Spire Pininfarina Mid-Tower ATX Case Page: 1 Introduction
Spire are a fairly well known company among the overclocking community, and have a fair few years experience in manufacturing computer products. Their main focus is on the production of cooling solutions, power supplies and pc cases. They have offices all over the world with a head office based in the USA and factory facilities in China.
Today I will be looking at the Spire Pininfarina case. This new case is designed by the Italian design firm (Carozzeria Pininfarin) who you may recognise as the body manufacturers behind many of today’s cars. Their previous escapades include many cars, including the likes of Ferrari, Maserati and apparently played a part in designing the original Mini.
The box the case comes in is big. This was no disappointment however, as it meant that the protection housing the case was more than capable of keeping the case in perfect condition for its long hauls from factory to end user. It's protected by a big thick layer of shaped polystyrene on the top and bottom that holds it steady in the box and as with many cases now is also protected with a plastic wrapping to stop any scratches. On top of that, the Pininfarina has an adhesive backed plastic cover stuck over its flowing front, top and back.
The front design incorporates a large overview of the case and some small phrases advertising the case’s selling points, all under the Pininfarina title.
The side shows a similar overview picture and then under that it has the colours the case is available in. The colour of the case in the box is marked out by a small round Spire sticker (Not shown in the side I photographed).
The back then showing the case open and gives a few more details about the cases main features.
There are a few dents in the box from its long trip to me from Spires HQ, but this can be expected and it did more than a satisfactory job of keeping the case in top condition.
There was very little in the way of loose content that came with this case. Spire have taken the initiative to mount all the fans, mountings and screws into there correct housings before the case is shipped. All the front panel I/O connectors are also plugged into the chassis.
There is a small multi-language installation instruction booklet taped to the motherboard tray that outlines a few of the installation procedures for components in the case. This however, could have done with being a bigger instruction manual. As I had to dismantle certain parts of the case to find some of its more hidden tricks.
While looking over the case I came across the accessories box, which was cunningly hidden inside the case. There was no mention of this extra box of goodies in the manual and it could have easily been overlooked by the excited end-user keen to build his new PC.
Spire Pininfarina Mid-Tower ATX Case Page: 2 External Appearance
As you would expect from a case dreamed up by one of the worlds leading design companies, the Pininfarina has an outstanding look. The case flows from front to back via a thick strip of aluminium, while the sides are finished with a polished mat surface.
The curvy front shows off the designers origins in producing cars, and is a breath of fresh air from the usual boxy shaped cases we have come to accept as standard these days. It sports only a small Spire logo on the bottom left of the drive bay door, with all its features hidden well away as we will see later in the review.
Due to the flowing design of the case the standard features you find on the back of most PC cases are set back quite a bit. However Spire have ensured there is plenty of room for all the connectors that the user may require.
Next we see the left side of the case. The first thing that drew my attention was the fact that the Pininfarina had a fairly large handle set into its side panels. This is a feature spire have added to ensure that the case lives up to its ‘tool-less’ design. In my opinion they could have done with attempting to blend these in some way as they do stick out somewhat. Also on the left panel we see a grill that allows the underlying 80mm fan to exhaust hot air from the 3.5” bays.
The right is, as you would expect, very similar too the left. The same type of handle is present in the mid-top of the panel, but the right bares two grills, one a very large vent allowing air to be moved over the CPU heat sink, the other allowing an 80mm fan to push or pull from the PCI slot’s space.
Overall I was quite impressed with the appearance of the case. It draws away from the convention of the boxes that PC users are used too, while not being ridiculous or impractical. The thick sheet of aluminium gives the outside of the case a good quality feel too.
Spire Pininfarina Mid-Tower ATX Case Page: 3 Features & Internals
First of all I did a little research and found the specifications for this case over at Spire’s website.
Dimensions 495x200x450mm (L x W x H) Material Aluminum Alloy Bezel & Metal SECC Galvanized Steel Chassis Material thickness Aluminum 6.0mm | SECC 1.0mm Colour Pitch Black Mainboard Extend ATX & Micro ATX 5.25 Bays 3 visible 3.5 Bays 2 visible ~ 4 hidden Bracket slots 7 Cooling x 80x80x25mm fans (rear included, right included, left not included) 1x 120x120x25mm (front included) External USB 2.0 x 2 | MIC x 1 | Earphone jack x 1 | Connections IEEE 1394 x 1 Features Lightweight aluminum & Durable metal frame. Italian Stylish design. Front USB, IEEE1394 & Sound connections. full screen, radiation protected. Side panel access, screw free installation. Optimized internal space design for Highly-efficient airflow. Packaging 522x260x517mm (L x W x H) N.W. Weight 13.50 K.G G.W. Weight 14.50 K.G
Upon reading the specs I was slightly disgruntled to discover that the actual chassis is formed out of steel, rather than being an all aluminium case.
The front panel connectors are very well hidden away on the Pininfarina. I must say it took me a while to find them. They are hidden under what can only be described as the cases bonnet. Lifting up the bonnet reveals 2 USB ports, a Firewire port and headphone / microphone jacks.
The butterfly style side panel is the trick that this case conjures up when it’s pitted against other cases on the market today. By pulling the handles on the side panels they both descend to reveal the cases insides, making installation and maintenance of the internal components a breeze.
The PSU bay is mounted in the usual place at the top, rear of the case. I was a initially concerned that the space Spire had allowed for the PSU would be a little small. But after offering up a few different sized supplies I see it’s perfectly adequate for most ATX applications.
Moving to the right we see 4x 5.25” drive bays, the top one being taken up by the front panel connectors, the other 3 available for use. Under that Spire have provided two external 3.5” drive bays, with an extra hidden one under that.
Then we have a removable hard drive caddy that can hold four more 3.5” drives. Moving even further down is a small storage box that contains a fair few screws, some rails for the HDD caddy and a system speaker that plugs directly onto the motherboards front panel header.
As you can see in the pictures, there are little plastic locking bars that keep your Optical and the higher 3.5" bay devices in place. The removable caddy uses the rails that simply slot into the screwholes on the HDD and slide into the caddy.
Spanning the cases length is something that Spire call the ‘enforce bar’. This is a removable steel plate that runs roughly the same height as the PCI slots.
It provides a mount for an 80mm fan to aid in cooling graphics cards and other PCI cards. However attached to the fan cage are some curious rails that telescope out of their housing towards the motherboard. I can only assume that they are there to re-enforce pci cards that are plugged into the motherboard, but due to the varying size and shape of these card these rails would only be of any use to a card that was exactly the same size.
After the high quality of the aluminum layer on the outside of the case I wasn't too impressed with the steel innards. The quality, while not being particularly bad, wasn't quite up to it. There were a fair few sharp edges and the steel could have been done with being that extra bit thinker to give the mounts an overall more solid feel.
Spire Pininfarina Mid-Tower ATX Case Page: 4 Testing
The following system was used to test the thermal abilities of the Spire Pinifarina case:
The folding out motherboard tray made installation of the main board components a breeze. Spire have designed the case so no matter what ATX based form factor motherboard you use, you will always have 6 screws holding it in thanks to being able to relocate motherboard spacers.
I mounted my Raptor into the cage below the exposed 3.5” bay, which was a tight fit but once I had squeezed in the drive in it was quite secure.
When installing the PSU, I ran into a bit of trouble. As a stated before there was plenty of space for ATX size PSUs, but getting too the screw holes on the back proved a bit more of a challenge. In the end I had too remove the back panel to be able too get a screwdriver in there. This required fiddling with some rather sharp, stubborn metal clips.
This case is advertised as ‘Extreme cooling’ and ‘completely silent’ when it comes to cooling. The case sports a fair range of fans. There’s three 80mm fan positions, two of which are filled by spire fans, and one open to add your own. The spec tells us that there is a 120mm fan mounted in the front that sucks air into the case. While inspecting the setup I noticed the fan was actually 140mm.
I'll now see how the thermals of the case perform with my test system. To find the idle temperatures the computer was left to sit for an hour, and temperatures then recorded. To cause my components to produce as much heat as possible I ran 3Dmark06’s standard tests for an hour, with Folding@Home running in the background to ensure all CPU cycles were being used up. Ambient temperature was 21 throughout the testing.
As we can see this system faired up quite well when it came to temperatures, all being well within operating limits. The 3 case fans provide plenty of airflow to keep the system cool at both idle and load.
As for the noise levels, it was far from ‘completely silent’. While the noise it output was quite bearable, if you were trying to watch a film quietly or play a game without disturbing anyone else in the house it would case an annoyance to strain your ears over the fans. Upon further experimentation I discovered the majority of the noise in the case was due to the 140mm fan mounted at the front, while the two 80mms contributed to a lesser extent but still emitted a fair whir. The very tight fit on the hard drive also meant that the noise from its seeking was amplified throughout the case.
Spire Pininfarina Mid-Tower ATX Case Page: 5 Conclusion
With a case being what you mostly see when you look at your PC, the Pininfarina certainly looks the part. It’s a unique looking piece of kit that would blend in well with other modern furniture. Its butterfly design really makes installation a cinch, taking little time and allowing (mostly) hassle free mounting of your components. While noisy, the thermals are more than capable of cooling modern hardware more than satisfactorily.
I couldn’t find a price for this here in the UK but Froogle US provided $107.99 form Newegg and $129.99 from XOxide.
Pros: • Unique looks • Easy installation • Good thermals