It was only yesterday that we received the prototype from Protocase, but we've already been all over the thing, from inspecting the parts, to testing component fit, and (of course) generally just drooling over it.
Anyway, while James is busy going through a barrage of tests for the prototype, I wanted to share some of the first photos he snapped of the case, both with and without the test configuration installed.
As is clear, we went with a glossy blue powder coat finish for Nova-00, which looks vibrant and really, really great - which I say as someone who usually dislikes high-gloss paint jobs! The internal frame, comparatively, is a more subdued matte black.
Speaking of which...
Even the inside of the case looks pretty good, actually! Since unfinished surfaces look boring at best and plain-ugly at worst, it was imperative that all the surfaces be painted. But in contrast to the bright exterior, a black internal frame was a deliberate choice so as to showcase the installed components, rather than distract from them.
In the second photo, you can see the hinged bracket opened up, as well as the top fan & handle mount, and the 2.5" drive(s) bracket. All of which are easily removed or installed via standard phillips screws, which are painted to match the frame since we aren't crazy.
I love these shots because they show you what you'll see when you first open and install components in the case! In the first photo, you can appreciate the vents on the front and sides that contribute equally to Project Nova's thermal and aesthetic design. And in the second, you can see the heatsink and cable cutouts, the 2.5" drive(s) bracket, and the hinged side bracket that supports 120mm and 140mm fans and radiators. All in all, it looks quite clean.
Let's throw some silicon inside, shall we?
Not bad, right? That's a LGA 2011 CPU, with a pair of GTX 980s that take advantage of the fifth PCI slot to space out the cards, enabling better top-card cooling. Fans at the bottom-front, back, top, and side all ensure positive pressure and replenish the case with fresh air. And, practically hiding in the top right corner, there's the 600W SFX power supply that juices everything.
Admittedly the cabling is a little sloppy, but that's mostly because it hasn't been done-up neatly yet, since James is still playing with the hardware across various configs. Managing cables in a small case is always a challenge, but it's of particular importance to us since we want rigs to look as beautiful on the inside as Project Nova does on the surface. So the prototype is actually a great opportunity for us to figure out what the best methods are to organize and hide cables - which can then be reflected in the case design, such as through the placement of tray cutouts.
Ok, just a few more:
These shots help in conveying the actual size of Project Nova. To the left of it is the NCASE M1, and to the right is the BitFenix Prodigy - both of which are ITX cases. Project Nova has a similar footprint to the M1, but is taller as a result of the larger mATX standard. As such, it is much closer to the M1 size-wise than the Prodigy, which is actually a very space-inefficient and bloated case, all-told. Yet, Project Nova has all the benefits of mATX - more memory slots, more PCI slots, and greater diversity of motherboards (including ones that support 6-to-8 core processors).
To be sure, the space that the Prodigy takes up is increased to a great extent by the legs and handles that flank the top and bottom, but Project Nova demonstrates that it's all wasted space: whereas BitFenix elects to use plasticky handles that are pretty flimsy, Project Nova's handle is made from a single solid billet of aluminum, since it's important for a computer's handle to be sturdy. And, indeed, it is - chock full of components, James has already commented on how rigid, reliable, and convenient the handle is to have. For LAN parties and other use cases that require a lot of moving, we think it will be a really useful feature. And, of course, if the handle is ever undesired, it's also removable.
Anyway, we're obviously in the thick of things testing-wise, and we've already identified changes and improvements that we'll be making to the design, but we'll share all of those (and more!) going forward. For now, though, we already have a really compelling mATX case that's we're super-excited to finally have, and we wanted to show everyone what it looks like!
If you've got any thoughts or other feedback, please do join the discussions surrounding Project Nova on SFF Forum!