Presentation, Design & Build Quality
When we found the LANShark Extreme package in our entryway a while back, we were quite surprised by the size of the box. Once we opened the box, though, we discovered why Smooth Creations used such a big box. Inside the large cardboard box, we found a plywood box and a lot of bubble wrap and peanuts protecting everything. Needless to say, the plywood box shocked us at first. Apparently, Smooth Creations protects all of its acrylic systems with plywood boxes during shipping. We opened one side of the plywood box and saw that the LANShark was protected by a soft, white cloth and foam on all sides (see the image below). As you may know, acrylic is much easier to damage than metal, so we appreciate the extra level of care that Smooth Creations takes with these systems.
Once we finally got the LANShark completely unboxed and unwrapped, we were immediately impressed by the excellent airbrush work that covers the entire system. The skull design will definitely make your competition do a double take. The shading and details in the design create an overall menacing feel. Maybe you can even convince your rival LAN gamers that those are the skulls of former competitors.
We were happy to see that Smooth Creations left a "window" on the left side of the system, so that people can take a peek at the system in all its glory. The black motherboard fits the paint job perfectly, and the red tubes make us think we are looking at the bloody guts of a mean machine. As you can see in the first image above, the airbrushing even covers the power supply and other visible flat surfaces within the system. Kudos to Smooth Creations for taking the theme and paint work that far!
The front of the LANShark Extreme features a single external 5.25" bay, and our evaluation unit included a Blu-Ray drive. Below it, you can see the power button, the Smooth Creations LANShark logo, and a couple of fan holes. The Smooth Creations team masterfully cut out an "SC" logo in front of each fan. Sure, this doesn't offer much protection to prevent fingers or objects from entering the LANShark, but they look very cool. When we turn the LANShark around, you can see that even the back of the system is airbrushed with skulls. You can also see the four expansion slots and the rear I/O panel. Additionally, there are rather large slits cut out for ventilation.
You probably noticed the lack of front ports, which is one of our few gripes about the LANShark Extreme. Any time you want to plug something in, you'll have to use the ports in the back. The rear I/O panel includes the following ports: 1 PS/2 mouse port, 1 PS/2 keyboard port, 1 optical S/PDIF-out port, 1 coaxial RCA S/PDIF-out port, 6 USB 2.0 ports, 1 RJ45 LAN port, and 6 audio jacks (center/subwoofer, rear R/L, side R/L jacks, line-in, line-out (front R/L), and mic-in).
Overall, our initial impressions of the LANShark Extreme's design and build quality were quite high. We didn't notice any major problems with the paint or acrylic. The only concern we had was when we were lifting and moving the system. Since it is built from acrylic, you can feel it flex and give a little more than a steel or aluminum case. That's not a ding against Smooth Creations; it's just the nature of acrylic. It's not as rigid as metal. Because of the slight give, we noticed ourselves being a little more cautious when lifting this system than we are normally. We point this out only so our readers realize that they need to take more care when working with, and in, this or any acrylic system.