Have you heard of a manufacturer called x²? I hadn’t and I was totally blown away when I took a look at their website. There is a vast array of products in their catalog – cases, cooling, peripherals and even power supplies – and some of them are utterly beautiful to behold. Today’s review of the x² Empire Silver PC case will be all about ‘style meets functionality’… at least that’s what I’m hoping for. First though, as always, we shall inspect the specifications as they are shown on the company’s product page before taking a detailed look at the chassis itself.
|MSRP (Euro, in VAT)||€ 159.95|
|MSRP (Dollar, in VAT)||$ 179.95|
|Master Carton Dimension (cm)||61.5 x 34.5 x 59.5|
|Package Dimension (cm)||61.5 x 34.5 x 59.5|
|Quantity (PCS) / Block Pallet||30|
|Release Date||06 / 07 / 2016|
|Unit Dimension (cm)||50.5 x 22 x 53|
|Accessories||Multilanguage user installation manual, Pouch with screws, rivets, motherboard stand-off|
|Front Panel Connections | Audio||HD Audio|
|Color||Black and Silver|
|Drive Bays 3.5″ Internal||3|
|Expansion Slots (rear)||7|
|Fan Size (cm)||12 x 12 x 2.5|
|Fan Type||DC 12V red 15 LED silent series|
|Form Factor||FULL ATX|
|High Air Flow||No|
|Housing||Steel & Aluminum|
|Life Expectancy||10 years|
|Main Board Support||ATX / Micro ATX|
|Material Thickness (mm)||0.55mm|
|Operating Temperature (°C)||-20 to 70|
|Power Supply Included||No|
|Storage Temperature (°C)||-20 to 40|
|Front Panel Connections | USB 2.0||2|
|Front Panel Connections | USB 3.0||2|
|Front Panel Connections | HDD DOCK||No|
|Window Side Panel||Yes|
The accessories that come with the x² Empire Silver are more or less the usual, a bag of screws, some more screws with rubber washers for the side panels and an instruction sheet. What’s not so usual is the inclusion of a mirrored blanking panel along with some 3M double-sided tape to attach it. This gives a nice way of hiding unsightly cabling should you need to remove the vertical panel inside the case or is just one of those things you can use if you like it. Not shown are the two dust filters that cover the vents in the top and bottom of the case. They are a metal mesh and attach with magnets.
At the front, you are greeted by an angled front panel the leans back all the way from the bottom to the top and then continues in one motion across the top of the case. The face is plain brushed aluminium with the front IO and power switch located vertically in the top right quarter. From the top we have the power button, then the audio jacks for mic and speaker connection, next are two UBS 2 connectors and lastly, we have a pair of USB3.0 ports. Unfortunately, the audio ports are not marked to indicate which is for the mic or headphones.
Moving around to the side, and with the glass panel removed we have what looks like plenty of space. On the right, there is a removable full height panel with two SSD mounting points or indeed for anything else with screws that have the same dimensions – it’s possible that you could mount a reservoir there but not having one to test it’s only a theory. On the back panel, there’s a preinstalled 120mm LED fan. The specifications state that this is RGB but I cannot find any switches to control it and the cable ends in one of those MOLEX in-and-out connectors, I suppose I’ll find out for sure when I power it up.
There’s a full-length PSU cover with the x² badge on it, and like the rest of the internal structure the PSU cover is painted black, and the top is perforated with many holes. This would be where you place your 360mm radiator should you wish to use one. There are also two blanking plates on the left of the PSU cover which will need to be removed if you are using the space for cooling but otherwise, you can seat an SSD on each.
Around the back of the Empire and the black theme is carried through to the outer panel, it’s the usual fare that you see in most cases. Seven PCI slot blanking plates screwed in place but are garnished with an optional ‘quick release’ sliding bracket, giving you the choice between solidity and convenience. Other than that there is not really much to notice.
Moving around to the final side and we can see that again it is coated with matt black paint. The PSU bay has a peculiar bar in it which slides back and forth and has a padded inside top edge; presumably, this is to help keep the PSU from moving about in transit but that would be a trade-off as you would undoubtedly lose some of your plug sockets if you use a modular PSU. As it happens, my Corsair 1200w beast wouldn’t fit with the bar installed and it was removed. Still under the PSU shroud and toward the front of the case is where you find a stack of three HDD trays, these hold 3.5″ drives using an easy fitting method of pins on the inside of the drawer or alternatively you can screw a 2.5″ drive in place inside each.
Seeing the holes for feeding data and power cables from back to front for the first time and it’s sad to see that the x² Empire Silver has got no rubber grommets to be seen. They would have been nice to have in case you choose to remove the front panel for any reason. There are however plenty of anchor points for your cables so keeping this side tidy shouldn’t be too tricky – after all, there’s a glass panel that someone might look through that will cover it later. Also of note is the large cutout in the back panel, which I’m sure will be useful for changing cooler backplates on some motherboards but sadly it’s too ‘off center’ for my Ryzen setup.
The aluminium sheet that covers the front face continues in one motion across the top. It has a large cut-out for the two 120mm fans which is covered by a black metal sheet with large holes drilled into it. The steel fan cover allows for the use of magnetic dust covers for convenience.
Underneath the x² Empire Silver, we see two large folded bars that support wide rubber feet. This brings the Empire a fair way off the floor so that even on carpet those ventilation holes will be useful. Once again, these vents would be covered if you wish by using the magnetic dust filters.
Closer Look – The Build
- CPU – AMD Ryzen 7 1700x
- Motherboard – ASRock Fatal1ty X370 Professional Gaming
- Cooler –
Deepcool Captain 240Noctua NH-U12S SE-AM4
- GPU – MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti GAMING 6G with Arctic Accelero Hybrid III-140 liquid cooler
- RAM – Crucial Ballistix DDR4 3000MHz
- SSD – OCZ Vertex 4 256Gb
- HDD – WD Black 4Tb
- PSU – Corsair AX1200
- Sound – Creative Sound Blaster Zx
Getting my hands on the case for the first time I was less than impressed with the build quality. The motherboard standoffs were built into the motherboard tray which was very nice to see but little bits were not so great… a large hole in one of the feet and paint clogging up some of the cable anchor points indicates an issue with either some of the processes or general quality control. Most of the build went off without a hitch, that is until I tried fitting the radiators for both the GPU and CPU. GPU story first, I tried to place it on the back but after removing the fitted fan it dawned on me that basically it’s a 140mm rad and it wouldn’t fit there. In fact, there’s no cooling points anywhere to attach it. The radiator physically fits on the PSU shroud where a 360mm rad would be placed, and so I’m a bit disappointed that there are no extra holes drilled for the odd 140mm fan. In the end, faced with the option of removing the Arctic watercooler and fitting the original I decided to bodge it and let gravity hold it in place with a bit of double-sided tape. I will eventually drill some holes to mount it permanently but I won’t be traveling with this case so it’ll do for now. Next up the saga of the Captain 240; I wanted this in the roof, it should fit in the roof, but oriented one way and the tubes are blocked by the motherboard heatsinks and if I twist it around the tubes are blocked by the vertical panel. Considering the lack of grommets and my history with untidy cabling I decided against removing the panel and instead changed the cooler for a Noctua air cooler, although the optional mirrored panel would certainly do the same job of hiding any unsightly cables. Aside from that, the case was easy enough to build in. It was a bit tight to get the cables fed to the HDD as they have to go in from the back of the drawer rather than the side but otherwise it was straightforward enough. The dust covers fit nicely and complete the overall stylish look of the case and with the build powered up, I can confirm that the fitted fan is indeed a BLUE LED fan and sadly not RGB.
Visually the design is superb. I love the slanting front and the glass panels. The PSU shroud isn’t just a slab of metal but has been tooled to be rather useful, and even though there’s not a grommet to be seen in the x² Empire Silver, the cables are nicely tucked away behind a vertical panel that also gives plenty of room for excess cabling and even with that panel removed the optional mirrored blanking panel will help to keep the case looking tidy. That said, there is also plenty of cable space on the rear of the motherboard tray, and loads of places to anchor the cables with cable ties or twisty wire. I am very disappointed however that there is nowhere to fit a 140mm fan. It physically fits on the PSU shelf so why are there not any pre-drilled holes? At least there are plenty of options for you to water cool using 120/240/360mm components, although if you want to use a 240mm rad in the roof you will likely have to live without the vertical panel that nicely hides the cable entry points. The option of having the stability of screwing your PCIe cards in place or going with the quick release method is nice, I’m sure opinion is split between those who prefer either method so having both makes sense. The large feet are also a nice touch. I use a PC in the living room and the only space to house it is under my desk, so I certainly appreciate the extra room between the vents and my carpet. Finally, magnetic dust covers for both the top and bottom vents are a pleasant addition.
After an extensive searching I found the x² Empire Silver on sale in the US for $239, that equates to about £175-180 depending on the conversion rate, which is also known as a lot of cash especially when the RRP is $179.95 (about £135). It might be possible to find it available online elsewhere for less but I haven’t been successful yet. This really does make scoring value difficult since it’s so hard to buy and the price is 30% higher than the manufacturer rates it. At the RRP this would be fairly expensive for what you receive – even with the great design and included extras – but at the retail price, I was able to find it is incredibly hard to recommend this case based on value alone.
This case certainly is a marriage of style and function, although in some ways that function is fairly basic. Excellent features like the included (blue) LED fan, the magnetic dust covers, well designed PSU shroud and glass panels front and back are spoiled by a lack of simple grommets and poor painting/ tooling. This is a damn good looking case though and regardless of the price if you want something unique yet simplistic in design it would be hard to beat it and for that reason, it walks away with the Play3r Design Award.
Thanks to x² for sending us the Empire Silver for review.
- Beautiful styling
- Excellent use of space on the PSU shroud
- Loads of internal space for large components and/ or watercooling
- Difficult to find in the wild
- Very expensive in store
- Poor quality control leading to little faults