Not only has the demise of the desktop PC been greatly exaggerated, the makers of the ancillary bits are upping their output and creativity, as if to prove that weary cliche wrong. CES usually takes second place to midyear’s Computex Taipei trade show as the launchpad for serious PC-builder gear, but 2020’s edition was no slouch. Check out the top dozen bits we saw at the show. Short version? Innovation is very much alive, and RGB lighting on all the things is still very much not dead.
Cooler Master ML240P Vivid
Cat videos on your CPU cooler are now a thing. Expect the Vivid to hit the street starting at $199, depending on radiator size.
Corsair A500 Air Cooler
Why does this matter? Often, big aircoolers have space-interference issues when they overhang large RAM modules parked in the slots beneath them. (And the A500 is a biggie, using 120mm fans.) Here, you can slide the fans mounted on the heatsink up and down enough to allow for clearance, a simple but brilliant move. The A500 uses twin 2,400rpm fans and is compatible with all late-model Intel and AMD sockets (barring AMD Threadripper/TR4) for CPUs up to 250 watts TDP. Expect it to hit the street for $99.99 by late January.
Thermaltake AH T600 or T600 Snow Edition
The Thermaltake AH T600 (the “AH” unofficially for “Apache helicopter”) is about as aggressive a new PC case design as we saw at the show. The sloping lines and multiple front windows are tailor-made for a kitted-out, liquid cooled design with lots of lights and radiators. This is technically an open-frame design, with gapping around the side windows, and supports the DP100-D5 Plus distro plate (see below) for spectacular liquid cooling. You can also put up to a 480mm (!) radiator up front, and the chassis supports up to EATX boards. The case comes in black (T600) or white (T600 Snow Edition) versions.
Thermaltake Pacific DP100-D5 Plus & Core P5 DP-D5 Distro Plates
The DP100-D5 Plus, meanwhile, is a straight-through rectangular design that will fit on most 360mm-radiator mounts. Both have integrated pumps, and their lighting works with the major motherboard makers’ sync software, as well as Thermaltake’s own app and Razer’s Chroma.
Thermaltake DistroCase 350P
You can mount up to a 360mm radiator, and the case has dozens of integrated LEDs and a glass front panel. A pump will be included, but the rest of the liquid-cooling hardware will be BYO. Pricing was not yet set (a rep suggested $499 to $599), but we’re looking forward to this one. Expect it by midyear.
Asus ROG Z11 Gaming Case
The motherboard and other key internals get mounted at an 11-degree angle off from the perpendicular lines of the case sides to aid in airflow and cable routing. This not only allows for chimney-style airflow with the case in vertical orientation, but a bit of a quirky look through the side panel. Also, this mighty mite can take 120mm and 240mm radiators, while nifty RGB Asus ROG logos work with the company’s Aura Sync software for lighting color and pattern coordination.
In Win B1
You won’t be housing a gaming PC in this little chassis, but the B1 will be a standout little bit of decor. As a living-room mini PC, or a computer for a fashion-forward office, it’s hard to beat this futuristic-looking little pod of a case with rare aggressively rounded edges and a semitransparent top panel. This Mini-ITX chassis comes with a built-in nonstandard 200-watt power supply and can be employed in vertical and horizontal orientation. (Little chrome legs, included, let it stand up on edge.) You’ll have to use a CPU with built-in graphics (the chassis has no provision for a video card) and a CPU cooler 60mm high or less due to the case’s low profile. Also, you get just an audio jack and one USB Type-C port up front. Minimalism is the game afoot here.
Lian Li O11D Mini
Also a win: At a projected price of around $100, it is very reasonable, if you ask us, for a tempered-glass-and-aluminum showbox from one of the most accomplished case makers of the last 20 years. Pair up the O11D Mini with Lian Li’s new Strimer Plus rainbow-lit power supply and GPU power cabling, and you’re off to a very good start to your ultimate RGB showpiece.
Lian Li Strimer Plus
The Strimer, debuting in 2018, was a surprise hit for Lian Li. It’s an inline cable that runs between the power supply’s main 24-pin cable and the connector on the motherboard, bringing a rainbow-flow of color to the interior of the case via lighting inside the cable itself. The Strimer Plus takes the concept a step further, with an improved lighting scheme, tweaks to the cable “combs” that keep the strands in line, and more lighting effects. Now, the Strimer Plus can “play back” segmented patterns of light and more, controlled by a small hardware button pad (or motherboard makers’ standard RGB-control software, such as Asus Auura Sync or MSI Mystic Light). Lian Li will offer versions for the main 24-pin power cable ($59.99) and for your eight-pin graphics-card power cabling ($39.99).
A320 is the go-to AMD AM4-socket chipset for basic functionality without the frills, and this board rises to that level, but with a twist: a super-thin design. This model comes in the uncommon Thin Mini-ITX form factor for PC builders or industrial designers looking for the lowest possible board clearance. To that end, it uses flat-lying laptop SO-DIMMs instead of full-height DIMMs, and lacks any PCI Express slots. That means you’ll need to use one of AMD’s APU-style CPUs with built in graphics. (“Raven Ridge,” “Picasso,” or “Bristol Ridge” are the families to choose from.) As for other expansion, you get one PCI Express/SATA bus M.2 slot and a pair of HDMI outputs.
XPG Darkmoon Memory
Here, XPG is showing it off with little translucent beads, but let your imagination run wild: crystals, faux gems, tiny plastic frogs, micro-dice, you name it. Whatever matches the theme of your case, and will fit in the width of a DIMM, go for it. (Oh, the memory itself? It’ll come in 8GB to 64GB kits, in speeds from 3,000MHz to 4,800MHz.)
This whopper of a PC case started CES as a prototype, and may well, in the end, wind up being a real product. According to an XPG rep we spoke with, this beastly, person-size cylindrical case (more than 3 feet tall!) uses the largest available consumer-ready commercial fan up top for maximum cooling, and can host up to three video cards (distributed between the front and back of the case). The sides pop off on magnets, and the entire interior framework slides out on rails for easy building and servicing. XPG was unsure, if it actually comes to market, if it will be quite as big as this demo unit, but this model is a major statement of a new player in the PC-case game. (The company has already rolled out a few aggressive-design, decent value models; we’re reviewing a couple of them, the Invader and the Battlecruiser, at the moment.)