Today I’m making like David Livingstone with a brand new Apevia X-Plorer2 Mid-Tower Case (X-PLOR2-NW-BK450). This gamer oriented case has a textured black aluminum finish with a high-gloss plastic front panel, without some of the “flair” and side window of other available X-Plorer2 cases. Each person has his own preference, however as an Overclocker my preference is function over form. From the outside this case appears to have the structural features to deliver. For a closer look as we leave familiar harbors and set out to explore all this case has to offer; I’ll cover what you get, what you don’t get, and wrap things up in a tight package in the conclusion.
Apevia X-Plorer2 Case Introduction
Apevia, the artists formerly known as Aspire in the earlier part of this decade, offer their company info on their website for those interested. But wait, who the Hell is David Livingstone you ask? He was a Scottish “X-Plorer” of the 19th century whose most famous quote I’m personally fond of:
“I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward.”
Before we leave shallow waters for the high seas you’ll find a shot directly below to get you familiar with the X-Plorer2 “mid-tower gaming case” as its described on Newegg, offered there at $59.99 as of this writing. This puts the case at the lower half within Newegg’s second largest pricing segment of $50-$75 cases, the largest segment being those priced $25-$50. To most BYO PC consumers this makes it a budget minded product aimed at the mainstream crowd. We should expect some modest sacrifices to hit the price point, however there should be some perks which bring a bit of spark to the table. At first blush with its front panel mirror sheen balanced by the reserved geometrical mesh inlays and the matte finish of the side panels, I find its spark easy to recognize. Note the small LCD panel near the top also. You may also recognize my urban camo hoodie in the reflection; while an easy target for finger prints, when wiped clean this front panel really looks sharp.
Let’s rewind a bit and start in dry dock however, covering packaging and condition of arrival of this sample unit provided by Apevia. The box was shipped via USPS Ground from California to Ohio, who appeared to have handled the unit in standard fashion. It arrived with a couple partial punctures in the cardboard demonstrating minor stress in its travel but nothing out of the ordinary for a package with these relative dimensions. It’s packaging is minimal. 2 large Styrofoam pieces offer structural reinforcement and padding, along with a plastic bag protecting the unit from dust and moisture, and finally a standard light adhesive plastic applied directly to the face protecting the gloss of the front panel. Score one for the “green” proponents among us, however I would have liked to have seen Styrofoam sheets protecting the sides and face. That said, with what appears to be typical handling the unit arrived entirely unscathed and I’d expect the packaging to be sufficient so long as it doesn’t meet any sharp protrusions in shipment.
Aside from the standard selection of boring essentials to plug everything together and the manual, I see two primary items of interest in this category – the presence of a front panel temperature LCD display and the presence of an included power supply in the windowless versions of this model.
Included power supply? Cases in this price range cost as much or less than a good quality PSU alone, so included PSU’s in this segment typically mean you are getting a garbage power supply, a garbage case, or possibly both. The power supply determines the quality of power you are giving every other component you’ve invested in thereby also affecting the longevity of your parts. A higher efficiency PSU can save you considerable money through the course of a year on your electric bill not to mention pay for itself over the lifespan of the unit, which can be reused through multiple system builds or upgrades. Bottom line, a case without a PSU is generally a better choice. Check the power supply reviews at Legitreviews and JonnyGuru and invest in a unit you can be proud of. Not including a PSU with the window versions of this case is a solid choice by Apevia, but I don’t know why they tossed one in with the solid case panel versions.
For the sake of completeness, here’s a boring shot of the odds and ends included inside the case. It also comes with a well illustrated manual I promptly discarded, as should any self respecting overclocker in my opinion!
Hands On The Internals
Ready to set sail? Think again, Apevia didn’t pull the anchor… The first thing to do when unboxing a unit is to take off the side panel and review the included components to ensure you have everything which should be there. Surely, at this price point there will be some rough seas, but I was hoping they wouldn’t hit so soon… I had to resort to the toolbox to get this sucker open. Apevia was smart to include 4 thumbscrews securing the side panels for easy access. However after wrenching my bare fingers sore and ample grunting, (audio sold separately) the screws still wouldn’t budge and I pulled out the screwdriver. When assembled at the factory, these things were tightened too firmly. I had my screwdriver set nearby but I was hoping that would remain a precaution, not a necessity to get inside. Fortunately, this is only a problem when first getting inside, and once opened initially these thumbscrews would make it convenient to get into in the future.
Getting right to the internals, you’ll find shots and descriptions of specific case features below. The hard drive bays are directly behind the front panel 120mm intake fan in the front of the case, with a 120mm exhaust also included in the top rear of the unit. The front panel leaves a bit to be desired with airflow – the mesh on the front panel is the only space for air to enter the case, and is minimal. It also would not accommodate aftermarket fan filters – if you are concerned with keeping out dust you would need to come up with something of your own. I found a problem with the mobo back panel opening for AMD systems, meaning only Intel systems may benefit from its convenience. Otherwise, the internals of this case can be considered fairly standard. The following pictures cover particulars:
While the internals wavered between sufficient or disappointing for my test system, the externals look to offer some redeeming qualities. Of particular interest here is the LCD panel inlaid on the front panel. A neat feature not found from any other Case manufacturer in this price segment on Newegg. At a glance this gives you an idea of just how hard your system is working and how much heat is building up inside, reflecting the temperature reading taken from a thermistor inside the case. Here’s a closer look at all the externals.
While the power button may look good with the front panel, and also offers a satisfying tactile feedback when pressed… It was a matter of seconds after pressing it when things went bad.
What’s That Smell?
This is where it gets really bad. I pressed the power button to ensure the system powered on and take pictures of the front panel while its illuminated. In less than three minutes of being powered on I heard a loud pop and the power cut out. The dreaded smell of fried electronics was unmistakable. With concern for the testing components, I shut down the power supply, removed all connections, and took everything out of the case. Attempts to power on the power supply by shorting the green and black wires did nothing – it was dead. I opened things up to take a closer look at what may have happened, and found no burn marks, exploded caps, or popped mosfets like I thought I might. With the PSU opened up, again I tried to short the green and black wires and this time I got a response -a bright white spark erupted from the area near the large capacitors mounted on the circuit board. With that, I was satisfied that this meant my testing of this case was complete. Fortunately, though the power supply was dead it didn’t take any other components with it – everything tested fine on my benching station powered with a quality BFG LS1000 PSU. Here’s the shots of the failed PSU, a Turbolink 450W PSU – obviously not something I can recommend in a case targeted at the gaming crowd like this one.
This case looks a lot better from the outside than it does from the inside. The LCD panel on the front is a nice upgrade which is unique to Apevia cases in its price range. I find the front panel design attractive, and the black theme is accented well by the blue LEDs of the logo. Internally you get standard features you should expect in any Mid-Tower ATX case, with a few added perks in the rear grommets accommodating water cooling tubes, large top and side grills for airflow or radiator mounting. I could have lived without the exploding PSU and the scare of it killing my test rig components.
All things considered, this unit doesn’t measure up well against its competition… While there are plenty of options in this price range, the most popular of those would be the HAF 912 and the Antec Three Hundred standing out as alternatives with solid reputations. You would sacrifice the front LCD display the Apevia X-Plorer2 offers, but you’d be spared of the PSU which proved to be a disaster waiting to happen. However if the X-Plorer2 fits your needs and you like the positives it offers, with all things considered above I’d feel fine recommending any of the windowed models available at Newegg, with PSUs sold separately.
As for the model in this review however, it’s fate was sealed with the smell of fried electronics. As sold with PSU, this unit is a risk, if not an eminent threat to whatever components you connect it to.