Bigger than a bread box, but smaller than a similar looking Dragon case.
Ultra's Wizard takes a proven design and puts it in a smaller package.
Recently, the company I work for was in the market for some new builds. We were spoiled by our first supplier because they supplied us with a nice mini-tower case, of heavy gauge steel, blue trim (blue is the company color,) front USB and Firewire and a decent power supply for only $59. Prior to this, I was used to getting cases with razor thin edges and crappy power supplies unless we were willing to spend $100. After that supplier screwed up a few consecutive orders, we decided to look for another supplier. Most of the cases we ran into were the cheaper, flimsy cases with cheap power supplies and bland looks. Albeit they were in the neighborhood of $30 to $50 and had the front USB, it was clear that front USB does not a decent case make. We were spoiled and we had to get our fix for a decent case for our next batch of builds.
A friend suggested the new Ultra Wizard. We looked at the pictures and liked what we saw. Although difficult to gauge the gauge of steel (pun intended) by looking at a photograph, we could see that the case had a sturdy look to it, had front USB and Firewire and what looked like a nice blue color. Essentially, the case looked like a Chen Ming Dragon (aka Chieftec Dragon, aka Ultra Dragon, aka Antec Performance) only shorter in stature, making it something unique to Ultra. This similarity in appearance wasn't at all surprising as this case is also made by Chen Ming, but it's good to see that they've taken a proven, accepted design and modified it to meet a particular market niche.
The price of the case was $59.99. This was the same price we were paying for the other case we had been using, but the Wizard didn't come with a power supply. Knowing a decent power supply was going to raise the cost of our system by $40 to $50 we weren't too happy with having to fork out $100 or more just for our chassis solution, but we figured we'd at least take a look at it and see if we would end up with something that would give the perception of a PC that was now worth 10% more than what we had been selling in the past. We convinced a supplier to comp us an MS-Blue Wizard case, and they were nice enough to get us a case with a window, which sells for $10 more at $69.99. $10 for a window kit isn't bad at all. Sold separately, a window kit alone will sell for $20 by itself, but since we're already a few bucks over budget, a window wasn't really our biggest concern.
We received the case in a large glossy box. The box itself was a giant advertisement for the case with large color photos and a list of features. The box didn't have handles cut into the cardboard to help with carrying it, so we had some fun with the UPS guy and threw some obstacles in front of him as he carried the case into the office, up high, with his view of the hallway ahead of him blocked. When we opened the box, we saw the usual white foam cushions on either side of the case. In between the foam was our MS-Blue Wizard, wrapped in plastic. I pulled the case out of the plastic and immediately realized that this case is a LOT darker than the picture on the box or on the web. I didn't mind the color at all, but it was almost black. Not even a navy blue because there was no green tint to the color at all. It was just a deep, deep, deep, pure blue.
Here's the Wizard with it's door open. In the picture it does look quite blue, but that's primarily due to the flash.
The color is actually much darker than any photo of the Wizard I've seen.
The case felt sort of light, and at first I thought it was just because of the lack of power supply. But as I moved the case across the office, I used the hole that the power supply would bolt into as a handle. I felt the case almost cut into my skin and I dropped the case. I opened up the case and found that most of the case is made of pretty thin steel. Not quite as thin as the $30 to $50 cases that are out there, but thinner than your typical $50-$70 case, and definitely thinner steel than the Dragon case.
Inside The Case
First things first, we took the side panel off of the case. The window side panel comes off by unscrewing two thumbscrews and then sliding back the panel. The acrylic for the window is VERY thick. It's virtually clear, but at certain angles it has almost a purple tint to it. Despite the thickness, there was no distortion. In fact, when I put my hand right up to the window, the acrylic actually looked paper thin. I was so fooled by it's clarity that I actually popped the clips off from around the edge of the case and took the window off so I could get a better look at it!
Mounted onto the window is an adjustable air-duct. This air-duct is required to meet Intel's 1.1 version of the Chassis Design Guide. Essentially, if you are using a Pentium 4 on a motherboard that follows Intel's reference design, the air-duct can be extended to just over the CPU fan, so the CPU doesn't recirculate the same hot air over and over again. The duct brings outside air straight into the intake of the CPU fan providing maximum cooling. In a smaller case, like this one, high ambient temperatures can really kick your butt, so having one of these air-duct in the side panel is nice.
Of course, you don't have to have a Pentium 4 to take advantage of this air-duct. Most motherboards put the CPU right in the vicinity of this duct, even AMD CPU's. Another thing you can do is put a fan in between the window and the air-duct and force air into the case. This doesn't always work well, that is when two fans are right on top of each other, but when using a heatsink that doesn't incorporate a fan, like the Zalman Copper Flower, it works perfectly.
I opened the case and found two Ziploc bags. One with some screws in it and one with a pair of keys for the case's front door. There was also a silica packet inside the case which read, "Throw away. Do not eat." Although I've heard that silica pellets are quite tasty with asparagus, I threw the packet away as instructed.
Once inside the case, I also found the USB header cable and the Firewire header cable. Every Firewire header I've seen has had the same pin-out, but not every USB header. Unlike some cases, both sides of the USB header on the Wizard case are all on one connector instead of splitting the header into two five pin connectors. This means if you have a USB header on your board where the 5V pins are on opposite sides of the header from each other, you can't use the front USB (at least not without modification.) Be careful. I've seen some motherboards that have CAUGHT FIRE when the USB header is hooked up incorrectly, so please refer to your motherboard manual prior to hooking up the front USB port.
Looking around the inside of the case, I noticed a lot of rivets. EVERYTHING is riveted. Virtually NOTHING is removable. This means that you can ship this case without having things fall off unexpectedly, but that also means the case isn't very modular. I took the other side of the case off and found that the tray that the motherboard mounts to is ALSO riveted in place.
There is the typical provision for a fan in the rear of the case, just below the power supply, as well as a provision in the front. The provision in the front brought me some concern. There's no "basket" for the fan to mount to. One must remove the face plate to screw the fan into place. This isn't such a big deal as the face plate pops right off, but the reason Ultra did not use a basket to house the fan in the front is because there simply isn't any room for a basket with the two additional 3.5" bays.
On the right, you can see how the front face plate pop off, then you can screw the fan into the inside using screws going in from the outside.
You really start to realize how small this case is, even in depth, when you install the front case fan and then install a hard drive in the lower 3.5" bay. Unfortunately, the hard drive ends up sticking out into the case so far, that you can't get a full size ATX motherboard inside! You either have to pull out the hard drive or use a smaller motherboard if you want to get the board installed, and it's not like you can take the motherboard tray off the other side. Remember? It's riveted on! With some smaller cases this front drive mount cage comes off with a couple screws. Not this one. It's riveted on! Fortunately, there's enough drive bays where I can mount the hard drive anywhere I want without using the bottom two bays.
On the left, I've mounted the hard drive in one of the two lower 3.5" bays. Note how far the drive sticks out. This is because of the fan mount in the front of the case.
On the right, you can see how well the hard drive tucks into one of the upper 3.5" bays.
In fact, this thing is SICK with drive bays considering how small the case is. Ultra literally utilized every bit of space in the front of the case as a place to mount a drive. Up front we have 4 5.25" bays. One comes outfitted with a 5.25" to 3.5" adapter. This is meant for a floppy drive. Below these, we have three internal 3.5" bays. As if that weren't enough, you have the two aforementioned bays at the bottom, just in front of the front fan. Because of the plentiful drive bays, I'm not going to grade against the Wizard for having the two "almost-useless" drive bays at the bottom. I was thinking about grading against Ultra for not turning the lower five internal 3.5" bays sideways so drives can slide in and out without motherboard interference, but then I thought about Ultra's own power supplies. They do not have 90 degree connectors and the end pieces of an Ultra X-Connect power supply are so stiff, you can't even bend them 90 degrees to make them work if the drive bays were turned sideways. Hmm..... Too bad. We'll just have to live with it being a little cramped up front. Heck, if you want more space, you really should be getting a bigger case anyway!
Here you can see the top 3 external 5 1/4" bays, the one external 3 1/2" bay, the three internal 3 1/2" bays directly below that
and then two more 3 1/2" bays even farther down in front of the front fan.
My final observation is the lack of feet. There isn't even little rubber stick on feet. After finding out how easily the case slid across my terrazzo floors, my wife and I decided to play some Curling in the kitchen with the case. It was fun to watch my wife use a Clorox Ready-Mop to "sweep" the "ice." But I digress. A case needs feet. Otherwise it's going to slide about your office floor or desk. Having metal on wood, or tile or whatever is just not good. Maybe it was supposed to come with feet and they just didn't make it in my box.
Now that it has been three weeks since I initially received the case and we're finally at the end of my review, I can tell you about the durability of the case. Because of work and Christmas... being hungover during New Year's weekend... I've been too busy to write this review in one or two days like I usually do, so the case has been with my 2-year old in my kitchen and living room and bouncing around the back of the company van. I can say without a doubt the finish is durable. The case survived without a single scratch. Not even the acrylic window suffered a scratch despite my daughter's best efforts. The only damage I managed to incur was pushing in the rear fan grill with my hand. This happened fairly easily because steel is not very durable when it's thin and then you perforate it, but it pushed back out easily enough and by installing a fan in the back, the steel will be reinforced and not dent in again.
Overall, I give this case a score of "9". Here's how that breaks down:
Now, a lot of these pro's and con's may or may not apply to most people out there. If you're looking for a shorter stature case, with a window and only plan on using 1 external 3 1/2" device and no more than three internal 3 1/2" devices (leaving the bottom two drive bays empty) then the only draw backs this case really has is the thin steel and the lack of removable motherboard tray. This is why I don't hesitate to give this case such a good score.
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