Top Deck Tech Station an Open Case Review

Overall Score

In a recent review of a server class chassis modded to make a home server, I had discussed an addiction. Come to find out, that is not my only addiction. I enjoy playing with the latest high tech gadgets, CPUs and GPUs specifically. I learn as much as I can, about how they work, and in fitting with my background, how they are made and the science of the device physics. I am addicted, and I fall squarely into the camp that many normal people consider a computer geek. In fact, I have probably built all the computers for each family in my neighborhood, setup their wireless, and helped them onto the net.

Part of my hobby, therefore, entails a great deal of building and running computers, swapping parts, and generally having fun. This becomes a real drag if one does this over and over inside a typical computer case, even if it is roomy with plenty of work space. Some months ago, I butchered an old Silverstone case for the motherboard tray, and with some pressure fabricated particle boards, some threaded rod, nuts, bolts, a drill and a weekend, I fashioned a home made work station that was open aired and mounted components easily and readily. It worked, but it looked god awful.

 

 

There appears to be a market for open air computer motherboard mount as one enthusiast site has designed and marketed a beast. HighSpeed PC created and is patent pending such a trinket and that is what we will be working with today, the HSPC “Top Deck” Tech Station. Seemingly simple in concept, HighSpeed PC describes their product as “Perfect for the frequent PC Upgrader…” and, by simply looking at it one cannot help but agree. The tech station actually comes in a two different designs each with two different sizes. The standard station has the motherboard mount on a bottom shelf, with the accessory shelf (PSU, optical and hard drives) resting on top. The other variety has this flip flopped, and each comes with support to hold PCI/PCIe expansion cards in place. The standard size and large size differ in only one dimension, the depth on the large is 13″ vs 9.5″ for the standard.

 

 

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The tech station varies in price, and you can find them around the web from ~$80 to ~$150 dollars, depending on size and type. The question is, is such an investment worth it? Let’s put one together and find out….

 

While you can buy one preassembled, the assembly is not so difficult that it cannot be done in 30 min to an hour. The actual packaging is very boring, a white box with a label on it, and all the component parts stuffed in some bubble wrap. The top and bottom (not shown) shelves come with pre-drilled holes, and all that is really needed for assembly is a screw driver, though the manual recommends a powered screwdriver which I concur. Two acrylic rails are used for the hard drives, a white teflon strip which will be the card mounting cross bar, and a neoprene pad for the bottom shelf — providing a slip free surface for optical drives and the PSU which will sit below. The shelves themselves are solid wood, but are coated with a textured but glossy cover, which I only assume is some type of material that is anti-static of some nature.

 

 

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The small parts kit comes with several items, and it nicely divides the contents out between the redundant motherboard standoffs and the rest of the hardware. Included is a 120 mm fan with protective grate, as well as the support posts four tall and two short. Another nicely added feature are some LEDs and switches/buttons mounted on typical female pin connectors, which is handy if your motherboard does not have any on-board power and reset switches.

 

 

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Assembly takes roughly 30 min to an hour, and I would suggest working slowly, taking your time to get things snug and well aligned (for looks mainly). A note about the manual, it is just simply well done, you can look over a copy here. The manual itself is nothing fancy, it is not even bound, just printed off on 4 pages each side, but it does have great detail and in this case, as simple as it looks, I would also strongly suggest following this one step by step.

One starts off with the two boards, the bottom board gets the rubber feet installed while the top shelf mounts the motherboard standoffs. It is important, again, to follow the manual and leave no more than 1/4″ of screw on the other side. The rubber mounts on the motherboard shelf also come with two nylon bolts and nuts, these are for simply registering the motherboard through two holes (labeled 10 and 12 in their diagrams). In addition to the feet and standoffs, you will also mount the hard drive rails, the back stop (prevents hard drives from slipping back into the fan), and L-brackets for the fan mount.

 

 

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Once this pre-work is done, you will then install the vertical bar supports. At first, they will look like they are made of wood, but in fact are made of high grade polymer plastic. The support legs (the 4 long ones) attach the top shelf and bottom shelf, naturally, and when all is said and done, you have something that looks like this

 

 

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The final step is simply attaching two more L-brackets to the pre-drilled holes on the two short top supports, mounting the AGP/PCI card top brace, and mounting the fan/grill to the other L-brackets. This completes the assembly and it looks rather nice.

 

 

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The footprint of the tech station is nice, it is compact but roomy enough to easily hold two to four hard drives, a PSU and optical drives. Placing a motherboard onto the station is easy, much easier than inserting into a case naturally, and is held surprisingly well with the rubber feet. The graphic cards fits in place and included thumb screws hold it down, again everything is held solidly in place. For open air projects this is a must, as a freestanding PCI/PCIe card is just begging to get knocked around, potentially cracking the PCB or the actual slot/socket itsef.

 

 

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The open air design makes building or swapping out parts to test or benchmark as easy as pie. One can literally rebuild a complete system within 5 to 10 minutes, no hassles and no fuss. Now, looking over this product it would be easy to simply take a trip to Home Depot and fabricate something similar for oneself; however, after attempting just that and now having the tech station next to the home made job I regret spending time on the latter. Coming in between 100 to 150 bucks may sound somewhat steep; however, it would take me several hours to brew up a home job and my time is worth more than that, aside from that the attention to materials is well done and well thought out, everything is nonconductive and anti-static, something that could not easily be replicated in the garage. In addition, everything lines up and is very sturdy.

Basically, if you are an avid computer nut, such as myself, and spend time building, testing, and playing around with different boards, CPUs, GPUs, and such then, frankly, this is really an indispensible device. No more propping the MB on top of the box it came in, added safety to the MB solder joints on the bottom, and a rigid support for graphics cards, and it simply cannot be beat.

In short, the tech station was designed, built, and marketed by enthusiasts for enthusiasts, the attention to detail for something even this simple really shows. The utility of this product is also simply superb, my only regret is that I did not get one sooner.

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