Lego- and origami-inspired DIY PC kits for kids. PC cooling gauges and snap-together fans. The ultimate headphone hanger. And much more: Check out our favorite PC builder and upgrader bits from the big show.
I have been a technology journalist for almost 30 years and have covered just about every kind of computer gear—from the 386SX to 64-core processors—in my long tenure as an editor, a writer, and an advice columnist. For almost a quarter-century, I worked on the seminal, gigantic Computer Shopper magazine (and later, its digital counterpart), aka the phone book for PC buyers, and the nemesis of every postal delivery person. I was Computer Shopper's editor in chief for its final nine years, after which much of its digital content was folded into PCMag.com. I also served, briefly, as the editor in chief of the well-known hardcore tech site Tom's Hardware. 5mm Allen Key Bolt
In another article we just posted, we rounded up the key core PC technologies that came out of CES 2023. Those are the big ones that desktop makers, users, and enthusiasts need to know about to keep current. Intel (13th Gen "Raptor Lake" mobile!), AMD (Ryzen 7000 of all sorts!), and Nvidia (RTX 4070 Ti!) all launched key platform technologies and chips that PC builders will be putting in their sights as they plan new rigs in 2023.
But at CES, we also try to spend some time closer to the ground, with the providers of PC cases, cooling gear, and other supporting hardware for upgrading and putting together a PC from scratch. Here's a selection of the flat-out coolest, neatest, and (in a few places) most outrageous upgrader and builder gear that we saw at the show.
The Hyte LCD DIY Kit is a nifty little add-on for the company's popular Y60 PC case. The Y60 has a distinct diagonal-cut front panel, which creates a thin vertical glass window angled 45 degrees off the front of the case. This tri-window design (a clear response to Lian Li’s very popular O11 chassis line) is intended to enhance visibility to your components inside. But Hyte has added an option to put a high-impact LCD screen there.
And it's a pretty nifty screen, long and thin. With Hyte’s software, you can add widgets and do other sorts of customizations, showing system parameters such as component temperatures, or even the time and weather. (We’d like to see our to-do list for the day there.)
You'll have to do a bit of building to get this to work, according to Hyte, thus the “DIY” in the name. The panel has a small box behind the upper portion to control the display, which requires two connections: one USB, and one power source. But the overall effect is striking if you're willing to commit to a Y60 chassis, even if adding the LCD costs as much as a modest desktop LCD monitor! Expect to pay around $120 for the kit.
The Thermaltake Pacific 3 is an innovative way to make use of an unused fan position in your PC case: put gratuitous gauges in there! The Pacific 3 has, very much, a sports-car vibe, with analog dials showing off parameters like system ambient temperature, pump pressure, and more. It's meant to be used with advanced liquid cooling setups.
You would most likely mount this circular gauge in place of an exhaust fan made redundant, if you're doing heavy-duty liquid cooling in a conventional case. Rig up the Pacific in a spot where you'll be able to look at it like a tachometer, and smile.
Paging Lian Li again! Now, Thermaltake also has a set of fans that connect to each other with magnetic links and power pass-throughs. These kinds of fan will thrill anyone who has built a PC in the last few years amid the RGB craze: They know that the wiring Medusa that results from a bunch of RGB fans getting together in one place can be pretty scary, with each fan needing its own RGB and fan-power cable.
The SWAFAN line slashes the cable load and routing by giving the cables edge connectors that snap together magnetically. Each fan has a set of connectors on two of its sides. You mount the fans in series, and they come in 120mm and 140mm varieties. The result could be a much cleaner and less complex case, eliminating many of the RGB- and fan-cable clusters that would otherwise require careful bundling and routing. Also, you can remove the fan blade assembly from the frame of each SWAFAN with ease (it’s also held in place merely by magnets) and swap in new assemblies of a different color or with a differently sculpted blade arrangement.
In Win didn’t share what “POC” stands for in its new case line, but our best guess is “Personal Origami Chassis.” Or perhaps the “P” is for “pizza”; the In Win POC case comes in a suspiciously pizza-sized brown-cardboard delivery box. This is definitely like no PC case that we have seen before. Our first impression was: What, Domino’s does PC DIY now?
Open it up, and you’re faced with friendly assembly instructions printed inside the lid, and a layered bundle of brown sleeve envelopes.
The POC is meant to be a crafter’s or family-fun kit approach to PC building. The sleeves contain sheets of thin stamped metal; the instructions explain how to bend and fold tabs at the ends of the various panels to fit and screw the case together and create the structure.
An app online can also provide video instructions that will step you through the various bends in the process. We were concerned about the metal stress on the tabs, if they were to be bent a bunch of times back and forth, but In Win claims it has gotten dozens of folds out of the sheet-metal tabs without serious risk of breakaway.
The POC chassis kit will come in two color schemes, each with an assortment of contrasting panels, and many of the panels have distinctive cut-through triangles for ventilation. In Win didn’t offer pricing but said the case should debut around midyear. The video below illustrates the concept for POC, as well as the two In Win entries to follow.
This was our favorite PC case of the show. The Dubili is a tour de force of In Win’s metalworking acumen. This is a Ikea kit-style chassis, which will come flat-packed for you to assemble yourself. (Flat-packing a PC case saves enormously on shipping costs and packaging material; plus, you can fit lots more units in a given shipping container.) Cross braces and finely machined side panels (made of steel or tempered glass) are supported by a pair of big U-shaped supports (aluminum) that can act as handles or feet, depending on the design you are going for. (Separate feet are provided if you mean to install the supports like handles.)
The thing is, everything about this case exudes sheer quality and stark industrial design, from the supports and chunky, exposed hex screws to the CNC-machined panels with loads of precise cutaways. You put together the chassis like an Erector set, and the final build feels as rigid as any prebuilt high-end chassis that we have ever handled.
In Win hasn't set pricing for this case, but we’d expect to pay premium bucks; we’d guess, in the $350 to $400 range, given all the metal. We’d also expect that serious modders will get a real kick out of using this as a base for spectacular, classy builds.
Last in In Win’s trumvirate of cool at CES, the Mod Free is a curious concept for PC builders that should come to market aroud midyear. Really, the name ought to be “mod freely,” to be clearer; Mod Free is meant to be an abstract PC case structure that’s best for PC builders and modders who want a totally blank and configurable slate to work off of. It's essentially a PC case frame that you can bolt together, like big building blocks, into loads of configurations using the multiple modules. Which modules you’d use and how you’d connect them is all according to what you're trying to achieve.
The frame modules come in three sizes, one of which is a main case body, plus power-supply and front-panel frames that can be bolted on top, off to the side, or below. In Win demonstrated everything from an entire system built into the power supply frame by itself to a modular giant tower system built out of five of the modules bolted together. In Win will also sell side panels for the case that can be interchanged, as well as internal structures such as drive bays.
Mod Free is essentially going to be a wide open canvas for PC builders to work on, but backed by In Win’s traditional elegant design sense, and its serious chops in metal machining.
In Win’s POC comes close, but Cooler Master’s Qube 500 gets our vote for the cutest PC case of the show. According to the rep we spoke to, Qube should sell for around $89. It will also ship flat-packed, a bit like a miniature Ikea steel cabinet. Like the In Win effort, it's intended as a fun family project to do with your child (or you can build it yourself...we won't tell anyone).
You build up the interior frame of the case from six flat portions; the front, back, two sides, top, and bottom panels interlock easily. You then snap on a set of side, top, and front panels magnetically. These panels have a distinctive “big dot” pattern of circular perforations, and come in a variety of colors.
Cooler Master is still debating whether the decorative panels will be made of metal or plastic, and the exact mix of color schemes. (A black and white is in the cards, too). But we have to say: As is, the case is both striking-looking and a fun, whimsical product in a category that takes itself too seriously, at times.
Do you need a 1,600-watt power supply? Highly doubtful. Strike that: Certainly not. But at least another one exists, if you need it. XPG (the enthusiast brand associated with storage maker ADATA) showed off its Fusion 1600 Titanium, a 1,600-watt ultra-efficient power supply intended for the most extreme overclocked configurations. (Or: You can’t SLI or NVLink them, but anyone installing two GeForce RTX 40 series cards for kicks?) The coolest aspect of this PSU, beyond the massive power ceiling, is the fact that you can program many parameters of the power delivery from the XPG Prime software interface provided. (There’s a USB connection governing that.)
XPG developed the PSU in concert with Delta Electronics, and it supports both ATX 3.0 and PCIe Gen 5. You get two 16-pin ATX 12VHPWR connectors for 600 watts of continuous power delivery each, plus 12 PCI Express power connectors (6+2 pin style).
We have to admit: By standards that held for a long time, $499 for any PC case was a lot of money. But in an age where the GPU you want is over a grand, and halo-level motherboards sell for $700-plus, what’s five Benjamins between friends?
Still, a $500 case had better deliver something special, and the Asus ROG Hyperion case seems up to the challenge, if you like the look. This is an E-ATX case—no wimpy little motherboards need apply—that has a huge tempered glass side panel. The X-shaped front panel will probably raise some hackles and be a love/hate item, but it’s designed for maximal airflow. and a whopping six USB ports hold court on the front/top panel, two of them superfast USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 Type-C ports.
An LED display panel inside the case, where the radiator ordinarily would go to the right of the motherboard, is special. You can take it out of the chassis, if you decide to install a radiator or some drives in its place, and can use it as a light-up wall hanging or a desk accessory. (It connects via USB cable.)
If you’ve seen a Cooler Master Cosmos case in person, you have an idea of the size of this beast. It's hard to get a sense scale of the Hyperion from mere photos, but merely use the monstrous RTX 4090 as a reference, and the fact that the case is rated to take GPUs up to 460mm long, and 420mm radiators on front and top—both installed at the same time, without colliding. If you want to go all air, you can install up to 10 120mm fans, or seven 140mm. The onboard hub can host up to six PVM-control fans, and eight RGB LED components.
Now this is a simple one that we wish someone had made ages before. The Gem is inspired in name and sculpting by Zelda's gemstones. But really, this Gem is a pearl: It’s a super-rugged headphone hanger that has serious magnetic grip force, and you can use it in a bunch of ways, regardless of the case construction.
Two powerful magnets hold together the Gem body and a magnetic baseplate. You can use the gem attached straight onto any ferrous metal surface. Or, say, if you have case with a glass side panel, you can separate the base from the Gem body and sandwich the glass between them. The magnets are strong enough to grip each other through glass or mesh, and the Gem is designed to hold items ranging from headsets to game controllers to even VR headsets, all without sliding down or sagging. Expect to pay around $25.
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I have been a technology journalist for almost 30 years and have covered just about every kind of computer gear—from the 386SX to 64-core processors—in my long tenure as an editor, a writer, and an advice columnist. For almost a quarter-century, I worked on the seminal, gigantic Computer Shopper magazine (and later, its digital counterpart), aka the phone book for PC buyers, and the nemesis of every postal delivery person. I was Computer Shopper's editor in chief for its final nine years, after which much of its digital content was folded into PCMag.com. I also served, briefly, as the editor in chief of the well-known hardcore tech site Tom's Hardware.
During that time, I've built and torn down enough desktop PCs to equip a city block's worth of internet cafes. Under race conditions, I've built PCs from bare-board to bootup in under 5 minutes.
In my early career, I worked as an editor of scholarly science books, and as an editor of "Dummies"-style computer guidebooks for Brady Books (now, BradyGames). I'm a lifetime New Yorker, a graduate of New York University's journalism program, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
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