Microcool Banchetto 101 Open Air Modular Chassis
Microcool is an Italian company that started in 2003 and its first hardware cooling offering was the North Pole chipset cooler. Microcool has since made a range of thermal products including passive coolers for chipsets, mosfets, and Thermaltech thermal tape. They also have an open air chassis, or tech bench as some call them, called the Banchetto 101.
Microcool says the Banchetto 101 is “a case that is there but you cannot see” and for a good reason. The case is not the focus with this type of ‘enclosure’, it’s the parts. The open air design is meant to allow quick and easy access to the entire system for changing parts or testing areas that are normally a large pain to get to in a standard case. It also allows the user to show off all the hardware as well. To make access easier the entire chassis is modular and assembled with thumbscrews; no tools required. The bulk of the Banchetto 101 is made from clear Methacrylate sheet; most know it as Acrylic. The clear sheets allow for the case to pretty well meld with the parts that are installed.
Now, the Banchetto 101 currently costs $255 in the US and is up against other open air cases like the $150 Antec Skeleton and the $150 Danger Den Torture Rack. It is also going up against the $160 High Speed PC HSPC Tech Station, and a standard cardboard box the motherboard came in the arena of tech stations. I know there are others, but these are the ones I can think of at the moment, and none have the configurability of the Banchetto 101. Now let’s take a look at the Banchetto 101’s specifications and then tear into the Banchetto 101 to see if it worthy of the higher price tag.
- Light, compact and transparent
- Entirely modular
- 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
- Model: Banchetto 101
- Dimensions: 400(L) x 350(W) x 362(H) mm
- Weight: 5.3 Kg
- Methacrylate shelves (8mm)
- Aluminum racks (1.2mm)
- Chrome steel bolts and screws
Now let's look at how the Microcool Banchetto 101 open air tech bench is packed.
The Banchetto 101 comes packed in a nice looking box with images of the chassis on it. Our sample looks to have taken a beating in shipping. On one side there is an image of the Banchetto 101 with a system installed and a listing of its specifications and features. The features are listed in 9 languages. Opening up the box we see that the Banchetto 101 is shipped fully assembled and almost entirely encased in a Styrofoam shell. In one corner the accessories are taped into cavities of the foam shell. Out of its foam shell the Banchetto 101 is wrapped in plastic. The accessories for the Banchetto seem a little sparse but it is more than enough to get the job done. There are two styles of thumbscrews (fine and coarse thread), expansion card support posts, and a fan mount that will accommodate two 92mm fans.
The Banchetto 101 comes packed in a nice looking box with images of the chassis on it. Our sample looks to have taken a beating in shipping.
On one side there is an image of the Banchetto 101 with a system installed and a listing of its specifications and features. The features are listed in 9 languages.
Opening up the box we see that the Banchetto 101 is shipped fully assembled and almost entirely encased in a Styrofoam shell.
In one corner the accessories are taped into cavities of the foam shell.
Out of its foam shell the Banchetto 101 is wrapped in plastic.
The accessories for the Banchetto seem a little sparse but it is more than enough to get the job done. There are two styles of thumbscrews (fine and coarse thread), expansion card support posts, and a fan mount that will accommodate two 92mm fans.
Looking over the Banchetto 101
With the Banchetto out of its packing we can start to get a good look at it, and it is sharp looking.
In the front part we have the PSU bay on the right, 5.25” bay center, and the 3.5” bay left. If you wanted, you could put the PSU on the right and the 3.5"bay on the left.
Each of the bays is held in place with thumbscrews, two each for the PSU and 3.5” bays and only one for the center 5.25” bay.
Each of the thumbscrews has a rubber washer glued to it. This helps hold it in place and not vibrate loose over time.
With the front bays removed we can get a look at the back bone of the Banchetto 101. It is a simple structure that when combined with the rest of the bays makes the Banchetto 101 fairly sturdy. This is the one piece that is not tool-less. The structure is mounted to the upper and lower acrylic sheets with socket head screws.
The rear bay of the Banchetto 101 is held in place with four thumb screws. It has the ability to accommodate up to three 120mm fans, or triple radiator. The forward shelf of the bay is where you can mount water cooling pumps, power distribution blocks, or whatever else you can think of.
The slots in the forward shelf are big enough to accommodate up to a 10-32 or M5 fastener.
The motherboard tray is completely removable; it also has a large CPU cut out. This will allow for a CPU cooler to be switched out without having to un-mount the motherboard from the tray.
In the front there are two large power and reset buttons. To the right is the Banchetto 101’s name silk screened on to the tray. The motherboard standoffs are already installed for you and setup for an ATX motherboard. If you use an mATX you will have to move some of the standoffs around.
When I flipped the tray over to look at the switches I noticed that one of the wires had come loose from the switch. This was due to a screw vibrating loose in shipping. I simply put the wire back and tightened the screw.
The feet for the Banchetto 101 are some of the biggest and nicest I have seen. They are solid rubber and screw into the tray.
Installing parts into the Banchetto 101
I started off by installing the motherboard. It was quite easy, and I only ran into one concern. In one spot the large thumbscrew was rather close to SATA socket. This shouldn’t be an issue, but if it were a capacitor that could be a bad thing.
The CPU cut out does give me enough room to swap out CPU cooler backing plates.
Next I mounted my video card. The support rails were a little hard to start; the threads in the acrylic tray in some of the spots were a little tight. To aid in putting the support rails in I just use a thumbscrew in all the holes first, then put the support rails I needed in.
Next I mounted the hard drive.
Then I installed the optical drive and fan controller.
Then the PSU; all of the steps so far only took about 10 minutes and that includes stopping to take the pictures. If it weren't for taking images I'm very certain you can have an air cooled system installed in less than 5 minutes.
Installing Parts Continued
The bays are designed such that the screws for one bay do not conflict with the bay next to it. So there is no hole counting and guessing whether or not the mount will hit or not being able to pull a bay out because it's blocked in.
When I went to mount my Swiftech triple radiator I noticed that I couldn’t mount the radiator such that all the mounting holes in the bay and the radiator would line up. The inlet and outlet bungs in the radiator are just a hair too wide to fit. There were two ways to get around this. One way was to grind the mount open more, or offset the radiator one hole. I could still mount the radiator with 4 screws in the center and that should be more than enough to hold the radiator and fans.
Next, I mounted my DDC pump and ran wires and tubing. I originally wanted to mount a D5 pump, but the stock pump was too tall and I could not get it to fit and not kink the tubing. So if you want to use a D5 with your system then you will need to get an aftermarket top to lower the height or change the direction of the outlet.
I finished up with the reservoir and tubing to the CPU block.
The Banchetto 101 does give the end user a lot of room to work and access to parts of the system that are normally blocked or hindered by a standard case.
I did have trouble routing my PCI-e cables to the video card. They were about an inch too short of being able to be routed under the tray to the front of the chassis. I know if I ever add a second card I would need a couple of extension cables.
There is plenty of room to gain access to the back of the PSU and add in a second pump if I wanted to.
And looking from the back, not much to see, but I got to thinking that without fan guards I could have some issues with my monitor, keyboard, and mouse cables rubbing and or getting caught in the fans.
So I turned the motherboard tray 180*, and in doing so fixed my PSU cable length issue and gave me access to the rear USB ports without reaching. The only things that I would have to reach for now are the power and reset buttons.
Now the hardcore hardware tweakers will say that all you need is the box the motherboard came in. That’s true, but going that route you have parts strung all over a table as well, and let's face it: with parts all over the place either there is a fight with the significant other or some hardware meets an untimely end. With a chassis like the Banchetto 101, not only does it look great but it keeps the hardware nice and neat. I really like the Banchetto 10. It makes rapid part changes easy and it is light so moving it around the workbench is a breeze. It does everything Microcool says it’s supposed to and it does it well.
The Banchetto 101 has an advantage over most of the other chassis's that I have referenced so far, as it can be rearranged. If I wanted the PSU on the left and the 3.5" bay on the right I can switch them around. Same for the Motherboard tray being able to be turned. I will say this: this is not a chassis that you want to have if you have little ones running around or inquisitive pets. One wrong move or an errand toy (NERF darts are a hazard at my house), and your system could meet an unpleasant end.
Whether you are looking for a tech bench or an open air PC chassis just because it’s cool looking (and it is), then Microcools Banchetto 101 should be on the short list. Currently I was only able to find a couple of sites that had the Banchetto 101 and both had it for around $255 +shipping.
Now some of you just cringed a little at the price, but for that you get a very nice case that comes assembled and accommodates all hardware and water cooling. That is something the Antec Skeleton cannot do. Where the fight will be mainly with the Danger Den Torture Rack due to the following it has with enthusiasts, and the cardboard box, well because, some are just that cheap.
Legit Bottom Line: The Banchetto 101 is a sharp looking chassis, easy to work with and configurable to my needs. If you swap out parts a lot then the Banchetto 101 should be on your short list.