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These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.
Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don't change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.
Maelstrom - Baseline at 1m
top, rear and side fans @9V (21 dBA@1m)
top and rear fans @12V (23 dBA@1m)
side fan @12V (24 dBA@1m)
top, rear and side fans @12V (26 dBA@1m)
The Inwin Maelstrom may be the ugliest computer case we've ever tested, but
we do not judge on looks alone there are a number of things that impressed
- The quality of construction is above par given its cost; it has thick, heavy
side panels that do not have any flex once mounted.
- The motherboard tray is raised higher than the Antec
1200, so the rear and top fans are closer to the CPU area for better
- The power supply is elevated more than usual, giving it ample breathing
- There is also convenient cutout in the motherboard tray to aid in the mounting
of CPU heatsinks that require access to the backside of the board.
- Last but not least, the power and reset buttons are very solid, flush with
the case and require quite a bit of force to depress properly. This may sound
trivial, but it's a thoughtful touch; when we reviewed the Silverstone
Raven, we must have accidentally rebooted it over a dozen times due
to its over-sensitive reset and power buttons.
The only thing we dislike about the overall design, besides the aesthetics,
is the lack cable management features.
The Maelstrom looks like it would be a loud case, and it is, at least in its
stock configuration. The fans that ship with the case are actually decently
quiet on their own, but at full speed and mounted in the case, they are noticeably
louder. The fan mounting holes on the side panel have rubber grommets on them
to dampen vibration, but the rest of the fans are hard-mounted with screws.
Most gaming cases that pass through our labs have some type of fan control
included, usually three-speed switches. The Maelstrom is lacking in this department,
so you will have to find a way to undervolt the fans to keep system noise at
a reasonable level, assuming your other components do not drown them out.
Then there is the issue of the large vents at the top, back, front and in particular,
the left side panel. Fortunately the case makes the least amount of difference
when it comes to system noise, so having a case full of holes isn't necessarily
a detriment if the correct components are selected and appropriate fan control
is exercised. The worst thing about the excess ventilation is probably the inevitable
accumulation of dust. No hard drive vibration damping is offered, but this is
typical; setting up your own suspension system is a trivial task.
When it comes to thermal performance, the Maelstrom is more than up to the
task, excelling against other large conventional towers, especially when tasked
with cooling multiple high draw graphics cards. The ample ventilation and the
case's biggest asset, the 22cm fan that blows air directly over the graphics
cards, gives the Maelstrom a significant edge over cases like the Antec 1200
which only has a single, mostly ineffective 12cm side fan. The only cases we've
tested that provide superior cooling with lower system noise levels are the
Silverstones that feature the innovative rotated motherboard design and large
18cm fans blowing from the bottom up: the Raven RV01/RV02
and Fortress FT02. However,
all three carry a heavy price premium compared to the Maelstrom, which can be
found for as little as $100.
We would love for Inwin to address the issues we mentioned, and abandon the
industrial hazard motif for something more streamlined. As it stands, the Maelstrom
seems like the ultimate, inexpensive, no-frills gaming case. It's not exactly
a diamond in the rough more like a small truffle buried under a few feet
of dirt. If you can look beyond its exterior, there is solid value to be found.
* Well ventilated = excellent cooling
* Solid construction/design
* Stock fans have good acoustics when undervolted
* Effective 22cm side fan
* Ugly as sin
* Tall, deep
* No fan control
* Poor cable management
* Undampened hard drive mounts
Our thanks to Inwin
for the Maelstrom sample.
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Articles of Related Interest
Cases: Basics & Recommendations
Fortress FT02 ATX Case
Silverstone Raven Two
Antec Twelve Hundred Gaming Case
Antec Nine Hundred Two Gaming Case
Antec Sonata Elite ATX Mid-Tower
Silverstone Fortress FT01:
Positive Pressure Case
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