Install and Conclusion
It is rather uncommon for me to do a full build during a chassis review but, I have put enough of them together that I can generally identify if there are going to be any trouble or problem areas. Overall, the NCORE 100 should work as advertised and to give you a sense of scale I have installed an ASUS ROG Strix B660. This is your standard LGA 1700 enabled Mini ITX motherboard and is extremely sporty when it comes to performance and overclocking.
As you can see from the photo, the fitment is rather tight with very little room around the board. This is especially true near the PSU where the modular cables are touching the VRM heatsink. I noticed that getting the 24-pin power connector attached required a LOT of twisting and the wires were not all that straight to begin with.
CPU power connected without issue and the front panel wires were excessively long making them easy to install but a pain to route.
When it came to installing the AIO watercooler I determined that the hose length was just wrong. First off, the hoses were too short to position the AIO pumpblock with the hoses exiting out the bottom. When the pumpblock was rotated such that, the hoses exited out the side near the memory they were just a tad too long making them bulge out the side.
Personally, I loathe situations like this were I have to put weird bends into the AIO tubes. They are thick enough and won’t kink but it does create several stress points that may OR may not cause a problem in the future.
One of my initial thoughts when seeing the NCORE 100 for the first time in person, “This thing looks like a floor speaker”. The outward design is rather ornate with plenty of venting and there was a speaker grill at the top. Of course, I knew this was a computer case but the overall design was rather far from what we would normally consider to be a computer, which is saying a lot.
Due to the unique shape, there are bound to be challenges during the building process and was one of the reasons why Cooler Master has released the NCORE 100 as a "Max" variant. Much like the NR200P Max that we reviewed before the NCORE 100 comes complete with a V SFX 850 Gold power supply and 38mm x 120mm AIO watercooler. The user will need to supply motherboard, processor, memory, storge and video card to complete the ensemble.
From here, I am a bit torn about the NCORE 100 Max. On one hand I am a total fan of the attempt to create a Mini ITX chassis in a vertical configuration AND offer the product a complete case. Just add your electronics and away you go. On the other hand, I feel the execution could have used a little more work as the builds I would suggest for this case are less than ideal when you consider the types of systems I normally run.
For instance, the included AIO is 120mm and while the thicker 38mm and high-pressure fan will enhance overall cooling I wouldn’t recommend running any high-end CPU to prevent thermal throttling and excessive noise. My second concern really doesn’t matter but, I personally prefer to have the hoses exit out the bottom of the pump block however, the included AIO hose length is too short for that and slightly too long when rotated to exit out the side.
When it comes to noise and cooling, the side panels are basically “open air” with holes large enough to allow free airflow and yet small enough to keep your cat from getting stuck inside. Contrast that with the radiator intake which shares airspace with your graphics card and is somewhat restricted. (Or, not as open as I would have liked.) Basically, the extra heat from the GPU raises the ambient temperature of that chamber and will make the AIO cooler less efficient.
I suspect this was done on purpose to allow the primary 120mm exhaust fan time to keep the GPU chamber as cool as possible.
The top cover also features a very small micro mesh which is great for aesthetics but, not so great for airflow which just goes to reaffirm that the CPU selected shouldn’t be a “hot” one.
Due to the position of the graphics card all of your video cables will need to exit out of the bottom of the chassis and, if you are like me and prefer the thicker Display Port cables you will know how they don’t like to be bent. The rest of the cables just connect to the back of the case like some sort of home theater subwoofer.
Overall, when you consider cases designed for the Mini ITX form factor there are better ones out there. Some have better cable management and some are even quite small. What you won't get, is a case that is ready to run out of the box or one that could easily blend and disappear in your working environment. Despite my criticisms and dislike for some of the design decisions there was a genuine attempt to create something unique with the NCORE 100 and from a certain demographic they have succeeded.
Easy Access to Everything
SFX Power Supply Included
Good Metal Construction
3.9 Slot GPU Support
Limited modding options
Small AIO cooler
Odd size AIO hoses
Small footprint is easy to knock over
No view inside the case