Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Review: Shaw GT-GM1 Computer Case

After reading this review on OCAU forums, I was curious as to whether the Shaw cases were really a viable option for budget builds.

So I picked up the $33 Shaw GT-GM1 from MSY to give it a test (no PSU of course -- as all good children say in their prayers at night, please don't let Daddy use a Shaw power supply).

I must admit the sound of parts rattling around inside the box was a bad sign. Turned out to be a couple of 5.25" and 3.5" clips that hold drives in place had fallen out and needed to be clipped back together -- no big deal.

First impressions: the case appearance was far from pretty, but not too garish. The crinkly front doesn't look as bad in real life as it does to me in the photos. Top-mounted power supply position is getting rarer these days, but was common a few years back and seems the way ultra-cheap cases are still made. The back screws felt a little cross-threaded. The side panels were flimsy (as noted in the other review), pretty much as expected in a cheap case.

Notes on the rest of the setup:

  • One of the 3.5" plastic disk holder clips was missing.
  • Two missing expansion slot plates at the back.
  • Motherboard risers were pre-installed. Some risers were loose and couldn't be tightened -- cross-threaded out of the box. Reworking some of the other risers (there were more than would be needed for the mATX board I had) fixed the problem, but it didn't instill any confidence.
  • No case screws! Other than the motherboard risers, nothing at all.
  • Front panel cords were cable-tied in such a way they wouldn't reach the motherboard. Pretty difficult to cable-manage them in any neat way.
  • Case comes with a single fan at the back. The fan had to be powered directly from the PSU via a Molex plug, rather than a 3- or 4-pin plug into a motherboard header.
  • Noise levels aren't great. The case fan runs flat out due to its Molex plug.

I can't remember ever feeling so dubious about a case working properly, but on first boot everything seemed okay. USB, headphones, power/reset switches and fan all worked upon testing, frankly to my surprise at that point.

So my conclusion is a little different to the OCAU reviewer's: given the problems I found with this case, I couldn't recommend it, even taking into account the price. It not unlikely that someone looking to do a cheap-as-possible build may be doing their first or at least be inexperienced. The lack of case screws and dodgy motherboard risers would likely stymie them. I was okay because I had a heap of spare parts, but that isn't everybody. Anyone actually using the case should be prepared to either replace the stock fan or fit a voltage regulator (taking the price closer to the next-case-in-line anyway).

In my opinion, you're far better off paying an extra $15 for a fifty-dollar case. Even though they may not be fantastic either, I think it's money well-spent.

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