Ask Me Anything - Official CaseLabs Representatives

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AndrewFreedman

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Tom's Community Ask Me Anything - CaseLabs
Ever wanted to ask one of the big hardware or software giants something directly? Why did they do that? Where did the idea come from for that last product? What’s in store next? Well, now you have the chance!

Tom’s Hardware is proud to announce our latest installment of ASK ME ANYTHING.

On Wednesday, January 7th, we’ll be hosting the next in a series of Tom’s Community Ask Me Anythings with our wonderful guests from CaseLabs. They'll be answering all of your in-depth questions posed by you, our audience.

This thread will be unlocked, open and live for 24 hours starting at 12:00 p.m. eastern on January 7th, and questions will be moderated and supervised by Tom’s Hardware Senior Community Manager, Joe Pishgar, and a full team of Senior Moderators.

Ask Me Anything Rules
• No tech support questions, as these require in-depth personal follow-up and diagnostics.
• All Rules of Conduct apply.
• Keep questions direct and to the point.
• Avoid opinion bias - ie: "Why are all your products awesome/horrible?"
• Be respectful of our guests, no insults, no leading questions.
• Do not post duplicate questions or repost your question multiple times.
• Not all questions may be answered. Questions may not be answered in the order in which they are received or posted.

To reiterate: No opinion bias, insults, leading questions, or breaking the Rules of Conduct. Breaking these rules may result in a one-day ban.

Only registered users will be able to ask questions, so if you haven’t yet, be sure to register now for your chance to participate!

The official representatives will reply periodically over the time the AMA is active using recognized, verified accounts.

Please join us on this date to throw your questions into the mix and ask CaseLabs what you've always wanted to ask!

What: Ask Me Anything – CaseLabs
When: Wednesday, January 7th, 12:00 p.m. EST
Where: This thread! Keep it locked!

Our Guests from CaseLabs are:

• Jim Keating, CEO/Founder (Username: CaseLabs)
• Kevin Keating, Product Manager (Username: Kevin_CL)

Note: The AMA is now open!
 

Kevin_CL

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Hello Everyone!

First off, a big thanks to Andrew and the Toms Hardware community for having us today! My name is Kevin and I am the VP for CaseLabs (recently promoted from Product Manager as it says in the OP). I am joined with Jim the CEO and founder of CaseLabs, and yes, for those who have noticed we share the same last name. Jim is actually my Dad and CaseLabs is a family run business. We are very excited to get a chance to speak to the community and are looking forward to your questions!

So go ahead and ASK US ANYTHING!
 

Kevin_CL

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For 2015 we are going to release our newest mITX case, the X2, as well as finally get started on Gemini. Gemini is going to be our new flagship case line and should make it's first appearance towards the end of this year.
 

AndrewFreedman

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Some questions that have been sent to me for you guys:

- How do you compete with the big players as a family business?
- What makes your cases different?
- How is Gemini going to differ from Merlin and Mercury?
- Why not include an I/P panel with the case?
 

Lutfij

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Ah what I was afraid of asking and now it has been revealed! :)

I've closely followed X2's prototype progress and I must say I'm pretty impressed to see a compact layout coming from Caselabs, erm, labs given that most of your cases take up some space to showoff. Is it possible to provide a time frame for a release/unveiling?

Aside from that I'm pretty curious to know how this all began for you guys...I mean at some point it was pretty niche but now its grown to being one of the most sought after cases in the world with watercooling being its primary focus (as well as customization)

Oh and where are my manners? Thanks for joining us but really its an honor to have you come by! :)
 

plaintuts

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Good luck.

I was really hoping for a bold step beyond generic blocky case, well since... Someone like me, appreciates a aesthetically pleasing canvas better than just "this works design".

Have a nice day And Thank you for answering
 

CaseLabs

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It's great to be here - thanks! :)

The X2 is expected to launch this quarter. We've modified the original concept to streamline it a bit more and simplify it. It should make its debut at PDXLAN in late February.

After the economic meltdown in 2008 we started looking at what we could do to augment the core business. We started offering design services. As a pilot project, I started working on a PC case design. I have been building systems professionally and for family and friends for over 30 years, so I had a long list of pet peeves with conventional cases. That "test" project became the Magnum M8. I was pretty with it, so we decided to make the leap and go into the case business. At least I would get the case *I* always wanted - lol!

 

Kevin_CL

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- How do you compete with the big players as a family business?

Well it's not easy lol. Coming into the market with a high end product was a big part of being competitive. There are tons of mid-range cases out there, so if we had started with that, we would have been eclipsed by the larger case manufactures. As we develop our business we will look into less expensive products, but we will always remain in the high end range. Aside from that, we do our best to offer a level customer service above and beyond our competition and we rely heavily on forums and Facebook.

- What makes your cases different?

That's a good question with a long answer so I will try and keep it brief. We offer a level of modularity that is not seen by other case manufacturers. The trend over all is becoming more modular, but still not on our level. Our options go well beyond choosing different looking exterior panels. With the exception of the M8/M10, all of our cases are completely screwed together making it easy to change out radiator styles, form factors, ATX layout and color. There is also the Flex-Bay System which is a kind of hybrid rack mounting system for 5.25 devices and much more. In short, you have complete control over the design at the front of the case. There is a much more to say, but it may be easier to refer you to this section of our website: http://www.caselabs-store.com/case-features/ The best description I can think for our cases is one a customer said, "Your cases are like a blank canvas and a your only limitation is your imagination".

- How is Gemini going to differ from Merlin and Mercury?

Gemini is going to replace all of the MAGNUM lines. So you can expect to see double wide cases with options for dual motherboards as well as updates to the Single Wide MAGNUM design. We are also going to experiment with a different "look", but Jim will touch on that. Because we are so early in development I really don't have much more information on Gemini.

- Why not include an I/P panel with the case?

We actually get this question a lot and it is addressed in our FAQ section. Here is an excerpt from that page;

Not everyone wants or needs an I/O panel in the front of the case. If a front I/O panel was standard it would drive up the cost of the case for someone who may not even want it. If we included USB with the case, the case would just be that much more expensive.
 

Titillating

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The tried and true generic square/blocky form factors are probably best when it comes to something modular with a focus on enthusiast builds. Having the space to make a clean looking liquid-cooled setup is great. That being said, like plaintuts, I'd be interested in seeing something outside of the box. There have been a number of interesting case designs released lately, so it'd be interesting to see something that's more aesthetically intriguing. CyberPowerPC, for instance, revealed their Fang Trinity case at CES which is a pretty novel take on cases. A modular version of that, or some other similarly outlandish design, would make for a very interesting build. Can we expect CaseLabs to branch out into wild designs like that in the future?
 

Onus

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CaseLabs has always represented a premium product to me, typically out of reach for the budget builders I most often support. While I certainly understand your answer about needing to exist in the premium space so you aren't lost in the crowd, do you have any plans to offer more mainstream or budget-friendly options? I don't necessarily mean below $50, but how about under $100?
 

CaseLabs

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Thanks for your candor. It is true that are designs make functionality the top priority. When you have as much modularity as we do with different top covers, pedestals, etc., there are certain limits imposed on the design. In addition, we don't (and won't) use plastic as a core material, so we have to work within the boundaries of what can be formed in low production quantities. That being said, Gemini is likely to have a different look, so we won't be frozen with the current style forever.

Someday, I hope to get a chance to create some specialty cases that are intended to stand alone. There will be a lot more creative freedom with respect to design because we won't have to mix and match so many components.

 

hysteria357

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Have you guys ever considered working with Carbon Fiber (or even fake carbon fiber)? Its a material that I havent seen on any computer cases and I think it would look really sleek.
 

Lutfij

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You're welcome! :D + Looking forward to coverage at PDXLAN!!! Count on it!

Haha, I agree, its not long before you begin to realize that the niche is not actually a niche when you target the right sector and Caselabs has proven that point. I've also had the fortune of following the services offered by you on your site in terms of flexibility and customization, any chance people will get to see you offering crazy colors like pearlescent, 2 tone and/or custom paint options to your lineup outside of what is currently being offered?

To be honest, blocky is a good thing - orthognal lines are best for utilizing spaces where fluid/rounded spaces offer more wastage than use so yeah I love their designs!
 

CaseLabs

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Probably not anytime soon, if ever. The economics of the market changes drastically when you approach $100 retail price point. We would probably need to use alternative materials (plastic & steel) and go offshore. At that point it would no longer be a "CaseLabs" product. We are working on getting to a new lower (sub $200) price point with the X2.

 

Kevin_CL

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We have been looking into updating the look of our cases for a while but it has not been easy. The biggest reason for the "look" is because the design is purpose built. Meaning parts look the way they do because they serve a specific purpose, and to fulfill that purpose, they look a specific way. There are ways to tweak things, but doing so without spending a fortune on machinery and tooling is not easy. There is also the fact that most parts can be swap from case to case. This keeps our inventory of parts down and is convenient for customers who want to reuse parts for other cases.
 

CaseLabs

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We do offer custom powder coating now. We'll consider adding additional stock colors, but with over 700 parts in our manufacturing database, adding colors get complicated - quickly ;)

 

Kevin_CL

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I haven't seen that case yet, very interesting. Well I never say never, but I doubt we would make something that unique in terms of appearance.
 

Kevin_CL

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Carbon fiber is very cool looking, but we would need massive amounts of new equipment to handle it. It's also well outside of our expertise. In terms of uses fake carbon fiber, I would let that design choice be up to the builder and recommend carbon fiber dinoc for those who want it.

 

Kevin_CL

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Well hello and thanks for stopping by!

 

AndrewFreedman

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More that came to me:

- What are your builds right now (both your cases and your computers)?
- Do you worry that modular cases may be too complex for beginners first building computers, or are they not your audience?
- How and where did you manufacture? (Andrew's note: You mentioned not wanting to go offshore. All US-based, I'd imagine)
- Are there plans to move towards other products than cases? Pre-built computers like iBuyPower? Peripherals? Other expansions?
 

Kevin_CL

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Haha, why are they coming to you?

- What are your builds right now (both your cases and your computers)?

My current system is still a work in progress, but should be done in a month or so. I do have a build log going if you want to take a look. http://www.overclock.net/t/1510927/sponsored-juxtapose-an-in-house-caselabs-build-log
I'm building in a Merlin SM5 and here are the parts;

Motherboard: Asus Maximus VII Gene Z97
CPU: i7 4790K
GPU: EVGA Geforce GTX780 Superclocked 3GB
RAM: 16GB G. Skill RipJaws X Series 2133 CL9
HDD: WD Caviar Black 1TB
SSD: Samsung 850 EVO 128GB
SSD: Intel 510 Series 128GB
PSU: EVGA SuperNOVA 750G2
Fan Controller: Lamptron FC5 V2
Radiator: Aquacomputer AMS 360
CPU Block: EK Supremacy - Nickel
GPU Block: EK GeForce 780 GTX VGA Liquid Cooling Block - Nickel
Pump/Res: EK D5 X-RES Top 250 w/ D5 Vario Pump
Fans: Noiseblocker eLoop B12-3 1900 RPM (4)
Fans: Noiseblocker eLoop B12-4 2400 RPM (3)
Fan: Noiseblocker NB-BlacksilentPRO PR2 (1)
Fittings: EK-HDC 12mm G1/4 - Black Nickel
Tubing: E22 12mm OD ridged acrylic

- Do you worry that modular cases may be too complex for beginners first building computers, or are they not your audience?

You know I am actually surprised by how many first time builders buy our cases. Not to say that it I think it's too complicated, or they shouldn't, but I guess some people want to dive right in with a hardcore build right off the bat. I feel this may be due to the growing popularity of modding and water cooling in general. Our audience is anyone who takes an interest in our products and I wouldn't rule anyone out. Now that we have our new site pretty much complete we are going to start working on a series of product videos which should help builders on all skill levels.

- How and where did you manufacture? (Andrew's note: You mentioned not wanting to go offshore. All US-based, I'd imagine)

We are based in Los Angeles, CA and all manufacturing is done in house. Aluminum sheets come in and cases come out ;) This machine punches out the parts in aluminum sheet



It has a large rotating head with I think around 30 or so tool stations. Here is a video of one in use (not ours)

[video="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTXoWxf2TVE"]width/500/height/1000/flags/LL[/video]

Once punched they get bent in a press brake. Here is another video of one in use, and again, not ours.

[video="https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jGhm1o1mgjw"][/video]

There is a lot more involved, but these machines are the heart of the shop.

- Are there plans to move towards other products than cases? Pre-built computers like iBuyPower? Peripherals? Other expansions?

Not for the PC market, but we do make these bad boys. Just the housings.




We actually have been manufacturing for over 30 years now making a large variety of things.
 

twire83

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Those factory pictures are awesome!

I want to build my first computer. Nothing too fancy - one graphics card, one SSD, an HDD if I can squeeze it. No need for disc drives (I have Steam!). I don't think I'm experienced enough for watercooling yet. What size case would you suggest?

Does the emergence of living room PC's spark CaseLab's interest (see the Alienware Alpha)? Do you have plans for smaller cases?

 
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