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Ultra Aluminus

Date: February 3, 2006
Author(s): Matthew Harris

Ultra has recently released a new case called the Aluminus. It’s quite similar in design to their Wizard case, but it’s been amped up in every single way. This is not just a normal case anymore, they have pulled out all the stops. Let’s see how great Ultra can impress us this time!



Introduction

Early last year, we took a look at Ultra’s Wizard case, which has similar styling to the case we are looking at today. It was a case with great styling and great airflow. By looking at the Aluminus, it’s really come a long way since the Wizard, I am so far impressed by the look of it. Let’s jump right in to the pictures!

The Aluminus arrived at my door in a doubled box, which had the retail packaging inside. The packaging includes shots of the case along with it’s various features and benefits.

Inside the box resides the case nicely packed in fitted foam end caps and covered by a large poly bag.

When you open the box though, you’re not looking at the top of the case, instead you’re looking at the case front, which you can see better from the comparison shot. We’ll see how this can be a problem in a second.

As seen here, the accessory box was hung from the drive cage. This caused quite a load on the area it was hanging from, the unsupported center of the cage, and eventually ripped the accessory box loose and spilled the drive mounts free. As you can see from the first picture, the case window is covered in a plastic film. Thankfully, it was covered on the inside as well because this saved the window from being damaged by the drive rails hitting it.



Accessories/Front Drive Bay

In the future, given Ultra’s non-traditional packaging method, I feel that if two wire-ties were used with one towards the top of the drive case and the other at the bottom, that this problem could be avoided when the case it subject to ‘less than loving care’ during the shipping. Fortunately, I was able to straighten the drive cage out fairly easily so it was really no harm done, but it’s still not good to have damage dealt to your new case.

Inside the accessory box, we can find the front mounted audio/USB/Firewire ports in a 3.5" bay mounting box, which is in turn mounted in a 5.25" bay adapter. This is nice, as it gives you the choice of placement, but I’d prefer to have the front ports permanently affixed to the front of the case so I wouldn’t have to give up a drive bay. Luckily, this case has plenty of drive bays including 5 * 5.25" and 2 * 3.5".

One nice thing about the case front is the fact that the entire face is hinged. No stupid tabs to try to press outwards 2 at a time, no hidden screws to try to undo with the case at an awkward angle, no hassle whatsoever. You just have to pull on the tab to the right side of the case front and open that baby up. Another nice feature are the bay covers. They’re not snap in, they’re instead held on with screws. This means that if you have rheobuses that utilize the stock drive cover as a mounting device, you will have to make certain to have plenty of slack on it to allow for opening the case. I’d consider that a decent trade off though as I’ve had to fish my rheobus out of a case more than once, and it’s honestly a pain in the neck!

There is a lack of a filter that i’d like to see addressed. I know it’s a minor thing, but considering that most cases coming out these days feature them, I consider this a bad oversight. I do however like that the fan mountings are for 120mm fans front and rear. This allows for superb airflow with minimal noise.

The 3.5" bays have a nice feature that allows you to pop the entire bay out of the case for mounting the devices you may have, whether they’re floppy drives, card readers, temp monitors or even the included front bay box that comes with the case. Handy :-)



Rear of the Case

The rear of the case is different from most others I’ve ever used, because the rear is actually painted to match the rest of the case. This makes for a very pleasing case for using on top of your desk, and yes I know that most of us never look at the back of our cases! If you LAN often, at least the guy sitting across from you will have a bit of aesthetically pleasing scenery rather than bare metal whenever he’s between rounds of <insert favorite FPS here>.

I apologize for the glare from the PCI slot covers, but they are the shiniest pieces of metal I’ve ever seen attached to a case in my entire life. Another thing worth noting is the rear fan grill. Normally the rear fan grilles are these horrid little punche metal affairs that hinder airflow by offering the air less than 50% area to escape. That’s not the case here, no pun intended. Here, we have a very open honeycomb grill that actually offers about the same resistance to airflow as a basic wire grill. This is a very nice departure from some of the other cases I’ve worked with. I wasn’t forced to either break out with my Dremel or put up with less than optimum airflow.

I’m not going to go into tedious build details, but instead show you some shots of the finished system. I used a donor system for the testing here, since my personal rig is watercooled and the benefits of the improved thermal design of this case wouldn’t do it justice. The donor system consists of my old LAN rig which is now my sisters PC. The specs are as follows:

As you can see here, the finished product came out looking pretty nice. The HDD mounting allows for putting the connectors on the offside of the case, giving a cleaner view of the front of the drives, and also allowing the bulk of the cables to be neatly hidden from view. One thing though, if you have really long cables, you might want to go get some shorter ones because as you can see from the second shot, I ended up having to stuff the slack into the top two unused HDD bays. This was just so I can’t get the case side on ;-)



Conclusions

The case side features Intel’s newer recommended duct over the approximate area of the CPU, and the bottom portion of the case window features an exhaust grill over the PCI area. This allows the air normally bottled up by the longer graphics cards somewhere to go, rather than create a dead spot in the case and increase the static pressure on the fan in the front of the case, thereby killing airflow through the case. The payoff is that the end result is lower GPU temps. The CPU duct is adjustable to allow for taller or shorter HSF combinations. It’s also removable, (the accessory package has nuts for the screws holding the grill in place) for those users that are running non-standard HSF units.

The CPU temp is reported by a probe attached to the CPU substrate with the bead touching the side of the CPU die. The GPU temp is reported by a probe attracted to the rear of the PCB directly above the GPU core.

Overall this is a nice decrease in temps. The CPU is running at default Vcore and is OC’ed by 33MHz with a divider of 11x166FSB to help open up the memory bandwidth. The GPU is at it’s default speed of 300MHz, boy, I remember the days when 300MHz was blazing fast for a GPU.

In closing, I’d like to say that the Ultra Aluminus is a beautiful case, which, while being huge, is feather light. The black is hard as heck to photograph well, due to the high gloss. This is one extremely shiny case. The finish is nearly mirror like in appearance. It’s well appointed, roomy, has nice options for cooling and allows for great wiring in your PC. A minimal amount of work is all that’s need to make your PC come out looking like you spent hours hiding the cables!

The only real negative I can name are the lack of fans, which some might consider a plus since it’s two less parts cluttering up their junk drawer’s after putting their favorite fans in the mounting holes. I dislike the lack of filters, the front ports and the way in which the accessory box is hung in the case. All things considered, I’m awarding the Ultra Aluminus a solid 8 out of 10 for beauty and features at a very reasonable price of sub $100.

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