In Win isn’t exactly a common name at Techgage. Only twice have we looked at anything they produce, the latest being JD’s take on its 707, and the first being all the way back in 2009 when we put the X-Fighter through its paces. The former being a recent addition to In Win’s retail portfolio and the latter a decent example of where it’s been as a company. Man a lot has happened in that time.
My first real introduction to the company was at last year’s CES. Sure I had heard of them, but nothing that it produced really stood out to me. That is until I saw its S-Frame chassis at a handful of industry parties. To quote some guy named Greg King, “Never have I seen a product quite like it. With a six-foot piece of 4mm thick aluminum, In Win bends the single piece into a truly unique shape. After the PC’s components are installed, they are sort of protected with a beautiful piece of tempered glass.” What a poet.
I was floored by the unique design, the overall look when fully built, and sadly the price. Anything nice will demand a premium, and the S-Frame delivered (and still does) on that. With the D-Frame Mini, In Win continues its trend of unique designs. Made from aluminum tubing and tempered glass, it’s an open-air design that accommodates a Mini-ITX motherboard and promises “nothing less than the ultimate gaming experience.” Let’s take a closer look.
The D-Frame Mini is formed by TIG welding aluminum tubing. This gives the diminutive chassis a very sturdy foundation to build with. On either side, there are eight rubber pads that fit snugly on the tubing to provide a sound footing on whatever surface the chassis will be placed on. In between the two outer rings of tubing that make up the sides, is a lattice work of additional tubing, giving the chassis additional rigidity and incorporating a handle on the top for good measure. On either side, the walls of the D-Frame Mini are made up of beautiful tempered glass and held in place with soft latex buffers and end cap screws.
With the D-Frame mini being an open design, placement of the IO panel is as good as one might imagine. Like almost everything else on the chassis, the panel is secured to the rather thick motherboard tray and is oriented vertically facing the front. From top to bottom, there are power and reset buttons, a pair of USB 3.0 ports, microphone and audio out jacks, and a hard drive activity LED. The panel is made out of bent and formed aluminum and sits innocuously rearward of some of the tubing that make up the front of the chassis.
With the tempered glass side panel removed, we can see the internals of the D-Frame Mini. Able to accommodate a Mini-ITX motherboard, the chassis can also accommodate a full-sized video card, three 3.5” or 2.5” HDDs or SSDs, a full-size ATX power supply (up to 220mm), and most impressively, up to a 240mm radiator or dual 120mm fans. If positioned with the handle to the top of the chassis, the motherboard is oriented 90 degrees clockwise, relative to the layout we are all accustomed to. This places the motherboard’s IO panel at the top of the case. With rubber “feet” situated on all sides, the D-Frame Mini can be placed in one of the six possible positions.
One nice thing about the design of this chassis is that it’s completely modular. While obviously not able to hold a full ATX tower’s worth of gear, the chassis can be adapted to hold only what you want it to. The drive platforms and PCI card bracket are removable, as is the dual 120mm fan holder at the bottom. All are held in place by a pair of screws each, with all but the PCI card bracket featuring captured screws.
As mentioned earlier, the side panels of the In Win D-Frame Mini are made entirely out of tempered glass. They have a smoky gray color to them but are still translucent enough to see the installed hardware once everything is in place. While tempered glass is much stronger than traditional glass, it’s still glass. In Win has used it because it looks amazing, but given the mobile nature of the chassis, care still needs to be taken when doing anything with the side panels.
To help with this, In Win has mounted the panels on four soft buffers. These are installed around metal posts and ensure that the glass touches as little metal as possible. In fact, the only metal that the glass comes in contact with are the thumb screws that retain the panels onto the chassis. These thumb screws are only threaded so deep, so it’s impossible to tighten them down enough to damage the glass.
The motherboard tray is the single most important piece of the D-Frame Mini. With it, all other components with the exception of the power supply, are installed. This thick aluminum plate is held to the frame of the chassis with only four standard 3.5” hard drive screws. By removing those four screws, the entire plate can be removed from the chassis for easy installation of the components that will make up the PC.
With the motherboard tray out, we can see just how little space is consumed by the motherboard itself. To the right of the motherboard are cutouts for power and data cable routing. The chassis provides three platforms for installing drives of your choosing and can accommodate both 3.5” and 2.5” drives. On the back of the tray, an additional two 2.5” drives can be mounted as well and their cables routed through the large square cut-out below the right corner of the motherboard. Running the length of the bottom of the tray, a chassis for securing a pair of 120mm fans is included.
- ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe
- Intel i5-3570
- MSI 970 GTX 4G
- Skill 8GB (2x4GB) PC3-12800
- Thermaltake Water 3.0 240mm
With our hardware installed, the D-Frame Mini gets very tight, very quickly. Running vertically along the rear of the chassis is a full size MSI 970 GTX 4G. With any Mini-ITX motherboard, SLI or CrossFire is out of the question. Even with its MSI non-reference cooler, it does fall within the dimensions of the reference design. That being said, there is only about half an inch of clearance between the power supply and the video card’s cooler.
Cabling can be routed behind the motherboard tray, or in our case, on the same side as the motherboard. There is ample clearance between the back of the motherboard tray and the glass panel to route many, if not all, of the cabling that connects the different devices within the PC.
With the glass panel in place, the In Win D-Frame Mini has a clean and elegant look. The red rubber feet that are positioned on each side of the chassis offer the only coloring that stands out. While the chassis is ideally suited for LAN parties, where easy transportation is vital, it’s unique enough to be a true conversation starter and as a result, would be right at home as a living room HTPC. With the ability to sit in almost any orientation, there are those that might have gone a little overboard with their usage of the D-Frame Mini…
As discussed at the beginning of this review, it’s been quite a while since I have personally reviewed a chassis. Seeing In Win practically everywhere at CES 2015, we knew that we needed to get one of their more unique solutions in for review. The open designed D-Frame Mini fit that bill precisely.
Available online for $269.99 at Newegg and $344.73 at Amazon, the D-Frame Mini isn’t cheap. Then again, it’s not designed to be cheap. TIG welding an aluminum frame is not something that can be done as quickly as stamping and riveting aluminum or steel in an assembly line. The inclusion of tempered glass is another reason the price of the chassis is what it is. These materials however make for an incredibly unique PC build.
With its open frame design, the Mini provides adequate cooling for all but the most demanding hardware. Whether a HTPC, LAN, Steam Box, the In Win D-Frame Mini is a perfect foundation for whatever uses you might have for your miniature build. It’s pricier than most any other Mini-ITX chassis, and its looks are the definition of love it or leave it, but it’s without equal and in a class of its own. The unique nature alone should earn it a spot on anyone’s potential build list.
- Unparalleled build quality.
- Unique… how many cases have glass side panels?
- Multiple options for orientation.
- 240mm radiator friendly.
- All modular design.
- Open design.