Before I start this review, I'd like to thank Rob from ISI Technologies
for providing TechFreaks with this product to review. I encourage everyone to check out ISI Technologies
, they offer a superb selection of computer components, including today's item in 7 different colors.
Today I take a look at the Chenming 301KE Aluminum Case. Chenming is no newcomer when it comes to cases; they've been producing various computer peripherals since the establishment of their company in 1984. One of the greatest features of the case is that it is aluminum. Cases have made the transition from steel to aluminum because of three main factors:
1. Aluminum is lighter than Steel
2. Aluminum dissipates heat better [making your case temps lower]
3. Aluminum doesn't corrode or rust
As I mentioned earlier, ISI Technologies
carries the 301KE in seven different colors, allowing you to get the right color case to match your room's décor. The 301KE is a mid-tower case, which resembles a smaller, lighter version of my Enermax FS-710
. The 301KE's specifications are listed below:
ATX Mid Tower|
8.2"W x 17."H x 16"D|
Drive Bays|| |
4 x 5.25", 2 x 3.5"|
2 x 3.5" HDD
Main Board Size||
ATX Up to 12" x 9.6"|
ATX, PS/2 OR SFX|
Up to 2 Optional 80mm Fans|
| ||The Back|
It used to be that cases were just meant to house the components of your computer and to never be thought about again. But times have changed: Cases have started to come in a variety of designs, colors and features including pre-installed windows, bay-buses, temperature probes and thermostats. The 301KE I received today has a black matte coat and a glossy black plastic front-panel. The front panel that masks the four 5.25” bays, two 3.5” bays and the Power/Reset buttons comes bubble-wrapped and secured to the case with duct tape to prevent damage. It is easily removable if you don’t want to use it. The bottom half of the case resembles the FS-710, with a column of gaps for intake airflow. An added feature is a little tab below the drive bays, that when opened, reveals 2 USB ports and 1 I334-Firewire port. (The necessary cables for connecting these ports to your motherboard are included with the case.) No more crawling around to the back of the computer to connect your plug-and-play devices.
|Tab Closed|| ||Tab Open|
This version of the 301KE comes pre-installed with a full side-window and 2 pre-cut 80mm blow holes. For those who are not “dremel-skilled,” this is the perfect solution for showing off the inside of your case.
On the back of the case, there is an option to install an 80mm exhaust fan, adjacent to the I/O panel. There are 7 expansion slots and the module located next to them is probably the handiest feature about the case. This module stores all your extra screws. No more looking through countless boxes trying to find that lone Dixie Cup with all your screws in it. There is only one problem with the compartment and that is that it blocks all expansion slots, so whenever you need to install a new PCI card, you have to remove the module, install the card and then put the module back in; or always keep the module un-installed (it still works better than a DixieCup). The module is okay though, because the whole removing and re-installing process takes all of 10 seconds. There is also a little piece of metal that sticks out through the back of the side-panel, allowing you to attach a lock so no one can access the interior of your case without the proper key or combination.
|Device Closed|| ||Device Opened|| ||Blocking Expansion Slots|
|Attach a Lock and No Access|
As you can probably see from the pictures, there are a lot of noticeable finger-prints. While the case has a matte coat, meaning no finger-prints, the front-panel, side-window and back of the case are all susceptible to finger-prints. Not appealing, but you can always wipe them off with your favorite liquid cleaner and some paper-towels.
The interior is where I noticed a potential flaw. I mentioned earlier that there are two visible 3.5” drive-bays, when I got inside the case; there was only one hidden 3.5” bay. So for people like me, who house one Floppy Drive, one Zip Drive and two Hard-Drives, this is sort of a problem. You’d really have to know what you want to put in the case to get it all to fit as there isn’t much (or any) room for expansion. Right below the drive bays is a cage for an 80mm intake-fan, simply snap off the cage, install the fan and then snap the cage back onto the case.
|Inside the Case|| ||Intake Fan Slot|
|Slot Grill|| ||Fan snaps right in|
The drive bays installations are practically the same as all previous Cheiftec/Chenming/Antec/Enermax/etc. cases. Apply the drive-rail (which is hidden behind the respective 5.25” bay cover) to your 5.25” device, slide in the device from the front, connect the necessary cables from the back of the drive and you’re done. The 3.5” bays also parallel the FS-710’s 3.5” drive installation method. Move the level to the “unlocked” position, pull out the drive cage and install your 3.5” devices. Put the drive cage back in, slide the level to the “locked” position and you’re done. Installing new drives/devices takes no more than a couple of minutes.
As I mentioned previously, the case offers two places for 80mm fans, one intake in the front of the case and one exhaust in the back of the case. This usually isn’t enough airflow to get good ventilation through the case. This is where the pre-installed side panel with the two-precut 80mm blowholes comes into play. There are now two more places to install intake or exhaust fans, increasing airflow and decreasing case-temps. Not to mention if you install an LED or CCFL fan. I installed 4 80mm Quad LED (2 Blue / 2 Red) fans and two Light-Mods 12” Blue CCFL’s. Together they light up the case and the room!
|The Fans ready to be Installed|| ||Let there be light!|
Overall, I love the case. Drive installation was simple, the black coat is very appealing and my favorite thing, it’s extremely light. The FS-710 is steel and huge, the 301KE is aluminum and compact, the transition is noticeable and I’m loving every minute of it. I encountered two problems with the case. The first was when installing my CD-Burner in the bottom bay. There was very little space between the CD-Burner and the 3rd slot of my RAM. The second was while attempting to take out my CD-Burner; it was very hard only to use the drive rails to pull the drive out of its bay. I picked up some black thumb-screws from SVC and no longer suffering through my non-thumbscrew dilemma. For the price, it’s a little steep for not coming with a power-supply, but still is a steady-performer. Therefore with all the tasteful aspects of and surrounding the case, I recommend this case to anyone and everyone.