Ever wanted to do some hardware comparisons or tweaking, but hate having to squeeze into your case to change something or pull everything out to swap a part? I've got the answer for you. The HSPC Top Deck Tech Station. It's a simple open-air test station that allows you to quickly install and change hardware without the hassle of working inside a traditional case. Read on to find out more....
The Top Deck Stations come as a kit that takes approximately 30 minutes to assemble. They are available in a variety of colors and sizes as well to suit your preference and/or needs. I opted for the standard sized kit in red. The standard size will do both ATX and mATX motherboards.
The kit comes in a plain white box with a sticker that displays information such as the model and color.
Inside the box you'll find all the components in a sealed padded envelope.
Once out of the bag you'll find an upper and lower deck, a neoprene mat, two clear acrylic rails, a white PCI support bar, a 120mm Masscool fan with both 3-pin and molex connectors and a bag full of hardware, instructions and small parts.
Here we have the contents of the smaller bag. There's a (VERY) detailed instruction sheet (.pdf), a piece of paper that gives instructions on what to do in case of missing parts, a fan grill, the support beams, an ATX control kit and two separate labeled hardware bags.
The instructions (.pdf) that came with the Top Deck Station are very thorough. They're easy to read and follow and have lots of pictures to help you through assembly. The only tool needed for assembly is a #2 Phillips screwdriver, and it does note that a power screwdriver works best.
The first step is to install four screws, washers and rubber feet onto the bottom deck until the top of the screw just pokes out. You'll see why later.
Next you install screws and rubber grommets into the motherboard deck. You'll notice the lower left and lower right have threaded plastic screws rather than the self-tappers in the rest of them. These are the two posts that the motherboard will rest on. If you're using standard ATX, install as shown. If you're using mATX, the plastic screw on the bottom right goes in the center instead.
The rubber grommets are easily tall enough that any kind of protruding leads or solder joints on the bottom of your motherboard will not contact the screw heads.
Next you install the two acrylic hard drive rails and the hard drive stop. All the stop is is a plastic spacer over a screw. This keeps you from pushing your hard drive into the cooling fan. They also have an option for SSD rails now as well. The SSD rail kit is an add-on to the Large Tech Deck, or can be substituted in place of the 3.5" rails for the Standard Tech Deck.
Next goes on the two upper supports, two of the lower supports and the fan brackets.
Next you install the remaining two lower supports onto the base platform using the screws that hold the case feet on. This is why you leave the tips just poking out initially. The screws go through the feet, through the deck and into the supports.
Then you join the top and bottom decks together. You use two screws through the top deck into the lower supports, and the remaining two rubber feet into the other two supports.
They include these plastic caps for the exposed top screws just to be sure there will be no electrical shorts. Nice touch and it looks super clean.
Next up the PCI supports and bar get installed as well as a pair of caps for the top supports - yet another nice touch. They also include seven plastic thumbscrews to secure your PCI cards.
The last step is to mount the fan grill to the fan, then mount the fan to it's mounts, and you're done! One thing I left out of this picture is the neoprene mat that sits on the bottom deck.
The kits come with the ATX control kit, which gives you a speaker, power and reset buttons as well as a power LED and a hard drive activity LED. The only issue I see here is the power LED connector is a 3-pin, whereas some motherboards may need a 2-pin setup. I would have it as two separate pins rather than one 3-pin connector. Minor detail, but something to be noted.
Reviewer's Note: I've been in contact with HSPC about the connectors in the kit and he said they'd be changing the connector in the future to two separate pins for better compatability with different motherboards.
HSPC also included their accessory ATX Power Bracket. This simply pops into one of the unused PCI mounts as an easier way to access your buttons and monitor your rig's status. Also to note here is the power LED is 3-pin, but this can simply be popped out and turned into a 2-pin if needed.
The system was super easy to install. All the room made it quick and painless to get the motherboard and components situated. The PSU and DVD drive sit on a neoprene anti-slip mat on the bottom deck, and I had to put the SSD into a 3.5" adapter so it'd sit in the HDD rails as I did not opt for the SSD rail kit.
The only downside I found is that although your components don't slide on the neoprene mat, the mat can slide on the lower deck itself. They do have adhesive strips available as an accessory, but I feel it should be something that comes standard with the kit.
Now chances are you probably won't be zip-tying all of your wires as you'll be swapping components often. I have a slight bit of OCD when it comes to wiring and I HAD to do something with it for the pictures. They're only zip-ties, they're cheap :D
And a shot of it set up in my basement and the rig running. The first thing you'll notice when using the Tech Deck is that your components all run cooler. The CPU used to idle around 60ºC in the CM Storm Enforcer case, but with open air and it was idling happily in the low 50's. Overclocked to 4GHz and it went from an idle temp of ~75ºC in the case to only the upper 60's on the Tech Deck. Now the downside of course is stuff falling onto your rig and dust, as it's just all out in the open.
The HSPC Top Deck Tech Station is a winner. It's a sturdy platform for mounting and testing your components. It's open design and simple mounting means quick hardware changes and access for system tweaking. The only issue I had were the 3-pin-only power LED connector, but that is trivial compared to the detail and build quality of the unit itself. I also talked to Scott at HSPC about that, and he said he's got the same gripe with the connectors, and it will be changed in future revisions.
This product was provided free of charge by the manufacturer for purpose of review.