A+ Case Black Pearl WCR Edition ATX Case Page: 1
Introduction & Specs

When talking about high-quality aluminium PC cases the usual candidates to pop up are Silverstone, Lian Li and Coolermaster. All of these companies have been around for a long time and offer some of the best looking and well built cases available on the market. Enthusiasts in particular have taken a shine to Lian Li's PC-70 and PC-G70 cases as they offer uncomplicated looks along with an amazingly high build quality and masses of room for water cooling installations. Up until now very few companies have put forward any serious contenders for these iconic cases, but that could be all about to change...

Just over a week ago I was contacted by a company called A+ Case (or A+Case if you know what superscript is for!) and asked if I'd be interested in reviewing the latest revision of their flagship case: the "Black Pearl WCR Edition". Designed to go head-to-head with some of the highest-quality cases on the market at the moment, the Black Pearl WCR Edition is water cooling ready (hence WCR), constructed entirely out of aluminium and has all the features you'd expect from a top-end case.

Searching the internet didn't really turn up much information about A+Case the company, but from their homepage we can see that they are part of the MaxPoint group who are also responsible for well known companies such as Tagan and Icybox. Finding information on the case also proved to be equally as difficult, with the WCR edition of the case not even being listed on Maxpoint or APlus Case's website (most probably due to its recent release). However, the Black Pearl WCR Edition does have an elder brother with very similar specs, and a combination of these specs and the ones found on the WCR Edition's box can be seen below:

The Black Pearl is the perfect case for all high end gamers, also for servers and state of the art design offices. Durable high end black aluminium case with acrylic front display showing temperature and adjustable fan speed. Up to 8 cooled hidden hard disks fit inside with enough space in between and rubber supported. Upside down mainboard design for better cooling of cards, because the components are not hanging down anymore. Seperated power supply and hard disk area at the bottom for better cooling of the whole system and lower noise. Two 120 mm fans for a perfect front to backside cooling are also integrated, including a CPU air vent in the back. Removable hard disk cages, screwless disk device system and special side door opening-mechanism for easy installation.

• Professional water cooling ready case.
• High class aluminium construction
• Aluminium mesh side window
• Blue illuminated Aplus logo, blue LEDs and backlit power and reset button
• Adjustable 4-channel fan controller with fan speed and temperature display
• Total of 15 drive bays
• 2 x USB 2.0, 2 x audio and 1 x firewire connectors are on top
• Up to 8 x anti-vibration rubber mounted hard disk cooled by a 120 mm fan
• 7 external 5.25“ bays
• All 5.25“ drive bays are fitted with an easy snap design, but also can additionally been fixed with screws
• Two removable hard disk cages can fit 8 hard disks
• Two 120 mm fans, one in the front and one in the back
• Air vents on the bottom for perfect ventilation
• RoHS compliant


Packaging

The Black Pearl WCR Edition comes in a double walled black and white cardboard box with images of the case and its basic specifications printed on the front and back.

APlus Case Black Pearl Box APlus Case Black Pearl Box

APlus Case Black Pearl Packaging APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Specs

Protection is provided in the form of two moulded styrofoam inserts that surround the top and bottom of the case, as well as preventing it from rattling around inside the outer box. To avoid any light scratching to the Black Pearl's annodised aluminium exterior, A+Case have also placed the unit inside a thick plastic bag.

Loose inside the box you will also find a comprehensive instruction manual in both English and German that details how to install components such as the hard disks and motherboard into the case using the tools provided.

Let's move on to the next page and see what the case looks like outside of its packaging..


A+ Case Black Pearl WCR Edition ATX Case Page: 2
Appearance

As you'd expect from a case designed for the enthusiast, the Black Pearl WCR Edition is BIG. Measuring in at 210x600x590mm (WxHxD) this unfortunately meant that the case wouldn't fit in our photo studio. So, you'll have to excuse the state of the grass outside OC3D HQ as this is the only place with suitable light conditions we could find!

APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Front

APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Front APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Front

Right from the very first look it is possible to see that this case was designed with quality as a top priority. A single curved sheet of aluminium has been used to construct the front, top, bottom and back of the case, giving it a modern and seamless appearance. Unlike many other aluminium cases, the Black Pearl is not flimsy and has panels almost as thick and solid as you'd expect to find on a case made from steel.

A total of 7 external 5.25" drive bays have been provided for maximum expansion. A+Case have fitted the top two of these bays with spring-loaded, stealthed CD-Rom drive covers and the lowest bay with a 5.25" to 3.5" converter bracket complete with aluminium floppy disk bezel.

The reflective black plastic console at the lower half of the case contains contains the LCD screen for the integrated 4-port fan controller along with the power/reset switches and an illuminated A+Case logo. This is a nice touch and certainly adds a degree of style to the front of the case, however I can see the fan controller and plastic power switches being seen by some enthusiasts as a 'tacky', and quickly replaced with a custom solution.

APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Top APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Top

APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Top APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Top

The top of the case is where the 'WCR' part of the Black Pearl's name starts to come into effect with A+Case providing two 120mm fan grills at the back for fitting a dual radiator. The spacing between the screwholes on the two grills is 17.5mm, which should be suitable for most radiators. However, through our own testing we've found that neither the XSPC R120-D nor the ThermoChill PA120.2 fit correctly.

Next to the radiator grills are two circular holes suitable for routing tubing (up to a 1/2" diameter) outside of the case. However, each of the radiators tested with the Black Pearl actually blocked a large portion holes, in some cases rendering them totally unusable. We also considered that possibly the holes were designed for the radiator barbs to fit snugly into, but once again the spacing between the barbs on all of the radiators tested did not match up with the holes on the Black Pearl.

At the front of the case are two USB ports, a firewire port and two 3.5mm audio jacks all hidden behind a flush aluminium flap.

APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Back APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Back

APlus Case Black Pearl Fan APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Back

Around the back of the case we can see that A+Case have opted for a BTX-style layout with the PSU at the bottom and the motherboard up-side-down at the top. This offers many advantages thermally, but can be an awkward layout for installing water cooling components. A+Case have also provided two spaces for 80mm fans to be installed just above the PSU, and a 120mm fan complete with meshed grill is already installed close to the CPU area in the middle of the case.

A single spring loaded thumbscrew is all that secures each of the case doors. Once unscrewed, simply pull the thumscrew towards you to release the door which can then easily be lifted out.

APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Bottom APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Bottom

The underside of the Black Pearl WCR is certainly sorted for ventilation, with a total of 6 small grills spanning the length of the case. Some kind of filter over these grills would have certainly been benficial as fans inside the case are quite likely to draw dust up from the surrounding surface.

APlus Case Black Pearl WRC Side APlus Case Black Pearl WRC Side

APlus Case Black Pearl WRC Side APlus Case Black Pearl WRC Side

Rather than going for a standard acrylic window, A+Case have decided to use an aluminium mesh. This still offers good visability for showing off the components inside the case, but once again comes at the cost of drawing in extra dust. Thankfully the mesh window is not bonded to the case, with A+Case using only 3 screws to secure it. This also opens up the possibility that A+Case may decide to sell a pre-cut acrylic window seperately.

Let's move on and see what the inside of the case has in store...


A+ Case Black Pearl WCR Edition ATX Case Page: 3
Internal Appearance

As already mentioned the Black Pearl WCR makes use of a BTX-style layout with the motherboard sitting up-side-down at the top of the case. In the past this has caused problems for people wanting to watercool their systems, but let's reserve judgement for the moment and take a look at what A+Case have in store.

APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Inside APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Inside

APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Inside APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Inside

A total of 8 hard disks can be installed in the two drive cages using the rubber grommet screws provided. People wanting to install water cooling will probably need to modify or remove one of these cages to make way for a pump (unless something small like a Laing DDC is used) as there is limited space in the rest of the case.

The 5.25" bays all use a quick release latch mechanism for keeping the CD/DVD drives in place. However, if like me, you'd rather hold your drives in place with screws, A+Case have provided the neccesary holes to do so.

APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Inside APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Inside

With the hard disk, power supply and motherboard areas all being seperated by aluminium dividers, this can make installing a water cooling system quite difficult. Fortunately A+Case have provided holes suitable for routing cables and tubing (up to 1/2" in diameter) through each of the compartments.

APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Fan APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Screws

The Black Pearl WCR is provided with two Top Motor DF121225BL 120mm fans that have a rotational speed of 2600RPM and are capable of pushing 93.08cfm at 41dbA. This would certainly lead to a very loud PC if the fans fans were left to run at full speed, but fortunately A+Case have connected them to the Black Pearl's fan controller.

As you'd expect with any PC case, the Black Pearl WCR comes with all the screws and motherboard standoff's you need to get everything installed. Also included is a bag of rubber washers for mounting the hard disks and a small screwdriver that I assume is for removing the radiator tubing covers at the top of the case.


A+ Case Black Pearl WCR Edition ATX Case Page: 4
Installation

With the A+Case Black Pearl WCR being designed specifically for water cooling, the obvious test for this case was to see if we could fit a high-end water cooling system inside. As already mentioned, neither the XPSC R120D or Thermochill PE120.2 radiators match the pre-drilled radiator holes at the top of the case, so thankfully the guys at WaterCoolingUK sent us over one of XSPC's newer RS240 radiators along with some other bits for testing.

The following components were used in the pictures and results below:

Processor
Intel Core2Duo E4300 @ 1.8ghz
Power Supply
Silver Power Blue Lightning 600w
Motherboard
Asus P5K Deluxe
Graphics CardSapphire Ultimate X1950 Pro 256mb
Hard Disk Hitachi Deskstar 80GB 7K80 SATA2 7200RPM 8mb
CPU CoolingXSPC RS240 (2x120mm) Radiator
2x Delta WFB1212M 120mm Fans
Laing DDC-1T Pro Pump
Danger Den Maze 4 Water Block
Generic 1/2" Tubing
Additional Cooling
2x Stock "Top Motor" 120mm Fans

APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Radiator APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Radiator

Luckily the XSPC RS240 radiator fitted perfectly inside the Black Pearl, with the screw holes matching exactly. This is great news for those of us who want a high-end case with water cooling, but don't like the idea of cutting holes in their brand new aluminium enclosure.

Unfortunately, even with a radiator like the RS240 that has an extremely small footprint, the tank at the top of the radiator covers over almost half of the tubing holes. For most people this shouldn't be a problem as the primary reason that these holes exist is so the radiator can be mounted externally (but it foiled my idea of using a Danger Den Fillport).

APlus Case Black Pearl WCR Radiator APlus Case BLack Pearl WCR Radiator

Can anybody spot the next problem? Yes that's right - With a radiator and two fans installed, the radiator actually overlaps the motherboard tray area, cutting off two expansion slots. This is very bad news for people who use PCI add-in cards (such as soundcards) on motherboards that only provide PCI slots towards the bottom of the board. Mounting the radiator externally would resolve this issue, but at the same time disrupt the streamlined look of the case.

APlus Case Black Pearl WCR HDD Aplus Case Black Pearl WCR Pump

A+Case have provided a bag of rubber grommets for use when installing hard disks. These allow the hard disks to slot securely into the cages and prevent any vibrations from the disk transferring to the case and causing unneccesary noise.

Our DDC-01 pump sat comfortably inside one of the cages showing that there is certainly sufficient space for larger pumps such as the Laing D5. Obviously you will lose a couple of hard disk places, but I personally don't know of anyone with 8 hard disks anyway.

APlus Case Black Pearl WCR PSU

The PSU area managed to house our Silver Power 600w unit without any problems, however with larger PSU's such as the Enermax Galaxy or PCP&C Turbo-Cool the limited length of the area is likely to be a very tight fit.


Temperature Testing

With the Black Pearl being the first case we've ever water cooled in a review here at Overclock3D, it would be unfair to compare the temperature results to some of the air-cooled cases we've reviewed in the past. However, for your reference please find below the temperatures taken from the motherboard, PSU and Hard Disk areas of the case using thermal probes under idle and load conditions.

Ambient temperatures were recorded at 24°C throughout testing, with the stock fans being connected to the Black Pearl's fan controller and run at full speed.
Temperatures
All load temperatures remained extrememly close to their idle counterparts, indicating that the cooling layout and fans used inside Black Pearl WCR do a good job of keeping everything cool. Fan noise at full speed was acceptable in my opinion, but certainly not ideal for silent PC enthusiasts. However, running the fans at a lower RPM reduced noise levels significantly while still pushing a fair amount of air.


A+ Case Black Pearl WCR Edition ATX Case Page: 5
Conclusion

Having owned quite a few high-end cases including a custom painted Silverstone TJ03 and a Coolermaster Black Widow, it's fair to say that I'm extremely particular when it comes to selecting enclosures for my own personal use. Quality, styling and performance are all extremely high on my list of requirements, and I'm pleased to say that the A+Case Black Pearl WCR has met every single one.

Featuring a 100% aluminium construction with single sheet for the main body, the Black Pearl oozes quality and doesn't feel as flimsy as some of the other aluminium cases on the market. Small touches like spring loaded stealth drive bay covers and a basic fan controller give the Black Pearl an edge over some of the competition and certainly save the need to purchase some of those "additional extras".

Hearing that the Black Pearl was "Water Cooling Ready" certainly seemed to be the icing on the cake, however after trying to install several radiators inside the Black Pearl it was clear that only a small selection of radiators would fit. This is not a fault of A+Case, as there's no way they could possibly create a case that would work universally with all radiators - but it's certainly something to bear in mind before making any purchases. In addition to this, installing a radiator inside the case covers over the lower two expansion slots on most motherboards, possibly causing problems for users with add-in soundcards.

Overall the Black Pearl WCR is a great case that has the quality and looks to take on the best cases that Lian Li and Silverstone have to offer. Retailing for around £170 the case certainly isn't suitable for those on a budget - but as the saying goes: "You get what you pay for" - and this is certainly true for the Black Pearl.

Pro's
• High quality, all aluminium construction.
• Sexy looks - one of the best on the market.
• Designed with water cooling in mind.
• Stealth drive bay covers.
• Integrated fan controller.
• Other small touches like thumbscrews throughout.

Con's
• Radiator location blocks two expansion slots.
• PSU area might not be long enough for certain PSU's
• A little expensive, but cheaper than some other similar cases.


Recommended Award


Thanks to A+Case for providing the Black Pearl WCR for review and to WaterCoolingUK for water cooling components.
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