan placement is a superb location. It supplies both my GPU and CPU with fresh air, but depending on the board layout, it can even add a bit of flow to the memory and Mosfets.
Powered up, there isn't a flood of LEDs coming from the front as the front I/O panel is up top, but even then, they aren't all that bright. Under power you are left with a similar view aside from the slight glow of any other LEDs shining from within.
Once the fan is powered up and the glow of blue LED is cast over the interior, it is a fair bit easier to see the components through the mesh. You can see the placement of the fan for my m-ATX motherboard is a bit low and mainly supplies the GPU with air, but on a standard ATX or even E-ATX the parts covered by the fan will change.
As you can see, the Maelstrom isn't as "option packed" as the X-Fighter, but does offer all of the same "ideas". While it may not have a dedicated fan cooling the GPU's that is built into the interior, I think the door panel and what you can easily do with it compensates for the removal of the smaller GPU cooler of the aforementioned X-Fighter. I was pleased to see they painted the interior of the Maelstrom and while adding the sound deadening material to the door panels may not be needed, it is welcomed with open arms. Silence is key in my purchases these days and for a chassis with a full ventilated panel, it does do a nice job of limiting the fans ambient hum from escaping the interior and harassing your ears.
While I couldn't find a whole lot of hard information on the fans IN WIN places inside the chassis, these 120mm fans do supply a good amount of flow and with not so much noise that it reminded me of my older builds, where I was more worried about how low temperatures could go than the health of my ear less than a foot away. IN WIN offers a nice blend of flow, with little audible abuse. If you plan to add your own fans, choose carefully, as a few loud fans in the door panel could make this chassis not very enjoyable if it sits on top of your desk as mine does.
Rebates don't last forever, and with my experience it's never guaranteed either, so let's look at this for what it is. Newegg's $109 asking price is both fair and well worth the money in my opinion. I know for a fact when I rushed out to get the Antec 900 some years ago, I paid well over this, and to me the Maelstrom offers more than that chassis ever did. If you are a rebound hound and know how to work the system, the $20 mail in rebate doesn't hurt at all, and actually leaves you money to buy a tube of TIM or possibly a new optical drive while you are there.
As I say, they come and go, so by the time you read this it may not still be valid, so I based all my facts and figures on the actual retail pricing, which still leaves the IN WIN Maelstrom a force to be reckoned with when looking to buy a full tower chassis with both good looks and a long list of options that can do nothing but make your experience with the chassis even that much better.
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