Fitting a motherboard was pretty straightforward, although I do prefer to have a removable motherboard tray for ultimate ease of installation. AOpen has implemented a screwless expansion card retention mechanism that works brilliantly. Each backing plate is married to a plastic fixing clip that is very easily opened and closed externally. I’ve seen screwless retention clips before, but none of them work as well as this one.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the drive retention system. Like so many cases these days, the Nouveau doesn’t require you to actually screw your drives in, but it also doesn’t use drive rails as such. Basically, AOpen supplies special screws for mounting your drives, that enable them to be slid into retaining clips on the drive cages. Now, on the surface this method looks ok, but it falls foul of one thing. Once I slid the optical drive into place, I tried pushing the Molex connector into the socket – unfortunately this resulted in the drive breaking free from the clip and smashing open the front fascia door. You can however, add a couple of screws to secure it properly so this doesn't happen afterwards but this rather defeats the point of having quick release drive rails.
Another issue we faced was caused by a misleading picture in the frankly awful manual. A picture shows that the screw holes you need to use are on the right. However, if you put the screws in these and then try to mount the drive it simply won't fit properly. In fact the picture has the drive facing the wrong way round and this led to some confusion in the office until we spotted the error. I suggest that AOpen clarify this issue by updating the manual. And possibly shoot the photographer.
The left side panel of the Nouveau has a clear panel, so you can see how beautifully (or not) built your PC is. There’s also a grille cut out with an adjustable flume that pipes the hot air directly from your CPU cooler out the side of the case. There’s a large, silver, plastic clasp that releases the side panel, once the two thumb screws are removed. I’m sure that some people will think this looks stylish, but I thought it looked somewhat tacky – but then, each to his own.
There are a couple of nice touches with the front mounted ports. The USB connectors for example have both block connectors and single pin connectors at the end, so you should be able to use them with pretty much any motherboard.
And so I have to jump the final hurdle – price. At £133.36 this isn’t a cheap case, but then you do get a power supply thrown into the bargain. However, at 400W (and I can’t believe I’m saying this), the power supply isn’t powerful enough to build a really high-end SLI machine inside the Nouveau, and if you’re going to have to buy a beefier PSU, then the price becomes steep indeed.
Ultimately, the Nouveau has some good features, but some design issues make for a slightly disappointing product. The plastic fascia spoils the look and feel and the PSU isn’t really up to the task of driving a high-end SLI setup.
I was expecting a lot from the Nouveau, since AOpen definitely knows how to make good components and peripherals. Unfortunately this case suffers from some niggley design issues, while the plastic fascia makes it feel cheaper than the £133 price tag would suggest.