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Gigabyte iSOLO 210 Mid-Tower

Date: November 7, 2007
Author(s): William Kelley

Gigabyte is well aware that consumers yearning for a quiet PC don’t want to give up great looks and functionality. They prove this with their iSOLO 210. In addition to the case’s aesthetics, it also turns out to have very impressive construction, especially considering its low price point.



Introduction

With most PC builds, the case is definitely one of the most overlooked parts. Too often, the budget is blown before a proper case is selected and far too often a budget case is chosen. Spend too little and you’ll get a flimsy, noisy and just plain ugly unit. Spend too much and the overall budget can suffer. Today I am putting the Gigabyte iSOLO 210 through its paces. This one fits very nicely in the $100 range which is a comfortable price for most people.

Gigabyte is attempting to sell you a lifestyle with this case. It is strongly marketed as a HTPC style case on their webpage and the classy looks of the solid aluminum front panel sure lend to it. The back lighting of the Gigabyte logo in blue is quite a nice touch albeit a bit distracting if being used in a HTPC arrangement. The aluminum front does lend it a feel and look of very high quality and it would definitely fit in amongst audio-video components as well. All in all, it gives a strong air of quality and style.

Closer Look

As of late, case manufacturers have been spending that extra dollar on packaging to make their products stand out on the store shelves. The iSOLO 210 arrived in a very brightly colored box with high quality graphics. The shipping company was nice enough to test out the strength of the packaging for us as well. I was happy to say that despite the somewhat beat up box, it arrived in perfect shape.

The packaging was also top notch, with all the expected foam and a small compartment in the top foam section that housed the included manuals. This is a nice touch in my opinion, keeping things from floating around inside the box potentially scratching the paint.

Once out of the box, we get a good look at the case with the solid aluminum front panel showing us all its glory.

The paintjob on this case is somewhat of a standard black glossy finish, but it was well done. At first, I expected a plastic front cover with aluminum pieces glues on, but it was actually a solid piece of aluminum and quite heavy. It is a very nice touch and really helps with the quality feel. I was pleasantly surprised when I removed the front of the case that the USB/Firewire/Headphone/Mic ports were firmly attached to the case and not the front panel making it quite easy to remove.

Unlike many cases built today, instead of a window we have a large mesh grill on the side panel. I prefer this over a window since it allows for more airflow and a cooler PC.

I really liked the addition of large rubber case feet. Too many cases have those small rubber inserts that just plain fail at offering any real stability for your case. The feet on this case are screwed securely to the case into metal inserts. The iSOLO case feels firmly planted and solid.

As for the rear of the case, there are provisions for water cooling which is a very nice touch and the 120MM exhaust ran has large honeycomb shaped openings to allow maximum airflow. Even the PCI slot covers exude quality since they are made from a heavier gauge metal than I normally find on most cases.

Now let’s take a look at the inside!



Interior

The Interior of the iSOLO is pretty much as one would expect. A single 120MM exhaust fan compliments a single 120MM intake fan tucked neatly behind the hard drive cage. Gigabyte decided to turn the hard drive cage 90 degrees to allow more space for the motherboard and PCI cards. The only minor drawbacks are that the intake fan must blow through and around the cage, and there was insufficient room to install the hard drives in reverse for those that like to really hide their cables. The tool less locks for the 5 ¼ and 3 ½ drive bays work very well and lock the drives in solidly.

The PCI slots have locking plastic clips as well. There are screw holes for the PCI slots if you prefer a mechanical mount for your add in PCI cards. While this is a good idea, I did have some issues with the clips that I will demonstrate later on.

Strangely, there is only one connection to the motherboard to power up the PC. There is no reset button and no HDD activity light on the case. There are also connections for the front panel USB and Firewire port as well as the audio connection which does offer either HD or AC97 style connection.

While the case does have a glowing blue front panel which uses a 4 pin molex connector, it also has a power button that lights up. This is the only lighting on the case.

One very important thing I noted about the iSOLO that I feel must be reported is the quality of the case itself. I, as well as every PC builder, cannot stand a case with sharp edges. No matter what I try, it seems that every PC I build has it in its heart to make me bleed. Gigabyte went above and beyond on the iSOLO as I could not find a sharp edge anywhere, even in places most people will NOT stick their fingers. Edges were either double rolled or smooth and dull. Even the side panels were of heavier-than-normal gauge metal with the edges rolled.

This case does not feel tinny in the least and the side panels have no perceivable flex. Even the panel with the large cutout for the screening feels solid. Honestly, after really looking at how this case was built, I feel this is the first case in this price point I have ever come across with this level of build quality. Gigabyte should be commended for not skimping on the steel whereas it seems many companies are just to save a few bucks.

And last but not least, here’s a quick shot of the included hardware and various hold downs included with the case. I love the little touch of the soft cloth pad to wipe the dust off the case.

Time to put this case through its paces and build it up.



Installation

Gigabyte has given us a very well built case to use in the iSOLO 210. With all the sound deadening features built in, I had high expectations. While I feel it somewhat sacrifices pure cooling performance with the solid front panel and the close proximity of the hard drive cage to the intake fan, they did vent the front panel on the sides and bottom to help. Now to answer the question as to how well this case works.

The installation of the motherboard and power supply is pretty standard stuff. No surprises here, everything fits right in with lots of room to work. The hard drive rails simply secure to the drives with pins and slide into the cage.

There is lots of room for cabling and even though I do not have a motherboard with side-facing SATA ports, I feel there is plenty of room to use them even with standard SATA cables. The front panel connections also offer plenty of length to reach the ports on the motherboard and there is room to slide them under the hard drive cage to help with wire management.

I happen to use one of the largest video cards on the market in my PC. At 9 ½ inches long, the ATI HD 2900 XT definitely can affect the case you select for your build since it is just so darn long. This case just swallowed it up with ease. In fact, I see no issues in running 2 such large cards for Crossfire in this case since the arrangement of the hard drive cage leaves the entire bottom of the case open for whatever cards you have.

My one gripe about the tool less PCI installation that I alluded to earlier comes in here. It couldn’t solidly hold my video card. While I was not worried about it falling out, if I was to transport my case I wouldn’t trust it to hold the card properly in place. But, at least there are provisions to use screws.

After installing the sound card and PCI Firewire card along with the DVD drive and floppy, cable management comes into play. Many cases simply do not deliver here. Looking pretty on the outside is all well and good, but I for one do not like the look of wiry messy monster on the inside. The iSOLO 210 offers lots of hiding space for the cables and working inside it was a breeze.

I have to say this was the most fun I have ever had building a PC without even once tearing out my hair looking for a place to tie off a cable to keep it out of the way. Gigabyte also includes some plastic hold downs that 2-sided tape to the case for more help. Again, my only complaint is that the hard drive cage is slid too far back to allow you to install the drives in reverse, but with no window, that really is no big deal.

All built and ready for business, this case really does look every bit as high quality as it feels. The side panel mesh is large and opens up the entire side of the case for airflow. The venting around the front panel also helps with airflow.

Time to put it through the final phase of testing.



Testing, Final Thoughts

Testing a case is very subjective. Some cases are designed for pure airflow and cooling while some make huge sacrifices for quietness. All my temperatures were taken at an ambient temperature of 22°C (roughly 70°F).

Our testing machine consisted of:

The front mounted fan was at a disadvantage with the sideways mounted hard drive cage pretty much blocking a direct intake of air into the case. Also, running a Quad-Core and HD 2900 will also add some extra heat into your PC. The side panel mesh did its job and I must say I was pleasantly surprised as to how well this case performed and I was even more surprised with how quietly it performed.

Idle
Load
CPU @ 2.13GHz 35°C55°C
CPU @ 2.92GHz 38°C62°C

Quad-Cores are notoriously hot runners. My Quad is also the B3 stepping. One very important factor to take into consideration of my reported temperatures is that my heatsink is not the ideal model to cool an overclocked Quad, and the noise level while running this way was nearly silent. I cannot stress how impressed I was how well this case cooled my PC. Remember, this is only running a single 120MM intake and a single 120MM exhaust. I have to commend Gigabyte for their work on airflow while keeping it nearly silent.

Final Thoughts

Not all cases are created equal. So many factors need to be taken into account when building a PC and choosing the proper case. Personal taste very much comes into play. Ease of use is also a major factor in the decision. Finally, the quality of the case must be carefully checked to make sure your PC will like its new home.

Working on the Gigabyte iSOLO 210 was a fun experience. From the ease of installation of the main parts to the ease of properly running the wiring, I don’t really have anything truly bad to say about this case. It is a solid unit. I have built many PCs using many different grades of cases, and with the iSOLO 210 coming in around $100 (US), I have yet to come across another case that could touch the quality level of what I’ve seen here.

From the solid aluminum vented front panel, the strong secure case feet, to the rounded edges and stamped side panels, it just breathes quality. I give this case a solid 8 out of 10 rating. If you are looking for a new case with sound deadening features and good looks, give the iSOLO 210 a serious look. I dare anyone to show me a better built case for the money.

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