Cube chassis used to be all the rage back in 2010, but they’ve fallen off the radar a bit. The only ones left in commercial markets are Cooler Master’s HAF XB and various designs from Lian Li, and seeing one in the wild has become a rare event. Rarer still are the chassis that were basically giant heatsinks for your hardware. This turns out to be a staple design for the enterprise environment where passive cooling is a requirement, and occasionally it’s seen in chassis designed for home theatre media use as well. Streamcom is one of the few players left in the passive chassis market, and their latest innovation, the DB4, is a passively cooled cube chassis with very interesting internals.
“With the DB4 we set out to not only redefine what a PC case could look like, but the performance and compatibility achievable from a fanless solution,” said Streamcom in their press release. “The identical sides of the case serve both as the striking monolithic exterior and the convection surface for component cooling and is the basis of its fanless operation.”
The DB4 is an interesting case, to say the least. Milled from 13mm thick aluminium panels which make up the panels and the feet, with CNC milled steel for the internal frame, it’s quite a strong industrial design. The case is essentially toolless with exception for the motherboard and component mounting screws, and the panels slides in and out on rails milled into the supports on the four sides of the inner frame. If nothing else, that’s what impresses me the most about this design. I hate screwing in side panels.
The DB4 can have everything taken apart and laid bare for easier builds. All the panels are removable, including the top panel. The hard drive and PCI expansion slots are removable as well as the motherboard tray, making it easier to do most of the preparation outside the confines of the frame. Streamcom claims that the modular aspect of their design enables more flexibility in terms of cooling, and each panel can handle up to 65W of heat from any source, or 120W for the processor alone if you couple two together using heatpipe kits that I’m assuming will be sold separately. The other two sides can be used for passively cooling a power supply and an add-in graphics card, although the cooling brackets for such a build will probably be limited to specific GPU designs from AMD and NVIDIA.
“Beyond simply looking impressive, the DB4 solves one of the biggest complexities of building a fanless case,” Streamcom continues. “Traditionally motherboard choice is limited and alternative heat pipes might be required depending on layout, but the DB4 rewrites the rules. With both the motherboard and side panels being parallel, the heat pipes run perpendicular, away from any components and in combination with the flexibility of the universal bracket, means that virtually all ITX motherboard are compatible with the case.”
The DB4 measures 260 x 260 x 270mmm inside which it fits in a mini-ITX motherboard, one dual-slot PCI-Express graphics card up to 200mm long, up to five 3.5-inch hard drives or twelve 2.5-inch hard drives, and some form of a flex ATX or nano ITX power supply. It’s a lot of stuff to fit in, and the amount of places to fit a hard drive is a bit odd given that most consumer ITX motherboards ship with about four or less SATA slots onboard. Perhaps Streamcom’s actual target market here is enthusiasts who are using workstation ITX motherboards, and may want to use the DB4 as a very stylish, very quiet server chassis.
The Streamcom DB4 should be available soon, but no pricing information was announced. Designs like these are typically high-end and expensive, so I’d expect something in the region of R3000 for the DB4. Along with the DB4, Streamcom will also offer a new 240W flex ATX power supply, which also has no pricing as yet.