Sometimes, you need a compact, unobtrusive, quiet case. Perhaps you’re building an HTPC to sit in a cabinet under your TV, or maybe you’re putting together a box for use in the kitchen. It would have to be small enough to hide away. Ideally, you’d want something that doesn’t draw much attention, something minimalistic, something that meets just the bare necessities of a computer case: holding all the electronics in one place while keeping them relatively cool. You’d want something simple and utilitarian.
The Arvina GS-6400R is, frankly, none of those things. It is the Hummer H2 of computer cases—massive, brash, and vulgar. It’s more of a LAN-party centerpiece than an everyday workstation, with its Ferrari-red paint job, slew of LED-illuminated fans, and huge, over-engineered side vent. I wouldn’t be surprised if it came with a sheet of Shocker stickers and a spoiler. At first glance, you expect its construction to be about as meticulous and sophisticated as a sledgehammer.
It’s not all show, though. Despite its unsubtle appearance, it is actually quite sophisticated. Sentey’s engineers have put a lot of effort into making the Arvina as convenient as possible. The front panel, for example, contains a multi-card reader, compatible with CF(Compact Flash)/MD(MicroDrive), SD/MMC, XD, MS/MS2, and TF (TransFlash, AKA MicroSD) cards. The panel itself is removable via six plastic clips (be careful not to pull the panel off too quickly, as the card reader’s cable is connected to it), behind which you’ll find five 5.25" drive bays. To reduce production cost and complexity, the drive bay covers are stamped out of the same sheet of metal as the surrounding frame, which means you have to twist and break them off. They come off easily and reattach with no problems using screws, should you decide to remove a drive. On the front panel, two of the mesh drive bay covers flip down for optical drive trays. The other three are vented and Sentey has included some foam inserts as dust filters, but, to be honest, the filters are rather poor. They’re just floppy plastic foam rectangles jammed into the back of the drive bay covers, without any sort of support or frame. They’ll work fine, and from the outside you really can’t tell the difference, but they look like an afterthought in an otherwise solid chassis.
Up top, there’s the large, hexagonal, blue-lit power button, as well as four accessory buttons that control the fans. Those are a nice touch by Sentey—control over the four fan locations (front, back, top, and side) comes in handy when you want to reduce noise in times of low load, or amp up your cooling during gaming sessions. Yes, I would prefer it if they had been knobs to adjust RPM as well, but given the number of more expensive cases that don’t have fan control at all, I’m really not complaining. In addition, under a translucent gray sliding cover, the I/O panel boasts four USB connections, headphone/mic jacks, reset button, HDD activity LED, and eSATA and internal SATA connectors. The latter is an interesting inclusion, as it’s the first case I’ve seen that’s got SATA (not eSATA) data and power connectors on the outside of the case. With the included cables, this lets you plug an internal SATA hard drive or disk drive directly into the top of the case, without the need for an enclosure or dock. Very convenient.
The side panels are secured with the usual thumbscrews as well as a plastic latch, so be warned that you can’t just yank off the panel after you remove the screws. I was duly impressed with the side panels’ construction: Sentey advertises 1mm steel construction, but the panels feel thicker than that. They’ve also gone through the trouble of painting both sides of the panels, which doesn’t really contribute to the case’s longevity or usability but makes it feel more finished. The left side has the large plastic vent and dust filter for the internal GPU fan (discussed later). When the case is wired up and lit, the GPU fan LEDs shine through the various openings on the side. There’s no appreciable difference between the finish on the metal sections versus the plastic; color matching is top-notch.
The bottom of the case has six rubber feet and the PSU vent. There is a dust filter between the plastic base and the metal frame as well, but it’s not easily removable—you have to unscrew the entire bottom panel to get at it.
The back sports your usual power supply mounting holes, seven tool-free expansion slots, and 120mm fan. It’s also got two grommets through which you can route liquid-cooling tubes. Like the front drive bay covers, the expansion slots have to be broken off, but they’re not reusable. Sentey has taken this into consideration and included a replacement expansion slot cover.
As striking as the Arvina is on the outside, it becomes even more so once you open it up. The first thing that grabs your attention is the large, dual-fan, swing-out GPU cooler. It’s got a push-release lock—don’t pull, you’ll just break the latch. The entire assembly is removable, and there’s no wiring issues when you do so because of the way the fans are powered. Two small metal contacts on the cooler touch two corresponding contacts on the case frame when the cooler is swung closed, so it doesn’t connect directly to the motherboard. The fans themselves, however, are glued in, so replacing them (should you choose to do so) could be problematic.
The metal chassis is of excellent quality, evenly and thoroughly painted and with meticulously rounded edges. Like the side panels, the chassis is made of thick steel, absolutely resisting any sort of flexing or warping.
The hard drive cage is held in the case by a single latch, making it extremely easy and quick to remove. Sentey chose to have the drives mounted sideways in the cage—a nice touch, since this means SATA power/data cables routed through the back of the case don’t have to be routed back in again. The five trays are spring-loaded and pop out of the cage quickly when the lock is pushed. Hard drives themselves are held in by four plastic nubs on the tray, two on each side. The ones on the left are hinged, locking the drive in place when they’re pushed in. The solution is effective, but I can’t help but think that important load-bearing points such as these—especially when they’re so small—shouldn’t be made of plastic; many times I felt like I was going to break them. The clips for holding optical drives are similarly made of plastic and offer “one-touch” securing for optical drives. Again, they’re nicely spring-loaded and easy to use.
Sentey has engineered a very good cable-routing system; all of the routing holes are well-sized and located. They’ve also gone through the trouble of bundling the case’s multitude of wires for you. The clearance between the black metal frame and the back panel is upwards of 2cm, giving you plenty of room to run thick power cables. Some reusable cable ties are included to further organize things. There is also a large cutout for CPU heatsink mounting, so you don’t have to remove your entire motherboard to install a new CPU cooler.
Sentey has obviously made good air cooling a priority with the Arvina, as it comes with a 140mm front fan, three 120mm fans mounted on the back and top, and a pair of 80mm fans to cool your graphics card. There’s room on the bottom of the case next to the PSU mount for another 120 or 140mm fan. There is a downside, though: lots of fans equals lots of dust, and while the Arvina has adequate dust filters for all the fans, the top, bottom, and side filters require you to unscrew pieces of trim to get at them. I would have preferred the more convenient (but undoubtedly more complex and expensive) filter-on-rails system that you find in most other cases.
While the Arvina is technically as “tool-free” as you can get, you still need a screwdriver to install a motherboard. Sentey has been kind enough to include a little red tool kit, which contains a Phillips screwdriver, a bag of motherboard offsets and screws, a motherboard speaker, the aforementioned spare expansion slot cover, and a microfiber cleaning cloth for all the inevitable fingerprints on the glossy case. The tool kit even has a dedicated snap-in slot in the case next to the power supply, meaning you should never lose it.
Throughout the case, there are several little details that clue you in to Sentey’s dedication to NVH (noise/vibration/harshness) reduction. The PSU and fan mounts on the bottom, for example, have small rubber offsets that should mitigate any sound caused by fan vibration. On the frame of the case itself, small metal brackets push outward against the side panels when they are in place, reducing possible movement. The top I/O panel cover has small rubber contacts to stop it rattling when shut.
Sentey has proven with the Arvina that it can compete with the Antecs and the Thermaltakes. Yes, most of the dust filters are hard to get at, and yes, the color makes the case look like it belongs in Iron Man’s living room, but the easy-to-use tool-free system, the well-engineered openings, and the many subtly significant touches far outweigh the minor troubles. The overall impression from the Arvina is that Sentey genuinely cares about what happens once the case ends up in a customer’s hands: every possible step is taken to ensure intuitiveness and ease of use as well as day-to-day livability.
After spending a few days with it, my opinion on its looks hasn’t changed. It’s still—in red, at least—striking, bold, and unmistakable. But my initial impression of its character—that it would be an adolescent, shoddily-built Alienware wannabe—has since been thrown out the window. For the $119 Sentey is asking, I’d buy one in an instant.