by Aleksey Meyev
07/15/2009 | 11:51 AM
Judging by their website, Ikonik is a rising player on the PC component market. Founded in 2008, it currently produces power supplies and system cases. Ikonik’s PSUs will be discussed in our upcoming review and today we are going talk about two tower system cases: Taran A20 and Zaria A20 SIM (Ikonik’s product range also includes a model called Python but it will not be covered in this review).
The Taran A20 belongs to the highly popular class of reasonably priced high-quality mainstream system cases. Without a PSU it will cost you about $100.
The “A20” suffix indicates the design of the case. For example, the existing Taran A10 and Taran A30 differ from the Taran A20 only with the design of the front panel but have the same chassis.
There is nothing extraordinary about the exterior of our model. It is a regular silver-and-black case that will not stand out among others on a shop shelf. It is not ugly but it is not eye-catching, either. It is just a typical, standard computer case.
The square block of vent holes in the side panel is placed closer to the mainboard’s center. This is different from most other system cases that have a plastic side-panel funnel opposite the CPU.
This has been done in compliance with Intel Thermally Advantaged Chassis Design Guide version 2.0. The Guide can be downloaded from Intel’s website.
We don’t understand the purpose of the stamped-out holes, though. And we don’t know why holes are missing in two corners of the square – and in some chaotic order. Is it just for the sake of aesthetics?
Now let’s get back to the front panel. The Power and Reset buttons are placed at the very bottom of it, on the plastic square surrounded with a fine mesh that allows fresh air to get to the disk drives. The buttons are the right size – you can’t press Reset accidentally. Most people will even have to use something thin to press it, so small it is. This also suggests that the system case is supposed to stand on a desk (unless you don’t mind reaching down to the floor to turn your computer on).
However, the I/O connectors are in the top panel. So, if the computer stands on a desk, the I/O connectors won’t be visible to the person sitting in front of it. And if it stands on the floor, you won’t find it easy to press the Power button. The connectors reside on a distinctive plate under a soft-plastic magnet-held cover. This is a handy and practical solution. The connectors are covered from dust, but you can open them easily. There are two audio connectors, two USB ports (placed sufficiently far from each other), and an eSATA connector. We guess the latter is more useful as an I/O connector than FireWire.
The back panel is quite standard for a tower system case except for the rubberized openings for the pipes of a liquid cooling system. You don’t often see them in system cases of this price segment.
Like most other products of this class, the Ikonik Taran has a 3-pin 120mm fan at the back panel. Running a little ahead, we can tell you that there is another such fan at the front panel, opposite the cage with disk drives. Ikonik does not make fans but the fan has a sticker with its logo. If you google the fan’s model number (DF1202512RFLN), you will learn that the same 1000rpm fans can also be found in system cases from Gigabyte and Silverstone.
The system case stands on stiff-plastic feet you can often see in inexpensive products.
There is nothing extraordinary about the interior design of the case, either. The finish quality and the thickness of the metal are good enough for you not to worry about the safety of your fingers or excessive vibration. Well, there is nothing wrong in this system case being just a regular product with time-tested design solutions.
The fans are both powered by one mainboard connector through a splitter cable. This prevents you from controlling them individually (but do you need such control anyway?). On the other hand, that’s expedient for users who have only one fan connector on their mainboards.
One more interesting thing is that there is a vent hole in the bottom of the case covered with a dust filter. You can install one more 120mm fan there to pump more air into the case and improve the cooling of your graphics card.
The expansion-slot brackets have to be torn off and you cannot put them back in place later. The plate for fastening expansion cards will not be compatible with some dual-slot graphics cards and is not much easier to use than traditional screws. The fastening mechanism is not robust enough. Moreover, if you’ve got several add-in cards, you have to hold them somehow in place before locking the fastening plate. That’s why you may want to prefer to remove the plate altogether and use screws instead.
Drives are fastened using a popular method: a plastic bracket is inserted with its prongs into the device’s threaded holes and fixes the device firmly when you turn the handle.
The same mechanism is used for optical and hard drives and card-readers but you may have problems with the latter two types of devices if they have nonstandard screw holes, for example not four but two holes in each side. In every case the drive is supported from the other side by a springy bar of metal.
Unfortunately, you will have to remove the second side panel in order to install your optical drive. Otherwise, you won’t be able to remove the front panel (to undo its locks, to be exact).
Handy glue-on cable holders are included into the kit. They can only be used for rather small bunches of cables, though.
The cables of the front-panel buttons and indicators end in 2-pin connectors with locks rather than in traditional flat connectors. They are plugged into a special adapter shown in the picture above. This must have been made to ensure unification with senior models whose buttons and LEDs are connected to a special controller.
We assembled the test system easily but there was one problem. The case is obviously too short for top-end graphics cards.
Our HIS IceQ3 Radeon HD 3870 card is 240 millimeters long (for comparison, a standard GeForce GTX 260 is 267 millimeters long) but it barely fitted into the case with its power connector. Even installing a standard ATX mainboard into this case is not easy because of the insufficient length, and it is difficult to connect SATA cables to the connectors at the edge of the mainboard because they are behind the HDD rack. Fortunately, there is some space behind the drives where all the cables can be tucked into.
Thus, assembling a really top-end gaming configuration in this system case may be problematic. You should check out the length of your graphics card and the position of its power connectors beforehand. If the card is longer than 244 millimeters, the Ikonik Taran won’t suit you.
The Zaria series includes higher-class products which are about 50% more expensive than the Taran described in the previous section. The SIM (System Intelligent Management) version costs even more. Now let’s see what we get for such money.
The Zaria A20 looks more exciting than the previous model thanks to its solid aluminum door covering the external drive bays. The large silvery plate in the bottom right corner of the front panel – a kind of a foot pedal – serves as a Power button here. The overall appearance of the case is neat and restrained.
Most manufacturers produce multiple variations of the same system case painted different colors and with or without a side window. Ikonik decided instead to include a piece of translucent plastic for the side panel into the kit. This is a questionable solution as most users know beforehand if they need a translucent window or a mesh for better cooling. So, if you want a mesh, you will have to pay for the included window you won’t use. On the other hand, if you have not made up your mind yet, you can try both variants with this system case.
It is easy to replace the mesh with the window: both are fastened with 12 screws to the side panel of the case.
The front door covers a standard glossy plastic panel.
Like the previous model, this one has a block of I/O interfaces under a soft-plastic cover on the top panel. The selection of interfaces is wider now. Besides audio connectors, two USB ports and an eSATA port, there is a FireWire connector and a Power button. The latter can be pressed through the cover, which is soft. Thus, you can enable one of two Power buttons and use the other for resetting the computer (we guess resetting a hung-up computer with a kick on the bottom button will be a good way to relieve your stress).
The back panel is almost the same as the above-discussed junior model’s including a preinstalled 120mm fan and rubberized openings for the pipes of a liquid cooling system. The right panel needs closer inspection as there are two 80mm fans (15mm thick) behind the vent holes at its top.
One thing can be noted about the back panel, though. There are thin vibration-absorbing strips on the ledges for the power supply. Of course, few people will install a strongly vibrating low-quality PSU into this rather expensive system case, yet this care about the user is heart-touching anyway.
The feet are larger and have pretty shiny rims and vibration-absorbing rubber pads.
The chassis shows a high quality of manufacture. Everything is rigid, the edges are all neatly finished. For the side panels not to rattle, special springy pads are used instead of folded tabs.
Take note of the amount of holes in the mainboard’s mounting plate. There are more of them than required by the ATX and microATX standards. The fact is the system case complies with the Compact Electronics Bay standard that allows for building dual-processor systems in tower-style cases. CEB mainboards (you can read CEB documentation here) do not differ much from ATX mainboards. They are a mere 3 millimeters wider and partially coincide with their mounting holes but CEB describes that CPU coolers are fastened through the mainboard to the system case. That’s the reason why the Ikonik Zaria has so many holes.
There is a bottom vent hole with dust filter. Ikonik’s engineers seem to think that the option of installing an additional intake fan may be interesting for users.
An unhandy plate is still used to fasten expansion cards. The expansion-slot brackets are now reusable.
Screw-less fastening is used for drives in the open bays although the mechanism is somewhat different from what we have seen in the Ikonik Taran. The devices are held with prongs on one side and with a spring-loaded plate on the other. The prongs are now extended by using a special lever rather than turning a handle (they retract when you press a button). Anyway, you have to remove the front panel to install your optical drive.
You will have to take it off often, though. It is in the front panel that the filter of the 140m fan, located in front of the HDD rack, is fastened. Perhaps it is technically more difficult to install it inside, but that would be easier for the user (the HDD rack is detachable to provide access to the fan).
HDDs are installed into the rack on screw-less rails. The rails provide protection against vibrations: the HDDs touch the rails via damping pads.
Finally, we can take a look at the open case from the other side. In the ordinary version we’d see two fans and empty space behind the HDD rack, but we’ve got the SIM version of the case. What does it mean?
SIM stands for System Intelligent Management (SIM). The hardware part of this system is a square box fastened behind the 5.25-inch bays and a set of cables for connecting up to four fans to it. Thus, SIM can only be used to control fans.
Do not forget to power the box and connect four thermocouples to it. It is on the readings of those thermocouples that the speeds of the fans connected to the SIM box will depend, if you want that. By default, both 80mm fans on the side panels are connected via an adapter to one channel, so the fourth channel is free.
What does the software part of the SIM system do?
The main screen of the software shows the current speeds of the fans and the readings of the thermal sensors. You can also learn the model name of your system case and see the placement of fans in it but you cannot learn what fan is connected to what channel. You can enable/disable the highlighting of all the fans at once.
In the Controls section you can specify the operation mode for each of the four tracked channels. There are four modes available:
For the Silent and 0dB modes you can choose one of two variants of fan acceleration (which is effected by increasing voltage in the appropriate channel) depending on temperature. The difference is at what temperature the fan speed begins to grow up.
As for the fans in our particular case, the maximum speed is 1700rpm for the 140mm fan on the front panel, 1850rpm for the 120mm fan on the back panel, and 2600rpm for the 80mm fans on the side panel. The respective minimums are 1000, 1100 and 1700rpm.
The final screen is called Alarm. Here you can assign thermal sensors to fan control channels and specify alarm temperatures for each of them.
There are no problems with assembling a computer in this system case: there is a generous 275 millimeters of space for your graphics card. The case is also wide. In many system cases with crosswise positioning of HDDs, the side panel often presses against their connectors dangerously. Here, there is enough space for everything.
There is only one thing that left us perplexed. Even the rather short PSU we use (140 millimeters long, which is the standard length of an ATX power supply) partially covers one of the side fans. Thus, a longer PSU will fully block that fan, reducing its efficiency to zero (except when you use a Hiper PSU with meshed panels). You will see shortly how necessary these fans are anyway.
The fan’s highlighting is not too bright and barely visible through the mesh of the case. The Power and Disk Access indicators hidden under the large front button are only visible by the reflection they leave on the desk. This is good for people who don’t like too bright illumination.
The assembled system case is tested at a constant ambient temperature of 23°C maintained by an air conditioner. As we assume that most users prefer low-noise system cases, we set the speed of the CPU and system fans (those connected to the mainboard’s 3-pin connector) into Silent mode (the quietest mode on ASUS mainboards). If the system case has its own speed controller, the fans connected to it are set at the lowest speed, too, whenever possible. We do not change the default configuration of airflows determined by the system case design.
The following components are installed into the system case:
The CPU temperature is read with ASUS PC Probe included with the mainboard. The temperature of the HDDs is measured with HDD Thermometer. The graphics card’s temperature is reported by its control panel.
There are the following test modes:
Every temperature is read after the system has worked for half an hour in the current test mode. As a kind of reference point, here are the results of the same configuration assembled without a case.
Temperature in open stand, °C
The noise level is evaluated subjectively.
First let’s see the results of each case individually and check out the cooling of HDDs depending on their position.
IKONIK Taran A20, °C
The HDDs are numbered from top to bottom.
The HDD positioned at the bottom, apart from the others, feels more comfortable, but there is no reason to worry. The classic design with an intake fan in front of HDDs nearly always works well. There are no problems in the other parts of the case, either.
The Ikonik Taran is also good in terms of noisiness. Its fans are not exactly silent but comparable to the HDDs in idle mode (when working, the HDDs are far louder than everything else). You cannot hear the sound created by the fans from a distance of 1 meter or more.
IKONIK Zaria A20 at min fan speed, °C
The HDDs are numbered from top to bottom once again.
The system case copes with cooling our system at any load even when its fans are working at the minimum speed. The HDDs have almost the same temperature except that the top HDD is somewhat warmer than the others.
The fans proved to be somewhat louder than expected. The front 140mm and the back 120mm fans produce the hissing sound of airflow whereas the 80mm fans on the side panel also rattle with their motors. This rattling sound is not as loud as the HDDs’ heads or graphics cards’ coolers, but quite distinct anyway.
IKONIK Zaria A20 at min fan speed without side fans, °C
Interestingly, you can just turn those fans off completely. The mainboard will only be a couple of degrees hotter while the CPU will even become cooler! So, we guess the side fans are not necessary at all.
IKONIK Zaria A20 at max fan speed, °C
If the fans are working at their maximum speed, the components are cooled better. However, the noise becomes far more audible. Each fan has a particular voice: the 140mm fan is producing a characteristic low-frequency hum, the 120mm fan is hissing at the back panel, and the 80mm pair is chattering at a high frequency. The combined noise is almost as loud as the heads of our HDDs (and the four WD Raptors are far from quiet themselves). It is quite uncomfortable to be near such a loud computer.
Finally, let’s compare the system cases with each other and with an open testbed.
The Ikonik Zaria is more appealing than the Taran when idle: the components are hotter in the Taran than on the open testbed. The Zaria, on the contrary, is close to the open testbed in terms of cooling efficiency.
The Taran looks better when the HDDs are under load. It cools the HDDs better than the open testbed which has no active cooling. The fastening system with plastic rails seems to be an obstacle to good cooling of the HDDs in the Zaria. The Zaria is only comparable to the open testbed at the min speed of the fans. We guess it is an indication of low efficiency, especially as there is a 140mm fan in front of the HDD cage. Of course, you can solve the problem by increasing the fan’s speed, but this means increasing its noise, too.
The Zaria shows its best under maximum CPU load. This case is comparable to the open testbed in terms of CPU temperature. Interestingly, the increased fan speeds do not affect the CPU but improve the cooling of the mainboard somewhat (the HDDs are a different story as they are very responsive to higher fan speeds in this system case). The Taran is worse in terms of CPU cooling but gives no cause to worry. You should just use a good cooler if you install a top-performance CPU into it.
There is nothing new under gaming load. The Taran is still better at cooling HDDs, but inferior from the other aspects.
Ikonik’s system cases feature a good chassis from high-quality metal, a good cooling system (with preinstalled fans), and a screw-less fastening mechanism for drives. However, they are not free from drawbacks. For example, the short length of the Taran case does not allow it to accommodate a graphics card longer than 245 millimeters and there can be problems with shorter cards, depending on the position of their power connectors and the design of your PSU’s cables. Thus, this system case will only do for office or not-very-powerful home configurations, and its price is not appealing then. The Ikonik Zaria is free from this problem and allows to assemble any configuration, even a dual-processor one. But the Zaria is more expensive and we don’t like its screw-less mechanism for fastening expansion cards, its low efficiency of cooling HDDs (although it has a front fan), and virtually useless but noisy 80mm fans on the side panel. Of course, these are not serious defects, but we might expect such a highly positioned product to be free from them.
The SIM technology for controlling system fans is quite a handy feature. Its interface is simple and intuitive. So, if you think your mainboard offers limited fan management options, you may prefer to buy the SIM version of the system case. For other users, SIM will have no point, especially as modern mainboards come with rather effective automatic fan speed control of their own. And do not forget that, as opposed to mainboards whose fan speed control is enabled in BIOS, SIM can only be used from Windows. Other OSes are not yet supported.