Aerocool Strike-X Air Review
Performance, Testing and Conclusion
In concluding this review we need to establish that this is an open frame case and not a traditional closed case. Well Duh! I hear you say. What I mean to say is that as such we cannot entirely directly compare it to a traditional case. Sure, there are some areas where we can make comparisons but for the greater part we must look at this case in a different way. We must appraise it for what it is, which is essentially an open frame gamers case with a nod towards test bench capabilities
The market isn't exactly awash with open frame cases, but as someone who's built into, modded and used the Antec Skeleton case on a daily basis since its launch It's fair to say we have a good benchmark against which to measure the X-Strike Air. It's also fair to say not all of us here at OC3D towers share the love for the Skeleton, but then perhaps like the X-Strike, the looks are something you'll either take to or not.
The X-Strike air is certainly very easy to work on, with the lift up top fan cooling panel circumventing the problems of a fixed top fan and allowing access down into the mother board area, not just from the sides, but also directly down from the top. If it wasn't possible to flip the case over to gain access to the reverse side of the mother board to route and secure cables the build would have been next to impossible. As it is though the build process was a positive pleasure, in fact easier than a great many cases I have worked on. That's not to say it's perfect, the access for the 12 pin CPU power cable could be better. The front I/O cables could be routed directly under the motherboard from the outset, and the access to the rear of the 3.5" bays to attach the power and SATA cables could be better. These though are the minor niggles and do not significantly detract from the ease of the build process. So access is good, but then it should be as this case is aimed not just at gamers but at people who want to be, or need to be changing their hardware on a regular basis. Looking at the case from this standpoint, it stands up as one that is easy to work on. Swapping out GPUs and coolers is a cinch as is pretty much any other piece of hardware for that matter. However it's only fair that if we are to look at this case as a test bench then we must mention the other options available. The Lian Li PCT60B can be had for about the £75 mark, it's not able to take the larger boards that the Strike X Air can, but it does occupy considerably less desk. Then we have the Phobya WaCoolT at £95 (no I haven't just had a spas on the shift button, that's really how it's written), and the Dimas Tech V2.5 Easy for £100. These are both superficially quite similar designs with both offering watercooling support for larger rads. It must be remembered that these 3 cases are all pure test benches and do not make the same allowances for the Gamer as the Strike X does.
Appreciating that the world appears split into those who prefer sleek looking cases and those who like their cases to look a bit more aggressive, (because let's be honest if you like your cases sleek and sexy you're not going to like this one little bit).. Let's examine how this case might appeal to the gamer who's in the latter camp and looking for something a little bit different. Well it certainly seems to tick a significant number of boxes. Aggressive styling, Blinged out fans, LEDs, Desk presence, big GPU and tall heatsink capacity, good cooling, decent storage, hot swap bays, it's pretty much got it wrapped up. For those of you who raised an eyebrow when I said good cooling and question how, without a case, you can achieve good airflow, let me explain something I've learned. Open frame cases with top down fans disperse heat differently. The heat from the hot components radiates up from the general motherboard area and is then simply blown away from the area by the top fan, kind of like a continuous bucket of water pouring down on a fire. For this reason they tend to have very good cooling, in fact for this very reason we don't test CPU coolers in open frame cases as they can knock a good 4-6 degrees of the max temp. Also, for those of you who think dust will be a problem, I see no reason why this case should collect anymore dust than the Skeleton, which I can say hand on heart is one of the most dust free cases I've ever owned, again thanks to the top fan simply blowing the dust away.
So far so good, but for those of you who've read the whole review you'll know there are one or two problems. The first of which is the hinged top fan panel. It's pretty inexcusable for this panel to be as flimsy as it is, it's not even able to support its own weight and when propped on one side droops on the other. I spent ages trying to get it to stay flat and level but it just wasn't to be. Additionally the fact that it doesn't seem to quite line up with the front panel section when it's closed does nothing to add to the feeling that it's a quality item. You might be interested to know that the roof fan panel can actually be purchased as a separate item and is marketed as a laptop cooler. Can't help wondering which purpose it was originally indented for. The other big problem for me is the looks. I wouldn't normally comment on a cases aesthetics as it's very much an individual choice, however, as a reviewer you learn to appreciate not just aesthetics, but also design. I'm not going to say I either like the looks or dislike the looks, that would be a far too subjective opinion, there is however something wrong with the balance of the design, the symmetry of the case isn't so much wrong as totally missing. For example, the right hand side of the case, housing the motherboard etc looks to have been designed by a different chap, in a different building possibly in a different country to the chap who designed the left hand side of the case housing the drives and PSU. Not only do they look totally disjointed, they also appear to be the wrong scale for each other. The lack of symmetry doesn't end there, take a look at the two "side on" images and you'll notice that the shape and curve of the struts on the left side of the case are different from those on the right. It's almost as if they had so many cool looking drawings and designs they thought they'd try to incorporate everything. Either that or the design decisions were made by a committee that couldn't quite agree.
So like a lot of items we review there's good as well as not so good. In the end though we have to draw things to a close and decide what we really think of the Strike X Air. In concluding I'm going to ignore all aspects of aesthetics as this may just be a personal thing. I can't however ignore the issues with the cooling panel as this is just weak design. As a gamers case I think it performs well. It'll keep things cool as well as look cool. It'll take the big cards and coolers and it'll look imposing on your desk (or what space you have left on your desk). As a test bench it also performs well. It's easy to build into, with one or two minor niggles. Access is good from the top down and from the sides and it's easy to do a good job on the wiring.
I've deliberately resisted the urge to compare this case to the Skeleton, which it has to be said is the only other real hybrid case/test bench on the market. However, aesthetics and the issues with the top panel aside and appreciating that neither may be to your personal choice I have to say that the X Strike Air is the better case with regards to flexibility, features, CPU cooler capacity, GPU capacity, ease of build and ease of use. From someone who loves the Skeleton that is praise indeed. Take into account the price and if you're looking for something that bit different, can live with the droopy top cooling panel and are in the habit of swapping your hardware about then this might just be the case for you. When it comes to scoring the Strike X Air does reasonably well, sadly though let down by that top fan panel. If Aerocol can get that sorted and make it look like it's part of the case as opposed to an afterthought then they will score much higher.