Tagan A+ El Diablo Advance Review
Reviewed by: Geekspeak411
Reviewed on: December 3, 2008
In most off the shelf computers today the most neglected but essential component seems not as much the graphics card or the power supply, that varies by vendor, but more lacking than anything is the case. You know, that box you keep it all in, that overlooked thing responsible for protecting your hundred, if not thousand dollar, investment from undue pressure, spilled drinks, dust, all that nice little stuff that turns your PC into an expensive doorstop. That's just another reason why I, along with every other custom system builder, out there tend to shy away from those seemingly attractive deals at our local Best Buys and Circuit Cities.
For self-builds, people look to the different companies out there to find the perfect case that fits the build they are planning whether an HTPC or a monster gaming machine/room heater. Tagan is submitting its newest bid, the El Diablo Advance, into the sea of cases out there to compete with the likes of CoolerMaster and Apevia to get on top of the heap and achieve the enthusiast crown. Looking at the specs for this case, such as a 330mm side fan and tool-less interior, it seems like Tagan has been listening to the downfalls of other cases but will it all execute as planned or will the El Diablo Advance just fall to the wayside? I'm ready to find out!
Tagan did a fine job dressing this beast up. I find the outer packaging very sharp looking, the front and back sides have a large picture of the El Diablo Advance along with two smaller inset pictures showing the large side fan and the dual top fans on the case along with the Tagan logo and El Diablo Advance stretched along the top. The sides listed the various specifications and features of the case in English, Dutch, and French. The only flaw I found was a large tear in the back of the box about 14" long which could have damaged the case but that is really FedEx's fault and not Tagan's. I'm very interested to see if the case was protected from any damage that the rip could have caused.
Opening the box was fairly straight forward, cut the tape and slide out the case. The El Diablo Advance was inside a plastic slip cover within a pair of styrofoam blocks to keep it centered and to minimize the vibrations that could dislodge components. Once I took off the blocks I inspected the bag to see if whatever ripped the box also tore the bag. I didn't see any flaws, not even a little scratch so I went on to remove the plastic bag and got a look at this case.
Inside the case there were two accessories boxes. The El Diablo Advance comes with the basic needed accessories along with a little extra. The accessories came in two small boxes, blue and black. The blue box contained a speaker that fits on a motherboard header, the standard screws and standoffs, and surprisingly also included six zip-ties as well as a sticky base for you to attach the zip-ties to the sides of the case with. All of these were sorted into their own little sealed plastic bags to keep them organized. The black box contained all of the mounting brackets that you would need for installing a drive into one of the El Diablo Advance's 5 5.25" bays and the external hard drive bay.
After studying the outside and the accessories of the case I am bursting to finally see this beast in action, on I go!
First off, I must say that this case is a definite looker. You can really see the time and effort APlus spent to bring its owners a functional yet attractive case at a low, competitive price. The multiple fans on this case stand out, especially the 330mm fan on the side. You really have to see this thing to understand just how large it really is. This fan is bigger than a standard desk version and it is inside the case, hopefully this will eliminate the need for me to aim my desk fan at the components when I overclock for benchmarks!
I like the drive bay cover as well, it feels sturdy and well built made out of a rugged ABS plastic. On the bay door there is the APlus logo and an HDD activity light. The fan on the front of the case is so large that it forces that section of the front of the case to open outward just to fit the fan in there, creating an effect similar to some of APlus's other cases. Another aspect of the case I particularly liked was the paint used on the metal pieces. It is a textured matte black and feels like it will hold up through multiple moves, essential for LAN party goers such as myself. The front fan's cover as well as the top and side panels consist mainly of a metal mesh allowing maximum airflow and cooling of the components, it also allows people to see the innards letting you show off your specs.
So far so good! I wonder what else Tagan has in store with this case...
Removing the side panel was easy due to the finger screws holding it in place. I was able to remove the panel but was surprised to find that there was no rail or anything to guide it in or out of place, after I took out the two holding screws and pulled a little it just fell out. There was a sort of hinge to help guide the panel back on just like some other Tagan cases do but unfortunately, the plastic part of the panel that says A+ Case on it overlaps making it so that the hinge doesn't work. Another interesting design decision that I noticed while digging around inside the case was right behind the huge front fan, a wall. No sorry, actually two walls with non-overlapping holes. I am not quite sure why the engineers at Tagan decided to put two walls behind a major intake fan but they did, I wonder how that will affect the test results. All fans are Tagan Cooling Fan Extremes, DC and rated for 12v.
After unhooking the three wires that power the different components on the side wall I looked around inside and was pleased to see that Tagan listened to the people asking for better cable management options, as the I/O Panel wires as well as the main sections of the fan wires were wrapped in two plastic sleeves and zip-tied to the sides where they could be.
Looking at the whole wiring job did scare me a bit though because some of the cables protruding from the sleeve seemed exceedingly long while others seemed on the short side, usually this would be no big deal because you could adjust them but the zip-ties might make adjustment difficult. I took the back cover of the case off and pulled the extra slack out of the cables while still allowing them to reach their respective plugs, there was a bit left over, from six inches extra all the way to a foot and a half extra. On the other note the cord for the audio, the HD Audio and AC 97 header, needs to reach the black audio plug on the bottom left hand side of my motherboard, right to the left of that little round speaker.
The most surprising part about this case is the included lighting. This feature is nothing but a parenthesized side note on the features panel on the box. (Full Disclosure: This reviewer didn't even know this case had lighting until I saw the LEDs sticking out when I was looking at the 330mm fan). Usually, the pre-installed lighting on less expensive cases such as the El Diablo Advance is cheap and shoddy, barely brightening up the area around it even with the room lights off. Not this case though. Apparently, Tagan is determined to rid the El Diablo Advance of any relation to the other cases in this price range. Every single fan installed in this system, dual 180mm fans on top, a 250mm in the front, and a 330mm on the side, have multiple bright LEDs studded within it. Another pleasant surprise was the accurate temperature gauge on the front right above the optical drive door. APlus even added some to the top strip and on either side of the case for effect. Even in the sunlight you can distinctly see the LEDs on and when the ambient lighting is turned down it shows off every component with flare. If you have ever tried to take pictures of case lighting then you know what an art it is to make it show up well. With the El Diablo Advance it was not even difficult!
Installation for the El Diablo Advance was a rather bitter experience. This is the one area that showed the case's flaws, once I got the side panels off I sorted out the standoffs and looked around the case for a hole index. There was one, but it was useless. The print was only depressed metal and was very hard to read, even when I could read it, it only showed me where two of the standoffs should be screwed in and that was for an ATX motherboard, the most common board out there! Fear not, I consulted the manual which asked me to hold the motherboard over the bottom and guess where the rest should be screwed in? I have seen much better methods. My power supply fit in this case just fine and looking at the slot it will fit just about any power supply you could throw at it, extended or not.
The installation of the power supply however, is also where I ran into another design flaw. A missing feature that enthusiast cases require, especially one with a see through panel. The pre-installed wires were well managed but the options ended there, APlus left no room behind the motherboard tray for wires to be hidden nor anywhere else in the case. I ended up doing my best to hide the wires in the empty drive bays. The optical drives slid into place easily but the front door has a flat back making it so that no drives with rounded fronts will fit. The hard drive system is really simple, you pop the hard drive in to a little drawer/tray and slide it into the case. I was a little afraid to bend the tray enough so that the drive would snap into place but the plastic is very flexible so it worked without a hitch and when I got the drive in it did not jiggle around at all, a very good sign.
Once everything is installed in the case the El Diablo Advance feels very sturdy, which I like a lot. I need to know that my case will withstand a little pressure. Okay, let's see what Tagan wants people to know about the El Diablo Advance and then, on to the testing!
|Color||Fully Black High Gloss Finish + Titanium bezel|
|Case Material||Chassis: 1.0mm SECC; Front Panel: ABS Plastic|
|With Power Supply||No|
|Motherboard Compatibility||Micro-ATX / Standard ATX / MP Dual CPU(12" x 13")|
|With Mesh Grill Side Panel||Yes|
|With Temp. LCD||Yes|
|External 5.25" Drive Bays||5|
|External 3.5" Drive Bays||1|
|Internal 3.5" Drive Bays||7|
|I/O Ports||USB 2.0 + Audio (AC97 + HD Audio) + E-SATA|
All have variable speed controls.
1x 250mm (Front), 1x 330mm (Side),
1x Optional 120mm (Rear),
2x 180mm (Top)
|Dimensions||570 x 205 x 541mm (D*W*H)|
- Enormous 250mm fan (Front)
- Enormous 330mm fan (Side)
- Twin 180mm Fans (Top)
- VR fan speed controls (Top, Front, & Side)
- ON/OFF fan power button (Front, & Side)
- Blue LED Illumination
- 1.0mm SECC/ 100% ABS Plastic Parts
- Excellent cooling solution
- Tool-less rails & HDD trays for easy installation
- USB 2.0 + Audio (AC97 + HD Audio) + E-SATA
All information courtesy of Tagan Cases
I can't wait to find out if this thing really holds true to its looks! With all these massive fans there should be a good decrease in temperatures so on I go! For the testing I will be comparing the temperatures I recorded in the ULTRA m998 to the El Diablo Advance. I will be using Speed Fan 4.34 for the readouts of the system temperatures, CPU temperatures, and auxiliary temperatures along with version 2.1.270.00 of nVidia's Control Panel for the GPU temperature readouts. To simulate a load I will run the BOINC client for 30 minutes on full load with all fans set to 100%. For a graphics load I will run the graphics portions of 3DMark Vantage twice at the Performance defaults. To get my idle temperatures I will then leave the computer at the same settings with no load on the processor or graphics card for 30 minutes and record the temperature. The high system temperature is normal and is only recorded for comparison's sake; do not let the seemingly unreasonably high temperature scare you as there is absolutely zero melting silicon in my system. All heatsinks will be the manufacturer included heatsinks, and all temperatures will be in degrees Celsius.
- Processor: Intel Q9450 Core 2 Quad 333x8
- Motherboard: eVGA nForce 790i ULTRA
- Memory: OCZ Reaper HPC 1333 @ 7-7-7-18
- Video Card: BFG GeForce GTX280 OC
- Power Supply: CoolerMaster RPP 850
- Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar SE16 7200.11
- CPU Cooler: Stock Intel 45nm Heatsink
- OS: Windows Vista Home Premium - 64Bit
- Ambient Room Temperature: 26 degrees Celsius
The El Diablo Advance consistently produced slightly lower temperatures across the charts other than the idle video card temperatures, which strangely were repeatable. The difference was not nearly as drastic as I expected though with the number and size of the fans however, you keep in mind though that the ULTRA m998 costs twice as much as this case does and when you are overclocking every degree counts!
It seems like the engineers at Tagan had the right idea when they were designing the El Diablo Advance. Unfortunately, like most of the lower end cases out there it just suffered from a bad execution. Some of the features simply feel half-baked but I am happy that at least one vendor is listening to consumer complaints and trying to remedy them. For instance, when I was installing the components of the test system I noticed something missing that I have encountered on just about every other case I have used, the razor sharp edges that make installing a computer a mini war taking place on your fingertips. As I realized this I looked at all of the edges on the case and could not find a single one that wasn't either folded back on itself, making the case more durable and less likely to bend, or sanded down to a gradual curve. I also liked the E-SATA port on the I/O panel, if you look at external hard drive testing results between USB connections and E-SATA speeds it is just amazing how large the speed increase is. Tagan even included an SATA cord preinstalled to connect the header to an open motherboard SATA port, making the speed boost a matter of using the hard drive's E-SATA cord to connect it to the computer rather than filling up another valuable USB port.
Still, there are those couple necessities though that the El Diablo Advance falls short on keeping it out of the silver/gold range. Such things like the two walls behind the big intake fan on the front and the useless standoff index that just makes you wonder why. Then there is the frustrating design in how Tagan expects you to take off and put on the side panels, which is made even more difficult because the huge 330mm fan was placed so that it rubs right up onto the power supply support bar. I'm not saying that the case is bad and I don't at all mean to beat down on the El Diablo Advance as I really do like the lighting that was built into the case and the fact that the paint job doesn't show fingerprints at all, which is a common problem with the polished cases. The tool-less drive bays also worked seamlessly and even with the underpowered fans the temperatures were still a few degrees lower than the m998. All in all, I think the El Diablo Advance is the perfect case for people trying to find a way into the enthusiast community without breaking the bank. It keeps the installation pretty simple as cases should and provides the ventilation that the more powerful systems today need. The looks come pre-installed and the panel removal won't even matter to the user if they are only going to be inside the case once or twice to upgrade a component or two. Extreme enthusiasts with all of the top of the line parts may find the blocked airflow less appealing. But even so, the El Diablo pulled out lower temperatures in every test save one. But for people just wanting a low maintenance looker that they can take to LAN parties no problem, then the El Diablo should be near the top of the list.
- Overall looks
- HUGE fans that are very quiet
- Tool-Less installation
- Built in thermometer
- Side panel removal
- Front and side fans not very effective
- Walls behind front fan
- Clumsy standoff installation
- No extra wire management room
- Pre-installed wire management too long/short