Xigmatek Aquila Case Review
With the overwhelming success of the BitFenix Prodigy, the inevitability of Steam Box and popularity of living room Gaming PCs moving forward at a rapid pace, 2014 has been a great year for small form factor cases. Only recently we’ve reviewed the tiny but quite frankly brilliant SilverStone Raven RVZ01 MITX case, while possibly being my favourite case this year, it does have the slightly limiting factor of an MITX motherboard, meaning no SLI or CrossFire support… 🙁
Yet fret not! There’s still plenty of slightly larger (ok, a fair bit larger, but not enough to be obtrusive in your front room) MATX based cases available. The one I’ve been using for the last couple of weeks is the Xigmatek Aquila. The company themselves are new to pcG, but they’ve crossed my path before with the Midgard and Utgard (albeit a few years back). Xigmatek have been around since 2005 and have followed the ICE (Impressive Creative Essential) philosophy ever since.
So what is the Xigmatek Aquila?
The Aquila is a SFF (Small Form Factor) PC case with a unique design measuring 390mm(L) x 403mm(H) x 265mmmm(W). It supports MATX and MITX motherboards with a horizontally mounted tray. The front panel features 2x USB 3.0 and HD Audio in & out jacks, full sized power supply support, 200m front fan (pre-installed), 120/140mm rear fan (120mm pre-installed) and 2×120/140mm roof fan (optional) support. Two individual tool-free drive bays for 2x 3.5″/2.5″ and 2x 2.5″ Storage drives and an external 5.25″ optical drive. Then 4 Expansion slots with a tool free PCI slot cover and support for graphics cards up to 330mm.
‘In 2013 Xigmatek completely redesigned the traditional look of the small form factor chassis and added unbeatable style and performance to something which was so simple looking. Usually for a micro-ATX, mini-ITX chassis the exterior design is straight forward and non eye catching. We wanted to change the industry’s perspective on small form factor chassis and build something that everyone can enjoy! The base of the chassis is elevated at the front which provides extra intake airflow. Unlike other micro-ITX chassis he interior can support up to micro-ATX giving you the selection to use SLI or Crossfire in your build, not to mention being able to fit full length top of the range gaming VGA cards. Also a added feature is to use a full ATX power supply instead of a SFX PSU. The handles on the top are not only there for looks, they can support the weight of a full gaming build.’
I’ll admit Xigmatek whilst known to me aren’t a manufacturer that would normally pop up on my radar, but the Aquila is a case I’ve been waiting to get my hands on since the CES reveal earlier in the year. 🙂
Let’s take a closer look!
The Xigmatek Aquila arrived in a large predominately glossy black box. In the top left corner we have the Xigmatek logo whilst in the right the case name. In the lower left the box shows a large black and rather imposing angled image of the case hidden inside, with a small logo telling us the case is USB 3.0 compliant. The box front also gives us the following features:
- Includes pre-installed high performance silent Xigmatek XDF white fan with FCB (Fluid Circulative Bearing) for ultimate exhaust capabilities
- Easy to access side I/O panel includes x x Super-Speed USB 3.0, HD Audio In/Out jacks, HD light
- Capable of mounting Micro ATX, mini-ITX Motherboard
- Innovative 3.5″/2.5″ Internal x 2 (tool-free retainers) + 2.5″ Internal x 2 (tool-free retainers)
- Slim design with heavy duty handles for when your on the move
- Standard P/S2 ATX/EPS power supply units on downside space with anti-vibration rubber
- Can mount up to 330mm full length Gaming Graphics card
- Thick side panels makes the chassis strong and secure
- Quick release top mesh cover for easy access of top fans/radiator
- Add-on card slot X 4 allows for SLI/CrossFire
- Pre-drilled water tubing holes
Over on the back we have a two more images of the Aquila, one of which is the rear and the other being a side image with the panels removed that also shows the maximum length of the graphics card available in the build. Above these we have various pictograms showing off the various key features. We also have the Xigmatek Facebook web address and a brief on the case inside
‘Aquila is the Latin and Romance language for eagle, also known as a constellation in the northern sky. Aquila represents the bird who carried Zeus’s/Jupiter’s thunderbolts in Greco Roman mythology.’
Over on the right we have another list of the Aquila’s features (see Specifications/Features below) in eight different languages, the case name, Xigmatek logo and web address and an angled image of the case showing off the 5.25″ ODD bay and power switch.
Whilst on the left we have images of the two available Aquila colours, white and black. Both of which are available with or without windows (as you can see from the blue tick, our review sample is the white windowed one). Beneath these we have the case specifications (see Specifications/Features below).
lifting the box lid reveals the Xigmatek Aquila to be fairly well protected within a large plastic bag and wedged between two polystyrene blocks as is pretty much the standard these days.
- Xigmatek Aquila Case
- Installation Manual
- USB 3.0 to USB Converter
courtesy of Xigmatek
- Thick side panels makes the chassis strong and secure
- Quick release top mesh cover for easy access of top fans / radiator
- Add-on card slot X 4 allows SLI / Crossfire
- Pre drilled water tubing holes
- Includes pre-installed high performance silent Xigmatek XOF white fan with FCB (Fluid Circulative Bearing) for ultimate exhaust capabilities
- Easy to access side I/ O panel includes 2 x Super-Speed USB 3.0, HD Audio In/Out jacks, HD light
- Capable of mounting Micro ATX, mini-ITX Motherboards
- Innovative 3.5“/2.5” Internal x 2 (tool-free retainers) + 2.5” Internal x 2 (tool-free retainers)
- Slim design with heavy duty handles for when you are on the move
- Standard P/S2 ATX/EPS power supply units on downside space with anti-vibration rubber
- Can mount up to 330mm full length Gaming Graphic cards
- Includes pre-installed high performance silent Xigmatek 200mm fan with FCB (Fluid Circulative Bearing) for ultimate intake capabilities
|Dimension||390mm(L) x 403mm(H) x 265mm(W)|
|Drive Bay||5.25″ External x 1 (tool-free retainers)
3.5“/2.5” Internal x 2 (tool-free retainers)
2.5” Internal x 2(tool-free retainers)
|Expansion Slot||4 slots, tool free PCI slot covers (330mm support)|
|Motherboard Support||Micro ATX
|Power Supply||Standard P/S2(ATX) or EPS|
|Cooling System||Front Fan: Preinstalled 200mm fan, Optional 120mm or 140mm fan
Rear Fan: One 120mm/140mm fan
Preinstalled one 120mm silent Xigmatek XOF white fan
Top Fan: Two 120/140mm fans optional
|I/O Panel||USB 3.0 x 2, HD Audio in/out jacks|
|Max Graphic card Length||330mm|
Once out of the box, the Xigmatek Aquila is revealed and personally I think the case looks great! Following a similar styling to the massive Xigmatek Elysium, with its industrious but elegant lines, to which the contrasting black grills and white body and panels make for a rather nice contrast and striking image.
The front of the Aquila is dominated by a large piece of glossy black honeycomb mesh. The top of which features a removable panel for 5.25″ ODD or perhaps even a fan control, while towards the bottom of the mesh and situated centrally we have a rather nice silver and black Xigmatek logo. On either side of the case, the Aquila features a large leg made of three parts apiece. These match the other white areas of the case perfectly and are made of a high quality hard plastic.
Around the back of the case is completely powder coated white with silver rivet and screw heads which looks rather nice. The side panel and PCI card holder thumb screws and the two rubber water cooling grommets are black. Starting in the top left, we have a mount for a 120/140mm fan, two rubber water cooling grommets, PCI card holder, 4x expansion slots, motherboard I/O panel slot, then the PSU bay cut-out.
From the left we can see a massive expanse of brilliant white broken up by a large perspex window. Rather nicely the window is tinted as opposed to totally clear and I think it helps to give the Aquila a slightly more elegant look for it. You’ll also notice that the Aquila main chassis is actually set at an angle as opposed to horizontally flush, this not only helps to give the case a cool angled appearance, but is apparently to help aid airflow from the 200m front fan.
On the opposite side we have nothing but a massive expanse of white. Given the horizontally mounted motherboard tray, it would have been quite nice to have had a second window to show off your hardware from the right side too. The legs at the top and bottom of the Aquila aren’t just a case of style over substance (although they do look good), the lower legs are effectively large skids (no anti-slip pads here, but with the additional weight of all your Gaming hardware should be absolutely fine) for the case to stand on, where as the top ones double as carry handles for easy transport.
Up above the Aquila looks very similar to the front. The black mesh at the top is a removable panel affixed by magnets. Just below this is the case power button which is made from a rather nice textured aluminium. You may have noticed the Aquila doesn’t have a reset switch, whilst nothing new this is something I haven’t seen missing from a case for a while.
Beneath the Aquila like most cases these days is a pretty sparse affair. We can see the skid styled legs either side, while the PSU air intake vent features a fine mesh dust filter.
With the side panels removed we get to see how the inner chassis and how big it is (or is it? Everything seems bigger in white). For any Aerocool DS Cube or DeepCool Steam Castle users out there, you’ll be instantly familiar with the layout as the basic layout is identical. The only three real differences being the huge 200mm front fan being mounted on the outside of the chassis, lack of 3.5″ external drive mount (who uses these anyway?), then the front panel cable placement is slightly different too (the I/O cables are situated through a front panel cut-out, whilst the power button cable through the roof). Perhaps it is just because it is white, but straight out of the box is does look slightly larger than the other two similar chassis.
The rear exhaust mount allows fitting of either 140mm or 120mm fans. Xigmatek have included the slightly unusual looking 120mm silent Xigmatek XOF in white. Unusual because most fans feature 7 blades, where as the XOF has 9, the fan hub is bullet-shaped to help improve airflow, while the fan housing features a Multi-Tunnel intake to help keep the noise down. It’s no slouch either with a rated speed of 1400±200 RPM and low noise level of just 14dB. Whilst looking good, one slight very small issue I do have with the fan is the lack of single colour or sleeved cables.
Behind the Aquila front panel is lives a huge 200mm XLF-F2003 fan, which not only offers 800RPM and a lowly 18dB of noise, but also a white led on each mount and translucent orange blades (but suffers the same black, red and yellow fan cable). As we can see from the inside of the front panel, the large black mesh also features a fine mesh dust-filter.
Upon removing the magnetic dust-filter from the top panel, we get to see the Aquila offers support for 2x 120mm or 140mm fans as well as the opportunity for 120mm, 140mm, or 240mm radiators, but in order to do so you will lose the 5.25″ ODD bay.
Taking a closer look at the Aquila motherboard tray shows that as mentioned before, it is mounted horizontally. This of course offers us the benefit of actually being able to see the better looking side of any installed graphics cards. The motherboard tray itself features three cable cut-outs, I say three because the traditional CPU cut-out is only really of any benefit for routing the rear fan or 8pin CPU power cable (as long as it’s a flat one). The tray itself is split into two sections, the rear section is used for both MITX and MATX motherboards, choosing the prior means you can remove the MATX support section at the front. This adds the potential for water a front radiator of up to 240mm and enough floor space for a reservoir and pump for a custom water cooling loop. Of course in doing so you would lose the 3.5″ storage drive bay and 5.25″ ODD bay .
The PSU bay allows for full size ATX power supplies and features rubber anti-vibration mounts. Despite being up to the task it is a little close to the 3.5″ drive bay which means you’ll be wanting to plug in all of your power cables prior to installation to make life easier.
The front storage drive bay features two too-free drive sleds, but allows space for three. Both sleds feature torsion bars to help strengthen them when 2.5″ drives are installed. As with any tool-free drive sled, the ‘tool-free’ bit only applies to 3.5″ HDD, for anything smaller you’ll still need to screw them in. The drive cage itself is also removable if you wish to pave way for more space for the likes of water cooling. Of course to do so would mean losing 3.5″ drive support.
The rear drive bay offers support for 2x 2.5″ drives. This is done simply by screwing four rubber spaces on to the sides of the 2.5″ drive, which then just slides in to the drive bay.
The Xigmatek Aquila I/O panel is situated on the left side of the front panel and a pretty basic affair.
Despite the Xigmatek Aquila offering a very similar chassis design (ok, it’s practically identical) to a couple of other MATX cases available, it still looks great and does things differently enough to perhaps even overshadow it’s two nearest and most similar rivals.
|Case||Xigmatek Aquila||Power Supply||Corsair Professional Series AX 760i|
|Motherboard||MSI Z97M GAMING||CPU||Intel Core i5-4690K|
|CPU Cooler||Raijintek Themis||RAM||HyperX Savage 2400MHz 8GB Kit|
|Graphics Card||XFX AMD Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition||SSD||HyperX FURY 120GB|
*The Xigmatek Aquila is an MATX case, therefore our regular ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer ATX Motherboard will not fit. So for the purpose of this review we shall be using the MSI Z97M GAMING MATX motherboard instead. All other Test Rig components are however the same.
Having already gathered experience from, reviewed and built within the rather nice Aerocool DS Cube, the Xigmatek Aquila was a nice and easy build. The first step was to give myself a little extra working space by removing the 5.25″ ODD bay. With the bay removed, I installed the motherboard stand-offs, then set about piecing the MSI Z97M GAMING, i5-4690K, Themis and Savage assembly together outside of the case (the CPU cut-out is far too small to fit the CPU cooler inside the Aquila). With the assembly together the motherboard I/O shield is then slotted into place, followed by the motherboard itself. The relevant ATX cables are then plugged into the PSU which is then fitted. The SSD and test HDD are then installed into sleds and slotted into place, all cables plugged into their relevant slots and the GPU installed.
All very nice and simple apart from two minor issues. Out of the box the Xigmatek Aquila fan cables aren’t quite long enough to reach the fan headers on the MSI Z97M GAMING MATX motherboard. The fan headers are situated along the south side of the motherboard, just beneath the PCIe slots. For tidy cable management of the front fan, this is an easy workaround as you just need to rotate the 200m fan and pop the cable through the opposite grommet (the same as the I/O cables), for the 120mm fan I you will need an extension cable unless your motherboard has a nearer header. In regards to cable management, it’s a nice and easy task. You simply drop all the excess cables beneath the motherboard tray. 😉
Once finished the Aquila offers a nice clean build with a unique look that I for one like (a lot!). As you can see from the installed photographs, the tinted window prevents you from seeing all your hardware goodies inside. However…
If you have any hardware with LED lighting it looks great! Our XFX R9 290X DD Black Edition feature an illuminated white XFX logo, then for good measure I installed one of our test sound cards in the form of the Creative Sound Blaster Zx, which not only sounds great, but looks good too. Something I’ve noticed with this SPU, is that in some cases the red LED lighting can appear far too bright, but with the tinted window it looks perfect!
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 3.5GHz (Stock) and 4.0GHz via MSI OC Genie
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 Xigmatek Aquila) 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 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|
|Cooler Master HAF XB||24.00||61.50||37.50|
You may be wondering where the SilverStone Raven RVZ01 has disappeared to on the chart, the simple answer is being a unique case requiring different hardware, it really is an unfair comparison. As you can see from the table above, the Xigmatek Aquila does a pretty reasonable job feeding cool air to the i5-4690K and Themis combination with a maximum average core temperature of 68.25C (44.75C Delta). It doesn’t quite match up to the 3x 120mm fans in the HAF XB, being warmer by 6.75C (7.25C Delta). By switching the big 200mm front fan out for a couple of faster 120/140mm fans with a higher airflow or by adding 120/140mm fans to the roof space this could be easily bought into line or perhaps even better the Test Rig case.
|CPU GHz||Ambient Temperature||Max CPU Temperature (core average)||Delta Temperature|
As per the norm, we’ve also thrown in the temperatures for a stock i5-4690K for all you non-overclockers out there (although why you’d not want a little extra performance for free I’ll never know…). With the CPU at its stock speed of 3.5GHz, the maximum average core temperature is 55.25C (31.25C Delta), which is a whole 13.00C (13.50C Delta) lower than the overclocked speed. Just goes to show how much difference a small voltage increase can make to your CPU thermals.
|Case||Ambient Temperature||Max GPU Temperature||Delta Temperature|
|Cooler Master HAF XB||24.00||80.00||56.00|
The Aquila does it pretty good job at keeping the XFX R9 290 DD Black Edition cool with a maximum temperature of 84.00C (60.50C Delta) and keeps it well under its throttle limit. Although as mentioned with the 4.0GHz CPU tests, with different or additional fans I’m sure the cooling performance would increase (or decrease in the case of the actual temperatures) by a fair margin.
Despite the Xigmatek Aquila offering with its two fan set up providing fairly average cooling, where it really excels is the noise produced, even more so considering it provides no sound dampening of any kind! With both the 120mm and 200mm set at 100%, the Aquila produces just 28dB of noise which is pretty damn quiet. Switch that to their lowest settings and you’ll be getting a whisper quiet 24dB. Considering the Aquila does provide enough cooling for a slightly overclocked i5-4670K and the XFX R9 290X DD Black Edition (even though we know the Hawaii GPU cores run hot), I personally find this very good (more so as I like a quiet case 🙂 ).
Although I’ve personally used some of Xigmatek’s cases in the past (ok, we’re talkng years rather than months here), the brand as a whole is new and a bit of a mystery to pcG. Despite this I’ve been looking really forward to seeing the Xigmatek Aquila since the CES 2014 announcement. 🙂
The Xigamtek Aquila arrived at pcG in a predominately glossy black box with some nice imagery of the Aquila itself and plenty of useful information (makes a nice change from the usual plain brown cardboard box). From the outside the box looked ever so slightly battered, but once inside all nerves were settled as the two polystyrene blocks did there jobs perfectly, keeping the case safe inside.
With the Aquila out of the box, it shows a classic, but striking image with its brilliant white side panels and legs, offering a stark contrast to its black fan grills and tinted window. Despite looking very box like from the front and fairly plain, looking around the case from other angles shows it to offer a unique styling that I personally think is great.
Building within the Xigmatek Aquila was a nice and easy task. It features a slightly angled and horizontally mounted motherboard tray and two chambers offering plenty of space and easy access via the removable magnetic dust filter on the roof. There is also enough room for pretty even the largest CPU air cooler on the market, two graphics cards in SLI or CrossFire with a maximum length of 330mm and any combination of 2x 3.5″/2.5″ via the removable drive bay and 2x 2.5″ from the fixed drive bay. You can even squeeze in an AIO with a 240mm radiator in the roof or if your going to build with an MITX motherboard, remove the front section of the motherboard tray and go for full custom water cooling!
How about its performance straight out of the box? Well if I’m honest it’s pretty average (ok, I say ‘average’, but as you an see we’ve only two case on the table so far with the new pcG 2015 Test Rig). With a small overclock of 4.0GHz courtesy of the MSI OC Genie tool, the i5-4670K and Themis combination warmed to a maximum average core temperature of 68.25C (44.75C Delta), then whilst set at its 3.5GHz stock speed 55.25C (31.25C Delta). Neither of which is bad at all, but I can’t help feeling that switching the big 200mm front fan out for a higher performance fan (even a smaller one) would pull in the extra cool air who’ll be wanting for a little less heat. The GPU cooling performance also wasn’t bad at all, with the Aquila keeping the XFX R9 290 DD Black Edition cool with a maximum temperature of 84.00C (60.50C Delta), which is far below its thermal throttle.
The real gem for the Xigmatek Aquila is its acoustic performance. With both the 200mm and 120mm set at 100%, it produces just 28dB of noise and if that’s too loud whilst web browsing or catching up on your favourite programmes on Netflix, a miserly 24dB when set at their lowest.
Would I recommend the Xigmatek Aquila? That’s a pretty hard one if I’m honest… Why? Well personally I love it’s aesthetics, the black and white colour combination and chunky boxlike styling. I really like the legs and arms as they don’t just look good, but are going to come in very handy for your next LAN party. The case thermals are fairly average, but acoustically it is near silent even with the case fans set at 100%. Yet it could certainly do with sleeved or mono coloured fan cables and you’ll want to check your motherboard fan headers in case you need an extension cable for one or both fans. The rapidly increasing MATX case market segment is becoming increasingly competitive and there are some great cases out there and the majority have a similar price. For me the Xigmatek Aquila does just enough to stand out and I feel £74.99 is a pretty fair price for what you get. I’ll certainly give it the thumbs up. 🙂
Please Share, Like & Comment below, we really value your thoughts and opinions…
Many thanks to Xigmatek for providing this sample for review