Parts and labor
Intel provided all the parts we needed to complete our assembly. There was the chassis itself, of course, which shipped without its metal stand attached.
Then, there were the other bits and pieces required: Intel's HTS1155LP cooler, some thermal compound, a pair of 4GB SO-DIMMs, a 2.5" 320 Series 300GB solid-state drive, a Mini PCI Express 310 Series 80GB SSD, a Centrino Advanced-N 6230 Wi-Fi card, and some miscellaneous cables and screws.
The rest of the necessary hardware was already pre-installed. Accessing it was simply a matter of unfastening five Philips-head screws and popping off the rear lid, which is essentially a thin plastic shell.
The motherboard hiding inside was Intel's own DH61AG. That mobo features an H61 Express chipset and a standard LGA1155 socket, which can accommodate Core i3, i5, and i7 processors with thermal envelopes up to 65W. It also has a pair of SO-DIMM slots, a Mini PCI Express slot, a half-size Mini PCIe slot, a regular PCIe 2.0 x4 slot, two internal 3Gbps Serial ATA ports, a pair of USB 3.0 ports, and one 3Gbps eSATA port. You'll find a DVI connector in the port cluster, in addition to the onboard LVDS and Embedded DisplayPort headers.
Our processor, a 65W Core i5-2405S, was already mounted in the socket with the cooler's backplate fitted beneath it. The chip is a 32-nm Sandy Bridge with four cores and as many threads. It has a base clock speed of 2.5GHz, a top Turbo Boost speed of 3.3GHz, and 6MB of L3 cache. Intel lists a price tag of $212 for the retail-boxed model.
Intel had taken care of most of the wiring before shipping the chassis to us. Note the headers on the motherboard. According to the interactive layout page for the DH61AG, the pre-connected headers included the LVDS display interface, the flat-panel brightness control, the front-panel USB 2.0 ports (two of 'em), HD audio, the CPU fan, the internal stereo speaker, and the front-panel button and LED hookups.
To get a feel for the installation process from scratch, we removed the motherboard, disconnected all of the headers, and then attempted to put everything back together again. Our verdict? It's a piece of cake. The motherboard is held in place by only four screws, and the various headers are hard to mix up. The Loop chassis even has a pre-baked connector for the front-panel hookups, so you don't need to connect each wire individually.
Fitting the cooler was child's play. We applied thermal paste, lined up the mounting holes around the socket with the four screws, and tightened everything into place with our trusty screwdriver. The heatsink's fins, which sit at the other end of the heat pipes, lined up perfectly with the pre-installed fan. The last step was to anchor the heatsink's fin array to the chassis using a pair of small screws.
If you've ever upgraded the memory on a laptop, then SO-DIMMs should be no mystery to you. Ours snapped in with ease.
We carefully connected the Mini PCIe solid-state drive and the half-size Mini PCIe Wi-Fi card, fastening a pair of screws to keep each one steady. With the Wi-Fi card, we also had to hook up the chassis' built-in antenna—a simple matter of connecting a wire to one of the small, gilded sockets near the edge of the card.
Oddly enough, installing the 2.5" SSD involved the most work. We had to start by mounting the drive on a sled, but it wasn't clear which type of screw we were supposed to use—and some of the screws had rounded heads that kept the sled from sliding back into its rails properly. We figured it out after a while, though.