This case feels like a contender

I’m building computers again.
This one’s going into a Foxconn 3400ATX, which is available for 35 smackers from Newegg.com.

So how is it, you ask? Oh, you didn’t ask? Well, I’ll tell you anyway.

You can find a lot worse cases for the money. Its looks are along the lines of a current Compaq or HP case without the translucent smoke-colored accents. Picture a plain-beige box that looks like a Compaq at your favorite retailer, and you’ll have a nice picture of the 3400. I like its looks a little better than most Antec or Inwin cases, actually. And no funky-colored buttons or obnoxious colored trim, like a lot of cases in this price range.

It has three detachable panels like most good cases and unlike most $35 specials. The panels aren’t as heavy as a premium brand but they’re not flimsy. And the panels come off and go back on easily, which is nice. It’s always disconcerting to have to manhandle a case with expensive components and your precious data inside whenever you need to get it open.

The case feet push into the bottom of the case and are secured with plastic pins, rather than being the stick-on kind that tend to fall off and run away.

Now the bad. You don’t get nice, screw-out slot covers like you would with a premium case. You get cutouts that you bust out with a pair of pliers. The inside of the case is light-gauge steel with that cheap Far East look. Those of you who’ve worked inside a lot of inexpensive cases know what I’m talking about. Working inside it isn’t going to be as nice as working inside an Inwin or an Antec. The motherboard tray is pop-riveted and not detachable.

The power supply is nothing to get excited about. It’s rated at 300 watts, it’s AMD approved, but it looks and feels cheap. It ought to be fine for a Duron or a low-end Athlon XP. Don’t try to build a 3-GHz computer around this. (If you’ve got the money for a 3-GHz machine, you need to be looking at something other than a $35 case.)

Now, the upside. While the interior finish is very pedestrian at best, the fit is fine. Stuff lines up, which doesn’t always happen at this price point. There’s a case fan mounted in the back. There’s a place for a second one up front. You get three external 5.25″ bays, two external 3.5″ bays, and one more 3.5″ bay. Fill all those up and you’ll be taxing the limits of this power supply.

The verdict? Newegg sells Codegen cases that will get to you a little bit cheaper because they’re lighter. I’ve heard mixed reviews about Codegens. I can tell you this Foxconn is worth what you pay for it (most $35 cases aren’t), and it comes in white or solid black. If you’re building a fairly low-end system, this Foxconn will serve you well.

But if you’re building something that you expect to work on a lot (adding drives and memory and changing out the motherboard fairly frequently), pony up the extra $20-$25 to get an Inwin or Antec case.

11 thoughts on “This case feels like a contender

  • October 31, 2002 at 7:48 am
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    Link?

    ๐Ÿ™‚

  • October 31, 2002 at 12:08 pm
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    So Dave, have any suggestions for an inexpensive ATX or Micro ATX motherboard to go with this ? If it had decent built-in sound, so much the better (I think some of the nVidia nForce-chipset motherboards are supposed to have good on-board sound ?). I have an 850 MHz Duron + misc other parts sitting around, and this might make a nice MP3 server for the entertainment center ๐Ÿ™‚

  • October 31, 2002 at 1:24 pm
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    D’oh! Sorry I neglected the link.

    As far as an inexpensive mobo, a first-generation nForce board would do nicely and they’re cheap for what you get. I think an Asus will run you under $75 at Newegg.

    I picked up a low-end Shuttle ATX board for this box. I think it ran $55. The built-in sound is nothing special, but it takes either PC133 or DDR, and in combination with a Sapphire Radeon 7000 card with S-Video and composite out ($36, same place) it’ll yield a pretty sweet system with good upgrade potential. The S-Video and composite video will be good for an entertainment center PC. Now that I’ve seen the card in action I’m tempted to do a living-room PC myself. I’d kinda like to find a black or silver desktop-style case for that though, so it’ll blend in.

    For good sound, you can pick up an OEM SoundBlaster Live! cheap. They go for $25 or less these days, I think.

    I’ll probably do writeups on some of the other components I’m playing with. Might as well, eh? Especially the video card.

  • November 1, 2002 at 8:48 am
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    Dave wrote:
    I’d kinda like to find a black or silver desktop-style case for that though, so it’ll blend in.

    Yesterday, the Foxconn page at Newegg had what looked like a black version of the case you reviewed for just a dollar or two more…

    Yeah, I looked at Newegg and found the Asus A7N266-VM NVIDIA nFORCE 220 Chipset Motherboard for $69.00. Not exactly the cheapest, but then again you don’t need a separate video & sound cards, either. (BTW, I was only thinking of an MP3 server, already have two DVD players in the house ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • November 1, 2002 at 9:15 pm
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    The only thing i did not like about the Foxcomm case from newegg.com was the $15 to ship it . That brings it around $50. Still not bad . I liked the black one. I sell a decent 300watt Midtower with lots of room–4 5.25″ bays and 2- 3.5″ bays external..2 usb in front for $35. You can pick it up for free in the Westport area M-F or about $6 to ship in St. Louis Metro. Email me if you are interested.

    ALSO !!!- I found a pretty cool Black case that has two slot covers included for cdrw and cdrom or dvd so that you can use beige or white drives and this covers them up so it all looks black(you press the button and the drive opens and flips down the cover).. You dont have to spend the extra $10-$20 on each part to make it look the same color. I thought it was very cool . THey come without power supplies and I sell them at $40. If you have a power supply just stick it in or I sell AMD/Intel approved 300 watt PS for $25. We also have black keyboard and mouse Cheap..Cheap.. FUN.. FUN

    If anyone is interested , I can reply. Its not on my website currently but we are going to put them up.. PS. I have about 10 black monitors we mistakenly ordered thats why we got the black cases etc..

  • November 2, 2002 at 12:08 pm
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    The Foxconn case looks nice.

    For cheap and integrated, nothing beats the despised PC Chips m810 LMR. If you can find a non-PC Chips alternative, all the better.

    Bonus: all the Linux drivers are easily available. Even for the AMR winmodem.

    The nForce does sound good. Wish they sold those in Trinidad. I’d snap one up in a heartbeat.

  • November 2, 2002 at 12:09 pm
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    Correct links here.

    Now you know my name. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • November 3, 2002 at 5:04 pm
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    Ran into a bit of a snag wrt using that Asus motherboard I mentioned above. Turns out, after much poking around on various Linux sites, I can’t determine if there’s actually good Linux drivers for the nForce 220-D chipset audio and video.

    Darn! No way I’m going to run XP on what will basically be an MP3 storage and playback “appliance,” and BeOS (while an excellent choice for such a thing) has no drivers for modern chipsets at all…

  • November 4, 2002 at 9:04 am
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    In the system I built, I used the Shuttle AK32L, which runs $55. Built-in audio, no video. For that type of appliance, you could go one of two ways: Get the cheapest video card you can possibly find (like a $19 card based on a four-year-old ATI chipset) or get a card with TV out, so you can use your TV as an emergency monitor if you have to make any configuration changes.

    The AK32L showed good workmanship and versatility. It’ll work with PC133 or DDR and any current AMD CPU. It’s not a performance board per se, but it’s no slouch and it’s nice to be able to get a board that’ll take your old stuff and let you upgrade to new stuff later. The BIOS had lots of little tweaker settings to play with, and yeah, I was able to make the system really unstable by getting too aggressive with them. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • January 9, 2004 at 2:11 pm
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    comment; I am trying to find the correct driver for my sound card, Soundblaster live. I have a Compaq 7000 running ME. Having a difficult time with compaQ support and am an amateur myself. Any help would be appreciated.

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