Enermax CS5190AL-061 Black Aluminum Case

This picture show the inside of the lower front panel and all the connectors necessary for the buttons, ports, LCD, and dials. Quite a mess. A handful of zip ties will definitely come in handy when building a computer in this case.

When I first got the case, I carefully inspected it and took it apart, piece by piece, examining every part and taking pictures. As I went along, I took mental notes of what I saw and what I thought of it. By now you have caught up with me and should have a pretty good impression of what the case looks like and its various features. Now let’s talk about the good and the bad of this case.

Passing Judgement

The first thing that has to be said about the case is that it’s absolutely gorgeous. Its unusual design and high-tech style gives it a high drool-factor. It would look extremely good in an executive office, or in a stylish modern home office. It will definitely make friends or coworkers green with envy. But on the other hand, this high-gloss finish shows every fingerprint and every speck of dust, requiring frequent cleaning to keep it shiny.

The temperature LCD on the front is a neat feature. It is connected to a little sensor that can be placed pretty much anywhere inside the case with a small piece of double-sided tape. But on the other hand, how useful is this LCD really? Chances are that you’ll have to crane your neck to see the display, depending on where the case is placed. In addition, almost all motherboards now come with temperature probes for system and CPU temperature which can be easily monitored from within the operating system and displayed on the screen.

The 3 fan speed dials are also a neat and unusual feature. They allow you to control the speed of three fans and manually adjust them for either reduced noise or increased cooling. But on the other hand, why would you constantly manually adjust the fan speed? In this age of technology, there are more advanced systems that perform this function automatically. For example, Antec’s TruePower power supply automatically monitors temperature and regulates the speed of its internal fan(s) as well as up to three case fans accordingly. (For more info on this feature, please refer to my Antec Performance Plus 1080B case review)

Having all these ports on the front is a good thing for certain situations. For example, you want to temporarily connect your digital camera via USB to download pictures, or hook up your video camera via firewire to transfer some movies. You can easily plug in the cable without having to crawl around on the floor, trying to find the port in the back. But on the other hand, why should the speaker plug or joystick plug be in the front? Both speakers and joystick usually get plugged in once and stay plugged in. No need to have those cables clutter up the front. And who needs the volume control? Usually volume is controlled either via the operating system or a volume control on the speakers module. Lastly, to make these ports operational, a horsewhip of a cable has to be plugged in on the back of the case from a special connector to each port that becomes available in the front, creating an extra cable mess in the back, and additional unnecessary cable connections meaning additional possible points of failure or signal degradation.

The large window in the side panel offers a great view into the guts of the computer, and contributes to the high-tech look of this machine. Many case modders add after-market windows to their cases by cutting out a hole in the side panel and installing a plexiglass window. Having this work already done saves some time and money. But on the other hand, there is a reason that PC cases normally don’t come with windows. Enclosing a computer in a closed metal case reduces electro-magnetic interference. Wires inside computers can act as antennas, broadcasting radio signals that can interfere with radios and TVs. Having a window in the case decreases the shielding, which means the case does not comply with FCC class B standards.

The slanted front panel gives the case a very unique and unusual look, and depending on where the case is placed, might make it easier to access the drive bays in the front. But on the other hand, while most if not all drive makers allow mounting of their drives in either a vertical or horizontal orientation, how many approve of the angled orientation that this case uses? And what effect, if any, will this orientation have on drive life and warranty?

Cooling is very important for proper operation of a computer, and having a number of fans providing good airflow is essential in any computer case. This Enermax case has mounting spots for 7 fans, 5 of which come standard with the case. But on the other hand, airflow has to be even. In this case, there are up to 5 intake fans, 3 80mm and 2 120mm, but only two small 60mm exhaust fans plus whatever comes in the power supply. Operating too many intake fans and not providing enough venting for the hot air is actually detrimental to the airflow. This has to be carefully balanced.

The case interior room is about typical for a midtower-size case. But on the other hand, to get to the interior, not only does the side panel have to be removed, but also the mounting panel(s) for the fans has to be unscrewed to get to the expansion cards and/or the hard drives. A quick-release mechanism would have been a lot easier. To make things easier, the motherboard tray is removable. However, to remove the motherboard tray, first the cable for the front ports has to be disconnected, a minor but irritating inconvenience.

The case panels can be easily removed with slotted thumbscrews. But on the other hand, these screws are smooth and if too tight, impossible to remove with fingers only. An irritating factor is the number of different screw types used throughout the case, no less than 5 to be exact. Instead of using typical case screws for the expansion slot covers, drive bay covers, hard drive cage, and fan panels, they use several different size screws. It would have been better to use just one common size screw, preferably thumbscrews, or even better, go screwless with some type of quick-release design instead. With the way this case works, both side panels have to be removed to install drives. To remove the drive bay covers removing a screw is necessary, which is hard to get to with a screwdriver for the top drive bay. What’s even more baffling is that the included nice plastic case containing dozens of spare screws does not contain replacement screws for some of the screw types used in the case, yet it contains plenty of screws that don’t fit anywhere in the case.

To save the worst for last, the price for this case is completely over the top. It currently retails for about USD 380 – without power supply! Add another USD 100 for a good Enermax power supply and tax and shipping cost for case and power supply, you are at over USD 500 already. For about USD 150 you can have a great Antec case with power supply instead.

Final Words

This case is very sexy and attractive. If you have the money, want a stylish case, want something unusual with attitude, do not plan to open your case once the computer is built, then this is the case for you – definitely.

If you are on a budget, a tinkerer who opens the case twice a day to tweak and fiddle around, don’t care about looks but functionality, then this case is not for you.

 

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