It’s another case review! Many thanks to Super Flower for sending the SF-561T2 case for review. Super Flower offer an extensive (to say the least) range of cases, which can be bought here in the UK through their main official reseller eBuyer. This is the first Super Flower case to be reviewed here at techangel – to see our other case reviews search by genre on the reviews page.
Right, let’s get started.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this case when the box arrived at my door. In fact I wasn’t even expecting the case at all, but that’s a whole different story. The box certainly isn’t small – it’s a whopping great thing, which usually means decent packaging. Indeed, the case was suspended inside using polystyrene supports found in most if not all case boxes. It’s nothing special but it’s always nice to see – these should mean a comfortable and secure transport for the case. Unfortunately this time something went wrong.
Clearly the front of the case has taken some damage. On examination is seems as if there was some shipping damage to the front of the chassis – the tapered stud into the which the bolt for the front panel screws had become slightly wonky, so it seems to me like the crack must have been caused by abnormal pressure on the plastic front due to a knock of some kind. I hope this isn’t common but I would expect that on a retail product you could have this panel replaced. No-one likes dealing with customer “service” though, so Super Flower should be concerned about this problem.
I must add that my review sample was shipped in from Germany rather than coming from eBuyer’s warehouses. This rather more lengthy trip is more than likely the cause of the damage, buying within the UK would more than likely be a lot less “treachorous” shall we say. I am pretty confident that the packing materials are adequate for safe transport of the case – they easily match up to the precautions taken by other manufacturers.
On the assumption that my cracked panel was an isolated incident I won’t say too much about it, and we’ll move on to the next part of the review – the included accessories. Upon opening a new case you’ll more often than not be greated with a little mystery box full of various bits. The contents of this non-descript box will generally vary with the quality of the case ranging from a few motherboard standoffs to a full set of thumbscrews, blanking plates, bezels and so on. The Super Flower accessories are fairly pleasing:
Pin-out guides for the various connectors (rather handy)
Bag of screws including brass standoffs, motherboard screws, drive screws, 3 small cable ties
Two blanking plates – one standard replacement and one with a cutout for routing the front sound/firewire ports.
One 5.25″ bezel
One 3.5″ bezel
I find it slightly odd that the bezels are shipped in this box rather than just installed. When I saw the holes in the front bezel I thought Super Flower had “done a Cooler Master” on me (Cooler Master are reasonably famous for not including a full set of bezels, the swines). Happily this case does come will a full set – good for those who won’t use any drive bays or want to “stealth mod” their drives. So far so good.
Next I’ll include some full shots of the case – it’s about time, right?
The case front is rather attractive, with the aforementioned acrylic panel fronting a rather tasty metallic blue powdercoat. The lower half of the front panel is home to a fairly large air intake which backs onto two 80mm fans (not included with the case). The fan “grill” is punched out very accurately and cleanly and has a rather clean look to it. Above this are the power and reset button along with the hard disk and power LEDs, tucked in beside the 3.5″ drive bays. The buttons are plastic painted in a very shiny metallic silver.
Right at the bottom of the case we see the front I/O ports, something becoming very widespread on modern cases. I’m still not convinced, but these are fairly tastily done and might be useful to some. I have to say, I do sometimes find myself using the front USB port on my computer to plug in my digital camera since it takes a lot more effort to lean round the back of the case (or buy a hub). The SF-561T2 (gosh that is a sexy name) also includes audio in and out (mic in, line out, but you could use these for anything since they simply plug into the soundcard) and a single firewire port alongside the more standard two usb ports. The panel itself is incredibly shiny – look at the reflection in that last picture. I’ve also highlighted one of the 6 bolts which holds the plastic and metal bezels to the chassis (more on this later).
Now to the inside of the case. As you can see from the previous pictures this is quite a large case – boasting five 5.25″ drive bays and three 3.5″ bays makes it larger than most standard mid-towers (which tend to have only four or even three of the larger bays). It is positively cavernous inside, partly thanks to it’s physical size but also a great deal to do with some clever design. The internal design is very reminiscent of a lian li case, even down to the removable hard disk rack at the lower front of the case. Looking at it alongside my PC60 it’s clear that there was some inspiration there – this is definately no bad thing, since the lian li cases follow an excellent design.
The main two approaches split the two big guns Cooler Master and Lian Li, with CM taking the rigid 3.5″ bays up the front approach and LL going for the removable rack method. Personally I find both equally easy to work with but there is definately something nice about having a removable disk rack. This case does not, however, have a removable tray for the motherboard.
Enough words, here’re some pictures of the insides:
There’s that hard disk rack. It fastens in a very similar way to the Lian Li version but has an additional thumbscrew securing it at the top. It doesn’t have the same locking clip at the back as the LL version so needs this extra screw – perhaps this feature was patented, or maybe Super Flower didn’t want to be too blatent about their plageurism? The overall internal structure is very tidy and exudes an initial feeling of good construction quality. This feeling is not dismissed once you get in closer – the case has been well built and well planned.
Let’s take a look at the cooling potential of the case:
The two front fans are secured using Antec/Chieftec-esque clips. Very simple and very effective. The fans simply push into place and are held securely by two pins and 4 clips. They definately will not come loose as long as they are installed correctly. I can’t see these clips posing any problems… when installing LED fans extra care might be needed to ensure the clips don’t snag the wires for the LEDs. With the hard disk rack installed we can see there is adequate clearance to not inhibit the airflow unduly. Since the rack does not completely shadow the fans, cool air can also bypass the disks and aid the cooling circuit for the rest of the case.
The last picture above shows another 80mm fan held at the top of the case, fastened to the window panel. Note an inquisitive Psyduck peering in. Cheeky little fella.
The top fan is centrally positioned, quite sensibly clearing the psu at the back and optical drives from the front. This fan is included with the case, but is the only one. It’s a blue LED model, how rare.
Your biggest fan
Returning to the rear of the case we have fan mounts in the standard position “above” the I/O plate. What’s slightly non-standard about the mounts is that they are drilled for either two 80mm fans or a single 120mm fan.
This is an excellent idea as it means that if you have a 120mm fan (which do tend to cost a fair premium over their 80mm cousins) you can use it in place of noisier 80mm fans. This could also act as a mount for a 120mm radiator, although size will be a serious issue. I tried with a CoolingKing 120mm radiator and it was far too deep – it covered the CPU area and the block was not sufficiently low-profile to fit. With the right parts it could work, or perhaps mounting the radiator or fan on the outside… we’re getting into the realms of “ghetto modding” now so I’ll promptly stop.
Here’s the rear fan arrangement using both 80mm and 120mm fans:
Clever stuff, and something it’d be nice to see in more cases. So that’s the case given a once over, and it all seems in order.
Now to installing a computer into it – it’s no good having all kinds of lovely features, fans and windows and all that malarky if it’s a real chore to get a computer in there. With it’s lack of a removable motherboard tray, fairly de rigeur nowadays, you might think installation is tricky. Not so – since this case is really rather large there’s plenty of space for maneuvering especially with the hard disk rack removed. I always find it’s best to install the motherboard before anything else, but even with a few optical drives in they’re so far up that they won’t be anything like in the way.
The expansion slots are covered with the old, and rather cheap-and-nasty, break off metal covers. It’s not a massive problem but for those who might change components often there is only one replacement cover supplied so you could end up with empty holes. It seems to me it would have been a tiny cost increase to have proper screw-down covers on all the slots but I guess every penny counts in this game.
The psu installation caught me out at first… being used to the likes of Lian Li I instinctively started feeding all the (excessive amounts of) cables from the power supply through from the back of the case. Not correct – this case requires that the psu is fed in from the inside, onto a small shelf on the far side of the chassis. The installation method is no problem, but the shelf is completely inadequate for support. The power supply must be held in place whilst screwed into the back or else it’ll fall – simple as that. No big deal I guess, and it probably makes it easier to slide into place. But it’s strange considering most if not all of the cases I have used have had a proper supporting shelf for the psu.
A room with a view
Sticking with the psu, the top window means that your power supply is visible through the top of the case. Most power supplies are pretty unexciting, but luckily Super Flower has leapt into the fold and produced a power supply with the shiniest finish of any paintjob I have ever seen. This is the SF-450TS and we will have a review of it soon (this article will be updated with a link when the time comes). The amazing glossy finish looks pretty fantastic through the window, but if you have a rather lacklustre power supply you might want to do invest in something a bit prettier – such is the downfall of windowed cases, the stuff inside actually has to look nice.
The top window also has the unfortunate side effect of showing off all your messy cables. Luckily once you get an optical drive installed the mess is largely hidden, and of course you’ll be spending countless hours conducting some fantastic cable management won’t you… yeh, me neither. The last picture above shows the rather attractive blue LED fan in place. Blue LED fans might be a bit passé nowadays but along with the lovely metallic blue powdercoat finish it really looks the biz. As previously said it should be a pretty effective chimney for heat outlet, many cases now include an exhaust fan in this position.
The connectors for the front buttons and LEDs are the standard fayre but are nicely labelled to ease installation woes. Admittedly pretty much all cases have labelled connectors like this but that doesn’t make it any less useful. The connections are reasonable well arranged together so as to minimise the effort required to get them to the right pins on the board. Of course this might not be true for all boards but it worked fairly well for me. I can’t be alone in thinking it’s about damn time these pinouts were standardised so that cases could have a single block connector – will no-one take the initiative?
The power LED is the ubiquitous “bl00″ but the hard disk LED is a less common orange. LEDs were always green for power, orange for hard disk back in the day… strange that Super Flowr should decide to bring the old orange back into play rather than using the more common red used nowadays. Nothing wrong with orange though, looks fine to me. Of course these are easy to change to suit individual taste as long as you have some basic electronic knowledge.
To finish off this part of the review, some pictures of the computer installed and up-and-running:
Scratching the surface
Right well I think we’ve taken a good enough look at the case to make a decision as to whether it suits our taste or not. Personally I find the case rather attractive, but everyone’s tastes differ so I won’t dwell on my own opinion of the appearance. I can however cast a critical eye over some of the things I found either wrong or odd about the case. Yep, it’s time to look for the bad points.
Throughout the review so far I’ve been pretty positive and for good reason. Generally this case is very well built and intelligently designed. It’s only in the cosmetic department that I noticed some flaws. Obviously the cracked bezel mentioned at the very start of the review is quite a major blemish but as I said this is something that should be easily replaced and, if I was bothered, I could contact SF for a replacement I am 100% sure. Other than that though I noticed several other blemishes to the acrylic front piece… more than several in fact, every single cut on the bezel had associated with it what is either a fracture in the surface or a scratch… these pictures are my best attempts at displaying the flaws:
You can only really see these if you’re really looking for them – again obviously with the exception of the crack in the top right corner. The scratches or fractures, whichever they are, around the ventilation holes are really fairly hard to notice… those around the power and reset buttons are slightly more apparent but really I don’t feel they are a massive problem. I’d call them more of a minor annoyance and obviously it would be better if they weren’t there. I can’t possibly speculate about whether this is normal or a freak occurance but the case has to lose some points here. In the final picture you can also see the edge of the Super Flower Fan Master, a fan speed controller and temperature sensor the company also produces.
Since the front panel seemed to me screaming at me to remove it I did so and realised the front of the case isn’t coloured in the same way as the rest – behind the plastic panel is a metal panel which slots into the gap between the chassic and plastic panel. This might be quite a novelty for modders since it would be rather easy to change this… to what I’m not sure but then I guess I’m just not that creatively minded.
I hope I’ve covered mostly everything by now, so I’ll take this oppurtunity to sum up my feelings. I have to admit I was expecting a rather more poorly constructed case than this one, since my other two cases are a Lian Li PC-60 and a Cooler Master ATCS-220. What I in fact got with the SF-561 is a very well made case almost worthy of it’s more expensive peers. The Super Flower has everything you need from a case coupled with rather dashing looks (subjective, obviously) and fashionable flashy windows (also highly subjective) but without the large price premium normally associated with cases with these kinds of features.
At time of going to press the 561 is not listed on ebuyers website but the somewhat similar “rhythmic” cases are on site for sub-£30. I would expect this case to cost a little more than that, probably somewhere around £40-50. Obviously that’s my best “guess-timate” and only time will tell. But if that is your price range, and this case does indeed come in at that cost, I would definately recommend it – the Cooler Master Centurion which retails at around the same price range is nothing like as efficient or well made as this case (I had one.. I passed it on!)
A lovely case, a really rather pleasant surprise from Super Flower. To close, some pictures of the case doing what it does best – looking pretty (sorry about the beige DVD drive!!!!)
Clean yet attractive design
Easy to work with
Decent cooling capability
Good contender to “the big boys”, at a much lower cost
No protective plastic on the window panels
Lots of curious little scratches or fractures
No PSU included (an extra cost to consider)
Shipment issues (which are hopefully unlikely to happen to UK retail buyers)