In Win BUC ATX Tower Case

The In Win BUC sports hot-swappable hard drives bays, almost tool-less assembly, plenty of cooling options, and USB 3.0 connectivity. With this eclectic feature list and a mere $100 price tag it might be too good to be true.

Inwin BUC ATX Tower Case

May 29, 2011 by Lawrence Lee

Product
In Win BUC
ATX Tower Case
Manufacturer
Street Price
US$100

The oddly named In Win BUC is part of the Taiwanese manufacturer’s Destiny-Lite series of cases, a line of budget-oriented ATX towers with what we would describe as bold exterior designs. According to their literature the BUC features solid construction, hot-swappable hard drive bays with tool-less, dampened drive trays, USB 3.0 and eSATA connectivity. Also thrown in are three 12 cm fans with room for more to produce ample cooling. All this for US$100 seems like a heck of a deal, though from past experience, it’s probably too good to be true…


The box.

The case.

At first glance the BUC appears rather unattractive. It has some nice rounded ventilated portions in front of the fans and the 5.25" bays that look pleasant, a welcome departure from the straight, hard lines of most ATX towers, but these sections are divided by narrow bands of boring featureless plastic molding. We generally prefer smooth, uniform contours, something the BUC lacks in spades. On the bright side, it seems to have plenty of airflow though the large vent on the side panel undoubtedly allows plenty of noise to escape. Also on the side panel is a lockable door that allows side access to the hard drive bays, well at least three of them.


Storage tray.

Top fan.

The BUC has a single USB 3.0 port at the top of the case imbedded on the side of a storage tray at the top which can be handy for holding a wallet, phone, keys, coins, or other knickknacks you might have near your PC. Convenient, yes, but a jarring contrast to the rest of the design. Behind it sits a 120 mm fan mount covered by an exceedingly large rounded mesh grill. Surrounding the fan is plastic frame that odes a great job of obstructing it. There is room for a 14 cm fan here but they opted for a smaller model instead.

Specifications: In Win BUC
(from the
product web page
)
Case Size Mid Tower
MaterialSECC Steel
Drive Bays1. External 5.25" x 3, 3.5" x 1
2. Internal 3.5" / 2.5" device converter cage x 5
(Hot-Swap Module x 4)
M/B Form Factor ATX / Micro-ATX
Power Supply ATX 12V, PSII Size
I/O Expansion Slots PCI-E / PCI / AGP Slot x 7
Top Ports1.USB 3.0 x 1
2.USB 2.0 x 2
3.eSATA x 1
4.HD/AC’97 Audio
Thermal Solution1.12cm Front Fan x 1
2.12cm Rear Fan x 1
3.12cm Top Fan x 1
4.Maximum Supports 12cm Side Fan x 2 (Optional)
5.Water-Cooling Hole Ready
Dimension (HxWxD)485 x 210 x 506mm (19.1" x 8.3" x 19.9")

EXTERIOR

The BUC weighs 6.7 kg or 14.8 lb and measures 21.0 x 48.5 x 50.6 cm or 8.3 x 19.1 x 19.9" (W x H x D) making the total case volume approximately 51.5 L. The side panels are steel, approximately 0.7~0.8 mm thick at the thinnest point by our measurements, while the front bezel and top of the case are composed of molded plastic.


Recessed reset and power buttons reside at the top of the case, book-ended by slim, understated LEDs that resemble square/closed brackets. Between them are a set of audio, USB, and eSATA connectors. The easily removable 5.25" covers and front fan grill are rather restrictive, with plastic bridges running across them for some reason.

The back is laid out in standard fashion. The power supply is positioned at the bottom. The expansion slot covers are ventilated, but it should be noted they are all tear-aways and only one proper metal bracket is included. There is a 120 mm fan at the top with a pair of round water cooling holes above it. Like most of the current crop of cases, the front USB 3.0 port uses an external blue cable to connect.

The bottom of the case is solid except for the power vent and its restrictive air filter. The case lacks rubber feet at the rear so the case can be lifted up at the front and slid with greater ease than a typical tower.

The hard drive access door is a neat addition, but requires a key. Without it, the door either stays locked or comes off too easily. If you don’t want to keep the key inserted, it is perhaps more convenient to just leave the door open.


Both side panels are equipped with latches which lock them in place fairly securely. One of the latches seemed damaged though, unable to stay properly attached to the side panel so we had to add some duct tape on the interior to keep it from continually falling off.


The left side panel.

INTERIOR

While the side panels are fairly thin, the interior of the case, that is to say the motherboard tray and drive cage are both very sturdy. The layout inside is more or less standard with the power supply at the bottom, 12 cm fans at the top, rear, and front (with the option for two more on the side). It supports four 5.25" drives, one external 3.5" drive, and five internal 3.5"/2.5" drives.


Like most cases these days, there is a large cutout behind the CPU area that helps facilitate the installation of third party heatsinks with backplates and there are also a few large holes for routing cables. As a bonus, expansion cards and drives can be mounted without any tools. All the yellow portions pictured are UV reactive.

The BUC doesn’t have many hooks or holes for twist-ties at the back, except on the edge of the motherboard tray (where the cables would still be visible). This makes cable management tricky, particularly as there is very little room behind the tray, only 1.5 cm. There is a bit more room behind the drive cage, an extra 1 cm, but some of it is taken up by the SATA backplane cables. It is probably best to remove them if they are not being used.

120 mm 3-pin fans are pre-installed in the rear position with screws and the top position with a pair of old school plastic release tabs. Securing the fan at just two points is not ideal.


The power supply is elevated by a pair of metal bars, though there isn’t much clearance between it and the vent. Tool-less plastic locking mechanisms are offered for expansion cards.


Optical drives are installed using a simple pop and lock mechanism on one side, but we couldn’t disengage one of them because it was bent out of place. Screws can be added on the opposite side as a precaution. Hard drives conveniently mount from the side, but the cage blocks more airflow in this orientation. It doesn’t help that the front fan is only large enough to provide coverage for about three and a half drives.


The drive trays and backplane connectors.


The front bezel has a simple tab release system, as does the 120 mm blue LED intake fan at the bottom. The fan is powered with a 4-pin molex connector and ships with a filter over the intake side.

ASSEMBLY

Assembling a system in the BUC is a straight forward affair. Much of the process is tool-less except for the mounting the power supply and motherboard, and getting the hard drives into the hotswap trays. Our test system consists of an Asus 790GX motherboard, a ZEROtherm FZ120 heatsink with a Nexus 120 mm fan, a WD Caviar Black 1TB hard drive and a Cooler Master 700W modular power supply.


The BUC doesn’t come with a whole lot of accessories, just some strap-ties, a 3-pin to 4-pin molex fan adapter, keys for the hard drive door, a PC speaker, a case schematic, and screws and grommets.


Rubber grommets can be placed between the hard drive caddy and screws, but this makes the tray wider which results in a very tight fit. With the grommets, excessive force is required to pull the drives out. Undampened, drives can be removed with ease, but it’s not as secure.


The expansion slot locks are a bit difficult to handle, and being plastic, are easy to break. We accidentally cracked two of them, though they still managed to get the job done.


Our HD 4870 test system, fully installed. There was 6.0 cm of space to the right of the graphics card, making the total clearance about 30.1 cm. There was just a 1.1 cm gap above the CPU cooler, making heatsink clearance approximately 16.7 cm.


The hole at the back of the motherboard tray wasn’t quite large enough for our AM3 board’s backplate.


The In Win logo LED at the front of the case lights up red (it is powered by 4-pin molex) but isn’t nearly as annoying as the shine from the fan’s LEDs.

TESTING

System Configuration:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

System temperatures and noise levels were recorded with SpeedFan and GPU-Z
at idle and on load using CPUBurn (K7 setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL
benchmarking and stability testing utility.

Baseline Noise

The In Win BUC ships with three 120 mm fans, two UV reactive models at the top and rear with the model number FD1212-S3133E and a current rating of 0.32A; these are the same fans that shipped with the In Win Maelstrom we reviewed a year ago. They are fairly quiet, albeit a bit buzzy at 9V~12V, but mostly smooth at lower speeds. Though the front fan is a translucent blue LED model, it has the same basic design, model number, and power rating as a 1600 RPM version of the Scythe DF series (DFS122512L, 2.2W). The fan’s acoustics were similar to the other two.

One odd thing we noticed was the top fan was noticeably louder than the rear one, producing a noticeable clicking sound. We steadied the fan as best we could with no change in acoustics, so it wasn’t caused by vibration or interaction with the case.

Baseline Noise Level
Fan
SPL @1m (dBA)
5V
7V
9V
12V
Top
14
18
20
24
Rear
11
13~14
16~17
22~23
Front
13
17
19
24
Combined
15
20
23~24
29
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front
of case.


The stock fans on low are very quiet, together measuring 14~15 dBA@1m.

Together the fans emit a total of 29 dBA@1m at full speed, and a very quiet 15 dBA@1m at 5V. Given the space inside the case and ventilation, it’s best suited for a gaming system, usually consisting of components which generate a fair amount of noise. As such the stock fans will likely be drowned out below 7V or even 9V depending on the parts used.

Test Results: Radeon HD 4870


HD 4870 test system.

System Measurements (HD 4870)
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
System Fan Speeds
off
7V
CPU Temp
33°C
31°C
43°C
SB Temp
47°C
41°C
49°C
HD Temp
39°C
32°C
32°C
GPU Temp
77°C
71°C
85°C
GPU Fan
Speed
880 RPM
880 RPM
1770 RPM
SPL@1m
21 dBA
23 dBA
27 dBA
System Power
116W
114W
301W
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Alone, our HD 4870 test configuration idled at just 21 dBA@1m, though it probably could’ve been quieter without the large vent on the side panel which is conveniently located next to the noisiest component, the graphics card. Turning on the stock fans and setting them to 7V increased the total system noise level to 23 dBA@1m, and helped the GPU, hard drive and southbridge cool down by 6~7°C. Full load brought a substantial rise in all temperatures except for the hard drive and caused the GPU fan to ramp up to 1770 RPM.



Our HD 4870 test system measured 23 dBA@1m when idle and 27 dBA@1m on load with the stock fans at 7V.

At idle the system was fairly quiet, with the various fans blending to create a relatively smooth profile. The broadband acoustics of the reference HD 4870 cooler meant that even on load, the high 27 dBA@1m noise level didn’t sound half bad. It emitted a soft hissing type noise which we’d describe as bearable.

HD 4870 Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
In Win Maelstrom
Zalman Z9 Plus
Fractal Define R2
In Win BUC
System Fan Speeds
top, rear, side @9V
top, rear & front @7V
rear, front & side @12V
top, rear, front @7V
SPL@1m
26 dBA
26~27 dBA
26~27 dBA
27 dBA
CPU Temp
43°C
44°C
48°C
43°C
SB Temp
45°C
50°C
45°C
49°C
HD Temp
35°C
32°C
34°C
32°C
GPU Temp
80°C
85°C
84°C
85°C
GPU Fan
Speed
1340 RPM
1580 RPM
1710 RPM
1770 RPM
SPL@1m
26 dBA
26~27 dBA
26~27 dBA
27 dBA
CPU fan set to 100% speed
All temperature results adjusted to 22°C ambient.

Compared to previously tested cases, the BUC’s results are about average. Its thermal performance and noise output was on par with Zalman Z9 Plus which happens to have a similar layout. Of the four cases listed above, the In Win Maelstrom is the clear winner as it is the only one that with a massive side fan that more than makes up for noise escaping through its ventilated panel.

Test Results: 2 x ATI Radeon HD 4870 (CrossFireX)


2 x HD 4870 CrossFireX test system.

System Measurements (2 x HD 4870)
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
System Fan Speeds
7V
9V
12V
CPU Temp
33°C
48°C
46°C
45°C
SB Temp
55°C
64°C
63°C
62°C
HD Temp
31°C
31°C
30°C
30°C
GPU #1 Temp
77°C
90°C
89°C
89°C
GPU #1 Fan
Speed
890 RPM
2060 RPM
2050 RPM
2110 RPM
GPU #2 Temp
64°C
86°C
85°C
85°C
GPU #2 Speed
1010 RPM
1770 RPM
1780 RPM
1770 RPM
SPL@1m
24 dBA
32~33 dBA
32~33 dBA
33~34 dBA
System Power
186W
508W
508W
507W
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Adding a second HD 4870 produced an extra 1 dB when idle, along with hotter temperatures. Both the southbridge and top GPU were 8°C warmer in this configuration. On load, the overall noise level rose up to a very loud 32~32 dBA@1m. At this point, the GPU fans were drowning out the system fans, so we pushed them to 9V which had hardly any effect. Running them at full speed also did very little for thermal performance and increased the noise level by 1 dB.



Our HD 4870 CrossFireX test system measured 24 dBA@1m when idle and 32~33 dBA@1m on load with the stock fans at 7V.

The acoustics of the CrossFireX system was similar to that of the single HD 4870 configuration, just louder of course. The jump from 27 dBA@1m to 32~33 dBA@1m was huge, but the noise character was about the same, except higher in pitch. We won’t go so far as to call it pleasant, but without any noticeably annoying tones, it’s as good as 32~33 dBA@1m can sound.

CrossFireX Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
In Win Maelstrom
Zalman Z9 Plus
In Win BUC
Fans Speeds
top, rear & side @9V
top & rear @9V, front @7V
top, rear, front @9V
SPL@1m
30 dBA
30~31 dBA
32~33 dBA
CPU Temp
43°C
47°C
46°C
SB Temp
51°C
61°C
63°C
HD Temp
35°C
33°C
30°C
GPU #1 Temp
85°C
86°C
89°C
GPU #1 Fan
Speed
1720 RPM
1780 RPM
2050 RPM
GPU #2 Temp
82°C
83°C
85 RPM
GPU #2 Fan
Speed
1620 RPM
1590 RPM
1780 RPM
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
All temperature results adjusted to 22°C ambient.

With a heavier load, the BUC had trouble keeping up with the Maelstrom and Z9 Plus. It seems that the environment surrounding the graphics cards was hotter, requiring their fans to spin at higher speeds, despite the presence of the huge vent on the side panel. Whatever the reason, the BUC had both higher temperatures and noise levels.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR’s own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don’t change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The In Win BUC’s raison d’être is a mystery — we’re not sure who the target audience is, or if there even is one. It seems like the designer(s) compiled a wish list of ideas and slapped them together haphazardly with as little cost as possible. It has an eclectic mix of features and both good and bad design decisions that leave us scratching our heads. There are aspect of the case we admire, but there are also a lot of problems, things that were half-assed, poorly thought out, or just in need of some improvement.

We’ll start with its appearance, which we consider to be rather ugly. The rounded mesh portions of the exterior are attractive and if the rest of the case was designed similarly, we would have been a lot happier. Instead these parts are mixed together with bland bands of solid plastic that visually cut into it, wrapping the BUC in a sort of invisible bow. This gives it an odd, non-uniform set of contours. The overall aesthetic is further tarnished by the coin tray at the top which serves as a holding pan for miscellaneous items without a home.

Its best feature is easily the four SATA backplanes which isn’t something you see everyday in a US$100 case. The drive trays however don’t slide well if you use the included rubber grommets as they make them too wide to pull out easily. The door on the side panel gives you access to three of the four drives, but oddly, a key is required to lock/unlock it and in the unlock position, it’s just a loose panel waiting to fall to the ground. It’s a rather bizarre security system considering how easily the side panels come off. The locking mechanism for the panels is pretty solid though and is our second most favorite element.

Many portions of the case can be accessed without screws as its side panels, 5.25" drive bay covers, front bezel, top and front fans can all be removed with little effort. In these and other areas, In Win seems to have cheaped out to keep the case reasonably priced. A 5.25" locking mechanism and door latch were damaged out of the box, and during assembly we broke a pair of the plastic expansion slot locks. The side panels are thin, though the rest of the chassis, including the drive cages and motherboard tray seem quite sturdy. There isn’t much space behind the motherboard tray and it doesn’t have many hooks or holes for cable-ties either, making cable management a bother.

We’re not big proponents of ventilated side panels as they allow noise to escape and in our experience, aren’t effective unless an oversized fan is employed. However, we do appreciate that they didn’t put the fan placement at the center as it more often than not interferes with a big tower heatsink; having the option for one upper and one lower fan is far preferable. That being said, the BUC only supports 12 cm fans even though there is plenty of room for larger, more efficient 14 cm models. Furthermore, the top and front fan placements aren’t very secure, using a pair of old school plastic tabs each to hold them in place with no additional support, though the included fans are actually fairly good acoustically. There are also somewhat restrictive bands of plastic running in front of them for no purpose that we can ascertain.

With only 12 cm fan support and lackluster thermal performance, the BUC is a poor gaming case. Its build quality and casual/limited hotswap capability isn’t quite up to par for a server. Its large side vent, lack of a fan controller and dampening material makes it unsuitable for quiet operation. It seems that In Win tried a little bit of everything, attempting to execute on the philosophy that more is better. The end result is a bumbling jack of all trades that excels at nothing except uniqueness — we can safely say you won’t find another case like it on the market.

In Win BUC
PROS

* Four SATA backplanes
* Mostly tool-less
* Nifty side panel latches
* Stock fans have good acoustics
* USB 3.0 support
* Good clearance: 16.7 cm for CPU heatsink, 30.1 cm for graphics card

CONS

* Poor thermal performance with heavy load
* Partially obstructed, poorly-secured fan mounts
* No 14 cm fan support
* Mediocre cable management
* Plastic bits prone to damage
* Thin side panels
* Hot-swapping difficult if rubber grommets used

Our thanks to In Win for the BUC case sample.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest
Silverstone Fortress FT03 mATX Tower: Redux
Fractal Design Define R3 ATX Tower
Silverstone Fortress FT03 microATX Tower
NZXT H2 Classic Silent Midtower Chassis
Zalman Z9 Plus ATX Tower Case
Lian Li PC-V354 MicroATX Mini Tower Case

* * *

Discuss
this article in the SPCR Forums.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *