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CMI Silver BMW Case

Welcome once again from the Monster Hardware Secret Labs, where we will be taking a look at a case offered up by CMI Computer Wholesale, also known locally as CableMart. When my editor first contacted me about reviewing this case, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it would be from CMI. They are located about 10 miles from my home, so I was able to pick it up – no shipping delay! In fact, I have done business with CMI for years but through their “brick and mortar” storefront. I knew that they sold a lot of supplies and parts in their internet business, but had never experienced that side of their business. CMI had always been fair to me in their pricing and availability, so I was very interested in taking a look at their case.

By the way, the company is located near Huntsville, AL, which is one of the unheralded tech centers of the USA. I have been told that Huntsville has more PHD’s per capita than any other city in the United States – and it’s easy to believe with the strength of the electronics industry and design work in the area. In fact, the owner of CMI came out of the local tech industry in order to start this business, and has grown it to be a direct importer of computer parts, supplies, and accessories. All of this to say –this company was founded and is still run by technically competent people, not just low price “parts marketers”. They are by far the largest company of their type for a radius of several hundred miles.

Now, on to the case – I was offered my choice of a case with automotive style factors in the models of “Benz” or “BMW” (I chose the “BMW” model). In the back of my mind, I had planned on building another computer for my kids. In fact, despite all the learning based games and programs that I have for them, their favorite is “NEED FOR SPEED III” and they actually love to play the cop chase car.

BMW Side View

This case is of a generous size for a mid-tower, appx 19” deep and 17” tall. It is made of a steel construction and is primarily styled in silver with black accents, trim, and “grille” area. The case has room for four 5.25 drive bays, a single floppy drive, and two 3.5” hard drive bays. Additionally, there is room for four more drives or accessories that can be placed behind the front intake fan space. The BMW case also has two USB ports as well as line-in and headphone plugs on the front of the case at the bottom.

I have to confess that I was a bit skeptical about the styling before I received the case. However, it quickly began to grow on me. The case front has a miniature split grill area just like real BMW’s. The only thing that could have been better about the front is if they could have made the power and reset buttons into two “headlights”. The sides of the case has two plastic discs that look like wheels on the lower front of each side. Once again, I thought it might turn out hokey – but it really came together and looked nice in my opinion. The ultimate test – my two boys thought is was “Too cool!” They absolutely loved the case styling.

BMW Rear

Additionally, the case has two 80mm clear fans on the left side near the rear. Unfortunately, they are not LED fans but simply clear fans (but that’s understandable at the offered price). The back of the case has two open positions for extra 80mm fans or they can be used as intake fans. There is also a fan cage at the front lower interior for an optional standard size intake fan. All of these together - coupled with the power supply fan – adds up to six possible fans for intake and exhaust. You shouldn’t have any major issues or problems with cooling the components inside this case.

BMW Power Supply

Next, the case comes with a generic 400 watt power supply. If you are a high end gamer, or have a ton of components that draw a lot of power, this power supply may be a bit weak. But for average users, this will be just fine. After final installation, I ended up with a Duron 800 that tends to run on the hot side, a DVD drive, floppy, two hard drives, CPU cooling fan, multiple USB devices, and two side cooling fans – and there were no hiccups from the power supply whatsoever. One plus – the power supply had some long leads, which came in handy due to the roominess of the case.

BMW Case Labels

I did note that the motherboard tray is nicely labeled for whatever type of motherboard that you install. Many cases do not have the motherboard mounting holes labeled – this case made it very easy to install the brass standoffs for my ATX motherboard without multiple trial-and-error mountings. The brass hardware, as well as a generous amount of screws, power cord, and additional backplate were included in the box. The front audio/USB panel had additional cabling inside the case ready to install directly onto your motherboard. These accessory cables as well as the primary function cables (reset, HD LED, etc.) were all clearly labeled. The USB cables to hook up to your motherboard were split into individual pins – a plus for me since my motherboard has a second set of USB pins that don’t fit every other standard USB connector.

BMW Side Panel

After taking a few pics, I began the installation of my components. Candidly, I’m not sure that I have ever had an easier installation when building a computer. Keep in mind that I was building a very basic system for my kids, so the motherboard (an ECS K7VZA KT133 board) had built-in sound and other features. All I added were an older ATI All-in-Wonder so they could watch children’s DVDs, and a Belkin wireless PCI adapter card for network access. The ECS K7VZA is a full sized ATX board, so you can see how much extra room this case has inside. The bottom line, everything installed quickly, simply, and with no problems Whatsoever. I might add that all interior edges were carefully rolled and crimped back – there were no concerns about sharp edges and bleeding!

BMW Installed

It was at this point that I made my first mistake. I keep a small gooseneck lamp on my workbench in order to assist in taking pictures and viewing inside cases in general. While I was working on the drive installations, I accidentally slid the case up against the light – and left the top edge of the case in direct contact with a 75 Watt incandescent light bulb for about 15 minutes. As you might imagine - not on this case, nor any other – the case front plastic is simply not designed to take that level of heat for such a prolonged time. That’s right, I melted the top corner of a new case. In a way, if it had to happen, I’m glad that my kids are forgiving and just simply excited to be getting a new “car computer!”. I was quite disgusted at myself and kept reminding myself that accidents sometimes just happen. Please understand that this shouldn’t reflect negatively against the case but rather myself.

Case Oops

Finally, here’s a view of the case in the completed configuration. I had one gray DVD drive that I had salvaged from an old HP Pavilion, and the color match against the dark silver looked excellent. Black drives and accessories would also look sharp.

BMW Complete

Conclusion:

I like this case a lot better than many I have seen, and I’ll give it 8 stars out of 10. It is designed as a fun alternative, but the other merits and features make it a case with a good utility factor even if you didn’t want the distinctive styling. I think it’s a bargain at $39 including the 400 watt power supply; if this one doesn’t catch your fancy, CMI literally has about 40 or 50 different cases for sale – most of them displayed on their retail floor!

Pros:

  • Very roomy
  • Fun styling (the judges were delighted!)
  • Lightweight despite durable steel construction
  • Two exhaust fans included, lots of possibilities to configure fan slots and cooling
  • Motherboard tray was labeled for easy installations
  • USB connector pins were separated – convenient for non-standard USB pinouts
  • Couldn’t find a sharp edge anywhere
  • “Tool-less” screws for panel sides

Cons:

  • The motherboard tray is not removable
  • One or two areas with “orange peel” or paint overspray
  • Some would prefer a USB/Firewire combination in the front panel instead of two USB ports

Added: November 7th 2003
Reviewer: Insulglass
Score: 8  
Hits: 10427
Language: english

  

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