This case is light. Mighty light.
When I went to the Purolator depot to pick up a couple packages, the lady referred to another box I’d ordered as “the heavy one” – it was a box that contained another PSU I’d ordered.
The box with the X-QPACK2 inside was referred to as “the light one”.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a box with a computer case in it referred to as “light”. Until now.
This APEVIA case is made of aluminum (except for the plastic front panel), which accounts for the low weight. However, aluminum tends to be soft. And here it’s also quite thin.
Suffice it to say, it’s delicate. And when the case is disassembled, you need to treat it like glass because the panels will bend (and possibly break) on you otherwise.
A First Look
Unsurprisingly, the case is fairly small compared to most other mATX cases out there (pic below). There’s a lot packed in there, and little space is wasted. The trade-off is that it’s a massive pain to work on, you *must* use a low profile CPU cooler, and cooling performance is rather poor.
The “500W” PSU included… it’s probably one of the first things you should take out and throw in the trash. The APEVIA line of cases isn’t known for PSU quality – according to customer feedback on Newegg, many die soon after being powered. It’s also quite light (often a bad sign when it comes to PSU’s), and I wasn’t even going to risk hooking it up to my components – I swapped it out immediately.
Above, you can see the QPACK2 lined up with other cases (a CM full-size, an Antec 2480, and the QPACK2). In the 2nd image, you can get a rough idea as to the internal layout.
Installation – Issues
Swapping the PSU, while quite simple, wasn’t perfect. I’d replaced the original PSU with a standard sized Antec, and I had to press down a good bit (flexing the case structure/support I’m sure) to line up the screws. Everything worked out in the end, but it’s certainly not an “every PSU will fit” thing. More of a “most PSU’s will probably mostly fit” thing.
Despite being a tight interior, it’s been well thought-out. The motherboard tray slides out the rear after removing a few screws, which gives you plenty of room to install your motherboard.
A couple issues came up here. First, the motherboard mounting screws/studs are really wonky and prone to cross-threading. I had the thing out, on a table, and I had to make multiple attempts to line up each screw. It’s a good thing the MB tray slides out because if I’d had to do it with the motherboard inside the case, it would have easily been a 1-hour ordeal.
The 2nd was that aftermarket CPU coolers with their own backplate… well… some might have issues. I put in a Noctua NH-L12 120mm & 92mm SSO Bearing PWM Fans CPU Cooler, and… you can see the backplate here:
The edge of the backplate just caught the tray. While it did install, it was pressed so tightly that I ended up removing the motherboard and taking a dremel to the X-QPACK2 motherboard tray to cut a little bit of material out for a nicer fit.
Installation – the rest
As I initially said, you need to treat the case like glass. Even the case panel is delicate, so go slowly.
The other thing you need to do is plan. Plan like crazy. For example, if you want to replace the front-fan, you’ll have to take off the front-panel… which means you’ll have to get at the 2 interior screws helping to hold the panel on… which you can’t get at if you’ve installed everything.
So if you want to replace that front-fan, you want to do it before you’ve installed anything else. And then hope your new one works, because it can easily take an hour to reinstall everything if you have to pull it again.
…and that’s just ONE example.
Above, you can see the case with everything installed (click images for larger views). The Noctua CPU L12 cooler I’d mentioned earlier, it *just* fit with the 1 fan installed.
I’d still have room for a fairly small/standard-sized video card, but I was content to use the integrated video.
Obviously, a modular PSU would be a good idea. You can see all the extra cables just sitting tied down at the top. Sadly, while the Antec EarthWatts Platinum Series EA-450 450W Power Supply has fantastic power efficiency being an 80PLUS Platinum, it’s not modular.
Cooling performance & sound
The cooling performance is rather dismal. The i5-2500k was undervolted, and no matter which way I oriented the fan, and no matter how many times I re-applied the thermal paste, and even if I had all the fans running at full tilt, I was still looking at a 10 degree temp increase at idle (and 15-20 increase at load) over previous cases.
Being undervolted (and not overclocked), this didn’t end up posing any problems. Load temps in the 60’s aren’t the end of the world and were stable (despite being in the 40’s with the quieter Antec case). But if you were planning to grab this case hoping to overclock like a banshee you might want to carefully consider that decision.
Sound was the other issue though. I’d pre-emptively replaced the original front-fan with one of CoolerMaster’s quieter models. And despite using Noctua rubber mounts, the case vibration was unbearable (I eventually disconnected it, with surprisingly little impact on the case temp).
Even with that vibration out of the way, the thin aluminum and overall design doesn’t lend itself to muffling the noise of the other fans. Using the fan control on the motherboard to vary speed with temperature, at idle it’s possible to get the thing fairly quiet, but when load comes & temperatures quickly rise… it’s a different story.
The Fancy Stuff
If you’ve looked at this case, you’ve probably noticed a front handle. Everyone who’s used it has expressed initial concern, but many have used it when carrying the case and been pleasantly surprised. I myself am hesitant to use it – while the case itself is light, once all your components are in it can be quite a bit heavier, and there are only 2 screws (aside from the plastic clips) holding that front panel on. I use the handle to lift it, but always make sure my other hand is supporting the case once it’s elevated.
The LCD temperature display seems extremely gimmicky. You’re supposed to tape the sensors to whatever-you’re-monitoring. I taped one to the chipset & one to the CPU heatsink, and the heat simply softened the tape enough for it to fall off. Tape just doesn’t stick well at higher temperatures. By taping it to any form of heatsink, you’re also reducing the surface area exposed to direct air. You could slip the sensor between the CPU & it’s cooler but again, you’re weakening the cooling performance.
Those sensors seem like a cute idea, but they’re just not practical. I think APEVIA would be smart to just drop them completely – if they’re dead-set on using them, hooking them up to a USB connector and polling the motherboard for temperatures through software would undoubtedly be a better idea.
It’s a small, lightweight case. Great for a microATX system you might want to move around. Installation will take you quite a while, but a removable motherboard tray keeps it from being a nightmare.
It’s not particularly cool or quiet, and your CPU heatsink options will be limited to the low-profile type.
When the X-QPACK3 comes around (assuming it does), I think APEVIA would be well-served to ditch the included PSU, ditch the sensors, and pass some of that savings on to the consumer. Tweaking the front intake might not be a bad idea either – a rubber-mounted fan combined with a removable plastic filter (similar to the concept Antec uses in the Sonata) might make for a killer little case.