GMC R-4 Bulldozer Review

tacohunter52 - 2009-08-20 20:29:36 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: tacohunter52   
Reviewed on: September 13, 2009
GMC
Price: $99.99

Introduction:

What does every construction site you've ever been to have in common? I wouldn't know, because I've never been to a construction site, but I'd imagine they all have bulldozers, as well as scrap metal, nails, and other big elements of construction. I know what you're thinking – what on Earth does a bulldozer have to do with computers? Well, according to GMC, the two have everything in common. I just recently looked at GMC's X-7 X-Station, and it performed surprisingly well, despite the odd features. GMC's R-4 Bulldozer looks to be another case with extraordinarily odd features. I'm very curious as to how this case will compare to the X-Station, as well as the rest of the competition. With a name like Bulldozer, it better at least pose a threat to, if not flatten, the competition.

So how will the R-4 Bulldozer perform, and what does it look like? Designing a case after a bulldozer seems a little ridiculous to me, but the looks of the case will tell the tale. I guess I'll just have to put this baby through the tests, and see what it can do.

Closer Look:

The R-4 Bulldozer didn't come in any special construction-type packaging, but rather just your typical box. Both the front and back of the box are almost identical. The only difference is that one end shows the optical drive open, while the other shows it closed. We also get a close look at the case. In my opinion, it looks like it's made of plastic, but this is just the picture on the box, so we'll have to find out. Also on the front and back of the box is the usual plethora of logos, tag lines, and minor specification details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both sides of the box are exactly the same. They both use an orange color scheme that appears to be more construction like, thematically. This is also the area where the manufacturer will mark some of the basic specifications of the case. You Trekkies out there may love this – under the color category, GMC arranged the colors so that they spelled out "BORG". The top and bottom of the case are again the same, and both have the colors arranged in the same order.

 

 

 

Opening the box revealed a very odd and very cool way of packaging. Instead of the usual styrofoam, the R-4 Bulldozer was wrapped in a sturdy bubble wrap material. The huge air pockets kept the Bulldozer safe through its travels, and I received it unscathed.

 

 

Enough of this packaging, let's take a closer look at the Bulldozer itself.

Closer Look:

It is time to get a good hard look at what the Bulldozer really looks like. It does have many bulldozer-like qualities, but it does not look at all like a bulldozer. The front of the case is really cool and bulky, but this makes me worry that function may have been sacrificed for form. For those of you wondering, it's not operated on hydraulics. When the optical drive opens, the cover gets pushed down. This then compresses springs that will push the cover back up once the drive has been closed. This is a cool concept, but it limits use to only one drive. Below the big bulky optical drive bay is a 92mm fan. Directly under that is a temperature display that will display system temperature. Beneath that are the USB ports, power button, and audio ports. The right side of the case is exactly the same as on the GMC X-7 X-Station. However, this time that clear plastic part that looks like a display on the X-Station but isn't, actually is a temperature display here. The left side isn't a side panel. Yep that's correct, the Bulldozer has only one side panel. This could get very irritating, especially when trying to manage wires. The rear end of the case is what you'd typically expect to see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Removing the single side panel reveals a very cramped case full of goodies. Let's forget about the goodies for a second, because the size situation immediately does not look good. Ironically, this is a quote directly from the box – "Make practical use of small space in the interior room." I first read that thinking, okay, they've made use of all the excess space. However, it appears to be the exact opposite. Instead of making use of extra space, they got rid of it all together. They've done such a good job at this, that I'm not sure my hardware will even fit in it.

 

 

Inside the case there are two fans; a 120mm fan in the back and a 92mm fan in the front. I'm glad to see that this time around GMC included a filter for the front intake fan. When it comes time to clean the filter, you can easily remove it by sliding it upwards.

 

 

GMC was not in the mood for drive bays when designing this case. You have two hard drive (HDD) bays that are located where the 5.25" drive bay is usually located. To install an HDD, you must first remove the HDD bay, attach the HDD to the bay, and then reinstall the bay. To install the optical drive, you need to pull off the bulky cover on the front. Doing so reveals the single 5.25" bay. At least it looks cool.

 

 

 

GMC wasn't very generous with extras that come with the case. What you get is a bag of screws and a user's manual, which is actually pretty big compared to that of the X-Station's. Last, but not least, you also get a mini-catalog with all of GMC's cases.

Now that we're slightly familiar with the case, let's start tearing it apart.

Closer Look:

Cases don't just magically work, unless you've got the plain boring metal enclosure whose sole purpose is to hold your hardware. Otherwise, there will be some type of hardware deep in the case's underbelly. The most obvious of these working components is the wires. The Bulldozer comes complete with the usual front header cables, as well as a USB cable and an HD audio cable. Bundled with these cables are some Molex connectors for the case fans, and a temperature sensor for the case's front display.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To me, it looks as though GMC made the side panels so they'd be interchangeable between the X-Station and the Bulldozer. Just like on the X-Station, the Bulldozer's side panel comes with an 80mm fan. What's different is that this fan is controlled directly through a fan controller on the side panel. This panel comes complete with a thermometer, so that weird piece of plastic will actually have a purpose this time around. You can detach the side panel's bulk via six screws located on the panel's insides.

 

 

 

At a first glance, the PCB attached to the side panel looks almost the same as that on the X-Station. Removing this PCB again reveals the oddly placed black piece of plastic. Once again, this plastic looks like it could be used to display temperatures. Removing the PCB reveals that's exactly what it is for! Apparently, GMC manufactures the same side "bulk" and attaches it to multiple cases. This is fine, I guess, but shouldn't all the cases it's attached to have some kind of display? Another thing I felt was a little odd, was that the wires were hot glued to the PCB. I guess if it works, it works!

 

 

 

The only other part of this case that comes chock full of working components is the front cover. Removing the front cover does indeed reveal a plethora of working components. Removing the huge plastic bulk also makes the case appear more sturdy, instead of looking like a giant plastic toy.

 

 

Just like on the side panel, the Bulldozer's front panel has a temperature sensor. The PCB for the sensor has a display. Connected to this PCB is a Molex connector for power, as well as the thermometer probe, which can be placed near any piece of hardware you want to monitor. The front header PCB is rather boring looking. It has a reset switch, an HDD LED, and a power switch. Again, the wires were hot glued onto the PCB. The only PCB I could find in this case that didn't have the wires hot glued onto it was the USB PCB; these wires were connected using the traditional connectors. I was saddened to see only two USB ports on this case, but I'm not sure where GMC would have placed more anyway.

 

 

 

 

The Bulldozer's front intake fan has red LEDs, which actually look pretty cool on the black case. In my opinion, this is one of the few things GMC has done right. Directly above the fan is the single optical drive bay. Unlike most optical drive bays, GMC designed the Bulldozer's to open downwards. Again, this looks relatively cool, but does being cool make up for the lack of expandability?

 

 

As I stated before, the Bulldozer has two temperature displays. The side panel has the fan controller and the two blinking LEDs. Much like the X-Station, these LEDs don't make much sense. You'd expect one to mean the fan's on high and the other to mean it's on low. Instead, they just repeatedly blink. At least there is actually a temperature display on the side panel, unlike the X-Station, which just had the plastic cover that did nothing.

 

 

Trying to fit all my hardware into the Bulldozer was literally a joke. The motherboard doesn't fit straight in as it does in most cases. Instead, you have to put one end in, slide that end forward, and then slide the other end in. GMC also stated that the case could fit the largest graphics cards. I've been doing my case reviews with a 4870 X2, which is one of the largest graphics cards. The 4870 X2 is the entire length of the case's interior. I had to remove the only fan filter in order for the GPU to rub up against the cases side. To actually get the card to fit inside the case was even more of a challenge. I had to put it in length wise and then gently FORCE it into position.

Once I managed to get all the components installed, I began to plug things in. Sounds easy, right? WRONG! I don't know what GMC was thinking when it said, "Make practical use of the small space in the interior room." I'm starting to wonder if GMC is giving us advice on how to properly use the case, rather than telling us what the company has done. There is absolutely no room at all for wire management. Directly in front of the PSU is the HDD bay. There is no area behind the motherboard tray to place wires, and there is no optical drive bay in which to to hide wires. Despite using a modular power supply, it looks like I didn't even try to manage my wires. This was extraordinarily frustrating for me, because even with the X-Station, I was able to somewhat manage my wires. I feel as though GMC should rewrite its quote. The new one could go something like this – "Small Interior!!!"

 

The Bulldozer better offer some huge performance gains in order to make up for the apparent design flaws. Will it be able to perform better than a generic case, which has more room? Let's find out.

Specifications:

Form Factor:
ATX, Micro-ATX
Power Supply:
ATX
Chassis Size:
180(W) x 420(H) x 380(D)
Color:
Black
5.25” Bay
1 (External)
3.5” Bay
2 (Internal)
Multi Port:
USB 2.0 x 2, AUDIO (HD AUDIO & AC97)
 
Cooling System:
Front: 92mm LED Fan
Side: Air Guide & PCI Air Hole
Rear: 120mm Fan
Expansion Port:
7 Slots
 

Features:

All information on this page courtesy of http://www.gmc.co.kr/english/programs/read.php?board=PRODUCTS&uid=51&cp=1&field=&keyWord=&nation=&year=&month=&category=11&depth2=25

Testing:

I finally managed to get my hardware to fit into the Bulldozer. If only it had been as easy to perform that task as it was to write these words, but it wasn't. I'm hoping GMC managed to engineer the Bulldozer in such a way that performance will make up for lack of space. In order to test the GMC R-4 Bulldozer, I will be monitoring the load and idle temperatures of my CPU, my HDD, chipset, and my GPU. To record temperatures, I will be using CPUID Hardware Monitor. For those of you that have never used it, it's a temperature monitoring program from the people that created CPU-Z. To put my hardware at load, I will run Prime95 for three hours. To load the GPU, I will play through a few hours of Crysis and record the highest temperature.

Testing System:

Comparison Cases:

 

 

 

 

 

I was extraordinarily surprised at how the Bulldozer performed. It didn't perform exceptionally well, but for the most part, it performed well. The Bulldozer had the lowest CPU temperatures and normal HDD temperatures. The idle GPU temps were slightly high, but the load GPU temps were the same as the Antec Nine Hundred Two. However, the Bulldozer's cramped space definitely had a negative effect on the chipset temperatures. While the performance really wasn't that bad, I'm not sure if it makes up for the lack of space.

Conclusion:

I'm not entirely sure what to say about this case. It's got a few good features and several really bad ones. For instance, the two thermometers are a great feature. I also really like the red LED fan in the front. Then again, this can easily be installed on other black cases. I was disappointed with the lack of interior room. I admire that GMC attempted to redesign the 5.25" drive bay, but why did they have to waste so much space? If GMC had gone with the standard 5.25" bay, a solid three and a half inches could have been added to the front. That would have been enough room to hide more wires. I was also sad to see only one removable side panel. My main problem with this case is the lack of room. However, the Bulldozer did perform very well

This case is not for any one who considers themselves to be of the enthusiast level. I'd like to recommend this case to budget users, but cheaper and better cases can also be found. The lack of HDD and ODD bays will stop many mid-range users from purchasing this case. This puts the Bulldozer in a relatively awkward position. In the end, I'm not really sure if I can recommend it to anyone. If you're throwing together a secondary computer out of spare parts and want an inexpensive case that looks cool, then you might want to consider the Bulldozer. The case's light weight also makes it great for travel. If you're into LAN parties, the Bulldozer is definitely easy to transport. Using an mATX board and a smaller GPU would also increase the effectiveness of the Bulldozer. There's obviously things this case is good for, but I'll leave it to you to decide whether or not it would be good for you.

Pros:

Cons: