InWin D-Frame Mini Mini-ITX Tower Chassis Review

InWin made waves with its original D-Frame, and now they are back again with its little brother, the D-Frame Mini.

@chad_sebring
Published Fri, Apr 17 2015 9:15 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 6:59 PM CST
Rating: 91%Manufacturer: InWin

Introduction, Specifications and Pricing

InWin D-Frame Mini Mini-ITX Tower Chassis Review 99 | TweakTown.com
VIEW GALLERY - 36 IMAGES

We just had a look at what a more typical chassis from InWin these days, the 707. While in no way a failure, when compared to cases like we are about to see today, the 707 is just not of this caliber. What brings us all together today is another of InWin's PC cases slash artworks that have been all the rage, and are the go to chassis to house your components in on the show floor at all of the events. This is because InWin is the only company out there willing to play around in the open air category of cases. Doing so and allowing designers plenty of leeway when it comes to aesthetics, they have developed some great ideas along the way.

while personally having a look at near all of them, minus the H-Frame, we have seen the evolution start from the X-Frame, where the idea was open air, but more of along the lines of a test bench. Then came the H-Frame which took a different look at how ribs, if you will, can also make up a chassis, while still leaving room for all the vital components. Then was the D-Frame. Some say it looks like a jungle gym, some say a generator, but the hand crafted tubular chassis is intended to mimic the frame of a Ducati motorcycle, and is why it was called the "D"-Frame in the first place. While not an issue for most people who acquired these designs, the fact that they took on ATX systems left the small form factor market drooling without an option to really jump in and enjoy these cases.

Bringing us together today is exactly that. InWin has taken the D-Frame that we liked so much we made it a part of our CPU cooler test system and have not found a single reason to move away from it yet, and is selling a much smaller version for mini-ITX motherboard users. This is not a direct scale version of the original, and in offering a new layout and design, it allowed them to do cool things like space fans correctly for water cooling, add in a handle to the top so it is easy to tote around, and even offer slick thin trays for the storage drives that will highlight the device screwed onto them. While this is in no doubt a showcase chassis where everything is in plain sight, but if you want something to be the envy of all your friends, no doubt offers plenty of cool air to the components, and is perfect for a LAN, it is likely that InWin and the D-Frame Mini Mini-ITX tower chassis is what you need for your build.

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Everything about the tubular and plate design of this D-Frame Mini is hand cut, hand welded aluminum construction, just like what we found on the D-Frame. Along with the thick bits of aluminum, there is also a fair bit of rubber used, in our instance it is molded in red, where all the aluminum is coated in black. The rubber bits on the outer tubes act as feet or bumpers to protect the paint finish, and it is also used on four mounting locations at both sides for the tempered glass panels. This allows them to be screwed down and secured, yet still isolated from grinding against any aluminum components. While this will only house a mini-ITX motherboard inside, video cards and the power supply can be of any normal size.

As far as storage in concerned, there is a trio of plates mounted to the motherboard tray on the open side, and each plate is drilled for either 3.5" drive use, or 2.5" drive use. Also, there is a section of the motherboard tray designed to allow a pair of 2.5" drives to mount directly to it. The front I/O panel is inside of the outer frame, but contains power and reset buttons, LEDs, and HD Audio and USB 3.0 connectivity. The motherboard tray also offers a bracket that allows support for two PCI-e slots. All of this is wrapped up in a package that is 405mm high, 230mm wide, and 501mm deep, and will even support water cooling in the new fan rack at the bottom of the chassis.

While this chassis does come in three color choices, there is one with black tubes with red accents like we received, but there is also an orange tube with blue accent offering, as well as a red tube and black accent version. All of them require the same price at all the various locations we are finding this chassis. At Amazon.com, we found the lowest pricing is $288.99 and also requires $18.65 to ship putting this just over the $300 mark. It can be found, however, for $279.99 over at Newegg.com, and requires nothing extra for shipping.

This close to $300 for a chassis this compact, $20 is not going to make or break this buying choice. But at this price, in a very niche segment of PCs, where SFF users have this sort of cash to spend to show it off, has to be very thin. However, just like its bigger brother, the original D-Frame, we cannot see pricing stopping this train from rolling on.

PRICING: You can find the InWin D-Frame Mini for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The InWin D-Frame Mini retails for $288.99 at Amazon.

Australia: The InWin D-Frame Mini retails for $299 at PLE Computers.

Packaging

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We are not exactly sure about the red sky, the lunar looking rocks, or the fact that it looks like the chassis hit the ground, cracked the asphalt, and is now bouncing back into the air, but it is an eye catching backdrop to the naming and the three different versions of the chassis shown.

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The box is stout as this wide side panel shows. On this side of the packaging, InWin used this space to display the specifications chart, exactly like the one addressed on the page before this.

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To be blunt, it is possible that this side is supposed to be the front, but the only things that change is now there is a better view of the large chassis image in the middle, but the other color options have been removed.

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This last side of the packaging starts off with the color option at the top, where we see ours should be black with red accents. There is then a list of nine features listed in text, and eight features listed at the bottom via the icons and short titles to what they mean.

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While the box may have taken some bumps and shows some bruises, the inner packaging is what counts. Here we find dense open cell foam used at the top and bottom that also surrounds the side quite well. Inside of that is a fabric liner that can be used as a dust cover or travel bag, and all of it worked very well as our D-Frame Mini arrived to us perfect inside of it all.

InWin D-Frame Mini Mini-ITX Tower Chassis

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To InWin, open air is indeed "open air", as you can see right from the front on through to the back of the chassis. There are both lateral and torsion supports added between the matching side rails, and with the large rubber rings in red breaking up all that black, it does have a nice bit of flavour to it.

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Between the angled front rails, just inside of the right side frame, we find the front I/O panel. The power button at the top is backlit, and followed by a tiny reset button. Then we find a pair of USB 3.0 connections and HD audio jacks, followed closely by the HDD activity LED at the bottom.

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The top of the chassis has lateral supports like the front does, but rather than opt for angular beams that would block off access to the rear I/O, they opted instead to use this shape and offer a texture grip handle to lug this show piece from place to place.

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The left side of the chassis offers a smoked glass window to "cover" the components. There are brackets welded to the front beams as well as to the PSU support that allows the glass to float off the chassis and still offer a bit of a view inside.

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The back of the chassis is where the PSU will install, against the plate with the D-Frame Mini name cut out from it. The cool thing about this plate is that the PSU can screw in at either end, so whichever way works best for wiring is the way to go.

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The right side of the chassis is also glass and is hung just like the other side is. While the glass matches the look of the other side, when it comes to seeing a view of wiring, we still aren't sure why a wiring cover was not offered.

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The floor of the chassis is built similar to the front with angled and straight crossbars, and again, another set of four red rubber feet. I say this because this chassis really can sit in any fashion and be used, even if upside down from conventional thinking.

Inside the D-Frame Mini

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Without the glass impeding on our view, we get a good sense of the motherboard tray and the ninety degree orientation. While the hardware is shipped in a box outside of the chassis, we do see the wiring is tended to as not to accidentally cause paint blemished or scratch the glass.

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This is where you are to install storage drives. Each plate screws into the chassis to make mounting a drive easier, and are also drilled for 3.5" or 1.5" drive use.

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The motherboard tray offers four locations for standoffs, and a few smaller cut outs to allow for wiring. The lower section of the tray offers larger holes, but is also where smaller holes denoted for SSDs can be mounted as well.

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At the floor of the chassis in its current orientation, Inwin changed from the single fan brackets in the original to a dual 120mm fan bracket that is also spaced correctly for an AIO or custom radiator.

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That just leaves us with the look out the back of this chassis where we highlight the D-Frame Mini naming cut into the plate in its proper readable orientation. Although not as obvious, even with a PSU installed, the naming is still identifiable.

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Behind the motherboard tray, there is about 20mm from the plate to the inside of the glass. While there appears to be no wire management support, they have you covered there using just screw holes to accomplish it.

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To help hide the wiring behind the glass, all of it is sleeved black. This will reduce the clutter and simplify connecting the front I/O panel LEDs, switches, and native USB 3.0, and HD audio connections.

Accessories and Documentation

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In with the hardware, we find four sealed bags of screws and bits. There is a bag for the motherboard and PSU screws, and another for the HDD screws at the top. At the bottom, we find standoffs and a socket to drive them, and the bag to the right offers the 2.5" drive mounting screws.

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A couple of the screws from the motherboard and PSU bag will also be used for these wire loops. Any of the holes in the tray with threads can be used to accommodate one of these loops, and we get them in two sizes to ensure all wiring can be managed to some degree.

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We also find a folded up microfiber cloth tucked in a bag. This is to allow you to remove fingerprints and not leave smudges or streaks in the glass panels when it comes time to clean them.

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We also get a manual to show you what all came in the box and what they are used for. It also goes through and explains what bits are removable, how to install components, and will get anyone through the build process pretty quickly.

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Since we had one out to mount our SSD to it, we thought we may as well show off the storage trays. This is upside down from the way it installs, but this way it not only shows the spring loaded screws to mount the plate, it also shows the drive mounting holes and options.

Case Build and Finished Product

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With everything in place, it offers a much better perspective to the size of this D-Frame Mini. Of course it is small, but with plenty of room around the edges to swap bits, install water cooling, or access the drives if needed, without any struggle.

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While we did choose to hang the PSU, the orientation is set up to have the fan facing out of the chassis to allow it the best access to cooler air. It also will keep the logo on the other side of the plate from filling up with dirt all the time.

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We stood the D-Frame Mini up into an ATX orientation to show that there is plenty of access to the rear I/O as well as the video card with the way the handle gently curves out of the way of both of them.

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While we were not really under the impression that we could make this all go away, we didn't try real hard to hide it either. With the loops provided, we had no issues finding places right where we needed to tend the wiring and keep it tied down so the glass can go back on over it all.

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The tint of the glass does help some, but even with the reflection of the floor of the photo booth in play, the wiring is pretty easy to see; we just suggest this side faces the wall.

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With both glass panels back on the chassis, we are ready to power it up and have a go at testing. At this point, we just wanted to show a few of the possibilities. While the chassis is specified to run like it is seen here, that is not the only option.

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The thing is though; it can just as easily use four other red rubber pads, and stand in an ATX orientation of the masses of cases on the market. Of course, this moved the front I/O to the top, but if it were sitting on the floor, this may be the better option anyways.

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For those of you who constantly want access to swap parts, but still need to keep the cats from sitting on the fans, this may be the orientation for you. It's more like a test bench in the way it is shown here, but that is the beauty of this design, you determine what works best for you and go with it.

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With the system powered up, the chassis of course made not a single noise as it has no moving parts. Any noise level is determined by the choices you make filling the D-Frame Mini. We also see the blue light in the power button, and managed to get the HDD activity lit at the bottom.

Final Thoughts

For every single reason we liked what the original offered, we feel that the D-Frame Mini has all of those likes included too. The thing is though, the drive mounting got better in our opinion, and upgrading to a dual fan bracket rather than using two singles is a stroke of genius as it is now ready for water cooling right out of the box, unlike the original. Also, in this design, while there are many bars to use as a handle on the big version, this time it is turned correctly for comfort, and is even textured to ensure you do not lose your grip on it. A huge selling point beyond an open air design though, is that it really does not matter which side of the chassis ends up sitting on the table, if it works for you and the cooling is sufficient, who are we to tell you that you have it wrong, and that is a huge success in these designs in our opinion.

Being hand built, and improving things as they did, we did realize that even being much smaller than the original, it would not come cheap, but you have to admit, it is a one of a kind show piece, work of art, sign of deep pockets, whatever you want to call it, even if not for you personally, deep down you are appreciating what this chassis can do, and what InWin is doing as it changes what people think about open air cases. With three color choices, we do like this black with red accents the best, and wish our larger version had this option now. With new panel mounting for the glass and a unique idea of what a Mini-ITX tower can be, InWin definitely has everyone's attention.

While they may only have your attention for the minute or so it takes to look this chassis up on the internet and see its $300 price tag, it is then that the elitists are separated from the enthusiasts. Of course, anyone can own this chassis and have a backdrop to some really awesome mini-ITX based systems in it, but this is for those with really high-end gear that is worth the money to put it into a chassis that is more like a display case for your favorite signed memorabilia, or how light bulbs highlight artwork on the wall.

When entering a room, the D-Frame Mini will be grabbing all the attention and comments to follow. Perfect for LANs, perfect for the gamer on the go, perfect for those that travel and need a little more horsepower than a laptop will offer, or for those who just want to sit and admire it, we feel there is nothing stronger on the market, nothing with the amount of airflow potential, and even without chassis fans, things are cool and comfortable behind the glass. Of course, if InWin sold these hand built D-Frame Mini cases for less, we are sure manufacturing would have to suffer, and nobody wants that, you want this beauty that InWin is showing us now.

PRICING: You can find the InWin D-Frame Mini for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The InWin D-Frame Mini retails for $288.99 at Amazon.

Australia: The InWin D-Frame Mini retails for $299 at PLE Computers.

TweakTown award
Performance92%
Quality including Design and Build99%
General Features93%
Bundle and Packaging90%
Value for Money79%
Overall91%

The Bottom Line: While the D-Frame Mini from InWin is pricey to obtain, in the realm of mini-ITX tower cases, there is nothing this strong, nothing this openly designed and so universal in usage. A true display chassis for those super high-end systems.

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

USUnited States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com

UKUnited Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk

AUAustralia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au

CACanada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca

DEDeutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de

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.

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