The most popular range of aluminium cases would have to be the ones made by Lian-Li. These cases were light, innovative, attractive and appealed to frequent LANers. Skyhawks, a Taiwanese company which has long been regarded for producing cost effective casing designs with bits of translucent plastic, steps into the aluminium case foray. SkyHawk were kind enough to send us their ATX-4378C-IV aluminum PC chassis for review. Continue reading to find out our verdict about this case.
IntroductionAluminium casing has taken off in the last two or so years with users demanding the best performance and a fashion statement to boot. The most popular range of aluminium cases would have to be the ones made by Lian-Li. These cases were light, innovative, attractive and appealed to frequent LANers. Skyhawks, a Taiwanese company which has long been regarded for producing cost effective casing designs with bits of translucent plastic, steps into the aluminium case foray. Incidentally, the Wintunnel from Coolerguys incorporates a Skyhawks case. SkyHawk were kind enough to send us their ATX-4378C-IV aluminum PC chassis for review. Continue reading to find out our verdict about this case.SpecificationsThese specs were taking straight off the SkyHawk site:* Materials: Aluminum * Type of case: Middle Tower * Special color coating technology which provides a mask for the aluminium surface therefore protecting it from scrapes and damage.* Front Panel with multi-media, USB and IEEE 1394 modular Ports optional. * Aluminium re-enforcement guider for interface cards with one 8cm ball bearing cooling fan and one fan for CPU effective heat dissipation. * Rear 7 x expansion slots with special handing-free roll-let screws that are easy to turn off without a screwdriver. * Dimensions: 445mm x 200mm x 411mm * Color: Ivy, Violet, Black, Sliver, Gold.
SkyHawk ATX-4378C-IV -
Taking A Closer LookDon't be lead to believe that aluminium cases are feather weight, they're not. Although they obviously utilize the lighter and stronger aluminium, the weight difference is debatable. The aluminium case was obviously a bit lighter but unless you are a frequent lanner, I doubt you will mind too much.As you will notice by the top picture, the case sports a shiny, polished finish. If you have seen pictures of the Lian-Li range of cases before, most notably the PC-60 then you would have already noticed that they are much less shiny than the SkyHawks range. The reason for this is because the ATX-4378C-IV is painted with gloss, protecting it from dents and scratches. When touching or picking up the case I suggest you wear gloves or something of the sort because the laquered case is extremely prone to finger prints.
Similar to Lian-Li cases, almost all the 4378C's screws are thumbscrews. You may not think this is much but if you do not have a screwdriver handy for example at a LAN party, these screws come in handy if you need to get inside your case and fiddle with the hardware. The case features four 5 1/4" drive bays and three 3 1/2" drive bays (one of which is internal). This was quite disappointing since the Lian-Li PC-60 which is also a mid-tower, features not only four 5 1/4" drive bays but six 3 1/2" bays aswell (3 internal). The 4378C also features ventilated drive bay covers to help move the hot air out of the case.
SkyHawk ATX-4378C-IV -
Connected to a long shaft that goes through the middle of the case are 4 card holders. These are designed to keep a firm grip on your add-in cards and make sure they are well-seated in their slots. It is unlikely that you will knock your case around so much that your addin cards come out of place, but it is a useful safety precaution. If you are a person that adds/removes their cards on a regular basis, the card holders tend to get quite annoying and you will probably end up removing them after the first few weeks. Alternatively, if you are a frequent LAN goer you may appreciate the added security that these card holders offer.
The case features two default cooling fans. The first is a 80mm fan that takes cool air from the outside of the case and blows it down in the direction of the CPU. The second fan is connected to the shaft that holds the card holders. It is arguable whether this fan is useful or not but in our opinion, all it is doing is blowing around the hot air inside the case. The Lian-Li PC-60 features three 80mm case default case fans. One at the back and two at the front. This is another area Skyhawk could have improved on but it is at least nice to see that they made the effort to include two fans. Also, if you take a Dremel to be your lawfully wedded wife we're sure you'll have no troubles remedying the problem.
One feature that Lian-Li cases don't have are front ports. We first saw the idea of redirecting PC ports to the front of the case put in action by a company called FrontX. This was an innovative product but it took up a whole 5 1/4" drive bay which alot of people didn't have to spare. Skyhawk have intelligently included front ports in the 4378C, but have put them at the bottom of the front panel rather than in a drivebay. There are a whole range of front ports that include, 2 USB, PS/2, microphone in, line in, speaker out, volume dial and even a game port for joysticks, gamepads etc. Similar to FrontX, there are cables that go from the front ports and plug into the original ports at the back. If you have alot of case fans this could restrict airflow but we didn't have that problem.
Just above the front panel on the inside of the case are two stereo speakers. Sound comes out of these speakers if there isn't anything connected to the "speaker-out" plug. The volume can be adjusted using the front panel's volume dial. I would prefer to use my external speakers as these tiny magnetically shielded tweeters produce laughable sound. They obviously lack any real bass and being so close together they have no stereo seperation. In my opinion, SkyHawk would have been much better off including 2 exhaust fans instead of speakers, to help extract hot air from the case.
SkyHawk ATX-4378C-IV -
InstallationThere are a few reasons why installing my parts into this case was not an enjoyable experience. The first being that the fan blowing onto the CPU and the shaft holding the card holders and the extra cooling fan had to be removed when installing the motherboard. The shaft was on a hinge so it's just a matter of unscrewing one end and folding it up when you need to add/remove parts. The hinge was extremely loose and continually fell on my arms with the slightest movement of the case. The second being that there are alot of sharp edges inside the case and I cut myself on numerous occasions whilst installing my hardware. If you intend on using this case make sure you have sand paper handy. Other than those slight problems, all my parts fit into the case well and I didn't have too many complaints in that area.
Pricing ConsiderationsAs mentioned before, Skyhawk are a Taiwanese based company. The 4378C is a fairly new product from SkyHawk and has not yet been distributed to many resellers. The only reseller we could find that had this case in stock were a popular Australian PC reseller based in Sydney, named AusPCMarket. They are selling the case for $AUD379.50 ($US195) without a power supply. The same reseller is also selling the highly popular Lian-Li PC-60 without a power supply for $AUD396 ($US203). Both cases are quite expensive considering that they do not come with a PSU. We are quite disappointed that not many resellers are stocking this case at the moment and hope to see more in the near future.
SkyHawk ATX-4378C-IV -
ConclusionWe did not have too many complaints about the SkyHawk case however, there were alot of points we feel that SkyHawk could improve on. Firstly, it would have been nice to see them add a couple of extra drive bays or case fans rather than the two front speakers which really aren't that great. Secondly, they should have smoothed out the sharp edges inside the case to prevent nasty cuts whilst installing the motherboard and any add-in cards. Thirdly, because this case is not as well-made as the Lian-Li, it would have been smart of SkyHawk to lower the selling price by at least $US20. These problems aside, we still enjoyed using the case and had no real big complaints. The front ports were a nice addition and the card holders are useful if you move your case around a lot. As with most aluminium cases, it does not weigh a lot and is much more pleasing to the eye than regular steel cases. If you are in the market for a light, aluminium case with card holders and front ports then you may want to have a look at the SkyHawk 4378C. However, if you do not really need the card holders or front ports then I suggest you swing a little more in the direction of Lian-Li PC-60. This is because, aside from being lightweight and good looking it is also widely available, well built and has well placed casefans. The bottom line is, although we found the 4378C to be a great case, we cannot recommend it over the Lian-Li PC-60. We found the case to be a standard midi tower in aluminium form rather than the Lian Li's efficient use of space which afforded it more room than a lot of full towers. This case however, does have one benefit over the Lian Li with its front ports.- Pros* Light weight* Cheaper than Lian-Li* Good looking* Front ports* Cooling fans* Card holders - Cons* Small amount of drive bays* Sharp internal edges* Not widely availableRating: 7/10
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