AIO DRN-STN Review: A Gaming All-In-One With A 120 Hz Display

DRN-STN: The AIO Gaming Paradigm?

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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  • blackmagnum
    What does this retro looking gaming box have over an established gaming notebook say an Alienware or Asus? Thanks for the choice though.
  • Crashman
    749236 said:
    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.
  • Xsolarise
    This is just a stupid and ugly..
  • bloody llama
    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.
  • Crashman
    369586 said:
    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 :)
  • The_Trutherizer
    I'd give it 2 foldout screens for eyefinity.
  • Marcopolo123
    reminds me of fallout
  • Nossy
    wow,..$700 for a case, and people are complaining about a $700 video card? WTF are people smoking these days?
  • Au_equus
    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.
  • huilun02
    Because hauling what seems to be a CRT monitor makes you a more popular guy.
  • eriko
    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.
  • rolli59
    I really do not see this selling well or have a market segment.
  • mikeangs2004
    Is a built-in TV tuner necessary? The other PCI-E slots could be for SB-ZxR.
  • Xavier Corraya
    Honestly I liked the design!
  • razzb3d
    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.
  • razzb3d
    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...
  • CaptainTom
    Make it half as thick and WAYYYYY more attractive, and I could see this being an awesome option...
  • coolitic
    I thought they stopped making such low color panels.
  • chargeit
    Yea, no thanks. Thing looks like it belongs in some bad 1990's sci-fi movie.
  • Christopher Shaffer
    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.
  • RedJaron
    I like the idea, but I think it needs to be refined a lot. The double casing panels may help with noise, but just add a lot of weight ( and apparently don't help with rigidity much. ) Something like this doesn't need the traditional case layout. Why not take something like the HAF XB, stand it on its edge, and attach a decent display panel to it? Such a thing shouldn't be too hard and should be no more than $400.

    And Tom, I agree with your audio measuring method. Test the thing how it would be actually used, not according to some abstract rules.
  • lowguppy
    They put a monitor and a normal PC case in a box and think they can charge a $750 premium? Do you know how I safely transport my 24" monitor? In the original box it came in. I really wanted to post a picture of a PC and a monitor box in another cardboard box, but I guess you can't put pics in article comments.

    The whole point of an all in one is to take up less space. This takes up more space than bolting a VESA mounting kit to an existing ATX case. A lot of mini PCs are being shipped with VESA mounting holes built in now. This is an overpriced and utterly pointless piece of hardware. If you want to spend $750 on a custom PC case talk to me, I'll build something unique and personal for that price that is more functional and more portable.
  • Crashman
    172886 said:
    They put a monitor and a normal PC case in a box and think they can charge a $750 premium? Do you know how I safely transport my 24" monitor? In the original box it came in. I really wanted to post a picture of a PC and a monitor box in another cardboard box, but I guess you can't put pics in article comments. The whole point of an all in one is to take up less space. This takes up more space than bolting a VESA mounting kit to an existing ATX case. A lot of mini PCs are being shipped with VESA mounting holes built in now. This is an overpriced and utterly pointless piece of hardware. If you want to spend $750 on a custom PC case talk to me, I'll build something unique and personal for that price that is more functional and more portable.
    It appears the firm is trying to cover the cost of expensive tooling at low volume.
  • Christopher Shaffer
    Actually, you know what would make this even more cool? Put the gaming controls on the front. Then they can have the world's first all-in-one ATX gaming PC hand-held with a 24" screen. Maybe they can sell it with one of those chest-carry style harnesses like they use for babies converted to support a full-sized PC. Add a cup holder, battery pack that holds a car battery and tripod so you don't fall over and it's complete!

    Seriously, though I think this was made for bored drone operators. It even has the sun visor.

    It'll be great for [absolutely no situation ever].