We’ve had some seriously weird and wonderful chassis come through the eTeknix office over the last few years, but every once in a while something comes along that just makes you wipe your eyes in disbelief. The In Win H-Frame is one of those chassis and while this isn’t the first time we’ve seen one, taking pictures of it at trade shows is hardly the same as finally getting hands on with it, taking it to bits and of course building a system inside it.
In Win are quickly becoming the masters of the concept chassis, limited runs of a few hundred of each and a new one every six month. We’ve seen the D-Frame, which was based upon a Ducati motorbike, the H-Frame that we have here today which was based on… well, I’m not quite sure, then we have things like the Tao, which is made from glass and looks like a cross between a presentation case and a corporate head office. Naturally with this level of design and exclusivity comes a hefty price tag and the H-Frame will set you back a wallet busting £260 (prices taken from Google shopping).
Now of course at that price, the market for this thing isn’t going to be huge, this is not your average consumer grade chassis. The big question is, is it worth paying that much money, does it offer something unique that sets it apart from the competition, especially given this price range also plays host to the Corsair 800D, Lian Li X1000B and the Cooler Master Cosmos II, all of which are big, shiny and pack a mighty feature list.
As you can see from the feature list below, the H-Frame isn’t really going to hold as much as something like the 800D, but I think it’s worth setting out on this review with the idea that it’s not about building a 18 bay Raid rendering rig, it’s about style.
The chassis comes in an off-white coloured box, with a bright and clear image of the chassis from its front left side. If you haven’t seen this chassis before, you can already tell it’s more than a little different to your average black box.
The back of the box is a little more minimalist, featuring a zoomed in shot of the top of the chassis and the H-Frame logo.
In the box I found a zip-lock bag that contained the user manual, as well as all the screws and fittings required to add our components.
The left side of the chassis features a large piece of custom shaped aluminium, in face it is more accurate to say the entire chassis is made from custom shaped aluminium panels, that range from 2 to 4mm thick. There are four bolts that run through the entire chassis and gold coloured aluminium thumb screws on the side panel are easy enough to remove, allowing you to slide the side panel off.
In the bottom left we have a engraved In Win logo, as well as better look at one of those side panel thumb screws, the joy is in the details it seems.
The right side features another large side mounted panel, no engraved In Win logo on this side though. Here we can also see better the 2nd layer of aluminium, this is spaced about 1″ from the side panel and is finished in blue with a polished silver edge.
The front panel, although I use that term loosely because there technically isn’t an actual panel here! The front section of the chassis features 7 blades in the middle that act as the main panel, with the two thicker 4mm panels (the blue sided ones from the picture above) make the main outer support, lastly you can see the gold coloured pegs that bridge the blue panels to the outer side panels (silver in picture above).
The central panels are pinned together in several places using smaller screws and rods. There is also another sneaky In Win logo tucked away on the top right side of the front section, this panel also removes and allows you to fit a single 5.25″ drive that inserts at an upwards slope, this is a nice trick to hide the front panel of your DVD drive when you look down on the system.
The front right features a vertically mounted I/O panel, this has the usual LED indicators, HD audio ports and a part of USB 3.0 ports. There is a small recessed reset button near the bottom and a power switch, although worrying the power switch feels a little over sprung and flimsy, it shouldn’t break but it has a certain cheap feel to it. You can also see an internal 120mm fan mount on the left, but we’ll take a closer look at that on the interior.
Around the back we see another 120mm fan mount on the interior of the chassis, 7 expansion slots that all come with removable and ventilated covers (like it needs more ventilation).
The PSU cut mount still has metal blades over it, but there is a cut-away on the left to allow room for a power cable to be connected.
The top of the chassis features a large metal mesh panel, hardly a filter but it is more than enough to stop your phone, pens and other desktop items falling into the system. There is also a top facing USB port here for easy access.
Another In Win logo is tucked into the top right corner of the left side of the chassis.
The bottom is obviously still heavily ventilated, although by this point its safe to say the entire chassis is one big air vent.
There are four hard rubber feet, more than enough to keep the system sturdy on smooth surfaces and also enough to prevent the metal work from scratching the surface you place it on.
With the side panel removed we see two interesting things, the first being that there is a LOT going on in here in terms of design, but at the same time there is also very little going on, I’ll get to that part in a moment. There are plenty of cut-outs in the read panel, this allows access to mounting / changing your CPU cooler with the motherboard installed, while the others will facilitate cable routing / management.
The front part features a cut away to the blades, this allows for more room for longer graphics cards.
Further down we have some hard drive bays, three of which support both 3.5″ and 2.5″ drives, while an extra one supports 2.5″ only.
The three large bays all feature slide out and fully removable metal trays, these feature thumb screws and are easily accessible, they’re also plug and play thanks to some connectors around the back, which we’ll see in a moment.
The trays are finished in blue and feature the same 2-4mm thick aluminium construction of the rest of the chassis, no cheap plastic parts here.
The back of the chassis features a fan mount, and of course huge amounts of ventilation.
The expansion slot covers are aluminium in construction but are also quite thin, they do bend easily when handled but can be straightened out easily enough by hand also. There are quick release thumb screws on each, handy for quick GPU installations.
The top fan mount supports a standard 120mm fan and is removed in a similar fashion to the 3.5″ hard drive bays.
The PSU mount is pretty simple, you can mount as normal or if you wish you can also remove the blue backing plate prior to attaching it to your PSU, the choice is yours.
The top of the chassis has a thick mesh, but no fan mounts, so no top mounted radiators or fans are supported without some unsupported modifications.
The clean blue looks continue around the back, lots of pre-drilled holes here that are ideal for running cable ties through.
All four hard drive bays feature SATA power and motherboard cables, this means you can just slot your drives into place without worrying about what is going on behind the motherboard, quick and easy. All that now out of the way, let’s get onto building our system inside this beast.
While I normally save this shot until last, here is the complete build with all panels in place. It certainly looks clean from here and there are some interesting reflections and shadows going on the inner blades.
Today build time was about 25 minutes, nice and simple with no complications, which is exactly what we want to hear.
The build looks really nice and clean and while that doesn’t matter too much with the side panel in place, this chassis does have interior views from some very strange angles that warrant a clean look. Cable management is nice and tidy too, although that can be credited to the use of BitFenix Alchemy cables, shame we didn’t have a set of them in blue to hand.
I decided I wasn’t going to settle for air cooling here, although there is a lot of clearance for a large CPU cooler if needed. I didn’t install a fan inside the rear 120mm fan mount, instead opting to mount out H80i right on the back of it. It’s a little tight on the water pipes, but nothing too serious and with the block turned 90 degrees it fits quite nicely with no conflicts.
Our Kingston SSD sits snug in the exposed 2.5″ HDD bay and even though this chassis has plenty of “airflow” it still helps to get that air moving in the right direction, so I’ve installed a 120mm BitFenix Spectre fan in the front to help out MSI GTX 560Ti get the airflow it loves so much.
The HDD mounts look nice and clean and the built-in SATA cables keep things tidy, although the front I/O cables would have benefited from being a colour that matches the system.
One thing that I found interesting was that you don’t need the motherboard back plate. It’s worth pointing out that you could also install a fan in the 120mm fan mount behind our radiator, giving you a push-pull configuration.
The PSU is mounted inverted, drawing air from under the chassis, this is one place where a dust filter would have been welcome, since the PSU airflow is independent of the rest of the chassis.
Finally we see the chassis from the front and looking downwards towards it. I’ve used a little extra flash on the camera so the blues look a little bright, but you can clearly see our front mounted fan, as well as our H80i in the back. The ram is visible and so too are the cables behind the motherboard, an interesting view indeed and one we don’t normally get from our builds.
I’m not quite sure where to start with this one, this build has been far from normal in so many ways, yet when you really get down to it, I was still able to install our components in the traditional manner, the system wasn’t hard to put together and it will operate much like any other chassis. Yet visually it looks like its got about as much in common with your average chassis as a Salvador Dali painting has to a sketch of a stick man.
Airflow in this chassis is insane, in the sense that air can flow freely around it and it would certainly benefit components that need to exhaust a lot of heat, such as high-powered graphics cards. Yet while most people would normally install half a dozen performance fans, water cooling and more, In Win have gone for a completely different approach by only having two fan mounts. In fact it is safe to say they’ve cut out a lot of things here, most notably would be the panels on four of the sides, leaving the whole thing hanging open. Like a stripped out race car we even find that they’ve limited hard drive installations to four, no exactly begging for a high performance raid setup that’s for sure.
This chassis begs for one thing, silence! At least in my opinion. Exposed components can easily get a little noisy, so I would personally invest in two quiet, low RPM fans, passive cooling for graphics and CPU, or at the very least a low RPM or speed controlled system, utilizing the 5.25″ for a single bay fan controller. That way you could enjoy all of the style this chassis has to offer in the relative silence of your average art gallery, which is fitting given that this chassis looks more like an exhibition than it does a PC case.
I know a lot of people are going to hate this chassis, I was one of them, I thought and still do think that it’s completely and utterly bonkers, impractical and expensive. Yet it is unlike anything else I’ve worked with, the aluminium build is of such a high quality that even Lian Li will be tipping their caps at the In Win design team and it the way it shines and shimmers from every angle makes it feel special.
Sure the colour scheme isn’t the best, but I see plenty of black, white and grey boxes come through and it’s great to see a brand that isn’t afraid to do things differently, because In Win know one thing, there are enough people out there who do want to buy something like this, you know who you are.
It would look out of place in my living room, but if you want to break from the norm there really is nothing quite like it and it is more than deserving of our innovation award for its build quality and crazy and refreshing design.
- Build quality is exceptional.
- Has a unique look that is unlike anything else on the market.
- Interesting approach to an air cooled chassis.
- Hard drive bays are well designed.
- Good cable management.
- Nicely placed 5.25″ bay.
- All screws and fitting are of an exceptionally high standard.
- It is very expensive, but this much thick-cut aluminium doesn’t come cheap anyway.
- Limited amount of hard drive bays and only one 5.25″ bay.
- Dust could be a big issue.
- No filter for power supply.
“The H-Frame really is the Marmite of the PC chassis market and many will have mixed feelings about its design but it does grow on you over time. Yet for all its crazy design, getting hands on with its features and build quality show level of quality that you rarely see in this industry, it’s certainly a breath of fresh air.”
Thank you to In Win for providing this review sample.