With most case revisions, it takes quite a bit of time, planning, listening to the buyers and possibly some re-tooling to be able to work out what the best options and ideas are to place in their revised chassis. XClio is breaking that mold. With just a couple of months passing since I got the original, I got wind of the possibility to review the newest revision. The original Blackhawk we took a look at back in February, and he we are now taking a look at the improved version.
The new version of this chassis is named the XClio Color, and rightly so. There is an innovative fan lighting system that gives you not only sectional control like the original, but can rotate through 256 colors, and be stopped to keep any of those 256 colors that you like the best. There is also an addition of a front door now to replace the little clips that held in the fans previously. This time around the door opens to allow access to the drives and the fans for maintenance. I've said this many times, I love it when a case is black inside and out, and XClio stepped up to give us just that as well.
Looking back at the original Blackhawk, I do remember it was a nice, easy to work in case, with an already great setup for making the chassis glow with blue LED lighting, even in the back of the chassis. Keeping all of those original concepts, improving the looks internally, and adding a window so you can see the results has me wondering how they could do better. To answer just that is my goal. So Let's have a close look as I compare the old versus the new.
Specifications, Availability and PricingSpecifications, Availability and Pricing
Just like the original Blackhawk the main 0.8mm SECC chassis keeps all the same design elements and features. The real change inside is the black interior paint job. On the outside, the most notable change is that addition of a clear window. With the addition of the window, comes a much larger 250mm fan placed to add direct air flow to your graphics cards and processor. Looking a bit deeper, I found there is a door to gain access to the drives and to the releases for the drive covers, and fans for cleaning them. While this part of the design loses its once tool-less functions for the fans and covers but retains them for the drives installations.
Aside from the 250mm fan in the door panel, the cooling system inside the Color version is handled the same way. There are two 120mm fans in the front door panel, and also two 120mm fan at the top behind a mesh cover. The rear exhaust has room to add another 120mm fan, but XClio chose again to leave this hole empty. One major change to the cooling system is the actual fans being used. XClio has moved to a clear frame and fins for the 256 color fans versus the black ones with blue LEDs in the Blackhawk. Not only do the clear fans look better when not in action, but the shine of the LEDs will react much better to clear fans, spreading the color through the blades and frames.
Shopping as I usually do, hunting things down through Google, I was able to locate the case for sale currently. Although there is only one listed e-tailer, I am sure we can all be happy on who it is. I located the XClio Blackhawk Color at Newegg for $149.99. The original Blackhawk retailed for right around $100 when it released. How about we get down to it, and see just what this extra $30 demand in pricing gets you.
The Blackhawk Color uses the same black box with the same blue LED images of the chassis. For my sample they simply placed two stickers on the box to signify the difference.
I know it is tough to see due to the shipping label bag in the way. The specs list has changed and does show the new fans listed in here.
The rear panel is a mirror image of the other side.
Good thing XClio mirrored this side as well. Here you can actually see the specs without the plastic bag glued in the way.
The Blackhawk color uses Styrofoam end caps, and a plastic bag to protect the case in transit. There was an additional piece of foam covering the front of the case, but I removed it before I took this image.
The XClio Blackhawk Color Full Tower CaseThe XClio Blackhawk Color Full Tower Case
Since the front of the chassis now uses a door, the black ABS plastic has a much cleaner look this time around. There are nine removable mesh covers to allow for options in drive installation. The bottom bat is ventilated, but the cover is not removable.
The left side panel takes on a big change as well. This rather large window and 250mm fan are installed in the Color Version. The window allows for a good view of all the main components while the fan floods them with air flow and many choices of color from the LEDs.
The rear of the chassis is laid out exactly as the original, just this time it gets a fresh coat of black paint. The top of the chassis hangs over the back and houses three LEDs to light up the wiring, no need for a flashlight here! There are some water cooling holes, albeit they are tiny, mixed in with the ventilated areas and rear I/O. The expansion slot covers are held in with thumbscrews, and there is a reversible plate in the PSU mounting hole.
The Blackhawk Color also used a plain rear door. Just enough to close it off and hide some wires.
The top of the Blackhawk Color also stays the same. Under it however, the old black fans with blue LED lighting have been replaced with these 120mm, clear, 256 color LED fans. At the front is the same control panel and light bar separating the two.
The only noticeable change in the front panel is that XClio actually replaced one of the aluminum buttons with a dysfunctional plastic slug. The middle row of fan control, switch furthest right, near the USB connections, is the one I mean.
Nothing notable of change under here. If it isn't broke, why fix it? These rubber feet keep the case from sliding, and will protect whatever surface it is sitting on.
Inside The XClio Blackhawk Color Full Tower CaseInside The XClio Blackhawk Color Full Tower Case
The side door is removed with two thumbscrews. Once that is done the door swings open like a car door. Be careful here, there is the wired connection for the 250mm fan to disconnect.
Same basic layout as we saw in the original Blackhawk, this time it has a very nice looking coat of black paint on all the surfaces. The only parts not to get the paint treatment are the seven expansion slot covers. The hardware for this chassis is held in the purple velvet-like bag tied in the bays.
As it sits you can install three optical drives and up to eight hard drives. Simply removing one of the Smart HDD Modular Systems, offers room for up to six 5.25" bays, while the hard drives are then limited to four.
In front of the bays, XClio put a door for access. At the top, with use of tool-less slides, you can install the OD. The Smart HDD Modular Systems are held in place with four locks each and slide right out through the front. The fans in the door and the drive covers are held in place with Phillip's head screws, but can be easily accessed and removed for cleaning.
The Blackhawk Color ships with no rear exhaust fan, but still offers water pass-through holes and a reversible PSU mounting plate with accompanying support plate on the floor.
I like manufacturers to leave a bit extra in their wiring length. XClio provided that and more here. I remember there was a little extra in the Blackhawk, but in my Color version the wiring for the power, reset, and HDD activity, the 4-pin Moles, and e-SATA wires had to be balled up to get them in an image next to the case.
The length of the two USB 2.0 cables, the audio, and the door fan wiring is just as long. The issue here isn't so much, will it reach, but where do I put the extra wiring.
Accessories and DocumentationAccessories and Documentation
Inside of the Blackhawk color you will find the manual floating freely in the case, and this hardware bag is zip tied to the frame for the drives.
Inside of the velvet-like bag you will find everything you need to get this build under way. There is a bag containing motherboard, risers, screws, and isolation washers, and below then are a couple of mountable wire tie backs. In the middle is a electro-static bag with a few extra LED bulbs, just in case one happens to burn out. There are six "slides" for the optical drive mounting, some power supply screws, and a case speaker to finish it off.
I removed the Smart HDD Modular Systems so I could show you what they are all about. The install with the same "slides" found in the hardware bag. Inside the cage are four hard drive trays. These trays are made of plastic, and will flex and stretch to fit over the drives and secure them. Then just slide the unit back into the cage.
The Build and Finished ProductThe Build and Finished Product
Installing the drives was a breeze. Don't forget to remove the cover for the optical drive. The Modular racks are set up with just my single drive in the top rack, and I removed all of the trays from the bottom rack. If you have no use for it, the rack can stay out as well and allow for more free flowing air to enter the chassis. At this point we just close the door and two tabs click into place securing it.
Once the door is closed, even with the drive in place, the Blackhawk Color keeps its sleek look.
The chassis wasn't a bit tough in anything I did inside. From installing the risers, to bunching my last group of wires, there was plenty of room to get it all done simply with the tool-less functions. Don't hide the door fan cable on yourself. Leave it accessible as you will soon need it.
The rear of the chassis in black paint leaves for a much more attractive finished product than did the original Blackhawk.
With the rolled edge at the bottom of the motherboard tray, and the proximity of the panel that covers this, there is little room for bulky wiring. This is an area that could have been addressed and added for a much cleaner finished build from the other side looking in through that new window.
Since I wasn't literally about to take 256 different color images, I will just show a few of the colors as I go through the case, powered up. In the front, both of the fans light up four LEDs each and just happen to be blue during this shot.
Spinning the case around to peek in the window, I also left the colors revolving, or slowly going through all of the 256 colors. The five LEDs in the 250mm fan here are showing more of a pink tone. As this fan changes color, all other fans in the case will display in a synchronous fashion.
Our last look at the XClio Blackhawk Color shows the lights changing from a pinkish color into red. At any time you like a specific color, at a push of a button you can freeze the cycle and keep that color on the fans, all the time. If the lighting isn't conducive to sleeping, with the push of another biutton the lighting can be turned off as well.
Final ThoughtsFinal Thoughts
The first question that comes to my mind is; is it worth the $30 over the original? I really have to say it is! If the Blackhawk has already caught your eye, and you wanted to take it a step further, the Blackhawk Color offers character and flash that the original was missing. A black paint job inside and out just makes the case so much more aesthetically appealing. The redesign of the front is a huge plus in my eyes. I thought the original system was functional, but for a guy with fat fingers like me, getting the fans and covers off wasn't so easy. With a swing out door for access, and screws holding everything in place, there really isn't much to dislike. I still haven't even touched on the new fan choice and reason it is the Color. These new 256 color, synchronized fans are really cool to watch, and do offer a good amount of air flow.
One thing I did notice and I think it needs mentioning. The front logo and HDD activity light, as well as the rear trio of LEDs were dysfunctional on my sample. I looked to be sure I had all the wire connected, and I did. I did not, however, go as far as to start dismantling the top to see if the wires had simply been tucked away on accident or for any cause to the issue internally. I'm not saying that every sample on shelves is going to have this issue, and my original Blackhawk worked flawlessly. I have never had to deal with XClio for an RMA, but in my dealings with them they have always been helpful and courteous, I can only assume, had I gotten this for myself, retail, that their RMA and support teams would be the same.
With my doting on the likes, and the short bit on the dysfunctional lights, I still feel that this is the case that should have arrived the first time. To me it is truly amazing what a coat of paint, and some ingenious fans with awesome lighting can offer a chassis. I liked the original of the Blackhawk, but I am completely sold that the Blackhawk Color is the one to choose. The window, paint, lighting, and increase ease of access makes the Blackhawk Color almost a steal at Newegg for $149.99. I know there is shipping involved, and I know the original is cheaper, but for those with little time, but want options like fan controllers, lighting, good air flow, plus all the new aesthetics and trick already in the package, this is definitely a case to take a closer look at next time you are browsing cases to buy.
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