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InWin D-Frame Limited Edition Open-Air Chassis Review

InWin D-Frame Limited Edition Open-Air Chassis Review

First there was the X-Frame, then came the H-Frame - if those didn't do it for you, maybe the new D-Frame case is the design you've been waiting for.

@chad_sebring
Published Mon, Apr 1 2013 5:50 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:31 PM CDT
Rating: 96%Manufacturer: InWin

Introduction

InWin D-Frame Limited Edition Open-Air Chassis Review 99 | TweakTown.com
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It seems like I had caught wind of this chassis design long before CES, but I will say this up front; images do not do this chassis any justice. In all of the random news blasts and images on Facebook I kept seeing, nothing prepared me for what I saw on the floor at CES. When I walked up to the InWin booth, right out on the corner was a pair of these cases, with another disassembled, lying there in parts. At first I wasn't aware of the design inspiration for this, but within moments of speaking with the reps there, I was told there was a Ducati fan on the design team, and then it all made sense, like turning on a light bulb. With the idea in mind that this chassis was built to replicate Ducati frame components, I could really see how what is now a chassis design took off.

Standing at the booth and actually looking at, getting images for the show news, and finally getting to put my hands on them, the first thing that I noticed is the immensity of this chassis. Essentially the main inner frame is the size of a standard full-tower ATX chassis. With the outer design of aluminum piping being bent, welded, and then painted either orange or red, it adds a few inches to all sides if this design once it is assembled. That's right, there is some assembly required to make the D-Frame functional as a chassis. Let's be honest though, to enthusiasts sometimes that can be more fun and fulfilling than the placement of parts into it.

Considering these super cool, hand built designs don't just rip off the assembly line, I can see why InWin offers them as a limited edition chassis. From what I was told at CES, after bending and cutting the tubes, then welding them into place with the use of a jig, I do believe the number of these coming off the line was something like three a week. This chassis does come in two options, there is a red and black combo that mimics the true inspiration of a Ducati motorcycle, and then there is a bright orange and blue combination for those who wanted something other than red.

If you do like what you are about to see, make a quick decision, as InWin promised only five hundred of each color to hit the shelves, excluding review samples. Without anything to hold us back, let's dive in and see what the newest open-air chassis from InWin is all about with the D-Frame.

Specifications, Availability and Pricing

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Just like with a Ducati, the frame is all about essentials. Being inspired by a solid race team, when it comes to a track bike, there is so much exotic materials used to cut weight, it will make your head spin. The same principles are brought over to this open-air chassis. The main component of the D-Frame, or the backbone as I will call it, was once a solid 12mm thick piece of aluminum that has been milled to reduce the material, while still being very strong. It is then painted black and has its tallest surfaces brushed to expose the aluminum there. With a mix of large rubber washers, threaded rods, and centering hubs, you can attach the outer frame, which is a work of art. The four sub-frames that mount to the backbone is a mix of 11mm, 15mm, and 19mm outside diameter aluminum tubing. These various sizes make up the outside frame rails and the support structure using angles and serious welds at all of the connection points to keep the chassis rigid and solid. Once that is assembled, the outer frame components make it to the spray booth for a coat of red or orange paint.

Things added into the chassis after the main section is completed give this chassis a pretty comprehensive feature set. There are four aluminum fan frames that screw into the chassis to deliver some airflow into this chassis. There is one in the front and three along the bottom. The reason that they are at the bottom is because this chassis offers a 90 degree rotation of the motherboard, which leaves the rear of the motherboard at the top of the chassis. You also get an optical drive cage to install for a single drive, and next to it you screw in the front I/O panel that offers USB 3.0, HD audio jacks, as well as the power and reset buttons.

Along with a GPU support that offers eight slots that you have to install, there is also a three bay 3.5" hard drive rack with an identifying plaque on it to show you the number of chassis you have in the series of 500. There is the ability to add a pair of 2.5" drives as well, but those mount directly to the motherboard tray in the chassis. Then once you have it all built and ready to power things up, there is a tinted glass panel that goes over both the front and back to give you a true showcase feel for the D-Frame - and with a chassis like this, I think that was very intentional.

If you do find that you like the D-Frame and want to grab one, as it sits while I write this up, there is only one place to grab either version of this chassis. That is directly from InWin at the moment, and from what I can see, and they are $499. Keep in mind that when you grab them there, this does include the Commander III 800W PSU with the chassis. I was also told in e-mails that they have plans to for Newegg to carry them once they have more stock, but there it will be sold as the chassis only, and I believe the price was said to be $399 when that happens. While we are talking about some pretty serious money here, we are also discussing a piece of art, or the center piece to any office. The thing is, that in order to even get their first buyer, they need to have functionality for today's computers, and without that it is just a $400 paperweight.

So let's see for ourselves what InWin has put together, and if this is the next chassis you buy, if only to brag to your friends about it.

Packaging

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On this panel you have a mostly black background with a rendering of the chassis printed largely on the top half. Where the chassis rendering starts to blend into the black background, you run into the D-Frame naming and the InWin tag line. Just off to the right of the name is a glimpse at some of the components of the outer frame.

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This panel starts off with ten features found with this design. It covers the open-air design, material choice, cable management, and that it is DIY, just to mention a few. It then moves on to a full list of specifications for the D-Frame. At the bottom, in the white sticker, there is a red dot to denote the chassis color inside the box.

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I guess this side could also be the front, but none the less it offers a different approach. Here the background is carbon fiber, and has ghosted images of the motorcycle inspiration. Along with the tag line and chassis name, you also get a much better look at the built chassis that we are about to put together.

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The last panel offers the company name with their address listed just below if you want to visit there to check out the chassis. There is also a set of check boxes for the color schemes, but neither is marked. Under the handle cut out you get a list of nine features with more explanation than the icons on the other side allowed for.

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When you open the box, all you see is the instructions and a lot of high density foam. You will also notice a cardboard handle that makes removing this much easier. The painted outer frame pieces are stored in cloth and then slid into the form fitting foam. As for the motherboard tray, glass, and miscellaneous parts, they are all stored in layers, in the middle of the foam.

InWin D-Frame Chassis Components

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The four red painted tubular structures are what I have here. Closest to you is the floor of the chassis with the top of the chassis behind it and slightly left. Standing up on the right side is the front of the chassis with the rear of the chassis lying next to the floor piece.

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When you start digging into the box, you find the 12mm thick motherboard tray that I referred to as the backbone of this chassis. Standing up in the back of this image are the tinted and tempered glass panels, to close off the sides of the D-Frame.

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Under the glass you will find more goodies in various compartments cut into the foam. Here we have the three bay 3.5" drive rack with the number plaque on it, the front I/O panel, four 120mm fan mounting bracket and the eight slot expansion card bracket.

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In the other compartments there is the red PSU mounting plate and a single 5.25" bay in the front. In the back is the box with all of the hardware inside for building the chassis and getting the components mounted later along with the leather wrapped tool kit specifically for the D-Frame.

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Since we are about to jump right into the chassis build, and the tools are needed for some of that, I figured why not show them now. After untying, unwrapping, and removing them from their individual pockets, you will find two 12mm open and closed end wrenches along with a really long Phillip's #2 screwdriver to make life very easy for this build.

Assembly of the InWin D-Frame

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Following the instruction in two page steps at the moment, so far I was shown to put rubber spacers on the 12mm thick motherboard tray, and then gently place the four parts of the outer shell in line for the next bit of hardware to lock these all into place.

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Along with a pair of center hold spacers, one in each side, you have to thread the rod through the rubber spacer in the middle, then into the opposite sides spacer. Once that is all good to go, you can then slide the metal spacer into this end to lock the threaded rod into the chassis.

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Once you have that step completed on all four corners, it is time to grab the nuts and the wrenches. Because the rod will spin, you get two wrenches to install these axel-like bars. With a wrench on either side, just tighten things until they are snug - if you tighten things too tight, you may chip the paint.

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Stepping back, you can see I have all four of the rods in with all the spacers, and now have them tightened so we can continue on with the building of the D-Frame.

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Then it tells you to grab the adjustable PSU plate that will allow for up to 220mm long power supplies, and with the use of large thumbscrews, you can snug it anywhere in the oblong holes in the frame for now.

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The next step to the D-Frame is to grab a pair of hex head screws and with that long screwdriver, go ahead and install the expansion card support to the motherboard tray. A way to be sure you are in the right area is if there are the grooves cut for the tabs on the expansion cards right next to where you are installing this.

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At the same time, since I had that screwdriver in hand, I added in the four fan brackets along with the three bay 3.5" drive rack. The rack uses large head screws on the sides that will drop into the grooves. With the latch on the left side, you can slide the lock bar closed to hold drives in that cage.

Assembly of the InWin D-Frame Continued

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On the front of the hard drive rack there is a plate that is riveted to it. Here you will find the name of the chassis, and that it is limited edition. When you buy this in the retail market, the "Review Sample" will be replaced with XXX/500 in that area.

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On the left is the front I/O panel with the braided and black plastic covered leads coming from it. To the right, if you don't plan to use this space, you can flip the box and put the InWin name to the front of the chassis. If you plan to use this, it needs to be reversed.

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Looking into the front of the chassis to see the I/O and drive bay, you can see the front I/O offerings of the HDD LED, HD audio jacks, USB 3.0 ports, a tiny reset button and a power button with an LED denoting system power. As for the bay below it, I will fill it, so it will get reversed so you can see how it works.

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One of the final steps is going back to the hardware bags and grabbing the rubber spacers to space the metal from the glass. You can see the inside of the washers are cut to accept the threaded rod and the nut, this way they sit flush and cover the hardware to clean things up.

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We are almost finished as I added the tinted glass panel to the right side of the chassis. You can see the aluminum corner brackets that support the glass and allow you a place to tighten the large cap nut that holds the glass to the chassis in each corner.

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The last step for full assembly is to repeat what we just did on the right side, but this time on the left. So now both sides are enclosed enough to keep little hands or pets from getting in, although with the wide open frame design, there are plenty of other options for way to get into this chassis.

Accessories and Documentation

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We already used most of these parts, but here is how you get them. On the left are the large nuts for the glass panels, the 12mm nuts for the rods, the large PSU thumbscrews, and spacers you have to install inside the frame at the bottom of the left column. You also get wire maintenance clips and the centering pacers for the outside of the four rods running down the middle.

On the right are the rubber spacers to protect the glass from the chassis and next to them are the spacers to set the motherboard tray into the frame. At the bottom is all of the screws, risers, and goodies you need to get your components mounted in the D-Frame, and the bag of hex head screws to mount the chassis parts to the tray.

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The book sent along with the D-Frame is a very important part of this build. Without this book you will be lost for a bit because there are a lot of parts that need to be looked at, verified, and known so you can even get the chassis together. So whatever you do, don't just throw this back in the box when you get the parts out.

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They start with two built images of the D-Frame and label and explain all of the components so you can familiarize yourself with what you are looking for as the build section calls for them.

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They also go as far as to show the components as they are packaged in the box. This way, as the instructions call for any of the components, you can go right where you need to simply by flipping back to this to get verification of where you can locate that exact part.

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It also opens the hardware box and gives users a checklist for all of the components sent in the plain cardboard box. This way you don't get to the last three or four steps and realize you can't finish things because something is missing. It is much better to take the time to verify these things now, before the build starts.

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Once you get into building the D-Frame, you are dealing with instructions such as this. You really have to pay close attention, as the drawing are close to reality, but does leave some things up to your common sense to guess you have it right. With a tiny image like this one, and as much going into the chassis in one step, you can easily get a little bit confused, so take your time and eye things up first - it may save you some time with the screwdriver.

The Build and Finished Product

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So after building the D-Frame and being happy with the results and the fact that the glass fit, it was time to load it full of components. From the front you can see that fan bracket is very open to take full effect of a fan. You can also see off to the right that the front I/O panel and the fan controller are easy to get at with the gap in the frame there.

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Looking into the left side of the D-Frame, you can see there was plenty of room for the ATX motherboard, and the hard drive rack is spaced well enough not to cause any issues. I also like the SSD installation location, and I am a fan of the 90 degree rotation of the motherboard.

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In the back most of what you see is the power supply of choice. While in the manual it does show you sandwiching a PSU into the brackets, the issue was with my PSU is that the modular clips were covered by the bracket, so raising it just a touch makes it all work out.

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With the large plastic rings for the wiring that InWin sent along for this side of the chassis, there is little effort needed for a clean look. I just wired things up with only one thing in mind, not covering the D-Frame milled into this side. There are plenty of locations to bundle the wires and screw in a clip, and is why I say this takes such little effort.

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In the top of the chassis you may think things would be tough to get to. In fact, there is a two inch gap from the frame to the rear of the motherboard. So while it may seem the audio is blocked, there is plenty of room for the connections to be made without contorting things.

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When you are all done with the build it is time to add the glass again. Things aren't even close to touching the glass back here either, as the glass sits almost an inch off the frame, and everything attached to the chassis stay well short of the chassis height here.

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Now we get back to the money shot. Here we have the completed build with the tinted glass panel back on. You can easily see anything you want to inside the D-Frame, and here is where you can really appreciate the cable management offered.

Final Thoughts

One thing you can't see in pictures is the quality of this design. Some of the close-ups do show the rolled nickels where they hand welded all of the tubing together, but you cannot see how solid yet flexible this design is. At first I just thought that the spacers were exactly that, just something to take the gap between the parts, but with the system of "axels" in each corner, the rubber components will flex and absorb some rough impacts. This means that the glass panels are isolated from the chassis, so it will take warping the structure or direct impact to them to be damaged. Each piece of the frame is tied together making a one piece feel to the ring of aluminum bits, so if it were to be dropped, while the chassis hits the ground, the rubber pads keep the thick motherboard tray isolated from the frame as well as the glass, giving this chassis a bit of suspension. That way if the road is somewhat rough, the D-Frame should keep things safer than a solid chassis that just passes the impact right through the entire thing, including your components.

The reason I think this is a great idea is that with a case that is as bold and in your face as the D-Frame is, it will be a chassis you show off to everyone. While they may not get it at first, or may even ask to look at the other sides, you can just pick this chassis up anywhere really; the frame is that solid, and turn the case over for them, and you don't have to be really gentle just because it looks delicate. While you may be thinking test bench with this idea, it isn't as user friendly as the X-Frame was in that respect. Here everything is screwed in, more permanently, and is something you will want to just set on the shelf and admire its beauty. That is where the D-Frame is a real champion; it looks amazing and is very solid not only in structure, but also in the features it does offer with such a minimalistic theme.

There are some obvious pitfalls to this chassis in my mind though, specifically at this price. There is only USB 3.0, and I get why, but it does eliminate some potential buyers. With a case that has a price like this, InWin figures you aren't going to throw in older or low end hardware in the D-Frame. My real complaint is that I would have loved an option for water cooling inside of this massive chassis. Maybe throw in a triple holed plate adapter for the bottom to replace the stock fan brackets, or even a version for the front, if say maybe I just left the HDD rack out of the build, there would be plenty of room in either place. This is marketed for enthusiasts or Ducati fans, and even the bikes need a radiator. On the flip side of the down take of the D-Frame, there isn't one thing to keep me from using it to test the CPU coolers in for TweakTown, and it is now my new "official test chassis".

While $499 is a tough pill to swallow, even if a PSU is included, if you can wait a little bit, you can buy just the chassis only for $399 once Newegg gets stock of these. Considering there are only going to be 500 red D-Frames, and 500 orange versions, it definitely fits the profile for a limited edition, and therefore requires a bit more for the exclusivity. The fact that it is designed, and resembles a Ducati with the Ducati red paint job, this is the one I would go with. The orange and blue is nice, but a true enthusiast will want the red and black. Either way your gut leads you, I know you won't find anything like it anywhere on the market, and you will be hard pressed to find a chassis that will attract this much attention amongst the masses of black boxes.

For all these reasons I think that InWin, while breaking the conventions of what a chassis should be, really delivered a great chassis with the D-Frame, and it is worth the price to me.

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After a year of gaming, Chad caught the OC bug. With overclocking comes the need for better cooling, and Chad has had many air and water setups. With a few years of abusing computer parts, he decided to take his chances and try to get a review job. As an avid overclocker, Chad is always looking for the next leg up in RAM, cooling, as well as peripherals.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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