2003 Winter Case Review Part 2: The ATX Avalanche

Bezel, Bezel... Match My Case!, Continued

Another problem that arises is the "non-metal look." Many of the high-end cases are made with polished aluminum bezels that are very attractive, but a typical drive installed with a plastic bezel is not, even if the color is close to a match.

Several case manufacturers, including Cooler Master and Lian Li, have begun to address this issue by offering (at additional cost, of course) metal bezels that are painted to match the paint on the fronts of their cases.

Cooler Master has begun to offer both silver (AFP-U01) and black (AFP-U02) alloy front bezel covers. These bezels adhere to the front bezel of the optical drive using 3M branded double-sided tape. The look is impressive, but the tradeoff is that you will no longer be able to see either the drive 'busy' light or access the headphone jack on the optical drive - and you might have to pare down and adjust the 3M double-sided sticky tape to fit the front of the optical drive. The durability of these installed bezels is an important concern, as well as whether they will stay in place. The answer is "yes" to both concerns. In our testing, the alloy bezel covers were surprisingly durable, and we were able to remove them from the optical drive bezel with only a little sticky residue left behind that was easily removed. Still, this is not a perfect solution; however, at least Cooler Master is attempting to produce accessories that make your case look sharper. One other word of note is that the AFP-U01 and AFP-U02 could work on other cases, as well, depending on the mounting of the optical drive and the fit. Cooler Master does not offer any alloy front bezel cover options for floppy drives.

Lian Li offers an aluminum bezel option that is different from the Cooler Master option, in that the aluminum bezel actually bolts into the case. After removing the bezel from our Lian Li case, we used the provided screws with the new bezel to mount it directly into pre-drilled holes in the case. This solution is by far more long lasting and certainly more innovative than the 3M double-sided sticky tape solution offered by Cooler Master. The only difficulty with this Lian Li option is that the entire front bezel must be disassembled from the Lian Li case to install the drive bezels so that the drive action functions well and lines up with the optical and floppy drives. This process isn't complex, but it takes time to get things properly adjusted. The bad news about Lian Li's C-01A bezel solution is that it is only compatible with Lian Li cases, and only those Lian Li cases that support it. As with the Cooler Master solution, you forfeit the view of the 'busy' light and the headphone jack. This may not be a big concern to many users, as the bigger concern is the durability and sturdiness of the mounting method. If you are a Lian Li owner, this bolting solution is something you may want to consider. Kudos go to Lian Li for offering support for optical drives, as well as floppy drives.

While some case manufacturers have addressed this issue, isn't it time for the optical drive manufacturers to also get involved in this solution? MSI thinks so; and several of their new drives are offering interchangeable bezels designed to match a particular case. This is a good move by MSI, and it is time that other manufacturers start to offer some bezel variety. It is nearly impossible to find an optical drive from a manufacturer with a silver bezel that has not been spray-painted. While finding a silver bezel floppy drive isn't that difficult (Mitsumi started producing them a while ago), silver bezels for optical drives are not common or easy to find. While not everyone wants to be a case modder, most users expect the front of their PC case to have a "matched" appearance. We believe that it is time for more manufacturers to follow Cooler Master, Lian Li and MSI to address this matter.