Going back through the various cases I have seen from InWin over the years, you can definitely see an evolution of the company. What started off as really bold and uniquely designed cases, that in my opinion were a little beyond what the masses were willing to accept, the company has over the last year or so really taken large leaps to go a bit more mainstream for its latest enclosed chassis design. I want to be very specific to enclosed cases, only because of the ingenious X-Frame and H-Frame open air chassis, and its recent addition to the InWin fleet as well, but those are in a different league all together to what we are going to be looking at shortly.
The first few cases I saw were bold, had a few tool-less features, maybe offered native USB 3.0, but no matter what, the styling was made for young buyers with a lot of the fantasy designs and naming schemes they were applying at the time.
Then came the BUC, and for all intents and purposes, it was the first chassis design from InWin that I was sold on and thought that really anyone would actually enjoy that design. Even though I was sold on what InWin was finally bringing forth in chassis designs, with its latest entry, it goes well above and beyond what we expect in an InWin chassis.
The outlook for the latest chassis to arrive for testing is the full-tower GRone. The idea here was to really go way more mainstream with the external design, but still keeping that bold styling you expect from InWin, just used much more sparingly. On the inside is where they really shake things up and are attempting now to take on the enthusiasts in the market with a chassis that has all the latest features, and is completely water cooling ready as long as you don't mind changing some of the options inside of the chassis from the way it was shipped to your house.
That all being said, look at the GRone from InWin with an open mind, as it may very well be a case that has little reason to deny that it should be a considerable force to deal with in the full-tower market.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
As far as the outside of the GRone is concerned, this is definitely a time when a picture is worth a thousand words, so rather than explaining it, I will wait to show it to you in a couple of pages.
This time there is so much going on inside the chassis worth the attention that I will just jump right in and go at it. In the front of the chassis there are three 5.25" bays with tool-less pins used to very securely hold a device in place. Below this you will find a hard drive rack capable of house eight 3.5" or 2.5" drives in the slide out trays used in each bay. These bays are completely removable, but the support wall nearest the motherboard tray stays in place.
Since I brought up the motherboard tray I may as well cover that it will hold an E-ATX, ATX, or Micro-ATX motherboard while offering six wire management holes, five of which containing grommets in them, and what has to be the largest CPU cooler access hole in any tray that I have ever seen. Behind this tray there is almost a full inch of depth to the door panel to house any and all wiring as well. The last thing to mention would be that and there are eight expansion slots in the GRone.
Cooling inside of the GRone is handled by three fans from the factory. In the front there is room for two 120mm or 140mm fans, and this is where InWin supplied two 140mm fans with red LEDs. In the top of the chassis there is room for a trio of 120mm or 140mm fans, and here InWin supplied one 140mm fan nearest the back of the chassis. In the back there is also a black 140mm fan installed, and yes it has the option for a 120mm fan as well. The left side of the chassis has a window with no fan access, but the right side allows you to put in a 120mm or 140mm fan to cool the back of the CPU socket. Then on the floor you have two spots that again hold either a pair of 120mm or 140mm fans.
Then there is the water cooling aspect to consider. The front of the chassis, once the hard drive bays are removed, can facilitate the use of a 280mm radiator there. Since there is a bit of the HDD cage support that is raised at the bottom, you could also use a 280mm radiator there. At the top of the chassis you could use a 360mm radiator, and you can even hang a single radiator in the back if you would like.
What I just explained scratches the surface of what the GRone brings to the table, and so far on paper it is a solid chassis to consider. Of course we have to factor in the pricing as well. Now while you are shopping, keep in mind there are three flavors of the GRone, there is a black, white, and the metallic grey version you are very close to getting to see. With colors pricing will vary, and in my searching, I found the best deal for the GRone as I received it to be at Newegg for $159.99. There is another $20 for shipping to consider too, but this puts it right in competition with quite a few really well designed, and already good selling products, for instance the Switch 810 comes to mind.
Stick around as I see just how well InWin did with the GRone, since the price is reasonable, all it has to do is stack up to the competition and I think InWin finally may have a chassis I won't get laughed at when recommending.
Even while keeping costs down using plain brown cardboard, InWin spices it up a bit with the use multi-color printing; these shows of the chassis guts in white, the front of the GRone in black, and the "GR" of the name in red.
On the right you start with the company name above check boxes for which of the three cases is inside, which is not denoted. Under the perforated handle the rest of the space is used with a full list of specifications.
Now that I look at things, maybe this is the front, maybe it is the back, but besides some geometric designs in black over the white rendering of the inside of the chassis, the only thing that really stands out is the red GR in the GRone name.
The last panel offers icons at the top denoting features like the EZ-swap Dock, the room it has, and its support of water cooling along with a few others. Further down there is also a full list of ten features in the three categories to check out.
To keep this large full-tower chassis safe in transit, InWin employs the use of plastic on the window, a liner to protect the paint and plastic from scratches, and then they used high density foam instead of Styrofoam to give this hefty chassis the needed support it requires.
The packaging works really well, and even though the box was a little wore out from the distance this traveled, the chassis inside is in perfect shape.
InWin GRone Full-Tower Chassis
The GRone I received is metallic gray with black accents on the front used in the three removable bay covers at the top and the pop out panel at the bottom that is the dust cover to the intake. Around this is a space aged design with all sorts of angles and even some faux screws to look a bit more mechanical.
With a gentle push at the top of the panel, the clip lets the tab release and you can then pull out the panel to run it under the faucet for cleaning. With a pair of 140mm fans behind it, this is bound to get dirty with all that air coming through here.
The front I/O panel is on the part that is angled to meet the top of the chassis. Here you can find the drive activity light, a LED ringed power button and a Silence/Turbo speed fan controller switch. On the bottom row you are given a pair of USB 2.0 ports, the HD Audio jacks and a pair of USB 3.0 ports.
Just behind the I/O panel you see this rubber cap that says "SATA" on it. You can get the impression that this is actually a very shallow EZ-Swap Dock shown on the box.
Of course you can use this for 3.5" drives as well, but it is really easy to clip in an SSD for the images.
The rest of the top of the chassis then takes an aggressive angle upwards so it can slope down again toward the rear of the chassis on the left. The allows for the louvers on top to not restrict the air flow so much as if they were right on top of the fans. It also gave them room for a bit of steel mesh on the sides.
The left side panel is flat and level to the front and top of the chassis. The majority of the left two-thirds of the panel is then used to house the "I" shaped window that is made from a blue plastic and gets bevelled edges as it bends back to the steel panel.
The back starts with smaller water cooling holes with grommets, but with the internal capabilities of this design, you likely won't need them. There is the 140mm fan mounted next to the rear I/O and above the eight ventilated expansion slots. There is also a lot of ventilation on the right leading down next to the PSU mounting area.
The right side of the chassis looks just like the left side, sans the window. Since there is so much room between the panel and the motherboard tray, InWin offers a fan mounting position for a 120mm or 140mm fan to cool the back of the motherboard near the CPU socket area.
The bottom of the chassis has four large rectangular feet with no padding to keep it from sliding around. In the center you have a dust filter for the PSU on the left, and a double sized one on the right for the optional fan positions in the floor.
Inside the InWin GRone
The first look inside once the panels were off shows that there is a huge amount of room inside of the chassis. Since the hardware was taped to the front of the chassis, outside the plastic, the only thing to find inside it's the bundle of front I/O wiring and the fan leads.
Even though there is tool-less hardware for four bays, you have to realize the angled front I/O panel blocks use of the top one, so the bottom three correspond to removable covers in the front bezel. This pin system is very secure, but you can add a screw on the opposite side if you want positive security.
The hard drive rack sports a total of eight trays broken up into a group of five and another of three.
Now you can remove the top section, and you can even remove the bottom section of three with a little more work. As you can see though, the support wall will stay in place as it is riveted into the floor and ODD bays. You can see there is a cut out at the bottom to allow fans and a thin radiator to slide under it.
In the roof of the chassis InWin ships the fourth fan, a black, no LED 140mm fan. You can install three 140mm fans, three 120mm fans and a triple 120mm radiator. For some reason they don't say a triple 140mm radiator fits and I don't have one on hand to test out.
The motherboard tray offers room for E-ATX, ATX and M-ATX motherboards and has grommets in five holes around the edge of the tray. It also has a wide opening at the bottom to run the power wires through, and a huge CPU cooler access hole that is the full width of an ATX motherboard.
When the PSU gets screwed into the back of the chassis it also is supported with the pair of steel rails attached to the floor. On the right you can see one of the optional fan mounting positions of the two there, partially under the HDD rack.
The fifth and final fan included in the GRone is this black, no LED, 140mm fan. Below that you can see that InWin used thumbscrews in the expansion slot covers for secure mounting of any card.
One thing I am noticing is missing from this chassis. Where are the wire management tie points? While it seems there is plenty of room to manage wires, there are no options to tie anything up, so creativity will be a plus to manage this chassis.
I wasn't kidding wither. With almost a full inch of space for wiring back here, it is almost comical there are no provided ways to tie things up.
The wiring contains the native USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HD Audio, and the F_Panel connectors for the LEDs and switches. You also have a black SATA cable to plug into the motherboard and a SATA power plug to power the EZ-Swap Dock. Then you also have a 4-pin Molex to connect to power the fan controller.
Accessories and Documentation
When I opened the box I found remnants of the tape on this plastic bag, and I could tell where it was taped originally before shipping. It doesn't matter much in the end anyway, as the hardware bag is still intact and it didn't damage the chassis.
Inside of that bag you will find an 8-pin EPS extension cable to make that long run to the top of the GRone. They also send along four wire tie strips, as well as a pair of 4-pin Molex to 3-pin fan power adapters.
The screws come in simple to read labeled bags. The first bag had the PSU, ODD, and oddly only two extra fan screws. The center bag has the stand-offs and motherboard screws, leaving the last bag to contain the screws used for 2.5" drive installation to the trays.
Matching the theme on the chassis, but this time in black and white only, the fold out manual is also included in the bag to guide you through the build and use of the GRone chassis.
Unfolding the manual and taking a few steps back you see a lot is going on. Starting with contents and features, leading into specs and wiring diagrams, this side then moves onto how to put things in the chassis as well as how to get the chassis apart.
On the reverse, the instructions are very simplified as they are translated six times here to cover various markets.
The Build and Finished Product
Sadly the front bezel has the I/O panel mounted to it, but this is why they made the bay covers and the dust filter on the front removable from the outside. In reality, unless you need to remove the steel bits from the 5.25" bays, you don't really need to be in here.
Installing the optical drive is simple. Remove the bay cover and pull out the side pins. Then you slide in the drive, lock in the pins, and the drive is securely installed. I wish it would sit a bit further forward though, sitting back behind the bay covers just looks a bit funny.
Removing both hard drive racks allows for much better cooling potential inside of the GRone. Also notice that the HIS Radeon HD 7950 video card has plenty of room in this chassis and there is plenty of room for multiple radiators and the equipment that comes along with it.
There is nothing really special to discuss about the back, but that is a good thing. The I/O shield, video card and the PSU all install easily with little effort or flex to deal with near the expansion slots.
I was a little disappointed with what I did here. While trying to keep the inside super clean for a nice looking view through the window, I really made a rats nest due to the lack of provided options to tie wiring to.
Packaged back up, and surprisingly the right side panel went over all of that wiring with very little effort, I was easily able to get it back into place since it hinges in the front. Soak it all in before we power the GRone up to see what happens then.
The front I/O panel comes to life with the solid red glow of the ring around the power button. I was also able to capture the drive activity, amber LED, as it was lit during the boot process.
I really like that even with such a large window used in the GRone, that once you power it up you only look at the components and get most of the red LED fan attached to the hard drive cage clearly visible on the right edge, but none of the bay structure.
Stepping back and looking directly into the front of the GRone, you can now see the pair of 140mm red LED fans glowing through the mesh. One nice feature of these fans is that when you slow them down with the switch, only the fan speed reduces, not the intensity of the LEDs.
InWin's GRone was so close to fully winning me over it isn't even funny. I really liked everything about this design. While not the way others are doing things, InWin shows they are more than capable of delivering a chassis that is worthy of praise from the enthusiast market that once laughed at the aesthetic choices that InWin once released.
There are only two things that stick out to me that are things that should have been addressed, and if they had been addressed, I would fully support this chassis with my full recommendation. The lack of any sort of punched out points to tie up the wiring in some sort of civilized fashion was a letdown. Then there were the unfinished looking feet. It was almost as if there were caps missing that would hold the rubber pads. As I received the chassis it had no issues sliding around, with little effort, and that is a bit of a concern since it could get pushed off a table, for example, without much effort. It may seem petty, but other cases in this segment that offer what the GRone brings, also include my complaints in their designs.
With five fans cooling things down inside of the GRone, and with me removing the hard drive trays and racks, during testing I had the option of silence on one side of the switch and Turbo on the other. Starting with Turbo, as the chassis is shipped, it will make a pretty audible "whir" for the first five feet near the chassis, but this noise also results in well above average thermal results. If you are just doing some homework, or like me sit by my PC to work, just change the fan control over to Silence and enjoy an ever so slightly hum coming from the chassis.
Yes, thermal results increased a bit, but for menial tasks, the PC uses little resources and doesn't need "super cooling". Considering we haven't touched yet on the four optional places for a radiator. The top offers plenty of room for both the fans and the radiator without encroaching on the motherboard. You can also pull the hard drive system out like I did and gain access to the one on the floor and the one in the front of the chassis. If that isn't enough cooling potential, you can always add a single radiator to the back and have a loop so complicated that you might get lost when routing it. That is up to you to decide.
The price is right for this chassis. The $159.99 listing I found at Newegg suits the feature set and capabilities of the GRone very well. That is as long as you don't mind running to the hardware store for some 3M stick wire management clips, or you think duck tape will match the metallic grey interior better. The foot issue isn't such a big deal if the chassis is on the floor or on a surface that has some traction. If on hardwood or on a desk top, be warned a curious kitty or child can move this with very little force on a slick surface.
I have to commend InWin. For its first attempt to obtain money from the enthusiast market, they got really close to perfect, but just ever so slightly missed. I mean the case has everything, removable drive bays, EZ-Swap Dock, its fully water cooling ready, and is large enough to park a small car inside of. There isn't a lot not to like, but for a guy like me, I am a bit more demanding as I also know what else is out there today. If InWin had just done something for the wiring and the feet issue, they could have easily had Editor's Choice.