Building, Testing And Final Evaluation
We began installation by first taking stock of the available parts. Included in the kit are a installation guide, two replacement slot covers, five cable ties, a PC speaker, four fan screws, eight #6-32 panhead screws, six #6-32 hex head screws, 18 M5 screws, three standoffs, and a #2 Phillips head socket for tightening the standoffs. Six additional standoffs are factory installed to the motherboard tray, leaving only 13”-deep EATX motherboards in need of more standoffs than the manufacturer provides.
Front panel cables include ARGB control, an SATA power adapter for the integrated ARGB controller, a power/reset/LED group, a 3-pin fan with built-in ATA style power adapter, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, and HD Audio for the front headphone and microphone jacks.
We make every attempt to keep the same hardware for every test, but ran into a problem when attempting to top-mount our closed-loop CPU cooler: Despite the 120mm top panel mounts being offset 44mm from motherboard standoffs, the thickness of the motherboard and DIMM slots made the 44mm height of our PNY DIMMs excessive. At 32mm tall, the alternative Vulcan Z kit left a little more than 2mm clearance.
Screwing in components doesn’t even require a manual: If a component’s mounting hole has a threaded hole behind it, insert the corresponding screw. We did have to add the three standoffs to support the front edge of our ATX motherboard, but anyone who doesn’t know where those go need only look at the motherboard to figure it out. Also note that it’s important to remove slot covers before installing the board, as these break-away pieces get blocked in by the motherboard’s rear edge. Yes, that last part requires some planning.
In fact, reading the case manual might just make you more confused, as it lists all eighteen M5 screws for use with the motherboard, even though the case includes only nine standoffs. The remaining M5 screws can be used to secure 2.5” drives either directly to the motherboard tray or to one of the case’s removable drive trays. The manual also designates the eight #6-32 panhead screws for use with (3.5”) hard drives, but you’ll probably want to use those screws to hold cards. The hard drive trays have molded-in pins that will hold 3.5″ securely without screws, but the slide-in “card holder” bracket doesn’t effectively keep cards from sliding up or down.
Newbies will want to refer to the motherboard manual regarding cable installation. We added a 2.5” SSD to one of the four spaces at the front of the motherboard tray, noting that the lower three positions always pinch the cable passage grommets. Since mounting these to the side shown also limits motherboard depth to 11”, it’s nice to know that drives can alternatively be placed on the other side of the tray.
Our initial observations were that the 22-pattern integrated ARGB controller could turn the lights off by holding the front-panel mode button in for two seconds, or hand-off control to the motherboard’s ARGB controller after holding the button for four seconds, and that that the front fan spun at 1240 RPM, which is 100 RPM faster than the rear.
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 7 3700X: 8 cores/ 16 threads, 32MB L3 Cache
O/C to 4.20 GHz (42x 100 MHz) at 1.3625 V Core
|CPU Cooler||Fractal Design Celsius S24 2x 120mm Closed-Loop Liquid Cooler|
|Motherboard||MSI X570 Ace: AMD X570, Socket AM4|
|RAM||PNY XLR8 MD32GK2D4320016XR: 2x 16GB DDR4-3200
T-Force Vulcan Z TLZGD416G3200HC16CDC0 DDR4-3200
|Graphics||Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2070 Gaming OC 8G: GeForce RTX 2070
1815 MHz GPU, GDDR6-14000, Maximum Fan When Listed
|Hard Drives||Toshiba OCZ RD400 256GB NVMe SSD|
|Sound||Integrated HD Audio|
|Network||Integrated Gigabit Networking|
|Power||Corsair AX860i: ATX12V v2.3, EPS12V, 80 PLUS Platinum|
|Load Software||AIDA 64 Engineer Version 6.00.5100, Stress CPU, FPU, Cache, GPU|
|H/W Monitoring||HWiNFO64 v6.28-4200|
|SPL Monitoring||Galaxy CM-140 SPL Meter: Tested at 1/4 m, corrected to 1 m (-12 dB)|
Unsurprisingly, the Air 900’s single intake fan produces slightly higher CPU temperatures, likely due to higher internal air temperatures. Remember that we’re running a dual-fan radiator on top, and that adding those to the Air X’s single exhaust fan should create a good balance against the Air X’s triple intakes.
Expectations that warmer air temperatures would result in warmer GPU temperatures prove true for the Air 900 ARGB. Then again, we’re only seeing a difference of one to two degrees Celsius, so that we’d rate the Air 900 as being at least adequate thus far.
Chipset temperatures differ even less, with the Air 900 taking a slight lead (lower temperature) at full fan. That could be due to the proximity of the stock intake fan to the PCH fan. Differences in ramp up temperatures at the beginning of the chart indicate a shorter cool-down period between runs, so please pay more attention to the rest of the chart.
If you were looking for something cool, check out the difference in voltage regulator temperatures due to relative proximity of the CPU cooler’s fans to the motherboard’s voltage regulator! The Air 900’s lesser vertical clearance put our radiator fans right next to the voltage regulator’s top heat sink, while the Air X’s additional clearance placed those same fans slightly above that same sink. We thought that above would be better, but thermal data favors the Air 900’s closer proximity.
Noise measurements taken at a 45° angle between the front panel and left side panel show the noticeable difference among the Air 900’s single intake and the Air X’s triple front fans.
Since the voltage regulator is most sensitive to the combination of case and CPU cooler fan placement, we thought it best to use that in our cooling-to-noise comparison. Having said that, we’d rather have three fans up front to keep everything else just a bit cooler, even if it does hurt the cooling to noise ratio slightly.
The best thing we can say about the Air 900 ARGB is that it performs well inexpensively. It’s also one of the few inexpensive cases that can hold a double-slot graphics card in the motherboard’s bottom slot. That last part requires an eighth slot, which is something missing from the Air X ARGB.
That’s not to label the Air 900 ARGB the perfect case, or even the better case when comparing the Air X ARGB. The former has break-out slot covers, which are a sure sign of economization, while the later has replaceable slot panels. The former has its slot panel punched out of the back of the case, while the later has an inset slot panel that’s easier to use and sturdier. And while the former has an easier to service front panel air filer, the later’s filter doesn’t require users to mount the fan on the inside of the structural panel simply to give its filter a place to stick. The final straw: While the Air 900 has nice RGB strips running down both sides of its face, the Air X has three ARGB fans up front.
Yet for those who want an eighth expansion slot or a smooth face panel, the Air 900 is the way to go.
|Adequate cooling at very low noise makes the Air 900 ARGB an acceptable choice for builder who seek an eight-slot EATX case on the cheap, while keeping in mind that its break-away slot covers will be extremely difficult to remove after the motherboard has been installed.|