Case study

I'm really not a guy for fancy computer cases. I like my systems to speak softly and carry a big stick. For the past year or so, I've run my main Linux workstation with an MSI MASTER-2 mainboard with dual Opteron 248 CPUs, 2GB of RAM, a 3Ware 8000-series SATA RAID controller and mirrored 120GB SATA drives, an nVidia GeForce 5600 graphics controller, and dual 21" Trinitrons run at 1920x1440. It really is a scream

I'm really not a guy for fancy computer cases. I like my systems to speak softly and carry a big stick. For the past year or so, I've run my main Linux workstation with an MSI MASTER-2 mainboard with dual Opteron 248 CPUs, 2GB of RAM, a 3Ware 8000-series SATA RAID controller and mirrored 120GB SATA drives, an nVidia GeForce 5600 graphics controller, and dual 21" Trinitrons run at 1920x1440. It really is a screamer... in a plain beige case that actually looks older than my ancient PIII-600 workstation circa 2001.

It's not just looks though. Even though there were three 80mm case fans running constantly, the internal temps were higher than I would normally prefer. If the A/C in my lab wasn't running, or it was an extremely warm day, I would notice performance degradation, and the air coming out of the side fan was rather toasty. That being said, the system was stable, and other than the purely aesthetic aspects of the case, it was functional.

Then I was asked to demo the MGE XG Dragon case. Equipped with a 500W power supply, this case just looked mean. I normally wouldn't have, but this time I agreed to take a look. After almost two weeks, I'm very glad I did. If I had to do it all over again I would have opted for the midnight blue version, but the silver model I was shipped is still quite a looker.

Rather than plant an average mainboard in this case, I opted to transplant my main workstation. This wasn't a decision made lightly; it would mean at least an hour of downtime for that box, and there's always the spectre of a transplant nightmare, and those never end well.

So, pressed for time and against my better judgement, I went for it.

Anyone who's spent time working on custom PCs knows the rule: If you put everything together, run all the drive cabling, case switches, power cabling, etc, and put the cover back on, you're just jinxing yourself -- something will be wrong and you're pulling it all apart again to find out why. In this instance, however, I managed to beat the odds. I completely transplanted that system in 30 minutes, from powerdown to powerup. It was truly a miracle.

The Dragon case is very well thought out, and that certainly helped. The removable mainboard tray made that swap very simple, and the locking drive anchors worked well, rendering the case nearly tool-less. The front-mounted fans were perfectly situated to cool down the disks, and the lighting is really well done, and the front of the case is certainly eye catching. In fact, the lights on this case illuminate a significant portion of the lab when it's dark.

Also, I liked the top-mounted USB, FireWire, and audio ports, although my FireWire card has a standard 6-pin IEEE1394 jack, and not pin headers, so it's currently disconnected. The LCD panel on the front is kinda cool too, showing fan RPM stats, and CPU temperature as gathered by a single probe tacked to one of the CPU heatsinks. It's not the most accurate measurement, but it gives you a quick idea of the internal temp.

I had to pull the fan shroud off the side and mount another fan there to adequately move the air away from the dual Opterons, but there was another header from the LCD to drive that fan, so it was no big deal.

I didn't like the expansion card locking mechanism. It really doesn't lock down the cards as much as I would like, and left me wishing that I could just pull it out and screw down my PCI and AGP cards. Also, the internal 3.5" drive cage isn't removable, which is a minor issue.

All in all, this is one seriously attractive and functional case with a seriously strong power supply. If that power supply can handle the draw from those dual Opterons, it can handle just about anything you can throw at it. Since the transplant, this system runs cooler than it ever has, and has been just as stable as before. I still don't think I'll ever be a "case guy", but I do like this one.

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