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In Win Dragon Rider Enthusiast/Gaming Tower

The Dragon Rider is a full-sized tower case from In Win designed for high powered systems. It’s big, bold, and sports plenty of ventilation with fans on both side panels, including a 22 cm monster. How does it fare thermally and acoustically?

June 16, 2011 by Lawrence Lee

Product
In Win Dragon Rider
ATX Tower Case
Manufacturer
Street Price
US$140

The Dragon Rider is part of In Win’s “Destiny Extreme” line, a series of PC cases geared toward enthusiasts and gamers. Having an impressive stature, plenty of airflow, and a bold look, it appears to have all the necessary elements to be successful with its target audience.


The case.

The Dragon Rider gets its name from its look, and from the fact that In Win already offers a smaller, more buttoned down case called Dragon Slayer; Riding a dragon after all is the only thing that can top slaying one. Being tall with rounded contours and rivet-like adornments, the shape of the front bezel resembles a tower shield while the steel mesh covering the center like chainmail. Even though it’s a plastic front, the effect is formidable.


The case.

A good enthusiast case must have excellent airflow and the Dragon Rider has that in spades. The components inherently have more breathing room than most cases as it stands almost t 22″ tall and extends 23″ deep. Then there is the cooling, provided by four 12 cm fans with up to 11 x 12/14 cm fans supported. Six of these placements aren’t usable out-of-the-box though, as they are actually an alternative to the massive 22 cm monstrosity sitting on the large side panel vent which is capable of blowing tremendous amounts of fresh air over the center of the case interior. There’s a small switch on the side to toggle the fan’s blue LED’s on and off, a useful feature if you like to throw parties.


Accessories.

The case ships with screws, drive rails, a PC speaker, cable tying accessories, a pair of 3-pin to 4-pin molex fan adapters, two extra rubber feet for longer power supplies, and a pair of AUX12V/EPS12V extension cables.

Specifications: In Win Dragon Rider
(from the
product web page
)
M/B Form Factor: ATX, Micro-ATX, E-ATX (12″x13″)
Case Size: Full Tower
Dimension (HxWxD): 556 x 239 x 578mm (21.9″ x 9.4″ x 22.8″)
Power Supply: ATX 12V PS2 or EPS
Drive Bays: External Drive Bay: 5.25″ x 5 (one can swap to 3.5″)
Internal Drive Bay: 3.5″ x 6, 2.5″ x 1
Top I/O: eSATA x 2, USB 3.0 x 2, USB 2.0 x 2, IEEE 1394A x 1, HD/AC’97 Audio
I/O Expansion Slots: PCI-E/PCI/AGP Expansion Slot x 8
Thermal Solution: 1. 12cm Front Fan x 1
2. 12cm Rear Fan x 1
3. 12cm Top Fan x 1 (can install up to two 12cm Fans)
4. 22cm LED Side Fan with switch x 1 (can swap to six 12cm Fans) for Left Side Panel
5. 12cm LED Side Fan with switch x 1 for Right Side Panel
6. Water-Cooling hole ready Safety: RoHS, CE and FCC Class B Requirement

EXTERIOR

The Dragon Rider measures 23.9 x 55.6 x 57.8 cm or 9.4 x 21.9 x 22.8″ (W x H x D) making the total case volume a spacious 76.8 L. The side panels are made of steel and are fairly sturdy, between 0.8 and 1.0 mm thick depending on where you measure.


The Dragon Rider offers a pair of 14 cm fan mounts (with 12 cm holes) on the case ceiling. It ships with four 12 cm fans in total, UV reactive models at the top, rear and front, and a translucent blue LED version located behind the motherboard tray. A generous set of connectors are offered including audio, FireWire, and dual USB 2.0, USB 3.0, and eSATA ports. Faint power and hard drive LEDs and demure, recessed power and reset buttons are located further toward the front.

 


The right side of the case is notable as it is home to 12 cm fan attached to a honeycomb grill with rubber grommets. It is oriented to blow air toward the back of the motherboard over the CPU socket area. We’ve seen fan placements in this location before, but never full-sized.

 


The front bezel is composed of plastic but has a great medieval look that fits with the case’s name. It’s tall and rounded like a tower shield, the air vents resemble chainmail, and one can imagine that something with a frighteningly large hand is gripping the bezel around the In Win logo.

 


As one would expect, the rear of the case is well ventilated as well. Square vents form the grill of the 12 cm exhaust fan and surround the water cooling holes at the top. The expansion slot covers aren’t solid either, fabricated out of fine steel mesh. A significant portion of the right side panel juts outward, presumably to make more room for cabling on the inside and give the shape of the case more symmetry.

 


While the rest of the case is full of holes, the case floor is solid aside for the power supply vent. The large plastic swing-out feet are commonly found on full-sized towers.

 


The “bulge” pushes about 1 cm outward compared to the rest of the right side panel.

 


Though In Win describes the side fan as being 22 cm, it’s about 22.8 x 22.8 cm by our measurements with mounting holes spaced 17 cm apart (measured from the center of the holes). Like the right side fan, it is dampened using rubber grommets. Short wires run from the fan to a small control switch that enables/disables the fan’s bright blue LEDs

INTERIOR

The layout inside is fairly standard with the power supply at the bottom case opposite a side-loading hard drive cage near the front. It has five 5.25″ bays (one can be converted to become an external 3.5″ drive), six 3.5″ bays, and one spot for a 2.5″ drive. The most notable element of the case however are its cooling options. There are single 12 cm fan placements at the rear, front, and behind the motherboard tray, 2 x 12/14 cm fan mounts on top, and 6 x 12/14 cm mounts on the left side panel (an alternative to the one enormous side fan).


The Dragon Rider is a spacious tower with enough real estate to support an EATX motherboard and extra clearance between the motherboard edges and ceiling/floor. The bulk of the cables/connectors reside at the top of the case including the blue USB 3.0 cables that have to be routed to the back of the case through the interior.

 


Three of the included fans are 12 cm 3-pin models with UV-reactive green blades. Fans at the top and rear mount using standard fan screws.

 


The power supply sits on a series of rubber knobs and is separated from the vent on the floor by a rectangular fine mesh filter. Plastic locking mechanisms are utilized for the expansion cards. They’re not quite as secure as metal ones, but they do the job just fine.

 


The top 5.25″ bay is occupied by an external 3.5″ drive adapter while the bottom one is fitted with a removable caddy holding the drive rails necessary installing both optical and hard drives. Below that is a plastic frame for a single 2.5″ drive.

 


The front bezel comes off by tugging at the bottom, which disengages the first of many plastic tabs holding it to the chassis. This gives you access to the optical drive bays and the front fan. A white box covers the power LED to diffuse the light given off.

 


The motherboard tray is unusual as it extends across the entire case at the back. Typically it stops short of the drive bays giving you more space to hide cables and such. There are also only a few holes designed for slipping in zip-ties, etc. Clearance behind the tray is just 11~13 mm, but much of the right side panel bulges out by 14 mm, so there shouldn’t be any problems closing the panel with a bunch of cables at the back.

 


The side vent has several holes to accommodate rubber grommets for fan mounting. Larger ones are used to position the 22 cm fan at the center. The fan is 3 cm thick, not including the clearance between it and the grill, so it could interfere with large tower heatsinks.

 


The case has been designed to allow clearance between the fans and grills, which is important for reducing noise, particularly from intake fans. The 22 cm is spaced 7 mm away from the surface of the large side panel vent. Without this gap, the intake side of the fan would be restricted, and increase turbulence and noise.

ASSEMBLY

Assembling a system in the Dragon Rider is straightforward. Much of the process is tool-less except for mounting the motherboard and the power supply. 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 first thing we noticed when installing our system was that the black screws we were instructed to use with the standoffs became stuck halfway, while the larger PCI screws (only four included for the PSU) with coarser threads went in all the way. When we took the black screws out after testing, the standoffs remained attached on half of them (we ended up using pliers to wrench them apart).

 


Plastic drive rails are used to install hard drives. They are dampened somewhat as the interior of the rails is softer and contacts the drive at only three points on each side.

 


The expansion slot locks have grey blocks of rubber at the ends to ensure proper tension.


While there aren’t that many places on the board to tie cables down to the motherboard tray, you can tie them in bundles as the right side panel provides extra clearance.

 


Our HD 4870 CrossFireX test system, fully installed. There was 10.5 cm of space to the right of the graphics cards, making the total clearance about 34.6 cm. There was a 1.3 cm gap above our FZ120 CPU cooler, making heatsink clearance 17.3 cm (without the side fan installed).

 


The side fan protrudes 27 mm inward, interfering with a significant portion of our 156 mm tall standard test cooler. The effective clearance with the side fan was only 150 mm. Luckily the arrangement of the grommets allowed us to move the fan out of the way to a lower position.

 


The white box underneath the front bezel works well, giving the In Win logo an ethereal, rather than jarring blue glow.

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 Dragon Rider shipped with five fans, three 12 cm UV-reactive models on the top, rear, and front (“FD1212-S3133E,” 0.32A), one translucent 12 cm blue LED model on the right side panel (“DFS122512L,” 2.2W), and one 22 cm model on the left side panel (“DFS223012M,” 0.23A). The 12 cm fans are identical to those found in the In Win BUC while the 22 cm fan is similar to the one that ships with the In Win Maelstrom.

Stock Fan Noise Level
Fan
SPL @1m (dBA)
5V
7V
9V
12V
Top (12 cm)
11~12
13
16
21~22
Rear (12 cm)
11~12
13
15
20
Front (12 cm)
13~14
19
23
28~29
Left Side
(22 cm)
13
16
19
24
Right Side
(12 cm)
12
13
15~16
20
Baseline Noise Level
(front, right side fans fixed at 5V)
Top + Rear + Left Side
14
17
21
27
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front
of case.

The fans sounded relatively smooth with very little tonality although there was some buzzing at higher speeds. The top fan also produced a clearly audible clicking noise at 9V and below, something we also noticed with the recently reviewed In Win BUC case as well. Steadying the fan had no impact on how it sounded so we suspect that these fans don’t react well to being positioned horizontally.

For our baseline noise levels, we fixed the front and right side fans at 5V, as we felt they would make the least impact on system temperatures. We varied the voltage of the other three fans between 5V, 7V, 9V, and 12V during testing to get the best balance of acoustic and thermal performance.


Our baseline noise level for the Dragon Rider’s was 17 dBA@1m at 5V/7V.

Test Results: Radeon HD 4870


HD 4870 test system.

 

System Measurements
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
Top, Rear, Left Fan Speed
5V
7V
9V
12V
CPU Temp
25°C
36°C
36°C
35°C
SB Temp
38°C
46°C
43°C
42°C
HD Temp
30°C
31°C
31°C
30°C
GPU Temp
70°C
85°C
85°C
84°C
GPU Fan Speed
880 RPM
1840 RPM
1790 RPM
1790 RPM
SPL@1m
22 dBA
29 dBA
29 dBA
30 dBA
System Power
117W
309W
308W
308W
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
Front, right side fan set to 5V.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

At idle the Dragon Rider needed little to no extra airflow to keep things cool in our HD 4870 test system. All the stock fans at 5V was more than enough, stabilizing the CPU temperature at just three degrees above ambient while the GPU core reached 70°C. This configuration was fairly quiet, measuring just 22 dBA@1m with the largest noise contributor, the GPU fan, spinning under 900 RPM.

On load, the GPU fan speed doubled to around 1800 RPM, easily drowning out the stock fans, so we increased their voltage to 7V, 9V, and 12V. 9V proved to be the sweet spot as it added no measurable noise. In this state the CPU and Southbridge heated up by only 9°C and 5°C respectively compared to idle. Running the fans at full speed delivered negligible gains at the cost of an extra 1 dB.

System Measurements
(on load, varying right side fan speed)
Top, Rear, Left Fan Speed
9V
Right Fan Speed
Off
5V
9V
CPU Temp
37°C
36°C
35°C
SB Temp
43°C
43°C
42°C
HD Temp
31°C
31°C
31°C
GPU Temp
85°C
85°C
85°C
GPU Fan Speed
1800 RPM
1790 RPM
1770 RPM
SPL@1m
29 dBA
29 dBA
29 dBA
System Power
309W
308W
308W
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
Front fan set to 5V.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

As an extra test, we varied the speed of the right side fan which blows air across the back of the CPU socket and mainboard. As it’s an uncommon fan placement, we wanted to see how much an impact it made. In our single HD 4870 system, it had only a small effect, lowering CPU temperature by 1°C at 5V. At 9V there was an additional 1°C improvement for the CPU and Southbridge. While it isn’t particularly effective, most of the noise it creates is blocked because of our standard microphone position for case noise measurements. (Our acoustics results are most relevant for a user who places the case to his right.)



Our HD 4870 test system measured 22 dBA@1m when idle and 29 dBA@1m on load.

As mentioned previously, the noise level of the case and stock fans was innocuous even when combined with slight turbulence from the GPU, PSU, and CPU fans along with the hum from the hard drive with the system at idle. The broadband acoustics of the reference HD 4870 cooler also meant that on load, the high 29 dBA@1m noise level didn’t sound terrible. It generated a relatively benign, soft hissing type noise.

HD 4870 Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
Zalman Z9 Plus
LanCool PC-K59
In Win BUC
In Win Dragon Rider
System Fan Speeds
top, rear & front @7V
top, rear, front @7V
top, rear, front @7V
top, rear, sides @9V, front @5V
CPU Temp
44°C
45°C
43°C
35°C
SB Temp
50°C
54°C
49°C
42°C
HD Temp
32°C
30°C
32°C
31°C
GPU Temp
85°C
84°C
85°C
85°C
GPU Fan
Speed
1580 RPM
1780 RPM
1770 RPM
1770 RPM
SPL@1m
26~27 dBA
26~27 dBA
29 dBA
29 dBA
CPU fan set to 100% speed
All temperature results adjusted to 22°C ambient.

Compared to our most recently tested ATX cases, the Dragon Rider measures 2~3 dB higher than the LanCool PC-K59 and Zalman Z9 Plus. This is likely due to the enormous left side panel vent which makes it difficult for the case to block the noise generated by the main noise contributor, the GPU fan. It should be noted that the In Win BUC, which also measured 29 dBA@1m, has a rather large grill on the side panel as well. Thermally though, the Dragon Rider is easily the best of the bunch, by a significant margin.

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


2 x HD 4870 CrossFireX test system.

System Measurements
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
System Fan Speeds
5V
7V
9V
12V
CPU Temp
26°C
37°C
36°C
36°C
SB Temp
47°C
58°C
52°C
46°C
HD Temp
31°C
31°C
31°C
31°C
GPU #1 Temp
78°C
87°C
86°C
86°C
GPU #1 Fan
Speed
890 RPM
1940 RPM
1880 RPM
1880 RPM
GPU #2 Temp
62°C
82°C
82°C
82°C
GPU #2 Speed
980 RPM
1670 RPM
1670 RPM
1640 RPM
SPL@1m
22~23 dBA
32 dBA
32 dBA
32~33 dBA
System Power
186W
503W
503W
503W
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Despite the addition of a second HD 4870, the noise level at idle of the CrossFireX system was just half a decibel higher, though the both the Southbridge and top graphics cards ran 8~9°C hotter. On load we found that the sweet spot for the fans was 9V with the system emitting 32 dBA@1m. At this setting, the system didn’t produce any more measurable noise than 7V, but it was substantially quieter than 12V. The thermal difference between these three speeds was minor with the exception of the Southbridge. The side fan played a big part in cooling the hotter areas on the motherboard PCB.

System Measurements
(on load, varying right side fan)
Top, Rear, Left Fan Speed
9V
Right Fan Speed
Off
5V
12V
CPU Temp
38°C
36°C
35°C
SB Temp
54°C
52°C
46°C
HD Temp
31°C
31°C
31°C
GPU #1 Temp
86°C
86°C
85°C
GPU #1 Fan
Speed
1890 RPM
1880 RPM
1890 RPM
GPU #2 Temp
82°C
82°C
82°C
GPU #2 Speed
1670 RPM
1670 RPM
1680 RPM
SPL@1m
32 dBA
32 dBA
32 dBA
System Power
503W
503W
503W
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
Front fan set to 5V.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

This time around, the right side fan made a more significant contribution, lower the CPU and Southbridge temperatures by 2°C at 5V. At 12V, the fan still didn’t add any noise to the system and provided a further 1°C improvement for the CPU and GPU, and a 6°C improvement for the Southbridge. It seems that the right side fan is only effective when the environment inside is hotter, as is the case with a multi-GPU system.



Our HD 4870 CrossFireX test system measured 24 dBA@1m when idle and 33 dBA@1m on load.

The acoustics of the CrossFireX system were close to that of the single HD 4870 configuration, but higher in volume, obviously. The rise from 29 dBA@1m to 32 dBA@1m was significant, but the noise character was similar, just higher in pitch. While it is not entirely unpleasant, headphones would be advised.

CrossFireX Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
In Win Dragon Rider
In Win BUC
LanCool PC-K59
Fans Speeds
top, rear, sides @9V, front @5V
top, rear, front @9V
top, rear, front @9V
CPU Temp
35°C
46°C
46°C
SB Temp
46°C
63°C
63°C
HD Temp
31°C
30°C
28°C
GPU #1 Temp
85°C
89°C
89°C
GPU #1 Fan
Speed
1890 RPM
2050 RPM
2300 RPM
GPU #2 Temp
82°C
85°C
83°C
GPU #2 Fan
Speed
1680 RPM
1780 RPM
1810 RPM
SPL@1m
32 dBA
32~33 dBA
33 dBA
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
All temperature results adjusted to 22°C ambient.

The Dragon Rider turns the tables with the hotter CrossFireX configuration. The large left side fan gave it a huge advantage, lowering the GPU temperatures slightly and the CPU temperature by more than 10°C compared to the BUC and PC-K59. There was also a massive 17°C improvement in Southbridge temperature. The GPU fans slowed by 100~150 RPM as a result of the extra cooling, lowering the noise level a tad. For a high power, high heat system, the Dragon Rider is tough to beat.

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

First we’ll start off by saying up front that for a typical desktop configuration like our X4 955/HD 4870 combination, the Dragon Rider is a not a good choice. Though it’s spacious and well-cooled, the vent on the left side panel is so large that acoustically, it is like not having a side panel at all. The case has too many holes to be very quiet, even if you slow the fans to low levels. In addition, without components significantly heating up the motherboard, the fan on the right side panel is useless, which is a shame as its inclusion results in the case being an inch wider than normal.

With a higher power setup, however, the case’s thermal performance is substantially better than the recently tested In Win BUC and LanCool PC-K59. The additional cooling from the side fans far outweighs their extra noise and results in an overall quieter and much cooler system. For a multi-GPU and/or heavily overclocked system, the Dragon Rider case fans deliver excellent airflow, which allows various component fans to spin at lower speeds.

The Dragon Rider’s performance isn’t the only aspect we appreciate. The build quality is solid, its tool-less assembly features are convenient and fairly secure, and there are some nice touches like the inclusion of 4-pin/8-pin extension cables, raised fan mounts to reduce turbulence, and rubber grommets for the side panel fans. The fans are of good acoustic quality except for the top fan which has a tendency to click, but luckily this noise blends into the background when there are multiple noise sources. The side panel fan can also be moved to a lower position to avoid interference with tall CPU coolers, an option not available on most cases with large side fans.

Our main complaint is that the Dragon Rider does not ship with any fan speed control for its five stock fans… despite the somewhat high price tag. It’s quite a large case, wide enough to house a full-sized right side fan and deep enough to support EATX motherboards. There’s also extra clearance between the motherboard tray and ceiling and room for an eight expansion slot, making the case very tall. All this space and extra size is wasted unless you make use of it all. We were dismayed with the inclusion of improper screws for the motherboard standoffs. When the screws holding the motherboard were removed after testing, half of the standoffs ended up stuck to them. Some may consider this a minor detail, but such a basic error is bad form.

With a street price of about US$140, the Dragon Rider is a superb choice for a big enthusiast/gaming case. It doesn’t have as many fancy features as some other similarly-priced cases, but if you have a thermally challenging system, it delivers impressive performance. It may not ride the dragon, but it does tame a hot powerful system better than most cases we’ve encountered.

In Win Dragon Rider
PROS

* Excellent performance with high power configurations
* Solid construction
* Secure, tool-less assembly for most components
* Stock fans have good acoustics
* Raised fan mounts
* Position of 22 cm side fan can be adjusted
* 4-pin/8-pin extension cables included

CONS

* Louder than most cases with lower power systems
* Lacks a fan speed controller
* Very big given its conventional layout
* Improper motherboard standoff screws included

Our thanks to In Win for the Dragon Rider case sample.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest
LanCool PC-K59 Midtower Case
In Win BUC ATX Tower Case
Silverstone Fortress FT03 mATX Tower: Redux
Fractal Design Define R3 ATX Tower
Silverstone Fortress FT03 microATX Tower
NZXT H2 Classic Silent Midtower Chassis

* * *

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