Finding the right case in which to build your PC is never easy. The first question you need to ask yourself is whether you want a small form factor box or tower, and if you go for the latter, the choice is positively dizzying. AOpen has been making system cases and the components that go inside them for a very long time, so I fully expected the Nouveau to be a shining example of case design and construction. Unfortunately, those expectations proved to be unfounded, and although the Nouveau sports some solid features, it also exhibits some poor design attributes.
But before I get into the nitty gritty, let’s cover the basics. The guts and side panel of the Nouveau are constructed from aluminium, making it far lighter than a traditional steel case. Unfortunately, unlike the Coolermaster WaveMaster case that I reviewed a long time ago, the front fascia of the Nouveau is plastic. This makes the case look and feel slightly cheap, when in reality it is far from cheap. The door on the front fascia feels flimsy and again spoils the effect – quite simply an aluminium front fascia would have made the Nouveau a far more desirable product.
Opening the front door reveals four 5.25in and two 3.5in bays. I put a black DVD writer in the top bay to match the dark finish of the plastic, and although it looked ok colour wise, I noticed a large gap all around the drive. It seems that the drive cut-outs are slightly larger than a standard 5.25in device and you can’t even adjust the lie of the drive because of the retention mechanism.
Below the door you’ll find the power and reset buttons, while next to these are four USB 2.0 ports, a headphone socket, a microphone socket and a six-pin FireWire port. Finishing off the front fascia is a grille that covers the front mounted 92mm fan. Inside the case there’s another fan at the rear, this time a 120mm unit – I’m always happy to see a 120mm fan because it helps keep the noise of the system down, without compromising cooling.
There’s another 120mm fan in the power supply which comes with the case, the PSU also has a fan controller on the rear, so you can slow the fan down if you want a very quiet machine. Personally I prefer dynamic fan control, because I always forget to turn the fan back up when I fire up a game and the components start to heat up.
The supplied PSU is a bit of a mixed bag really – there are plenty of power connectors, and all the Molex plugs are “quick release”. You get two SATA power plugs, which is good to see, although you’ll need a Molex converter if you want to run a RAID 5 array. There’s also a six-pin PCI Express connector, which is commendable, but I would like to see two of these in case you want to build an SLI system. That said, you’re not going to be building a dual GeForce 7800GTX or even 6800 Ultra system with only a 400W power supply.