Looking at the last of three submissions from GameTiger, I really don't know what to expect. When we looked at the Xniper, I abused it pretty hard, as it just doesn't appeal to an enthusiast. On the flip side of that same token, we then looked at the T-Rex. In this chassis GameTiger really stepped up the game, paid attention to detail and offered a feature set that is really well packed for a $100 investment. Since we are now about to delve into a chassis that is the middle man between the two, I am really hoping it takes on more of the idea of the T-Rex rather than a slightly spruced up Xniper that did nothing much other than disappoint us.
Knowing what I do already, before you are going to get your first look at the last of the trio of submissions from GameTiger, I will go ahead and spill some of the beans early. With a price drop and a move to the Professional Case series this time, we are losing things like the fans controller and HDD dock, but keeping things like USB 3.0 as well as a whole different idea of tool-less clips on both the bays and expansion slots that I have yet to see before. You also get a sleeker and sophisticated look with this chassis, something the other two missed on in my opinion. The Xniper was way out there in the stratosphere and as I said the T-Rex looked like a high rise building.
Considering we are now in the Professional Case series, even with a name like the GameTiger Mars VA-2, this chassis is really down to earth and strides were taken to make this mid-tower chassis as easy to work with as a case can be. Even though typically the mid-range is better than the low-end and the high-end stuff should be the best thing they offer. I really think and it was just luck of the draw as each case was double boxed and I couldn't see what was inside, I think I may have inadvertently saved the best for last.
GameTiger really put some thought into the fine details for their middle man of offerings and I am sort of surprised these things got nixed from their high-end offerings. That being said, I really think the case you are about to be looking at is well worth your time. Even if the chassis doesn't pull at your heart strings, the way things are done in the Mars VA-2 is still well worth a look.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
On the outside amongst all of the steel in the frame and panels, along with the mix of ABS plastic and steel mesh inserts, the Mars VA-2 mid-tower chassis looks pretty darn good. The front is all mesh running down the middle of the chassis with the intake at the bottom and four 5.25" bays covers at the top. Separating the two is a wide stripe of ABS plastic that houses the front I/O panel. The bezel is a bit taller than the steel on the chassis, but it takes a gentle bend at the front over the top and angles down to meet the steel top of the chassis. You will also see two mesh covered holes at the top of the chassis for optional fans. The left side of the chassis offers an all mesh "window" and unlike the T-Rex, you cannot add additional fans in this one. As for the right panel, it's flat and offers only a finger hold at the back to slide the panel off the chassis.
The inside of the chassis is painted black to match the exterior and also keep with the red on black theme of all the GameTiger cases. In the front you get four 5.25" bays with spring loaded tool-less clips and the bottom most bay has a 5.25" to 3.5" drive conversion tray in it. As for storage, there is no offering for an SSD location, but there are five 3.5" bays for mechanical drives. In front of the drive cages you will locate one 120mm fan with red LEDs in it, also keeping with the theme. The motherboard tray has a few holes for management and will allow for ATX and Micro-ATX motherboards. The top of the chassis has room for a pair of 120mm fans, but as shipped only has dust filters clipped in. Speaking of dust filters, there is one in the floor as well. It is on the inside strangely, but it covers the PSU intake and a vented spot that offers no fan mounting options. At the back of the chassis you have the second installed 120mm fan without LEDs placed above seven expansion slots with replaceable covers and some really different clips to hold the cards in securely.
Just like with the other two submissions from GameTiger, there is no availability at this time in the USA, but I would have to assume if they are going to pay to have three cases sent from China to my door, specifically for the English speaking market, I would assume a container or two of these cases is about to be packed and shipped to our borders.
With everything you are about to see in the Mars VA-2 chassis and since it is the middle man of the three, it has to be somewhere between the $100 and $50 of the other two. Proving that theory, GameTiger has informed me that the MSRP of this chassis is set at $79 and is priced really well against the competition and still offers one more thing I haven't seen before.
This is the third time we have seen very similar packaging across all of the cases. This one specifically starts off with GameTiger and the Mars VA-2 naming and of course the image changed on the left. The highlights in the Mars are the mesh, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, black interior, fans and cable management.
Switching over to the Russian specifications and cooling system charts. I could tell you what they say, only by cheating and looking at the other side of the packaging though.
Just like all the rest, this large side of the packaging is a repeat of the front information, just this time in Russian to match the side panel we just looked at for that market.
Now we get back to the English specs and cooling system information. It doesn't cover everything, but it does have the form factor, expansion slot amount and the 300mm of room for video cards. As for the cooling chart, it shows we get two fans out of a total of four you can install.
Oddly enough, while both of the other submissions were surrounded in Styrofoam, the Mars ships with high density foam at both ends outside of the plastic liner. I will say it is a good thing that they went to this as the packaging looked like it took a good hit to the front of the box. Even so, the Mars VA-2 seems to have taken it in stride as the chassis arrived in great shape.
GameTiger Mars VA-2 Gaming Mid-Tower Chassis
The front of the Mars is very subdued and sleek in its styling. The top is rounded and goes right into a bunch of mesh. It is broken up near the bottom by the front I/O panel and returns to mesh in front of the 120mm intake fan. I also like the addition of the simple chrome stripes down each side, it's a nice touch.
In the I/O panel you are offered a USB 2.0 port, the microphone and headphone jacks and then another USB 2.0 port and the USB 3.0 port. To the right is a small chromed reset button next to the larger square power button.
As the front bezel carries over the top and angles down to the steel top of the Mars, you immediately run into a raised area with a honeycomb mesh. As of now there are dust filters snapped into place, but fans here are optional.
Here we have not an X and not a large square with mounting for fans, but rather this mesh insert is angled at the top and bottom and gives a pretty good view into the chassis and a passive area for cooler air to migrate into the chassis.
Around back you have thumbscrews holding on the panels and as you look from the top, you have the 120mm exhaust fan leading off. Under that you have holes with grommets for tubing and them you run into the seven expansion slots. Even here you can see the latches are different.
As for the right side of the case, the only thing worth a mention is the indented area near the back of the chassis to give you some grip to remove the panel.
Under the Mars there are four plastic feet. These do slide around easily on the glass, so if you have a smooth floor or desktop keep that in mind. There is venting under the PSU at the left, a larger area in the middle for convective airflow and a little area under the hard drive bays for more of the same.
Inside the GameTiger Mars VA-2
Removing the panels is simple enough and it exposes the inside of the Mars VA-2. The first thing that grabbed my eye was the red plastic separator plate. This keeps video cards separated from the memory and CPU. You also see the wires are tied up to keep them from flopping about and the hardware box is slid into the HDD rack. Lastly, no matter where you look, there are red tool-less latches on everything.[img]15 [/img]
The tool-less mechanisms here need the latch to be pulled to the left to open and go under spring tension. Once the drive is close, release the tab to the right and the spring tension presses the tabs in. All you have to id jiggle the drive and the clips on both sides hold the drive very secure.
The hard drive bays are only 3.5" wide to allow the use of similar clips to the ones I explained on the ODD bays. They are a bit smaller, but work in the same way. Being slimmer than the top bays, it also offers room for wiring behind it.
Under the roof of the Mars case, you find a pair of plastic dust filters installed over the 120mm fan mounts, but no fans - these are optional.
The motherboard tray offers a small CPU cooler access hole and a lot of shapes pressed into the tray for structural reasons. On the right you get a pair of management holes as well as a large and smaller one in front of where the PSU installs.
The floor of the chassis has the plastic dust filter you see out of the chassis set on the floor and held in with tabs. While it is nice to have a dust filter under the PSU, once installed, it will make this filter tough to replace correctly.
As does the front fan, the 120mm found in the rear of the case is also powered with a Molex connector. Unlike the front fan this one does not have red LEDs in it. As for the latches on the expansion slots, these are pretty cool. You lift the tab to unlock it and then slide it out to the open side of the case. Once the card is in place you push it forward until you hear the tab lock back into place.
The wiring isn't very long since the I/O panel is so low in the chassis, but everything it long enough to connect and have some slack left to make a clean trip to their connections. You get beige covered wiring for the USB 2.0 and HD Audio, but black for the native USB 3.0 connection. The rainbow ribbon cable, those are your front panel leads.
There isn't a ton of room behind the tray, but with creative offsets and conveniently placed holes, you can get quite a bit of wiring on the left section and behind the 3.5" drives and still get the panel on easily.
Accessories and Documentation
In all three cases I received we see the same hardware box is used to ship the goodies in. While not as good of offerings as the T-Rex, it is still full of some useful bits.
You get an adjustable wire strap with 3M adhesive, eight zip ties and a Q shaped slip with 3M adhesive to help maintain the wiring. You also get a motherboard speaker, a pad for PSU support in the front, a chassis lock loop and screw, risers, PSU screws, motherboard screws and four M3 screws.
I don't know why it is, but the first set for the Xniper sort of weren't that good. Then we looked at the T-Rex and I liked the instructions. This time with the Mars, the instructions are even bigger with larger images and it should make the installation easier for those who don't know how.
Pages one, two and three cover how to get the doors off, removing the Thermal Interference Shield and the installation of the power supply.
Four, five and six goes through the motherboard installation, shows how to remove the front bezel and add 5.25" devices, then goes on to cover floppy drive or card reader installations.
Seven, eight and nine offers info for the hard drives, how to use the expansion slot tool-less latches and covers how to install the optional top fans in the Mars.
They even go as far as to show you wiring diagrams, tell you where they go and even say to refer to the motherboard manual for the front panel headers connectivity. It then closes the information off with a list of all of the parts and accessories you should have received with the Mars VA-2 chassis.
The Build and Finished Product
Removing the bezel I am pleased to see no wiring holding me back from adding my SSD and the DVD drive. To remove the 5.25" bay covers, they release from tabs on the inside. You will have to break out the extra panels if you are adding multiple 5.25" devices or even for the card reader 3.5" slot.
While the DVD drive does break up the darker black mesh that once was here from top to bottom, I have to say again that I really dig the latch system on the ODD bays as it is very secure and simple to use.
Two things I like here, one is the fact that I was able to get the Thermal Interference Shield back into the case to keep the GPU heat below it and the CPU heat going right out the back through the 120mm exhaust fan. The second is that the HD 7950 fits, but the latches don't work on this type of cooler setup; it is more designed for reference designs.
In the back there isn't much to discuss as everything lined up and went into place with no issues. Since the latches didn't work to support the card, I was happy to find out I could use a screw, even though I had to provide it.
Since there isn't an 8-pin hole at the top of the motherboard, all I had to route back here was the front I/O cabling and a SATA power lead. With it all tucked next to the hard drive bays there was no issues getting the panel over this.
If it weren't for the DVD drive at the top of the Mars VA-2 there wouldn't be any changes from when we first viewed this case from this angle. All we need to do now is hook up some power.
Just to get a good view of the lighting once the Mars has power, I got down to the fans level. As you can see the red LEDs are somewhat visible. What really sticks out is the plastic ring around the power button that glows blue. The reset button will also flash blue when the storage drive is active.
As you can see now, once you move away from the front of the chassis the red LEDS are almost invisible while the power button is easily visible, but not so bright that it would blind you if setting at eye level.
While the tool-less latches on the expansion cards aren't accepting of every card; that is the only real complaint I can come up with as to why the Mars VA-2 might be overlooked. As for the rest of the chassis, I can only sit and like what I am seeing here.
The latches for both the optical and hard drive bays are top notch and work so simply. With these spring loaded latches on both sides of the drive bay, there isn't any fumbling around with screws and the fit and placement of the drives are locked in as securely as if you had screwed them into place. As for the looks, well of the three, I like this one the best. With its understated looks and sleekness to it, the Mars can fit into any dÃ©cor, as long as a few flashes of chrome are acceptable.
For only two fans pushing any air, I will say the open side, extra ventilation in the floor and the open top of the Mars lends to some very reasonable temperatures while I was testing. With only two 120mm fans, the convective flow of air is set in motion as well and had good effect on the results. Removing the top dust filters is going to help as well. Since there aren't any fans installed, what dust are we filtering? If you remove them there is less effort needed to go through the honeycomb mesh and not the fine round holes of the plastic dust filters there now. Speaking of dust filters, I do like that there is a plastic one on the floor as well. You do need to watch for things when cleaning though. You will have the foam pad on there to support the PSU and getting the filter locked in tabs that are now under the power supply and invisible makes it a game of luck as to if it goes back in right.
With everything considered, as I ponder the MSRP of $79, I have to say that GameTiger gets points for ingenuity with me. The expansion card latches are slick and so are all of the ones on the bays. The Thermal Interference Shield is something I have never seen added to a chassis and this simple solution does break up the internal air flow and is what also helps with the reasonable temperatures with only the two fans.
With the looks and ease of assembly and use added in the mix, I think I really did save the best for last. The Mars doesn't force every trick of the trade on you, nor does it really leave you wanting anything that isn't already included in the kit. I think the Mars VA-2 would sell well in the US market at the $79 price I am told they are looking to get.