In the eTeknix office this week we have something a little different, ok a lot different! We have the super rare, expensive and exclusive In Win Tou PC chassis and we feel very lucky indeed.
The In Win Tou is part of the premium range that In Win have been building, this means it sits alongside unique products such as the H-Frame and the D-Frame, both of which are pretty insane in their own right, but it looks like In Win are pushing the boundaries of what we think of as a PC chassis even further than before.
“tòu in Chinese means transparent. The design concept comes from glass building, we use 3mm tempered glass together with aluminium structure. With special glass coating if you switch on the LED you can see the components inside. When the internal lights are off, the chassis is pretty much just a mirror.” – In Win
The Tou, which I’m told is pronounced “toe or tow”, is made from glass and lots of it! Set upon an aluminium frame and at first glance it resembles more of a display case than a pc case. The concept behind the Tou is based around modern architecture, much like we see on fancy glass faced office blocks and as you can see from their concept design are work there are some unique inspirations that you don’t really see in PC chassis designs… until now at least.
The chassis is fairly well equipped and supports a single 5.25″ drive, 2 x 2.5″ drives, 3 x 3.5″ drives, a PSU of up to 220mm. There is also full USB 3.0 support, room for 7 expansion cards and there are four 120mm fans included (pre-installed), with room for water cooling radiators of up to 360mm.
As you can see from the specifications above, the Tou isn’t a small chassis and is about on par with other premium full-tower chassis, although I suspect this product wasn’t really intended to be tucked away under a desk where it can not be seen, it should still fit into most under desk spaces.
We normally fire on with a look at the packaging here, but since we had a non retail box I shall pass over that bit. In the box you can expect to find a few extras, these including the usual booklet and screws you will find some screw down cable ties, these are great for keeping things tidy and cable management will be extremely vital in a build of this type.
Glass is a fingerprint magnet, so when you have a nearly all glass exterior on your chassis you are going to need to keep it clean, fortunately In Win provide a good quality microfibre cloth to help with maintenance.
Finally we have these squeezable suction cups, these can be joined onto the side panel windows and will assist you in lifting the glass panel away from the frame. You can use your hands, but it’s obviously good to keep finger prints away from the shiny PC case.
That’s the accessories out of the way, now let’s get right into the cool stuff and take a look at the chassis up close.
The Tao chassis features a large glass panel on the left side, all the sheets of glass are 3mm thick tempered glass and all have a gorgeous mirror finish.
There are five smaller panels on the left side that surround the main side panel. each of which is either held in place by either four thumb screws or the large flat head bolts. The thumb screws are on the panels which most often need removing, where as the screws are on the panels that you’re unlikely to need to remove when installing your components.
The bottom panel is the same width as the side panel and covers to the height of your PSU. From the right angles the case is transparent, allowing some sneaky peaks inside.
The top panel features an interesting mixture of 3, 4 and 5 sided shapes that gives it a pretty funky look, it’s also the only visible side that doesn’t feature a glass panel. Instead of the glass we get three pre-installed 120mm exhaust fans, each fitted to the chassis using rubber washers and high quality screws.
The left side panel slopes from the top right as the chassis is slightly taller towards the front. The two smaller vertical glass panels at either side of the left side panel are angled towards the front and back panels, although it is safe to say that none of the panels are on at 90 degree angles, everything has a unique slope or shape to it.
Each of the four corners of the chassis features a cast aluminium handle, these act as the feet on the base of the chassis, but also as the carry handles on the top of the chassis.
The main front panel features an “I” shaped section of glass, the cut-away section on each side of it will allow for airflow into the chassis. At the bottom of the chassis we have a single 5.25″ bay opening, more than enough for an optical drive or card reader.
The front panel glass is textured towards the bottom, printed with the Tou logo, as well as four controls. These controls are touch sensitive and when you place your hand near it, the red LED (just above the “In Win” logo) lights up. A light touch is all that is needed to active the features. From left to right we have LED lighting brightness down, brightness up, fan speed toggle and power. There is also a master power switch for the system (not just the lighting) on the bottom I/O panel, this also features a pair of USB 3.0 ports as well as HD audio.
As you can see, the front is nice and reflective, while I often don’t want my office carpet or my leg to be in the photo, it’s a nice demonstration of just how reflective this chassis can be. If you look really closely you can just about make out a fan installed behind the glass panel.
The right side of the chassis is identical to the left, featuring one large panel surrounded by five smaller ones.
Around the back of the chassis we see something strange indeed, there is no motherboard I/O, no sign of the expansion bays, or even a PSU cut-out, all of these are hidden inside the chassis, so we get clean glass looks even from the back!
There is a gap between the back panel and the smaller glass panel at the bottom. The large opening is to allow your HDMI, audio cables and other connections to hook up to the expansion slots that sit a few inches behind this glass panel. There is also room for a power cable to run between the bottom leg/stand and the lower glass panel.
The underside is fairly featureless but it does feature another funky mesh design, perfect for letting your PSU breath, although I do think a sneaky dust filter would have been nice just to keep the PSU fans clean and tidy.
There are 16 glass panels in total, six the left, six on the right, two on the front and two more on the back. With the chassis lights off the case is highly reflective like a mirror, although some internal features do shine through a little bit from the right angle or in strong lighting conditions.
With the side panel removed we get our first look at the interior. As you can see, the back plate is pretty solid with just a few cut outs for cable routing and management. There is no CPU cooler mounting cut-out, so that will need to be installed prior to installation of the motherboard. The cable routing cut-outs don’t feature grommets but they do have smooth edges.
In the base we can see there is a massive space for a PSU, while on the right there is the casing around the 5.25″ bay and the pre-installed cables that handle USB 3.0, I/O panel, bundled fans and the fan controller panel. Running along the bottom of the chassis is a red and black wire, this connects the two LED strip lights that run down the left and right side of the frame interior.
Cables here look a little messy and I’m surprised In Win hasn’t done a better job of enclosing them, but there are a few cable routing holes nearby, so we should be able to tidy that up fairly well. There is a single 120mm intake fan mounted using a shock proof rubber strap near the front of the chassis.
Here we see three removable shelves that support 3.5″ hard drives, although you can also directly screw a 2.5″ drive to the back plate just next to the intake fan.
There is a rear mounting bracket that acts as the back of the system, as least as far as mounting your GPU and motherboard is concerned, allowing you to screw your devices in place much like you would in any other chassis.
The mounting plate stands a few inches from the glass and that will allow heat from your components fans to exhaust up and out of the chassis, rather than build up behind the system, although there does appear to be extra openings near the base that will allow your PSU to exhaust better, but also allow you a gap to route power, monitor and peripheral cables to their ports behind the glass.
Around the back I found a huge amount of space for cable management, more so than just about any chassis on the market and we can easily get a huge amount of cables cable here, cable tie them down and keep everything tidy. So let’s get to it and build our system inside the Tou, because I’m sure your dying to see what this thing looks like when it is powered up!
First things first, here you can better see how the power cable routes into the chassis, while the 2nd gap just above would be used to route all other cables such as monitor and peripheral cables.
Total build time on the Tou was about an hour, could I have done it quicker? Absolutely! Did I take my time in case I broke something, you bet I did! Although after half an hour of tinkering, it soon became apparent that I was being over cautious, this thing is solid as a rock, tempered glass is very strong and the sand cast aluminium frame is incredibly sturdy.
As you can see, we’ve made good use of the cable management, things are looking very neat and tidy with just a few trailing fan cables looking a little out of place.
I was able to tidy up the front cables a little, and I’ve made good use of the modular In Win Serenity 900W power supply to minimise the cables we required for the build, although we were hardly struggling for cable routing space I was just making every effort for a clean build.
One interesting choice I made was to use a passive CPU cooler (Cooler Master TPC 800), partly because it has a similar colour that compliments the build, but it’s also a tall cooler and fit with 5mm to spare. I had originally gone to install the Corsair H100i and it looked absolutely horrible, it’s a great looking cooler and the Tou does hold it, but it just didn’t feel right. I had to strip out all three top fans from the Tou, mount the rad with a push pull config to avoid the reservoir conflicting…long story short, if you are going to put a radiator in this thing, do it justice and get a custom loop.
There is more than enough space for our CPU to breath here, certainly more than enough room for a multi-GPU configuration.
The front fan is unobstructed and thanks to the generous openings at the front of the chassis, as well as the built in fan speed controller, cooling shouldn’t be an issue and our GPU will get a lot of airflow when it is needed.
There is a huge amount of clearance above the motherboard, as I said before – I was able to mount the H100i here with a push pull fans mounted, so more than enough for a thick radiator if that is what you wish.
From a standing position the build looks absolutely fantastic, well presented and clean, but best of all, we haven’t even turned the lights on yet! So let’s get that side panel back in place and hit the lights.
In a fairly bright room with the lights on full we see the chassis glows quite nicely, what was once a mirror that is now transparent and giving off a blue, but slightly purple tinted tone. As you can see it was really important to get cable management right and picking the right components for your build has never been so vital from a design point of view, they really are on show from every angle and if something is out of place, it could ruin the whole design.
Now we have a much darker room, with the lighting on its lowest setting. My camera is on a slow exposure so it is making the strip light on the right look really bright, but in reality all we have is the subtle glow bouncing off the back plate and the edge of the GPU.
The front panel lights up with such a subtle tone and the frosted glass effect helps capture the light really well, bringing a little bit of focus to the front panel.
The hard drives could be viewed on their shelves, the CPU cooler hanging in the back and the ram sitting nicely in the middle, it really is quite strange to have this view of a computer from this angle, but it does look pretty cool.
Light does escape the top of the chassis a little more than the rear, but it doesn’t spoil the effect at all and the mixture of bright and dark sections just adds to the whole mood of the design, assenting certain features and panels more than others dependant on the angle you look at it from.
So there we have it, the In Win Tou, one of the craziest and most impressive looking chassis we have ever had the pleasure of reviewing and it has certainly been a lot of fun to work with. It makes an impressive statement and also makes for quite the spectacle too, but the big question is, should you buy one?
The chassis is far from perfect (although come to think of it there are none that truly are perfect) and it has a few flaws that could put some people off, while others would just embrace them. The first and most obvious one to me is the price, it’s £625 and no matter what way you look at it, that is a rather huge number for a PC case. Yet that price is what it is for good reason, we’ve got tempered glass, and lots of it! A sand cast aluminium frame and a heck of a lot of hand made components that have been well crafted and bolted together, this thing was not stamped out on a production line, it was crafted and you can’t put a price on that kind of quality. Aside from the materials being expensive, it is also well designed, it is highly exclusive with only a few hundred being produced (as far as I know), the one we have for review is actually the Special Edition #2, I guess In Win are keeping #1 to them selves.
Maintenance could turn into a small nightmare if you don’t keep up with it, this is not an air filtered case and if you have a dusty environment then you’re going to be reaching for the microfibre cloth often. While dust obviously has implications on the performance of some components such as cooling fans, it could really ruin the visuals of this beautiful PC case, because lets face it, you’ll want to keep it sparkling! On a plus note though, you can easily remove any one of the glass panels and this makes them easy to clean on both sides.
There is also a fear of breaking it, while the glass is incredibly strong, it’s still prone to chipping, especially around the weaker corners and edges. Of course a little care and attention goes a long way, but you do feel aware that your lifting a fully loaded glass box that “if” dropped, may be hard to replace.
OK that is it, as far as I am concerned there are no other down sides, but I do have a great list of benefits of owning this chassis. First of all has to be the design, flat out it is one of the greatest looking chassis I have ever seen. With the lights out it’s a mirrored marvel that conceals the system inside it, but power up the lights and it becomes translucent just as all your components come to life, it feels like an unveiling every time you power it up. It’s also a great presentation case, I imaging manufacturers using these to show off their new motherboards or any shiny internal component.
The touch panel feels really cool too, it isn’t something you really see on the PC chassis market yet and it feels modern and sleek to operate. Having the built in fan controller, light controller and even a demo “breathing” light effect is a nice touch and they all compliment the chassis well.
Bragging rights is another benefit too, it’s a show in its own right and the response we’ve seen around this chassis at trade shows just proves that, people can’t stop taking pictures of it and if In Win were creating this as a publicity stunt to show what they can do, it certainly appears to be working for them.
- Glass and aluminium construction really stand out.
- The lighting effect is impressive.
- Hard drive shelves look really cool.
- Build quality as well as the level of engineering is incredible.
- Price is high, although it is easy to see why.
- Dust could quickly become a problem if you don’t keep up with maintenance.
- There is always that fear that you may break it (even though it is actually incredibly strong).
“I could easily award editors choice just on my own personal appreciation for the Tou, but I highly expect this chassis doesn’t even need an award to show people how great it is, or even how great it can be, it does that all by its self. I am however happy to award it our Innovation Award and while there isn’t really anything overly innovative on it other than the choice of materials, the Innovation Award really goes to In Win for pushing the limits of design and doing something different to everyone else.”
Thank you to In Win for supplying this review sample.