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DRN-STN: The AIO Gaming Paradigm?

AIO DRN-STN Review: A Gaming All-In-One With A 120 Hz Display
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Any company could win a cooling test by adding a bunch of noisy high-flow fans, and most companies could win a noise test by using a few low-speed fans to vent the chassis. The true measure of performance is thus the comparison of cooling-to-noise.

AIO Corporation’s Drone Station appears to be the paradigm of cooling-to-noise performance. But what about its screen? A top TN panel, it’s still limited to six-bit color and uses dithering to approximate an eight-bit depth. TN panels are fast, making them a good solution for gamers, despite the derision thrown at them by photo professionals. The 144 Hz version of this 120 Hz panel even earned value honors in last fall’s test at a price of $270.

In the DRN-STN we find paradigm cooling performance and paradigm-approximate display performance in a single package. So, what’s the catch? Well, we could begin with the 38+-pound weight, which means a 50+-pound filled system for most gamers. And at 25.9” wide, your arms need to be as long as they are strong. Carrying this thing through doorways can also be difficult, though there wasn't much the designers could do to avoid that issue, pairing a 24” display and a full ATX case.

Most three-way SLI-capable motherboards require an eighth slot that the DRN-STN doesn’t have to make room for a third card. But there are a few exceptions that can still make this case work with that feature. Then again, one FHD display doesn't justify the graphics horsepower of three cards. Use two well-balanced GPUs and you'll be fine.

Less-obvious flaws include the flimsy internal chassis with knock-out slot covers and a too-small EPS12V access hole, and foam panel cover that feels only moderately sturdy. We’d like to use that cover as long as possible for protecting the display, but can’t guarantee its longevity. More bothersome was that, after the two halves of the outer shell settled in during shipping, the latches no longer had enough travel to lock the thing together.

Supposing that AIO Corporation is able to condition the panels to prevent the latches from losing their usefulness with age, we think the firm still has a fairly solid product. And that analysis is focused mostly on the quality of its outer shell and its overall performance. At least the low-end internal structure is well protected!

In working up the value story for AIO's Drone Station, we noticed that monitors employing this platform's display panel are going for around $250. What's more, they offer refresh rates of up to 144 Hz (compared to the DRN-STN's 120 Hz screen). That fact alone wouldn't have been an issue if the case component were more affordable. But a $250 display and a $750 chassis is a rough combination to swallow. It'd need to be carbon fiber and aluminum, rather than plastic and super-thin steel, to warrant such a premium. Perfection would have been mandatory to justify a $1000 price tag using these components. That's not what we have, though.

We like the DRN-STN a lot, but it lacks the polish our U.S. demands to garner our highest award. Next, we turned our attention to value, but found a price tag more than double what we'd be looking to pay. Otherwise-excellent performance and the convenience of an all-in-one certainly win the DRN-STN a place in our hearts. However, our wallets are the voice of reason.

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  • 15 Hide
    Crashman , February 17, 2014 12:15 AM
    Quote:
    What does this retro looking gaming box have over an established gaming notebook say an Alienware or Asus? Thanks for the choice though.
    Up to 20x the graphics power and 2x the CPU performance? I guess it depends on what you plan to do with all that extra space.

    I also didn't get a chance to note in the article that "Full Sized" power supply means PS/2 form factor (and extended versions thereof). ATX power standard does not include a form factor, because form factors designate "form". This is, in spite of what Yahoo Answers might tell you. So "Full ATX" is a misnomer concerning power supplies.

Other Comments
  • 15 Hide
    Crashman , February 17, 2014 12:15 AM
    Quote:
    What does this retro looking gaming box have over an established gaming notebook say an Alienware or Asus? Thanks for the choice though.
    Up to 20x the graphics power and 2x the CPU performance? I guess it depends on what you plan to do with all that extra space.

    I also didn't get a chance to note in the article that "Full Sized" power supply means PS/2 form factor (and extended versions thereof). ATX power standard does not include a form factor, because form factors designate "form". This is, in spite of what Yahoo Answers might tell you. So "Full ATX" is a misnomer concerning power supplies.

  • -5 Hide
    Xsolarise , February 17, 2014 12:53 AM
    This is just a stupid and ugly..
  • 0 Hide
    bloody llama , February 17, 2014 12:57 AM
    The internal case appears to be made by NZXT. The 3.5" rails and the PCI toolless latch are exactly the same as my NZXT case from 2005.
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , February 17, 2014 1:05 AM
    Quote:
    The internal case appears to be made by NZXT. The 3.5" rails and the PCI toolless latch are exactly the same as my NZXT case from 2005.
    NZXT doesn't manufacture its own cases though, or at least it didn't in 2005 :) 
  • 4 Hide
    The_Trutherizer , February 17, 2014 2:14 AM
    I'd give it 2 foldout screens for eyefinity.
  • 1 Hide
    Marcopolo123 , February 17, 2014 2:18 AM
    reminds me of fallout
  • 0 Hide
    Nossy , February 17, 2014 6:10 AM
    wow,..$700 for a case, and people are complaining about a $700 video card? WTF are people smoking these days?
  • 0 Hide
    Au_equus , February 17, 2014 6:28 AM
    Is it oversimplification to say that the system looks like a monitor and a case held together by a shroud? I agree with Trutherizer, especially at that price, but, to go a little bit further, it needs a docking station for a keyboard and mouse.
  • 0 Hide
    huilun02 , February 17, 2014 6:29 AM
    Because hauling what seems to be a CRT monitor makes you a more popular guy.
  • -2 Hide
    eriko , February 17, 2014 6:53 AM
    Quote:What does this retro looking gaming box have over an established gaming notebook say an Alienware or Asus? Thanks for the choice though.Up to 20x the graphics power and 2x the CPU performance? I guess it depends on what you plan to do with all that extra space.I also didn't get a chance to note in the article that "Full Sized" power supply means PS/2 form factor (and extended versions thereof). ATX power standard does not include a form factor, because form factors designate "form". This is, in spite of what Yahoo Answers might tell you. So "Full ATX" is a misnomer concerning power supplies.> I seriously doubt 20x graphics and 2x cpu power.I saw no 3dMark11 numbers, just that they were intending to test it.My M18xR2, can get 11,500 3DMark11.I have dual RAID 250GB Evo's, i7 Extreme @ 4.6GHz, 16GB RAM CAS9 @25,500GB/s throughput, and I too can upgrade my GPUs also, unlike some laptops.32lbs?Mine is 11.8lbs. Good luck with your carry-on at the check-in desk.
  • 0 Hide
    rolli59 , February 17, 2014 7:17 AM
    I really do not see this selling well or have a market segment.
  • 0 Hide
    mikeangs2004 , February 17, 2014 7:30 AM
    Is a built-in TV tuner necessary? The other PCI-E slots could be for SB-ZxR.
  • 3 Hide
    Xavier Corraya , February 17, 2014 8:00 AM
    Honestly I liked the design!
  • 3 Hide
    razzb3d , February 17, 2014 8:01 AM
    Quote:
    What does this retro looking gaming box have over an established gaming notebook say an Alienware or Asus? Thanks for the choice though.
    The fact that you can stick desktop parts in it, and build a high end PC at half the price of an alienware or asus gaming notebook? Use your brain for a second... the best alienware notebook comes with an 18" screen, one or two GTX 780m cards (witch are about half the power of a desktop GTX 780) and are NOT easily upgradeable. Notebook graphics and CPUs are 2-4 times more expensive then desktop counterparts, and half the performance. Also, I personally find laptop gaming very uncomfortable. Screens are too small, keyboard is too close to the screen, screen is too low, I have to keep looking down witch is very uncomfortable after a few hours... I've been waiting for something like this for a while now. Sure, they could have made it smaller... a micro-ATX or even micro-ITX mainboard would have been enough... a built in closed loop water cooling system for the CPU, and a PCI-E riser for the GPU would have made it a lot more compact.
  • 2 Hide
    razzb3d , February 17, 2014 8:07 AM
    I also love the retro military/industrial design. I just wish some manufacturer would come up with a standardized AIO enclosure with a 24 or 27" screen, small form factor mainboard, closed loop watercooler for the CPU, GPU mountable next to the maiboard using a riser card, and a battery that would provide about 1 hour of usage in windows desktop for a 300-450w cfg. Basically, I want a laptop with no keyboard or touchpad that I can upgrade using widely available desktop parts... The only portability I need is the ability to carry the thing with me and easily set it up at a hotel or a friends house, without the hassle of carrying two separate units (display and computer) + cables...
  • -1 Hide
    CaptainTom , February 17, 2014 10:01 AM
    Make it half as thick and WAYYYYY more attractive, and I could see this being an awesome option...
  • -3 Hide
    coolitic , February 17, 2014 11:03 AM
    I thought they stopped making such low color panels.
  • -1 Hide
    chargeit , February 17, 2014 11:19 AM
    Yea, no thanks. Thing looks like it belongs in some bad 1990's sci-fi movie.
  • 1 Hide
    Christopher Shaffer , February 17, 2014 11:41 AM
    Same panel as the VG248QE? So it can use a G-Sync module, then. Which would be great if I wanted flawless gaming in what looks like a giant Panasonic Toughbook. This would be great for gaming in the back of a HUM-V.
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