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Reviewed by: Ed Lau [10.07.03]
Edited by: Carl Nelson
Manufactured by: Monarch Computer Systems 

Price: Varies
(Around $300-340 for a 'barebones' system which includes a motherboard and PSU)

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Another word about cooling though before we get into anything else. Right out of the box, airflow is less than desirable and it's easy to see why. What you get is what appears to be two 60mm intakes, one in the front and one on the side and then no exhaust other than the tiny fan in the power supply. It seems that in their quest to create a true power user box, Monarch forgot how important airflow is to cooling performance. I'm guessing that they tried to offset the size of the tiny fans by putting in models that spin really fast because the damn things make quite a bit of noise. They're certainly not Vantec Tornados and they did pass the leaving-it-on-in-your-room-while-you-sleep test but I can say that the Hornet generates much more noise than a Thermaltake Xaser III, something I did not expect from a SFF case.

Check out the cooling numbers with a Vantec Aeroflow.

Idle: 37C
Load: 51C

Compare that to the stellar 29C/35C put up by the same Aeroflow when used in a Thermaltake Xaser II A5000A which produces less noise but much better airflow. Temperatures like this make it
dangerous for overclocking although the motherboard certainly provides some good overclocking

All is not lost on the cooling front, however.  Monarch, almost expecting you to expand on the airflow, has pre-drilled three spots in the back of the case for a 80mm fan as well as two 40mm ones to aid the power supply with exhaust duties.  Unfortunately, there isn't any room to upgrade the air intake without whipping out the dremel but the good news is that there is ample room for a blowhole and perhaps another side intake. You might want to replace the two 60mm fans with quieter ones while you're at it. Getting yourself some rounded cables (or SATA cables) would free up some air as well.

The aforementioned power supply puts out a modest, but adequete 200W. Upgrading this particular
part may be a bit difficult but was enough juice to power the following:

Processor: AMD Athlon XP 1700+ Throughbred B
Cooling: Vantec Aeroflow TMD
Motherboard: Chaintech 7NIL1
RAM: OCZ PC3500 256MB
Hard Drive: Hitachi 180GXP 180GB
Video Card: HIS Excalibur 9800 Pro 128MB
Optical: Samsung SM-352 52x24x52
Floppy: 1.44" Mitsumi

Unlike many other SFFs, with the Hornet, you get to choose which processor family you want to
go with as well as a choice of three different motherboards each so I won't go be benchmarking in this review although I may review the motherboard itself later on.  Easy upgradablity is one of the Hornet's best benefits.  Upgrading any other SFF is quite a bit more difficult whereas finding a uATX motherboard is usually as easy as visiting your local computer store.

At press time, Monarch had also made the option of one Athlon64 motherboard from Gigabyte available.

Like Bigfoot or the Gravedigger or another huge truck, the Hornet isn't pretty, it isn't quiet, it isn't small. However, given the right motherboard, the Hornet provides a lot more potential for power than their VW Beetle-like counterparts. While Monarch has put up a valient effort for their first entry into the SFF market, some fatal flaws prevent the Hornet from being a great product, although it is still quite a good one.

While you almost certainly have to upgrade the entire unit when upgrading any other SFF box, you can easily transplant any uATX motherboard into the Hornet. YOU try doing an engine swap on a Beetle or a Mini Cooper. The added PCI slots, an easy-to-use chasis and still excellent portablity allow you to create a true everyday desktop machine for work by day and then fragging at a LAN party by night. While the Hornet will turn heads, it most certainly won't be because any beauty contest winnings.

A few flaws maime the otherwise stylish case, giving it a cheap, gaudy look...and it's quite hard to make a brushed black aluminum case that I think is ugly. Those stickers MUST come off so either pay the five bucks it takes or wear your fingernails down.

Cooling is also a problem right out of the box but with some simple additions and maybe some  fancy cabling work, it won't be. My primary concern is the lack of exhaust fans except for the tiny (but loud) one in the power supply. Add some fans or even break out the dremel.

Either way, using a REAL heatsink fan is a better solution than what most other SFFs provide.

Price is on par with many of the more popular SFFs and I think it's a fair one. You only get a six month waranty on the barebones but a 3 year is only an extra thirty bucks... and how often do you warranty a case?

The Hornet is one of those products that I hate to give a score so I'm not going to. It wouldn't be fair to the product. While it is in need of improvement, the foundation for a great product has been laid and whether or not it's right for you really depends on what  you're going to use it for. 

If you'd rather go to a LAN party than a date, then yes, this is your box.  It's easily upgradable so you won't need to buy another case for years and it can be your main rig.

If you're going to be balancing your checkbook, then no...forget it...but then there aren't too many of you reading, are there?

The Hornet is a monster truck...and like monster trucks, they're an acquired taste.

  • huge, easy to work inside, rolled internal edges
  • removable motherboard tray
  • thumbscrews on everything
  • upgradablity
  • portablity, sturdy front handle
  • front mounted temp. display, USB/sound ports
  • 3 PCI slots (on most uATX)
  • use your own heatsink
  • available everyday...instead of just Sunday like other monster trucks

  • huge, bigger than all other SFFs that it can't even really be called a SFF (80% bigger)
  • UGLY with a capital UGLY
  • terrible airflow out of the box
  • annoying front panel connections