Before getting down to the insides, we wanted to show you around this unique chassis so you get an idea of exactly what this machine is.
The top of the case is held in place with four clips, two on each side. These can be undone, so the entire top and side of the case lifts off for access to the internals. The clips are very stiff, which means it can take some heave-ho to get the case apart - but rather that than have the lid rattling around loosely.
The top has some holes in that form a handle, which is padded underneath. It's not particularly comfy as a carrying handle, since the system itself is very heavy. The side of the case has open vents in - they'll let dust through, but are vital to keeping the cramped internals cool.
The front of the machine has some front-access gubbins, as you can see. We weren't amazingly impressed with the little Akasa fan controller at the bottom - we'd rather see something more in keeping with the fascia on the rest of the machine, in clear acrylic. The centre of the front has the Scan Isotope logo, and next to it are the power and reset buttons.
You can also take the bottom off the system for access to the mass of cables and the hard drive that hangs underneath. The rear of the system is quite a sight. There are two 60mm fan-mounts at the bottom which give cooling to the hard drive. On the right are four expansion slots, two of which are taken up with the SLI cards.
An 80mm intake fan drags cool air into the case and onto the processor heatsink. To the left of that there are power jacks for the computer itself and for connection to a monitor, whilst below that is a switch which will switch the side-mounted green cathodes on and off.
Because the case is so small, there is really a minimal amount of room for cabling, as you can see above. As a consequence, the whole thing has been exquisitely cabled, tied, routed and organised to provide the maximum amount of room possible. The chassis itself is solid and feels good quality, with a suitable sturdiness. The metal top section is strong and unlikely to bend, and the artwork on top is actually a very high quality decal which we felt is unlikely to scratch or damage.
If we had one problem with the overall build and design, it would be that the large open areas - the top of the case and the mesh vents on the side - are likely to pull in dust, which could make this a high-maintenance system. Considering the design and the amount of hardware inside, however, this is something we'd be prepared to put up with.
The system isn't quiet, we'll say that much. It certainly isn't the loudest we've heard, but the sheer amount of kit packed into the small space means that decent cooling is a must for system stability - and, to be fair, this machine didn't conk out on us once during testing. The rear 80mm intake is pretty quiet, although if the two 60mm fans below had been fitted, we would expect them to produce a high-pitched whine which would spoil the fun. Both the fan on top, and the fan in the power supply, are whisper quiet.
The processor fan is also very quiet, and the Zalman coolers on the graphics cards (which we'll get to in a minute) are also very good. However, lots of even very quiet fans add up to quite a lot of noise, and whilst this won't be the noisiest system at your LAN, you've heard quieter. Thankfully, the top, rear and processor fans are connected up to the fan controller on the front, allowing you to throttle them back where possible.