GT3-BH Case

Admin - 2007-05-12 18:11:15 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: Admin   
Reviewed on: December 27, 2007
GTR Tech Corporation
GTR Tech Corporation
Price: $189.00 USD - Coupon Code- GTROCCNY2007

Introduction:

I have always wanted to go a LAN party with a bunch of friends to play our favorite games against each other in a social environment. If you don’t know, a LAN party is just that, a bunch of people all gather together at a place of their choosing and bring their computers with them so everyone can connect together to form a huge LAN (local area network). Then all it takes is for someone to start up a game, or to be fairer, a designated, userless PC will start the game to act as the server, and then everyone connects to it. The problem here is, many of us gamers have some pretty expensive, exotic and large systems, especially if you have water cooling. This makes carrying your system to the friend’s house out of the question. You could always get one of those micro cases, also known as SFF (Small Form Factor), and build a system around that, but the expansion and graphics options are limited to, say the least, and they usually will only accept a half-height VGA card and aren’t very future-proof. I think I have found a solution to that problem.

A desirable feature of a LAN PC would be for it to be small enough to carry around. That is exactly what I have to review in the form of a GT3 made by the GTR Tech Corporation. In fact, not only is it small, it is light and comes with a built in handle made for carrying it. Now, you may be saying,” yes, the micro cases do that too”. Well, this case has a rather large advantage as it is the only MicroATX size case that will accommodate a full size ATX motherboard! You are no longer restricted by the rather lame feature set of a MicroATX motherboard, the restricted expansion options, or the often behind-the-times chipsets on them. Another thing, many of the pre-fabbed SFF cases use a proprietary motherboard that is not user replaceable when the chipset in it becomes too outdated. This case will accept most of the latest, newest, and fastest ATX motherboards on the market. That alone makes this case quite future-proof, so you can use it over and over in your builds. Not only that, it will take a full height PCI-express VGA card up to 235 mm in length; this includes the cards based on the nVidia Geforce 8800 GTS GPU, which would make this one powerful PC to haul into a LAN party! A few cards will exceed this length, especially the 8800 GTX cards. GTR Tech History.


Closer Look:


The Package:

The package arrived via UPS and had the telltale signs to prove it; a few scuff marks and crushed areas but nothing too major. The box itself is just plain white with the GT3 logo on it. Obviously, GTR Tech decided to put the effort and money to where it would be best utilized, on the product inside the box. Once the box is opened, you can see that it is securely packaged, ready for all the bumps and thumps on its way to your doorstep.

 

The Case:

When I got this out of the box, I was really impressed with the finish. It is of an all aluminum construction, with the exterior being black-die anodized and polished, and with the front bezel being ABS plastic with a faux carbon-fiber finish. Included with the case is a power cord, an instruction manual, an adapter for connecting a slim CD/DVD drive to an IDE cable, an assortment of screws, and your all important screwdriver. The finish is very shiny and care should be taken not to scuff it up while removing the side panels or in handling, as this would show quite easily. The top of the case has the handle in a retracted position which can be lifted up to give your hand access for transportation. GTR Tech refers to this handle as a Wingdle, a term they have trademarked. Also on top is the air intake for the power supply. This is a nice feature since it will draw relatively cool air into the power supply, rather than warmer air from inside the case, which should serve to increase the efficiency of the power supply.

 

 

The Case:

The front of the case is actually very clean looking, with the exception of the power button, reset button, the GT3 logo, a hidden pop-open door to access four USB ports and your mic and headphone jacks, two fan intake ports, and the slim CD drive bay. Yes, that’s true, due to the slim nature of this case, it requires the use of a slim CD drive as a standard 5 ¼ drive would not fit. I’ll show you here the difference in size.


 


On the rear of the case we have the receptacle for the power supply cord, surrounded by a rather good sized vent for the hot air coming out of the power supply itself. All along the I/O interface, the case is perforated to allow the hot air to be expelled, thereby keeping your components inside cooler. Below the I/O interface we have the back plate of the “feature module”, which we will get into later on.


"Every GT3 PC is a unique unit and is labeled as such. GT3 PCs are labeled according to their production number and lot. For instance, 23/300 is the 23rd unit in the first production run of 300 units." The case I have here is the 35th unit of the first 300.


The Fans:

The case has two intake fans, both located on the front. One is at the top, an 80 by 80 by 20 mm, 2000 RPM ceramic bearing fan, directing air toward the memory and CPU area, while the other is at the bottom of the case, a 92 by 92 by 25 mm, 2000 RPM, ceramic bearing fan, directing its air at the feature module containing your add-in cards such as the VGA card.

 


The Front Bezel:

If the need should ever arise for the replacement of any component from the front of the case, such as intake fans or power switches, the front bezel can be removed. This is accomplished by removing one screw from the inside lower edge of the case, then pinching and pushing the plastic clips through the front of the case while gently pulling the front bezel from the bottom. The front bezel itself has the GT3 Logo in it, which gets lit up by a blue LED.

The Power Supply:

The GT3 comes with a power supply installed inside. It is a good thing it is included for a couple of reasons. First, due to the unique size of the GT3, being so narrow, most power supplies will not fit. Secondly, GTR Tech has questioned how power is used in a PC. They wonder if the size recomendations from PC vendors is really necessary.

According to GTR Tech, "what’s most important is that the PSU provide a safe and reliable source of power for all the platform scenarios that are available for this case. The sticker on the side of the power supply is misleading as it references total combined output of a few of the power rails. GT3's power supply is rated at 350W at 95(35C) degrees F. Since the air intake on the GT3’s power supply is on top of the case, it is drawing in cooler air than 95(35C) degrees F, which will make the power supply run cooler, thus making it more efficient. So its real world output is greater than 350W."

"GTR contracted FSP to design GT3's power supply, the FSP350-60MB. GTR specified its power supply requirements with one premise: to support all PC components which would physically fit within the GT3 enclosure. To that end, GTR Tech has yet to find a GT3-compatible configuration that exceeds the power supply's capability."

All power supplies have one form or another of Power Factor Correction (PFC). What is PFC? Power Factor Correction (PFC) allows power distribution to operate at its maximum efficiency. There are two types of PFC, Active PFC and Passive PFC. The GT3’s power supply uses Active PFC. The preferable type of PFC is Active Power Factor Correction (Active PFC) since it provides more efficient power frequency. Because Active PFC uses a circuit to correct power factor, Active PFC is able to generate a theoretical power factor of over 95%. Active Power Factor Correction also markedly diminishes total harmonics, automatically corrects for AC input voltage, and is capable of a full range of input voltage. Since Active PFC is the more complex method of Power Factor Correction, it is more expensive to produce an Active PFC power supply.

 


I found the wires on the power supply to be plenty long enough to reach all areas of the case and they were neatly braided to help with organization and appearance inside the case.


The Bottom:

On the bottom of the case, we have four feet. Now, these aren’t just any old feet. From inside the case, you can push on the center pin that holds the feet in place, and remove the feet all together. Big deal, huh? Well, actually it is here because once the feet are removed, you can lay the case on its side and use it as a home theater PC that would blend nicely with its highly polished black finish. Of course, this would also necessitate the removal of the Wingdle (handle) from the top of the case.

Motherboard Install:

I used an ATX board for this project since that is one of the whole points of getting this case. The install begins by you removing the side panel from the case. To do this, lay the case on its side on something that will not scratch it. Remove one screw on the rear of the case, then lay your hands on the side panel and slide the side panel towards the rear. Once this panel is off, you need to remove the support beam, CD/HDD frame, and the feature module. Now you need to get all the wires and cables out of the way by draping them over the sides of the case. There, with all this room, the ATX motherboard will fit nicely. Put in the motherboard I/O backing plate, and once the board is in place, screw it down securely. I am glad it did not require a shoe horn or anything! As a side note, make sure to install your CPU, CPU fan and memory modules onto the board first as it’s much easier that way. Now connect all the wires for power to the board, the fans, the USB and audio headers for the front panel, and all the other front panel connections for bootup and reset, HDD led, etc.

 

 


Slim CD/HDD Frame:

This part is pretty straight forward. Choose the hard drive you wish to use and insert it into the frame and fasten it in place with screws. Make sure the connections for the cables, whether they be SATA or IDE, are facing up toward the top of the case or they will be against the feature module and you won’t be able to connect any cables. The slim CD does not come with the case, so I had to purchase one separately. I found that they are not carried by any brick-and-mortar stores in my area and had to resort to the internet to find one. The slim CD sits to the top of the CD/HDD frame and is attached by four of the tiniest screws I have ever seen that are included in the package. You need to set this assembled frame aside until later, as it goes in place last.

 


The Feature Module:

Oh, the feature module. Let me suggest this, if you are having a bad day, leave this for another one. The directions specifically mention that the install process of assembling components in this case is considerably longer than a standard case and it requires patience and finesse. I mean, now that I have gone through it, it is actually pretty straight forward, but figuring that out the first time around was not. You see, this module is very customizable. You can set it up for a variety of configurations such as two VGA cards (single slot) and one PCI card, or two PCI cards and one VGA card, or even a HDD thrown into the mix and it can be expanded or compressed to fit different boards. This was no small feat when I did it. It would have helped tremendously if the individual parts had part numbers stamped on them and a guide in the manual to follow. The manual does have a guide, with the parts lettered, I just wish the letters were on the parts too. Some of the parts looked very similar and were symmetrical in shape, so it was easy to flip them and get confused.

 


Inside the module cage is a PCI-Express riser card. This is the card that you will plug your VGA card into and then it, in turn, plugs into your motherboard. Also inside the module cage is a PCI adapter with a Kapton PCI ribbon cable attached to it. The ribbon cable will get inserted into the PCI slot on your motherboard. Just be aware of this; you need to install all the cards you plan to into the module before you secure it together.

ATX motherboards have seven slot positions on them for your PCI slot, PCI-Express slot, etc. This feature module defaults to having the VGA adapter in the slot number seven position. An ATX board can have its first VGA port in either the slot six or slot seven position. The motherboard I installed had the VGA slot in position six. This means I had to disassemble the module and reconfigure it for my board. I inserted my single slot Geforce 7600 GT VGA card in the module and left the PCI slot open. I have heard that GTR Tech is considering moving the default configuration to have the PCI-Express adapter positioned over the number six slot.


Re-assembly:

Since the feature module is so large relevant to this case, it covers a lot of the motherboard. Before you install the feature module back into the case, you would be wise to connect your SATA and/or IDE cable, CD-ROM SPDIF, and anything else that will be under the module. Also, ensure that all the motherboard jumpers are where you need them and pray to the PC gods that you NEVER need to access the CMOS jumper.

Now, insert the Kapton PCI ribbon cable into your PCI slot, locate the PCI-Express riser adapter over your PCI Express slot and lower the assembly into place.

Next, connect the power and data cables to the hard drive and slim CD, then put this cage in place and screw it down. You can now screw down the feature module and support brace as well.


Finally, replace the side covers and there you have it, a slim and trim PC ready to haul to the friend’s house for the next LAN party to surprise everyone with the power of your rig, or the sleek, sexy new Home Theater PC to put in your home.

Specifications:

 

Model Number
GT3-BH
Case Type
Sport Compact PC
Net Weight
7.7lbs (includes power supply)
Dimension (H*W*D)
15.4x4.25x12.5
Handle

ABS Plastic with Stainless-Steel Frame

Cooling System
Front (Upper Intake):

80 x 80 x 20 mm Ceramic Bearing, 2000 RPM, 23.8 dB, 23.34CFM

Front (Lower Intake):

92 x 92 25 mm Ceramic Bearing, 2000 RPM, 25.9 dB, 41.71CFM

Top (PSU Intake):

80 x 80 x 20 mm Ball Bearing, variable RPM

Drive Bays
-Accessible
-Hidden
3
1 x Slim CD
1 + 1 x 3.5” HDD
Add-In Cards Supported

One (1) Double Slot VGA, One (1) PCI

One (1) Single Slot VGA, Two (2) PCI

Expansion Slots
1 Slim-CD
Material

Aluminum, ABS Plastic, Stainless Steel (SECC)

Color
Black, Grey
Finish

Black-Die Anodized Polished Aluminum

Motherboards
Standard ATX
PSU
350W ATX 12V V2.0 with Active PFC
Input: 120V~~240V AC
EMI Certified: FCC

Safety Certified: NEMKO, TUV, UL, CE

MTBF: 100,000 hours
Wires: Braided
Power Plug: USA
Front Panel
(4) USB 2.0 Ports
(1) Mic In
(1) Headphone Out

(1) Power-On Button with Integrated Power LED (Blue)

(1) HDD LED (Red)

(1) GT3 Logo lit with Integrated Blue LED’s

Miscellaneous

(1) Double-Slot PCI-Express x16 Riser

(1) One-Slot PCI Riser
(1) Slim-CD Adapter
(2) Front Panel USB Connector

(1) Front Panel Audio/Mic Header

(1) GT3 LED Header
(1) Power Cord
(1) Manual
(1) Screwdriver
Warranty

Power Supply: 3 year limited warranty

Risers: 1 year limited warranty

Upper and Lower Intake Fans: 3 year limited warranty


 

Features:

 

Full Size ATX and Micro-ATX(uATX) Motherboard Compatible

Three Flexible Add-in Card Areas

Standard Support For Up To Two Hard Drives

Efficient Cooling with Three Cold-Air Intakes/Fans

Sturdy, Light, Transportable & Compact

Quiet Operation: Sub 30dB

Patents Pending

Testing

So how am I going to test this case? I have to ask myself, what is its intended purpose? Well, that turned out to be the convenience of portability, ease of carrying, acceptance of a full size ATX motherboard, and of course performance. With its size being so small, it is definitely portable, and the built-in handle makes it easy to carry. The fact that I have installed an ATX motherboard into it takes care of the acceptance of ATX part. That pretty much just leaves the question of how it performs.

When your PC is running, it is generating heat, especially if you are running demanding applications. All of this heat has to be released, or you run the risk of having stability issues. Since the case is so small, the components inside are closer together and air flow becomes even more important.

I will test the temperature of the system and CPU as I use the PC to see if the airflow inside this case can handle the job. First, I will load the system to 100% load by running two instances of Prime 95 with a moderate overclock on the CPU and record those temperatures. The overclock itself will generate additional heat, let alone the double instances of Prime95. I will then return the CPU to stock speed and let it idle for at least 30 minutes and record temperatures.

I tried to use Motherboard Monitor to keep an eye on all the values I wanted to, but I was unable to configure it for my board. Likewise for Speedfan, here I had 132,000 RPM fans! So, I resorted to the utility that came with the board, that being EasyTune. With the Hardware Monitor applet from EasyTune, I was also able to watch the voltages of the 12v rail, 3.3v rail and an indication of vdroop on the vcore volts. Vdroop is a situation where the vcore (voltage to your processor) drops as the system is given a full load, thereby stressing the power supply. Windows Task Manager was used to show the CPU load, and CPU-Z was used to show the clock speed of the CPU. The ambient temperature is 25 degrees Celsius.


Testing Setup:

As you can see in the first screenshot, the CPU is overclocked to a speed of 2.1 GHz, and fully loaded on both cores. Not too shabby for stock vcore and a stock heatsink/fan. In the second screenshot, the CPU is at stock speed and the system is at idle.

 


A temperature increase of only 2 degrees Celsius from stock at idle to overclocked at full load is great! This in and of itself speaks volumes for the cooling efficiency of the airflow through this case. As you can see, the 12v rail voltage remained constant at all times, with the 3.3v rail only losing .02v at full load on the CPU, and the vcore voltage dropped .01 volts, which is very good as far as vdroop is concerned. A steady supply of volts to the CPU increases your chances for a good overclock.



Conclusion:

What’s not to like about the GT3? This case is very attractive to look at, it is small and lightweight, has excellent airflow, and is completely customizable to your tastes of components to use inside. It can even be used as a home theater system box laid horizontally and not look out of place doing so. It was a breeze to pick this case up by the handle, fully loaded with hardware, and carry it one-handed to another room.

I guess there may be one little “gotcha”. A slim CD/DVD drive is required, but if you want a small, compact, portable system, it’s a small price to pay. Also, the slim CD/DVD drive would not match the rest of the faceplate. I talked with the founder of GTR Tech and he told me that they are considering making faceplates available for the drives that will allow changing them.

As I have used the system that I built in this case during the last few days, I have found the front USB ports to be exceptionally handy, especially for my camera and USB thumb drives. With the case sitting on my desk right next to the monitor, the fan noise was not as bad as I was afraid it would be. The fans could not be heard above the sound coming from my music CD at low/moderate levels.

Pros:


Cons: