ULTRA produces a wide range of products from case to power supply. I was surprised to see the company's headquarters is not located far from where I live. In fact they are about 10 minutes from where my wife lived for most of her childhood. When I browse through my local Microcenter in Columbus, Ohio I see a lot of their products on display. Today I'll be looking at their one of their case offerings in the m998 Mid-Tower ATX that's advertised as a gaming case.
As the name suggests, the m998 is built for ATX motherboards and is made of aluminum. The following are the dimensions from the product's website:
- Color: Black
- Drive Bay:
4 - 5.25" Bays
5 - Internal 3.5" Bays
- 2 - External 3.5" Bays
- Material: 1.5mm High Grade Aluminum
- Form Factor:
- 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
So let's dig a little deeper into what it offers. As you can see from the pictures, it's a pure black case with a side window. The exterior consists of brushed aluminum. The window takes up a good portion of the side of the case offering a nice clear and large view to the internals of your computer. The design is pretty simplistic so don't expect anything too fancy. The m998 is more about function than form though so it's a pretty plain looking case compared to some others in this price range.
On the right sided is the front I/O panel that can be accessed by opening the panel door. You just need to push it in a little and a spring pushes the door open slightly for you. One interesting addition to the front plate is the eSATA connector. I'm starting to see more and more external eSATA connectors so it's nice to have one that's easy to access without having to go to the back of the case. What's nice about the I/O area is that it's a standard PCI bracket so if your motherboard comes with one that you would rather use in the front of the case you can swap it out easily.
Four casters are included if you want to put the case on wheels. They easily lock with a push of a tab in case you don't want the wheels to roll. The casters attach to the case with four screws and they raise the case off the floor of course by a few inches. The casters allow for 360 degree movement when rolling the computer around.The interior edges are rounded so they will help prevent scratches and scrapes but there are some areas that aren't as well done as others. Some of the areas near the 5 1/4" drive bays are only rounded under a little bit so while it's not sharp you do feel it a little bit. Because of the size though, you get plenty of room and I never felt I was cramped when routing cables around during installation. It was nice to have enough room to do my work and not worry about scrapping my hands or accidentally nudging parts because of a lack of space.
There are plenty of bays in the setup for expansion purposes. While I do like the amount that's available, I was disappointed that the internal 3.5" bays weren't of the direct access kind. For installing hard drives it's a lot easier if the drive bays faced you rather than horizontally. For the price of the m998 I would've expected this feature. At least you can remove the drive cages so you do get to attach or remove your drives without having to be confined to the case. The problem is though you'll have to remove the front plate to access some screws holding some of the cages. Certainly not something I like but the option is there to remove the cages albeit a little more work needed than should be. A total of five hard drives. two 3 1/4 drives, and four optical drives can be placed inside the case.
For attaching hard drives or optical drives, you'll still need to secure them in the bay with regular drive screws. I would've liked to have seen retention clips to hold these in place though. On my current case, I can just slide a hard drive into one of the free bays, push a plastic slide back and it locks the hard drive in place. No need to dig out the screw driver and deal with the tiny screws as the clips are strong enough to immobilize the hard drives and DVD drive that I have. The m998 doesn't have this feature though so you're left with screwing in the drives to keep them in place.
Something I really like about the m998 is that the entire plate that holds the motherboard and expansion cards can slide out the back allowing you to to mount your cards and motherboard without being confined to the spacing in the case. Set it up, slide it in, connect the cables and you're done. While there are a few screws on the back that you can undo with your thumb to free the plate, there are still two screws in the interior that lock it in. So to fully free the plate, you'll need a screwdriver to undo two internal screws making this process not entirely tool-less. Either way, it's great to be able to access all your main components this way and if you should need to change something just undo the cables, screws, and slide it all out. The plate holds the power bar, the holes to mount the motherboard risers, the back plate housing, rear fan, and the expansion card slots.
Like the drive bays, the expansion slot portion of the plate doesn't feature retention clips to keep your cards in place. Instead you are given thumb screws to secure your cards in. Not that big of a deal but after using the clips in my current case, I did miss this feature on the m998. For a guy like me who interchanges video cards often, it's much easier popping up a clip and changing the card over unscrewing a thumb screw. Like I said, it's not that big of a deal but another feature I would've liked to have seen in a case of this price range.
Attaching a power supply is pretty easy with this case. Just slide the top plate off of the case and you have complete access to the power supply housing area. It's wide and large enough to hold over sized power supplies and since the top plate remove so easily, you shouldn't have any issues mounting a power supply in this case. Since you can access the power supply from the top, you won't have the motherboard or the CPU cooler to interfere with you should you need to service it.
To help keep the case clean, the m998 features a power bar whereby you attach a few of the connectors from the power supply to this bar and then attach cables to the vertically placed power connectors that are close to the components thus bypassing the stringing of a power cable across the case. On the bar are four Molex and two PCI-E connectors for the output. For the inputs you can attach two Molex connectors and two PCI-E connectors. Ultra has included all the cables necessary to attach your components to the power bar. It's a pretty cool feature and one that should help keep your interior nice and clean. Personally, I probably would still attach my video card directly to the power supply rather than using the power bar but that's my personal preference. Should you not want to use the power bar, you can easily remove it from the plate by unscrewing a few screws.
For cooling the case, one rear and one front 120mm fan produces a good amount of air flow at a quieter noise level. The side window also houses a duct and screw holes to put in a 90mm fan if you want more cooling in the CPU area. You can adjust the height but don't expect to use high coolers with this case as the duct will get in the way.
With the design of the case, installation was pretty easy especially with the pull out plate. The drives slide into the bays pretty easily as well. Since the case is roomy there's plenty of space to work with.
The m998 from Ultra is a solid case but nothing too fancy. I do like the power bar, roominess, and slide out plate. The accessibility of the power supply by removing the top plate is also a plus. The fact that there are still plenty of areas that require tools for you to attach your parts with is a minus in my book. Yes the panels can be accessed tool-free but I think Ultra should have taken that extra small step and made all the areas and installation spots tool-less. There's really nothing about this case that's a big deal breaker and unless you don't like the plain looks.