Mainstream Cases Roundup: HEC, Gigabyte and Raidmax

Today we are going to discuss three system cases and their modifications from the mainstream price segment from such popular brands as HEC, Gigabyte and Raidmax. Hopefully our article will help you make your choice.

by Aleksey Meyev
12/07/2008 | 06:12 PM

The medium price range seems to be the most difficult one for the developers of system cases for the PC platform. On one hand, a midrange system case is not yet as expensive as to appeal to the customer with all the imaginable innovations and improvements that are costly to implement, especially as such a case must have a good power supply (only very expensive system cases currently come without preinstalled PSUs). And on the other hand, the positioning of a product into the midrange segment doesn’t allow the developer to save on everything possible. The customer won’t like to see unfinished edges of the chassis, cheap plastic, thin panels and a lack of system fans as he expects to get a good system case for reasonable money.

 

So, let’s see what we are offered in this price category by such brands as HEC, Gigabyte and Raidmax.

HEC 6XR8 / 6XR8-PE

HEC’s system cases enjoy firm market standing. The relatively inexpensive products from the 6C series are not exactly popular, but the 6AR series is viewed as an etalon of quality for reasonable money. Some three years ago we singled this series out in our review as one of the best available at that moment.

And today I am going to introduce to you the 6XR8 and 6XR-PE models from the new 6X series. I will give you a detailed description of the former model because the latter is not much different. Moreover, the 6XR-PE does not actually fit into the medium price range, being quite costly with its preinstalled 600W power supply.

 

So, the 6XR8 model has a restrained and functional appearance. It lacks any special decorations. On the other hand, it is not homely, either. An ornamental chrome strip goes below the middle of the front panel, separating the 5-inch bays at the top from the small-mesh grid at the bottom. The grid conceals a 120mm fan with 3-pin power connector. The fan has a thermal sensor on a rather long cable. You may want to place the sensor into the HDD cage.

The connectors, indicators and Power button are all situated at the very top of the front panel. This is going to be convenient if you prefer to have your system case standing on the floor. The single external 3.5-inch bay is located here as well. It will be handy to use the card-reader or floppy drive (if you still have one) installed in that bay.

So, we’ve got two LED indicators, two audio connectors for microphone and headphones, two USB ports, and one FireWire port here. The Power button is conspicuous whereas the Reset button, which is so indispensable when your system hangs up (I hope it doesn’t do so often), is so small that you can confuse it with the HDD activity indicator located nearby. The Reset button doesn’t shine, though. You will only be able to press it if you’ve got long nails. This protects the button from accidental presses.

The side panels are closed with two handy latches the 6X series has inherited from its predecessors. The top latch has a miniature lock with key.

Besides, the side panels are also secured with two thumbscrews. By the way, the diameter of the threading of each thumbscrew is somewhat larger than the diameter of its shank and larger than the diameter of the screw hole in the panel. As a result, the thumbscrew doesn’t slip out when you have unfastened it but remains hanging in the panel. This solution prevents you from losing the screws.

There are two vent holes in the left panel. The bottom vent is implemented as rectangular perforation opposite the expansion and graphics card slots (it depends on the specific mainboard model what exactly slot will be there). The top vent is located opposite the CPU. It is covered from the outside with a plastic grid and provides for the installation of an 80mm fan.

There is a plastic funnel on the inside of the top vent hole. It is meant to take the hot air away right from the CPU but our earlier tests showed that this solution was not very efficient. It may only be useful for small CPU coolers, similar to the boxed ones, which suck the air in from above. If you’ve got a large and quiet cooler, you will have to remove that funnel.

The back panel of the case is standard overall. It doesn’t differ from the back panel of most other system cases. It is good that the cooling system has remained intact since the 6AR series: the system case has an intake 120mm fan at the front and an identical exhaust fan, with a 3-pin power connector and thermal sensor, at the back.

The I/O shield is unusual here. You have to break it open or push it out in most other system cases, but here it is fastened with two screws. The I/O shield included with the mainboard still has to be just inserted into the hole, though.

Winding up the description of the exterior of this system case, I want to show you a photo of its feet. They are low and made from rigid plastic. This is not a big problem, but I guess that softer feet, like in Antec’s system cases, are better at suppressing vibrations from a working computer.

Now we’ve reached the chassis. It is high quality as you could expect from a system case of this class. The iron is thick, the edges are neatly rolled in, and the spring-loaded spacers of the side panels reduce rattling and vibration. The expansion cards and drives are installed without screws but the mainboard is seated on traditional poles and fastened with ordinary screws. Well, I have no gripes about that. New-fangled screw-less fastening mechanisms often prove to be unhandy.

There are stiffening angles in the corners of the chassis for more rigidity.

As I wrote above, expansion cards are installed without screws here. The system case has inherited its plastic locks from the earlier series. As opposed to some other versions of such fastening mechanisms, this one does not prevent you from installing dual-slot graphics cards. Take note that there are spring-loaded spacers between the slot holes that ensure an electric contact between the case and expansion cards.

There is an alarm button on the side panel to warn about an intrusion into the computer. It may prove to be a handy feature in an organization.

Every drive is installed without screws here. The external bays have handy plastic locks whereas the hard drives reside in a detachable cage as I’ll explain shortly.

You have to remove the front panel to install your drives into the open bays. It is easy: just press on the two latches at the sides of the panel and pull it to yourself and slightly down.

Remove what brackets you don’t need (they do not have screws here) and insert your drives into appropriate bays.

The faceplates of the bays are not solid but covered from the outside with small-mesh grid. Beneath the grid there is a thin layer of porous material that works as a dust filter.

To remind you, this system case has only one external 3.5-inch bay. It is located at the very top of the common rack, which is good for the overall rigidity of the chassis. The bay is shifted towards the left panel and there is a metallic spacer on its right. By the way, the cables of the front-panel indicators and Power button go into the case through that spacer.

The screw-less fastening mechanism is original. In most other cases you have to use detachable retainers but here the retainers are permanently attached to the bays. To fix your drive, you must pull at the retainer, insert the drive and align its mounting holes with the holes in the bays, and put the retainer back down. And the drive gets fixed in place with the jut in the retainer. This mechanism is simple but handy and reliable.

Hard disk drives are installed into a separate cage that can be moved out of the case. An important thing, the cage doesn’t move towards the expansion cards, but across the case. As a result, you can install or uninstall your hard drives without bothering about the expansion cards. You don’t have to remove your graphics card, for example, to do that. The cage is secured in the system case by means of two thumbscrews.

There is no need to take the whole cage out of the case, though. It has individual holders for HDDs and each holder has a handle. You only have to press the sides of the handle a little and the holder slips out of the cage.

You don’t need screws to install a HDD into this holder. The HDD is fixed on both sides with two plates each of which has two juts. The plates are equipped with special silicone pads that reduce vibrations.

 

I assembled my test configuration within this system case easily, yet there are two things I’d want to note. First, the cables of the junior of the two available power supplies are too short and have too few connectors (I will discuss this in more detail shortly). And the second problem is about the HDD cage. More exactly, I had problems connecting the power and interface cables to the HDDs. The handles of the HDD holders got in the way when I tried to lay the cables out more or less neatly. This may be a serious problem if you are going to use a PSU whose cables have stiff sleeves and a long distance between the power connectors. It is desirable that the HDD power connectors were T-shaped as it makes the laying out of the cables far easier.

Therefore I want to thank the manufacturers for the almost accomplished transition from PATA and SCSI to SATA and SAS. It would have been most difficult to lay out the broad cables of the parallel interfaces. So, if you are going to use hard drives with the older interfaces, you should think twice before purchasing this system case.

And finally, I want to cover the differences of this system case from the 6XR8-PE (PE stands for Premium Edition).

These differences are almost purely cosmetic, actually. The external 3.5-inch bay is now occupied by a card-reader by default. The card-reader is quite ordinary. It offers four card slots and an additional USB connector. This is actually a trifle you can implement with your own hands (such card-readers cost just a few dollars). More importantly, instead of the interface connectors on the front panel there is now a logotype and text informing you that this is a special version of the system case.

The connectors have moved up to the center of the top panel of the case and are covered with a neat cap. Frankly speaking, I find this solution to be questionable. Yes, it is handy to use the connectors if the case stands on the floor. But if you put it on your desk, the connectors won’t be easily accessible. They won’t be accessible, either, if the system case stands somewhere deep under your desk because they are far from the front panel. Moreover, most users often keep some small things on the system case such as flash drives, various papers, books or manuals, USB-connected external drives, etc. This position of the connectors eats up a large part of the useful space on the top panel. I personally prefer the solution implemented in the Antec Nine Hundred: the connectors are placed closer to the front of the case and there is a handy groove behind them for storing those various small things.

As a kind of consolation, the selection of connectors has become broader: two USB ports, two audio connectors, a FireWire port, and an eSATA port. It is good to have the fast external interface eSATA. Unfortunately, it is only available in this special version of the case. Note that the new position of the USB ports now allows to plug in two broad devices, but not two thick ones, simultaneously. I don’t know why they could not be placed a little apart from each other as there is quite enough free space for that.

The interface connectors are implemented by means of a plastic cap screwed up to the top panel from the inside. A pack of cables goes out of the cap to the mainboard.

And there is one more difference of the Premium Edition model from the ordinary one. The cooling system now has a third 120mm fan located instead of the three bottom brackets of the external 5.25-inch bays. It is good to have one more fan, but its position is questionable. In fact, it is driving the fresh air towards the mainboard only, improving the cooling of the memory modules and CPU somewhat.

The 6XR8 model came to our lab together with an HEC Silent Pro A-450 power supply. The 6XR8-PE was equipped with an HEC Super Silent Pro Active A-600AP.

Gigabyte GZ-X3BPD / GZ-X4BPD / GZ-X5BPD

If asked about products from Gigabyte, most of us would name mainboards and graphics cards. Then, some would recall optical drives and power supplies but only few people would say that this company also makes system cases. And today I am going to discuss one of them (or even as many as three – it depends on how to look).

The GZ-X series of system cases includes six models. And I want to note it right away that Gigabyte’s models covered in this review are cheaper than their opponents. So, let’s see by what means the developer managed to lower the price.

I won’t talk for the entire series, but the three models specified in the heading of this section of the article are so similar that I will only discuss one of them in detail. And then I will just point at the differences of the other two models. So, I will be talking about the Gigabyte GZ-X3 system case now.

 

It doesn’t look much on the outside. It is a kind of a workhorse that resembles many other regular system cases. There is nothing in the exterior design for your eye to catch at. Everything is standard. Even the faceplate with button in the top external drive bay is not an innovation anymore. The case comes in three colors: black, white and silver. Frankly speaking, I can’t prefer any of them. Each is rather boring visually, even though not ugly.

Almost in the center of the front panel, below the single external 3.5-inch bay, there is a block of buttons and indicators: a large silvery Power button is in the center, a small Reset button is on the right, and a LED indicator is on the left.

There are interface connectors at the bottom of the front panel. The audio connectors are on both sides of the USB ports, and the FireWire port is in the right corner. This placement doesn’t look right to me. You cannot plug two broad devices into the USB ports simultaneously (that’s a common problem of many system cases, though). Moreover, you may find it a problem to connect a headset with a common cord which splits into headphones and microphone connectors at the very end.

The side panels are perfectly standard. They are fastened with screws. There are two vent holes: the top one has a plastic funnel (I had to remove it as usual because it prevented me from installing the CPU cooler) and the bottom one facilitates airflows near the graphics and expansion cards. You can install an 80mm fan into the top vent, but no fan is included into the kit, of course. Such accessories can only be found with much more expensive products.

The back panel is standard, too. The only notable thing here is a 120mm fan with 3-pin power connector. It is the single fan preinstalled in this system case, actually. There is no fan at the front panel. It is good, however, that the manufacturer didn’t install an 80mm or 92mm fan instead of the 120mm one to cut the manufacturing cost as some other makers do.

Now that I’ve begun to talk about fans, I want to tell you about a special accessory included with this system case. It is a splitter that is meant to transfer power from a mainboard’s connector to two fans. Of course, one fan gets the two power-related wires only whereas the tachometer wire goes to the other fan. Running a little ahead, I should confess that this splitter proved to be practically useful. The system fan has such a short cable that I couldn’t connect it to my mainboard without this accessory. The other connector of the splitter must be meant for a side-panel fan (not included into the kit).

Like the above-discussed HEC 6XR8, the case stands on robust plastic feet.

The chassis doesn’t show any innovations, either. You can see the same chassis in many other system cases of this and cheaper price range. It doesn’t bend in under your finger as easily as in cheaper cases, though. The chassis is not as rigid as in the above-discussed HEC, yet it is sufficiently robust for you to not fear about rattle and vibration. You shouldn’t also be afraid of cutting your finger when assembling your system as all the edges of the chassis are finished properly.

The slot brackets are disposable. Once you tear them off, you won’t be able to put them back unless with scotch tape or glue.

The expansion and graphics cards are fastened in a screw-less way. The design is good for its simplicity: the cards are just propped up by a common turning plate. As you can guess, when you replace one card, the others lose their support. This design doesn’t prevent you from installing a dual-slot graphics card, but the fastening mechanism doesn’t look reliable to me. As you know, modern graphics cards are often very heavy. If you’ve got similar apprehensions, you can just remove the retention plate and use good old screws – the necessary screw holes are available.

You can see a seat for a fan at the front panel. You can install an 80mm, 92mm or 120mm fan in there. Before you install your drives into the external bays, you have to tear off the appropriate brackets (pushing them out from inside with a screwdriver is the simplest method).

The screw-less drive fastening system is very simple in this system case. There are three types of retainers for three types of drives (optical drives, hard drives, and card-readers or floppy drives). The method is the same with every type of the retainer: the juts in the retainer are inserted into the appropriate holes in the case opposite the drive’s screw holes. Then you turn the retainer around to fix the device in its bay.

This simple mechanism does its job surprisingly well. My optical drive and hard disks proved to be securely fastened in their bays. The only disappointment is that you have to use screws to install hard drives into the two bays designed for card-readers/floppy drives (they have differently positioned screw holes and thus require different retainers).

Funnily enough, there is only one external bay (judging by the faceplates in the front panel), but there are two card-reader bays in the rack. It is unclear what devices are supposed to be installed into the second bay because I don’t know of any other type of devices with the same fastening. It would be better if this bay had a sixth screw-less retainer for a hard drive.

 

The assembly process goes smoothly. Everything is predictable, including some problems concerning the layout out of the cables inside the case. System cases that provide some space behind the mainboard for putting the cables into are handier but also considerably more expensive.

And finally, I will tell you about the differences of the GZ-X3BPD from the other two models from Gigabyte.

 

The photographs make it clear that the Gigabyte GZ-X4BPD differs from the above-described model with its exterior design only, i.e. with its front panel. The interface connectors are now in the middle of the case (this is good as system cases of this size are usually placed on the floor), the buttons have moved down, and there are now stylish vent slits in the side panels. That’s all the difference, actually. I guess this version will be appropriate for a home computer.

The Gigabyte GZ-X5BPD is similar to the Gigabyte GZ-X3BPD in its exterior design, but has two external 3.5-inch bays and its Power button is located lower. The three models share the same uniform chassis, which explains the odd internal bay with fasteners for an external device that I noted above.

There is yet another cosmetic change here. The front-panel connectors of this model are covered by a flip-down lid. The selection and position of the connectors have not changed, though.

Gigabyte’s system cases came to our labs together with Delta Electronics GE-C400N-C1 power supplies.

Raidmax Smilodon

Raidmax products are distinguishable for their nonstandard design. System cases from this manufacturer are often referred to as “revolutionary”, “stylish”, “gaming” and all the other terms in use at the marketing department.

To see for myself, I will check out the Smilodon, an elite system case model from Raidmax.

 

Well, this system case looks unusual indeed. There are no absolutely nonstandard shapes or solutions or anything in it, yet the Smilodon can hardly be called a regular product of its class. The appearance of the Smilodon is somewhat aggressive, especially with its highlighting turned on, and such products are preferred by gamers, modders, and other young people.

Note that there is no connector or button on the front panel. Everything is hidden behind the magnet-held door. Unfortunately, there is no lock, so this protection against small children who are so fond of pressing shiny buttons doesn’t look secure.

 

From a technical viewpoint, the door is designed as a metallic grid stretched out on a frame. It doesn’t look as bad as it sounds, though. The door is quite sturdy and nice-looking. Its design allows the air to pass freely into the system case. The intake 120mm fan installed behind the door does not have to suck the air out of slits or something, producing a lot of noise.

The Power and Reset buttons are placed near the two external 3.5-inch bays. Interestingly, no LED indicators are visible…

Take note of the four wires going out of the system case in the bottom corner of the door. Here are the LEDs. The overall highlighting is an indication that the computer is up and running while the red indicator of HDD activity is snugly fitted on one of the cross bars of the door.

There is a standard selection of interface connectors behind the door: two audio connectors in the center and two USB ports at the sides. The interfaces are positioned properly and do not get in each other’s way. Unfortunately, the manufacturer did not have the room or desire to install eSATA and FireWire connectors.

The only thing I don’t like is that the block of interface connectors is placed behind a cover. You won’t be able to close the latter if you’ve connected a device to the system case. The bottom position of that block is not a good solution for a full-size system case, either. Such cases usually stand on the floor.

There is a huge plastic window in the left side panel with two standard vent grids. 80mm fans are already installed in them. The top fan is fastened on the side panel itself while the bottom one resides on a metallic cross bar inside the case. The bar is very close to the side panel, though.

The back panel is almost standard and has one preinstalled 120mm fan. The wavy cut through the entire panel is intriguing. I will explain its purpose shortly.

The right panel is quite a surprise, too. It has vent holes behind which a third 80mm fan can be seen (to remind you, these fans are added to help the two main 120mm fans; it is a very rare thing for a mainstream system case to have such an abundance of fans). Judging by the position of this fan, it is driving the air into the top part of the 3.5-inch bays.

The feet are standard. They are made from robust plastic as usual.

Now we have reached the most exciting feature of this system case. Its side panels cannot be removed. Instead, they are flipped down on both sides. There are handles on these panels you could see in the photos above. You just pull the handle up and the whole side panel flips down. This gives you no special comfort with the left panel, though. When working with the components, the panel proves to be between you and the system case. It is good that it can be opened by more than 90 degrees, so you can lay the case on its side (or put it down at the edge of a desk) and open the panel fully.

What is impressive, the right panel can be opened in the same way, leaving the system case with its PSU and back-panel fan only. Thus, it becomes far more convenient to install the mainboard in comparison with standard system cases.

The chassis itself is original and high quality. Every edge is finished properly, and the whole arrangement is very rigid.

The brackets of expansion slots in the back panel spoil the impression from the case somewhat. I don’t mind the screw-based fastening of expansion cards (it is an old but reliable method), but I don’t like that the brackets have to be torn off.

Now let’s check out the fan on the right panel. It represents an original and interesting solution. By the way, every fan in this system case has a 4-pin power connector of the Molex variety (like the power connector of PATA drives).

Well, the efficiency of this fan is questionable due to its location. In fact, it only cools the top cage for 3.5-inch devices into which you can install external drives (card-reader or floppy drive) which don’t require much cooling anyway, and one hard disk drive. This fan can also improve the cooling of the mainboard by intensifying the airflow around it. You’ll see in the Tests section if this fan is any good at all.

The metallic crossbar in the left part of the case not only makes the latter more rigid (the chassis itself is less rigid than usual due to the original design, so this crossbar is quite a necessary element) but also serves as a seat for an 80mm fan and as a support for expansion and graphics cards. This support is implemented in a very simple way: the bar has three retractable shanks with soft pads at the ends. So after you install your cards, you can just set the crossbar and take out the necessary shanks, pressing them against the butt-ends of the cards. That’s not much of a support, yet it may come in handy anyway.

Now I’ll tell you about the installation of hard and optical drives into this case. Devices in the 5.25-inch bays and in the top cage for 3.5-inch drives are fastened with screw-less retainers that resemble those of the above-discussed Gigabyte case. That’s why I won’t discuss them in detail here.

The retainers are actually the same. Each of them two juts replacing ordinary screws and a turning central part that is responsible for applying and removing the retainer.

In the front bottom part of the case there is a traditional cage for HDDs. This cage is secured in place with a thumbscrew and a retainer. But what is the blue thing beneath it for?

This is a handy box you can take out from under the cage by pulling at the sticking tab.

This box contains rails for hard disk drives, one spare bracket for the back panel, a pack with screws, and a speaker for the mainboard (if your mainboard doesn’t have an integrated speaker).

But let’s get back to the HDD cage. You have to take it out in an unusual way (this system case is just full of nonstandard design solutions). You don’t have to pull it into the case. Instead, you must turn it around towards yourself. In fact, it is quite easy to install the drives when you turn the cage as shown in the photo.

Well, you can take the whole cage out of the case if you want. It won’t be easy to put it back loaded with HDDs, however, because you have to align the guides without seeing them.

HDDs are installed into the cage by means of the rails I have found in the box. It is simple and easy: you attach two rails to the sides of the drive, inserting them into the screw holes. Then you just push the drive into the cage.

 

The process of assembling a computer in this system case is not quite ordinary, either. On one hand, this case makes it very easy to install the mainboard, graphics card and expansion cards because you can do this on the unfolded right panel. It is also easy to install the optical and hard drives due to the same reason. But on the other hand, plugging various connectors in can prove to be a problem. You cannot connect the cables when the right panel is open because the cables are too short. But when the right panel is closed, there is too little space inside the system case. The case is actually cramped, making it inconvenient to lay the cables out neatly. And there are quite a lot of cables here because the system fans must all be connected to the power supply. As a result, assembling a computer in this system case takes about as much time as in the above-discussed case from Gigabyte that represents the traditional interior design.

 

As a reward for your troubles, the assembled system will please you with its cute illumination. The system fans are all equipped with highlighting, and there are three highlighting tubes in the front panel, too. That’s quite a nice night lamp, actually. Modders are going to appreciate this, but people who have their computer working all day long may find such highlighting irritating.

The Raidmax Smilodon system case came to our labs together with a Raidmax KY-600ATX power supply.

Test Methods

The tests are performed with a closed and assembled system case at a constant ambient temperature of 23° that is maintained by a conditioner. Most users are likely to prefer quieter PCs, so I set the CPU cooler and the system fans (connected to the mainboard) into the Silence mode. I did not modify the configuration of airflows.

The following configuration was assembled in the tested system cases:

The CPU temperature was read with the ASUS PC Probe program supplied with the mainboard. The HDD temperature was reported by HDD Thermometer. The graphics card’s temperature was read with its driver.

There were the following test modes:

Each temperature was read after half an hour of operation in each test mode, i.e. when the temperatures of the components had stabilized.

The level of noise was evaluated subjectively.

Measurement Results

Let’s first check out the results for each system case and see how the cooling of the HDDs depends on their position.

The HDDs are numbered from top to bottom. It is clear that the two central HDDs are cooled better than the others, but generally speaking all of the HDDs should find these conditions comfortable. They do not require a stronger airflow even under maximum load. The other components are cooled properly, too. So, this system case is good in terms of cooling. No wonder as this design with two 120mm system fans has long proved to be the most practical one.

The HEC 6XR8 is also quiet, just as we could expect. There are no vibrations. The fans produce a quiet hum that you can hear only when you put your ear next to the system case. It is the WD Raptor drives with their clicking read/write heads that were the main source of noise in this system.

The HDDs are numbered from top to bottom again. The first drive is separated from the others by an empty compartment. The other drives go one after another down to the bottom of the case. The HDDs are cooled properly enough thanks to the airflow created by the exhaust 120mm fan at the back panel, but the tightly packed HDDs at the bottom feel somewhat worse than the top ones that have some free space around them.

The cooling system is weak, so the computer is nearly silent at work. The HDDs are the main source of noise in it. I heard no rattle despite the relatively low price of this system case.

The HDDs are still numbered from top to bottom. There is one bay that is cooled from the left side, so I installed HDD1 into it while the others were accommodated in the bottom cage.

The test results indicate that the unusual position of the fan is quite appropriate. The HDD cooled by that fan is 4-5°C colder than the others. The system case cools all the components well, though. It would be odd if there were any overheat with such an abundance of system fans.

The Smilodon proved to be far louder than its opponents. The reason for the higher level of noise was not in the nonstandard design of the case but in the 80mm fans. So, I performed another test cycle having disabled all the three 80mm fans. Thus, the system case was cooled with the two 120mm fans only.

The temperatures are now higher but still far from dangerous. Even the HDD outside the cage does not become too hot without its dedicated fan – it is quite satisfied with the overall airflow in the case.

The noisiness of the system case becomes normal, though. It is as quiet as its opponents. So, the 80mm fans are indeed the reason for the higher level of noise. You may want to remove them altogether or replace with quieter fans. By the way, the nonstandard chassis doesn’t produce any rattling sounds – its rigidity is appropriate.

And finally let’s compare the system cases among themselves (the diagrams show the temperatures of the coldest and hottest HDDs).

The HEC and Raidmax are the best when idle. The latter uses all of its five fans and provides better cooling (at a higher level of noise). When the 80mm fans are turned off, the Raidmax loses its small advantage, though.

Under heavy HDD load the Raidmax shows the best results because one of its HDDs has a dedicated fan and a lot of free space around. The three system cases are roughly equal as concerns the temperature of the “hottest” HDD. It is the HDD at the bottom of each case because the airflow is the weakest around it irrespective of the number of system fans. With one system fan only, the Gigabyte is in fact equal to its opponents. Interestingly, the CPU has the lowest temperature in the HEC case, but the mainboard has the highest temperature in it. This must be due to the specific configuration of airflows determined by the shape of the case and the laying out of the cables.

We’ve got the same overall picture under maximum CPU load. Take note that the Raidmax doesn’t win much from using a lot of system fans. It might have a larger advantage if my CPU cooler were less advanced and the graphics card had a single- rather than dual-slot cooler (the dual-slot cooler helps exhaust the hot air out of the case).

And finally, here is the mode that simulates the maximum load on home computers. The Raidmax is again better than its opponents at cooling every component, but I don’t think its noise justifies its cooling efficiency. When its 80mm fans are turned off, it becomes as good as the Gigabyte case. The HEC is the best at cooling the CPU and HDDs, but worst at cooling the mainboard and graphics card.

Generally speaking, every system case coped well with cooling the components at any load.

Conclusion

Now I will try to summarize my experience with each system case.

The new series of HEC’s system cases seems to be just as successful as the former series. The 6XR8 is a very good product for its money. It features a nice and demure exterior design, a reliable chassis, good ergonomics and cooling, and a low level of noise. I guess the only drawbacks worth mentioning about it are the inconveniences you may encounter when connecting and laying out the cables of hard drives. Moreover, the default 450W power supply offers a rather limited selection of connectors. The 6XR8-PE comes with a more interesting 600W PSU, but its price goes beyond the mainstream class.

Gigabyte’s GZ-X series represents a reasonable compromise between price and consumer characteristics. Yes, these system cases do not stand out in their class, but they come at an affordable price and have no serious drawbacks. If you just want a regular system case, you should be quite satisfied with one of them.

The Raidmax Smilodon differs greatly from the others. It is eye-catching with its original interior design, multiple fans and aggressive exterior. But when you go into details, you can find that the better cooling comes at a higher level of noise whereas the unusual design is not as handy as it seems (even though there are a few obvious advantages about it). Its default PSU is not exactly high quality, either. Thus, the Smilodon is a system case for PC enthusiasts who need a gaudy computer with good cooling.