There's been a heartening renaissance with budget PC cases in recent years. As models like the Thermaltake Dokker ?and the NZXT H2 ?have shown, it's possible for companies to include big features and deliver good build experiences, but still maintain a sub-$100 price. Unfortunately, these advancements are not universal. With its Abyss ($64.99 list), Diablotek demonstrates that it's possible to get the broadest strokes correct but drop the ball on practically everything else. The result is a case that fulfills its basic task, but does so with little finesse.
The Abyss' best quality is, in fact, its outward flair. The 17.2-by-8.3-by-20-inch (HWD) case is fashioned mostly of white steel, with three significant exceptions: the white plastic front panel, the black mesh ornamentation on that panel (specifically, the covers over the drive bays and the 120mm intake fan); and the windowed side panel. It's not necessarily an adventurous look, but plenty of clever angles (the fan grille resembles a star, for example), unexpected lines, and vent-shaped depressions help the Abyss project a healthy sci-fi vibe that makes it appear more expensive than it actually is. Two grommeted holes in the rear panel (where there's also a single 120mm exhaust fan) for routing liquid cooling piping also suggested latent gaming PC potential.
Open up the Abyss and you'll see what, at first glance, looks like a typically well-appointed interior (which, for the record, is primarily white as well). Two filtered vents in the floor (including one in the power supply bay) aid with passive cooling, and a large hole cut into motherboard tray's upper-left section facilitates adding an aftermarket CPU cooler, but there aren't that many additional holes for routing cables. Whereas Thermaltake and NZXT have lately begun giving you plenty of these, only four are accessible after you install an ATX motherboard on the Abyss: One, located near the bottom, is decently wide, but three others on the side are narrow and may make it difficult to send cables and wires where you want them. (If you're installing a microATX or Mini ITX motherboard, you will have two more options, but they're even smaller.) And, aside from the channel those holes delineate, you'll find almost no room below the motherboard for stashing cables.
You do have a generous amount of space (slightly more than 1.5 inches) between the motherboard's interior edge and the start of the drive well, though some of this will be compromised when you add 3.5-inch drives (the intake fan keeps them from sliding all the way in). But there's only one-eighth inch between the bottom of the motherboard and the top of the power supply?cramped quarters for connecting cables to headers or hooking up front-panel wires. Space is a problem from another standpoint, too: Although there's technically room to install an oversized video card like the AMD Radeon HD 6990 , the case's interior design makes it impossible to do so in the most likely location of the first accessible PCI Express (PCIe) x16 slot, so even the attempt is pointless. It looks like it should work, but it doesn't quite.
That's true of numerous other elements, too. Eight of the drive bays (the four 5.25-inch external bays and the four 3.5-inch internal bays) use tool-free retention brackets to hold the drives in place, but having one on each side inconveniently forces you to open both side panels rather than just the main one to secure the components. The remaining two bays (one external 3.5-inch and the bottom-most internal 3.5-inch) require screws to keep the drives in place. And if you want to install a 2.5-inch drive but you don't have a 3.5-inch adapter, forget it: There's no place to even just screw in smaller drives.
The seven expansion slots are also not tool-free. The spacers are attached and pop out easily, but installing a card requires screwing it in?and, if you change your configuration later and want to replace one or more spacers, you can't even do that. This obviously saves money, but it's a poor solution; the inexpensive ($59.99 list) MSI Raptor's external bracket, which haphazardly clamped down its loose spacers, wasn't an ideal solution, but it was better (though it also required a screwdriver).
Wackier still are two other characteristics of the drive well and one of the front-panel ports. The fourth 5.25-inch bay is blocked by a mount for installing a second intake fan; there's simply no way to install an optical drive in it (though it might be able to house a smaller device of some kind), leaving one wondering why there's a bay there at all. Even stranger is the black plastic panel at the rear of the 3.5-inch bay section. Printed with the words "Remove for long card," it's precariously positioned between the second and third bays, but provided no discernible function as it doesn't block anything near even the longest cards. If you remove it, not only do you gain no appreciable component space, but you also subject yourself to the mother of all migraines trying to get back in its original position. (It took us?no exaggeration?ten minutes to properly align everything again.) And regarding the front-panel ports, it's nice to have two USB 3.0 ports accompanying the headphone and microphone jacks, but why is there a slot (even bracketed over) to accommodate an SD card reader when no reader is included?
Things like this don't identify the Diablotek Abyss as a serious case for serious builders. As it is, it will suffice provided your needs aren't extensive or your expectations high. But more satisfying cases are out there, for not much more money, in the aforementioned Thermaltake Dokker and NZXT H2. And even the MSI Raptor, which will save you a few dollars more, is less frustrating to build in. Diablotek's case may be a looker, but, as always, the devil is in the details, and that's where the Abyss derails.
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