The XPREDATOR Evil Black edition is a newly designed case from AeroCool, Wearing the Black PGS (Performance Gaming System) badge it forms part of their Ultimate Gaming Series range. The X-predator is available in 4 different colour combinations. Plain Black, Black with Green accents, White with Black accents, and lastly Black with Orange accents which is the "Evil Black" edition reviewed here.
Undeniably a full tower case, with some retailers dubbing it a Super tower. The case measures 600mm in height, being 234mm wide and 555mm deep. The case is able to take pretty much any Motherboard you care to throw at it, from ATX, up through EATX all the way up to the giddy heights of XL-ATX boards such as the Assassin and UD9.
|Case Type||Full Tower|
|Compatible Motherboards||Flex ATX / ATX / Micro ATX / E-ATX / XL-ATX|
|Chassis Dimensions||600(H) x 234(W) x 555(D)|
|Drive Bays||6 x 5.25" (External) / 6 x HDDs (internal) / 1 x 3.5" (External)|
|Expansion Slots||10 Slots|
|Max length space available for PCI cards||330mm|
|I/O Ports||1 x USB 3.0 / 3 x USB 2.0 / e-SATA / Mic & headphone (AC97 & HD audio)|
|Fan controller||Controls 6 fans simultaneously with max combined wattage of 20W|
|Cooling options||Front - 1 x 23cm fan Orange LED (included), Back - 1 x 12/14cm fan (optional), 4 x 12/14cm fans or / 1 x 18/20cm fan (optional), Top - 1 x 23cm fan (included), Bottom - 1 x 12/14cm fan (optional)|
|200mm Fan Specs|
|Operating Voltage Range||10.8 - 13.2V|
|Rated Current||0.15A +10% Max|
|Locked Current||0.24A +10% Max|
|Power Consumption Speed||2.88W+10%Max|
|Fan speed||750 ±100RPM|
|Max Static Pressure||0.54mm-H2O|
Up Close: Overview
As already alluded to, this is a big case, sure there are other big cases on the market, but few have the impact this case did when I opened up the box and set eyes on it for the first time. Ah yes, the box, I'll come to that later.
The XPREDATOR is a full tower case made predominantly from 1mm thick SECC (Japanese steel). I say predominantly as some of the less structurally critical components are made from 0.8mm SECC. it's very sturdily built, with no flex or bend visible in any of the major sheets. All this sturdiness gives the case a dry weight of 13.5Kg, and that's before you've even begun to add your hardware.
Like most cases on the market at present the X-Predator makes use of moulded plastics. As with choice of 1mm steel used the manufactures haven't scrimped and gone for the minimal thickness of plastic they can get away with. They've used good thick sturdy mouldings, which are will finished with little evidence of moulding seams and nipples. The sum of all this is a case that has a quality feel to it, a feeling that it isn't going to break, that you're not going to inadvertently snap something in the build process.
Aesthetics wise the X-Predator is predominantly matte Black with accents of brilliant rich Orange. Externally circular holed orange mesh panels on the front angled edges and anterior parts of the side panels are used to add impact to the aesthetics. The final piece of Orange detailing is provided by the use of a rubbery angled tray section situated on the top front edge of the case. The perfect place to keep all those USB sticks and other detritus that gathers when we use our PCs.
On the inside AeroCool have used an Orange Motherboard tray combined with Orange meshed PCI-E covers to counterpoint the Black and continue the theme.
Up Close: Cable Management and Storage
The Motherboard tray is a sturdy affair sporting a plethora of cable management holes. The holes are well spread and of a good size. It's also nice to see the use of rubber grommets on the holes. These not only serve the obvious purpose of helping to add to the tidy look within the case, but also, being black, further continue the Orange Black theme. The Motherboard also has a good size CPU cut out, which means you don't need to go stripping down the whole shooting match every time you want to change a cooler or upgrade your processor (How did we cope before motherboard cut outs came along)? It's worth adding that the cut out grommets are held securely in place so you're not going to be finding yourself having to re-attach the grommet every time you poke a cable through. This might sound like a rather insignificant detail, but believe me if you've ever built into a case where this happens you will know how irritating and time consuming it is.
The picture above right shows the wiring loom from the front of the case. Along with the front I/O this includes the fan controller and the usual power, reset and activity light wires. Generous cable lengths are given, although of course most (and we'll come to the annoying exception in a minute) are headed for the motherboard. So what's the exception? What's the big annoyance? Well as you've read the tech spec you'll know this case boasts USB3 compatibility. So you'd imagine the header from the front USB3 socket goes to the USB3 Header on your new USB3 Motherboard wouldn't you. And of course that would be a reasonable assumption, if it weren't for the fact that this particular piece of design interface hadn't been handed to Mr Heath and Mr Robinson. And what elegant solution did they come up with? Well they thought rather than do the obvious thing they thought it would be much better to have to trail the cable across the top of the case, exit it out the back through one of the Water-cooling tubing grommets and then double back on itself and plug into one of you precious rear I/O USB3 sockets. Not only does this rob you of a valuable rear socket, but it could put a severe crimp on any external Water-cooling solution plans. And while I'm on a rant, is it too much to ask for manufacturers to start braiding their internal case cables? Sure for the most part they're going to be hidden, but they've got to emerge at some point and there's nothing ruins a quality build quicker than the sight of ugly naked cables. I think an opportunity for some stunning colour coded Orange cables has been missed here.
Staying on the inside of the case we now take a look at storage. In the pictures below we can see that the case provides for six external 5.25" devices with a converter bracket included should you wish to convert one of those to allow for 3.5" compatibility. All bays have removable dust filters. The bays of course in this day and age are of the tool-less type, with orange sliding clips providing the positive location once the device is inserted. Insertion of the drive itself however is accomplished in quite an unusual way. I'm not quite decided whether this is unusual as in innovative or unusual as in a bit unnecessary. Essentially to gain access to the drives you have to un-clip the right hand front vertical trim piece from it's location, this then in turn gives access to the clips locating the 5.25 bays. Ok I'm going to come down on the side of innovative as it's not an action you're going to be doing on a regular basis, the PITA factor is minimised. Installation into the 6 internal bays is a much simpler affair, with simple slide and click tray type devices able to take not only 3.5" HDDs but also 2.5" HDDs and SSDs.
Moving to the floor of the case we find a great deal of thought has gone into this area. There's plenty of room to accommodate a large PSU and Aerocool have clearly taken time to think about minimising the acoustic noise transferred from the PSU to the case with the inclusion of 4 rubber decoupling feet for the PSU to sit on, and also a foam rubber gasket at the rear aperture. It's also possible to locate a fan in the base of the case with both a clip and screw mounting options for a 140mm fan and screw mounting for a 120mm fan (a fan is not included for this location). Both the intake for the PSU and the optional fan have removeable dust filters.
Up to the top of the case now and we find another fan location point in the position of the traditional top of case extract location. No fan is included for this mount, but it is able to accept both 120mm and 140mm fans and being an extract point there are no filters, but protection is given by means of the ubiquitous hex mesh. Also tucked away at the very top of the rear of the case are 4 holes allowing water-cooling tubing to pass through (or your USB3 cable). The holes are tidies up by means of rubber grommets and will allow anything up to 3/4" OD tubing to pass through.
Up Close: Cooling and Ventilation
So far we've mentioned two fan locations neither of which have fans pre mounted on them. Now I don't want you thinking that this case doesn't come with any fans at all, far from it. It actually has two 230mm fans pre installed. Air is pulled in from the front by means of 230mm intake fan. This is an Orange 9 bladed fan with orange LEDs, with manufacturers figures detailing a fan speed of 750rpm +/- 100rpm, delivering 49CFM of air with a static pressure of 0.54mm H2O, and generating a maximum of 27dBA of noise. The fan is located between the front grille and the HHD rack. The top extract fan sports identical figures to the front fan save that it is a non LED unit with Black blades. This fan is located roughly centrally in the roof of the case. Should you wish to remove this top fan mounting holes are also provided for either 2x120mm or 2x140mm fans, and given the room up there it's fairly safe to say it'd be an easy enough job to slot in a 120.2 or 140.2 radiator leaving enough room for fans before Motherboard encroachment issues raise their heads.
Back to the outside of the case now and one of the more interesting features of the XPREDATOR. The top of the case is formed by means of 5 louvres. These louvres can be opened or closed by means of a sliding tab on the top edge of the case. Opening and closing the louvres will of course reduce the amount of air being extracted from the case and should also serve to reduce the sonic footprint of the case. Opening the louvre lets the case breath and provides a decent size vent for the top fan to exhaust the hot air from inside the case. The aim I assume is that when you're sitting browsing the web or other such low heat generating activities then you can slow down the fan and close down the roof, letting the minimal hot air generated be exhausted by the rear fan. Switch to turbo nutter gamer mode (this is a gamers case after all) and you're going to want to crank up the fan speeds and open up the louvres, allowing for maximum hot air extraction.
Not only do the louvres alter the thermal characteristics of the case, they also significantly alter it's aesthetics, I actually quite like both the looks in equally measure with the chevroned (might have just made that word up) louvres having design overtones of interlocking plates of armour, mixed with a little F22 raptor. How amazing would it be if the louvres were motorised and linked to a thermostat so that they opened automatically (preferably with a little servo noise for good measure) when the temperature inside the case reached a pre determined point. Sadly they aren't, you have to do it yourself, making the little servo noise yourself is optional.
Up Close: Front I/O, fan controller and side panels
Moving now to the front of the case and the front I/O and fan control unit. The front panel is angled at about 30 degrees from the horizontal allowing for ease of use from in front or above. The fascia gives the impression of Brushed anodised Aluminium or steel, but is in fact an adhesive plastic veneer. Centrally located at the top of the panel is the power button, with fan control knobs located symmetrically on the lateral aspects half way down the panel. Each controller is able to control 3 fans giving a total of 6 and although this could be increased with the use of splitters and adapters it'd be worth keeping an eye on the 10W rating of each of the controllers. In the middle of the panel we find the main I/O section, a generous 3 USB2 ports, accompanied by a single USB3 port are joined by an E-SATA and the usual mic and phono jack sockets able to support AC97 + HD audio. The XPREDATOR Logo graces the bottom of the controller fascia, with the whole unit being lit up in an Orange glow by two strips down each side of the fascia when the PC is powered up.
Both side panels are removable by means of thumb screws, the right hand panel giving access to the area behind the motherboard tray where there is ample room for cable management. Although more would have been appreciated, AeroCool have thoughtfully preformed 3 cable tie anchor points into the steel to help keep those unruly cables under control. The right hand side panel (rear of motherboard side) is plain with no fan mounts or ventilation holes, whereas the left side panel is rather more feature packed. 70-80% of the side panel is taken up with a Grey tinted window. The window is roughly square but with a rebate cut into it to mimic the lines of the front Orange mesh section. Rather than being rebated behind the panel the window is actually surface mounted on the outside surface of the panel by means of plastic rivets. The window has four areas of slitted ventilation slots and although no fans are included mounting holes are present allowing for the mounting of ether 4 x 120mm, 4 x 140mm fans. Don't like lots of small fans? No problem, you can also fit 1 x 180mm or even 1 x 200mm fans on the window panel.
Testing & Conclusion
The XPREDATOR is as is easy to build into as a great many cases on the market, and considerably easier than some others. The ample space given behind the Motherboard for routing cables combined with the CPU cut out and well placed, plentiful grommeted cable management holes makes for a pleasant build experience. The size of the case permits the installation of the biggest Motherboards on the market, and the generous 10 PCI-E slots at the rear open up the potential for Quad SLI. On the subject of Graphics the internal dimensions also permit the use of Cards up to 330mm in length, so again, there shouldn't be any problem dropping the biggest the GPU manufacturers have to offer. Build quality is high here and try as I might I couldn't find any manufacturing defects of any description. I say this as I find it particularly annoying when you take delivery of your new case only to find there's a blemish on the paint, perhaps a small scratch on the acrylic or maybe a moulding defect on the injection moulded plastic. Perhaps not enough to warrant a return, but you know it's there! I'm pleased to say there's none of this here. Choice of materials is good, with an eye to detail being shown in the choice of knobs for the fan controller (how easy would it have been to use a cheap plastic jobby). AeroCool certainly seem to have one eye firmly fixed on QA.
Cooling wise the case performs well, with the two supplied 230mm fans able to shift the warm air from inside the case with ease. The fans being on the large side they are able to do this at relatively low speed (750RPM) and as such relatively low noise levels (27dBA). The fans are of course audible, but not in way intrusive, emitting a low whooshing sound rather than the higher pitched whine of that a lot of smaller fans can be guilty of. Cooling is good, with these two fans providing a good cross board airflow. If however you crave more cooling then the options are certainly there, with positioning points for no less than 6 additional fans should you so desire, and with every single one of those points able to accept 120mm or 140mm fans. OK so opinion is mixed on the benefits or otherwise of side mounted fans, with even those in favour of them being unable to decide on whether intake or extract is best, but the option's there if you want it. Unsurprisingly this being such a large case, there's also room in here for a simple Water-cooling loop, with space at the top for a 120.2 or a 140.2 radiator. I'm also pretty sure you could get a 120.1 or 140.1 dual thickness rad in the bottom of the case. The most obvious choice for placement of reservoir and Pump is to use a bay type res pump combination. If the thought of that makes your skin crawl then I'm pretty sure the innovative amongst you could find a place for a separate reservoir and pump within the cavernous interior of this case.
Aesthetics wise, well it's well worn phrase but beauty is in the eye of the beholder so you will have to make your own minds up on that (if you haven't already). For my part I actually quite like it. I say actually as I'm quite surprised that I do. Let me explain. They say first impressions are important, that it is within the first few seconds that we form an opinion. That makes the first few seconds of any encounter very valuable indeed. With that in mind my first impression of this case was not an entirely favourable one. In this case my first impression of the case was from the artwork on the box, something I've deliberately not shown for exactly this reason, I didn't want your first impressions to be polluted in the way mine were. If you're desperate to know what the artwork on the box looks like, follow the link at the start to the AeroCool website. The artwork there will give you something of an idea of what i'm talking about. I have to say the impression I got from the box was that inside I would find a gaudy case made from poor quality flimsy materials, full of low quality fans and flashing lights. This as you'll know by now is simply not the case. In essence the style and content of the art on the box does not portray the quality of the item within. In the days of e-tailing I find it hard to understand why manufacturers feel the need to make the packaging of their wares stand out to such a great extent, it's not like a PC gaming case box has to have great "shelf presence". So why do I like it? Well it's everything the box suggests it isn't, it's well built, it's well put together and it's easy to build into and use. I also quite like the Black and Orange Combo, but anyone whose seen my Mods will already know I have something of a penchant for those colours.
So is it perfect? Well no it's not, but then I've yet to see the case that is. The niggles are minor, limited only to the opportunities missed rather than outright failings. I would live to have seen braided cables, Orange braided cables would have looked fantastic, heck even black ones would have been fine. The side window is a bit too busy for my liking, perhaps an option to just have a windowed panel rather than one festooned with fan mounting holes and airflow slats, not because I have an opinion on whether side fans are a good thing or a bad thing, but because I like my windows to be just that, windows that allow a clear and unrestricted views of the goodies inside. After all, that's what they're there for isn't it, and unfortunately the effect of all the slats and holes is to severely break up the view of the interior in the same way that a Venetian blind breaks up your view through a window. And finally in a case as big as this I would like it's water cooling compatibilities to have been greater, the ability to get a decent sized Rad in the front without modding would have been a great feature
So it's a good case with a few very small and perhaps insignificant failings. Good airflow, good cooling, good build quality, good storage
As it stands on it's own it's a pretty good case. Unfortunately it doesn't stand on its own, it stands amongst a throng of other cases each vying for your attention. It doesn't let itself down in any particular area, but then neither does it stand head and shoulders above the rest in any of those areas. OK, the Louvred top vents are fairly unique, and I do quite like them, but they don't really add anything of substance. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad case at all, I would quite happily have one as my own, it's just that it could have been that bit better, and probably not for that much more money.
Thanks to Quiet PC for the sample on test today, you can discuss your thoughts in our forums.