GTR Tech Corporation GT3-BH PC Chassis
The Future and our Conclusion
While the original unit we took a look at came completely assembled with a motherboard, CPU, drives, etc., the GT3-BH itself will begin its life as a barebones unit, with compatibility lists offered on the company website as to which components best fit inside. The power supply unit is seemingly the only item that one won't have to purchase separately, as that comes standard, but we felt that a Slim-line CD drive should also have been included as well, as these are typically harder to find than standard 5.25" drives. GTR Tech has discussed making GT3 "kits" available, however, which would include a set of components known to work with the unit (users would still have to assemble the kit themselves). It also remains to be seen whether or not an entirely pre-configured system will be made available.
In comparison, Dell currently offers their own mini-PC, the Dimension C521, with dimensions that are not too far off of the GT3. A major drawback to the C521, however, is that it has some of the same issues that we had with other SFF PCs: it's not designed for upgrading down the road, and graphic card support is limited to half-height cards, which are typically underpowered and not suited for gaming. There are a couple of other suitors out there with similar products as Dell's, such as HP's Slimline S3000y, but none of these seem to strike the same balance between customization and size as the GT3-BH.
GTR Tech's first attempt at closing the gap between full-blown desktops and small form factor machines seems to be on target. There are many advantages that the GT3-BH brings to the table that other manufacturers may have ignored, such as user modifications and future upgrades. For some, simply getting a small form factor PC or laptop might well be enough to suit their needs. However, the life span of that system can be shortened by a hardware failure (outside of the warranty window) or other need to upgrade. Power-users are typically left out as they don't have the means to substitute their own components in most SFF units, although that has changed a bit in recent years. The GT3 eliminates those issues with complete control over what is and isn't installed. And the case is stylish enough to stand out next to anything out there on the market, yet small enough to fit into the average knapsack.
The limitations to the GT3, however, are its price and complexity. At $279, it might be a bit more than people want to pay for a case and PSU, even a smaller one, when they would still need to go out and purchase a complete array of hardware. Adding in that slim-line CD would help somewhat, but it might be too costly of an option to include at this stage. Finding the right set of components could also be a hassle, as a favorite motherboard just might have a header somewhere that conflicts with the GT3. The Feature Module installation was another issue that novice builders may not have the patience or skill to deal with. Hopefully, revised manuals and other tips on GTR's website will make this an easier process. The Feature Module is a necessity to allow various full-sized cards to be installed with different motherboards, but it also prevents installing more than three cards total (and only 2 with the included riser card). This shouldn't be an issue for the majority of users shopping for an SFF PC, but it still could limit some plans.
Our overall feelings are that the GT3-BH is a fine first step for GTR Tech. They've obviously researched the market and designed a product different from all the rest - at least for now.