You'll Never Look at Your Dell Desktop the Same Way Again
Without a doubt, the desktop PC is falling out of favor as the world gravitates to equally powerful laptops and ultraportables. But some people out there will never turn in their towers of power: case modders. Members of this PC subculture are all about breaking away from boring black (or beige) boxes and building creations that better suit their individual personalities.
And I'm not talking about slapping a few decals on the side of the box. (Or even building a PC from standard parts.) These people have taken their PCs to the extreme by packing components into antiques, toy figurines, and even custom cases assembled from the ground up. Underneath the hood, these works of genius have powerful processors, wild graphics cards, and gigantic storage capacities.
This slide show of inspiring modding madness features disc-eating robots, nuclear reactors, steampunk specialties, and a project by deconstructionist modders who prefer to have no case at all.
So, what do you do on your weekends?
Fredrik Perman's Wall-Mounted Renderfarm
When North Carolina modder and industrial designer Fredrik Perman was tapped to do some design work for the office of Pacific Design & Manufacturing, he figured, what better way to do a remodel than to pack six Intel dual-core processors into a glass case and place it on a wall?
This monster works as a hub that controls the file and phone server in the adjoining room. For effect, Perman added ten 12-inch blue cathode light strips, six LED fans, and a wall-mounted 15-inch LCD screen.
Photo: Fredrik Perman
I couldn't leave this favorite out of the mix. Though a lot of Wall-E mods are out there, none come close to the work done by the Wall-E team from Russia, whose work debuted on CaseMods.ru. I spoke with Leo from team Wall-E, and learned that this mod is packed with a 300MHz Intel Pentium 4 processor, 2GB of RAM, two USB ports, and a 120GB hard drive.
Wall-E's front flap drops down for the user to access the DVD-ROM inside, his head and arms move, and the creators even added Wall-E's little cockroach buddy for extra authenticity. Check out casemods.ru for more Russian-style modding.
Frank Macon's John Deere Gas Pump
The John Deere Gas Pump is a pure Americana special from Missouri-based modder Frank Macon. His mod was a weekly winner during ExtremeTech's 2007 Case Mod Contest.
Macon's gas-pump PC sports a 1.83GHz AMD Athlon processor and 512MB of RAM. The pump has green LED fans to match the John Deere color scheme, and--to give the mod a dose of realism--Macon turned the gas pump's handle into the on/off switch. Pull the handle forward to give your computer some gas; pull it back, and the computer shuts down.
At ExtremeTech, you can find more John Deere PC photos, and a limitless supply of other awesome case mods.
Photo: Frank Macon, via ExtremeTech
Katsuya Matsumura's Miss Kana
Japanese modder Katsuya Matsumura's Miss Kana case mod was featured in the May 2004 edition of Monthly PC-DIY, and inspired by drawings by Kanna Higashi.
Matsumura ultimately decided to name this manga mod after Higashi, while dropping an "n" from her name.
Miss Kana, which is made of painted styrene foam and sculpted clay on a frame constructed of vinyl chloride pipes, has a 1GHz VIA C3 Nehemiah processor and a 12GB laptop hard drive. The PC parts are located in Miss Kana's back and hair.
Not a lot of beef here, but what Miss Kana lacks in substance, she makes up for in style.
Check out Matsumura's Miss Kana worklog for more details.
Photo: Katsuya Matsumura
Chris Blarsky's The Hulk
In 2007, modder Chris Blarsky modeled this computer after his favorite Marvel Comics character. When he originally designed this monster, it had an 866MHz Intel Pentium 3, 1GB of PC133 RAM, and an 80GB hard drive.
But just like its movie counterpart, this Hulk was begging for a massive overhaul. Blarsky told me that he's about to load up his mod with a 3.0GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor, 2GB of RAM, and a Hulk-size 2TB hard drive. Check out Absolute Extremes for more shots and a Flash video of the angriest mod ever.
Photo: Chris Blarsky
The Barbecue Grill
You can't throw a sausage on this grill, but this PC can fry up some gaming goodness. Found on Big Download, this case mod was a mind-blowing special from the 2008 QuakeCon festival and party.
The Barbecue Grill, specifically built for gaming, packs an impressive visual punch, too--I especially like the glowing orange fans that simulate the burning charcoal.
This year's QuakeCon runs August 13-16 in Dallas, and the festival's BYOC (bring your own computer) policy guarantees that more modding madness will be happening in Texas this summer.
(We weren't able to identify the maker of the Grill. If you know, tell us in the Comments section. Thanks!)
Photo: Big Download
This computer can't chain-smoke or guzzle beer like its cartoon inspiration, but this crazy mod can gobble up DVDs and CDs thanks to the DVD-ROM drive behind those shiny white teeth. The Bender case is the work of a modding genius from Norway.
We couldn't find information on the processor for this cartoon caper, but the device sports a VIA EPIA-M 10000 mini-ITX motherboard, one 120GB hard drive, and four additional external 250GB hard drives connected via FireWire. View more images in Bender's worklog.
Katsuya Matsumura's Close Combat
This is another Matsumura special, made for the July 2002 issue of Monthly PC-DIY. This monstrosity, which stands around 6 feet tall, sports a 900MHz AMD Duron processor, 128MB RAM, and a 20.5GB hard drive.
It isn't superpowerful, but how could we leave it out? It's a 6-foot-tall robot!
Photo: Katsuya Matsumura
Dean Liou's DialupPC
This telephone may look like it escaped from Alexander Graham Bell's living room, but under the hood the DialupPC is an all-digital, VoiP-ready special, circa 2004. Built by modder Dean Liou of Envador.com for an Intel-sponsored event in Dallas, this PC rocks a 3.4GHz Intel Pentium 4, 512MB of RAM, an ATI Radeon 9800 graphics processor, an 80GB hard drive, and a DVD-ROM drive.
Photo: Dean Liou
Jake Hildebrandt's Steampunked Damnation
Commissioned to kick off the debut of the western-style shooter game Damnation by Blue Omega Entertainment and Codemasters, this steampunk case mod was built by Jake Hildebrandt. The mod packs an impressive Intel Core i7 processor, 12GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 1TB hard drive.
I'll bet you wish you could take this mod home. Well, guess what: The PC is being given away in a contest open to residents of the United States and Canada. The entry deadline is June 19, 2009. Destructoid has the contest details.
And if you're not familiar with this Western subgenre, you can read a full explanation of steampunk.
Photo: Jake Hildebrandt, via Flickr
Popular Mechanics' Liquid-Cooled Muscle PC Desk
This desktop is all about muscle. It sports a 3.0Ghz Intel Quad Core 2 processor; two 300GB, 10,000-rpm hard drives; a PaLit GeForce GTX 280 graphics card; a custom-made, flush-mounted touchpad from Synaptics, and a Blu-ray drive that ejects up from the desktop surface. Seven fans keep this monster from overheating, and Popular Mechanics threw in 13 neon lights to illuminate the desk.
Photo: Popular Mechanics
The Mercedes LAN Truck
There are case mods, and then there are truck mods. Nicknamed the LAN Truck, this little number was built by an unknown modder who used a Tamiya 1/14th Mercedes Benz truck model and packed an MSI Mega 651 PC inside.
The LAN Truck sports a 2.8GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor, 1GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive, a 7-inch touchscreen, and a PlayStation 2 adapter. The LAN Truck was featured at the 2005 CeBit conference in Hanover, Germany.
Check out Lantruck.com for more pics.
Butterkneter's EA FIFA '06
Specs include an AMD Athlon 64 processor, 1GB of RAM, a 250GB Seagate Barracuda hard drive, and an HTPC touchscreen. The players were pulled from a model train set and painted into two opposing teams, and the stadium lights up for night-game action.
The Wall Crawler is another PC Case Mod Contest winner featured on ExtremeTech. The creators needed a PC that they could easily access to switch out hard drives, so they said: Why bother with a case at all?
The result is an entire desktop computer thrown against the side of a cabinet. The Wall Crawler packs a 2.53MHz Intel Pentium 4 processor, a Radeon ATI 9200 graphics card, 1GB of DDR RAM, separate CD and DVD burners, and 320GB of storage on two separate hard drives.
Dave Veloz's Steampunked Mac Mini
Modder Dave Veloz wanted an extraspecial wedding gift for his bride, so he transformed a keyboard, monitor, and Mac Mini into an incredibly detailed 19th-century-style computer. Everything about this mod screams craftsmanship, but making the Mac Mini body look like a metal tea tin really stands out.
See the Steampunk Workshop blog for more pics.
Photo: Dave Veloz
The smart and sensible Star Wars droid is a favorite subject for case modders, but few have crafted one like Sevilorcio's.
This R2 unit was built from a bare-bones Asus P5LD2-VM motherboard, and sports a 3.2GHz Pentium 4 processor, an ATI Radeon X800 XL graphics processor, a 300GB hard drive, and two USB ports.
But the best feature is the Webcam, which pops up out of R2's head; it's useful for video chat, but it also comes in handy when you're on the lookout for fresh Bantha tracks.
You can see more pictures, as well as a step-by-step photo journal, of this Force-ful creation at Sevilorcio's personal page.
Thorn's Reactor of Proxycon
This is an incredibly detailed creation by the Polish-based modder Thorn, a member of the modding forum The Best Case Scenario. The mod was inspired by the video game Doom 3 and the Return to Proxycon video from the benchmark performance program 3D Mark 2006.
The Reactor of Proxycon mod has an Intel Core 2 Duo E7400 processor, 8GB of DDR2 RAM, and two 500GB hard drives. See Thorn's worklog on The Best Case Scenario for more shots.
Photo: Thorn, via The Best Case Scenario
Janos Marton's Whisky Bottle
After a tough day at work, do you like to unwind with a cocktail? Take a digital swig out of this case mod for a nightcap. It doesn't pack much of a punch, but you can still get a light buzz from the tech goodness inside.
Made by Finnish modder Janos Marton at MetkuMods, this bottle of Ballantine's features an Intel Pentium 3 processor, 256MB of RAM, a USB port, and a 40GB hard drive.
Photo: Janos Marton
Compianos' Upright 1904 Grand Piano
Nothing says elegance like a grand piano, so why not gut an old 1904 Chickering upright grand and load it with computing power? This mod, created by eBay user compianos, popped up on Dvice.
Compianos says his computer has a 6.8GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive. The Chickering mod has a built-in 26-inch LCD screen covered by a sliding panel that opens via remote control. The piano also has a hidden drawer for remotes and other goodies.
Dan Coe's Motorized Madness
For our rocking finale, we bring you the work of Dan Coe, aka Rendermandan, who posted this steampunkish, crazed PC in The Best Case Scenario Forum. Drool factors for this mod: an Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 CPU, an Asus Rampage Extreme motherboard, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, an EVGA GTX 280 SSC Edition graphics board, two 150GB Western Digital Raptor hard drives, and a 750MB Western Digital hard drive.
Coe told me that Motorized Madness has over a dozen moving parts that can open and close remotely. Most of the movements are for heating and cooling vents, but "three trays extend out from the bottom with blue LEDs that shine upward to illuminate the sides of the case; a large gear rotates down to reveal a quarter-rounded window to the inside of the case; and a flip-over triangular-shaped panel rotates to expose a water-temperature monitoring system." On top of that, the mod has an "SD memory card slot, USB ports, and a reset button, and there's also a small 5-inch LCD monitor that rotates out and flips over."
If you really want to blow your mind, view Coe's YouTube video of Motorized Madness in action.
Photo: Dan Coe