Sytrin Nextherm ICS 8200

Written by Randy Torio    Saturday, 11 June 2005 11:00
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We have reviewed many cases here at InsaneTek.  For the most part, all have been very functional as quality cases.  While we try to remain as impartial to looks as possible, there still exists a small part of us that leans toward a particular look.  The majority of us here at InsaneTek prefer the clean and sleek look, similar to what you would see from companies such as Lian-Li, BeanTech, and Cooler Master ATC.  When I initially heard about Sytrin's case from John, I immediately thought it would have an alien faceplate with a tricked out LCD screen.  I thought my fraternity buddies would walk into my house, look at me weird, and then whisper a joke into each other's ears.  Then I would cry... but in a manly way.  However, once I received the package and saw the picture of the Nextherm case on the box, I was eager to review a case that satisfied my preferences.

Sytrin's Nextherm case looks to be a diamond in the rough because of its combination of appealing looks and extreme functionality.  A while ago, John reviewed an air conditioner unit that worked extremely well in lowering temperatures, but was lacking in terms of looks and convenience.  Sytrin saw the potential for this technology and incorporated its use into the design of their Nextherm case.  The result looks to be a case that has InsaneTek very excited.  Let’s just hope its looks can match its performance and functionality.

 

 

 

 


 

 

Nextherm ICS 8200

Like all quality case packaging, Sytrin's box included all the necessary features to market it efficiently.  It sported all the necessary features that come with the case, as well as a picture of the case itself.  Of course, the case came well-protected in thick Styrofoam and plastic wrap.

The case itself is the silver version of the ICS 8200.  Composed of steel, the case is not light.  Yet, it’s not as heavy as other steel cases I’ve reviewed, such as the Thermaltake Kandalf.  The case is painted in silver, except for the front bezel.  The overall look of the case is impressive.  The black front bezel is completely flat.  The top section, which holds the power indicator and LCD readout display, is positioned nicely at a 45 degree angle.  The overall look is very geometric and clean.

The side door lacks a window, but I feel that the inclusion of a window would ruin the sleek look of this case.  The side door also has a handle for easy removal.  The Nextherm case sports rotating feet, similar to Thermaltake and Chieftec cases.  The back of the case includes a 92mm rear fan placement.  However, the thick grill opening looks very restrictive.  A honeycomb pattern would be a better choice for airflow.  The Nextherm also has thumbscrews for even more added convenience in removal of the side doors.

 

 


 

Nextherm ICS 8200 Continued

The placement of the USB ports, Firewire port, and external sound connections are at the top of the case.  This placement is optimal for people who like their cases on the floor, but I prefer to keep my PC on the desk. The wires for the ports inside the case are also an added distraction for both airflow and wire management.  The front panel LCD and power readout was protected with a thin plastic film. We’ll go more in depth regarding the LCD readout display later in the review.

The front is composed of a door that covers four 5.25” bay spaces and two 3.5” spaces.  The door also covers the power and reset switch, which is a smart move for users with young children who do not want their PC to be tampered with.  The bottom of the front bezel is composed of perforated metal to provide enough airflow for the AC unit, but also acts as a filter to prevent dust from entering the case.

One flaw I immediately noticed was the lackluster paint job.  I found a few scratches during the review and I don't recall mishandling the case in any fashion.  Sytrin should definitely utilize stronger paint if they plan to market this case for high-end users.  At least put on some clear coat for a shiny look and added protection.

 

 


 

Internals

Opening up the case revealed a spacious interior supporting a fully-sleeved power supply with easy grip Molex connectors, a tool-less in case design, an AC unit, and a box including the necessary screws, brackets, PSU cable, and an I/O plate.  The tool-less design is incorporated into the fan placements, 5.25” drive bays, PCI brackets, and front bezel.  Fan positioning is just a matter of snapping in an included 92mm fan into the rear fan clips.  Any 5.25” device can be installed by just snapping on a tool-less bracket onto the device and then sliding it into the bay.  The 3.5” bays aren’t tool-less, but are removable.  There are also only two available slots open for 3.5" devices, which can be a problem for people needing more hard drive space. Despite this one limitation, installation of the drive bays is simple, quick, and effective.

The tool-less PCI brackets are unique in their implementation.  Installation is just a matter of pushing the latch up, sliding it out, installing the PCI device, and pushing the latch back in to secure it.  Overall, the design feels much sturdier than most tool-less PCI brackets that I’ve seen.  Another unique tool-less feature is the removal and attachment of the front bezel, which only requires the flip of a side latch.  We all know how difficult it can be sometimes to remove a front bezel, but Sytrin ensured easy removal.  In fact, as minor as this feature may seem to most people, it is a definite win for people who consistently like to tinker with their cases.  I'm hoping other manufacturers take a hint from Sytrin's design.

 

 


 

 

Power Supply

The power supply included with the Nextherm case deserves its own detailed review.  The included 460W power supply has enough features to rival top power supplies that are sold individually.  All of the cables are fully sleeved with black sleeving, black connections, and easy grip Molex connectors.  The supplied connections are enough to fulfill the demands of the latest computer rig.  They include 6 Molex connectors, 2 floppy connectors,  2 SATA power connectors, 1 eight-pin power connector, 1 four-pin power connector, 1 PCI-Express connector, fan-monitoring support, and the 24 pin power connection.  The power supply also has its own connection for both the LCD unit and the AC Unit.

Taken directly from Sytrin's website, the power supply also has the necessary power to make it an efficient power supply for both the latest Intel and AMD offerings.  A few key features include Active PFC, over-voltage and power protection, dual 12v rails, PCI-Express support, and smart fan control and monitoring.  This isn't the typical power supply included with low-quality cases.  Sytrin definitely takes the hassle out of buying an additional quality component.  We will see later on in the review if this PSU can withstand the stress testing.

 

 


 

 

Cooling

The AC unit for the Nextherm is the most innovative component, which utilizes the same technology found in a unit that John reviewed a while ago.  The unit is wired to the LCD readout on top of the case, which is directly wired to the power supply.  The idea behind the AC unit is the use of thermoelectric cooling to cool down the incoming air.

A thermoelectric plate is used to cool down the copper heatsink, while the hot part of the plate is cooled  through the bottom of the case, via a perforated mesh grill and a metal blower.  The incoming air from the intake fan is then blown through the cold heatsink, and the cold air is blown in and redirected through a duct into the system.  Theoretically, you can achieve case temps that are lower than the outside ambient air temperatures, lowering overall component temperatures as well.  Notice how a temperature probe is placed directly in front of the intake fan.  This is how the LCD unit calculates "Tamb", the ambient temperature from the outside as indicated by the LCD readout.  The LCD screen is the perfect method to view how this AC unit functions.

Operation of the AC unit is easy.  There are two buttons on the LCD readout that dictate the overall mode of the AC unit.  The bottom button is the power button to power the LCD screen.  You can tell that the screen is on once the beautiful blue backlit LCD lights up.  The top button is the function button that determines the overall mode of the AC unit.  Once the LCD unit is turned on, the temperatures of the two temperature probes and outside ambient outside air are displayed.  The two temperature probes are manually placed by the user.  In the pictures above, the AC unit is still off and is marked by a red triangle warning sign with the word "off" shown on the bottom left.  The power meter also displays the amount of power being used per 100 watts.  This meter provides a good indication of whether or not the power supply is supplying enough power to the system.

 

 


 

Cooling Continued

You can then enable fan mode by pressing the function button again.  Fan mode is indicated by the lit green arrows and the spinning of the green fan on the bottom.  In fan mode, the AC unit is still off, but the intake fan is still spinning to bring in ambient air from the outside.

If the temperature is still too hot in the inside, you can enable the AC unit by pushing the function button once again.  The AC function is indicated by the lit snowflake and green arrows.  One thing to note is the use of the snowflake icon.  My girlfriend walked in one time and immediately saw the snowflake in action.  She said it was "pretty."  Computers should never be pretty.  Perhaps an avalanche would be better?

In AC mode, the AirCon temperature will turn on and show the temperature of the air being cooled.  It takes only seconds for the AirCon temperatures to become less than the outside ambient temperatures and a little less than a minute for the AC unit to be fully on.  Sytrin claims that each degree decrease in system temperature translates to a degree decrease in CPU, GPU, and motherboard components.  Theoretically, lower system temperatures are ideal.  Realistically, the results are far from theoretical.  The CPU cool down, but not as much as hypothesized. Yet, the GPU was able to cool much more than anticipated.  According to Sytrin, the drop in overall temperature is calculated in the following manner:

Q=(m) x (Cp) x (dT)

where:

  • (Q) is cooling power in KJ (joule);
  • (m) is the amount of air measured in weight (Kg);
  • (Cp) is 1.007 KJ/(KgK) for air at 298K (25C);
  • (dT) is the inside/outside air temperature difference
  • While we are math geniuses, we trust Sytrin and we don't feel the need to do the math.  All of this hoopla in lowered temperatures over ambient is interesting, but how much of an impact does this AC unit actually have on system temps when turned on?  We'll find out later in the tests.

    Sytrin also includes an extra space for an additional fan up top.  This will help to exhaust hot air that rises.  Sytrin probably did not include a fan because they felt the AC unit was more than enough to keep system temperatures down.  While the added noise is probably not something most of us want, its nice to know Sytrin has included as many options as possible for the end user.

     

     


     

    Test Setup

    Testing was completed on the most popular A64 testbed.  I wanted to illustrate the advantages of this AC unit on the most critical components: the CPU, System, and GPU.

    Test Setup:

    • DFI NF4 Ultra-D (VDIMM 5v enabled)
    • Mushkin Redline PC4000
    • AMD Athlon 64 3000+ Winchester
    • ATI Radeon X800XL
    • 2 x 80GB Hitachi SATA II hard drives in RAID 0
    • Stock AMD Heatsink

    For testing purposes, I left all of the components at stock speeds.  I wanted to eliminate as many external variables of heat as possible, as this case was not directly catered towards pure overclockers.  Utilizing the supplied system and component temperature probes with the LCD unit, I calculated the system temperature and CPU temperature during all three modes; no fan mode, fan mode, and AC enabled.  Please note that the CPU temperature probe was placed directly on the side of the Athlon 64 heatspreader, so temperatures may appear lower than what you see from the bios.  GPU temps were taken using the on-die temperature sensor supplied with the ATI X800XL and reported by ATITool.  Prime95 was used to stress the system.  I took temperature readings after 30 minutes of Prime95 to ensure complete system load temperatures and idle temperatures were taken by waiting 30 minutes for the system to be in idle state.  I tried my best to keep the Tamb temperatures at 25°C for consistency.

    Because the power supply included was admirable, I decided to stress test the voltages as well.  I used a digital multimeter to check for voltage fluctuations during the Nature Test of 3dMark 2001 and during CPU Burn.

    Results:

    The AC unit is indeed very effective in reducing overall system temperatures.  In comparison to No Fan mode, the AC function greatly reduces systems temperatures and even has a drastic impact on the GPU temperature.  Considering the GPU is right in front of the duct while the AC is on, the GPU temperature differed more than 10°C.  This was rather surprising, as I've never seen the drop in temperatures from only a system cooler.  However, the CPU only enjoyed a drop in temperature of 2 degrees.  This is probably due to the CPU's distance from the cold air in comparison to the GPU.  However, this cooling came at the cost of noise.  The noise of the blower is noticeable, which is just a little quieter than an 80mm Tornado fan on high.  The sound is definitely an issue if you are primarily using the AC unit for normal work.  That said, the AC Unit function is perfect for lowering system temps when necessary.  The ability to control its operation is an added bonus for those looking for a balance between noise and performance.


     


     

     

    Conclusion and Thoughts

     

     

     

     

    Overall, I was beyond impressed with Sytrin's Nextherm ICS 8200 case.  The design of the case is impeccable, except for the paint, thick grills, and noise.  The paint of the case is lacking for a high-end enclosure option, but if you're careful, scratching the surface should not be too much of a problem.  The noise can also be a problem for end users requiring minimal noise.  If you plan to use this case as a media case or workstation, then I suggest you look at another option.  The power supply also performed admirably.  Although the system was not overclocked, I still had the 5v VDIMM option enabled on the DFI NF4, drawing a lot of system power while stress testing.  The AC Unit, which uses over 50 watts once enabled, was also on during stress testing.  This is more than enough evidence that the power supply is a standup product by itself.

    The most important aspect of this case was the AC unit.  Sytrin really did their homework in turning an average product into a breakthrough product.  The AC unit, while not too effective for the CPU, did wonders for my X800XL.  It was also able to force my system temps lower than ambient temps, which is a rarity among cases.  Combined with the ability to control the AC function, you have yourself a revolutionary product that is sure to cause jealousy among other case manufacturers.  My only caveat is the price.  Although Sytrin will sell these cases without the included power supply as well, the case alone will be around 250 dollars.  While I do see the reasoning behind their price positioning, I'm not so sure I would be willing to eat Top Ramen for three months to lower my system temps.  Maybe if John made it for me; he's Chinese and can probably make some mean Top Ramen.

    We included the black version that Sytrin sent us earlier as well.  We're just trying to be equal.  We show no favoritism to color, which is why we included both.  The black version is sexy as well.

    John's Addition:

    While I'm nitpicking here, a 120mm fan should really be used in the chassis, at least for the exhaust.  This allows for more airflow at lower decibels.  The only thing they absolutely need to focus on is the price.  At $360 a piece, it's certainly not affordable for the average Joe.

    And yes, I do make one mean bowl of Top Ramen.

    Pros:

    • Simply beautiful; clean and sleek
    • Ability to cool below ambient temperatures
    • Attractive yet functional LCD readout
    • Effective and full-sleeved PSU
    • Enough fan placements

    Cons:

    • Expensive
    • Small hard drive cage
    • Expensive
    • Paint chips off easily, on Silver version
    • Expensive
    • And ummm, did I mention it was expensive?

    We would like to thank Sytrin for providing us the sample and being really patient with us. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to hit us up in the forums. You can also check out more of our latest reviews on the front page.