You might think that when someone who frequents a site like The Tech Report is trying to decide on parts for a new computer, he would spend less time picking the perfect case than selecting a processor or graphics card. However, spending more on a CPU or GPU just gets you higher clock speeds, more processing units, or as a rule of thumb, more processing power in general. In contrast, the case market is a lot less clear-cut. You don’t necessarily get better products by spending big bucks, and similarly, you don’t have to spend a lot to get a case that covers basic functions and cools well, to boot. And it might not even look all that bad.
In my somewhat-biased opinion, case reviews can actually be more important than other kinds of hardware reviews. Without a close look at an enclosure’s construction and fit, and without physically examining a test unit and getting a feel for how well it cools and how noisy it is, you really don’t have a good idea of how one case stacks up against another. Case benchmarking is a topic seldom mentioned, with matters of personal taste and brand loyalty generally guiding discussions. Most people probably think of names like Lian Li, Cooler Master, Antec, or Silverstone, and they might also have at least one favorite series from each brand already picked out. After all, top players in the case market have generally earned their stature with solid designs and consistently reliable products.
With all that said, I’m sure quite a few TR regulars will wonder why we’re looking at a Rosewill case today. Rosewill is a perfect example of a manufacturer that enthusiasts generally overlook, but rest assuredthe Conqueror stands a good chance of conquering misconceptions as handily as our thorough gauntlet of tests. Read on to find out more about this affordable enclosure.
Black goes with everything
Rosewill enlists trapezoids and a mix of textured steel and high-gloss plastic to give the Conqueror a futuristic edge. This isn’t my personal favorite for the look of a front of a case, but I don’t think it’s ugly, either. The tape is just there to hold the door shut during shipment, and the only other point of interest is the pair of indicator lights in the top left corner.
The door swings easily open from the right to reveal an “all-bays array.” Each drive cover is noticeably perforated, and since some of us are picky about how a case door works, I should note that the Conqueror’s has a small magnetic latch and only opens far enough past 90 degrees to provide clearance for an optical driveyou can’t swing the door so far back that it folds against the left side panel.
Like the Hiper Osiris we reviewed recently, the Conqueror has its port cluster and buttons on the top panel at the front of the case. Unlike the Osiris and many other cases, however, the Conqueror gets the jack placements right. Each port sits far enough from its neighbors to prevent connected devices from interfering with each otheror with empty ports. Here, we see Rosewill has elected to go with a FireWire port instead of external Serial ATA.
Rosewill hasn’t strayed from the norm here, outfitting the back of the Conqueror with a beefy 120 mm exhaust fan and a conventional, top-mounted power-supply area. However, some rough handling on the shipping company’s part gave the case a uniquely bent back plate. (They didn’t break anything this time, at least.)
Our last glance at the Conqueror’s exterior is a direct shot of the side panel, which features a hefty acrylic window rife with ventilation holes. The area positioned over the CPU includes mounting holes for a 120 mm or 80 mm fan, but neither is installed there by default. Additional venting is located right about where a system’s graphics card(s) would be located.
Doors and bays
Astute readers might ask themselves what happened to the door in some of the previous pictures. Fear notit’s designed to be removed, and I’ve done just that.
With a little effort and the aid of a small screwdriver (or a lot of effort and some choice words), one can remove the pins that hold the door in place by sliding them to the middle of hinge. With the pins out, the door easily pops off.
Taking off the door makes for an interesting photo opportunity, and more importantly, it allows you to take the spring and hinge assembly from the left side of the door and move it over to the right (the top-left hinge then goes at the bottom right, and vice-versa). Once you’ve mastered this small feat of case re-engineering, you can enjoy the benefits of a front panel that swings open to the right.
The ability to flip the Conqueror’s door might prove just as beneficial for those who wish to remove it completely. For what it’s worth, I think the case is more attractive without the door, so it’s nice to have the option. Keep in mind that the front panel does muffle noise coming from the hard drive cage and optical drives.
Let’s now have a look at how those bay covers on the drive rack work.
I’ve used clip-in bay covers like the Conqueror’s before, and the only thing I don’t like about them compared to more disposable ‘knock-out’ designs is the way they look even when properly in place. The large indents in the side of each bay aren’t my cup of tea aesthetically, but I can’t deny the utility of being able to replace bay covers easily should a system’s drive configuration change. In addition to the plastic covers, steel pop-outs hide behind the top three bays, most likely for a small amount of additional structural strength (or maybe just because it’s cheaper to leave them in there).
The very top bay cover has an additional 3.5″ pop-out for a floppy or flash media drive, but the other eight are all like the one pictured on top in the picture above. The filters that back each bay cover aren’t much, but they should still clean up the air flowing in through the front of the case. However, if you really want to minimize the amount of dust that gets into the Conqueror, you’ll either have to plug up all those holes on the side panel or get filters behind them, too.
Rosewill includes a basic 3.5″ drive adapter with the Conqueror. For fun, we took out all the adapters, bay covers, and drive cages. Here’s what the bare case looks like:
Roomy. Let’s have a closer look at the case’s interior now.
Two standard case screws on the back hold each side panel in place. Once they’re removed, the panels slide backwards slightly and then lift out.
Once the left panel is removed, we can see the spacious interior of the Conqueror and a plethora of cables dangling from the port cluster. There are no cross braces to get in the way here, which should help make system installation a snap. Everything in the Conqueror is made of steel, and unfortunately, a few sharp edges lurk in its dark, remote recesses.
Moving along, we can take off the right-side panel to gain access to the back of the (non-removable) motherboard plate. Here we find a few nods toward cable management, but also some missed opportunities for even more.
Granted, if super-tidy cabling is your thing, it wouldn’t really be all that hard to put a few more holes in the appropriate places in the motherboard tray. At least Rosewill included large ones at the top and bottom, where one would be likely to route the exterior port cabling.
We weren’t really expecting to see anything of interest on the interior’s back panel, but the Silverstone sticker on the fan was a surprise. Rosewill says it worked with Silverstone on the Conqueror’s design and construction. Silverstone makes some pretty sweet cases, so that’s a good thing.
The drive cages also sport 120 mm Silverstone fans; this time they’re clear units with blue LEDs.
The cages offer great airflow over the hard drives and fit well in the case. Drives fit horizontally as they do in most enclosures, giving each bay a capacity of three drives. With two cages, that bumps the Conqueror’s drive capacity up to six. However, I would have preferred to see Rosewill arrange the drives vertically like Hiper does with the Osiris, which would allow the bays to accommodate four drives each. Arranging the drives vertically would also sidestep an annoying problem with the Conqueror’s cages:
We had a hard time taking a good picture, but the screw in the center of the shot above lies deep behind the access hole you have to guide your screwdriver through. A magnetic screwdriver does much to help here, but if you slip (which I did twice, even with a magnetic screwdriver), you have to rattle the whole cage around to get the screw to fall out. This isn’t really a major problem, but more elegant solutions have been around for a while, and Rosewill should have come up with something better.
After wrestling with one drive cage to get our hard drive installed, we put both cages back in the system and also secured an optical drive up top. As you’ve no doubt noticed by now, we’re securing components with traditional screws; the Conqueror isn’t a tool-free design, and I noticed that the overall system build time was a fair amount longer than with cases that don’t require a screwdriver. We didn’t find our test build too difficult aside from the drive cage shenanigans, but it would have been easier with more thumb screws and fewer tools.
Although we won’t be looking at it in any depth, Rosewill sent us its RD-600N-2SB-SL power supply (which is a recommended companion for the case but not actually included with it) for our test build. Aside from lacking modular cabling, I couldn’t find much to complain about. The PSU is nice and weighty; it has an extra-large fan for cooling; and it comes with nice, long, sleeved cables.
The Rosewill PSU’s cables protrude right in the way of the massive, rubber-coated steel clip coming out of the motherboard tray. This clip’s position could prove problematic for users with longer PSUs, but they should be able to just push it out of the way. You might have to move your optical drive if you wanted to squeeze in a massive 1kW+ unit, however.
With that massive clip helping with the cable management, installing other components in the Conqueror is particularly easy. There’s plenty of room for our massive Silverstone CPU heatsinkand even more for notoriously large coolers like the Tuniq towers.
The moment of truth
After booting up our test system to verify that it was running properly, we put the Conqueror’s side panel back on and closed up the system. Note in the picture below how the window is tall enough to provide a good view of the internals; some case windows aren’t tall enough to show off this much of the system.
Today, we’ll be testing the Conqueror against the Hiper Osiris, which also features three 120 mm fans. On the Osiris, we hooked the two front fans to the 5V line and the rear exhaust fan to a Zalman Fan Mate controller, turning down that fan’s speed until it was inaudible. The Conqueror’s rear exhaust fan isn’t noticeably noisy when running on 12V power, so that’s how we connected it. However, the Rosewill case’s front 120 mm fans are a little loud when fed 12V power, so we hooked them up to our PSU’s 5V line, too. Since Rosewill doesn’t supply three-to-four-pin adapters for the Conqueror’s fans, you’ll have to provide your own if your motherboard doesn’t have enough (or conveniently placed) fan headers.
We set the Antec Tri-Cool fan on our CPU cooler to its low setting and turned down the fan on our Zalman VF700-Cu GPU cooler until it wasn’t noticeable anymore. We configured our test system with a basic Nvidia nForce-based Micro ATX motherboard, an AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ processor, and an Nvidia GeForce 6600 GT graphics card. To keep our test results consistent, we swapped out the Rosewill PSU that’s been posing in pictures in favor of an Enermax unit we use for enclosure testing. We fired up the rthdribl HDR lighting demo for GPU load testing and used Prime95 to stress the CPU. Component temperatures were measured with SpeedFan.
For our first set of measurements, we left the system idling until temperatures stabilized.
The extra airflow provided by 12V power running to the Conqueror’s rear fan likely explains why that case delivers slightly lower temperatures here. Note, though, that the hard drive isn’t as cool, suggesting that the Osiris’ front fan is still moving more air at 5V than the Conqueror’s (or that the extra side venting on the Rosewill is actually disrupting cool airflow over the hard drives).
To heat things up, we fired up rthdribl and left it churning out dramatically lit frames until temperatures stabilized, which took about seven minutes.
While the Osiris does an admirable job here, the Conqueror’s GPU temperatures are slightly lower. Again, we see the Rosewill system’s hard drive running a little hotter, but otherwise, system temps are very close.
Next up came our combined GPU and CPU load testing, for which we ran both rthdribl and Prime95.
Once again, the Conqueror benefits from being able to run its rear fan at 12V without offending our ears, yielding slightly lower temperatures nearly across the board. Only when we look at the hard drive is the Rosewill design warmer, either because it uses a different layout for the drive cage or because it has additional venting on its side panel.
Thus far, the Conqueror has proved to be a little cooler than the Osiris, but what about noise levels? We took out our trusty decibel meter and probed the system under full load to find out.
I should add that before I put the Conqueror’s front door back on, our sound meter reported an even higher number from the front: 27 dBa. There certainly is some justification for doors, at least on a case like the Conqueror.
Keep in mind here that sound levels are measured on a logarithmic scale; adding three decibels is roughly equivalent to doubling the sound level. The Conqueror may run a little cooler overall, but it’s one decibel louder than the Osiris, and my ears noticed the difference. I’d never call our Conqueror config noisy, but it is slightly more noticeable than the Osiris because of the full strength fan. The good news is that 120 mm fans tend not to be annoying. A slight whooshing sound is all you’ll hear, and from the front, that’s hard to discern from other background noise.
The Conqueror impressed me. It’s a relatively basic case, but that’s not a bad thing herethe construction is all sound and fit was never a problem. You could house a hearty build in this enclosure, and with a standard top-mounted PSU bracket, PSU cable length won’t be an issue. Rosewill handles cooling admirably, too, and it provides plenty of expansion options through the Conqueror’s open drive-bay stack and multiple hard-drive cages.
Even the Conqueror’s aesthetics are configurable to an extent. The case is equally functional with or without its angular front door. Because the door is reversible, you can swing it to the left or right depending on how you like things set up. You can’t change other aspects of the Conqueror’s design, as well, but with a window that avoids being garish and a port cluster smartly mounted on the top of the case, there isn’t much else we’d change.
The Conqueror represents a great value considering its $80 street price, providing lots of what enthusiasts need with little else to confuse the equation. You won’t find thumbscrews, extra cable ties, or an accessories bag, but those exclusions won’t really affect your ability to build a great system with this caseyou’ll just have to provide a few extras yourself. The Conqueror does have a few sharp edges, and you might lose a screw or two in the hard drive cages, but anyone who’s built a computer before won’t get lost working in the Conqueror. You can save money by picking among the crowd of cheaper steel cases, but you might have a hard time finding one with three decent 120 mm fans and such a large number of drive expansion options.
The Conqueror also impressed us by faring so well against the Osirisa competitor that costs $100 more. Rosewill has a real value winner on its hands here.