We've come a long way since the days of purely functional beige boxes as our PCs. What was once just a cage to hide away the inner workings of our systems has today become far more. Modern cases are as much an expression of the user's aesthetics as they are protection for the parts within. Lighting, paints, high quality materials, and artistic flares are now part of choosing your parts just as much as ensuring compatibility. Some designs however, blend the world of art and function to an even higher degree.
Let me introduce the Kanto by Cubeor.
The Kanto is a case that doesn't hide on your desk. You don't tuck it behind a monitor, or in a cabinet. It demands to be front and center as an art piece. Since the is uses real wood, no two Kanto's will ever be exactly the same. Unlike some wood trim cases, the wood is truly functional. This isn't just a veneer. The wood is used for the side and top panels with the only metal being the hinges that connect it. The frame of the case is a matte black steel, which ties into the design; blending organic with industrial.
Speaking of organic, you have three choices of wood colors for the case. From lightest to darkest it's Birch, Cherry, and Cognac. All match well with the design, though I lean to the lighter two colors myself. I've been staring that the pictures for hours and still can't decide which one I would personally buy, and I'm really close to getting one.
Despite the artistic approach, this mATX case can hold some serious hardware. Specs include support for mATX and ITX boards, 280mm AIO, ample cooling fans, and up to a 400 mm, 4.3 slot GPU. Max air cooling height is 172 mm.
There is a price to pay though. The structural support for the wood paneling and mATX board does increase the size of the case to the upper limits of what one might consider SFF for mATX. At 35L in volume, it's similar to the legendary SilverStone FT03. It's not exactly small, nor is it massive. To be fair to Cubeor, the Kanto isn't advertised as SFF, and they have two other cases that specifically are.
Why am I profiling it then? Change is coming.
The power usage and heat of high-end SFF systems is getting harder to contain. I've run into this issue in my personal builds as of late. An Intel 12900K and RTX 3080 can truly cook a system even in a full size case. GPUs are now only getting larger, and both AMD and Intel are struggling to keep the wattage of the their CPUs below 250w. There is no magic miracle coming from die shrinks anytime soon, or possibly ever again. Rumors put the next generation GeForce line at up to 500 watts, and four slots thick. ITX boards are running out of space to cool their VRMs and chipsets. Simply put, what is SFF for the high-end is about to change.
As part of this, I reached out to Jarkko Surakka of Finland; the owner of Cubeor for some of the story of how his case came to be. The Kanto is exclusively sold on Etsy in the US. This was a message exchange I did with Jarkko. It wasn't an interview, but I've placed interview style questions in to help separate the topics.
Is the Kanto still in production?
Jarrko Yes, Kanto is still in production, as we own our own machinery/tooling and design our cases 100% by ourselves, our cases technically never go out of production
Can you tell us about how you designed the Kanto?
The province where our workshop is has a strong woodworking tradition. That inspired us to consider wood, trees, and nature as Kanto's primary source of inspiration and material.
Most cases today look like they are coming from the same production line; they all have the same looks/layout.
We wanted to create something that would stand out yet still be practical and have excellent air cooling, and the case is supposed to look good when situated on a work desk.
How about the technical design of it?
The GPU is the most significant bottleneck in heavy workloads such as rendering and gaming. Thus, prioritizing GPU cooling without sacrificing general case cooling can be done efficiently with a vertical motherboard layout—GPU is very close to the case air intake. The vertical layout also removes the GPU sag problem, which is becoming more common as GPUs are getting larger and larger.
Kanto was supposed to be smaller than what it is because back then, you could still get single-fan-sized GPUs. The current GPU shortage means that small/single fan GPUs are not accessible by most people. Therefore, an all-encompassing GPU support is essential during the current GPU shortage. Our case has to support whatever size GPU people can buy or have in storage.
Can you tell us about the layout?
Many new SFF cases utilize a sandwich layout and use PCI-E-riser to make their case more compact. Although using a riser is an excellent idea in principle, the fact is that a good quality PCI-E-Gen4 riser will raise the cost of a PC case by a lot. Risers also tend to create more mechanical points of failure, cable management mess, plus a slight drop in performance (minimal but still).
Tell us about the cooling.
We designed the Kanto case to perform excellent with only three fans at low/moderate PWM signal. Three fan solution is possible due to the short distance between GPU / CPU air intake and exhaust, plus PSU in our system is pushing air out from the case like in the old PC case days — something most modern case designers have forgotten.
What else is unique about the Kanto?
Another unique feature of Kanto is the top section of the case that allows for fast access to motherboard I/O ports and peripheral devices. Motherboard rear connectors give much better data connection and are of higher quality than front panel I/O ports. Yet, they are not easily accessible in most PC cases — the case is next to a wall or below your desk. Kanto solves that problem with an easily accessible hinged cover that also functions as a cooling port, meaning you can place Kanto next to a wall without losing any cooling potential and save desk space.
Currently, the Kanto is available on Etsy in the US for approximately $280. Those across the pond in Europe can buy directly from Cubeor for €329 normally, but it’s currently on sale for €279.
Visit the Cubeor website by CLICKING HERE.
See the Kanto on Etsy by CLICKING HERE.