Nightblade Photos and Features
Its interesting, for the Nightblade MSI came up with a completely new case design that still managed to sum up a lot of the MSI styling. The all black styling look great and the light amount of machined aluminum trim around the front are just enough to set things off. The most interesting part is the carrying handle that doubles as the front feet. Overall the Nightblade is slightly larger than my Lunchbox 2 with its Lian Li TU-200 case.
The front of the Nightblade is mostly covered in a black anodized aluminum front panel that only has a slot for the slot loader DVD drive and the MSI G Series logo on it. Everything else going on on the front of the Nightblade is actually up at the top. You get a total of four USB 3.0 connections as well as the standard microphone and headphone ports. I thought this was interesting because the motherboard inside of the Nightblade when sold on its own only has two USB front panel USB 3.0’s supported. When I dig inside I will have to look to see how they managed this. Beyond the connections you get an OC button that works with MSIs OC Genie, a machined aluminum power button and wireless and hard drive activity LEDs.
Both the left and right sides of the Nightblade have large perforated vents on them. The left side has its vented area towards the back of the case over top of the CPU heatsink where the right side of the case has it closer to the front. The left side also has the MSI Gaming Series dragon logo panted onto the case in black. Being black on black, you can only see it when the lighting hits it just right.
Around on the back of the Nightblade the blacked out theme continues, even the rear I/O panel is mostly black. The red 120mm fan is the cases only exhaust fan, the interesting thing is the fan looks like it is installed backwards but it isn’t the blades are reversed from what you normally see. Down at the bottom you have two PCI slots for a double slotted GPU. Up at the top is the power connection, as you can see the PSU isn’t visible, MSI has it hidden inside of the case with a cable running to the rear.
As for the rear I/O panel, we get the same connections that the Z97I Gaming AC had. On the left, you have your six port audio connections including the red port that has the headphone amp built into it. You get four USB 3.0 and four USB 2.0 ports. The two USB 2.0 ports in red and the PS2 port all have an increased amount of gold in the connectors to help extend the life of these connections for gamers who are unplugging and plugging in their keyboard and mouse often when going to LANs and tournaments. If you plan to use the onboard GPU you get an impressive two HDMI ports plus a DisplayPort connection. You also get an S/PDIF connection for hooking up to your stereo. On the right side, you have the red Killer Ethernet connection as well as the wireless antenna plugs for the Wireless AC/Bluetooth adapter. Last but not least, over in the bottom right you get a clear CMOS button.
Up under the Nightblade MSI has also included a removable filter for the bottom vent. This is because most video cards will be pulling their air in here, this should help keep the dust down inside of your case.
On the bottom front of the Nightblade MSI built in a carrying handle. Typically a handle like this would be on top, but putting the handle here acts as a case foot when you are using it. This lifts the front up a little higher than the rear of the Nightblade, giving room for a little airflow to the bottom of the case. Speaking of airflow there is also a small vent right here on the front of the case in this photo.
To get inside of the Nightblade I expected thumbscrews or even normal screws, I was pleasantly surprised with the two sliding locks on the back of the case that lock and unlock the side panel to give you tool free access.
Inside the first thing you are greeted with is a plastic fan mount that allows you to install a 120 or 140mm fan to blow cool air directly on your dedicated video card. MSI put a note on the panel saying that you should use this when using cards that are over 280 watts, that would mainly just be dual GPU cards. To pull the mount out to get into everything else you hae to remove two screws then it slides over and out.
Once inside, up in the top of the case we have a few things going on. First there is a hard drive rack that you can install two 2.5 inch hard drives or SSDs into. Down in the bottom of the tray is an interesting looking PCB though. MSI actually slipped in an adapter that lets you install two mSATA SSD’s into the Nightblade. If that wasn’t enough but the adapter comes installed and already wired up, so installing one or two mSATA drives is as easy as dropping it in and putting in the single screw. Towards the front we can also see the back of the front panel connections. From here we can see that the entire front panel is backed by a full PCB. Here there is a large plug for LED, audio, and button connections. There is just a single USB 3.0 plug when if you remember there are actually four connections on the front. That means that this PCB actually has a USB hub built into it as well, nice!
So we have established that when you pick up the Nightblade you get a case, motherboard, and power supply. What else comes with the Nightblade? Well with the original Z87 model they included a heatsink but no DVD drive, leaving you to have to source out a slim slot loading DVD drive. This time around they dropped the heatsink but provided the DVD drive. I’m a little torn on this. Part of me is happy that they don’t force you to have to find the correct DVD drive, but considering how little I use DVD drives I wouldn’t be upset at all if there wasn’t even a place to install one. As for the heatsink, well our engineering sample still had a heatsink in it because they had toyed with the idea of included one. Given that you don’t get a heatsink, I would be sure to budget in a few bucks for a nice Noctua NH-L9i that will keep things cool and open up the inside of the Nightblade even more. The other thing you might not consider with the Nightblade is that MSI has already wired up your entire PC. The motherboard comes with everything hooked up and routed out of the way, the DVD drive is installed and hooked up, and even the video card has its power connections sitting in place waiting for a card to hook too.
Around on the other side of the Nightblade there isn’t much going on. Here we can see the large access hole for installing your heatsink backplate and then on the left there is a fan filter for the intake fan on the power supply. This explains the placement of the ventilation holes on the side panels as well. The fan filter has clips on each corner that hold it on, but it is easy to pull off and clean. I have a feeling given its location it will be easily forgotten when people are cleaning up their Nightblade though.
When we flip the Nightblade over upside down we can remove this panel as well. While you shouldn’t need to do this to install anything, this does give you better access to the video card area if needed. It also helps give us a sneak peak as just how much room MSI left for video cards in the Nightblade. I’ll give you a hint, it’s a lot! I will touch on that a little more when I get into the installation shortly.
The front panel is held in with just a few plastic clips, so if you hold under it and give it a little tug it will come free. With it off we can see that the front panel connections are all mounted to the metal frame, so they should be really solid. MSI did a nice job with the wiring even here on the front panel as you can see with the wire routed down the middle. The PCB down near the bottom is actually covered in red LED lighting that gives the Nightblade a nice glow on the front.