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Review: ProtoCase
October 13, 2006
Author: Geno Manufacturer: ProtoCase
Department: Modding Model: Any
Article Type: Review Time Spent: 10 Days
 
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Introduction




Just about every modder or PC enthusiast has stopped during a system build and scratched his head wondering what on earth the designers of the case were thinking. The reality is that even though some cases are better than others, none are perfect for your application because they are designed to be too many things to too many different users. I call this "design by committee" approach the Beige effect.

Most of us could create a much better design because we simply know what real users--power users--really want in a case. Custom builders and case modders often spend gobs of money and months of free time building a better mousetrap. But what about those without a shop full of expensive tools, the time, or the skills needed to build their own designs? Help is a net connection and credit card away thanks to the highly skilled designers at Protocase.


The Process

The process is pretty simple. You either use the free and relatively simple to use ProtoCase design software or their template based designs to design your case, or send them some CAD drawings. If the software or templates don't handle the unique aspects of your design and CAD is a mystery to you, scan those "crayola on a napkin" sketches you made and send those off.

The design is assigned to an engineer at ProtoCase who works with you throughout your project. After the details are worked out, you get a quote. Once you approve the design and have picked out your colors and silk screening options, your case is built and shipped within a few days.

After spending some time on the ProtoCase website and with their software, I decided to put them to the test by going through the process. My experience with them, and the results, are presented in this article.


Trial By Fire


My goal was to have the exact same experience any other customer would. With that in mind, I contacted ProtoCase to build a metal prototype of an existing design we have previously published here. I am an experienced custom case builder with more than a few cases under my belt. I have excellent CAD skills and a shop full of tools, and in this instance, I even have the original wooden prototype for comparison.

Not everyone can use CAD fluently, so I had a junior staffer with zero CAD experience who also uses one of the original Test Benches download the trial version of TurboCAD and spend a few days drawing a set of plans. I then submitted those plans and started the process. I am including a screen cap of the exact drawing submitted above. Next to it is an example page of a more detailed set of drawings from which I built the original. Though he did a remarkable job for a noob, you can see that there is not a lot of information there.

Normally, I like to post a lot of pictures early on in an article for those who prefer to skim the images--in this case, the process a customer can expect when dealing with ProtoCase is almost as important as the end result--so the images will appear later in the article.


 
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