Opus TT-501 - IntroductionIntroduction
We've made note of this before, but the world of computer enclosures has made huge changes from the basic box designs of ages past. Another startling example of this concept is the target of today's article, namely the Opus TT-501 Titanium Tiny Tower.For those not familiar with Opus Technologies, the company has been around for several years. They started out life by producing software and motherboards for the European community, but decided to bring something new to market for US consumers. This doesn't mean their product line isn't available in other locales, but their primary aim is the US enthusiast market in the areas of high-end enclosures and power supplies.In the not too distant past we had the opportunity to take a peek at their mid-size titanium enclosure, the MT-200. It had several interesting features and today we are going to see if the mATX TT-501 can earn the same level of respect!
Opus TT-501 - ExteriorThe Exterior
We'll begin with the front side of the box since that is customary. When we close the covered panels we are left with a clean appearance that doesn't look out of place sitting on any desk (except for maybe the finish, which we'll talk about shortly). It has simple lines and is generally pleasing to the eye.
Toward the top of the enclosure is a small LCD panel. It handles the monitoring of such tasks as hard drive activity, fan speeds and internal temperatures via three thermal probes that can be placed anywhere inside the box. Though they are listed as CPU, Hard Drive and System, the choice is really yours as to where to mount them. While not extraordinary in function, it is a nice touch to have installed on the case as a standard item.
Moving down to the top door panel we see the two optical drive bays. Remember, this is a small design made for the minimal mATX boards so does not have the space for the full compliment of four to five optical drives. The design is for those who hold space at a premium and this Opus case does a fine job of maximizing the space it has available.
Moving on down to the bottom of the enclosure shows us the front mounted I/O ports. Just because we have a smaller than normal design doesn't mean we have to leave out useful options. The default configuration comes with a pair of USB 2.0 ports and audio plugs for headphones and microphone. Also tucked away just to the right of the I/O ports is the reset button for the system.
Closing up the front panels and moving around to the side brings us to the major item of interest with regards to this case, the finish. As designated in the name of the enclosure, the finish has a titanium coating sprayed onto the exterior. To say that it is like a mirror is a no-brainer as you can see by the reflection of the carpet fibers in this photo. Lets take a closer look at the finish to show you what I mean...
While my skills at photography certainly don't do full justice to the sheer brilliance of the TT-501, the detail picked up in the reflection of a small vase shows the details and helps you realize how well done the finish really is. Unlike the mid-size MT-200 with its checkerboard pattern, this model has nothing in the way to mar the beauty of the titanium coating.As a side note, you should keep in mind that with this shiny coating comes the necessity of having to wipe off fingerprints as they appear, but this is a small price to pay considering the looks you will get when others see your machine.
Sliding around to the back shows what we would expect to see. There isn't a lot of room for imagination here, though, since the enclosure still has to be compatible with current motherboards.
For those who haven't caught on yet, this is the bottom of the case. As you can see for yourselves, the mirror finish goes all the way around. The front and back panels are the only surfaces not treated with the titanium coating. This allows you to set the case down on its side of you prefer to have it in that position without having to hide the base of the enclosure.I just love it when manufacturers pay attention to details like this.
Opus TT-501 - InteriorThe Interior
Now that we've gotten over the luster of the exterior, lets take a look at what comes on the inside of the box. With the small footprint we already know it won't have the space we've grown accustomed to in larger enclosures, but we need to make sure we have enough room for a decent system.
Mounted toward the top of the unit are the hard drives. Since the only thing mounted on the top portion of the exterior of the box is an LCD panel, we have room to spare right behind it. A single screw allows you to remove the hard drive tower and gives you room for a pair of standard 3.5" drives. With modern drives, this can give you upwards of 600GB of storage space, so will fit in with a good system.
Below the hard drive bays is the cage for the two optical drives. Again, a single screw can be removed to take the cage out of the enclosure for easy mounting of the drives. They mount sideways from what you're likely used to, but I have had no troubles using them in this manner. Since a vast majority of CD and DVD drives come with small extending tabs for just this purpose, the disks can still be easily inserted and accessed as normal.You may be asking why there is a gap between the cage and the base of the enclosure. This gap, while being very close enough in size to allow another drive to be mounted, gives room for the IDE cables. The mainboard will be sitting directly beneath this cage and many of them place the IDE channels right under this location (as with the Albatron board used in today's piece). This still allows you to get the cables from the drive to the mainboard with little trouble.
At the bottom the case is the FDD bay. Since the I/O ports take up one of the externally accessible openings, you are left with room for a single 3.5" device. Whether you prefer a floppy drive or some sort of other backup media device is up to you.
Unlike many enclosures available today, the TT-501 comes with a power supply. Considering the small design, this is a good idea, as a normal sized unit won't fit the enclosure.The unit included is a 300-watt Topower model, which should be more than capable of handling a normal system installed. While not enough to handle the powerful enthusiast rigs, it can still handle multiple drives and a strong processor with a better than average video board.
Opus TT-501 - CoolingCooling
As stated several times already, this enclosure is designed for the mATX form factor motherboards. This is a board that is considerably smaller than a normal model, so the case is also sized down for those who are in need of a good system with a minimum of space. This should give you an idea as to the actual size we're talking. The comparison shown above has the TT-501 sitting in front of a standard sized Lian-Li PC60 enclosure.With dimensions of 16" x 13" x 5 7/8", we're talking a small case. Given the small footprint, cooling is a major concern. This especially holds true when you're talking about using a modern processor, which can be rated at heat outputs of well over 85 watts. Since space is at a minimum, there are a couple of things that the Opus folks have added to try to combat this excess heat buildup.
There are no active intake fans within the TT-501. With space being as restricted as it is in this model, there just wasn't enough room. This doesn't mean that airflow is nonexistent, though. With venting from the top and bottom, this pair of exhaust fans on the back of the case still allow for air movement within the enclosure. While not the best for cooling, it was still capable of maintaining stable temperatures using an Athlon XP processor. Temperatures ran about 4-5C warmer than on a normally aspirated case design. While significant, the results were still acceptable and you should not have any problems with stability due to excess heat.
Another concept used to help with the heat is this CPU ducting. Since the rear fans are in essence pulling air in from the intake vents, this helps direct the air being pulled from the top of the enclosure to land squarely onto the HSF handling the processor cooling chores. This helps the HSF by having cool outside air being forced onto the base of the sink to help in cooling.
Opus TT-501 - ConclusionConclusion
When space is at a premium, compromises have to be made. Available space for components is the first thing to be reduced, and many times features are thrown out the window as well. When you are looking at smaller form factors, it is good to know that you can still have some of those amenities.First and foremost with the TT-501 product is the beautiful finish you'll get. It is guaranteed to turn some heads and still gives you that space-saving enclosure. From there we can move on to the LCD display that monitors temperatures and fan speeds, and even acts as a small rheostat device. Going on we notice the CPU ducting and the included power supply. You can see there is a list of features here.Of course, cooling is also not the greatest, but as tested, you can still expect to receive stable operating temperatures. System installation can also be a challenge with the small working areas, but this is to be expected in an enclosure of this stature.As far as price goes, the unit is available from Opus Technologies directly for US$110. I have yet to find it anyplace but the Opus site so it appears they are working as the sole distributorship of their product line.Bottom line... If you've been looking for a new enclosure but don't have the space for a normal sized model, there are several choices available. If, on the other hand, you're in this situation and want something that is more than just a little out of the ordinary, the TT-501 may be just what the doctor ordered. With a titanium finish that is truly mirrored and features that are often left off smaller case designs, there is a lot to be said for it. Cooling is a bit iffy, but can be worked out with a little imagination and some fans (or maybe water?)- Pros
Beautiful finishMirrored on all four sidesLCD monitoring/fan control deviceCPU ducting to aid cooling- Cons
Cooling isn't greatNo options for better PSUBit priceyRating - 8.5 out of 10