Cool Features That Can Make Your Life Easier
Cool features can not only make your case more attractive, but also easier to use on a daily basis. Of course, not every case has all of the cool features that you would like it to have, but if you select the right case, you should be able to find at least a few of them.
The roots of the side panel fans are from deep in the case modification world. Of course, case vendors were quick to pick up on this very easy-to-do idea. Many cases now come standard with pre-cut 80mm holes for 80mm fans that mount onto the side panel of the case. With many of these new pre-cut side panel fans, it is possible to change the fan grills and swap them out for those fancy grills, if you so desire.
Front mounted USB and Firewire ports are now all the rage. At first you could only find this convenience in off-the-shelf PCs from vendors like HP and Compaq, who many believe pioneered the use of front mounted ports.
Times are changing though, and now many cases offer this as a built-in option. Of course, you will have to make sure that your motherboard supports the correct connection to the connection on the case. This isn't as much of a problem as it used to be, as many cases use a pass-through technology which allows these front mounted ports to be passed through the back of the case and plugged into the USB and Firewire connections on the back of the PC. Many of the newest motherboards that include additional motherboard USB headers are also supported in many cases, as well.
If you happen to choose a case that does not support front mounted ports, one nice option that we can suggest comes from Asus. The Asus iPanel comes in both a Basic and Deluxe model, which offer front mounted USB, line in, mic in, and line out ports to the front of your case, as well as voltage, post, and temperature status with its built-in display. It mounts into any 5.25" bay, but may be more difficult to mount in 5.25" bays that use rails. Unfortunately, it only works with Asus motherboards that have direct iPanel support. Neither the Asus iPanel Basic or Deluxe support Firewire; however, the deluxe model does support one serial port for the serial PDA cradle or legacy camera user. Still, the iPanel is still one of the slickest solutions that we have seen that can put ports up front on cases that don't offer this option.
The Asus iPanel mounts in a 5.25" device bay and can help bring ports to the front of your PC if your case does not offer this option. There are other solutions that can do the same thing, but none of them do it with the elegance of the Asus solution. It is too bad that it is only compatible with Asus motherboards.
Side out trays for motherboards are not as popular as they once were. We are not sure if this is because it just never caught on, or if they were too difficult to build. Still, there are cases available that support this option and it is an option worth looking for if you need to change components on your motherboard often.
Removable drive cages are almost a requirement for most high-end cases that we have seen. We like the option to mount our hard drives in these cages outside the case and then place them back in the case when we are finished. These drive cages come in all shapes and sizes, and now many of them offer an 80mm that can be put directly in front of your hard drives in order to achieve good air flow over those hot 7200 RPM hard drives. In many cases, this innovation has done away with the need for hard drive coolers that are mounted to the bottom of hard drives. Drive cages make it easy to work on or replace your hard drives and even help keep them cool, and that is why we suggest that this is one item that you should definetely add to your shopping list.
As we can see from some of the examples above, these cool features do center around making the PC easier to use on a daily basis. Of course, how many of these features you can live with or without is up to you. In many cases, we have found some of the features above just add to the pleasure of the overall user experience and suggest that you at least consider including some of these in your next case purchase, as you will probably be glad you did.