Small form factor computers have come a long way in flexibility and performance but there are still a number of limits associated with most direct from the manufacturer models. Typically, motherboards, let alone case specific connection are proprietary, and upgrading these devices is easier said than done. Unless you purchase a motherboard from the same manufacturer, there's no guarantee that some of these chassis connections (such as the external USB and audio connections) will fit. Also, 90% of the typical SFFs have limited expansion options as you'll usually find only one graphics slot (PCI Express) and one PCI slot. Add to this the meager power supplies and thermal challenges as processors get faster, and from an enthusiast point of view, these SFFs are not an ideal solution.
Micro-ATX cases allows for more variety in motherboards as well as additional power supply and cooling options. Unlike the majority of current SFF PCs, your chances of having the latest and greatest put together in a box that can be carried under your arm are that much greater. We've looked at a few Micro-ATX cases in the past, and today we'll be looking at the latest entry from . The X-QPack2 replaces the X-QPack and refines upon the previous model as well as making a few needed upgrades.
The Apevia X-QPack2 Case
The X-QPack2 arrived undamaged in a box slightly bigger than the chassis itself. There were a couple foam inserts and the entire case was covered in a clear plastic bag. There were some plastic sheets protecting the many case windows, and peeling these off was uneventful as all of the windows were unscratched. Inside the case were some extra accessories such as screws and the power cable. Unlike the original X-QPack, a coloured English manual is included.
Once all the packaging was removed, we placed the X-QPack on the table for its mandatory photo session. The case is constructed primarily of aluminum and was extremely light, even with the power supply present. The scale we have here at home is a traditional dial type, so it is not very accurate, but the case weighed in about 8lbs total.
Physically, there are some cosmetic changes but the general look and feel hasn't changed much from the previous generation X-QPack. The X-QPack2 is slightly longer, 1" according to Apevia. The case also feels a bit more secure, despite the outer aluminum not being any thicker than before. The main chassis does feel stronger as the case is much harder to flex and bend.
There are three case windows surrounding the chassis (one on each side, and one on top). Opinions on case windows vary, but if you're not a fan of them, Apevia's with no case window included.
We selected a matching black faceplate but there are six in all. That said, the chassis colours, or shall we say colour, is only available in black. For the external drive bays, there is room for two 5.25" devices and one 3.5" device. There is no default stealthing system, so if your optical drive or floppy drive is beige, you'll need to either paint them or custom make your own drive faceplates. Other than the external bays, there are two internal 3.5" bays.
There are quite a few connections on the front of the case which will make life simpler for those who like to plug a lot of things in. Starting from the left, there are two USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire connection, a front audio out and a mic port. Maybe the only thing we would have liked to have seen is an external SATA connection as these types of enclosures are gaining popularity as well as a door perhaps to hide these connections when not in use.
Just above these connections is a front LCD readout that displays the temperature of whatever you connect the internal temperature probe to. There are two sensors inside the chassis which you can place on anything really, but the display only reads CPU and HDD. It's also only displayed in Celsius, so those of you used to Fahrenheit better hit up those online conversion charts, hehe.
For mobile users or gamers, the X-QPack2 has a metal carry handle on the front of the case. While it doesn't fold down like the previous X-QPack, it does retract slightly when not in use. Despite appearances, it is actually quite strong and we didn't have any fear carrying the computer around.
On the rear of the case, we have the fan exhausts as well as the PCI backplates and rear IO. The IO backplate included follows the PC'99 specification, so chances are you'll need to replace it for your current Micro-ATX motherboard (which should have one included). The case will allow for up to four PCI expansion slots and Apevia wisely placed the 120mm cooling fan above where the CPU would be.
Three thumbscrews can be removed to open up the X-QPack2. I know a few guys here at VL hate this, but I personally prefer this method since it is more convenient placing a one piece shell aside than having to remove two side panels and dealing with more screws as you may with a traditional case. I would have liked to have seen the spring release type of thumbscrews that do not actually come off though as I have a tendency to lose thumb screws after removing them.
There is a fair amount of working room inside the X-QPack, but to make things easier, Apevia thoughtfully made the motherboard tray removable.
Rather than going hog wild with thumbscrews, a traditional Phillips head screwdriver is required to remove the motherboard tray. Our MSI 690G was a perfect fit, and we don't expect any Micro-ATX motherboard up to 9.6" x 9.6" to have any installation issues.
CPU coolers on the other hand are a different story. From the top of the motherboard, there is only 3.25" of clearance, so if your heatsink is any taller than that, it will simply not fit. You can't really install a larger heatsink after the tray is back in either as a support bar runs along the length of the case and will not give you any room to fit such a cooler.