This PC Case Has a DISPLAY Inside It!
I think it’s time we kick off the new year with a fresh case review. Today we have the Snowblind case from iBUYPOWER, which by popular demand is now available to purchase as a standalone case. This is a very special NZXT S340 rebrand because iBUYPOWER put a transparent TN display on the side panel… and I am going to attempt to game on it.
This is my first time with an iBUYPOWER product. The Snowblind Element case is $149 USD, which is a bit pricey for the S340 but given the LCD update, it is somewhat worth it. The original price of $299 USD is insane for reasons I will get to in a bit.
Setup & Basics
Let me go over the fun stuff first. Once you plug everything in and power on the system, you have to go into Display Settings to rotate the display into portrait mode as that is the correct orientation for the panel. It will simply show up as a secondary display with 1024 x 1280 resolution at 60Hz. You don’t need any apps for this to work properly, but when it comes to customization you can download the Snowblind application that allows you to actually maneuver system statistics like your CPU temperature, CPU usage, GPU usage, date/time for example. I have positioned all that information near the power supply shroud, because that is where it’s most visible.
Now aside from having a transparent LCD applied to the glass, three sides of the panel also have incredibly bright white LEDs acting as backlight. And you can see the image is more visible in the lower section where the shroud is closer to the panel. This is very cool and iBUYPOWER recommends white or silver hardware components to create the best visual contrast. And of course since the LCD is transparent, all of your hardware is visible. But one interesting byproduct of all this lighting on the inside of the case is massive exterior spill from literally any crevice that is open on the chassis, which is kind of cool but it’s also a little bit over the top.
A Blank Canvas
I have to be honest with you, while this whole thing is very gimmicky, and I would not purchase this for myself, it is extremely fun to play with. You can create animated wallpapers using Wallpaper Engine from Steam, you can have systems statistics on the side of the case, and you can have digital art. I even had Twitter open at the bottom part of the shroud. Since this is not controlled by some sort of application, and it’s not limited to any particular application, you can really put anything you want on it since its just a second display.
Can it run Crysis?
I really wanted to see if I could actually game on this thing. Now the transparency effect does not help with clarity of the image, but if I open the side panel facing a white wall that’s how we get the usable display out of this thing. The viewing angles are pretty terrible and the resolution is a bit low, but it works and runs at 60Hz. In CS:GO for example, I get tunnel vision because of the aspect ratio, but as iBUYPOWER intended its usage should focus on displaying cool graphics on the side of your case and not really venturing or using this thing as a gaming display. Of course, unless you have some fun with it like playing Tetris or maybe other 2D games, but in its normal state it’s kind of hard to make out the details of the visuals unless you have the side panel actually open and facing a white wall. Ultimately, gaming on this thing is not recommended, but there are lots of abstract ideas that you can display on the side of the case and that is actually pretty awesome.
Back to the Case
And so now a little bit more about the actual case. The exterior is glass, plastic, and steel, and has some color variations between the white between the materials. The front panel has a see-through section to reveal the fans and the magnetic dust filter. This is the same spaced-out panel as we saw with the S340, so you better populate the top fan for exhaust in order to improve temperatures. A dust filter is included for this area as well. The I/O unfortunately does not include a USB Type-C port, I guess this is expected since the Element case was first launched in 2018. All three fans have built-in white illumination, but the two front fans are powered by a Molex splitter that is complete garbage and would not power up one of the fans. I would throw this thing out to avoid any headaches.
Two PCI slot covers are missing, but with thumbscrews in place, and this is intentional since a GPU will occupy that space anyway. The interior is almost identical to the original S340, with the cable bar, two SSD caddies on top of the shroud, ATX motherboard support, and a few additives. The first strange inclusion is the plastic fan shroud behind front fans. We normally see this in front panels to eliminate noise, but here it’s a massive airflow choke for the sake of aesthetics. It’s here to prevent fan illumination from shining behind the LCD panel and making that whole thing look horrible, but why not just include standard black fans instead to improve/protect the display’s better performance? I don’t know.
The second additive is the LCD display module installed in one of the PCI slots. Now iBUYPOWER does not recommend removing the side panel during assembly, as the cable connecting the two is long enough to swivel the side panel to its maximum position with the case lying down. Next you must connect the LCD with the included DVI-to-DP cable into your graphics card for it to show up as a secondary monitor.
Having said all that, the TN LCD on my model has application imperfections that are visible, and also large particles between the LCD and the glass. It’s not a high-end product which is why the original price of $299 USD is absolutely insane.
I can definitely see iterations of this design becoming a bit more popular in the future. For example, at CES we saw Corsair’s Capellix LED film applied on tempered glass, and it looked really awesome. With higher density LEDs the future of case customization is going to be pretty unique.
In conclusion, when it comes to an LCD on the side of the panel of the case, I’m not sure I’m convinced. I’m definitely not the target audience for this enclosure. While it’s not something for me, if you love the idea of an LCD on the side panel, what would you display? I’m interested to read all your suggestions and creative comments.