XION XON-980 Case ReviewWaco - July 25, 2012
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Popping off the side panels reveals an all-black interior highlighted by some red rubber grommets for the 5.25" bays. Seven tool-less HDD bays peek out from the front of the case and a large bundle of cables sits ready to be plugged into your waiting motherboard. The cable management openings to the rear side of the case are large but do not have any rubber grommets to keep things tidy looking. The rear side of the motherboard tray reveals a large number of tie-down points for zip ties or twist ties. The opening for the motherboard back plate is large enough that accessing it while the motherboard is mounted shouldn't be any issue.
Spinning around the open case you can see the rear 120mm cooling fan along with the various openings for cables to route through to the rear of the motherboard tray. The included fans all have 4-pin Molex plugs on them, which is something I wish would simply disappear from modern cases (especially those with included fan controllers). The accessory/front panel cables are more than long enough to be easily routed out of sight and aside from the USB 3.0 cable all of them are jet black to match the rest of the case.
The top side of the case is almost entirely mesh from the fan controller back. Mounts for 120mm and 140mm fans are included. The fan controller buttons are chromed plastic and have a somewhat "cheap" feel to them. They aren't very tightly mounted so you can easily wiggle them around. The front panel of the case has a small window at the top presumably for HDD and power LED indicators (more on that in a bit). The power and reset buttons flank the left and right sides of the front, again in chromed plastic. These switches are again fairly loosely mounted and tended to rattle even as I was moving the case around for pictures. The front panel also contains two USB 3.0 ports along with a pair of USB 2.0 ports. The usual microphone and headphone jacks are also available.
The drive cages are fairly standard for a modern gaming case – no tools or anything are required to mount or remove any drives unless you're using an SSD or SSDs. The trays are pretty sturdy, but installing drives in them is a fairly simple matter of bending them slightly to position the drives on the pegs. The 5.25" bays aren't tool-free and require somewhat long screws (which XION thankfully included in the accessories box). The rear of the case has mesh PCI slot covers held in place by standard case screws – no thumb screws here. The rear fan is very basic looking and as mentioned has a 4-pin Molex plug of doom attached to it (seriously, I hate cheap Molex plugs – they always tend to jam up when trying to plug them in).
The accessory cables are nothing unusual – USB 3.0 and 2.0, motherboard front panel connections, and the front panel audio connectors. Moving around to the backside you can see even more Molex plugs. The fan controller has a daisy-chained pass-through cable so you don't lose a precious Molex plug on your PSU. The fan controller plugs are all Molex connections as well but they are labeled for front, top, rear, and side – even though the fan controller has no such labels on it externally. At this point the two-position switches popped back into my head and I was hoping they weren't going to be as useless as I feared… but more on that in a bit. There isn't a whole lot of room behind the motherboard tray as you can see in the last picture here. A Molex cable will not fit sideways behind the tray especially with a flat side panel. This is probably not a case you'd want to cram a non-modular high-powered PSU into – PC Power & Cooling owners beware!
The included accessory bundle doesn't hold back on the zip ties! Along with the installation guide come a pair of fan filters, three bags of various screws, and a 4-pin motherboard speaker. The included manual is sparse and pretty much has the minimum amount of information in it to be called an installation guide. After glancing through it I decided it was fairly useless… but aren't most?
Moving down to the bottom of the case we can see where the fan filters are placed. Without a stock fan on the bottom of the case it's nice to see that XION included a fan filter anyway in case you decide to add one later down the road to improve cooling. The filters pull out easily without removing anything, which is always a bonus – fan filters that are hard to remove seldom get cleaned. One thing is a bit odd about the PSU air intake filter though, as it sits more than .25" away from the fan cutout. I have the feeling this won't be filtering much dust or carpet fuzzies from making it into your PSU.
Putting hardware into the XION XON-980 case didn't present any problems. There isn't a whole lot of room to hide cables so most of the extra PSU cables ended up in the lower bays for HDDs. The rear panel presented no difficulties upon reinstallation but with more cables snaking their way behind the motherboard it could become quite a pain. Firing up the build for the first time was an interesting endeavor. My first thought was "wow! This case is quiet!" until I realized that the only fans spinning were the ones on the CPU and the GPU. What? You might have guessed it by now… but those buttons on the top of the case turn the fans completely off when they are not depressed. I honestly can't imagine why you'd ever want to turn your fans off entirely – surely a low speed and full speed option would have been better? Thankfully I hadn't wired up the CPU fans to the side panel connector or I would have booted up with no CPU cooling at all! Inexperienced (or inattentive) builders beware!
Another thing struck me as a bit odd was that I saw no lights on the front panel when I powered up the case. The little window on the front panel doesn't line up with the LEDs underneath at all – it's off enough that you can't see the LEDs behind it at all even in a dark room. This wasn't a misalignment at the factory; the panel just isn't designed properly and the LEDs don't line up with the window. They need to be moved up and in towards the center of the case to even have a hope at being visible in operation.
Once the fans were enabled via the "please torch my CPU" buttons the case lit up in a nice red glow from the front panel. It did not create this glow quietly though as the included fans are quite audible. Overall the styling isn't too bold nor is it very plain. The whole case at this point is screaming at me for a budget build… but if you haven't looked at the price on the first page go do that now. For the $89.99 asking price I expect a lot more. A working fan controller, front panel indicator lights that actually work, and better overall build quality without rattling buttons are all things that should be something included by default on a case in this price range.