Microcool Banchetto 101 Review

jlqrb - 2010-03-18 11:34:32 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: jlqrb   
Reviewed on: April 13, 2010
Price: $259.99

Introduction:

Microcool is an Italian based company that was founded in 2003 to make effective cooling solutions for demanding computer systems. With this strong emphasis on heat control, the company has released several well-designed lines of cooling products such as chipset coolers, core protective rubber frames and thermally conductive tapes. One major success for the company has been NorthPole line of chipset coolers, which utilizes a modular design, is extremely quiet and reduces heat very efficiently, making it perfect for many PC users. Even though Microcool is a company built on cooling, the release of the Banchetto 101 shows us that they are far from limited to any one segment of the market. This product is the end result of over two years of development to create a light-weight, open and transparent case that is perfect of modifiers and PC Professionals. This open design makes it ideal for users that are constantly changing out their component and don't want to be restricted by the more closed design of a typical chassis. In addition to these features the Banchetto 101 also offers some aspects that might not be entirely new, but when combined with Banchetto's design make them quite unique. These include the ability to choose from multiple water-cooling setups that fit directly to the case and a removable motherboard tray that will make installation much easier. One thing I can't get by without mentioning above all the features listed is the look of the case. With the clear design highlighting the installed hardware and chrome accents it is extremely appealing to the eyes and is the reason behind the name Banchetto, which is the Italian word for feast.

Closer Look:

The Microcool Banchetto 101 comes packaged in a black cube-shaped box that is consistent in size for a case of this sort. The front and back of the packaging show an image of the case, with the images being relative to the direction it is actually facing within the packaging. Directly in front of these images is the Banchetto 101 logo with the slogan "a new style for your PC" under the logo. Both these panels have a nice clean look and give an interesting top and bottom view of the 101. Turning to the side of the packaging you will find some of the listed information about the case. The info comes in the form of listed specifications, a explanation about the case in multiple languages and an image of the Banchetto in use. This image shows two large HD3870 graphics cards being used on the table, showcasing its ability to not be hindered by the size of some of the larger products on the market. The last panel simply has the company's name on it and a large 'Z' like line stretching across the panel. The side is actually where you will open the packaging and the 'Z' shape functions as a seam that can be opened and closed, securing to the box with Velcro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the Banchetto 101 out of the box you can see that it comes almost entirely encased in Styrofoam. With such a large area of the case protected it makes it much more secure during transit and should prevent the case from damage prior to removing it from the Styrofoam. The accessories that come with the case are actually found within the Styrofoam and include around sixty thumb screws, seven stands that are used to secure rear expansion cards in place and the installation guide. The included screws come with two different threads, with one thread being used to install add-on components and the other to secure the cases modular bays in place.

 

 

Now that we have everything unpacked, let's move on and see what the Banchetto 101 has to offer.

Closer Look:

As soon as the Banchetto 101 is unpacked you can see just how functional the design really is. The motherboard tray that sits on the top is very simple, yet ideally set up for easy installation and access. This tray has ten pre-installed motherboard standoffs that will fit both ATX and Micro-ATX style motherboards, three cable management holes, a CPU back-plate access area, two large power/reset switches and pre-drilled screw holes for expansion. The whole top panel is removable which will help when installing the motherboard or add-on components to the system. These all make the panel very functional and should greatly reduce the installation time. Directly below this area there is a gap between the motherboard tray and the rest of the case, this is where the cables from the power supply will be routed to their designated areas. Once your hardware is all installed on the case it will actually hide the cables out of sight, making for a clean look. The bottom of the casing is where most of the components are stored. This area also uses a removable modular design that allows you to remove the installation bays as needed to install a specific component. These removable bays are all brushed aluminum, which helps the appearance and are held into place with the use of a thumb screw that once removed let you slide the bay out of the case making installation a breeze. From left to right you have the installation areas for the hard drives, optical drives and the power supply. The last section to look at is the rear of the case. This area is where you can install either optional 120mm case fans or a water-cooling radiator setup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first two installation bays we are going to look at are the optical drive bay and HDD bay. Both of these are secured into the case with one or more thumb screws. Once removed the drives are simply placed in the bay and secured into place with the included thumb screws. The optical drive bay can hold up to three 5.25" drives. The hard drive bay holds, up to four 3.5" drives with each drive facing toward the back of the case for better cable management.

 

 

 

To install the power supply, you simply remove the installation panel from the case and secure it to the power supply with the thumb screws. With the panel on you position the PSU on its side to side it back in the case. The last removable installation area is found on the back of the case and it is for installing a cooling solution to the Banchetto 101. This can either be water-cooling or a triple 120mm fan setup. If you do choose to go with water, there are multiple options available, as this area can house a single, dual or triple fan radiator. One thing to note here is that if you use air cooling you will need to supply your own case fans and screws.

 

 

 

The top removable panel makes installation of the motherboard very simple and allows for easy access to the CPU, memory and expansion areas of the board. This tray is easily removed and is held into place with four chrome pins that fit into the middle of the rubber feet on the tray. When it comes to installing add-on expansion cards, you will first need to screw in the six included stands. These stands are screwed directly into the acrylic panel and each have a thumb screw that is used at the top to secure the expansion card in place. The Banchetto 101 also comes with an optional dual 80mm fan bracket that will allow for two fans to be installed near the CPU and can be positioned to have the air being blown toward or away from this area. As you can see from the first picture below, the fan bracket that came with this case broke from an unfortunate fall and is something you really cant build for, as this chassis is not meant to be a LAN box or really rugged enough for regular transport.

 

 

Now that we have everything installed you can see the Banchetto 101 in all is glory. All the components fit nicely on the case and with the open design there will be no issues fitting some larger parts, even a dual HD5970 graphics card setup in CrossFire! The installation was easier with the open design, but that is not to say there were no issues. One such issue (which is in the third picture) is that the PCI-E cables from my power supply could not reach my GTX 260 graphics card, making the card unusable without cable extenders. Another issue was that screwing the rear expansion stands into place was difficult, resulting in one screw hole stripping out and all the stands being uneven. This is not huge issue, but it could make heavy cards less secure and it would have just looked nicer with all the stands being in place and at the same level. Aside from these frustrations though, the case looks stunning and the appearance is much better to the eye than the camera shows.

   

   

Next we will be testing the Banchetto 101's cooling performance and comparing it to some more conventional cases.

Specifications

Model
Banchetto 101
Dimensions
400(L) x 350(W) x 362(H) mm
Weight
5.3Kg / 11.68 Pounds
Materials
Methacrylate shelves (8mm)
Aluminum racks (1.2mm)
Chrome steel bolts and screw
Colors
Clear, black and chrome
Motherboard Compatibility
ATX and Micro ATX
Expansion Slots
7 slots
5.25” Bays
3 with removable rack
3.5” Bays
4 with removable rack
PSU Bay
Standard ATX PS2 with removable rack
Water-Cooling Bay
Designed for radiators with up to 3 fans, pump and tray
Removable rack
Cooling system
Fan door hanger (2x92mm)

 

Features:

 

 

Information courtesy of MicroCool @: http://www.microcool.it/english/101prod.html

Testing:

The open design of the Banchetto 101 is very different in comparison to a more conventional design. This makes a direct comparison a little difficult, but I still want to see if this case performs better or worse than other more standard offerings. To test the cooling performance I will let the system idle for up to 30 minutes and check the temperatures with HWMonitor and then do the same after 30 minutes of demanding use. This will give us an accurate reading of both idle and load temperatures. The Banchetto 101 does come with space to install case fans, but because it does not include any actual fans I will be testing the system with the only fan being the one on my CPU cooler.

 

Testing System:

 

Comparison Cases:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testing the Banchetto 101 without air moving over the system resulted in higher temperatures than the other cases. Once the case fans were installed with the air blowing over CPU area, there was a decent drop in temperatures throughout the system, resulting in it being more in line with the other cases.

Conclusion:

The Banchetto 101 was designed with PC professionals and the modding community in mind and for these two groups, this case can be a huge improvement over a more conventional chassis. The unlimited access to each specific compartment within the case really helped with most of the initial install. This made it easier to set up than most products I have used, but it is really in future upgrades where the Banchetto separates itself. Once all components are installed the modular design of the motherboard tray and installation bays remove restrictions that are present in the more closed design, making it easy to get to any one component in the case. This makes the 101 ideal for a reviewer such as myself. My system is constantly changing and there are times when I have to switch between multiple pieces of hardware in the course of a single day. In a regular case this can be a long process, especially when it comes to the motherboard and CPU. So, the fact that the whole top panel can be removed from the case to allow for instant access of the processor, graphics card, memory and motherboard for quick and easy substitutions, is a feature that is beyond beneficial. In fact, this design has cut down my install time to about half of what it used to be. Enthusiasts will also find features such as the ability to install multiple types of radiators directly to the back of the case very appealing. This will make water-cooling not just easy to set up, but allow for the Banchetto 101 to be virtually free of limitations when it comes to cooling solutions. If you don't use water to cool though, you can instead place up to three 120mm case fans on this area in place of a radiator to decrease the operating temperatures of the parts housed in the lower portion of the case. There is also an included fan bracket that will allow for use of two additional fans to sit on the top panel to cool the CPU area. Just a warning though - you will need to supply your own fans and screws, as there are none included, which was a bit surprising for a case with such a high premium.

As you can see, the Banchetto 101 really has the PC professionals and enthusiasts needs covered, but there are many features that will appeal to the average user as well. Some of these are the ability to hide cables out of the way giving the case a clean look, access to the CPU back-plate area and room for up to four hard drives. There is however, one aspect of the case that will appeal to any type of user and this is just how nice it looks. With the use of clear acrylic, brushed aluminum and sturdy construction, the 101 is sleek, stylish and one case you really have to see with your own eyes to truly appreciate.

There is a lot to like about the Banchetto 101, but it does have a few drawbacks as well. The first issue I ran into dealt with the pre-drilled holes in the acrylic. Some of these holes I found to be easy to stripped and difficult to properly use. When I was screwing in the rear expansion stands, I actually stripped one of the screw holes to the point where it was no longer usable and I did this without applying any real force to it. Luckily, the rest of the stand-offs did secure into place, but it was very hard to fully screw them into the acrylic, resulting in each stand being at a different level. This issue wasn't that they were hard to turn, but rather after they got to a specific depth into the acrylic they would just not progress any further, but could still be turned. All of this was caused by the screw holes being drilled directly into the acrylic, as opposed to using a metal insert or standoffs to secure the screws into place. Unfortunately this was the first issue I ran into. The next concern was that the acrylic was easily scratched from the modular bays, even as they are designed to be moved in and out of the case. This scratching happened at all areas where the bays were removed and even though the scratches created during the review were not large, the clear acrylic could start to look unpleasant in a rather short period of time if a new scratch is made after each time a bay is moved. But really, if this is used for hard-core benchmarking, you will see wear and tear anyhow. Along with these few things there were also some smaller issue I ran into, such as some of the thumb screws on the modular bays being hard to access making them difficult to unscrew. Not all types of screws needed are included and the included dual 80mm fan bracket is weak and broke from a simple drop to the floor. All these issues took away from the appeal of the Banchetto 101 as a day to day case, but in my opinion it is a good product for anyone looking for a tech station to benchmark or review on.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: