|by Misoprostol | June 7, 2007|
Danger Den Torture Rack Fast-Access Water/Air Cooling Case
Danger Den Torture Rack Fast-Access PC Case Review
Manufacturer Part Number: CAS-TR01
Table of Contents
3- Instructions and Assembly
4- Exterior Impressions & Size
5- Interior Impressions
6- Installation and Compatibility
7- Brief Assessment of Functionality and Value (or “Conclusion” if you will)
Based out of Oregon, USA, Danger Den has been on the leading edge of liquid cooling and case modding. Besides catering to the DIY community, Danger Den has also been a leader in producing solutions to help mainstream users overcome their anxiety about water cooling and case modding, such as kits that can be installed in any chassis, and computer cases that make water cooling and modding quite simple.
Today we'll be looking at one of Danger Den's acrylic computer cases. First, here's what Danger Den has to say about the Torture Rack on their website:
The Torture Rack was originally created for internal Danger Den testing. A solution was needed that put the commonly changed components on the top level and the rarely changed items (hard drives, CD drives, PSU, etc.) on the bottom level out of the way. The Torture Rack also has “wow factor” with acrylic panels. The motherboard tray standard color is clear but is also available in red, blue, green and yellow UV colors. An optional top and front plate are also available for closing up the system after testing or for taking it to a LAN party.
The last fast-access computer case that came through our test lab was the Highspeed PC Tech Station, so it'll be very interesting to see how these cases stack up. I can say already though, that they are not aimed at exactly the same market. As has been true for their entire history, Danger Den's product will appeal more to the hardcore gamer or modder more than the professional user due to its acrylic construction and flashy looks. Personally I love it, and I can't wait to put this baby together.
Here's the sight that greeted me when I first laid eyes on the Danger Den Torture Rack. Danger Den's packaging is generally very no-nonsense, and although it will not attract any attention on a retail store shelf, most of the customers for a product like this will care more about what's inside.
The Torture Rack was well packed, but in as small a container as possible. This is good for the end-user because it cuts down on unnecessary shipping costs, while still being padded enough to arrive in one piece.
Once I'd laid everything out, the task of assembling this beast was looking pretty daunting.
The first problem I had with the Torture Rack was trying to get the piece of acrylic out of the wrapping. They are individually wrapped to prevent them scratching against each other, then the whole bundle is wrapped to protect it from the other things in the box. I had to be very careful to remove the wrapping without damaging the acrylic panels.
Two very positive things about the Danger Den package were the fact that they left one side of the paper protective covering over the pieces of acrylic, and included a pair of white gloves for assembly. This gives you a surface to lay the panel down on and a way to handle the pieces without getting fingerprints all over them. This kind of attention to detail is what has set Danger Den apart in the past, and continues to now.
Danger Den's obvious target market for this product is the DIY crowd, but for those people buying it who are not the handy man of the house, I felt could have used a little improvement. The instruction booklet felt a little bit "bare minimum" for a computer case that costs more than $150.
There was no colour, almost a total lack of written descriptions, and my copy of the instruction manual actually contained a mistake that cost me about half an hour to do, then undo.
Once I got past the first page, and got the hang of how to assemble the panels together, there were only a couple parts that had me confused due to the proximity of the holes, and the way the instruction diagram was laid out.
This section seems to have a bit of a negative feel to it, but I should clarify that even though there were a couple shortcomings, overall I did manage to get the Torture Rack assembled, so they weren't all bad.
The assembly process took about one hour (not including the time-wasting steps), and was overall was not too difficult. One challenge was trying to find ways to handle the panels that didn't leave marks on them.
I managed to do this successfully with a combination of using the included white gloves (thanks Danger Den), and handling the panels by the edges when I needed fine control of something like a bolt and couldn't use the gloves.
The first assembly step is to attach the metal I/O plate to the back of the case. This was the step with the instructional error that caused me to use much longer screws than necessary, which then had to be removed and replaced with shorter ones. Overall this step was the most difficult because it was necessary to drive the screws through threaded acrylic.
One thing I liked about the Danger Den case during assembly compared to the Tech Station was the rigidity of the assembled parts. There are a lot of screws, and they're difficult to install in some cases, but the Danger Den case has excellent structural stability throughout assembly, which made everything much easier than it would have been.
My biggest complaint about assembly was the use of allen screws instead of something easier to drive like a phillips head. There were a couple instances where I ended up almost stripping screws when the fit was tight. The use of allen keys seems to be a bit of a Danger Den trademark even though everyone else has transitioned to philips head (Swiftech) or even flat head screws (D-TEK in some cases). Particularly for the I/O plate installation, the allen key made the process take much longer than it would have with a normal screwdriver.
The motherboard tray was quite easy to install due to the excellent mechanism for attaching the tray to the back of the case. The motherboard standoffs were quite difficult to install on the tray, but the instructions outlined a way to install them by first inserting the motherboard screws in the standoffs, then screwing the whole assembly into the motherboard tray.
It was somewhat difficult to figure out which side panel went on each side, but a careful examination of the instructions showed the orientation of the radiator holes to be the easiest way to determine it.
It was also somewhat difficult to determine from the diagram where the side panel assembly screws would be placed, but due to the excellent workmanship of the case in general, I was able to determine which holes should be used by simply lining up the side panels with the existing assembly (motherboard tray and back panel).
4- Exterior Impressions & Size:
Once I completed assembly of the Torture Rack, I just had to sit back and admire it a little bit. It's hard to imagine anything made out of clear acrylic panels could look this professionally designed. The fit and finish of the parts is excellent, and Danger Den's engineering staff has obviously put a lot of thought into the design.
I managed to assemble mine without getting any fingerprints on it, so I think that helps my exterior impressions, but if you buy one and put yours together and get some greasy prints on it, Danger Den has a "Novus Cleaning Kit" that you can buy to clean it off.
The thing that stands out most to me is the "designed by modders" feel that the case has. Looking at it on the table, it's very impressive in appearance, but not a practical-looking piece of machinery, despite how useful it is. The Highspeed PC Tech Station was more practical and professional looking, which doesn't mean that I don't like the Torture Rack personally.
5- Interior Impressions
I once again find myself in a situation where my exterior impressions of a case and my interior impressions of a case get a little blurred because of transparency and/or lack of panels on some sides.
The Danger Den Torture Rack allows as many as 2 optical drives, 3 3.5" internal drives, and TWO dual 120mm water cooling radiators.
The motherboard tray is well vented from the back to allow excellent heat dissipation, and the chassis allows as many as 8 120mm fans to be installed.
The Torture Rack allows as large a power supply as you want, which is a great feature for a test platform because many high wattage power supplies are longer than standard.
The Torture Rack is an excellent case from a cooling perspective, and would look great in any enthusiast's workspace.
6- Installation and Compatibility
The Torture Rack, although designed several hardware generations ago, can be used without trouble with today's oversized video cards and tower CPU coolers. This shows excellent foresight on Danger Den's part, and it shows that Danger Den has been paying attention to hardware trends and revising their product accordingly.
My 8800 GTS tester card, Foxconn 975X motherboard, Noctua 120mm tower heatsink, modular 600W power supply, hard drive, optical drive, and Pentium D 805 fit without any trouble.
Overall, installation took about 15 minutes, which is longer than I'd like to see in a "fast-access" computer case, because due to the use of allen screws, it took almost as long as installation in a standard case would have taken.
That said, once the motherboard, tester hard drive, tester power supply, and optical drive have been installed, they are very secure, and will not fall out or be damaged. The drives are secured by screws that go through the side panel and are then tightened into the threads in the drive. Plenty of installation screws are provided, including the screws for the optional top and side panel.
For the Modding and Gaming types, the Danger Den Torture Rack, although somewhat on the expensive side, is a case that offers nearly infinite growth, with the option to install any hardware you can imagine, and to close it up in the future for security reasons. It also features a small footprint and easy access to video cards, CPU and memory. Our demo unit will be used for a very long time as a water cooling test bed due to the ease with which I was able to install my testing equipment.
It was quite tidy to install my system in this case, and at the time of writing, I've installed a water cooling test bed for a GPU block review in it. This case is a breeze to water cool with, and speaking of breeze, with all the fan mounts in this case, I'm sure airflow won't be a problem.
Although the motherboard mounting system could maybe become a little bit more "fast-access", this sort of thing could be easily remedied by the addition of some plastic standoffs with threads on the bottom so that you have the option to install the brass ones, or the "quick install" ones.
My overall impression was that this board is targeted at the enthusiast user. It hits that target and delivers great performance and value. I'm awarding the Danger Den Torture Rack our "Dam Good" award for being a great product at a great price. Kudos to Danger Den and thanks to NCIX.com for providing us with this case for review.
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