Spire PowerCube ITX Case SPM210B
Spire PowerCube Review IntroThe ITX case market is a funny old beast in fact the whole iTX area is. It seems to sit as a awkward relative in the PC world trying to fit in where for the most it's all about power and not so much efficient computing.
As most people reading this are aware the whole PC market is based on numbers, normally the bigger the better. So the iTX motherboard market sits there quietly doing it's thing in the HTPC world getting the odd half thought out case, whereas in other sectors of the case market you are inundated with a choice of cases, styles and colours to suit pretty much every taste.
So with the market being relatively quite in the age of towers and mini towers let's have a look at something smaller.
Introducing the Spire PowerCube SPM210
I've personally been involved with a number of case manufacturers in the past from DIGN, Thermaltake and Omaura who have been involved with ITX and desktop cases purely aimed at the high end of the market.
The aforementioned manufactures specialise in cases which can cost more than the components that go into the case. Spire have taken a different approach giving the entry level case market a shake up with their PowerCube, available with or without power supply. In this article we are reviewing the case without the power supply.
Spire PowerCube Specs.
Here's a rundown of the case specifications from the Spire Website. I'm not going to include any company history as Spire have been around quietly in the background for a while. You can check their company history out here/ I.e unlike other sites, I'm not taking up valuable space here as it doesn't add any relevance to the review.
|Dimensions||345x135x220mm (L x W x H)|
|Material||Structure Info: SGCC 0.6mm Front Panel : ABS|
|3.5 Bays||2--- 1 internal, 1 external|
|5.25 Bays||1--- 1 external|
|Cooling||vent holes on the side|
|Front panel connection||USB 2.0 x2, Earphone x1 , Mic x1(Supports AC'97 & HD Audio)|
|Packaging type||Color Box|
|Package Includes||Case User installation manual Warranty registration card Screws bag 1.5M EU power cord|
|Connections||USB 2.0 x2, Earphone x1 , Mic x1(Supports AC'97 & HD Audio)|
|Features||Durable Lightweight SGCC Metal Stylish & Sophisticated design Dust Free design Front USB and Audio Connections Full Folded Edge, Full Screen, Radiation protected ITX Motherboard Compatible Rear PCI Exhauster Spacing Optional - 300W SFX PSU|
Opening It Up - First Impressions.
The case is pretty much what you would expect for something of this price range, a steel chassis, plastic front, nothing really dazzling or designer about it. Being fair the front is rounded nicely with the case body finished to a high standard. It does attract fingerprints at the slightest touch or glance but these are removed easier than on my Lian Li case.
Speaking of nice touches the DVD bay is covered with a cat flap based system to hide the DVD drive. For those running OEM beige drives this a boon as those drives won't spoil the aesthetic quality of the unit. One thing that really does bug me is the placement of stickers all over the front. People will know its a DVD drive so why have a massive sticker pointing out the obvious?
On smaller cases like this the main concerns are normally cooling and noise. Its easy for companies to take the easy way out and just start poking holes all over the place for cooling. Whilst this works, cases can often end up rattling once under some load or the DVD units spinning up and down etc. Spire have taken an intelligent approach of placing ventilation holes along the right hand side of the case giving your components more room to breathe in that precious air cooling.
I realise I'm just about to write about the holes but the quality of cases is always in the detail. There are no burrs, rough edges or bends on the back of the panel where it would of been punched through. Someone, somewhere has thought about the engineering side of producing this case in great detail. See below on the hard drive section for what I mean.
Ventilation placement is on the right hand side of the case giving preference to cooling the CPU side of things rather than any cards you may place in. It would of been a nice features to have at least a few holes on the side of the PCI slot.
Turning attention to the back of the case you can see the positioning of the non SFX sized power supply. It's all pressed steel at the back and the power supply back place is riveted so there's no chance of shoving an ATX psu in there to run a rig with the lid off. Small quibble time, why a sticker to say made in China? What does that add to the actual case. Get rid of the stickers and dye the screws for something that adds to the case.
It glaringly obviosu the first thing you notice is how much the PCI bracket at the back sticks out. You can see what they are trying to do by allowing you to have a card there however it just looks plain ugly and sticks out, which to be fair most do but surely this could of been improved?. Granted some of the connectors like HDMI or vga, if you don't use a right angled type, will stick out further but still..
As the PCI bracket sticks out so far on the Spire PowerCube there may as well have included thumbscrews instead of the normal screws as the depth of the case has already been decided by the PCI bracket. On a more positive note the bracket is sturdy enough and didn't bend with a solid "finger wiggle" test.
Inside the case it's a pretty standard fare, motherboard risers are already pre-installed as is the USB / front panel. With cases aimed at the more budget concious in mind it's easy to skip on some areas but I'm giving bonus points given here for the front connectors being a decent length and not "just enough." Incredibly handy when it comes to installation time.
The drive bays feel exactly like they look i.e pressed steel however I'm happy to report there are no sharp edges and my knuckles remains blood free during the entire installation period.
Rig Building Time
The plastic front panel is removed by gently pulling it away from the chassis giving one of the nicest, fuss free working environments I've had in quite a while, even when compared to my Lian Li Chassis. The long cables for the front panel that I mentioned earlier come into play again allowing you to move the front panel securely out of the way without pulling on the cables making it difficult to work with. So many cases fail to recognise you want to move breakable elements well and truly out of the way.
The motherboard slides in and connects to the bottom of the case with ease and none of the support struts of the case make it awkward to screw the motherboard into place. However don't get too excited about your choice of cooler as remember you are limited by the distance between the motherboard and the bottom of the power supply.
With some cases drive rails and general design faults can get in the way of the basics such as screwing the board down or sliding elements into the case. No such problems here as the board quickly finds a new home.
Hard Drive installation.
Drives are mounted into the case with provided support brackets screwed onto each side of your drive. Drive are suspended with a gap at the top (see the picture below for the bracket spacing.)
The whole thing then slides into the bay and screwed down on top. Everything is held securely in place removing the need to be a contortionist along with the balancing act trying to hold the drive in place whilst screwing it down securely.
A nice bit of engineering here which shows this isn't just shoving a case onto the market for the sake of it and that things have been thought through for the system builder.
Below you can see the hard drive sliding into place between the bottom mount and the screw hole. I do like this type of intelligent thinking that has a two fold effect of easy installation and providing air cooling rather than ramming a hard drive in like other cases.
Day To Day Running.
More often than not with cases at this price range, the more sensible end of the budget market, cases can suffer from squeaks and rattles during usage which most will and most will say is part and parcel of the case of this cost.
Once everything is installed, tightened up and generally organised the case is pretty much tight as a drum. No wobbles, rattles or vibrations when spinning up the DVD unit for a bit of front room watching.
I'm not a case snob and no doubt there will be the readers out there that will pick other cases that look better, are aluminium and all the rest of it but I'm reviewing this based on the price range against similar cases that I've experienced.
Looks wise. Sitting by my tv it's certainly small and unobtrusive just the height could be a fraction smaller but then that comes at the expense of finding a power supply. I'm deducting points here for the "compact disc digital data sticker" and then below that the USB, headphone, microphone stickers below the massive spire logo.Â It's detracting to the look of the case and, although only icons, look cheap.
Everything else sits flush and the light from the power on button isn't too overpowering, again important as I bet that a lot of HTPC's sit next to their respective tv's, even the Apple TV has a piercing white light in comparison
Yes, stick it next to a Lian Li or other similarly high priced case then it does look like what you pay for, on it's own there's no real reason to complain.
Why on earth is there no ventilation on the side where the PCI card goes. It seems like the holes were punched into the wrong side? Earlier I did give merit to not punching holes all over the place but even something like half the amount of ventillation holes would have at leased worries about the cooling
With the RR P£48.95 (without PSU) it's placed right in the middle of the pricing category with it's competitors and it still comes out as not a bad purchase what so ever. The intelligent design ideas for the drive bays impressed from an engineering point of view as did the generous in length USB cables. If you are looking for a case to "shove a build in" or swap components out on a regular basis then I'd happily recommend this case based on those factors alone.
A great priced case that more than does the job.