Once we open up the side panel we see that the Black Pearl has a similar design and layout to the Lian Li V2000 series enclosures. Indeed, it is not uncommon for manufacturers to license out their designs to others, so given the stature and reputation of the Lian Li line, we have a good starting point for this product. But do not misunderstand, this is not a Lian Li case; it simply uses their design as a basis for their own improvements and features.
Like many designs using some of the features in the now all but defunct BTX standard, the Black Pearl splits their enclosure into two distinct sections. The top section, shown above, will give you a place to mount the mainboard, optical drives and peripherals. This allows the system to have a smaller working area for optimal airflow management. This smaller minimizes hot spots in the corners and makes cooling the system easier.
This brings up a question, though, since the folks at Tagan decided to use a backwards installation design for the mainboard. With the system board being installed in the reverse of what is customary, the exhaust fan is not positioned at the top of the rear panel. This might not be too much an issue if not for two considerations; there is no fan mounted in the front bezel of this section to create a constant inflow of air, and there are no fans on the top panel to allow for the removal of heated air's natural tendency to rise. Granted, about half of the side panel is vented and there are some holes toward the back half of the top panel, but it is just open with no active cooling in place. During our testing with two ATI 2900XT video cards, intensive graphics usage created the graphics to heat up more than I like to see. Now I am running an extreme video setup, but it just goes to show that high-end systems may have issues if you don't use any aftermarket cooling.
The bottom partition of the enclosure is devoted to the power supply and hard drives. This section does have active cooling in place as well as a vented middle support strut, so air can be kept constantly moving over the hard drives and then through the bottom section where it will be vented out by the PSU. This particular method has been used before and from all tests I have conducted to date, it works very well. Hard drive temperatures were very good and there were never any issues or concerns where heat was concerned.
Moving up to the drive storage areas, we will start at the top where we see a whole bunch of openings for optical devices. The top two have a spring loaded cover panel that will hide your of-color drives while the other four are of the normal variety. This huge number of 5.25" bays opens up any number of possibilities. For those who are looking for a case that allows a burning rack system, this one delivers. For those who may just have a couple of drives but want to have space for an internal reservoir for their water cooling solution, you're still set with the Black Pearl. Simply put, this enclosure has space to spare for a majority of setups.
At the bottom of the drive column you will find a bay for your floppy disk drive. This externally accessible drive bay has a cover plate that works for most industry standard drives, and leaves the drive covered with a black cover to enhance the outward appearance of the system. For those (like me) who utilize a floppy drive with a built-in media card reader, fear not. You need only remove the front panel by getting rid of two small screws and it will open up the slot for a full-sized exterior facing.
With regards to your installation of drives, the top two bays (those with the hinged covers) require the normal routine of screwing in the drives. The bottom four bays, however, make use of a flexible plastic tab that locks the drive in place. Just pull outward on the back lip of the latch and your drive will come out with no tools needed.
While this case is not equipped with a removable motherboard tray, the interior space is ample and you should have no problems with this. As hinted to before, this enclosure is big; big enough to handle the Extended ATX motherboards that are commonly used in server solutions. Standard ATX boards also fit with no issues and there are holes in the motherboard tray to handle other standard sizes as well, but the PCI slots are designed for a full sized mainboard.
Speaking of the PCI slots, the Black Pearl comes with the expected seven slots and the peripherals will be secured with thumb screws. While I have seen many different varieties of "tool-free" retention devices, many of them are not that good. Screws seem to be the best way to properly secure your components, even if it doesn't happen to be the most convenient method.
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