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XPCases Z-Alien Computer Case: It's spooky looking, it's aluminum, and it's itching to be modded... oh wait, it already is.

Date: April 12, 2004
Written By:

Sides and Top
The left side of the case is predominantly covered by an alien head shaped window. A-Top uses the same metal grill for the eyes as they used on the front. This window shape is a welcome change to the standard rectangle. Looking through the window all the major parts of the case are visible, so the window, even though an odd shape, still accomplishes its purpose.

To the rear of the case is a new latching system for the rear panel. Two triangular shaped plastic latches extrude from the side. A smaller inner triangle slides up to release the side panel. Personally I am not a big fan of this feature. I think that it takes focus away from the window too much. I would have preferred to see the latches inset more into the side panel, and possibly a little smaller. This side panel was held on by two thumbscrews for easy access to the case internals.

The top of the case features USB, Firewire and audio. A-Top uses a half-circle box to hold all of the pieces, with a small door to cover the ports. Once again this plastic piece sticks up way too much for my liking (it sticks up about ½") Although top access to these ports is nice for people who have their case lower than them, I would prefer to see this piece inset into the case to smooth out the top more.

The right hand side panel is pretty plain. The only feature to really point out is the stamped grill near the front-bottom. This is to allow for the 80mm fan to grab cool air from the room and blow it over the hard drive rack. The grill is a series of slats cut into the side panel. Although not the most nonrestrictive solution, it should do the job nicely.

Case Rear
The Z-Alien has a pretty standard mounting setup for the rear. The power supply is mounted at the top. Under that are the motherboard back-plate and the 7-expansion slots, which are all covered with snap in covers. Most noticeable on the rear of the case is the 120mm fan mount.

A-Top seems to have been thinking when designing the rear of the case as the fan does not use a restrictive stamped grill. A wire fan grill is used, which should provide for the least restriction. One feature that I almost missed on the rear of the case is a chassis intrusion switch. This is the first non-server case I have seen to include this feature, so more power to A-Top for bringing this feature to the public.

Case Interior
I will start from the front bottom and work my way across the case interior for this section as there are a lot of features to cover. Most noticeable in the bottom front is the removable hard drive enclosure. The enclosure uses the included plastic sliders to mount your hard drive with. These sliders just push into the side of your hard drive (no screws required.) These sliders are very similar to the floppy disk sliders, but the screw whole mounts are oriented differently.

These rails also suffer from the increased wear and tear as the floppy disk rails. Metal rails would again be a better choice for this rail. I found the hard drive enclosure a little stiff to remove and reinstall. I ended up having to rock it around move than I should have to in order to reinstall it.

This hard drive enclosure uses the side ways hard drive mounting setup. On other cases, however, you can mount the drives so the cables go to the rear, but unfortunately not on this case. The plastic rails allow for the hard drives to be installed in only on direction, so you will have to stretch your cables either through or around the enclosure. Hard drive cooling should not be an issue in this case. The front intake fans blows directly across the hard drives, as well as the 80mm side fan which blows directly through the enclosure.

Above the hard drive enclosure is the mounts for the 3.5" and 5.25" devices. Standard railed configuration here, so not much to talk about. I only had one issue with the 3.5" device mounts. The side extends a lot further than the floppy drive gets mounted so plugging in the floppy cable and especially power took a bit of time and effort. Notching this section a bit would help a lot in installing the 3.5" devices.

This case does not feature a removable motherboard tray but because of the size it is extremely roomy inside. The cases motherboard tray uses brass motherboard mounts all the way around which is one configuration I prefer. I truly hate those plastic stands and am glad they were not utilized in this case.

The expansion slots feature a screw less mounting mechanism. Each individual slot has its own sliding latch which actually holds the cards securely in place. The only thing I noticed is when installing expansion cards you have to be a little bit more careful when inserting the card. By making sure the slider is right to the top, and by holding the card as high as you can you should not have a problem installing it.

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