Cubitek is a fresh face for me to see in the chassis market and it seems the company as a whole is maybe just two years old. From what I can gather from their website, it seems they are in pursuit of customers who prefer high-end aluminum chassis with the ICE series of cases. I would also like to add their mission statement here as I feel this line says it all really. "Cubitek is dedicated to achieving excellence in computer gaming hardware, provide outstanding design, excellent quality, high performance and affordable price products."
Doesn't that just say it all? I mean, it seems they are using the finest materials, coupled with good designs and layouts along with what is said to be reasonable pricing in hopes to lour Lian Li buyers away with something of their own.
In the new ICE series there are five sizes of the chassis design in its most basic form. All of the cases are black anodized aluminum with rounded edges on the front and back with the side panels being screwed onto the sides of the chassis. These cases start at the Mini-ITX end and move through all of the modern form factors ending the lineup with the HPTX edition. What varies between the cases besides the obvious outer dimensions is the amount of room for drives or additional cooling depending on your needs.
Looking at Cubitek and this latest submission the HPTX ICE "Frozen Solid" chassis "on paper" seems seem really good. I mean with no preconceived notions of what I am about to see, from what I can tell from the site and looking at the box, I am intrigued to see just what Cubitek has up their sleeve to take on the high-end enthusiast chassis market.
Let's just hope that the mission statement holds true and everything else should fall into place. It seems they have an eye out for the details and want to take on the big boy's in the game. That being said, let's get right to it and see if Cubitek has a winner on their hands.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The HTPX ICE we are about to see is an all aluminum built tower chassis that of course offers room for any motherboard up to and including the HPTX form factor.
On the outside the top and bottom make gentle curved transitions from the front to back, but the sides are flat to the frame and have ninety degree corners where the panels meet the other parts of the exterior. Down the front you get five brushed covers in the 5.25" bays to match the rest of the black anodized, brushed aluminum exterior finish. The lower half of the front and a large pair of areas on the top of the chassis are ventilated and covered with mesh, but as for the rest of the chassis, it's just large expanses of brushed aluminum.
On the inside of the chassis you will find the five 5.25" bays of course and room for eight storage drives in two different sections of the cages, but both use little wheels to sit in the frames much like what Lian Li does. Cooling is handled with a 200mm blue LED fan in the front, a pair of blue LED 140mm fans in the top and a plain 120mm fan in the back. Under the rear exhaust fan you will find that this version of the chassis has ten expansion slots to take on any Quad SLI or Crossfire setup with video cards up to 430mm in length.
The one thing that sort of took me back a step when I first looked at this chassis was the price; I mean isn't part of their mission to make affordable solutions? Even though the cases were just released at the beginning of this month and as far as US sales, I can't seem to locate any, but via e-mails between Cubitek and I, I was made aware of the MSRP.
For the HPTX ICE as you are about to see it, it is going to set you back $359.90 to get the chassis we are going to be going over with a fine tooth comb. To be really blunt, for this sort of price, Cubitek best be on their toes with this chassis or they are really going to have a tough battle going against already well established high-end, aluminum chassis manufacturers.
The front of the packaging is pretty sparse. It has the Cubitek name and maybe HPTX ICE under the shipping labels, but other than that there is only a drawing of snow capped mountains to set the mood for this ICE series chassis.
On this side there was a shipping label with my name and address on it stuck over the larger white outlined box. It also states this is made in China.
The back of the packaging gives you a look at the front of and inside of the HPTX ICE Frozen Solid chassis. At the bottom there is a depiction of the air flow next to four features in separate images.
This side of the box offers the specifications chart in five languages and the factory tracking and barcode sticker. The very bottom offers the web address to go to if you have any questions or issues.
Opening the top of the box you will find your hardware kit sitting in the middle of four pieces of foam supporting the chassis.
Pulling the case out of the box I found that there are eight corner supports made of Styrofoam. The four holding the case and the one on the table are the only ones to make it out alive. The other three look like they got run through a wood chipper. That isn't to say it doesn't work. These foam corners and the plastic liner did deliver the HPTX ICE to me in great shape physically.
Cubitek HPTX ICE Chassis
The top, front and floor of the chassis are all made of one piece of 2.5mm thick extruded aluminum. Here in the front there are five bay covers, also brushed, with the power and reset buttons to the right. At the bottom, just above the Cubitek name, is the large mesh intake area.
The top third of the extruded exterior offers two holes at the back for ventilation of the 140mm blue LED fans strapped under the mesh.
The front I/O is located at the front right corner of the top offers USB 2.0, USB 3.0, audio and what looks like a custom paint job with a black marker. I will say I am not very pleased to see this at the price I would have to pay.
The left side of the case is a solid aluminum panel with the brushed grain running from top to bottom. You will also notice that there are four screws that hold these panels in place.
As I look at it now, the entire exterior is an extruded chassis with the seam at the floor. As for the rear I/O and expansion slots, they are all mounted to a natural aluminum panel that is riveted into place.[img]13[img]
The right side of the ICE cases have the four screws as well and again are a flat expanse of aluminum for a sleep and simple look.
Under the chassis there are plastic feet very near the extreme corners for the best stability and they have rubber pads to keep it from moving around. In the center there is the ventilation for the PSU along with an area for an optional 140mm fan. You can also see the seam in the chassis just behind the front feet.
Inside the Cubitek HPTX ICE
Inside the front of the case, at the top, you find five 5.25" bays with a dual 3.5" drive adapter currently housed in the bottom two 5.25" bays. This is removable, or you can use it for room for two more storage devices.
The hard drive rack that will take six 3.5" drives and an adapter in the bottom makes room for two 2.5" drives as well. The bar on the left side of the bays lock in the 3.5" drives with the use of the "wheels" that are included.
Above the motherboard tray you can see the pair of blue LED fans hanging with their 3-pin connectors to match that of the rear fan. The tray itself has seven holes with grommets and a large one by the PSU without one. There are also four "tabs" on the right to hold wiring.
Here is where the PSU gets mounted, on top of the raised rails with rubber pads. On the floor sits a plastic dust filter that you can pull out and clean when needed.
Inside the rear of the chassis hangs a 140mm fan to help exhaust the chassis. There is a large pair of holes for water tubing and ten expansion slots with thumbscrews to secure the cards.
Behind the motherboard tray there isn't much in the way of routing to attaching points for the wiring, but there is about 20mm of room back here to run wires where you want to go. As the case is shipped, you will find all of the wiring bundled next to the drive bays.
Aside from the fan wiring to the three fans up top and in the rear, plus the 200mm in the front, you have this to connect. There is the USB 3.0 connector, a USB 2.0 connector along with an HD Audio plug. Then there are the power, reset, HDD activity and PWR LED wires.
Accessories and Documentation
Inside of the box we found when opening the packaging you see it contains both the hardware needed for the build and an installation guide.
All in separated bags, you find clearly labeled hardware for the HPTX ICE. On the left are M3 screws in 6mm length for motherboard screws, geared wheels for the HDD rails and the last bag here is the screws to mount these wheels.
Then you get the PSU screws and the M3 thumbscrews for the optical drives on the top row. At the bottom you see a motherboard speaker and an Allen wrench to open the doors and lock the HDD rails into place. The last bag contains all the risers you will need for even an HPTX motherboard.
The guide starts with images of the case inside and out along with a parts checklist and included wires on the left half. The right half takes you through six steps of the installation and wire diagrams.
I think they must assume an experienced builder will be buying this chassis as there isn't really a whole lot covered or explained.
The Build and Final Product
The build went pretty smoothly, but that isn't to say there weren't any issues. As far as the front of the HPTX ICE is concerned, adding the DVD drive was nothing tough to accomplish and the thumbscrews to hold it in place is simple enough.
I grabbed the largest board I had to try to take up room in this chassis, but this EATX GIGABYTE UD7 looks tiny inside this case. The wire management holes are located well, but for this price, I would have assumed another set would be closer to the smaller boards it can house as well.
I wish I had three more HD7950s just so I could show the slots stacked top to bottom with DVI and HDMI ports staring at you, but it does help to give you an idea of just all the equipment the HPTX ICE can house comfortably.
You don't need to be especially creative to wire things back here, but you will need a ton of zip ties unless you just don't mind the wiring poking out from behind the bays as you look at it from the other side. I myself prefer the neat and tidy approach, as you can see here. I do have to address all of the very rough and sharp edges in the aluminum, though. As for the tabs on the left specifically for the wiring, these are the sharpest of the bunch.
Putting things back together can be sort of a pain in the rear end with one guy doing the work, especially if you can't lay the chassis on its side while doing so. The lip the panel sits in is so thin that the panel wants to, by gravity alone, keep falling off the lip as you try to fumble with a few screws. What's worse is where the panels meet the extruded front and rear sections, the extrusion is bowed and it makes the straight side panels cuts look sloppy in finished fit.
When I powered up the Cubitek HPTX ICE, this is where I threw in the towel. Yeah the blue LEDs in the top and front give you the feeling of rushing through snow capped mountains, it's cold, whatever, I get it, but the fact that the front fan is currently grinding the blades against the front of the chassis making a horrific noise just makes me not feel what is going on with this chassis, at all.
What started off on paper to be a reasonable solution to the enthusiast segment, especially the all aluminum chassis designs out there, along with Cubitek's mission statement all seems like a dream at this point. The chassis I thought I was going to see was let's say seventy-five percent complete for the price they are demanding.
Where do I start with this case? Starting off looking around the chassis on the outside, even in the image, the coloration around the front I/O was really off and after finer examination I found purple-black marks on most of the corners where it looks as if scratches were covered over with a marker. Then you get to the inside and every edge in and around the chassis is a short waiting to happen. As I mentioned the wiring tabs are the worst. As I slid my SATA cables through them I saw it shave off part of the covering as it ran through.
They lack of any real packaging to help protect the chassis from things like compression, where it makes the edges of the case look like poop as what were once straight matching edges no longer line up. I think the last straw for me was when the fan started grinding. I mean, we are talking almost $400 here!
In my opinion someone over at Cubitek needs to take a long hard look at what they are offering and what their product, packaging and finished product is worth to an "enthusiast". As I say they are about 75% there, they just need to take some time, figure out some better packaging, maybe a bit more structural support to the extruded section and for the love of Pete, where are the adapters for the USB 3.0 and the fans?
For the price point that this chassis wants to contend and for a case that is supposed to compete with the likes of Lian Li and SilverStone, they are not ready for that level of excellence yet. Maybe in the future, but for sure not at this stage.