I'm going to have to say this.. right off the bat... Ultra's new Aluminus case is simply fantastic.
It was almost unfortunate that I received it at the same time Ultra provided me with the new X-Finity power supply with FlexForce cables. This is because Ultra has decided to point their focus on the task of making it easier for their users to hide cables. And although the FlexForce cables of the X-Finity power supply make hiding cables simple regardless of what case you use, the new Aluminus case makes hiding power leads easy regardless of what power supply you use.
Ultra accomplishes this by making their chassis almost completely modular and installing a vanity cover plate over the drive bays where power and data cables may normally be in plain sight.
Ultra starts off with your standard "Dragon-looking" aluminum case, make sure the motherboard tray is removable, add sideways mounted removable hard drive trays that can be installed from either side of the case.
We start our build by removing the aluminum motherboard mounting tray. This tray is screwed into place with only two screws.
All of the stand-offs required to mount the motherboard is included with the case. Once the motherboard is mounted to the tray, we can install the tray back into the motherboard.
In the above picture, you can see my hairy arm screwing the motherboard tray back into place. After going through this process I did realize that, for the sake of hiding all of your cables, you may not want to pull the tray out of the case in order to install your motherboard. For example, the Asus A8N-E I installed in this build for my daughter has it's 2x2 12V connector located in the back upper quadrant of the board. With my X-Finity's FlexForce cables, I'm able to easily route the 2x2 cable underneath the motherboard. Naturally, if I had a modular power supply like Ultra's new X-Connect X2, I could actually route the cable underneath the motherboard outside of the case, and then plug the cable into the motherboard once the tray is installed back into the case.
Looking at the overall construction of the case, one can't help to be impressed. In the above photo, note the card slot portion of the case riveted into place. And note the 90 degree gusset holding the back and the bottom of the case sturdily in place.
Moving back to the outside of the case, we see the typical "Dragon style" design complete with door. To access the 3.5" drive bays we simply swing the entire front panel open.....
...And this exposes all of our drive bays and front fan mount.
The bracket for the front fan snaps right off allowing you to install a 120MM intake fan. And the entire 3.5" external drive bay slides right out so you can mount your LS120, floppy, USB hub, etc.
Once the 3.5"drives are in place, you can move to the 5 1/4 bays.
The 5 1/4 drives mount with simple plastic rails, so all one has to do is screw two rails onto each drive with two screws per rail and slide them into place.
Before we can shut the door on our newly mounted drives, we need to unscrew the drive bay cover plates from the door. That's right... they don't snap off. They screw off! No chance on accidentally knocking a few block off plates out carrying the PC to the next LAN party (Admit it! It's happened!)
Now that our drives are installed in front of the case, we can move to the side where we're going to mount our hard drives. The drive trays slide right out of the side. In the above photo you can see the rubber grommets that help isolate any noise from vibration.
Above you can see where I've mounted the hard drive in the "normal" fashion with the connectors facing the window. But if you want to completely hide your IDE and power cables....
...Ultra allows you to slide the drive tray in from the other side. Making the cables completely transparent to your on-looking buddies. Boo-yeah!
Now that all of our drives are mounted, we can hook up the power. To make this job look clean, Ultra uses a big aluminum vanity plate to cover the entire side of the drives bays. To make this job easy, the plate comes off with only four screws.
To make the rest of the cabling look neat, Ultra allows us to snake our power cables through large holes located above and below each drive bay.
FlexForce or not, route the cables through the holes.. cover them up with the vanity plate... and chances are your friends are going to look into your case's window and see nothing more than a motherboard floating inside of the case with no cables!!!
In the above picture, the build is pretty much done. The only eye soar is the front panel (power, HDD LED, reset, etc.) connector wires. I have them wound up in a service loop because my sample case did not have wires long enough to bring the wires down the front of the case and then along the bottom.
I brought this up with the folks at Ultra and they informed me that they were already aware of the issue and that the production version of the case has long enough wires to allow hiding them along the back.
Once everything is installed, you can't see any cables! You can see only the end of the ATX cable because the rest of it is routed behind the drive bays on the other side of the case. And you can barely see the floppy cable, SATA cable and power cables for the drives because they're all hidden behind the vanity plate.
My little girl is checking in on the work I'm doing (I'm a proud father.. Her picture had to get in here somewhere.)
So now the build is done. That's it. Side panel is on (as you can tell from the VGA vent in the window) and this is all you see. ALL motherboard. No obstruction from cables. Which not only makes everything look cool.. but keeps everything cool too because there is no obstruction of airflow either!
I know I may sound like Ultra's bitch here (wasn't I Silverstone's bitch last month?) but I'm telling you... If you get the Ultra Aluminus case you WILL NOT be disappointed. One thing I didn't like about the case is the fact that it has a door over the drive bays. All of my cases in the past have been either Lian-Li or Enlight with their retro industrial appearance... I like that. I don't tend to like doors over my drives. But this case is so cool in so many ways that I'm wanting to buy one for my own build! Who cares about the door? But I will suggest to Ultra that they should consider making one without a door for Retro-Geeks like me.
The other thing I didn't like about this case is the lack of a front USB. Ultra will be including a 3.5" bay USB/Firewire/Front Audio device with the case. They offered me a device similar to what they'd be including with the production version, but I think I'll just stick with the black, aluminum Silverstone version I have.
So... Even though I'd like to take the score down because of the door, that's not really fair since the Dragon design is very popular... as are doors. I'm just "different" I guess. Only because of the lack of integrated front USB does this case get a 9.5. For the removable motherboard tray, holes in the sides of the drive bays where you can snake cables, a vanity plate that covers the side of the drive bays, hard drive bays that allow you to install the hard drive one of two ways and a very large window that shows off how cool your cable job is... and the fact that the MSRP is only $99 w/o PSU (models will be available with a power supply) this case gets an SLCentral Editor's Choice Award.
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