Gigabyte iSolo 210 Case

Author
The HL Staff
Editor
Aron Schatz
Posted
November 20, 2007
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16261
Gigabyte iSolo 210 Case
Sleek and stylish, simple and affordable. These are words not often used together to describe a computer case, and many regard the case as just a metal box to hold the real goodies inside. Yet, when crafted right, the chassis can be the eye catcher of the room, setting itself up to be a real showpiece. Gigabyte tries to do just that with the iSolo 210, and HardwareLogic is on the "case" to see if it delivers.
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Page 1

Gone are the days of the Beige Box. Cases can be purchased from all corners of the globe, each one toting its own design and features in order to entice potential buyers. Some buyers go for cooling and size, others for flash and uniqueness, and still others on style and functionality. It is the latter that Gigabyte has taken with its iSolo series of cases, which targets mid-range enthusiasts looking for something pleasing to the eye.

Gigabyte is a name that should be well known to computer enthusiasts. It is the same company that offers a wide range of computing products from motherboards to coolers to video cards. Their 3D Aurora came through our test labs this past April and garnered quite a bit of praise, while the P35-DQ6 motherboard received similar love in August. With the high standard of quality that Gigabyte has shown HardwareLogic in the past, the iSolo has big shoes to fill.

Model
  • GZ-AA1CB-SNB
Case Type
  • Mid-ATX
Dimensions
  • 19.1" x 7.9" x 17.4" (H x W x L)
Drive Bays
  • 5.25" External – 5
  • 3.5" External – 2 
  • 3.5" Internal – 3
Expansion Slots
  • 7
Net Weight
  • 18.8 lbs
Cooling
  • Two 120mm silent fans (Front intake, and rear exhaust)
Material
  • Chassis: 0.7mm SECC
  • Bezel: Metal mesh with brushed aluminum
Motherboard
Compatibility
  • Micro and Standard ATX
PSU Compatibility
  • ATX PSU
Front I/O Connectivity
  • Two USB 2.0 ports
  • One microphone and headset input (HD audio)
  • One IEEE 1394 FireWire port
Special Features
  • Integrated wire management features
  • Anti-slip vibration foot pads
  • High-gloss finish
  • Tooless design
  • RoHS compliant
  • Watercooling cutouts
Color
  • Black
Page 2

Gigabyte spared no expense with its bundle for the iSolo, and just about everything you could ask for is included. The manual is more than we're accustomed to seeing in a case bundle, which details the installation of various components: Quite a change from the double sided sheet of paper that is the current norm. Included in the iSolo is a complement of goodies including screws, motherboard standoffs, and a ferrite ring magnet which seems to become scarcer these days. Three sets of drive rails for tool-less hard drive mounting are added as well as a dust cloth which does a surprisingly good job removing offensive fingerprints. A big kudos goes to Gigabyte for the inclusion of self adhesive cable clips, which any system builder can take benefit of and put to good use for wire management duties.

The front bezel of the iSolo is quite attractive, composed of lustrous brushed aluminum and matte black mesh for increased air flow. The bottom of the bezel is concave, showing off the shine of the aluminum and allowing a staging point for the blue LED that lights up when the computer is on. Five 5.25" bays are available for optical drives and other devices, while two of the five 3.5" bays are external; there will no doubt be much rejoicing for those who still believe in the power of floppy disk drives. It is worth noting that this leaves three 3.5" internal HDD bays left, so bear this in mind if you're planning a RAID or multiple disk array.

Upon taking a closer look at the front panel, the first thing that stands out is the lack of a reset button. While the use of a reset button in enclosures has declined in the years since DOS, some folks may not like the idea of being without it for "just in case" situations. We're also not keen on the low placement of the front panel I/O ports, which are located inconveniently at the bottom instead of an arm's reach up top.

The iSolo also comes with the standard configuration of two USB 2.0 ports, front audio connectors, and an IEEE 1394 port. FireWire, while good enough for the casual user, is slowly being phased out, and we would have liked to seen Gigabyte include support for an eSATA port as well.

Instead of a typical solid panel or an acrylic cut out window, Gigabyte opted for a breathable mesh that offers a large area for hot components inside the enclosure to draw fresh air in. This does not go without its problem as builders and users alike have their preference for solid or see-through panels. The paint job on the iSolo does allow the mesh to blend in, so only the pickiest of the DIY'ers will find fault with it, if any at all. Suffice to say, mesh has proven itself to have excellent cooling properties, all the while keeping the dust bunnies from nestling in your nice rig. However, the location of the mesh in the panel will allow more sound to escape, especially from the CPU heatsink and fan area.

Let us pause for a moment to admire the paint job of the iSolo. Initially, we were quite stunned when we first laid eyes on the enclosure, and every few seconds during the shooting of the case we had to stop and admire how the light reflected off the black, high gloss piano finish. The designers made sure that the paint matched the rest of the chassis, and the effect is a high quality finish that plays with ambient light and catches your attention. Unfortunately, the black paint used on the iSolo attracts a ridiculous amount of fingerprints, although the included dust cloth was a satisfying bonus in helping to keep the case in pristine condition.

In keeping with the iSolo's theme of silence, the rear 120mm fan is held in place with plastic pins and rubber grommets which reduces fan vibration and noise. The rear of the case also features dual watercooling cutouts which allows enthusiasts to mount a radiator on the outside without having to mod the case for the tubing. Here at HL, we think this a nice step in the right direction, and can only hope for more inclusions like this that cater to growing niche users. The frame of the chassis is held securely in place by an ample amount of rivets that give the case a good, stalwart feel to it. This is important, as cases in this price range tend to skimp on "trivial" matters such as this in order to cut costs.

Page 3

As expected, the inside of the case is not as extravagant as the exterior, but it does contain a few important details to point out. The plastic tool-less drive bay clamps are a bit of an evolution from the days of the NZXT Guardian, and as such, are solid without popping off from excessive force, or becoming unaligned and inoperable after a few uses. This is a huge problem that plagues lesser quality tool-less cases, and it's a sigh of relief to know that your DVD drives won't flail about during operation. If you don't trust the tool-less setup, screws can be added for support from the other side.

The motherboard tray is not removable, which shouldn't be too much of a problem considering the audience that this case is targeted for. In front of the hard drive bay is the front intake 120mm fan, which is directly wired to the rear exhaust fan. When Gigabyte said these fans were quiet they meant it. During our testing, both of the fans drew power from a single 4-pin fan header, and we were hard pressed to discern any noise coming from the fans during operation.

As well as including wire clips for wire management duties, Gigabyte also saw fit to zip-tie the wire running between the two case fans directly to the motherboard tray. However, looking at where the tray meets the drive bays, there's no room to tuck away and route rogue wires from the power supply. This is a bit mind boggling, as this engineering design (and ultimately flaw) prevents an enthusiast from exercising proper cable management duties. The front header cables for the iSolo are a bit strange as well. Instead of the power LED button plugging into the familiar power light pins on a motherboard, it is instead fed by a 4-pin molex connector. Yet another cabling mishap that leads to more clutter instead of management for those that want the eye candy that the power LED button offers.

The seven plastic PCI retention clips follow suit with their drive bay counterparts: they hold add-in cards steady and securely without the cards feeling as though they are flopping about. For heavy bruisers like modern day graphics cards, screws can be added in order to help the clips further stabilize the card. The PCI brackets themselves are individual and can be removed and added at will, not like the cheapo punch-out holes more commonly found in cases at this price point. All the edges of the interior are rounded or folded over, and a tissue ran along the inside of the enclosure went unscathed. This is indeed a testament to the quality that Gigabyte is famous for.

The front panel of the iSolo is easily removed by pressing in four plastic clips that secure it to the case on either side. As you can see, Gigabyte leaves the first two panels in both external bays unshielded by offering a peel off sticker for your convenience. The other panels in the drive bays are of the "wiggle till it pops off" kind. As is common with more chassis solutions today, the drive slots in the front facade are of the same mesh material as the side panel, and come with filters to prevent dust from entering that would otherwise find a home in your system. The panels pop off using clips much like the bezel itself, and can be saved and reused if needed later on. It is immediately obvious that Gigabyte's engineers have spent copious amounts of time crafting the front panel for ease of installation, unlike a certain other case whose bezel is a nightmare to remove and work with.

Another example of Gigabyte's attention to detail lies with the enclosure's feet. Instead of opting for cheap hard plastic, the pads of the iSolo are a soft anti-skid, anti-vibration rubber with a silver inlay that matches the bezel. During testing on both wood and linoleum floors, the case refused to vibrate even with case fans turned up and multiple hard drives operating at full speed: in the words of a famous Kazakhstan television host, "Very nice!"

What the iSolo has in style, it loses in space. Videocard aside, this setup is as space consuming as some higher-end enthusiast systems, and yet we're already encountering cramped conditions. The case does have enough room to support an 8800GT/S like the one shown above, but anything larger will seriously be pushing the envelope. However, these misgivings aside, the iSolo was one of the fastest builds we've had yet, with a complete installation taking a mere 10-15 minutes, leaving enough time for us to cry and lament over the lack of wire routing opportunities within the enclosure. 

Room and rabid wire monsters aside, building a computer in the iSolo was perhaps more of a pleasure than initially thought: many of Gigabyte's features rolled together nicely to produce an overall satisfying experience. The first time builder would have no trouble with this case, and even a veteran looking for a living room PC would find something to like about it.

Page 4

SectionGradeComments
Build Quality
(Durability & Construction)

18/20

  • Sturdy SECC steel with no flexing and bending
  • Build quality on par with more expensive cases
  • Thick side panels are easily removed and don't wobble
  • Lovely front bezel with attractive design features
  • Case interior rather bland and speaks of a budget enclosure
Aesthetics / Appearance

16/20

  • Superb paint job; one of the best we've ever seen
  • Design is elegant and not intrusive; blends in while sticking out
  • Pictures cannot do justice to the brushed aluminum bezel
  • Lack of reset button puzzling
  • We despise the low placement of the front I/O ports
Internal Layout & Installation

15/20

  • Tool-less feature well designed and executed
  • No place to route unused wires from power supply
  • Lack of  an eSATA port a disappointment
  • Tight, cramped quarters even with minimal hardware installed
Performance (Sound & Cooling)

9/10

  • Included case fans are extremely quiet, yet offer adequate airflow
  • Thick rubber feet a nice inclusion; experienced no vibration or noise  
  • Watercooling cutouts will appeal to the overclocking crowd
Bundle

10/10

  • Everything you need for a system build and then some
  • Wire clips a plus, and probably a must
  • Manual is extremely thorough and detailed
Warranty & Support

9/10

  • One year limited warranty on all Gigabyte enclosures
  • RMA support is clear and precise on their End User page
  • Gigabyte can be contacted directly by telephone by visiting their Contact page
Price / Value

6/10

  • While offering a bevy of features and quality for the money, the iSolo's price point is situated between chassis solutions such as the CM690 and the Antec 900 without bringing much more to the table.

Our Recommendation

There's no denying that Gigabyte's iSolo is a sleek and stylish case, well equipped to handle a good variety of builds while maintaining a "I'm not flaunting, but damn I'm sexy" demeanor. While some case manufacturers shoot for obscene eye candy and LED's, and still others go for enough cooling fans to build a hovership, the iSolo is a well rounded enclosure that is both classy and sophisticated all at a price you can afford. With its great looks and unobtrusive noise footprint during operation, this case would be more at home as an HTPC or rec room computer than stuffed with a quad core CPU and SLI'ed 8800s.

However, the iSolo is not without its faults. The interior of the case was a total letdown, and judging from the overall quality of the chassis, we were hoping for something that did not seem copied from a $40 budget case, especially considering the C-note asking price for the iSolo. Additionally, after completing a build in this enclosure, the included cable clips in the bundle seemed less like a thoughtful inclusion and more like a necessity. This wire management issue was only exacerbated when excess wiring from the power supply and other devices had nowhere to go except into empty drive bays. This alone bodes ill will for the enthusiast that is concerned about good airflow within an enclosure.

With these misgivings aside, the iSolo is definitely worth a look if you're in the market for a classy case to compliment the decor of your home. The overall quality of the iSolo is superior, and the paint job is second to none compared to other cases in its class. While an Antec 900 might be better suited for a gamer looking for a box to stash their parts in, the average home user wanting an elegant case solution that stands out above the rest should take a serious look at Gigabyte's iSolo 210 enclosure.

Other Reviews Of Note

Its always nice to have more than one opinion on a component before you spend your hard earned money. For one, we may see something others missed, or vice versa. As with all reviews published at HardwareLogic, we'll not only give you our recommendation, but also point out some reviews from some other great sites around the web.
virtual-hideout.net
techpowerup.com
tweaknews.net
bcchardware.com

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