Cubitek ATX-ICE Case Review

BluePanda - 2012-04-21 19:43:54 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: BluePanda   
Reviewed on: June 3, 2012
Price: $279.90

Introduction:

It is yet another new company for me to shine opinions on. Cubitek – a company founded in the late half of 2010, by some IT industry techs in Taiwan, attempting to add a third dimension to a boring two dimensional view on current computer products. Cubitek is focusing on this “third dimension” of PC cases. It isn’t a company I am familiar with, but its philosophy is something well appreciated if it can be held up: “Build something we would want to buy at a price we want to pay.”

Today we will be taking a look at the Cubitek ATX ICE. This case comes from the ICE series, which is a part of a new generation of aluminum chassis – at least that is what Cubitek thinks. It is said to be made with advanced aluminum extrusion and digital bending technology. It is supposed to be solidly built, dissipate heat faster than steel cases, more quiet, and neater looking. I guess it is time for me to be the judge of all this, so let’s see what Cubitek really has to bring to the table.

Closer Look:

I wasn’t really sure what showed up on the door step when I got home from work. It was an all black box with a lot of yellow tape on it (if you haven’t figured out why the yellow tape, I will show you in the next set of pictures). The box has a Cubitek logo printed in the top left corner and some arctic mountains in the center of the box. The back of the box finally gave way to what it was, if the size hadn’t already, it is indeed a case. It appears to be made of all aluminum (at this point I didn’t know what I’ve already told you above, but the box was not heavy at all) and it’s looking pretty nifty from the few pictures here on the back. I like that there is no text, as it keeps you wondering and wanting to open it even sooner.

The sides of the box don’t have much on them. One side has a shipping slip for me and the other, some specifications listed in five different languages. The box really leaves this one open, as to what is inside, especially with all the tape (not that this is Cubitek’s fault). But the simplistic box, which I absolutely love, leaves enough curiosity to open it up with decent surprise remaining.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So here is your answer to the yellow tape and it wasn’t because Cubitek thought it looked pretty to pack the box this way. Me, being in the US, and Cubitek, shipping from Japan, means a nice trip through the friendly people at the US Customs Office. Nice is probably not the best way of describing it, as this box was clearly torn from end to end to find out what may lie inside. I guess they were just as curious as I am. It was at least all taped back up, well enough to get here and honestly that’s probably more tape than most packages you will get.

 

I opened it up a little worried as to what I might find having been tossed around Customs, but it didn’t look too horrible at first glance. Whoever inspected it up put a bunch of cardboard back in, I guess to make up for opening it in the first place. I thought it was a bit odd how the flaps of the box were cut to accommodate the extra height, but I guess what is important, is the fact the case got here in one piece.

Pulling the case out of the box was a little bit difficult, as it has quite different packaging than I, or most of you are likely accustomed to. Rather than beefy foam end caps, as I’ve always called them, we’ve got eight little foam corner caps. You can’t quite see it in this shot, but two of the caps on the other side did not survive, although I’m hoping they protected the case in their deaths. Let’s get the bag off and see what we have.

 

Closer Look:

First impressions are pretty rough. It is short, squatty, fat, and kind of ugly. There isn’t any simpler way of saying it other than perhaps it resembles someone's mother-in-law or some other distant or disregarded family member? I’m not saying my mother-in-law or yours have these traits, but wow. I’m usually pretty wordy with what I have to say about the looks of something, but to me this isn’t appealing and leaves me wondering what and why? Not even going for a simple or plain look will save this one, because it isn’t that either. The recessed fan grill on the front and raised edging just hurts the eyes a little. One of you reading this might like the way this looks, and I’m not out to offend you, but to me the front is just a major eyesore. The Cubitek logo at the bottom doesn’t help it either, as it reminds me of some type of child's learning toy logo. For men and women alike, often times the opposite gender is much more appealing from the back side, turning the Cubitek ATX Ice around follows this rule a little. It doesn’t have a cute butt but I guess it is still a big one. It does look a lot better back here, with some raw brushed aluminum from the inside showing through. From this angle it’s pretty plain and almost likeable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sides of the case are giving it almost redeeming features, after looking so poorly at first glance. The sides are very nice, with a smooth brushed finish on the black anodized aluminum. It has a slight little handle to hold on to, but unlike most cases with two screws per panel on the back side, it has four little awkward screws holding it in, on all four corners. Unfortunately, these screws are little monsters that will have you pulling your hair out in no time, but we’ll take a closer look at that in the working components section.

 

 

Overall this is the mother-in-law case, as I will call it. It’s kind of nice, but it is something you will have to deal with to house your most prized possessions. Even at an angled look I can’t really say I like it, although it does make the case look less fat though. But, we all know looking and being are two very different things. Let’s get it open and see if the insides have something a little more promising to make everything else "okay."

Closer Look:

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.

Specifications:

Color:
External: Black
Internal: Original Aluminum Color
Material:
100% Brushed Aluminum (exterior anodized black)
Dimensions:
230.0(W) x 508.5(H) x 513.0(D) mm
Weight:
7.1  kg
MB Type
Mini ITX; Micro ATX; ATX
5.25” Bays
4
3.5” Bays
7 (Hidden)
2.5” Bays
2 (Converted by one 3.5" drive bay)
I/O Panel
USB 3.0 x2, USB 2.0 x2, Audio x1, Mic x1
Expansion Slots:
8
PSU Type:
Standard ATX PSU (Max. 300mm)
Max VGA:
Max. 330mm long
Max CPU cooler:
Max. 180mm height

 

Cooling:

 

Features:

 

All information courtesy of http://www.cubitek.com/products/ice-series/atx-ice

Testing:

Testing the Cubitek ATX Ice required pushing my hardware to heat things up! Testing involved recording temperatures for the CPU, GPU, chipset, hard drives, and overall system during idle and load phases. Recently OCC has upgraded to the ForceGT 240GB SSD from Corsair and has removed the HDD temps from case reviews. HDTune is no longer a part of the Case benchmarking process.

Load was simulated by running Prime95’s small FFTs, and 3Dmark Vantage for one hour. The maximum temperatures were recorded using HW Monitor. It is important to note that each case is tested from its factory setup, including location of fans, unless otherwise noted.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Cases:

 

Results:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cubitek ATX Ice falls around average for pretty much everything when looking at idle temperatures. This case is nothing special but nothing terrible. Moving on to the important stuff, load temperatures, we can see that although the case is all-aluminum and should help dissipate heat quite well, it only excels in one thing: CPU temperatures. The chipset and GPU load temperatures are nothing to write home about with the ATX Ice falling to the trailing edge of this pack of cases. The CPU temperatures are some of the best I've seen in a while, trailing only the HAF XM, Corsair 300R, and Tt Overseer RX-I.

Conclusion:

It is hard for me to say this, as I love my mother-in-law (to be), but this case is the “mother-in-law” of cases. There isn’t a darn good thing about it. The most fun I had with it was putting the little wheels on the HDDs and racing them down the hallway. I haven’t HATED a case as much as I hate this one. It was ugly to look at and frustrating to work with. There really isn’t a perfect case out there, but this Cubitek offering was just one problem after another. The HDD cage was innovative, but lacked functionality. The standoffs failing to mount properly was due to poor or lack of proper machining, the difficulty to mount hardware was a simple snub to the customer, and the side panels were just a cruel joke. Cooling was about the only thing the ATX Ice didn’t suck at, but it also wasn’t better than average, except in CPU cooling. This case honestly feels like your typical low-end case built out of aluminum to bring up the price. You are basically paying $300 for something that feels like the Bitfenix Outlaw to work with. This recommendation is simple: don’t waste your time or money for that matter.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: