Introduction to the Microcool Banchetto
We have reviewed some of the best cases ever to bless the shelves of an electronics store. These cases have inspired many of the best reviews I have every written. I enjoy taking my time with them, as each is often so different. There are plastic, steel and aluminum. Then there are the different brands like Antec, Coolermaster and Lian Li and the boatload of others out there. Tall, short, big, small, black, white and all the other features that make up a case is what makes them all different and never really the same. Lately open-air is making a big splash with gamers, overclockers and benchers.
Open-air test benches are fast becoming popular. They make it easy for one to switch out components without having to remove side panels. Recently at a Gigabyte overclocking event, we saw how easy it was to experiment with different cooling solutions with very little effort. Even you are not into extreme cooling or not into switching out components to review them for your web publication, you can use one just as a regular case to show off all your new goods to friends.
My dealing with open-air having been reviewing a couple, buying a couple for my own personally use and browsing the web to see what other ones are out there. If you are looking for something to replace your tower, there are the Sunbeamtech Acrylic, Danger Den Torture Rack and the Dimas-Tech Easy Bench. All are great looking units and will please all. However, we will be taking a look at one they has been featured on many forums and is the spotlight on many web retailers.
Microcool Banchetto 101 is one of the best looking open-air cases out there. When early pictures of the first proto-type surfaced, people began drooling over it. I saw a picture in on one of my favorite forums a couple of years ago. I knew I wanted to get my hands on one. Today, Fredrico and Kristi from Microcool have given me the opportunity. Fully assembled, the Banchetto is one elegant structure as it is comprised of thick acrylic sheets, aluminum and steel.
Microcool take on the Banchetto
Banchetto 101 is Microcool’s response to the needs of untold modding devotees and PC professionals. The fruit of two years of development, Banchetto 101 represents a veritable revolution in the domain of cases. Open, light and transparent, its innovative structural design enables easy access to all components of the system, and allows rapid substitutions and total real-time monitoring. In addition to the main features of the PC, Banchetto 101 has been designed to integrate internally, in a safe and functional manner, the installation of water cooling. Microcool has invented the first case that is not an obstacle to your desire to experiment. Banchetto 101: the case that is there but that you cannot see!
400(L) x 350(W) x 362(H) mm
Methacrylate shelves (8mm)
Clear, black and chrome
ATX and Micro ATX
3 with removable rack
4 with removable rack
Standard ATX PS2 with removable rack
Water Cooling bay
Designed for radiators with up to 3 fans, pump and tray
Fan door hanger (2x92mm)
Light, compact and transparent
Rapid fastening system for motherboard, VGA and PCI
Support for radiator with up to three fans
Universal docking for pumps and trays
Rapid POWER and RESET push buttons
Closer look (What is included)
When we got the box in the lab, we were expecting a thin box containing sheets of acrylic, but we got a big square black box with a mostly put together test bench. The box the Banchetto 101 comes in is fairly large, but is very light. Don’t expect a sore back from carrying this one. Opening the box you will see the bench is well protected by two large pieces of Styrofoam.
Besides the bench, included are expansion poles for securing add-in cards. Along with all the thumbscrews you can possibly use.
Closer look at the Banchetto
The Banchetto is primarily three layers of acrylic, which we will call platforms, and steel cages to house all your drives and power supply. The combination is a pleasure to look at. If you have not had a chance to see one in person, it is beautiful. The small aluminum components really add a nice accent to the whole thing.
When it comes to fitting all your devices into the Banchetto, you will be happy to know the unit supports full sized motherboards as well as mATX ones. Because the unit is completely open, you have any length GPU you want, no limits apply here. The upper platform is where we will be mounting the motherboard to. Dealing with a wide open environment like the Banchetto is awesome. The platform contains various opening to allows for the routing of cables up to the motherboard.
And for a trouble-free way of switching out the cooling of the processor a large cut-off is provided. And red and black sleeved cables lead to the chrome and black power and reset buttons. Our sample came with the motherboard stand-offs pre-installed. Here we have the chrome poles that are used to secure your add-in cards. The top platform is secured to the middle one by these black rubber stoppers.
Microcool provides a bracket that can house dual 92mm fans for addition cooling aimed at the processor and motherboard bridges.
Between the bottom and middle platform is where everything is really happening. The two are supports by a H-shaped beams and each of the racks I am about to mention. There are four main areas: hard drive cage, optical drive cage, PSU cage and rear fan/radiator rack.
The HDD cage is suitable for housing up to four 3.5” devices. Next up is the optical cage which can house three 5.25” devices. And lastly is the PSU cage which can support power supplying in all lengths. Sitting in the rear is a long black frame that Microcool implemented for all the water-coolers out there. The rack can support a single tri-rad with no problem. Or more simply three 120mm cooling fans if you don’t plan on doing any water-cooling.
Assembling the Banchetto 101
Assembling the Banchetto is simple and straightforward. We began with mounting the motherboard to the top layer of the bench, then the 92mm cooling bracket. With the stand-offs already in place, we only had to align the holes in the motherboard with the stand-off and screw in a couple of thumbscrews. We also screwed in the chrome post for the expansion cards a little earlier.
Next, we chose to mount the power supply. We were able to do this without removing the cage from the bench. We found that longer the PSU the chances are the main ATX connection maybe a little short so an extension maybe needed. We used a 1k watt Thermaltake ToughPower and we had just enough length to make the connection but it was a little tight.
In order to install any drives into their respective cages, you must remove the cages from the bench. As they are secured on the side of the cages using thumbscrews. Here we have the HDD and optical drives in place.
Finally, we have everything in place.
The Microcool Banchetto 101 is one beautiful test bench. The combination of acrylic, black metal pieces and chrome accents make it arguably the best looking test bench on the market. So pretty, in fact, you almost don’t want to mount anything to it. With some time and the right combination of components mounted to it, there is plenty of room to add to its beauty. Microcool took a common piece of testing equipment and added to it a touch of class.
With these good looks, we see more people possibly using the Banchetto 101 more as a replacement of a traditional case. That is just how good the unit looks. The looks do come with a small cost. If you decide to use the Banchetto for extreme benching sessions and the constant changing out of components, you risk scratching up the unit. But if care is given, this is a small risk at most.
And for those that use the Banchetto 101 as case replacement you will be happy to know that is supports four hard drives and three optical with no problem. And what we look most was the ease it is to switch out any of these items. The use of the same size thumbscrews is great. And what the true bencher will love is the top half is removable to switch out motherboards with ease. With as much motherboard testing we do around here I wish Microcool would offer the top platform separately.
A little bad news for those that want to use the Banchetto as their case, it offers no form of USB, firewire or eSATA ports. So you will have to use one of the bays for this purpose adding to the cabling cluster. But you do get a couple of great looking power and reset buttons with nicely sleeved cables.
The Microcool Banchetto is the highest priced open-air case we have found. It will set up back about $250 from most retailers. But at the same time is the best looking unit out there if that is what you are looking for.
All in all we really like the Banchetto and will continue to use it in our reviews of other components.