Ultra m998Dec 19th, 2007 | By Archive
: 12/19/07 – 05:26:22 AM
Page 1 : Index
: Ultra Products
: $199.99 MSRP ($159.99 through Shopzilla)
In my experience, Ultra has always delivered with products that emphasize function over anything else. With this utilitarian mindset, the Ohio-based company has come a long way. They produce everything from power supplies to USB drives to computer cases and I've been satisfied with every Ultra product I've used.
Ultra's latest product is the
mid-tower case, named after the rugged M998 HMMWV, commonly known as the Humvee, used by the military. This goes hand in hand with Ultra's philosophy of creating products that perform well without being gaudy or having extraneous, and often useless, features.
Page 2 : Package & Contents
As usual, we will start with the package and work our way in. The m998 comes packaged in a black and orange box, which suffered some damage it seems. The front features a large image of the black case, showcasing its side panel window and sleek front. A few features are also listed.
One of the sides shows a front profile shot of the case while the other shows the back.
Turning to the back of the box reveals two more images of the case as well as a multilingual list of features.
The top of the box is very minimalistic and features only the marking "Ultra m998". Opening it, we see a block of Styrofoam serving as protection.
Removing the Styrofoam block, we catch our first glimpse of the brushed aluminum top of the case albeit through a plastic bag. There is also an installation manual included, unlike some cheaper cases from other manufacturers.
My initial impression of the case was one of surprise as the m998 is relatively large and wide for a mid-tower case.
Before removing the plastic and taking a look at the case, let's quickly review the features and specifications.
Page 3 : Features & Specifications
Going to the m998's page on Ultra's website, I found the following description of the case:
This superb new case also features removable panels for easy, tool-free access, and Ultra's exclusive Power Bar power distribution system. Component installation and maintenance is a snap, because you can remove all the m988's panels for simple, tool-free access. And you can replace the front Firewire/audio/microphone/eSATA bracket with virtually any PCI slot-type bracket. Whether you're a gamer, movie buff, or someone building an extremely powerful system – the m998 is the perfect fit. A rugged and versatile warrior that's ultra-sophisticated and military tough.
— Depth: 20.47"
— Width: 9.45"
— Height: 18.11"
* Drive Bay:
— 4 – 5.25" Bays
— 5 – Internal 3.5" Bays
— 2 – External 3.5" Bays
* Material: 1.5mm High Grade Aluminum
* Form Factor:
— Micro ATX
* Expansion Slots: 7 Standard Slots
* Case Fan Mounts:
— 2 – 120mm Fan Mounts
* Case Fans Included:
— 2 – 120mm Fans
— Green – Power
— Orange – Hard Drive Access
* All panels removable for easy, tool-free access
* Stainless steel finished removable Mainboard tray
* Includes Ultra's Power Bar power distribution system
* Front eSata/Firewire/USB Audio ports
* Interior and Exterior finish
* Replace front Firewire/Audio/Microphone/eSata bracket with virtually any PCI slot-type bracket.
* Easy access front panel:
— 2 – USB 2.0
— 1 – Firewire
— 1 – Headphone
— 1 – Microphone
— 1 – eSATA
Now we can look at the case.
Page 4 : Exterior
The front of the m998 is obviously plastic. However, looks can be deceiving as it is definitely more durable than it looks. The right side has a vertical indentation which houses the power button, power LED, two hard disk LEDs, and the reset button. Below that is the access panel to the front panel I/O connectors. Further down, we have the Ultra logo as well as the intake grill of a 120mm fan. The m998 has room for four external optical drives as well as for two floppy drives if anyone still uses those.
Pressing the access panel reveals the I/O connectors. These include two USB connectors, an eSATA port, a 1394 port, and microphone and headphone jacks. What's special about the I/O connectors is that they are built into a PCI expansion bracket. In fact, you can toss this out and install your own if you desire.
Turning our attention to the side, we are greeted with a large clear side panel window, protected by a plastic film.
The window has grills cut out for the obligatory CPU duct as well as a large honeycomb grill near the video card area. Looking inside, we can see a reflective chrome-plated motherboard tray as well as the Power Bar. The frame of the case is also painted black, a nice touch that matches the brushed aluminum panels.
Looking at the back of the case shows the extension of the chromed motherboard tray which double as the backside. There are seven expansion slots, a 120mm fan, and some vent holes. Thumbscrews are everywhere, a blessing for those of us who like to take our computers apart on a daily basis.
Last but not least, we have the bottom of the case featuring four rubber feet. Also, there are predrilled holes for attaching casters.
Page 5 : Interior
Thanks to the thumbscrews, accessing the interior is really easy.
Inside, we find two boxes: one with the casters and one with the accessories and FlexForce cables for use with the Power Bar.
With the side panel removed, the mirror finish of the motherboard tray becomes apparent. The interior is very spacious.
The usual connectors can be found here. These include connections for the power switch, reset switch, power LED, two HDD LEDs, front panel audio (HD and AC'97), front panel USB, 1394, and of course, the case speaker.
Opening the other side panel is also a piece of cake. This gives you access to the front panel PCI bracket we talked about earlier. You can plug a SATA cable into it if you want to use the eSATA feature. There isn't a lot of room behind the motherboard tray for hiding wires but hopefully the Power Bar will eliminate the issue.
To remove the front bezel, just pop out the plastic pins. The front 120mm fan's dust filter can be found here.
Unlike many other cases, even the top panel can be removed. Installing big power supplies should be easy thanks to this.
Finally, we have the Power Bar. Its inputs consist of two Molex connectors and two 6-pin PCI-E connectors. The outputs include four Molex connectors and two 6-pin PCI-E connectors. The purpose of the Power Bar is to reduce wire spaghetti. Next to the Power Bar is a plastic frame used to support extra-long graphics cards. There is enough space for four optical drives, two floppy drives, and five hard drives. Also, the drive cages are removable.
Now that we have covered every inch of the interior, we can move on to installation.
Page 6 : Installation
Most users won't need even need to refer to the manual included with the m998, which is not very detailed anyway.
First, I installed the optical drive and the floppy drive. To do so, I had to detach the front bezel and then pop out two plastic covers.
Then, I slid the drives through the holes and secured them at the sides with the included screws.
I then installed the hard drives. I did not have to remove the drive cages as there is plenty of room in the case.
At this point, I removed several of the thumbscrews from the back and two screws in the interior in order to free the motherboard tray. It slid out with ease. In fact, unlike some motherboard trays I've used in the past which serve only to hold the motherboard, this design actually includes the expansion cards. This way you can install your huge video cards outside the case and then slide them in.
Using the included standoffs, I secured my motherboard and my video card to the tray.
Sliding the tray in was as easy as sliding it out. There were no clearance issues with my Arctic Cooling Freezer 64 Pro.
Then, I installed the power supply by securing it to the attachment plate and then securing the plate to the case. This was very easy thanks to the removable top panel. I also connected all the cables. The included FlexForce cables for use with the Power Bar are somewhat on the short side but still useful.
Lastly, I installed the four casters on the bottom of the case with four screws each. There are two casters with brakes to keep your case from rolling away.
When all was said and done, I was quite pleased with the ease of installation. Also, the Power Bar does eliminate some mess when it comes to wiring but not much. Perhaps those with video cards that have auxiliary power inputs will appreciate it more.
Page 7 : Testing
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 3000+ OC'd to 2.2GHz w/ Arctic Cooling Freezer 64 Pro
Motherboard: Asus A8N-SLI Premium
Memory: OCZ EL Platinum DDR400 (PC-3200) 1GB dual channel kit (2x512MB)
Video Card: eVGA e-GeForce 7600GT KO PCI-E x16 w/ Cooler Master CoolViva Pro
Hard Drive: 2x Hitachi Deskstar 80GB SATAII RAID0
External Drives: Samsung DVD±RW and Samsung floppy
Cases: Ultra m998, Antec P182, No case
The ambient temperature was 25ºC throughout all the tests.
The CPU temperature measurements seem to favor the m998 by a small amount. This may be due to the side vent's ability to provide fresh air which the P182 lacks. Of course, running the motherboard without a case allowed maximal fresh air intake.
The Antec P182 clearly leads the hard drive temperature measurements. The m998 lacks the P182's chambered design which separates the hard drives from the rest of the system.
All things considered, the m998 is no slouch when it comes to cooling. The included fans are reasonably quiet and the case as a whole is very well built.
Page 8 : Conclusion
I've had the pleasure of working with several cases and the Ultra m998 easily tops the list as one of the best.
In terms of build quality, the m998 excels with its brushed aluminum finish and steel reinforced structure. Ultra has really put a lot of thought into the case as seen by the removable motherboard tray which includes part of the back panel, allowing you to install your expansion cards without struggling inside a cramped case. The interior is spacious and should satisfy pretty much everyone. One of my favorite features is the ability to attach casters to the bottom; every heavy case should have these!
The minor flaws of the m998 are easily overshadowed by its advantages.
In my opinion, the Ultra m998 is a solid product that definitely receives my seal of approval.
- Very spacious
- Design is well thought-out (for example, the front PCI bracket I/O connectors)
- Solid build quality
- Power Bar is not as useful as it is hyped up to be
- Somewhat expensive
Overclockers Online would like to thank Ultra Products for making this review possible.