The Mini Mid? InWin A5 ATX Case Review
Cooling is all about the airflow, and one tiny advantage that smaller cases sometimes have is that there can be fewer places to hide a hot spot. To put this simply, a case that’s only three fans deep should perform similarly to one that’s four fans deep if both top panels are filled front to back with fans. But what about a case that’s more than two and less than three fans deep?
|Type||Mini-Tower||Included Fans||(1) Rear (ARGB)|
|Motherboard Support||ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX||Front Fan Mounts||X|
|Max Motherboard Depth||11″||Rear Fan Mounts||(1) 120mm|
|Dimensions (HxWxD)||16.0 x 8.49 x 15.7″ (40.7 x 21.5 x 33.9 cm)||Top Fan Mounts||(2) 120mm|
|Air Cooler Clearance||162mm||Bottom Fan Mounts||(2) 120mm|
|Card Length||368mm (measured, rated 340mm)||Side Fan Mounts||X|
|Power Supply Format||PS/2: Rated 200mm to slot position 1||Top Rad. Clearance||59mm|
|Weight||12.8 lbs (5.81 kg)||Front Rad. Clearance||X|
|External Bays||X||Front Filter||X|
|Internal Bays||(2) 3.5″/2.5″ + (2) 2.5″||Top Filter||X|
|Card Slots||7||Bottom Filter||Slide-out (from front) nylon mesh|
|Ports/Jacks||(1) Gen2 Type-C, (2) Gen1 Type A, Head/Mic Combo||Damping||None|
InWin’s solution uses a traditional rear exhaust fan to boosts bottom-to-top airflow, and combining it with two top fans should allow perfect flow over motherboard components. You’ll have to supply your own pair of 120mm top fans, and InWin would prefer that you include the so-called ‘240mm’ radiator of one of its closed-loop CPU coolers (ours is 284mm long). But those aren’t the only three fans directing air upward from the A5’s fully vented bottom panel…
The A5 has no power supply mount on the back panel. Its power supply mount is internal and faces upward, and since most full-sized power supplies have a giant intake fan on the lid, its fan also boosts upward airflow a bit. You’ll see a plug on the back, because the A5 has an extension cable for its internal power supply mount, and a grab handle at the top of the steel sheet right side panel which helps users to pull it off a pair of snap latches near the top of the opening.
While we’re back here, we’d might as well point out that the slot panel is punched out of the back in the cheapest fashion, with the screw tab folded out from a covered hole. The hole is cut around 19mm tall to help builders navigate the card bracket’s tongue past the rear edge of the motherboard, but this is still a cut-rate way to do things. And just to prove how cut-rate it can be, only two of the seven slots have replaceable slot covers: The remaining five slot covers are break-out sections of the case’s rear panel. It’s not all cost cutting though: We did notice the Kensington Lock hole (punching that out must have cost something).
Returning to the front, we find a slide-out dust filter that covers the length of the bottom panel vent. It’s washable, and making it accessible from the front adds convenience that stands in stark contrast to the slot panel mess we discussed in the rear.
The two-section top panel includes a removable radiator/power supply access panel and a “front panel” button and port section. Two Type A ports on a Gen1 and a Type-C on a Gen2 USB3 cable, plus a headphone/microphone combo jack fill the front panel section. As for the access panel, sliding it leftward by a few millimeters (around 1/8”) allows builders to lift it away from the sheet steel understructure.
Treating the top panel filter as washable might be a bad idea since the A5’s lid has an aluminum foil sticker on the opposite side. We’d use compressed air as needed, but it shouldn’t be needed often if you’re using the top as an exhaust rather than an inlet. The bottom panel filter has no such trim and should do a fairly good job of reducing the amount of interior dust that reaches the top panel.
Underneath the access panel are the previously discussed 2x120mm fan mounts and a full-size power supply mount that’s recessed by around an inch to make room for the included extension cable’s plug. The 59mm of space between the dual 120mm fan mounts and the top of the motherboard is just enough to fit a 30mm-thick radiator, a single layer of 25mm-thick fans, and some screw heads without worrying about whether or not the motherboard’s heat sinks will clear.
Installing a standard 9.6”-deep ATX motherboard leaves a 1.4” gap behind the power supply, allowing motherboards up to 11” to fit. InWin uses the fact that some 10.6” to 10.8” motherboards are labeled EATX as an excuse to call it an EATX case, ignoring the other fact that a case must support motherboards up to 13”-deep to legitimately carry that label. Also notice that the removable cover panel that hides the power bay has slots labeled “PSU” and “VGA”, where support brackets may be affixed.
Behind the motherboard tray are a 3.5”/2.5” tray and two 2.5” drive trays. A portion of the bottom panel’s 3.5”/2.5” drive mount can be seen behind the front panel
Building With The A5
The A5 includes extension cables for both the ARGB and PWM connectors of its 120x12mm rear fan, a graphics card support bracket, three tear-open bags of screws with one that includes two standoffs and a hex to Phillips screwdriver adapter for installing those, five ratcheting cable ties, and a QR code link to its installation guide.
Cable include the power supply extension cord, a USB3 Gen2x2 for the Type-C ports, a USB3 Gen1 for the two Type A ports, a front-panel combo, and HD Audio for the headset combo jack. Included but not shown are the PWM, ARGB input, and ARGB pass-through link for the rear panel’s AM120S Slim 120mm fan.
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 7 3700X: 8 cores/ 16 threads, 32MB L3 Cache
O/C to 4.20 GHz (42x 100 MHz) at 1.3625 V Core
|CPU Cooler||Fractal Design Celsius S24 2x 120mm Closed-Loop Liquid Cooler|
|Motherboard||MSI X570 Ace: AMD X570, Socket AM4|
|RAM||T-Force Vulcan Z TLZGD416G3200HC16CDC0 DDR4-3200|
|Graphics||Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2070 Gaming OC 8G: GeForce RTX 2070
1815 MHz GPU, GDDR6-14000, Maximum Fan When Listed
|Hard Drives||Toshiba OCZ RD400 256GB NVMe SSD|
|Sound||Integrated HD Audio|
|Network||Integrated Gigabit Networking|
|Power||Corsair AX860i: ATX12V v2.3, EPS12V, 80 PLUS Platinum|
|Load Software||AIDA 64 Engineer Version 6.00.5100, Stress CPU, FPU, Cache, GPU|
|H/W Monitoring||HWiNFO64 v6.28-4200|
|SPL Monitoring||Galaxy CM-140 SPL Meter: Tested at 1/4 m, corrected to 1 m (-12 dB)|
InWin sent today’s review sample contingent upon testing with its own BR24 closed-loop CPU cooler: While many reviewers might have rejected such an agreement under the notion that it would violate their standard test proceedure, we understood that agreeing to test with one cooler did not mean agreeing not to test with the other. Equipped with both our standardized platform and InWin’s preferred substitute cooler, we tested it both ways.
The build process includes the expected screwing down of components and the connecting of cables, but is finished by sliding the power supply support tab up to the power supply, positioning the graphics card support brace with its rubber block under the corner of the graphics card, and tightening that brace’s screws to prevent the card from sagging. Complications included connecting the ATX12V cable to the motherboard and then forcing it to go around the rear radiator fan, since the radiator mount is too close to the top of the board to allow the ATX12V cable to be looped over its top.
As for the power supply, while it hides nicely behind the side cover, it doesn’t fit the included extension cable nicely. Intended to fit the widest possible variety of power supply cable configurations, our power supply trapped this cable around ¼” too far below and to the back of its access hole (enlarging the hole half that distance in each direction probably would have solved the fitment concern. Since the force against our cable seemed minimal and the passage had a rolled edge to prevent cuts, we accessed minimal risk for this configuration and went ahead with our test.
Our two InWin A5 test builds, with and without the firm’s BR24 substitute cooler, were shot mere hours apart:
Regardless of whether it had the Celsius S24 cooler of our reference configuration or InWin’s own BR24 closed-loop, the A5 finished in a three way tie in CPU temperature with the Montech Sky Two and MasterBox TD500 Mesh. Oh, and that would be a three-way tie for first place.
Once might suspect that InWin wanted the A5 tested with its BR24 because the case needed that cooler’s voltage regulator cooling fan, but results using our own cooler show that the A5 would have finished in a tie for first in VR MOS cooling with the TD500 Mesh regardless. Adding the BR24 only proves that its voltage regulator fan does what our BR24 Review had already proven it did.
Surprisingly, the A5 ties for first place in chipset temperature when using our reference cooler, but dropped to second place when using the BR24. This is probably due to a slight change in room temperature…with number rounding making up the difference.
Even without any fans in its intakes, the A5’s fully vented bottom panel allowed enough air to move past our graphics card to put it in second place behind the fan-filled TD500 Mesh in GPU temperature.
We noted in our BR24 review that it’s noisy, and continuously note in case reviews that noise reduction is part of the case’s function. We can see in our SPL numbers that the BR24-equipped A5 is barely noisier than the A5 with our reference choice, and that when the fans of all cases are cranked up to max RPM, the TD500 Mesh is the only case to consistently outpace it in the annoyance race.
After noticing that the A5 did a better job of expelling heat than containing noise, we created a chart to show how its benefits outweighed its deficits. Averaging each component’s temperature across 30 minutes to 1 hour time intervals and dividing the group average against individual averages awards the highest percentage value to the lowest temperature. Doing the reverse for noise (dividing the individual by the group) would appear to defeat this purpose except that we’re going to use that number as a divisor: Dividing the cooling score of each component by the case’s overall noise score produced three cooling to noise ratios, where anything higher than 100% beats the average and anything lower than 100% is beaten by the average.
If we average the three cooling to noise ratios for each of the above cases, we get 103% for the A5 and 104% for the A5 with the BR24 cooler’s central fan cooling our motherboard’s voltage regulator, followed by the Sky Two and TD500 Mesh at 100% of the class average, and everything else falling below the average.
|InWin’s A5 offers big cooling and compatibility in a somewhat compact size, but builds should be left to those with the skill to stuff ATX12V cables into the upper rear corner and knowledge to pick a power supply that fits its internal extension cable.|
A winning case deserves an award, but we fear that adding just an award that hints at performance or value superiority would lead those who hadn’t read our precautions to buy the case without accepting those precautions. Yet we do have an award that causes those who see it to question why a product got it, and the A5’s ability to fit a 12×11” motherboard into a minimal depth mini-tower seems to qualify. That bit of inventiveness is called innovation.
This is the second innovations award that InWin has received for doing somewhat ordinary things in a somewhat unusual way, and we’d like to encourage its competitors to try their hands at this…lest readers start to question our affection.