A Case By Any Other Name?
(Editor's Note: Luna Design is offering two versions of its DNK-H slim Mini-ITX case as a case/cooling/power combo, a barebones PC, or custom-configured PC. Contributing Editor Chris Miconi has combined performance, heat and noise measurements to evaluate it against alternative complete solutions).
The latest offering up on the testing block is a compact computer case from a small company most of you have probably never heard of. The DNK-H from Luna Design is an ultra-compact case designed to pack a reasonable amount of hardware. The company was kind enough to send us both versions of its case design, one of which was filled with hardware to be put to the test.
Luna Design offers the DNK-H as both a barebones case with a built-in power supply, CPU cooler, and WIFI antennas, as well as a pre-built system with a variety of different hardware configurations. The case we received happened to be packing an Intel Core i7-6700, 16GB of DDR4-2133MHz memory, a 256GB M.2 SSD, and a 1TB SSHD.
The DNK-H is available in both polycarbonate plastic as well as 5052-T32 aluminum and bears a bit of resemblance to Apple’s Mac mini in both size and external appearance. The plastic version of the case is available only in white, and feels very sturdy compared to what its appearance may lead you to believe. The aluminum version is available in silver and a goldish color that the company refers to as champagne, and feels every bit as sturdy as its plastic counterpart.
The case features an extremely minimalist design with no external interface ports, save for those on motherboard. In fact, the only external features that break up the smoothness of the design are the power button and indicator lights on the front of the case, and the case’s name and ventilation holes located on top-rear of the case.
Both versions of the DNK-H come with a black polycarbonate plastic base, which acts as a mounting point for the case’s internal power supply, cooling fan, and other components. The base also has a number of ventilation holes, which help keep everything inside the case running cool. Finally, the bottom of the case features a built-in wall mount, though we would have liked a VESA mount as well.
The back of the DNK-H features a motherboard cutout for Thin Mini-ITX form factor boards, an input for power, and a pair of mounted connections for the WIFI antennas. Additionally, the motherboard included with our sample came with plenty of connectivity options including a pair of video inputs, a pair of gigabit LAN inputs, four USB 3.0 ports, and an optional 19V DC input.
Four screws secure two halves of the case. Inside you’ll find the built-in power supply and cooling fan, as well as a CPU heatsink, thermal paste, SATA power and data cables, a pair of WIFI antennas, and a power cable. The built-in power supply claims an 80 PLUS Gold rating and is capable of supplying up to 150W of power. Furthermore, the power supply is compatible with any Thin Mini-ITX motherboard which has a two pin 19V Molex connector.
The DNK-H’s CPU cooling system consists of a cooling fan built into the bottom of the case, providing the only source of air flow for its heatsink and surrounding components. The heatsink consists of a solid copper slug surrounded by an array of aluminum fins and is somewhat similar in design to the reference heatsink that accompanies Intel CPUs. Furthermore, it mounts to motherboards using a push pin design and is capable of handling up to 65W TDP. Intel’s standard for Thin Mini-ITX requires that all boards have the same mounting hole pattern regardless of socket. In theory that means that the heatsink should be compatible with both AMD and Intel boards, however Luna Design only officially supports Intel boards for the time being.
Exploring the inside of the pre-built case we find an Asus H110T Thin Mini-ITX motherboard mounted to what would be the top of the case during normal use. Also easy to spot are 2x 8GB SODIMMs of Kingston DDR4-2133MHz RAM and a 256GB M.2 SSD made by Lenovo, and hiding just beneath that is an Intel WIFI card. Under the DNK-H CPU heatsink sits an Intel Core i7-6700.
On the bottom, in addition to the cooling fan and power supply that come with the DNK-H, our pre-built version also came with a 1TB Seagate SSHD attached to the 2.5” drive mounting location.
Size Always Matters
In the realm of compact computers, size, along with how much gear a computer holds, are the two biggest decision factors. So for today’s review, we’ll be putting the DNK-H up against the latest iteration of Apple’s Mac mini as well as Intel’s flagship NUC.
The DNK-H is obviously the largest of the three systems in today’s review, but it’s also the cheapest and most configurable. Unlike its two competitors, the DNK-H has the largest selection of motherboards and CPUs, as well as storage, all while maintaining a reasonably small footprint.