So every year our first article of the year is me going back and doing a quick recap of our year and then I take a look back at anything that won our editors choice award and see if it lived up to what I expected. I recently also started going back even beyond that and looking at Editors Choice winners from past years, only showing what is still in use. When you get back a few years, there just isn’t much that is still being used. But back in 2014, I reviewed the In Win D-Frame Mini and not only did it win an editors choice award, but it has been rocking and still in use to this day. In fact, it has a lot of miles on it with it going to just about every LAN that I’ve visited in that time. Well recently In Win announced new color options and one of them was bright orange with blue trim, aka LanOC colors. So I decided it would be fun to build a new PC in it and see how that same design has held up 4 years later.

Product Name: In Win D-Frame Mini Orange

Review Sample Provided by: In Win

Written by: Wes Compton

Pictures by: Wes Compton

Amazon Affiliate Link: HERE

specifications

 


Packaging

So at least with the orange model there isn’t anything at all changed with the packaging on the D-Frame Mini. They had this orange model before so there is a color option on the side of the box for this combo. I don’t know if the new colors have a sticker over those, but that said the box doesn’t need any changes. Sure the background has a road with rocks for no real reason. But it is a full color printed box with a picture of the glossy red model on the front that really looks good. The same design is on both of the main sides, but on one of the short sides there is a feature listing and the other had a short specification listing.

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Inside the case comes wrapped up in its own fabric bag and then with foam holding it in place. All of the screws and documentation are up on top, but I will get into those later.

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Photos and Features

Okay, so I highly recommend that everyone check out my original review of the case. Today I’m revisiting the design and talking about how this all compares to today's cases. The original review goes into more details into the features and even how these cases are handmade. That’s right, unlike most cases on the market, at least most from anyone other than In Win and Case Labs, the D-Frame Mini is made by hand. That really explains why over the years, every time someone new sees the case and just assumes I made it. I wish!

Well, the D-Frame Mini wasn’t the first case that used tempered glass, but it was one of the early examples of it. It also wasn’t the first case made from tubing like this, I think the original was the full sized D-Frame. But it was the first of these that wasn’t completely limited edition and somewhat within range of people buying. In fact, if you didn’t follow the crazy show builds for CES, this is most likely the first one you saw in reviews and maybe even in person. If you only recently got into PCs, you might think it is crazy that just 4 years ago having tempered glass wasn’t the norm. Its amazing how quickly glass and later RGB both just innovated the market.

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So the D-Frame Mini is an ITX case but I wouldn’t call it small form factor. It is closer to a Mid-Tower due to the extra space the case gives you around the motherboard. In fact, in our original review, I harped on this because at this size it really could fit a mATX motherboard without losing much or they could have made the case much smaller. I still want the D-Frame Micro that is a true SFF case, but I don’t see that happening. The tubular design (actually tubular, not surfer tubular) is basically a huge roll cage for the PC that they just put two dark tinted glass panels on the sides to cover up the main openings. This is really unique because you can actually sit the case any direction you want including flat on its back or in a smaller footprint vertical layout. I do the latter a lot at LANs to take up less space. The bright blue feet help with all of this because they wrap around the tubing and keep it from touching anything, the feet are on every side. Just a word of warning, don’t pull these off. A friend pulled one off my case at a LAN and I’ve fought with it for years after because you can never get them to stick back on nearly as good as they are from the factory. As it turns out, silicone doesn’t stick to most glues, who would have thought. Now the top of the case does have a handle built in with knurled grips. This is great for traction, but when your case is packed with a heavy custom water cooling setup and weighs a ton it can hurt your hand. I will take it over no handle at all, it basically made it possible to use this as a LAN rig. 

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At the back of the case, the power supply enclosure is built in. It has a big plate on the inside with the D-Frame Mini logo cut into it. Then on the top and bottom, there are power supply mounting plates. This lets you pick which orientation you want to roll with. Then once installed you can use the other half as a way to try to contain any extra cords.

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image 11On the other end of the case, the front I/O is just tucked up behind the front bars. You have to stick your fingers in a little to reach it. You get a plastic power button with a built-in LED up top, a tiny recessed reset button. Then below it the two USB 3.0 ports and then microphone and headphone jacks. Then a hard drive status indicator light down at the bottom. Basically, everything you need, nothing you don’t. Being back behind the tubing means things won’t get bumped, but it also means you have to really look where you are sticking your fingers as well.

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So the two glass panels are tinted and it really depends on where your lighting is coming from and how dark the inside of the case is to how tinted the look. In this picture there looks like hardly any tint on the right, but really tinted on the left over the black motherboard tray. I still love that the tray is actually machined aluminum but with a sticker coating over top of it to prevent scratches. I do wish on the orange the whole motherboard backplate was bright blue though, it would really look good.

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So it isn’t very often that really the outside of the case and the inside blend together. But it really is just the side glass keeping the D-Frame Mini feeling like a case at all. Without them, it is a lot more like an open-air test bench. The inside of the case basically has five things going on. There are three matching mounts over on the right-hand side. These are 3.5 or 2.5-inch drive mounts. This is one of the most dated looking areas of the case. Even back in my original review, I wanted to see a flat SSD mount here and it is even more needed now. They are also the main dust collecting area because they are the only flat surface. Then down on the bottom, there is a rectangle bracket attached with spring-loaded screws. This is the dual 120mm fan mount and the only cooling in the entire case so plan on using it. You can mount your AIO or radiator on top of the dual fans if you go that direction, airflow can go both ways but I suggest facing up and giving the rest of your motherboard and build some airflow as well. Lastly, there is a dual PCI slot bracket, this could really use an update. I hate not having the rear I/O plate and there is room for a proper mount for it here, I’m still surprised that In Win didn’t do it.

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Installation and Performance

So before diving into my build, I did have to dig out the case screws and the instructions. The instruction manual unfolds out like a poster and is in full color. The screws come in individual bags inside of a nice thick plastic recloseable bag. Most have stickers that show what they are, with the exception of the basic screw that is used for the motherboard, PSU, etc. Now the cases age shows a little here, simply because they are all chrome screws where black has been popular for a long time.

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So I have had the orange case sitting in the office for far too long now, waiting for me to catch up with some of the backlog of reviews from our move. But I never really locked down what would be going into it. So when I decided to get this build together, I was sorting through some of the hardware that I had in the office and I had everything needed for a kickass build. I was really torn on if I should go with the new Ryzen CPU or the i7-8086K that would be similar to the Devils Canyon CPU in our original D-Frame Mini build. I ended up going with the 2700X simply because I thought the ITX board from Asus looked better. Sometimes I’m superficial when it comes to my builds what can I say. Then to match I went with the Strix GTX 1070Ti. For storage, I just finished the review on that scorching fast WD Black NVMe M.2 SSD and the 1TB capacity was enough for this build. Then everything else was from Corsair, ironically all sent for different reasons.

The PSU was sent because we needed to have a few PSUs on hand just in case of builds like this. The 650-watt capacity will do the job. It is fully modular as well, opening up cable options for later on should I go crazy with the build. The fans, well those are the HD120 RGB fans that I have had sitting here begging for me to use them in a build and I can’t imagine a better build for them. Then the H100i v2 was actually to test CableMod’s AIO sleeving and they just happened to have a blue that matches the blue feet on the case. So you can expect to see coverage on that sleeving later this week! Oh, I almost forgot the memory, the G-Skill kit is just what I had on hand. I would actually prefer to go with something RGB that I could set to match this theme, but these are fast and should work for now.

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So I started off by getting the motherboard prepped. This included installing the SSD on the back, the memory, and the CPU. Then before I could install it in the case I also had to put the Corsair mounting bracket on because you don’t have access to the back with this case. The hardest part with that was getting the pre-installed Intel bracket off and figuring out that it actually comes with both an AMD and AM4 kit, I set everything up with the AMD kit then found the screws for AM4 that hold the backplate in place correctly. Then from there, I installed the four motherboard standoffs, seriously why aren’t these pre-installed it isn’t like you are going to use any other board size. Then attach the board. Look at how small it looks in the case!

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Next, I installed the HD120 RGB fans into the bracket and then mounted the radiator using the included long screws that came with the AIO. Mounting this out of the case is much easier. Then once you are done you just line it up and screw in the two screws on the bracket. I do highly recommend that you think a lot about where you run your fan wires before doing all of this. There are holes in the sides they should run out, but you have to have the fans orientated a specific way to get it to work. Once the radiator and fans are mounted you just have to mount the pump and block to the CPU. Because we already have the mounts installed it is just four big thumbscrews nuts, the thermal paste is pre-installed.

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Now, remember this isn’t one of those new-fangled cases with wire management tracks down the back, a mile between the backplate and the side panel, and a hidden PSU. You have an open-air PSU that can be seen from anywhere, VERY little space between the backplate and the side panel window, not to mention it is glass so everyone is going to laugh at all of your bad wiring. Sit back and take the time to plan out how you want to run things in your mind. Then pick a section of wires to start. I did the front panel connections, got those all routed and cleaned up before even installing the PSU wires. Then I did the PSU and last the fans. I used a lot of zip ties to keep things tight and I also used a few of the included wire loops. Those were nice because they also show you how thick you can go. I ended up getting my wiring cleaner than my last build, I don’t have to bend the glass to put it on. But I think mostly that was because I had worked in this case before. Don’t be afraid to clip all of your ties and start over again if it doesn’t look good or you don’t think the window will go on.

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The Corsair lighting controller fits perfectly in the thin space and unlike our old build where the Swiftech adapter had the wires facing up into the glass, this one has side plugs. I then had to find a place to put the controller. I ended up going with on the side of the front I/O for easy access.

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Now that Corsair H100i v2 did give me one big issue with the Asus X470-I Strix. The memory DIMMs are on the bottom and that is also where the USB plug for the AIO is. Well, the fit between the two was EXTREMELY tight. I honestly shouldn’t have done it, but I got it to fit by loosening the pump a little to move it all the way up and then manhandling the top stick of ram. I don’t know why Corsair has an extra rubber bump on the right angle, I may go in later and shave that off. That said, the build all together looks good! I also have a preview of the look with the CableMod AIO sleeving as well.

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Now the orange powder coating doesn’t seem to be as durable as the blacks finish. I also noticed that up under the tubes on this case, especially around the PSU mount, they didn’t get a full coat of powder coat as well. I don’t know if it is a fluke with our sample, but I will have to be extra careful in the future. I chipped under the radiator without even knowing it sometime during the build.

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Then we have the completed pictures as well. The back glass went on perfectly and didn’t require any extra work. That alone is a huge milestone for the wiring on this build. I still don’t like the exposed wiring coming out of the PSU, I may have to make covers for that in the future. But beyond that the orange and blue really looks good. Especially when the case is lit up a little with the lighting on those fans, the AIO, video card, and motherboard.

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How does the D-Frame Mini fit in today’s market?

Honestly, I wasn’t really sure if the case had the same flash and wow factor as it had four years ago. Our original build caught a lot of attention at events and did so even more as I put in the loop, the custom cables, and all of the custom acrylic work to hide all of the cabling. But after a few years, you get fewer and fewer people stopping by to comment specifically on the build. But after just putting this build together without any of the extra hardware that the original build had and posting up pictures on social media. I can say for sure that the case still has it. The bright orange helps get some attention, but even when posting both builds up on twitter and FB and asking which people would prefer the black and red was still the go-to. Now the new colors, especially that bright green and the white, would do even better in my opinion. The orange is my favorite of course, but orange, in general, is polarizing. Even Gigabyte has mentioned to me in the past how much flak they get each time one of their orange OC models comes out. Ironically people complain about black and red and complain about RGB but when they get a unique option like the orange boards they are still upset.

Anyhow, so the D-Frame is still an eye-catcher. What about everything else? Well, I think the biggest difference between it and modern cases the room in the back for wiring. Even with the original, it was much harder to fit all of your wiring in the back not to mention keep it looking good. Most new cases have really gone overboard with wire management, to the point where anyone can do it now. It used to be a way for people who really cared to put in a little time and effort could get their PC looking better than their buddies, even with the same hardware. Well don’t worry, the D-Frame Mini has you covered, all of the wiring is visible through the back glass and other than a few clips you don’t have any wire management. Nor do you have very much room. PLUS all of the wiring coming out of the PSU is exposed. This is why I made the covers for our old D-Frame Mini build.

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You still get all of the room you need for water cooling, especially if you remove all of the hard drive mounts like I did. If In Win redesigned this case, just stepping up to 140mm for the bottom fans would help and maybe hiding a single 2.5-inch mount in the back as well as having a flat mounted option rather than the ugly shelf mounts. I suspect a new version would also use more glass around the inside of the frame to enclose it all a little more now that tempered glass has been used a lot and companies have gotten better with making unique shapes and mounts. I would also just go crazy with the accent color as well. Right now, like on the orange model, we have the blue feet. But imagine if the entire motherboard backplate that is visible from the front and back was that same blue. The same on the black model with the red, the rest all use black so it wouldn’t be a change. But it would really make everything pop!

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I think the biggest thing though is at least right now this In Win D-Frame Mini can be picked up for just $199. I don’t know if they are just clearing them out or if the costs have gone down. But when I did our first review four years ago, the case ran $349. At that time this was priced as a crazy custom case but at $199 it really isn’t a stretch for people to use them in more down to earth builds. Given these aren’t listed on the In Win website anymore and the price, I would seriously not wait to pick one up. Also while you are at it, use our affiliate code, I want to eat this week and this no ads format doesn’t exactly make the best financial sense! Lol

Amazon Affiliate Link: HERE

Author Bio
garfi3ld
Author: garfi3ldWebsite: https://lanoc.org
Editor-in-chief
You might call him obsessed or just a hardcore geek. Wes's obsession with gaming hardware and gadgets isn't anything new, he could be found taking things apart even as a child. When not poking around in PC's he can be found playing League of Legends, Awesomenauts, or Civilization 5 or watching a wide variety of TV shows and Movies. A car guy at heart, the same things that draw him into tweaking cars apply when building good looking fast computers. If you are interested in writing for Wes here at LanOC you can reach out to him directly using our contact form.

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