You'll be forgiven if you haven't heard of Anidees before now, they're pretty fresh to the world of PC case manufacturing. Essentially a European based design company, with their manufacturing base in China, their ethos is one of "Ideas from you". A visit to their website will reveal that their rather unusual name is essentially a pluralised English to German/French/Dutch translation of "An Idea". Spend a few minutes wandering around their website and you'll discover that not only is this the first case they've brought to market, but at present their only case, and for that matter their only actual product. Let's hope it's up to the mark.
The AI-6 is available in either white or black, both of which are finished with a brushed Aluminium strip across the front and roof. The case is actually available in three variants, Standard which does not have a windowed side panel, Windowed which does, and Silent which comes factory fitted with sound dampening materials in the major panels. In all other respects the cases are the same. The version we have for review here is the standard version but with the optional windowed side panel available at a cost of £19.99
|Form Factor||ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX|
|Front Cooling||2x120mm/140mm (1x140mm included)|
|Rear Cooling||1x120 Included|
|Top Cooling||2x120mm/140mm (none included)|
|Base Cooling||2x120mm/140mm (none included)|
|External bays||3x5.25" with option for 1x3.5"|
|Internal bays||7x3.5" or 2.5"|
|Front I/O||2xUSB 3.0, 4xUSB 2.0, Audio in/out|
Up Close: Exterior Overview
Shown below in both windowed and non windowed configuration it's fair to say that the all white version of the AI-6 is a refreshing change from the plethora of all black or monochromatic cases which have been in vogue of late.
Although the example we're going to be using for the review today is the white version, shown above, the Anidees AI-6 is also available in Black should you desire a more traditional look. Even so, with the Aluminium strip now slightly smoked the AI-6 stands out from the crowd jus that little bit. The only other real difference between the black and the white is the shape and size of the window. We have to say we prefer the smaller window of the white case, but each to their own.
With its white chassis and wide strip of brushed Aluminium curving down from the roof over the front of the case, the AI-6 is certainly an imposing site. Aside from the discrete buttons and sockets mounted flush into the Aluminium the strip is uninterrupted in its descent. Hidden parallel rows of slit vents on either side of the front panel allow air into the case via the front air intake and do nothing to detract from the overall elegant and minimalist look of the case.
Up Close: Roof, Front, Rear and Base
Now we've got an idea of the overall style of the case let's examine it in a bit more detail. Moving forward from the rear of the case we are treated to this uninterrupted expanse of brushed Aluminium. This isn't plastic effect, neither is it wafer thin, this is the real deal. Rough hair brushed and left with a slightly silky appearance. Cut into the rails on either side of the Aluminium are slits which allow air to be vented from the roof so as not to compromise the cooling characteristics more than necessary.
The only feature to break the flow of the curving sheet is the Front I/O, and even this area has been kept low profile so as not to disturb the lines. Subtle power and reset buttons are found next to HDD and power lights with an array of no less than 4 USB 2.0 and 2 USB 3.0 sockets combined with the usual audio in/out. We've used the word array here to describe the USB sockets as we're not entirely sure what the collective noun is, never having had to describe such a large collection before. Attention to detail and build quality on the exterior is high with tight shut lines between panels and a good colour match between plastics and metals.
Opening the hinged front door of the case, which is held shut by small magnets and can be swapped to either side, reveals 3x5.25" bays underneath which is a large fan intake area. Although either 2x140mm or 2x120mm fans can be fitted the intakes have a removable filter panel covering the single fitted 140mm fan.
The 5.25" bay covers also have removeable foam filters which aside from preventing dust infiltration will also serve to help reduce the sonic signature of the AI-6.
The rear of the case looks like a great many others, with 3 grometed holes for tubing under which lies a grill for a 120mm rear extract fan. To the left of this we find the rear I/O area, beneath which are a generous 8 expansion bays along with an additional vertically mounted bay for those devices that do not require Motherboard connection. At the base of the case we find the cut out for the ATX PSU. Like the rest of the case the rear is painted in the same Gloss white.
The case is raised some 25mm off the deck by two long parallel rails. Small foam pads at either corner aid stability with the large recess provided ensuring a good flow of air to the filtered mesh covering the entire underside.
Up Close: Interior Overview and Storage
The interior of the AI-6 is finished in the same White as the exterior with the four vertical and one horizontal black rubber grometed cable management holes giving the only real contrast. The A16 sports a large CPU cut out enabling Heatsinks to be changed without motherboard removal.
The AI-6 has three 5.25" bays, with the lowermost being fitted with an easily removable 3.5" converter. Plenty of room then for a double bay res and fan controller, or if you absolutely insist on living in the past, an optical drive. Mounting devices into the 5.25" bays requires the use of that most complicated of tools, the screwdriver.
There's a total of 7 internal 3.5" bays, with each one being able to alternatively accommodate a 5.25" drive. The upper most bay is riveted into the bottom of the 5.25" bays so if you're looking to remove it I we hope you had Mr Dremel on your Christmas list. The other 6 bays are separated into 2 racks of 3 each. Either or both of the racks can be removed by means of rather attractive chromed knurled thumb screws. With both racks in place the case is able to accommodate GPUs up to 280mm, and with the rack removed up to 428mm. As the racks can be split, it makes it possible to accommodate a gargantuan GPU without having to lose all your storage space.
With the 3.5" racks removed we get a better view of the internal front of the AI-6. Although not designed to accommodate a 240 or 280 radiator we think with a small amount of modding this is entirely achievable. You will need to remove the plastic spacer/guide at that sits on the bottom of the case, which in turn will mean taking the base of the case to reach the screws and clips retaining it, and depending on the specific model of radiator you're using you may well also have to chop out the riveted upper 3.5" bay we talked about earlier.
Up Close: Base, Rear and Roof
Although the AI-6 isn't designed to take a rad in the front it is designed to take either a 240 or 280 in the base. As you might guess this will necessitate the removal of the plastic spacer/guide we described earlier, along with the lower of the 3.5" racks. You'll also have to think carefully about the size of PSU and how your cables and tubing will relate to each other, because although the AI-6 will accept large PSUs the larger you go the less room you're going to have down there. It's also worth remembering as we saw when we looked at the exterior that the whole of the base of the case is one giant ventilated and filtered strip so no problems with airflow there then. Sound and vibration Isolation for the PSU is provided by 4 rather insubstantial felt/rubber pads which sit atop raised sections of the floor. An additional foam rubber strip provides isolation around the edge of the PSU cut out area, with a optional velcro strap should you wish to go al S&M with your PSU.
Above the PSU we find the expansion bay area. The 8 slots are fitted with white vented covers and held in place with chromed knurled thumb screws. An additional expansion bay cover is located vertically down the side of these enabling attachment of devices that do not require motherboard connection.
Rear ventilation is provided by a single 9 bladed 120mm fan. The fan is quite OEM in appearance, but as with the other fitted to this case proved to be very quiet indeed. Although the roof is able to accept either a pair of 120mm or 140mm fans none are fitted to the filtered mesh area. Radiator wise, there's no native support for either 240 or 280 radiator up here. There's enough room inside the case for a slim rad of either size, but not enough for the fans also. There is a small roof cavity, which with a bit of judicious modding should just about be able to accept some slim fans.
Up Close: Rear and Panels
With 12 cable tie mounts the AI-6 has more than some and less than others. We'd like to see a few more to be honest especially when you consider that the rather sparse 15mm of clearance means that you're going to have to be rather clever with your cable routing. If you're planning on using coloured cable extensions then things are going to get tricky. We're not saying it can't be done, we're sure it can, but it's going to be real tight.
Following the removal of a few screws, the front and roof sections of the case simply unclip from the chassis. They come of nice and easy with no sensation of fear that you're about to break something important. In taking the roof panel of it's important to take the time to feed the front I/O cables up through their routing hole to prevent the damage that tugging at them can cause. As you can see from the image below right, the panels are inlaid with sponge filters. These can be removed but it will mean taking a screw driver to the panel. Yes this might seem like a bit of a fag, but in all honesty how many times do you really clean your filters?
Having removed the outer plastic and Aluminium panels we get to see the chassis in all its glory. Made entirely from sturdy steal with the entirety of the chassis in the same white as the exterior. Why are we showing you the bare chassis? well if you've ever modded a case or added watercooling where it's not natively supported we're willing to bet you already know the answer to the question, as you've no doubt already spent hours if not days staring at a bare chassis trying to work out where everything will go. If this is the case then you're likely to want to know that for the greater part the chassis is riveted as opposed to screwed but that it should come apart quite easily.
The inclusion of a bolt key makes the insertion and tightening of the motherboard stand offs a simple task, with the motherboard dropping cleanly into place without the need to wiggle it round obstructions. The cable management holes are well spaced and of good size. The rubber grommets however are easily displaced when feeding cables though and are an absolute pig to get back into place. On the image below right you can also see a fan power distribution unit. Feed this with a supply from a Molex and you can power up to 5 3pin fans from it. A secondary unit located higher up in the case receives piggybacked power from this unit and will enable another 3 fans to be added to the circuit.
We've already touched briefly on the space available in the roof of the case, but thought it would be appreciated if we demonstrated with a Motherboard in. As the hex meshed area is actually slightly raised from the rest of the roof of the case there's a total of 33mm of room before you hit the edge of the Motherboard. There is space above for fans, but not full thickness 25mm units.
Loading your HDDs or SSDs into the trays is simple enough, with just 4 rubber isolated screws being sued for the 3.5" drives. Smaller 2.5" drives use different smaller non isolated screws. As you might imagine the drawers simply slide into the racks.
Although the AI-6 is a slim case there's still enough room to fit a cooler up to 160mm in height. Below we've shown it with the Havik 120, a particular favourite of ours, who's black cowling and white blades just happen to match the colour scheme of the AI-6 to a tee. At exactly 160mm in height the Havik Fits with no interference with the side panel.
Turning the AI-6 around to look at the reverse and undertake our cable management we find that we are provided with good lengths of cable from the front I/O, meaning that not only can we reach the desired area on our Motherboard but we can do so without having to stretch the cables diagonally across the rear. Two parallel rows of cable tie points run vertically down the centre of the case and serve a good route for both the PSU and the front I/O cables. Although a half decent job can be achieved we have to say that with only 15mm of space it was a bit tight getting the door on. An additional 5mm of space would have made all the difference.
The large CPU cut out makes it easy to swap out your cooler, a particularly useful feature if like us you change a cooler more often than you change your underwear, and even if you don't, having a decent sized cut out sure as hell makes mounting a cooler a much less onerous task. The image below right is aimed to show how tight it is behind the mobo. Here we've tried to stash an un needed bundle of cables down the side, but have been unable to fully hide them due to the limited room.
Cable management issues aside, the only other real issue with the AI-6 we had were a few rivets that needed de burring. Unfortunately some of these were rather pronounced and in places that could potentially cause a few cut knuckles if you weren't careful. The images below are of the 3.5" bays, PCI slots and the PSU area and show clearly what we're talking about. The one in the PSU area in the black case actually had to be trimmed to allow the PSU to fit and to prevent it causing damage to the PSU.
Fully built we've decided to show the case with its window fitted, (remember the 6 variations of this case that are available). We have to say we think this window is spot on as it's just the right size and in exactly the right position to show off your motherboard, GPU and RAM etc, without exposing the ugliness of a drive rack or the cabling disappearing through the management holes. Who wants to see any of that stuff?
Performance Testing and Conclusion
The crisp white lines and curving strip of brushed Aluminium of the Anidees AI-6 make for a refreshing elegant appearance. Even in the more traditional Black the AI-6 manages to stand out from the pack without being too obviously shouty about its looks. In use the case performed well, the fans in particular being a bit of a surprise as having such OEM looks (perhaps with a splash of Spectres about them) we expected them to be considerably noisier than they were. In practice the fans were very quiet at full speed and even quieter with either of the speed reducing cables in use. It would have been nice to see an additional fan in the front of the case, or perhaps one included in the roof, but of course all of this pushes the price up, and as a great many people swap the fans out of cases for ones with more bling and case presence this is perhaps a rather astute business decision on behalf of Anidees. After all it makes little sense to increase the cost of a case to provide an item that a high percentage of the buyers may discard. But credit where credit is due, the fans included do a good job and are worth hanging on to.
Build wise the ample and well spaced rubber grometed management holes and generous supply of cable tie points make build a relatively pleasurable process. We have to say that an additional 5mm of space behind the motherboard tray would have had us really singing the praises of the back end of this case. If you want to add in custom cable extensions you're going to struggle to fit everything in and still have it looking tidy. We're not saying it can't be done, it can, it's just going to be hard work getting it all in and getting the side on. And while we're having a bit of a moan the grommets themselves could do with being a little more substantial as they were a bit prone to popping out when we were feeding cables through, and a right git to get back in.
Don't let this have you thinking the AI-6 isn't well made and well put together though, because it is, and the issues listed above are far too common in cases for us to really single the AI-6 out as being the only case in its class with these sort of compromises. The only other real thorns in its side are the rivet burrs in its interior, a bit of a letdown as otherwise quality is good, there's certainly rigidity and strength here. The paintwork is well finished and blemish free as re the stunning Aluminium accents.
The AI-6 is also a quiet case with surprisingly good airflow despite there only being 2 fans included. Couple that with decent storage (8x3.5" or 2.5" drives), accommodation for large GPUs plus decent sized CPU heatsinks and native watercooling support for 240mm or 280mm radiators in the base of the case and with additional accommodation in the roof and the front if you're willing to get the Dremel out and we have the right sort of ingredients for a pretty good recipe.
Although we're talking about this as "a case" in the singular it's important to remember that aside from the 2 colour variants the case is also available with or without a window, or with sound and vibration dampening material pre-installed. Add all this together an you get no less than 8 possible variants.
At a smidge over £100 the AI-6 is up against some stiff competition in the shape of such cases as the NZXT Phantom 410, the Carbide 500R, and of course the Fractal define R4. Is the AI-6 able to mix it with these Big Boys? In short yes, the AI-6 is worthy of your consideration and well worth a look if you're in the market for a case in this price range.
So the AI-6 is less than perfect, but show us a case that isn't. There's room for improvement and perhaps a quiet word to be had with the chap who wields the rivet gun. But let's remember that the AI-6 is Anidees first product to market. To produce a case as good as this as a first attempt is no mean feat. We think you'll agree that not only is that impressive in itself in these times of austerity but that it's very likely we're going to be seeing a lot more of Anidees in the future.
Medal wise, We'd dearly love to award a gold as our overall impression of the case was a good one. We liked the silence, we loved the looks. However, although we feel comfortable making an award that relflects the very low noise output of this case, with the issues as we found them we can only award a Silver overall.
Thanks to OCUK for sending the case over for review, you can discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.