Rosewill's Nighthawk 117 targets power users with tons of features at a moderate price, but can a "more is more" case still beat its emptied-out rivals in overall performance?
The split between liquid-cooling and traditional power user cases has never been starker, as liquid-cooling fanatics scramble for emptied-out boxes. Those builders often go to extremes in their assessments, implying that the retention of a single front-panel bay to hold an Asus OC Panel is an affront to the entire enthusiast community. Nothing (emptiness) has never been so popular! Traditional bay-heavy designs rebel against a neo-enthusiast PC market where trendiness defines conformity. Replete with three external bays and eight (removable) drive trays, Rosewill's Nighthawk 117 is the latest provocateur.
Ten expansion slots can also be seen through the side window, which is the biggest development I've seen in cases since 2008. That's when Ultra ATX was proposed. Yet when we combine the height of Ultra ATX with the depth of EATX, we end up with a case that can hold virtually any enthusiast-market motherboard short of EVGA's HPTX models. Those who need room for HPTX in addition to drive bays will be looking for a much larger case.
Those ten expansion slots are really the only thing that pushes the Nighthawk 117 into full-tower territory, and then just barely at 23.3" tall and 22.5" deep. Top-panel radiator space and the row of four line-passage grommets behind that space notwithstanding.
Just when you thought the entire Nighthawk 117 was stuck in 2008, we turn to the top panel and find two USB 3.0 ports. That brings the design up to at least a late 2010 feature set. There's also a dual-format (2.5" and 3.5") hard drive dock dating from around the same period, two three-speed fan control switches, four USB 2.0 ports, headset jacks, a slide that opens top-panel louvers, a power LED and, in a day where other companies are eliminating it, a hard drive activity LED. What an extraordinary range of conventional features!
Interior And Exterior
The Nighthawk 117's power supply intake vent features a dust filter that slides out from under its lower, rear edge.
You'll have to pull off the face panel to remove the front-panel dust filter, which is built into a screw-on fan panel. The Nighthawk 117 lacks room for the end caps of front-mounted dual-140mm radiators, but builders who don't mind sacrificing hard drive cages will find room for a dual-120mm radiator by using alternative screw holes on the same mounting panel.
A fourth (hidden) 5.25" bay is also exposed by removing the face panel. We're not sure what we'd use that space for, other than perhaps a pair of 3.5" hard drive adapter brackets
The top panel appears far more interesting, as it is drilled for both central and offset mounting of both 140mm and 120mm fans. The offset mounts are provided for additional motherboard clearence when using thick radiators.
Rosewill equips the Nighthawk 117 with enough space behind the motherboard for the main ATX cable and even some cable crossing, leaving enough room after installation to stuff a few unused cables. Grommets dress cable passages, except those at the motherboard tray's top edge.
Builders who need extra card space will find that the center hard drive cage slides out after removing two thumb screws, and that the lower drive cage can be pulled out after removing a few Phillips-head screws. There isn't enough room above and below the 140mm fans for the end caps of a radiator, but those same mounts make radiators an option at 2x120mm.
Hard drive trays secure 3.5" drives using integrated side pins and/or bottom screws, but 2.5" drives are secured only by screws. Either method is slightly less convenient than the 5.25" bays, which have slide latches to disengage locator pins.
Each fan controller uses the power connector of a 4-pin ATA drive, and outputs that power to three 3-pin fan connectors. The Nighthawk 117's front fans have both 3-pin fan and 4-pin ATA style connectors, leaving builders to choose the one they prefer. Using the fan's 4-pin connector defeats the function of the case's fan controller.
Other cables include drive dock data (SATA) and power (4-pin), plus interfaces for HD-Audio, USB 3.0, and two USB 2.0 motherboard headers.
The Nighthawk 117 includes a bag of screws, standoffs and cable ties. Also within that bag is a nut driver to #2 Phillips-head screwdriver adapter, to ease standoff installation.
The Nighthawk 117 has cable passages spaced for ATX and XL-ATX motherboards, including those roughly 10.6"-deep by 12"-high models that have been oddly-misnamed EATX. True 13"-deep EATX boards also fit, but without the convenience of cable passages along the tray's front edge.
The finished Nighthawk 117 has the traditional appearance of a high-end gaming case.