Impressions on InWin’s A1 Plus

Reader, I would like to preface this post by first being honest with you. Frankly, this build was wholly unnecessary. Having sold all of my old computer parts for the sole purpose of paying off a few debts, only to find myself in debt again for want of a new build, the real question I usually pose to justify my habit is, “why not build?” Most computer builders, like myself, know the process of building is a meditative one. Making a materials list, then gathering assorted parts, and finally combining them with a trusty screwdriver is nothing short of rewarding. We builders marvel at the things we create. The build’s aesthetics and complexities make it all the more self-gratifying. Admittedly, there are times when building can be frustratingly difficult, but the process has always been and will be, a tranquil one (think Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance). So I pose the question again: “why not build?”

But, enough with the formalities and onto the build!…

After gathering several new and used parts for my newest build, I nabbed a Fractal Design Define Nano S on eBay and decided to use it in the interim. InWin was going to be introducing a successor to the popular A1 and didn’t provide a release date. Coming from the NZXT H200, which was my initial attempt at “getting my feet wet” and building in a mini ITX case for the first time, the Define Nano S felt familiar and easy to build in.

For those who don’t know, the A1 Plus is an updated version to InWin’s popular A1, a mini ITX case first showcased at CES 2017. Its frame measured 273 millimeters (or mm) in height, by 224mm in width, by 357mm in depth. This made the case large enough for a CPU cooler of up to 160mm in height, and a GPU clearance of up to 320mm. The final iteration of the A1 appeared at CES 2018 with an acrylic top, a four-watt qi charger, and a non-modular 80 Plus Bronze certified 600-watt power supply that was to be included with the purchase of the case.

Despite the criticisms from the few purest within the small form factor community that chide manufacturers and consumers alike for the creation and purchase of mini ITX cases larger than 20 liters — some might even claim 12.6 liters as the new standard — the A1 was a popular choice.

During CES 2019, InWin introduced its revision to the A1, the A1 Plus. The A1 Plus shares the same frame and dimensions as its predecessor and loses the four-watt qi charger for an improved ten-watt 1.2 certified qi charger. InWin also upgraded the included power supply to a non-modular 80 Plus Gold certified 650-watt PSU. Finally, InWin decided to include two of their newest 120mm fans: the Sirius Loop ASL 120 RGB.

I purchased the A1 Plus straight from InWin’s Estore after waiting a few weeks for it to become available. The A1 Plus comes in two colors, white and black (the older A1 comes in three colors: white, black, and red). The sale price for the A1 Plus, before shipping and sales tax, is $199.99. That hefty price tag positions the A1 Plus with the likes of the Ncase M1 at $195.00, which comes in at 12.6 liters, and the Louqe Ghost S1 at $300.00, which comes in at 8.2 liters, both considerably smaller mini ITX cases. The A1 Plus comes in at 22.7 liters. Shipping came to an additional $30.00 and after about a week, the package appeared at my door. The chassis was shrouded in a black tote-like material and wedged between two pieces of styrofoam (yes, you read that correctly)… note to InWin: it’s 2019; you can do better than styrofoam. And now, here is where I vent a little…

After removing the tempered glass side panel, I found the qi charger had been torn from its adhesive at the top of the case, probably because of the cables from the included power supply coming undone during shipping. I attempted to reassemble the position of the qi charger using what little adhesive was left but to no avail. I removed the qi charger and the remaining residue. I should note that the qi charger can only be powered by a cable tethered to the included power supply.

Now, after assembling my parts, I went to install my motherboard and realized the case came without motherboard mounting screws. I had to use the screws from my Define Nano S — InWin, come on, sheesh!

Since the qi charger was no longer an option, and since the included power supply was a non-modular one, I decided to replace it with my EVGA SuperNOVA GM 650, an 80 Plus Gold certified SFX power supply. Removing InWin’s power supply is a little tricky because you have to remove the PCB for the front panel connections at the back of the case to get to one of the screws holding the power supply in place. What’s more, removing InWin’s power supply meant that I couldn’t use the InWin’s power supply shroud since it too was affixed to their PSU.

I, unfortunately, had to replace both Sirius Loop ASL 120 RGB fans with Noctua’s NF-P12 and NF-S12B Redux fans. InWin wasn’t selling their fans at the time, and with only two included with the case, I didn’t want my build to look inconsistent. The Redux fan color scheme seemed like a great option for a black case, and despite not having RGB, they’re a little quieter and perform better than the Sirius Loop fans.

InWin includes a “graphic card holder” with the A1 Plus. The holder is essentially a bracket that screws onto a small opening below the motherboard via hexagon head screws to prevent GPU sag. I used my EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 FTW ACX 3.0 card (jeez that’s a mouthful…) and chose not to use the “graphic card holder” because the tip of the bracket pressed against the GPU’s fans, making them unable to rotate.

Finally, the base of the case, once unscrewed, separates into two parts. The plastic portion of the base holds up to two 120mm fans. The included dust filter is non-removable. The other portion of the base houses the addressable RGB strip and power cables.

Now, disregarding these few small issues, the case was a breeze to build in. The CPU cables, fan cables, and RGB cables were all easily routed within the case. However, if you decide to remove InWin’s power supply and use your own SFX power supply, know that the cables might be too short. To mitigate this issue, you simply have to reroute them about the power supply rather than behind the motherboard. Another issue particular to the EVGA SuperNova GM 650 was the power plug receptacle. InWin’s power cable extension has to be contorted a little to connect to the power supply.

I should note that despite having enough room for ample cable management, if you are using a 2.5-inch drive, connecting the power and data transfer cables become somewhat difficult because of the tiny openings at the center of the case.

Like NZXT’s H200, credit goes to InWin for using a front panel connector that keeps the Switch and LED connections all in one bulk connector rather than separated connections. It makes connecting your front panel connections to your motherboard easily. This ought to be the standard for all future cases… just thought I’d throw that opinion out there.

Once a few hours went by and my fiddling with cables to try and hide them was over, at its completion, the case looked incredible. The addressable RGB strip at the base of the case is set to rainbow by default. The case looked like a small rectangular submarine floating on a color wave. After staring at it for about five minutes, I went into the bios and saw that the CPU, on idle, was hovering around 39–42° C on stock settings. Once I adjusted the fan curve, I was seeing idle temperatures at around 36–40° C. On load, the CPU never went past 65–68° C. This temperatures are, again, at stock settings. The CPU was not overclocked. In the future, I’ll be adding two more fans to a beefier CPU cooler with the hopes of overclocking my i5 8600K. The GPU, on the other hand, stood at a steady 38° C on idle, and 68–70° C on load.

I should point out that my intake fans were installed at the bottom of the case, while the other two fan slots were used as exhaust. This meant that the heated air produced by the GPU was being pushed upward because of the bottom intake fans to the CPU cooler. Therefore, depending on the orientation you use, you might see different temperatures.

Here are a few more images of the completed build…

So, to conclude this lengthy post, here are a few pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Includes a non-modular 80 Plus Gold certified 650-watt power supply.
  • Includes two of InWin’s newest 120mm Sirius Loop ASL 120 RGB fans.
  • Includes a ten-watt 1.2 certified qi charger.
  • Includes an addressable RGB strip at the base of the case.
  • Tinted tempered glass side panel adds a nice finish.
  • Great for beginners looking to get into mini ITX cases.
  • Ample room for custom water cooling.

Cons:

  • The only cheaper option InWin offers is last year’s model, the A1.
  • No option to opt out of buying the included power supply.
  • Subpar packaging and quality control should be given more attention.

To my fellow builders, cheers!

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Writer; avid reader. PC builder/ gamer who enjoys philosophical and political debate. Pictures are my own. Friend to all dogs.