InWin has always seemed to be on a fine line with their chassis designs and color choices and today is no different. Most readers of previous InWin chassis reviews, whether mine or anywhere else for that matter, it is always a loves it or hates it kind of crowd.
There aren't too many of their cases where I really completely loved everything about their builds to be perfectly honest. While they may have some really great internal designs, I personally find their designs to be geared towards a much younger group of buyers than myself. Even with that sore spot with me personally, I really think they have got their ducks all in a row and designed something really interesting this time around.
This design has the extremists in mind or those who have a really good HEPA filter in their HVAC system. As if the title didn't give it away, this concept is an open air design to allow users the best of all worlds. There is easy access to the components, besides the use of a Phillip's screwdriver this chassis is pretty much tool-less, gets built from sections of aluminum that are either 2mm thick or 4mm thick and unlike any other open air test bench I have seen to date, this one is designed to also stand upright like a standard chassis while still allowing you to reap all the benefits of the open air concept.
Of course there is plenty more to cover and discuss in the feature set incorporated with the latest submission to our labs, but I have to save something to keep you interested enough to continue reading. That being said, InWin has delivered us the X-Frame Limited Edition Open Air chassis, which is a unique take on what an open air chassis can be.
With that in mind, I will suggest getting a beverage and get ready to be blasted with a ton of images so I can point out in specific detail just what all goes into the design of this limited edition run of open air test benches. Even for those that want to stick to the tower case concept may be surprised to see how this product from InWin may also be a perfect solution for you too.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
Getting into the specifics of the X-Frame chassis, the first thing you notice is that it is all aluminum and includes considerably thick pieces of aluminum at that. The chassis uses 2mm thick aluminum for parts like the two layered motherboard tray, the drive bays, the front I/O panel and the PSU rack. As for the 4mm thick components, that is left for the structure of the chassis. The main layer under the removable motherboard tray along with the blue anodized pieces of the X-Frame that give this chassis its name are made of the 4mm thick stuff.
Just in the sheer amount of aluminum used in this chassis, if it were to be offered from one of the already bigger names in aluminum chassis, it would cost you $200 from them and they don't offer the ease of use or convertibility that InWin brings forth in this design.
Going into finer detail, the X-Frame arrives in a four color combination of an almost gun metal grey, the natural aluminum of the diamond plate, an electric blue, with yellow tool-less mechanisms and anti-skid corner pieces. The X-Frame offers a full front I/O with audio, USB 3.0 and USB 2.0, along with power and reset buttons and activity LEDs. Under the motherboard there is room for a full ATX PSU, two 5.25" drives or devices and offers six spots for 3.5" drives as well. The diamond plated, removable motherboard tray allows for M-ATX, ATX and E-ATX motherboard installations and this tray offers eight expansion slots to give support to multiple card builds.
Considering the amount of aluminum used, the fact that some of it is brushed, some pressed into diamond plate and some getting an anodized coating, it is of course going to drive the price up from my original number for just the materials. Another thing about the X-Frame that is lending to the price I am about to drop on you is the fact that this is a Limited Edition chassis, so not very many are going to be made.
From what I was reading around the time of CES 2012, there is only going to be 50 of these chassis made, that's it. Exclusivity is the one thing that will skyrocket the price of anything from a tie to a house on a prestigious golf course, so why should the InWin X-Frame Limited Edition Open Air Chassis be any different with its $399.99 MSRP? As of this moment the chassis still isn't showing up for sale, but I expect this chassis to go fast when it does release onto the market.
This may look a bit dishevelled, but this packaging in reality is a double box. InWin wanted to be sure I had a presentable package for this review as well as adding another layer of protection to this expensive limited edition chassis.
The front of the box features Limited Edition written in script above the X-Frame naming. The grey boxes at the bottom denote features like USB 3.0, an open frame, metal handles and its ROHS compliance along with others.
Spun around to the right, this panel offers the InWin logo with their name and tag line at the top. The middle offers the name and type of the chassis and the bottom offers the site address to look at this chassis a bit more in depth before purchase or to get support after.
This panel may actually be the front and not the back, but either way this panel is kept simple with just a large X on the panel with the word frame under it and a small InWin logo in the top right corner.
The left side panel is where you will find the specifications of the chassis on the left and on the right are five key features of the InWin X-Frame.
I have to think that my packaging is a bit on the pre-release side of the process of going to full retail. Inside of the box surrounding the chassis is a mix of low density and high density foam with Styrofoam peanuts taking up all of the awkward voids left in the box.
Once all of the various foam pieces were removed, I pulled the chassis out of the box. InWin was nice enough to ship the chassis in a tough cloth liner to keep abrasions down, but also kept all of those odd foam pieces from working into the openings of this open air chassis in transit.
InWin X-Frame Limited Edition Open Air Chassis
The first look of the InWin X-Frame shows the mix of material choices and the thickness of said materials. I know the blue and yellow are a bold contrast, but it is definitely unique and no one will mistake which manufacturer made this chassis.
Zooming in to the front I/O panel, you can see it is as inclusive as those found in most tower chassis designs. There are activity lights, USB 2.0, audio jacks, USB 3.0 and the power button. If you are to remove the pair of thumbscrews at the top, this whole assembly can be easily removed, if you wish not to use it or have it on the chassis.
On the right half there are the bays for optical drives or bay devices such as a fan controller. Just like the lock for the hard drives, the 5.25" bays also use screws on the sides of the drives to slide into the grooves allowing the yellow latch to lock them into place.
Still moving to the right of the optical bays, we have the right side of the X-Frame exposed to show the aluminum PSU bracket. The PSU will install with the power cord to the left giving you plenty of room to wire everything around to the back side of the chassis. Also note that PSU length is of little consequence in this design.
If you didn't catch it in the last image, you will now. The motherboard tray is removable and on both sides of the tray are these heavy latches that lock the tray into place and need lifting to allow the pin being captured to have room to come up and out allowing the trays removal.[Img]15[/img]
Behind the X-Frame the left side is left open to allow for ease of wiring and managing those wires. There is also the expansion slot bracket on the motherboard tray that uses screws to secure the cards in these eight slots provided in this design.
InWin X-Frame Limited Edition Open Air Chassis Continued
Since it was easiest to pull the cabling from the front I/O out through the left side of the rear of the X-Frame, here they are now. The HD audio and USB 2.0 cables are beige with a rainbow of ribbon cable used for the power LED, HDD activity, power and reset connectivity. The last and longest cable is that of the USB 3.0 connection.
The left side of the X-Frame has a latch on the motherboard tray as does the right side and at either end of the motherboard tray you can see the gold bolts that will allow you to remove the top sections of the blue frame. Of course there are four to be removed on the other side as well.
There is also the second bay assembly for three more 3.5" drives if you need to be able to run that many, InWin has you covered there. I am surprised a bit though to see no concessions made for 2.5" drives. There is plenty of room between the two HDD racks that wiring and installation is easy.
On the top half there is almost a full sheet of aluminum supporting the open air chassis, but at the bottom it is a single cross member that does the work here. Also, if you haven't noticed up until now, the entire chassis is held together with screws, as in everything can come apart if needed.
The removable motherboard tray is made of two parts. There is a 2mm thick layer that is built specifically to be structural support as well as hiding the screws for the legs that this tray stands on. This is the only place I see rivets and it's to secure the diamond plate to this frame.
On top of the motherboard tray you have the diamond plate aluminum panel that has a large access hold for the CPU cooler backplate as well as offering two large holes for wiring. There are holes to mount Micro-ATX, ATX and E-ATX motherboards while offering eight expansion slots of support on the left side.
Under the motherboard tray, the support frame of the X-Frame has all the access you are going to need and then some. No matter where the wiring comes from, there is a large wiring hole with tiny holes near it to use to secure this wiring to this frame.
Accessories and Documentation
Remember that tray in the HDD bays up front? Well this is what you get on it. There are two types of risers, both pin-style and the typical screw in style. You also get eight ODD screws, three PSU screws and twenty-four HDD screws to be used with the X-Frame. This way you never lose them and have a convenient spot to return the screws when not in use.
The manual matches the chassis nicely as the front is plastered with a diamond plate design. On top of that the X in X-Frame looks a lot like the chassis. At the bottom you can see that this guide is translated into eight languages for their 50 buyers.
At the top two-thirds of the inside there are eight descriptions of the parts and components shown at the bottom third. This covers the components of the chassis as well as the amount of hardware included with the X-Frame.
Once the manual is completely unfolded and gets flipped over, you sort of get a poster for your room with an image of the X-Frame with some generic components going into it and what appears to be a GIGABYTE motherboard of some photo-shopped nature.
On the right is where you can find out how to use the chassis, how to remove the components and everything else that makes this open air design so special. They don't however say or show that this chassis can be stood on either end like a tower chassis as well as being a test bench.
The Build and Finished Product
Since this X-Frame is going to be used on my test rig and I need easy access to get to the motherboard and the motherboard tray to get coolers in and out quickly, I chose to go with seven pin-style risers that allow the motherboard to come right off, with only two on the outer edge to keep the motherboard on the tray.
All I had to do at this point was mounting a CPU cooler and set the motherboard into place. Adding the two screws into the board along with the two holding in my video card, I can't see anything moving too much for my purposes.
As for the drives or devices you wish to add to the X-Frame, simply find the appropriate hardware on the included tray and mount the screws to the devices so that they will slide into the rails.
I guess I could have gotten more creative than to hang my SSD from one side, but it was done to express how much this chassis could use an adapter for them. On the right I had no issues with installing the optical drive or the fan controller that I use for testing various things.
Installing the PSU was tricky as one of the three screws is behind the frame of the chassis. A short screwdriver or a pair of pliers will get any rough start of the threads on their way to being able to use them with your fingers.
At this point I did a bit of basic wiring. I ran the cables in their general areas, then with a few install and removals of the tray, I found a way to route each wire and strap it to the chassis when I found it needed it.
That's where we are here. The wires have been run and tied to the chassis so that I can bundle the excess in the frame instead of having wires hanging out all over. The only wiring I didn't tidy up was the 24-pin and the GPU power leads, as they weren't quite long enough to need it.
The Build and Finished Product Continued
Now you can see why I went through the extra effort to clean things up. Once the motherboard tray got re-installed, all I had to do was connect all the leads and I am pretty much ready to get to using this as my daily driver for testing.
If you take your time, even the PSU wiring can be tidy from the outside. Also something I have yet to mention, but we have seen it a few times now is the InWin name and "Limited Edition" that is carved into this top rail.
This is another reason you need to take your time. While everything is easily accessed in the rear I/O panel and in the expansion slots, you will notice I don't have a rats nest hanging out the back either.
I know it isn't beautiful when looked at up close, but a few zip ties and bundling the wires sure works wonders for the finished presentation and the fact you aren't constantly setting this chassis on your cables.
As you can see, if done correctly, all of the front I/O cabling is of course noticeable, but in this build, none of them pass the blue frames so that even though this chassis is an open air design, it can contain and hide cabling just like a case with side panels and leave an attractive product when completed.
Since we had the grand tour of the InWin X-Frame, all that is left to do is power this puppy up and see what happens. When the power button is presses the ring around it illuminates with the backlight of a blue LED, so I matched the fan controller to that color and away I go into my testing.
There are two ways to look at the X-Frame. One way is in that the general ideas, the build quality, the full front I/O panel and the fact that this design is so easy to use and have complete access to every component of the build. To be bluntly honest, this chassis was destined to go to California when I was done reviewing it, but once I saw this chassis and got to using it, there was no way this X-Frame was ever leaving my house anytime soon. I actually went to InWin and asked that they let me keep this sample so that my testing of CPU coolers and GPU coolers just got much easier with this product. I am just glad that they allowed me to keep this chassis, I do have some plans for slight modifications and additions, but that is better discussed in the other way to look at the X-Frame. That last thing that really sells me on this design is that it isn't just a test bench. If there is a lack of room or you just want to move it out of the way, the InWin X-Frame is built to stand and run on either end as well as flat as I used it. In reality if the cooler was small enough this design could be run upside down.
The second way to look at this chassis is to try to pick it apart, I mean the X-Frame is really nice, but I think a couple of things were overlooked. The coloration gets to me. I am fine with the diamond plate, the electric blue and the gun metal grey, what just drives me nuts is all the bold yellow. I know it defines this chassis and makes it stand out, but I am going to be dying the rubber and plastic parts, I just haven't decided on black or blue. Now there are some random holes around the chassis that you can use to hold one or two of the holes in a 2.5" drive, but the lack of a tray or adapter is just a forgetful oversight. In a chassis today and at this price, this should have been considered. I would also have liked a full set of nine pin-style risers, but maybe that is InWin saying you should at least mount a corner or two on this board, don't you think? While I would like to just lift the motherboard on and off, two screws didn't actually slow me down that much, as I had to take out screws on the GPU as well.
This chassis was designed with the elitist in mind. Not everyone has a use for an open air system; usually these are used by reviewers and hard core overclockers. That isn't to say that the average Joe can't use one of these, but most users don't need this sort of access, nor do they move parts enough to knock the dust off the components once in a while.
As I mentioned, this is an extremely limited run of only 50 chassis being built at this time and to be honest, I may have one of those 50, so there are only maybe 49 others around. The choice of materials, the mix of textures of colors, along with the modularity of this design and its inherent exclusivity, I can see why InWin is driving that $399.99 MSRP and I do believe they will get it.
Being constructed with only a few rivets and the rest completely detachable with nuts and bolts or various screws, this is not only a great test bench as it is, but I can see the lucky 50 that do get one of these to be doing some modifications to take this Limited Edition X-Frame and personalize it even further, making them truly a one of a kind.
Maybe consider making some more, InWin?