Test Bench Roundup #1: Intel and MSI

January 27, 2010 | 10:27

Tags: #big-bang #case #test-bench #testing

Companies: #intel #msi

Test rigs are a rarely catered-for niche, since most people prefer a whole case with side panels and stuff. Antec tried and failed with its Skeleton chassis, completely forgetting that a test bench needs to accommodate all sorts of potential setups - including after market coolers, an area which it was not so compatible with. In a sense, it was the glam-rocker of test benches with all show and no metal core.

We've had a couple drop on our doorstep recently and true to form they are raw to the core. We thought we'd write a blog about the test-benches we use regularly for those who like the idea of a freestanding, easy access "case".

They are surprisingly diverse as you'll see below, and in part 2 I'll treat you to possibly the greatest creation of all time: my home-modded one!
First up then: Intel.

We'll start you all off with low expectations. We received several of these from our lovely friends at Intel a year or two ago, and they've been the staple backbone of test benching ever since.

They are the most basic of the bunch, but they do the job just fine: less fuss, less hassle, easy to work with.

Test Bench Roundup #1: Intel and MSI
Click to enlarge

Basically that equates to a simple box design made out of steel and eight screws to hold it all together. The design is just tall enough to for a PSU to slot in, but there’s nowhere specific to drop the hard drive so it has to go on some foam or cardboard to keep it off the metal. Since we're literally swimming our way through boxes in the lab (I joke not, that's how I get my exercise), finding some is a pretty a easy ask.

The best bit is that Intel got the motherboard standoffs just right. They hold the board in place, without forcefully retaining it, so it takes two seconds to whip a motherboard in and out.

Test Bench Roundup #1: Intel and MSI
Click to enlarge

Verdict: It does the job and works for us, but it's hardly the cleverest bit of kit ever imagined.

Second: MSI

This bad boy is one of the pimpest test rigs you'll ever see. Doesn't that look clearly "faster" than the rest, with its clear Perspex sheets and angular gunmetal bar thingies? Yea, raw, GRR *fist*.

MSI chucked this in with its Big-Bang Fuzion motherboard we recently reviewed - as you can see from the sticker - although, despite a price that will makes a Fabergé egg look bargainous, it's not an extra you get with it.

Test Bench Roundup #1: Intel and MSI
Click to enlarge

Despite the pimpness, the instructions were awful. Not just bad - illegible. Imagine if Ikea half-translated their Chinese manuals, then gave them to a half blind person to photocopy photocopies before using them for coasters.

The sad thing is, it's also the test bench that requires the most work to put together, with fiddly little screws and brackets that tie the bars and Perspex sheets to each other. On the one side, it's also the most customisable because the brackets can be moved up and down accordingly, but it's also the most likely to fall apart because a bolt comes off.

Test Bench Roundup #1: Intel and MSI
Click to enlarge

Just check those tall bars that are designed to hold in the peripheral/graphics cards. They look great, with their tallness and nice chunky thumbscrews, but they are as useless as a chocolate teapot: they don't stand up to much punishment and you're more likely to lose the thumbscrews with the constant on-off-on-off-on-off of hardware.

Test benches take a lot of beating, and we don't think MSI's one could withstand a gentle breeze let alone a battering of motherboards and graphics testing.

Oh, and that's not to mention the brass standoffs require screws for retention: that's an instant fail.

Verdict: Looks great, but a pain in the backside to build before ultimately breaking sooner than the rest.
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