This is a review of the Top Desk Tech Station.
This review will focus on value… because as a case, it more or less does what it’s supposed to do, which is to securely hold computer peripherals for testing purposes. There are several ways that this case can be useful:
Used as a permanent case this would be the primary way to mount the computer components. Although there are some recommendations for an “open air” case, and that does make sense from a cooling perspective, the lack of ESD and physical protection would be a concern, not to mention dust and other debris.
Semi-permanent, which is the way that it will be used, will have some dedicated components more or less permanently mounted.
Component testing would have no permanently mounted items, using the case as a temporary platform to test any and all components.
As indicated above, the case will be used in the Semi Permanent configuration. The static component list will be the motherboard, hard drive and power supply. The system will be used to test, backup and clone hard drives and test various computer peripherals. Even thought the motherboard is a micro-atx form factor, it has a lot of different connections. For example, it has 4 SATA (with RAID) and IDE. There’s a floppy interface as well as a parallel port (and yes, the floppy is still a required piece of hardware, especially in the old industrial machinery world). But let’s not get the cart in front of the horse….
The item comes flat-pack style, and requires assembly (think IKEA). The included instructions work pretty well, there are a few parts that are less than clear and they might do well to hire a technical writer to address those issues. Not a huge deal, because for the most part, this assembly is self-explanatory.
A couple small bags of parts were dumped into separate trays for easy access and the build process was started. With the very first step came an issue: As indicated in the instructions, place a washer on the screw and insert into the rubber feet. As shown in the picture below, it does not fit, not even close. It certainly can be attached without it, so the washers were discarded and the assembly continued.
The build process continued without issue, and was completed within 10 minutes. All mounting holes are pre-drilled, and or tapped, everything lined up and went together well. When completed, only the motherboard is secured, the hard drive can slide inside the mounting rails, the power supply sits on a foam mat.
The only real issue here is value. Is this worth the $170?
To answer the question, let’s take a look at the materials used. It seems that all these pieces are purchased from McMaster-Carr, or similar. For example the fan brackets are actually corner braces manufactured by Stanley and the posts are .5″ PVC bar stock. The card mounting bar at the back of the case is a piece of plexiglass and to secure the cards a plastic thumbscrew is inserted into the plexiglass bar. Very flimsy, and almost seems like an after thought. Why not a piece of aluminum?
This case has a very DIY feel to it. Not necessarily a bad thing if the selling price is $50. But for $170 the Top Deck Tech Station XL-ATX is way overpriced. Save your money, and put one together yourself.
And that’s exactly what I will do. That’s an upcoming project, with detailed instructions and a parts list.