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FrozenCPU Blizzard 280
Author: Mike Kitchenman
Date Posted: August 24th, 2001
URL: http://www.slcentral.com/reviews/hardware/cases/frozencpu/blizzard280

Introduction

I'm putting some solid money down on the fact that pretty much every one of you folks out there has a case on that computer you're using presently. Hmmm? Am I right, or what? Lemme know if I'm not: tkitch@systemlogic.net (I'm just really curious to see if some of you don't have computers in a case.) Well, back to the topic at hand, let me throw a few guesses at you folks. (Mind you this only applies to those of you who built the systems yourself, OEM equipment doesn't count.)

  1. A lot of you chose your case based on the price, it was cheap and would fit.
  2. The case would hold enough stuff to make you happy.
  3. It was cheap.
  4. You just clicked on something on the site you got the rest from to hold it.
  5. It's just a case, so what's the big deal?

For a lot of people those questions would have more than one answered "yes". And at the moment I'm sure some of you are pondering number 5 up there wondering just that right about now. Well, my friends, while the case may come as a second thought to a lot of people, most enlightened power users know, that the case is the start of any good system. If you want a great system, you need a good case to get it there. Right now some of you are still thinking "Its just a case" and all I can say is "it is just a case and a monitor is just a monitor and a car is just a car, right?" Well, if you think what I said was right, you definitely need to keep reading and pay attention, because you've been sheltered for way too long.

But It's Just A Case!?!?

Your case is not just a metal box your stuff is in. If you believe that, then you're mistaken in a very bad way. Your case is your system's first line of defense against overheating, and your last resort as well. A 75$ copper heat sink and fan combo won't help you all that much unless you've got a well ventilated case to store it in.

The reason for this is simple, for all the heat sinks and cooling gadgets and everything else we put in our cases, there is one substance that does 90+% of the cooling in our cases, and that is air. Air. The more air the case moves in the right places, the better our hardware runs, and the longer it lasts. The air is the substance that pulls the heat out of the Heat Sinks and other components. A good case will aid this by having enough fan mounts, as well as having them in the right places to allow for better airflow. The other important part of the airflow is the 'where' the air moves in the case. If the air doesn't get near the processor or video card, its not going to do much good there, so making sure the air gets to the hot spots necessary is a big part of a case's design. This is where case modding comes into play, when people want to get fans added to the case to aid in cooling specific areas of the box. However, not everyone has the tools or the know-how to do this themselves. To help fix this some companies have stepped in with some pre-modded cases in order to help out the less than handy-men out there who aren't ready to hack n slash a case.

The one I'm going to be looking at here today is the FrozenCPU Blizzard 280 pre-modded case. This bad-boy comes stock with 3 92mm blowholes as well as a nice overall design to it. All of this is well and good, but looks don't mean much in this kinda case, now its time to tear into this guy and see what he's got inside and what it does. Not to mention see if it can hold its own against one of my modded designs.

Design/Construction

Obviously for a case the Design is one of the most important parts of it, as a bad design makes a bad case. Well, in this area, I can tell you the blizzard does not come up short. Here's a quick list of some cool features it has before I go into detail on them.

  1. Removable door
  2. Smooth edges
  3. Removable motherboard tray
  4. Thumbscrews galore
  5. Room for a RAID 0 + 1 setup and then some
  6. Good fan installs
  7. Case has feet

Removable door, while this may seem like a small issue, as that's common

feature now, its still a very good thing to have. Take it from someone who used a 'U' shaped case for a long time; the door is good to have. At first open, it was a bit tough to move the door as it was a little tight in there, but after I opened and closed it a few times, it was great to work with. Inside of that door they have a pair of 92mm intake fans mounted. The issue they could have had with this was opening the door with the cords coming out (because fans need to be plugged in.) This was avoided by using fans with a nice long cord coming off of them, so you can get some mobility with the door and not have to worry about them limiting your movement too much. Overall the door is good and setup very well.

Smooth edges again are very important to a case, simply because I like my fingers where they are. A sharp edge is the bane of computer people, as they seem to have magnets in them causing us to cut ourselves on them more often than we think we should. From what I saw, there weren't any surfaces that look like they could cause this in there, so I was happy. No battle scars from this case!

Ahhh, yes, the removable motherboard tray, a feature that many companies put in their cases, but almost none get right. A motherboard tray is not a sheet of metal you put the motherboard in and then reinstall it in the case before you add anything else. A motherboard tray is supposed to let you do all the hard work and then put it in the case with everything installed already. So far I've used 2 cases that had done this the right way, my In-Win A500 case and the Blizzard. I fell in love with the tray as soon as I used it.

Screwing a case and components into a case is one of the most annoying things you do with you system when building it, and for those of us who are constantly inside of it, a screwdriver is an annoyance to need. The Blizzard beats that trick with thumbscrews, they've got them in most of the places you could use them. The back of the case is held in with them, many internal pieces of the case are as well, not to mention the fact that FrozenCPU includes a set of their brass thumbscrews for use on the expansion slots with it. It's a very nice touch and a very handy feature.

(Update: After speaking with Mark at FrozenCPU, he now includes extra white thumbscrews instead of brass. They're physically smaller making them easier to work in the small space available there, and they match the others in the case as well.)

One of the separating features of a case is how much it can hold in terms of drives. This one holds 3 5.25" devices, which is average for a mid tower about this size, however, it holds 5 3.5" drive in its normal drive holders, plus two more on the top rack of the case. In other words, you've got room for a DVD, Burner, Live Drive, Floppy, RAID 0+1 setup and then 2 more hard drives after that! I'd show off how it'd look, but I don't have that many drives to put in it! Its broken up like this, a 2 drive caddy at the bottom (which is removable) that locks into a 3 drive caddy which holds the floppy as well, and both of them are secured to the underside of the 5.25" drives. Both drive caddies are removable which makes installing hard drives VERY nice. I hate trying to reach inside the back of the case to install a screw in my drives; it's to annoying to do. No more will I need to do this.

Since the Blizzard is a pre-modded case, it had better have the fans well installed; professionally punched holes with clean edges. To find out I tore apart the side door and found out. Sure enough, they were pretty danged clean; I'd have no trouble saying I did 'em myself.

The last touch this case adds is one for stability. While the case isn't all that narrow, the addition of feet means it'll be extremely difficult to knock it over unless you're trying to. The feet lock into position either in line with the case (so they're hidden) or pop outwards for stability. A pretty handy touch if you ask me.

Overall the blizzard case's design was pretty satisfying to me. There weren't any places I really found it lacking, other than the 3 5.25" bays. However since it is supposed to be a mid tower, I guess I can let it slide on that one. I think I'm going to need to give this a thumbs up for overall design and style. Not a fancy design, but it's far from being an eyesore.

Design: 4/4

Installation

The dreaded system installation step. For a lot of cases, this is one of the most annoying and painful experiences you can have, especially when you don't have enough room to work inside of the case, and your tools don't fit right. The Blizzard doesn't have that problem. I pulled the tray out of the case and built it all right on my lap. No space issues, no sharp edges to run into, no nothing, just a tray with your system on it. I installed everything onto the board, all the way down to the Heat Sink and Fan onto my Tbird. Then I slid the tray back into the case and was ready to plug everything in! My Inwin A500 was a lot like this, which is the only reason its still around my house today. The drives were easy to install as I pulled out the caddies and screwed them in, and then slid the drives into place. It was REALLY close to idiot proof. There wasn't any part of the install that was remotely difficult (compared to normal towers.) The wires that reach from the switches up front to the motherboard were plenty long, and were also tucked discretely out of the way as well. I found no fault with the case for installs.

Installation: 2/2

Cooling Stuff

Well, the Blizzard is a nice and friendly case to work with, which is all well and good, but the point of the case is to cool your system better than a normal setup (or even modded setup.) So I tried it out on my spare system (my main system didn't have good cooling.)

The Combatants

Blizzard 280 from FrozenCPU 2x 92mm side intakes, 1x 92mm top exhaust

Modded Enlight 7237; 120mm front Intake 2x 80mm rear exhaust

(This is a case I've been working on for a bit, I redid some of the design to make it better cooled with a larger intake and additional exhaust fan. I would have taken pictures, but the case is in 8 pieces right now getting painted.)

The System

Intel SE 440 BX2 mobo
P2 350 Retail CPU, Intel heat sink, with back of the coffin removed.
PCI S3 Virge 2MB video
Other stuff that's less important, too.

The Test

Measure the temperature of the back of the CPU and the video card processor while the system is idling and under full load in 3Dmark 2K. Swap cases and run tests again.

Idle
  Room CPU Video
Enlight 7237 26.4 C 33.1 C 36.5 C
Blizzard 280 26.9 C 30.8 C 33.4 C

Load
  Room CPU Video
Enlight 7237 26.3 C 38.1 C 39.7 C
Blizzard 280 26.7 C 36.5 C 36.9 C

(All internal temps were taken with Compunurse probes taped onto the components, and room temps were taken with a radio shack temperature thermometer.)

Well, the blizzard case did win the fight, although it is somewhat loud about it, as the 3 92mm fans are not the slow models. They're a higher CFM model designed for better cooling, but they're notably noisier than a lot of stock models.

Cooling: 3.5/4

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Easy as heck to work with
  • Motherboard tray rocks
  • Cools very well
  • Pretty roomy inside
  • Thumbscrews

Cons

  • Kinda loud

Conclusion

I'm kinda upset. All this time thought that I was a better modder than those guys who were making pre-modded cases. Guess what? I lose. Oh, well, I guess that means I gotta give it a pretty good mark, since there was little I disliked other than the volume level of the fans.

Would I recommend this case to people? Probably. Anyone who wants a cooler case, but doesn't think they have the handy work skills to make it happen themselves would likely be VERY happy with the Blizzard case.

Rating: 9.5/10 SystemLogistics

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