Cubitek ATX-ICE Case ReviewBluePanda - June 3, 2012
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At first glance, the innards have about won my approval. It looks very clean cut on the inside and I like it very much. The issue comes when actually installing hardware, something I will discuss towards the end here. The raw brushed aluminum looks nice, with the almost flat black aluminum anodized panels. The biggest thing to me is that it looks clean, almost sterile like a hospital and leaves me a little excited. The back side is similar, with nicely bound cabling and again nailing the simple look.
A black fan is mounted to the back side for some airflow with a couple water tube holes cut and grommets added below. The top fan is clear and will later be found out to light up with blue LEDs. I personally am happy to see more than only a single rear fan coming stock with the case. The brushed aluminum looks nice even here, catching a bit of the reflection of my camera steadying hand.
The bottom has a fan filter for the PSU and some rubber feet to keep down vibrations. The PSU itself was a bit difficult to mount, if the case was lying down (as if you had just put your mobo in), because there isn't a shelf for holding the PSU up, while putting the screws in. Either way, the PSU still mounts fine and the filter will be there, if you decide to clean out whatever makes its way through the external fine mesh of the case.
An enemy of mine arises. when I realized how the HDD cages worked. It is one major cage that can hold up to seven drives. You can’t take half of it out like many Corsair cases and you may be a little flustered to find out how to deal with drives here, as you see no drive caddies. I’ll explain this in the next few shots. Above this, while we are looking here, is the external drive bays which lack the tool-less feature, but nonetheless will hold your optical drive or water bay no issue.
The HDD mounting method had to be about the best thing about this entire case and once I’ve described the misery of getting hardware in, you will understand. Basically the HDDs mount with four little wheels, here I’ve got an old HDD pictured to show you how it works. Each little wheel has a screw that threads in just far enough to allow the wheel to rotate. These mount on all four corners of the drive and to me it looks like a little race car. Naturally I was rolling wheel bearing drives up and down the hallway like a little kid racing to see which drive was faster. This would be the last “fun” I would have with this case.
The first step to actually getting the HDDs in the case is to loosen three screws – a single thumb screw in the center and two odd Allen wrench screws (the Allen wrench was at least included)! With the screws loose you completely remove them as I have shown, or just merely slide it to the left out of the way. You can then slide in your mini race car drives. As you can see, a smaller car design is there in the bottom bay for mounting SSDs – it can hold two. It is a little strange but it works just the same. The rail then slides back to the right and the three screws tighten down to sort of hold the drives in place.
Rolling the case on the side, I thought I’d show you a couple things. First are the feet on the case. They aren’t anything too special, but they do hold the case off the ground to give you that little bit of added airflow. The next issue arises when we look at the front feet (to the left of the picture) where the pieces of aluminum are joined with rivets. The top back end of the case is held together this way as well. The rivets aren’t black, nor put in very straight, so they aren’t very pretty. Fortunately, the bottom rivets don’t matter and the paint off the top rivets, I’ll just hope that I can blame Customs for their looks. Did I forget to mention the price? If you haven’t looked yet – take a look. You now understand why these little things matter so much. I can’t believe this thing costs as much as it does.
Now that you have the price in your mind, again let’s talk about how the side panels mount. Remember that Allen wrench I told you that you would need to mount the HDDs? Well you need it on the outside of the case also – yes your case goes together with eight stupid Allen head screws. They are too small, even for my little fingers, to finger tighten or remove. Add that to the fact that there are four per side, just makes it even more frustrating. The worst is if your case is standing vertical (as it normally would be) and you have to try to hold the panel in place and use a single hand to thread and wrench in the screws after adding some new hardware. It’s really just a pain and for lack of better words, makes me want to throw the case out on the train tracks. I’ve about had it already.
Before I become more frustrated we can take a look at the I/O panel on the front/top of the case. The top has your usual 2 x 3.0 USB and 2 x 2.0 USB, with the headphone and microphone audio jacks as well. It at least looks nice and the USB hubs are well color coated (blue for 3.0). A couple of finishing screws to hold the panel in place are rather poorly set and add a little more “cry” to the case. If you look really close you can almost see the neat laser etched images for each port to tell you what it’s for. Unfortunately, it's poorly done, hard to see, and adds nothing but cost to the case.
The front of the case has a large power button with a smaller reset button. Two LED lights set below them that indicate HDD activity and power. In this up close snap shot, they look pretty nice, but overall do not support the looks of the case.
The quick start guide is included to help when you can’t figure something out. I didn’t seem to have a use for it, but it is there if you can’t figure out what to do with screws. There are quite a few screws included and they are neatly packaged in individually labeled bags. The bags read half in English and half in Japanese characters, but the point is clear enough as to what they each are for.
Here we shall begin the biggest rant of review history. I can honestly say this was the most difficult case I’ve worked with yet. Mounting the motherboard standoffs should not be this difficult. The holes are only slightly pre-threaded for the standoffs and cannot be put in by hand. The screw in the standoff trick seemed to be useful in getting them in, but this unfortunately wasn’t the only problem. No matter what, the standoffs didn’t want to stay in the holes after threading them in. Put a screw in and the standoff would come out with the screw. If any of you have ever gotten a motherboard stuck with standoffs you know exactly why I’m upset here. I’ve made the mistake enough, to never put screws in, without first testing that the standoffs won’t be coming out with them when I go to tear down the next time. Anyway, I eventually got three of the screws and standoffs to work together, so the board is marginally mounted with three screws.
With the board barely hanging in there, I left the other standoffs roughly screwed in place, to at least provide support while mounting the rest of the hardware. The strange HDD cage that was already a bit frustrating to operate, became more of a laugh when mounting my SSD. I undid the three screws like I told you prior and pulled out the little caddy for the SSD. The holes for the mounts weren’t really thought about much. The drive doesn’t sit on the bottom of the caddy, but rather a millimeter or two above. It took a little trickery to mount the drive in the bottom slot. I go to plug in my cables and I realize why the gap is there – yet the SSD doesn’t sit far enough back to actually plug everything in. If you have right angle cables, you might as well not bother. Only having a single SSD I move it up to the top spot, where it’s again difficult to mount with screws, but at least it can be plugged in. Not enough thought was put into the cage design and I’m rather annoyed.
The issue mounting the PSU with the case on its side has already been addressed ,so I won’t waste more of your time talking about it. However, the large hole at the bottom of the case for your PSU cables to pass through to the back wasn’t planned out very well. Some reason Cubitek didn’t think a grommet should be placed here to protect your precious cables. The edge is sharp, not cut your hand off sharp, but sharp enough that if you don’t have braided cables, you may inflict some unintended damage if you pull to snugly against it. At least the other holes have grommets to come back through.
At this point, everything is in the case now. Careful to not bounce it about with so few screws holding in the mobo, I stood it up for some more pictures. The hardware in the case looks great, rather nice, and professional, if you only look inside and don’t think about all the problems I’ve mentioned. Powering on, it even lights up in my favorite color, blue. Somehow I’m not satisfied.
Getting the side panel on was the next feat. It reminds me of those box pictures, that tell you need two people to carry something. Well, you are going to need a second person to help you out, or lay your case back down on its side to work this one on. So if you have all your essentials plugged in, you might want to think to unplug the monitor before ripping it off your desk, to put the panel on. It’s hard to line up and the edges feel like chalkboard to your hands, you feel the urge to avoid scratching at it with your nails. The four screws are tiny and short which makes them hard to thread in. Perhaps magnetizing the Allen wrench would be the solution to this, but with four of the tiny “case screws” it isn’t easy to close back up. I eventually got it with a little help. If nothing else, this case will help prevent you from overspending on nonessential upgrades.
The second day that I actually powered up my rig for more than an hour I found one more little flaw in the Cubitek design. The filter that was designed to cover the front fan was a bit too cheap. It ended up sucking itself into the fan and causing the blades to chatter up against it, which sounded horrible. Naturally it wasn’t easy to remove, as you must take off both side panels to undo the four screws that hold the fan apparatus in place. Then you can unscrew the fan and pull off the fan filter – peace at last. With such a fine mesh on the front, I don’t see the purpose for the filter anyway. I was rather disappointed with the quality of the fan as well. If you tip it too far from vertical it goes off balance radically – too cheap a fan for the bill of the case. Overall I'm disappointed.