Bold styling and unique design elements are something we have come to expect from IN WIN. They like to think "outside the box" and push the bar to new heights both internally inside the company, and also to better the competition. It only makes sense that if one company can come up with a great idea and concept, that other manufacturers will devise their own method of incorporating similar features. In the end this makes things much better for the consumer, as we are seeing quite a few smaller chassis' offering a scaled down version of what a lot of the $200 cases can offer.
Living on campus or in a small room in your parent's house can have its "special dilemmas". In such situations, even though your wallet can support a top end system, that's not to say you have the room to house let's say the 800D or HAF-X. Well, in order to save space, right off the bat you start shopping for m-ATX boards with tons of options and Crossfire or SLI support. Then comes the choice of what to house it in. Now things like room for graphics cards and wire management come into play, as most small cases tend to be tight, warm and usually pretty plain to look at.
I don't want to mislead you; the case we are about to see isn't in competition with cases like I mentioned; they were just for a size reference. Cases more apt to be good for a head to head look are ones like the Vulcan, where size overall matters, but you want the room to still pack the power inside. Currently this chassis is being displayed at Computex and isn't yet ready for sale, but is expected to do just that very soon. For those of you at Computex, make your way to IN WIN's displays to see for yourself. For those of us without the luxury to fly halfway around the globe, get ready to see the Dragon Slayer right here at TweakTown!
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
As with most cases, the Dragon Slayer is made mainly from steel, using plastic for the front bezel and steel mesh for ventilation. The DS measures up at almost seventeen inches square and just fewer than eight inches wide. Taller CPU coolers could be an issue, but there is plenty of room for graphics cards up to 320mm long. Don't let the specs on the drive bays confuse you; let me simplify. There is one 5.25" drive bay at the top and as part of that same rack, there is room for a 3.5" floppy drive to be placed. Below these two drives is open space that allows for the longer graphics cards. Near the floor is a cage that will accept more 5.25" devices, but has a built-in cage with a fan that supports up to three 3.5" drives out of the box. In the middle of the chassis is a motherboard tray with management holes for wiring and support for an m-ATX motherboard. Around the back you will find seven expansion slots and three holes with rubber grommets; two of which are for water cooling tubes to pass through and the third to pass a cable out of the case and into the rear I/O of the motherboard. Along with the rest of the typical front panel wiring, IN WIN has also added a USB 3.0 cable.
Cooling is handled in the Dragon Slayer in a few different ways. In the front there are two fans. In the middle there is a 140mm, green blade fan. And just below it, on the face of the HDD cage, there is a 90mm green blade fan. Both act as intakes, just that the 90mm fan cools the hard drive first. On the top IN WIN mounted another 140mm fan to exhaust any air that the 80mm fan on the back doesn't get rid of. I guess in the effort to save space, some fans are reduced in size. Hopefully the whine I am accustomed to with 80 and 90mm fans isn't present here. If these fans aren't enough and you want to add more, or possibly mount a radiator or two, the side panel has a large mesh area with room to mount four 120mm fans.
Searching Google for the Dragon Slayer leads me to a few news posts, IN WIN's own product page and a few forums posting about it. In the email correspondence, I was told the case is displaying as a brand new product currently and I read that the chassis will release sometime in June. Pricing I am unsure of, but if I had to guess from their previous submissions and pricing, I would take a guess it will be sub $100 and would be a complete steal for a price around $65-75, placing it right in direct competition with a few samples we have just seen. Keep an eye on the news from Computex as I'm sure some more solid answers are soon to surface.
In all black the Dragon Slayer gets wrapped. This highlights the images of the chassis in the bottom left corner and the graphic illustration of the slayer and dragon above.
Features such as cable management, air filters, a tool-free design and room for two graphics cards of 320mm length are all listed on this side.
This side has a Plaque at the bottom with the Dragon Slayer name and it almost looks like the chassis is jumping out of the fire.
The last side is where IN WIN has supplied a list of the specifications. At the bottom, once this chassis goes retail, there will be stickers for barcodes and compliances.
The case is wrapped in a bag that warns of the choking hazard to small children, but is there to keep the chassis safe, not for your three year old to wear as a hat. Around the bag, on both ends, there are molded Styrofoam caps; all of which got the Dragon Slayer to my house in excellent condition.
The IN WIN Dragon Slayer Micro-ATX Case
The Dragon Slayer is designed to resemble a knight's armor. The mesh is there to resemble chainmail and the bulky chunks look like braces to hold the armor in place, or better yet, another stronger layer of armor. There are four covers that are removable; two at the top and two at the bottom, and I will show you what is behind both sets in just a few images. The front I/O is placed in the front for easier access on a desktop from the seated position. In the middle the IN WIN logo is also a light and will glow blue when the PC gets powered up.
The front I/O is simple, but has everything you need and something you may find a need for soon. To the left are the two 3.5mm jacks for the Mic and headphones. In the middle are two USB 2.0 ports. To the right, and colored blue to set it apart, is the USB 3.0 connection. Under this you will find the power and tiny reset buttons flanked by a power and HDD activity light.
The side adorns more chainmail and allows for the Dragon Slayer to breathe quite well. This panel has holes for 120mm fans; a total of four fans can be mounted to accommodate for more air flow, if desired.
The rear of the DS is topped with three holes; two for water cooling and the other for the USB 3.0 cable. Moving down, there is the rear I/O area and the 90mm fan just above the five, ventilated expansion slots. That leaves just enough room to mount a standard sized power supply in the bottom.
The right side panel is a bit plainer, but still offers a chevron design of holes to allow for cooler air to work its way in from the back.
The top of the chassis has an IN WIN logo stamped into the steel just in front of the stamped out area for the fan. There is a 140mm fan in here now, but you can see there are holes to mount other sizes as well.
Underneath you will find four large plastic discs for feet, with rubber pads to keep the chassis in place and help protect whatever it sits on. There is an area under the power supply to allow for the fan to breathe if placed down in the case. Also, there is a filter on the inside, which is removable for cleaning, but the PSU needs removal to do so.
Inside The IN WIN Dragon Slayer Micro-ATX Case
With the door panel off we can finally glance into the heart of the Dragon Slayer. Most notably missing is the typical full length of bay drives. On one hand, rarely do we use them all, and secondly, it makes for a huge area to allow for long graphics cards.
In the front there is a 5.25" drive bay and a 3.5" bay hanging just under it, both utilizing tool-less clips to mount the devices. Then there is the large void and at the bottom of it, there is a 140mm fan to blow air directly into the cards intake. At the bottom is a removable cage that allows for 3.5" drives to be installed, and if removed will allow for 5.25" devices to be placed there as well. The options are endless for a single hard drive and single optical drive setup.
The motherboard tray has holes in all the right places and you will see wiring is made simple a bit later. Even though it only supports m-ATX motherboards, there is a serious hole for access to the back plates. In the top you can see the 140mm fan and the 90mm in the back. The five expansion slots just above the PSU are tool-less as well, but still offer room for a screw if you see one is necessary.
Around the back you can see a good sized offset of the tray from the door panel. This will allow for all extra wires to be routed through here and hidden, as to improve the ability of the fans air flow inside the chassis. The venting in the door panel lines up with the venting in the bottom drive bays; and the fan in that cage can cause a draft of air to come in.
Three long tabs wrap around the front of the steel body and when released, the front bezel can be removed. The front I/O wiring is attached, so be careful, but the switches and lighting are mounted to the frame and stay out of the way. At the very bottom, we get our first look at the 90mm fan that cools the removable bay. In the bezel the three 5.25" and one 3.5" covers are removable with just a tab on each end holding them in place.
The front I/O wiring is quite long and will be no issue getting them connected. There are the audio connections just left of the USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 connectors. To the right you find the power LED (in 2-pin and 3-pin configuration), power switch, HDD LED and reset switch wires. The 4-pin Molex connection powers the blue LED logo on the front.
Accessories and Documentation
Due to the early nature of this sample, there were no included instructions. Let's face it realistically; at this point, with the entire tool-less technology everywhere in the Dragon Slayer, the worst thing you have to figure out is which screws fit the motherboard risers.
In the bag strapped to the wiring, this hardware is packed for safe travel. Starting with the top left screws, there are 16 of these screws for mounting fans to the door panel, two extra risers and fourteen drive securing screws. In the middle are six rails to be used for three drives in the hard drive cage. Just below are four wire managing clips with adhesive on the back so you can place them as needed.
Top right, there are only eight screws that mount the power supply and the motherboard. At this point I hope it was just a miscount and the retail samples will have more included. That leaves the twelve screws at the bottom to be used in conjunction with the rails on the hard drives.
Removing the cage is as simple as twisting the tool-less clips to the unlock position and sliding it out the front of the chassis. Be careful not to snag the 4-pin Molex connector that powers this fan. Mount a rail on either side of the hard drive and slide it into one of three available slots. I do wish that this wire was on the other side of the cage as it would clean up the wiring even more.
The Build and Finished Product
When I was installing the DVD drive, I thought the grey exterior might clash against the obviously darker drive face plate. Honestly, it doesn't look bad at all. Now, you can move this drive to the bottom as well, but I left in the hard drive cage to show off the chassis as it was configured.
The DFI went in without a hitch and something I noticed after the first attempt to set the board in, is that the bottom of the drive assembly at the top is wider near the tray to allow just enough room to fit the board. Everything fit inside well and the wiring is very tidy using the provided holes.
Running the USB 3.0 cable requires, at this time, to come out of the case and be placed into a USB 3.0 port in the motherboards rear I/O. I don't like the idea of wiring hanging out of the case and like in the HAF-X that there was an internal adapter for a motherboard header plug; not here, this is the only way to make it function. The tool-less mechanism on the card is a little loose, as you can see by the angle of the card. While it isn't going anywhere, I prefer mine to be a bit more solid and I recommend a screw for added support, especially if traveling with the Dragon Slayer.
The offset I mentioned earlier allowed me to pack quite a bit of wiring together. While roomy, there are no places in the tray to secure the wiring. This is where those clips come in really handy. Getting the door over these bulky wires and even over the 24-pin line was easy; I just lined up the door and slid it into position.
All powered up, the IN WIN logo is boldly lit in blue LED. The lights in the front I/O for power and activity seem to be dysfunctional. Again, I am hoping it is an issue that gets fixed before the case goes retail. Lights being functional or not, I do like the way it looks.
The Dragon Slayer does have a limited market, as I feel most users still prefer a full ATX board, but as with everything tech, eventually it shrinks in size more and more and offers even more performance. If this is where you sit, looking to build your next rig, I got to say I really like the layout and the exterior design. Even though it is modeled to resemble a mighty warrior, it holds a certain industrial look. Even if dragons aren't your thing, or slaying them is too much work, this case is still quite attractive and a good solution to a specific niche.
Even though this is an early sample, I still feel I should review a few of the negatives. First, I will go with the expansion card lock. While they will keep a card functional, they aren't very secure on their own and do need backed up with a screw, sort of negating the purpose to be there. Second on the list is the choice of fans. Using 90mm fans left the Dragon Slayer with an audible whine. On top of that, the fans run at a slow RPM in order to keep the sound down, thus providing "not so great" air flow. The 140mm fans do move quite a bit more air and are near silent during operation. Lastly, I have to point out the front panel lighting. While I hope it was just a fluke, I want IN WIN to know to at least have a look there.
I really wish I had some more solid information pertaining to an actual release date, or a line on a MSRP. With The Dragon Slayer just being highlighted at Computex, I am sure news of both will be forth coming very soon. Like I said, for those of you who are at the show, go have a look for yourselves, the case is well worth the time to check it out. To make a judgment call on the case with limited information on pricing, I can only speculate. I will go as far as to say this. As I expect the Dragon Slayer will go for less than $100, it is an average entry to the market. I mean, you can get quite a few smaller chassis' at this price range. I'm leaning more that they are going to try and offer it for around the $75 USD mark or possibly less. If so, this makes for a really attractive buy for both aesthetics and your wallet. Since I am only guessing at most of this, I will reserve the right to change the award when the information is presented, if it does in fact qualify for an award.