Inwin Maelstrom: An Affordable Gaming Case

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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.

  • Inwin 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 us.

  • 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 cooling.
  • The power supply is elevated more than usual, giving it ample breathing room.
  • 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.

Inwin Maelstrom

* 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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Silverstone Fortress FT01: Positive Pressure Case

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