The Sixth Element White edition forms part of the line up of cases from AeroCool's Performance Gaming System range. The Sixth Element wears the Red badge of the Professional Series, which puts it roughly mid way in the PGSline up. The case is also available in Black, with either Blue or Red accented interiors. In this review we shall be taking a look at the White edition.
The case is a Full/Mid-tower, making use of 6mm Japanese Steel and, as would be expected, fair amount of plastic for the outer shell and detail areas. The case is windowed and comes with two 140mm fans pre installed.
Before writing this review I got to thinking what exactly the Sixth Element was. As alluded to on the home page if Luc Besson is to be believed we've already established the nature of the 5th Element in the form of the not unattractive, white bandage clad, Milla Jovovich. A quick trawl of the inter-web reveals more than a few opinions on the subject of the nature of the mysterious Sixth Element, with everything from Void, Consciousness, Space, Light and Darkness vying for the title. So have AeroCool used any of these Holistic concepts to shape their design ethos? Doubtful. In purely chemical terms of course the sixth element is Carbon. Has the case been made from Carbon fibre? Afraid not (at £78 that's not really likely is it now, and neither is a carbon fibre effect coating so don't go getting excited there either). So why Sixth Element? Apart from it being a rather cool name of course. Well it may just be coincidence, but there are certain similarities between the look of the case and the lines of the new Lamborghini Concept car, the Sesto Elemento (Sixth Element in Italian if you hadn't guessed).
All that said whatever the design influences are for case and whatever the inspiration for the nomenclature what we want to know is how good is it.
ATX and Micro ATX
510(H) x 197(W) x 530(D)
4 x 5.25" (External) with one 3.5" converter / 6 x 3.5" HDDs (internal)
Max length space available for PCI cards
280 or 400mm with middle HDD cage removed
2 x USB 2.0 / e-SATA / Mic & headphone (AC97 & HD audio)
Front - 1 x 140mm LED fan (included), Roof - 1 x 140mm LED fan (included), Back - 1 x 120mm fan (optional), Side panel - 2 x 120mm fan (optional)
140mm Fan Specifications
0.36A +10% Max
Power Consumption Speed
Max Static Pressure
Up Close: Exterior
Finished in high gloss white, the exterior front and top sections of the case are made from rigid plastic. This of course is nothing unusual, with all but the most basic cases these days making use of the material to bring to life the manufacturers styling ideas. The appearance of the case is dominated by the use of interlinking geometric triangles, imparting something of a "Stealth fighter" look, a theme which does seem to crop up in AeroCool's styling from time to time and is no bad thing. Although it could be argued the look is better suited to a case with a black finish I have to say I find the Albino Stealth look rather appealing.
The case has a window on the left, or "correct" side of the case (I'm sorry, but it just is). Roughly half the size of the door the window is bordered on the front edge by a chevron of some 27 smaller slitted windows. The main area of the window has vents and mounting holes for two 120mm fans. As these are not included with the case the choice of whether to mount and what to mount can be decided by the owner. The right hand side of the case is a feature free sheet of white removable door giving access to the rear of the Motherboard.
Access to the exterior drive bays is via a door in the front of the case. The door is actually formed from 2 pieces of plastic giving it the appearance of considerable depth and solidity. The triangle theme continues at the base of the door with the cut in revealing a hint of the 140mm fan behind.
The rear of the case provides mounting for up to 7 PCI-E cards. When not in use the slots are protected by Black meshed strips which provide a counterpoint for the expanses of white. The roof of the case has a triangular vent area very similar in style to the front vent.
The front top edge of the case is where you'll find the the power and reset switches, along with 2 USB2 sockets, and E-SATA socket and a mic and phono socket. These are all laid out in a neat and inconspicuous row presumably so as not to spoil the stealthy lines which could of course lead to the case being picked up on radar!
Up Close: Interior
With the side door removed by means of the two black knurled thumb screws at the rear we gain entry to the interior of the case. The White theme continues here, however it is nice to see the use of Black to provide a counterpoint to what would have otherwise have been a glacier of white. The case can accept ATX and Micro ATX boards. The Motherboard tray is non removable but does have a good size CPU cut out, with access to the rear of the tray via the removable right hand case side panel. Three additional Motherboard cut outs are provided to aid cable management and surprisingly at this price point, AeroCool have managed to stretch the budget and clad each one with a rubber grommet. The cable management holes are of a reasonable size and quite well distributed across the interior. More holes would have been nicer however the three provided are sufficient for most builds in a case of this size.
Storage wise the Sixth Element has four 5.25" external bays, two with tool free mechanisms and the other two requiring screws to hold the bay devices in place. Personally I'm a big fan of screws for holding bay devices in, particularly drives and pump res combos as for the greater part I just don't feel that the majority of the tool free mechanisms around provide a strong enough fixation. Add to that I've never needed to get a device out in such a hurry that having to go and fetch a screw driver has proved a troublesome delay. But I digress, Interior bay wise we are provided with two modules each able to hold up to three 3.5" drives (an adaptor is also provided to allow a 2.5" SSD to be installed), giving a total of six internal bays.
Although compact, as one would expect for a case with these external dimensions, the interior is well laid out and able to accept GPUs of up to 280mm in length. This can be extended up to a whopping 400mm with the removal of the upper most 3.5" drive bay. Ok this leaves you with only 3 internal drive bays for your HDDs but with the ever falling prices of multi terabyte platters three bays should be more than plenty for most users.
The 3.5 in drives are located by means of brackets which screw onto the side of the HDDs. The accessory box included in the case came rather imaginatively mounted inside one of the drive bays by means of these brackets. Along with the mounting brackets the accessory box also contains more screws than you can shake a stick at, quite a few cable ties, a Motherboard header speaker/beeper, and something I've never seen before. AeroCool have included a PCI card stability mechanism. Essentially large cable ties with holes at one end. The idea being that the holed end of the cable ties are secured in place via the motherboard mounting screws. They then meet over the top of the PCI cards and when ratcheted down provide stability and support to the cards. I have to be honest I'm not too convinced for 2 main reasons. Firstly would you really want to be undoing Motherboard screws when you change your GPU and secondly, I'm pretty convinced that the PCI mounting screws on the rear of the case do a pretty good job of supporting the cards.
Removing the upper HDD bay also serves to give us a better view of the front 140mm intake fan. A 15 bladed 1500RPM White LED unit, with manufacturers figures suggesting 96.5 CFM at 29.6dBA. While we're down at the bottom it seems a good time to have look at the PSU mounting area. Although pretty basic in general terms the area still sports 4 small isolation feet to support your PSU and reduce vibration transmission, as well as having a cut out for the PSU intake with a removable dust filter.
Last stop on the tour of the interior of the case is the rear roof area. The roof of the case comes pre installed with a 140mm LED fan identical to the one in the front of the case. This fan expels air from the case by means of the triangular vent in the roof of the case. There is also a mounting area for a rear 120mm fan should you choose to mount one to supplement the roof extract.
Testing and Conclusion.
The ease of build into a case is determined by many factors, the greatest of these being the space available. Being a mid-tower case space is always going to be at a premium on the inside. Where a manufacturer can make a difference is in how they organise the internal space and to what extent they include features that make the system builders life easier. Well AeroCool tick a lot of the boxes. Lets start with cable management. We get three good sized holes, each of which is rubber grommeted. "So what" I hear you say, "surely this is to be expected these days". Not so. Ever taken a look inside a CM-690? The grommets are a bit on the flimsy side and did dislodge when cables were poked through, but thankfully only took a second to refit. The space behind the motherboard isn't vast, you're going to have to think carefully about how you route some of the chunkier cables, and may run into problems if you're into using pre braided cable extenders. That said with a bit of careful planning you should be OK. The inclusion of eight cable tie mounts grouped around the cut outs should make a neat cable job considerably easier to achieve, especially as Aerocool have been thoughtful enough to include a handful of black cable ties, and of course the GPU securing mechanism should you choose to use it. So what else have we got that makes our build and hence life easier? Well good sized CPU cut out makes installing and changing heat-sinks considerably less tedious for a start. Additional little details like filters for the PSU and isolating rubber stand offs for the PSU add to the overall impression that this is well thought out case interior. The ability to remove the upper HDD rack is a nice inclusion at this price point, increasing the max GPU length from a reasonable 280mm up to more than adequate 400mm. Removing the upper HDD rack also serves to improve the airflow through the case.
So what of airflow? There's no denying that although they look interesting and add a certain individuality to the looks of the case the triangular vents do somewhat impede airflow through the case. To a certain extent this can be mitigated by adding a rear extract and perhaps some side window fans, but in stock form airflow isn't the best. Is it adequate? Yes I think it is, but better solutions are out there if max airflow is your prime concern.
Overall build quality is good, the paint paint finish is good with no discernible imperfections or inclusions. The plastic used on the roof, door and front of the case is reasonably thick and feels sturdy enough. The Steel used is on the thin side at 0.6mm but again it's thick enough for the job in hand. All internal edges are rolled, even the ones under the grommets which would indicate that the AeroCool QA chap has been out and about. It does however appear that he had a day off when the Motherboard standoff holes were drilled as the burrs on the reverse side of the tray (where you do all your cable management) have not been removed, instead simply painted over. The edges are sharp enough to snag cable braiding and most likely leave you with a few cut fingers and knuckles as a memento of the build if you're not careful.
When a manufacturer builds a case, or any product for that matter there is always a balance to be struck between the quality of the materials used and the features included. You might think a manufacturer would just build a case and see how much it costs them to do so, then sell it for a percentage more. Not so, The eventual price point of the case is often one of the first factors to be determined. Why? Well the manufacturer will want to produce a product to compete in a certain sector of the market, a certain price point if you will. Once that is determined they will then establish a budget for the case and set about producing the best item they can. But what does "Best" mean? Does it mean feature packed or high quality? Most likely a bit of both, and this is where the tightrope walk begins. Include too many features and you have to crop the quality of the parts used to keep in budget. Concentrate too much expenditure on ensuring only quality parts are used and you're going to come up short when you want to dip into the budget for the features you wanted to include. So many ways to get it wrong, and a narrow route to stay on to get it right.
So how well have AeroCool walked the line with the Sixth Element? Remember we're looking at a case that retails in the region of £78 here. Well it ticks the boxes with regards to features without a shadow of a doubt, but does it stray too far that way? The best way to answer this is to ask the question of yourself "what would I like to improve, and what would I be happy to give up to get that improvement" Personally, with the exception of the burrs I think the Sixth Element walks the line pretty well. So why no silver or gold award? Well at the "about £80" price point there's a lot of others who also walk that line pretty well.
Thanks to Quiet PC for providing the Sixth Element for review. Discuss in our forums.