Aerocool Strike-X Cube Case Review
Having looked at both the Aerocool DS Cube and DS200 earlier in the year, both pcG James and I walked away rather impressed (especially me, the lime green DS Cube I reviewed was brilliant!). So when I was offered a new sugar cube styled MATX case from them in the form of the Aerocool Strike-X Cube, how could I refuse!?
To give you a brief run-down on the Strike-X Cube, here is a uniquely styled small form factor cube styled case featuring a horizontal motherboard mount (which we love!), a magnetic PSU dust filter, 200mm & 140mm fans pre-installed, 3 drive sleds within an easy to remove drive cage, fan control, enough height for an air cooler of 187mm and enough length for a GPU of 345mm (basically any), side panel window and enough mounting space for a large variety of cooling combinations.
Sounds pretty impressive already doesn’t it? Let’s take a closer look!
‘From the Aerocool families, the Strike-X gaming series introduces the Strike-X Cube Gaming case! The mean looking cube case is compact with the Motherboard tray horizontally placed to ensure the steadiness of the MB and its cooler, and amazingly it supports the installation of 240mm/280mm watercooling system – not one but two watercooling systems!! Hard to believe? Come and check it out!’
The Aerocool Strike-X Cube arrived well packaged in a plain brown box with a large depiction of the Strike-X Cube dominating both front and back with a small Aerocool logo and the Aerocool web address on the front.
The sides of the box feature the Strike-X logo, key features and specifications in several languages and the company slogan ‘Be cool! Be Aerocool!’. It’s all a pretty standard affair and nothing too exciting, but then you’re more interested in the box contents, aren’t you? 😉
Opening the box we can see that the Aerocool Strike-X Cube is well packaged in hard foam and covered with a plastic bag.
Pulling out the box contents reveals the Strike-X Cube itself, within which is a user manual, cable ties, USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 adapter, a stand-off tool and several resealable bags of fittings. Just like the previous Aerocool cases we’ve seen before here at pcG, all of the fittings are grouped, bagged and labelled individually to make your life that little bit easier.
courtesy of Aerocool
|Case Type||Cube Case|
|Motherboards||Micro ATX/ Mini ITX|
|Chassis Dimensions||280mm (W) x 380mm (H) x 350mm (D)|
|5.25″ Drive Bays||1 (Exposed)|
|3.5″ Drive Bays||3 (Hidden, Internal 3.5” HDD Tray)|
|2.5″Drive Bays||5 (Hidden, Internal 3.5” HDD Tray and Under ODD rack)|
|Max length space available for PCI slots||320mm(345mm -Without Front Fan)|
|I/O Ports||2 x USB3.0, HD Audio + Mic, 1 x Fan Controller|
|Height limit for CPU coolers||Support Max. height of 162mm for CPU cooler (187mm – without top fans)|
|Fans||Front : 1 x 200mm Red LED Fan Included
Rear : 1 x 140mm Black Fan Included
- Super cube gaming case solidly built with 0.7mm Steel.
- Unique side bar design to take the strength of chassis to the next level.
- PSU bracket makes installation of PSU easier.
- Largely increased airflow front and top panels.
- Completely removable ODD rack for ease of installing water cooling system.
- Supports DUAL 240/280mm water cooling radiators.
- Pre-drilled holes for cable management to reduce cable mess.
- Pre-drilled holes for water cooling tubes.
- Supports internal 3×3.5″HDD (also compatible with 2.5”) and 2×2.5″HDD/SSD under ODD rack.
- Supports dual high-end graphic cards up to 320mm ( 345mm when front 20cm fan removed).
- Supports max. CPU cooler height of 187mm.
- Supports all PSU lengths.
- Super-silent 20cm fan and 14cm fan included for front and rear cooling.
- Supports up to 1 x 20cm, 2x12cm, or 2x14cm fans on top panel.
- Supports up to 1x 20cm, 2x12cm or 2x14cm fans on front panel ( 1x20cm pre-installed).
- Supports up to 2x12cm or 2x14cm fans on rear panel (1x 14cm pre-installed).
- Magnetic PSU dust filter can be easily removed for cleaning.
- HDD rack is double-secured by 2 screws to ensure the precious data don’t get damaged during transportation.
- Shock-proof rubber pads for 3.5″ HDDs and PSU.
- 2x USB3.0/ HD Audio & MIC.
- Separate fan positions for exhausting the heat from HDD and motherboard.
- Large Acrylic window for clear viewing.
- Includes fan controller knobs controls fan/s up to max. 15W/channel.
Now it’s unboxed, I can certainly say the Aerocool Strike-X Cube is striking (my bad!), it offers a unique styling that will appeal to anyone wanting to really stand out from the crowd. Much like the DS Cube before it, with measurements of 280mm(W) x 380mm(H) x 350mm(D) the case is actually larger than I had expected, but with room enough for a horizontally mounted MATX board it really couldn’t be any smaller. The Strike-X Cube is currently available in three flavours; white (black mesh and blue LED 200mm fan), black (black mesh and red 200mm LED fan) or red and black (same as the black, but with red mesh). Our review sample is of the latter variety.
The front of the Strike-X Cube is dominated by a huge piece of blood red honeycomb mesh with a massive red X in the middle, which is surrounded by a solid but rather hollow sounding matte black plastic. Half way up the black surround are two air vents which further accentuate the red X. Towards the bottom of the case we have the small but familiar Aerocool case badge, then right at the top a badge for the Strike-X brand. On the panel’s upper section we can also see a blanking plate for the single 5.25″ bay. On closer inspection, the front mesh features a very fine non-removable dust filter.
From the back the Strike-X has thrown me a big surprise. Given its styling, dimensions and MATX/MITX layout I was expecting it to be little more than a re-skinned DS Cube, but whilst it shares similarities, the basic chassis frame is very different. In the top left corner we have a typical exhaust fan mount with support for both 120mm and 140mm fans (or radiators), to the right of this are two rubber grommeted cut-outs for custom water cooling loops, a thumb screw fixed expansion card clamping plate, 4 blood red expansion blanking plates and the motherboard I/O cut-out. Then in the bottom left corner we have the PSU bay and mounting plate, then another 120/140mm mount with pre-fitted 140mm fan (1200±10% RPM & 27.6dBA), which I admit to finding a little odd?!? Do we really need a fan here to cool HDD/SSDs when they produce so little heat?
The very top of the Strike-X Cube is very heavy on the aesthetics. Once again in the centre there is a huge red X honeycomb mesh with a fine dust filter underneath. Just like the front panel, the black plastic surround is moulded to somewhat exaggerate the red X mesh. Towards the front of the top panel we have the case I/O. This features 2x USB 3.0, a fan control dial, audio out, microphone in, two rather large power and reset buttons with corresponding LED indicators.
Underneath the Strike-X Cube, there is an enormous amount of features… Ok so perhaps there isn’t, just four feet with soft foam padding to help keep the case in place.
From the left the Strike-X is a fairly dull affair (in comparison to the front and panel at least). It does however feature a window to show off the upper inner chassis and eventually all the cool hardware inside.
The right is again largely featureless, but to the lower right we have a honeycomb mesh to help feed your Power Supply cool air. Rather nicely Aerocool have also included a magnetic fan filter to cover this on the inside.
Looking at the sides and to the center of the top panels, we can see that it isn’t heavily moulded purely for aesthetics. Both sides have a carry handle so that not only will the Strike-X visually stand out at your next LAN party, but will be very easy to get there too.
Popping off the side panels reveals the Strike-X to be surprisingly spacious. This isn’t actually the case and pretty much a placebo effect created by the horizontal motherboard mounting design. Despite looking very airy, the lower chamber where your PSU, storage drives and excess cables go takes up very nearly half of the case. Beneath the motherboard tray lives the storage drive cage, a 120mm fan and plenty of space for cable management. To the right we have the front 200mm fan and above that a removable 5.25″ bay.
From the right everything is more or less mirrored, except instead of the storage drive cage we have the PSU bay.
Looking back at the exhaust fan mount we can see it is compatible with both 120mm and 140mm fans. Given the amount of space surrounding it you can easily use AIO or custom loop radiators for either size in pretty much any thickness.
Taking a look at the chassis roof shows a plethora of cooling possibilities. With the 5.25″ bay in place you can add a single 120mm or 140mm fan, in fact you can even squeeze in a 200mm fan! Once the 5.25″ bay is removed, you can increase this to 2x 120mm or 2x 140mm fans and/or radiators of 120mm, 140mm, 240mm or even 280mm. According to Aerocool, the maximum radiator thickness will be 45mm, but I’d hazard a guess that if you leave the rear fan mount open and swap the front 200mm fan for something a little smaller, you’ll get any thickness in.
Taking a look at the front of the Aerocool Strike-X Cube shows the 200mm fan. This has a rated speed of 800±10% RPM and a maximum noise of 26.5(dBA). However you can if you so wish, remove this and replace it with 2x120mm or 2x 140mm fans, perhaps even another radiator? Say a 120, 140, 240 or 280mm? This time round you will be limited to a 45mm depth radiator as the motherboard tray will be in the way of anything thicker.
With the front panel removed we can see the fine dust filter attached to the back of the front panel mesh and what appears to be random wires. These are in fact to power an LED strip either side of the red X mesh.
Beneath the motherboard tray and to the right is the PSU bay. This has two shock absorbing rubber pads to help dampen the noise level from any PSU vibration. The PSU is fixed to a mounting plate and then slotted in from the back (all very obvious when you realize this, but as I found out later it would have been handy to have found this out via the packaging or installation guide…).
Looking at the motherboard tray shows three rubber grommeted cut-outs to help with cable management. The one nearest the expansion slot only being of any real use if using an MITX motherboard. It could have been handy for tidying up the case front panel audio or I/O cables, but neither are long enough to do so. Another oddity not mentioned on the Strike-X Cube packaging or even the instructions is also one of the strongest features of the case. That being that the motherboard tray is removable (something I again found out during installation, but it would have been handy to have known prior to installation…).
The storage drive cage inside the Aerocool Strike-X Cube is entirely removable via two thumb-screws. You may think this is purely to allow for additional space in the lower chamber for yet another water cooling radiator or pump maybe, but in actual fact it is a necessity!? Whilst the front 200mm fan (or any front fan occupying the lower chamber) is installed, then three drive sleds will slide out, but not enough to actually remove them! Perhaps if the drive cage had been rotated 90 degrees it would be slightly more user friendly?
The drive sleds themselves simply bend and snap around 3.5″ HDD, but for 2.5″ HDD and SSD it will need fixing via four screws (there’s another installation woe cropping up soon 🙁 ).
|Case||Aerocool Strike-X Cube||Power Supply||Corsair AX760i|
|Motherboard||MSI Z87 G45 GAMING||CPU||Intel Core i5-4670K|
|CPU Cooler||Raijintek Themis||RAM||HyperX Savage 2400MHz 8GB Kit|
|Graphics Card||MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G||SSD||HyperX Fury 120GB|
Having already reviewed the Aerocool DS Cube earlier in the year, I’ll admit I jumped straight onto the Strike-X Cube expecting it to be more or less the same. Using my previous experience I decided the first thing to do was split the case front panel cables up as all were routed through the CPU side. So off came the top panel (or at least eventually… I seemed to have glossed over the fact the roof panel is attached by the traditional plastic panel plugs AND four small screws), the audio and front panel headers were threaded through the GPU side cut-out whilst the USB 3.0 and fan controller were kept in their original CPU side cut-out. Next up was the removal of the front panel so that I could remove the 5.25″ ODD bay (this won’t be necessary unless you have either a huge CPU Cooler or an incredibly wide GPU like the MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G). I then removed the storage drive cage and the lower 140mm fan as I decided it would be of more benefit as a more traditional CPU exhaust fan.
So now the Strike-X with a few tweaks is ready for the Test Rig installation. All of the necessary motherboard stand-offs were screwed in using the rather handy stand-off tool. The MSI Z97M GAMING/i5 4670K/Raijintek Themis/HyperX Savage assembly then put in place, ready for fixing, then disaster…
Ok, perhaps that’s putting it a little strongly. You see, unlike the previous Cube which had a totally open roof (with the top panel off) allowing easy access to the motherboard from above, the Strike-X Cube has a large fan grill closing it off. This was a big problem for me as I typically couldn’t find the necessary stubby screwdrivers that would allow me to fit the motherboard screws (I also started to get a little bit annoyed at this point!). So back to the installation guide and packaging I went, to see if I had missed something (I had missed the four screws attaching the roof panel after all), but nothing. However after checking out the Aerocool Strike-X Cube webpage, it turns out that the by removing six screws dotted around the motherboard tray line, the tray itself is removable! I then took a more in-depth look at the information provided on the page which also reveals that the PSU will be mounted via a pre-fitted bracket. Neither of these vital pieces of information are mentioned on the Strike-X packaging or installation guide?! Which to me is a pretty daft omission (even more so when the removable motherboard tray in my eyes is a key feature!).
With the motherboard assembly installed aboard the motherboard tray it was then reinstalled into the case, I then installed the Corsair AX760i PSU and started plugging in the relevant cables. The power cables themselves proved not to be an issue, but the front panel headers for audio and the case I/O proved to be a few inches too short for what I’d class as nice and tidy cable management. The HyperX Fury SSD and test HDD were then installed into the drive sleds and into the removable cage which was then replaced, then another issue crops up (arrgh!). Plugging in the SATA and power cable for the HDD proved to be no problem due to the sheer size of a typical 3.5″ storage device, but for 2.5″ drives the sleds are poorly designed, at least for your convenience. You may be thinking ‘but a sled’s a sled?’, well let me (try) and explain… The drive sleds included with the Strike-X Cube rely on two upright sliders and three 3.5″ bars to allow for spacing and to keep them together. The screw holes for 2.5″ drives are at the very back of the sled and on the central bar. This means the 2.5″ drive is pushed to the back of the sled and because of the drive cage arrangement, makes plugging in the SATA and power leads very impractical, to the point of having to remove the cage in order to do so. In my opinion this is a massive oversight for whomever designed them, it’s almost as if the sleds have been accidentally manufactured the wrong way round… 🙁
Which leaves just the MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G to install. You may be wondering why I left the GPU until last and the answer is purely practicality. It’s a damn site easier plugging in the motherboard USB 3.0, 24pin ATX and SATA cables without the GPU in the way. In installing the 980 I uncovered another slight oddity within the Strike-X Cube. If you refer back to the First Impressions and look at the photograph of the back end of the case, you’ll see a clamping plate for what I assumed would be to hold any expansion cards in place. This isn’t actually the case, instead we have a small screw to secure the expansion card and the clamping plate is more or less a dust cover with no clamping force at all. A bit odd, but it helps to give the back end of the Strike-X Cube a cleaner appearance.
Overall the Strike-X Cube has been a fairly pleasant building experience, but it had the potential to be very good. Which could’ve easily been realised with better/clearer (any even!) instructions referring to the removable motherboard tray and PSU mount, a revised drive cage and sleds and longer front panel cables to help with cable management. In fact it would have been nice if Aerocool had decided to sleeve or even have all the cables the same colour as to be frank seeing them through the very well placed window is just plain ugly…
At pcGameware we use Prime95 and CoreTemp to evaluate CPU temperatures and we use MSI Afterburner to evaluate the GPU temperatures. Of course Prime95 being a CPU stress test also helps to generate heat for us to check the case thermals. We also use UNiGiNE Heaven 4.0 for GPU temperature testing.
CPU performance testing is carried out using Prime95 to stress the CPU. Each run is timed for 15 mins and the maximum temperature is recorded for all cores and then the average core heat is taken. Testing was carried out at both 3.4GHz (Stock) and both 4.0GHz and 4.5GHz (via a small manual overclock in the UEFI).
GPU performance testing is carried out by running UNiGiNE Heaven 4.0 for 15 minutes and then by recording the maximum GPU temperature.
* All case fans (x2 in the case of the Aerocool Strike-X Cube) and the CPU Cooler (Raijintek Themis) are run at 100% throughout testing. To find out the case noise levels, the GPU fans are set to their lowest setting (that would be 0 for the 980) and the CPU Cooler fan is unplugged, whilst the dB is recorded from 1m away.
|Case||Ambient Temperature||Max CPU Temperature (core average)||Delta Temperature|
|BitFenix Shinobi XL||22.50||65.00||42.50|
|Cooler Master Cosmos 2||25.00||68.50||43.50|
|Cooler Master Cosmos SE||19.50||63.00||43.50|
|Phanteks Enthoo Luxe||22.00||65.75||43.75|
|Cooler Master HAF XB||19.50||68.00||48.50|
|Aerocool DS Cube||25.50||74.25||48.75|
|Aerocool Strike-X Cube||23.00||72.00||49.00|
|SilverStone Precision PS10||22.00||81.50||59.50|
The table above shows that the Aerocool Strike-X Cube offers fairly average cooling when the i5-4670k receives a minor 4.0GHz overclock. With a maximum average core temperature of 72.00C (49.00C Delta) it isn’t a deal breaker, especially when you throw in the additional fan mounting space and huge potential for AIO and custom water cooling, but I’d still like to see the CPU under 70.00C with such a small overclock.
|CPU GHz||Ambient Temperature||Max CPU Temperature (core average)||Delta Temperature|
As you can see from the table above, I also took the maximum average core temperatures with the i5-4670K set at its stock speed of 3.4GHz and with a slightly bigger overclock of 4.5GHz. With a maximum average core temperature of 64.50C (42.00C Delta) at stock the case is proving to do its job well. At 4.5GHz and a maximum average core temperature of 79.00C (56.50C Delta) the cooling performance was again middle of the road, so for anyone wanting the uniquely styled Aerocool Strike-X Cube and looking for the best cooling performance, you’ll definitely be wanting to look at additional fans or to utilise those radiator mounts.
|Case||Ambient Temperature||Max GPU Temperature||Delta Temperature|
|Cooler Master HAF XB||24.00||65.00||41.00|
|Aerocool Strike-X Cube||22.00||64.50||42.50|
The MSI GTX 980 GAMING 4G used for testing purposes is one pretty cool customer. The huge 200mm fan at the front of the Strike-X Cube helping to keep the beastly card at a maximum 64.50C (42.50C Delta), a temperature low enough for any demanding benchmarking software or Game.
Acoustically the Aerocool Strike-X Cube performs well even though it features no sound dampening of any kind. This is largely due to the huge 200mm fan with its relatively slow speed of 800 RPM. Combined with the 1200 RPM 140mm fan in the rear, the Strike-X Cube produces just 38dB of noise when the fans are set at 100%. Of course with the twist of a dial and the fan control set to the lowest available setting the noise is reduced to just 31dB which is very nearly in the silent bracket. One small issue I did have was the fan controller itself, if set to 100% it was perfectly fine as well as the lowest setting, but anywhere in-between and all of a sudden a rather annoying clicking noise would occur?!
Having previously been rather impressed by the previous Aerocool offerings here at pcG, I was looking really forward to getting my hands on the latest sugar cube style case from Aerocool, more importantly to see if they’d managed to stamp out a few of the small issues I’d found with the DS Cube. So how did the Aerocool Strike-X Cube Case fare?
The Aerocool Strike-X Cube arrived at pcGameware reasonably well packaged within a brown cardboard box dominated by a large picture of the case on both the front and back, whilst the case concealed inside was well protected by a plastic bag and sandwiched between two polystyrene blocks.
Once out of the box, the uniquely styled Strike-X Cube immediately drew my attention for its unconventional and very eye catching styling (not something I would normally like, me being a fan of fairly boring server styled cases). The case itself was made all the more striking by the X shaped blood red honeycomb mesh dominating the front and top panels. While the black plastic surrounds on both panels feels a little hollow when tapped, the overall build quality was pretty solid all round.
Inside the Strike-X Cube threw me somewhat. I was more or less expecting a DS Cube with nothing more than a different front and top panel, but despite its cube shape and similarly horizontally mounted motherboard tray, it’s very different. In some ways this is a good thing and others certainly not. The following issues of course only crop up in the course of the build itself. The first issue for me are the lengths and lack of colour uniformity of the front panel cables (for any case with a window surely you’d want to hide any cables as much as possible!?), the second issue being the lack of instructions telling you the motherboard tray is removable or the case features a PSU mounting plate (two key selling points in my opinion, surely you’d want to tell everyone about these brilliant features?), then lastly what I believe to be a poorly designed and very inconvenient drive storage system (yes the drive cage is removable, but you also have to remove the cage in order to actually plug cables into any 2.5″ drives because of the sleds seemingly being the wrong way round?!). This is a shame as the inclusion of both magnetic and fixed dust filters, fan control and the potential for both air and water cooling could have made the Strike-X Cube a stand-out case.
On the performance front, the Aerocool Strike-X Cube kept the Test Rig hardware fairly well cooled, but where it excelled was acoustically with its low noise levels.
Overall Aerocool’s Strike-X Cube poses as a little bit of an oddity to me. Over the course of the review I admit to growing rather fond of its unique styling, but for each flash of brilliance within the case design, it is then let down by poor instructions or execution. At approximately £70.00 the Strike-X is fairly well priced and a case that will certainly stand out from the crowd, but personally I’d rather own one of the BitFenix MATX cases or even Aerocools own DS Cube (which I loved) instead.
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Many thanks to Aerocool for providing this sample for review