When it comes to computers, we often spend so much time figuring out what to put in our machine we forget to consider what we put our machine in! The CASE is, without a doubt, the most important part of the overall look of a computer. Many unfortunate people never experience anything beyond the standard beige case. For some others, a simple pre-modded mid tower with a window and a couple of blue fans will do the trick. However, some people choose to start with a $15.00 case from eBay* and turn it into a lifelong project, of which the rest of us could only dream.
If you?ve seen my previous case (the Black Yeong-Yang cube) you know that I am a die-hard fan of anything in the cubical form. Ben Rising, the owner of MountainMods.com, offered me his newest creation, the U2-UFO. I nearly cried after seeing a few snapshots of it. Not only was it aluminum, it was also a cube with room for 11 FANS! This case is a modder or server administrator?s DREAM, as it seemed from the pictures. I immediately replied to Ben with a grin on my face as I thought, ?Hell Yeah I?ll review this case!?
After further conversation, we found that we are both from the green state of Oregon, and we met for lunch to discuss business, reviews, LANs and this amazing case. After lunch, Ben handed me the U2-UFO, and home I went to stare at it in awe. Before actually receiving the case, I had thought it might fit nicely next to my desk. It barely fit into the passenger seat of my Tacoma, so I couldn?t see it fitting into anything nicely; 18? cubed is fairly hefty. Either way, I didn?t really mind, except for the lame jokes at a LAN where people continuously asked if I was trying to make up for something I lacked. Of course I?m making up for something I lacked ? I lacked an 18? cubic aluminum case!
I can already hear you asking, ?Where does the name U2-UFO come from?? When I asked Ben Rising (the creator) this question, he gave me the following answer. ?The significance of the name is this; U2- the case is designed from a c-shell design, AKA - 2U - meaning 2 ?U? shaped pieces joining to unite as one. I thought U2 goes better with the UFO portion of the name. UFO - this has a triple meaning. The original request I had for a custom built box was from a [H]ard|Forum moderator - ufokillerz. His requests for a number of fans, windows, and switches used were implemented into the base design. The original box I created for myself also had LED fans and was of an 18x18x18 construction. I received many comments that it was lit up like a UFO, and that with all the fans perhaps it could hover. Lastly UFO conveys SPACE; this box has loads of space and what better way to discover it than inside a U2-UFO.?
Before we move further into the case, let?s talk metal. Cases typically come in two basic metals. Steel is the most common case material. It?s known for heavy-duty construction, insulating properties, noise reduction, and heavy weight. Aluminum, though more popular now than ever before, is not as common as steel. It has better thermal properties, dissipating heat faster than steel. It is also much lighter, and it can be brushed to a very appealing texture without any paint or other coating. Most gamers who have taken their most prized rig to a LAN party know exactly what I mean by the difference in weight between steel and aluminum. If you have to lug a heavy steel chassis from one house to the next during the summer, you might as well skip the daily trip to the gym. Just give your case a couple of lifts here and there.
Aluminum, no matter how thick, scratches easily, but when an 18? by 18? by 18? cube weighs only 15lbs, I won?t complain. Yes, I said 15lbs ?which includes the Lexan windows and casters ? absolutely outrageous! That poor soul carrying his 40lb empty case to a LAN would certainly appreciate the benefits of aluminum. And though the weight of the U2-UFO is very low, don?t doubt its construction or durability. I hesitated doing this at first, but Ben assured me that it could hold my 115lg">ss without flexing. I wanted to see this myself. Sure enough, I stood right on top of the case and wiggled around on it like it was a dance floor ? minimal flexing to the top panel and absolutely no flex in the actual framing of the case. So my first impressions about this case were very positive. I can?t stress enough how much better the local construction is than that of cases built by the thousands in offshore third-world countries. That difference was already noticeable! I remember hearing from Ben during our lunch that he not only custom designed this case for a [H]ard|Forum moderator known as ?ufokillerz,? but he sent his CAD drawings straight to a local Oregon fabricator to have the cases constructed and completed one by one, or 5 at a time at MOST. The amount of time and money involved in just the materials for this case are outrageous. Completing an entire 18? by 18? by 18? cube from 2mm BRUSHED aluminum is certainly not cheap; the aluminum alone probably makes up nearly half the retail price! However, as I have already said, the light weight of this case is completely worth every penny. People at the previously mentioned LAN were also making statements like ?Man that case has to weigh a ton!? but they quickly zipped the lip when I let them pick it up (even with components inside).
The front of a case is one of the most important features. Often, the front of a case is the deciding factor that turns me either on or off to a case. If the front of a case has no potential, or is just plain ugly, it can steer me away from purchasing a chassis. After all, since most mid and full tower chassis are very similar, the main difference between cases is the molded front panel! The U2-UFO case, however, is just the opposite. I realize that there isn?t really much you can do when making a case purely out of aluminum, but the front panel layout by Mountain Mods has made this case a real trip. On the left side of this case are three holes for 120mm fans, stacked vertically. The number of intake fans that can be put in this case is absolutely amazing! To top it off, another 120mm fan placement hole is located on the bottom right corner of the case to pull air onto the left side of the motherboard tray. Just above that fan is the 5.25? drive bay, also constructed from 2mm aluminum. To the left of the 5.25? bay, near the top of the chassis, are two nickel-plated switches and the power and hard drive LEDs. Another thing that makes this chassis unique, aside from size, weight, and overall design, is the completely removable 5.25? bay. Capable of holding five standard 5.25? devices, the bay is fastened to the front of the chassis by six aluminum thumbscrews around the outer framing. To remove the bay, simply unscrew each of the six thumbscrews and carefully remove the bay by sliding it out through the front ? it?s that simple. It?s absolutely amazing how much better installation and overall functionality much easier are than when using drive rails as on most of today?s chassis. This is one of the major things that sets the U2-UFO apart from my Yeong-Yang cube. On the YY cube, rails were needed to install devices, and you already know how much of a hassle that can be when you want to start changing devices. One thing that I don?t like about the device bay, however, is the fact that it only supports standard devices, and most miscellaneous devices like the Vantec Nexus Control Panel, Vantec Fanbus, and other such monitors will not fit correctly. They will stick out of the front by a good two or three inches. I was fairly disappointed when I discovered this trying to install my two Vantec fan controllers. Instead, I had to downgrade to two Galaxy fan controllers, which have a standard 5.25? construction. I was very grateful that my DigiDoc 5 monitoring device fit without a problem, filling the fifth and final empty bay. Speaking of empty bays, I hope you?ve got five devices, because the current layout of the U2-UFO does not support any type of filler for the devices that aren?t there. Without five devices, you simply have an empty area in the front of the case.
Although the switches included with this chassis are the only item not made of aluminum, it does not concern me at all. They are nickel-plated, and certainly heavy duty. When I pulled out the switches to sleeve them with UV nylon mesh, I was amazed by their weight ? quality often comes with weight, aside from aluminum, of course. My finger fit perfectly into the switches, and you?ll want to press these, with their near-perfect smoothness and size. Since they aren?t embedded into the case like many plastic-front chassis, it makes it a lot easier to press Power and Reset with any size finger. You aren?t forced to use your pinky nail to reset the computer, which is nice. These switches are ?vandal-proof? which basically means they?re fairly solid, and would be hard to destroy if someone really wanted to. I?m not sure if this is necessary, but it sure adds a great deal of dimension to the front panel, along with the two bright blue hard drive and power LEDs. Each of the LEDs is placed in a ?chrome? coated LED harness to give them a finished look that matches perfectly with the switches above them. I don?t know where they found these LEDs, but I absolutely love the color. It?s not a royal blue, but instead more of a purplish-blue tint that isn?t as common. The fact that this case comes stock with something other than red, orange or green makes me smile!
The case covering on the U2-UFO is absolutely insane! Lets start with an in depth description before getting into the good and bad. The covering of the case is like nothing I have seen before. Instead of using three panels, (one for each side and the top) MountainMods decided to use a one piece construction, making this the second ?U? shaped piece to the chassis. The cover is made of the same 2mm aluminum as the rest of the chassis, brushed to match the scheme of the rest of the case. On both sides of the case, seven thumbscrews lay near the outer edge, totaling 14, which hold the actual cover on. Instead of a sliding action lock, the cover actually just slides on and screws in, so the cover can be removed in essentially every direction (except left and right). The thumbscrew layout on each side of the chassis adds a more sophisticated look to the case, which looks better than just a plain aluminum side with a window. I, personally, think it adds a great deal of visual appeal. Each side of the chassis also has large 12? square window cutouts with rounded corners. As a side note, we received the model of the U2-UFO that features pre-installed Plexiglas as well as casters. However, it is an option to purchase the case without this, and it is less expensive. The pre-installed version of the U2-UFO has eight rivets around the window, so some people may choose to install their own windows with silicon or foam tape, but the option is there if you want it. Another advantage to buying the case without Plexiglas is that you can have your windows laser etched before installation, or you can even use UV Plexiglas. Make sure you use a VERY soft cloth and a non-abrasive cleaner when cleaning the windows. I accidentally used a little too much force with a paper towel and put some swirl marks in the plastic itself.
I would have to say that the top of the U2-UFO is one of the most prized parts of the case. The top of the case has room for two more 120mm fans, as well as a 12? by 9? window. Not only is the window very proportional to the case, the intake/exhaust fans add even MORE airflow ? a modder or overclocker?s dream! Surrounding the top window are six more rivets, which can also be avoided by ordering the U2-UFO without the Plexiglas preinstalled. The top of the case was designed to be reversible, so the top two fans can be positioned towards the back or the front of the case. I chose towards the front as exhaust fans; something about having six 120mm fans in the front turned me on. :)
The back of the U2-UFO isn?t the end of the fun, folks, it?s just as appealing as the front, if not better! On the back of this chassis, on the left side, are spaces for three 80mm fans, stacked vertically. These fans pull air through the hard drives located in the rack inside. Just below the bottom of the three fans is also the power supply, which does NOT need a removable plate. To me, one of the most important things in a case is a removable power supply plate to help with hardware installation and upgrading. However, in the case of this cube, that does not apply. The power supply isn?t mounted directly above the motherboard like in standard tower cases, so you don?t have to worry about dropping the power supply on the heatsink as you try to pull it out of the case, so a removable power supply plate isn?t really necessary (which is nice!) MountainMods created the case in such a way that the exhaust fan is not sitting against the bottom of the case, but is instead pointing in the air. This allows my Enermax power supply with dual fans to fit in the power supply slot. You will also notice six more aluminum thumbscrews along the side of the stacked 80mm fans. These hold the hard drive rack located on the inside of the case. I hope no one plays a prank on you at a LAN party by unscrewing all your thumbscrews; you could be facing some heavy hardware damages. Security could be a small issue with the U2-UFO; since everything is fastened with simple thumbscrews, no tools are needed!
The right side of the rear of the U2-UFO starts from the top with yet another 80mm exhaust fan (totaling four 80mm exhaust fans, not including power supply fans). Like I?ve said numerous times, if you need awesome airflow, you?ve found the right case! Just below that single 80mm exhaust fan is the removable motherboard plate. Where to begin? Well, I am once again impressed by this attention to detail. Though there is a ton of room to work inside this 18? cube, an easily removable motherboard tray makes hardware upgrades and system installation even easier. It was definitely easy when I installed my system in it! How does the motherboard tray release? Remember those aluminum thumbscrews? Yep, they?re here, too. Four thumbscrews located around the outer edge of the aluminum motherboard tray fasten it to the chassis. Once again, absolutely no need for tools with this case. One thing that I have never seen on a chassis until now is a spot for a 120mm exhaust fan right next to the heat sink. This is ingenious, and no one ever thinks of these kinds of things! The processor and heatsink are the hottest running components in a system and they NEED all the cooling they can get. No worries here with the 120mm exhaust, it even pulls out with the rest of the tray . When I installed my motherboard in this chassis, the I/O plate even slipped into place hassle-free.
After unscrewing the 14 thumbscrews (7 on each side) from the top U-shaped piece, I simply pulled the bottom of each side outwards about two to three inches and slid it straight up over the bottom U-piece. The reason for bending it outwards is to keep the rivets and Plexiglas on the sides from catching on the L-shaped framing of the bottom U-piece. Since this is a large piece of aluminum, it takes nearly no force. One thing that may be a little bit of trouble is hooking the top two fans into a fanbus. To connect my two top fans into a fanbus in one of the 5.25? bays, I had to put the top U-piece on, slide it towards the back of the case and then try to hook them up using the Braille method (using only my fingers, without being able to see!). A loose molex connector would solve the problem, but not everybody puts 120mm fans into a fanbus, so this isn?t a problem for many.
So I removed the top U-piece and stared at the interior ? just as beautiful as the outside! Every single piece on this case, the hard drive rack, 5.25? device bay, and motherboard tray, are 2mm aluminum. The aluminum is brushed on the inside just like the outside. This case looks absolutely gorgeous inside without anything in it! On the right side, near the front of the case, is where the 5.25? bay is located. Directly behind that is the removable hard drive rack mounted to the rear wall of the case. The 5.25? device bay unscrews from the front and pulls out through the front. The hard drive rack also unscrews from the outside, but it is removed from the inside, which is safer since a lot of personal and important data is stored on hard drives. If it were removable through the rear, LAN parties would not be a safe place for this chassis. As I mentioned previously, the three rear stacked 80mm fans pull air straight across the hard drive rack, which is easily capable of holding NINE drives! Just imagine the awesome raid configurations! Just below the nine hard drives is where the power supply mounts. The layout of this case is almost identical to that of my YY cube, but in a much larger scale. When there are hard drives in my YY cube, as well as 5.25? devices, space for power and molex connectors gets a little tight on the right side of the case. But there?s so much room between the two devices in the U2-UFO that I have easily five inches of space between the rear of my burner and the rear of my hard drive.
On the left side of the U2-UFO the three stacked 120mm intake fan holes, the 120mm exhaust, and the 80mm exhaust directly above. Did I forget to mention it also holds the motherboard tray? The motherboard tray on the U2-UFO is capable of holding a variety of motherboards from MicroATX and standard ATX desktops to oversized server boards, and all the motherboard stand-offs are pre=drilled. Included with the case are nine short motherboard stand-offs. When I installed my hardware at a friend?s house, I completely forgot the stand-offs hoping to take them from my YY cube and swap them into the new case. The layout of this motherboard tray requires special shorter standoffs so that the PCI slots and rear I/O plate line up correctly. Luckily, my friend had a bucket of screws that I sifted through and found appropriate mounting hardware for my motherboard. Prior to inserting my motherboard, I popped in the rear I/O plate and it fit perfectly without any problems or warping, and it stayed in place through the entire installation process. I simply inserted my motherboard, lined up the holes and put the screws in. I may sound a bit negative now, but when I see a custom fabricated case, I generally expect to see at least one screw hole out of alignment far enough to cause problems, but every single hole matched the holes in my motherboard perfectly ? I was VERY impressed. Next was the test of inserting PCI and AGP cards and screwing them in. To my amazement, once again, MountainMods took the time to design the slots in the rear side of the motherboard tray to allow for PCI plates to stick through in a more secure fashion. Every card popped into place and screwed right in, with no alignment problems. When I went to re-install the motherboard tray into the case, I realized something was missing. There?s no bottom track for the motherboard tray. Many tower chassis with a removable motherboard tray have a manufacturer designed ?track? to slide along while it?s being put back in the case. This makes sure it?s straight, and that the motherboard tray doesn?t slip out of your hands and end up cracking or damaging any of your valuable hardware. Unfortunately, MountainMods skipped this part, and the rare case of mishandling may lead to CPU damage. Be very careful when adding or removing this motherboard tray. I put the tray back into place, screwed the thumbscrews back in, and prepared to hook up the buttons and LEDs from the front of the chassis. Once again, the size of the case really helped ease the installation of all my hardware. Having enough room to really move around is a real advantage to owning this case. As I was reinstalling the motherboard tray, I was laughing about how funny it would be to install the motherboard tray backwards. It turns out it actually is possible to mount the motherboard tray upside down, but then the left side window shows nothing but the back of the motherboard tray. I thought this might be a small piece of useless, but interesting trivia to set your case aside from the others.
The U2-UFO is manufactured locally in my home state of Oregon, it?s unique, nearly flawless in design, and is fabricated with great quality and attention to detail. Throughout my testing experience with this case, I could not get over the size! It sure is bigger than it seems in the pictures, but it is without a doubt a case that will turn heads at special events like LAN parties and seminars. If you are an overclocker or someone who likes to take cooling to the extreme, the 2mm aluminum construction will assist, and the fact that it houses SEVEN 120mm fans and an additional FOUR 80mm fans will allow you to keep your Dremel in it?s case and out of the aluminum. While I am not a fan of pre-modified chassis designs, I don?t have any problem sporting this case; its unique and large design will have people looking no matter what! You?d be amazed how many people asked if I built this myself. Unfortunately, I had to tell the truth and tell them I didn?t (hehe), but I would certainly be proud if I did! One of the other things that I thoroughly enjoyed about this case is the fact that everything is fastened using thumbscrews, which may or may not be an advantage to you. It?s certainly an easy and effective way to install or upgrade your hardware, but LAN parties may present a security issue. I am not worried about this, personally, just choose the right group of people to hang out with and you?ll be ok! Aside from the lack of a motherboard tray track and removable power supply plate, I do not have a problem recommending this case to anyone! Everything on the case is replaceable and can be bought separately to create your own cases from MountainMods. This is also nice in case you accidentally mess something up in the modding process (if there?s any modding process left on this beauty).
The regular price of $295.00 (including preinstalled Plexiglas and casters) is a bit steep for my budget for a case. But when compared to LianLi?s PC-70 Chassis, the extra $60.00 is worth it for the awesome unique design. I completely understand, however, if it?s out of your range. Just keep in mind that you can also order the bare version of the U2-UFO for the regular price of $259.00, which allows you to install your own casters (if desired) as well as your own custom etched, UV reactive, or plain Plexiglas. I have to say that MountainMods did a GREAT job designing this case. As sturdy and beautiful as the brushed aluminum looks, I would have thought they?ve been in the business of case design for years on end, but it turns out that they just opened. In that case (pun intended) I can?t wait to see what they think of next. Whatever it is, I want in on it!
More Pictures on Page 2
Next Page 2/2 >