The Cougar QBX Mini ITX Case Reviewby E. Fylladitakis on November 13, 2015 8:00 AM EST
- Posted in
- Mini ITX
The Exterior of the Cougar QBX Case
Cougar went with a simple modern design for their Mini-ITX QBX case, employing basic geometric shapes formed by 45° angles. Most of the case is made of steel, with the exception of the plastic front and top panels. Although the front and top panels are plastic, they have been treated so as to resemble an aluminum surface. The craftsmanship is exceptional for such a product and only very experienced eyes will be able to tell the difference.
Cougar is strongly promoting the QBX's compact design. Measuring 291 × 384 × 178 mm (11.46 × 15.12 × 7.01 in) and with a volume of 0.0199 m3 (19.9 liters), it truly is relatively small but also rather awkwardly shaped and exceedingly deep for its proportions. Still, the QBX is more compact than other cubic-shaped cases such as the Obsidian 250D (28.2 liters, +68%), but not as small as truly compact Mini-ITX cases that were designed for living room applications, such as the Milo ML05 (7.1 liters, -64%). The QBX however can take a full size ATX PSU and long graphics cards and, if we make these two parameters a requirement, it definitely is the most compact Mini-ITX case that we have encountered to this date. However, if cost is not an issue and volume is, the much more expensive Streacom F12C can even take full ATX motherboards and much more hardware with a volume of just 25.9 liters.
The power button is to the right side of the plastic faceplate, right above the two USB 3.0 ports and 3.5 mm audio jacks. Although the location of the power button is well-thought, the position of the I/O ports could be problematic if the case is placed inside a furniture or against a wall to its right.
There are no openings for optical drives to the front of the case but Cougar decided to provide an option for optical media to those that really one by providing one slim ODD slot. The slot is at the top of the case, near the front, and can only be accessed by sliding the top panel backwards slightly. Note that only slot-loading drives will work, as the slot is facing upwards and tray-style slim ODDs are not mechanized. A slot-loading DVD-RW, let alone a Blu-Ray device, can be an expensive option, but at least it is an option for those that need to have an ODD.
Both of the side panels of the QBX are almost entirely covered by a metallic mesh, aiding passive airflow and providing intake openings for the PSU and optional side fans. The mesh is not particularly dense, allowing good airflow but being ineffective against dust.
The rear of the QBX is black and not of great interest, with the exception of the AC cable plug visible near the top. No, the QBX does not have a PSU preinstalled, but it has its PSU compartment located at the front of the motherboard's tray. This is just an extension used to keep all of the plugs at the rear of the case.
Instead of installing typical feet to the case, Cougar went with two long plastic stripes that slightly resemble caterpillar tracks. These can be used to support up to two 120 mm fans. A nylon filter is also installed there and can be removed by pulling it from the rear of the case.
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Ninhalem - Friday, November 13, 2015 - linkWith a smaller PSU and custom sleeved cables, a competent water cooling modder could put a decent system together inside this case.
Samus - Friday, November 13, 2015 - linkI was thinking the same thing. If you put an SFX PSU in there with an ATX adapter plate you'd have a ton of extra room for cables, hoses, a reservoir, longer graphics card, etc. Silverstone almost exclusively uses SFX PSU's in their ITX systems just for the reason they save so much space.
Refuge - Friday, November 13, 2015 - linkYea but if they were trying to keep costs down (Which I like the price personally) then an SFX PSU wouldn't have been helpful.
They are fantastic, but more expensive than comparable ATX PSU's. Besides as you pointed out, it is still an option for the builder who wants to invest that extra scratch.
zeeBomb - Friday, November 13, 2015 - linkOh this cougar...cable game strong!
I got one question... What ATX cases in todays market has pretty good cable management and well recognized by PC enthusiasts? I've been eyeing Fractal design cases...but your help is really need!
Samus - Friday, November 13, 2015 - linkReally, the best cable management is in OEM systems, because they custom make the PSU's (no ridiculous 24+4 or 24+8 pin connectors) but that limits your motherboard compatibility, and therefor your overclocking capabilities.
The only way to get decent cable management with a custom build is to use a modular PSU, and a high end case like Lian-Li, Silverstone and Corsair
I'm personally a big fan of the Silverstone FT03-Mini and Corsair Obsidian 250D for ITX platforms. For ATX, check out the Corsair 450D. For the price, its a really good, professional-looking case.
I avoid Fractal and NZXT like the plague. They are really just crappy quality. They completely ignore obvious design choices in every model...there's always one thing that utterly ruins the case, requiring some extreme modding and wasted time to work around.
The original Silverstone Fortress FT01 had probably the best cable management of any case I've ever owned, but it is a dated design (2008) although Silverstone has done a remarkable job supporting it. You can buy a new front IO backplane that has USB 3.0 ports for $20, and they have SATA and SAS backplanes for each hotswap bay available, eliminating cables completely.
zeeBomb - Friday, November 13, 2015 - linkWow very informative answer, tyvm!!! I was checking out the Fractal Design R5 case as it did fare well on my checklist, but your recommendations opens up a whole new list. Thanks a ton Samus!
quest_for_silence - Monday, November 16, 2015 - linkUnfortunately those negative comments were mostly groundless/rather questionable
BurntMyBacon - Monday, November 16, 2015 - link@quest_for_silence "Unfortunately those negative comments were mostly groundless/rather questionable"
I'll agree that they weren't well defined. However, I don't think the comments were entirely baseless. My personal experience is that the four NZXT systems I've built into have plastic fronts that scratch up quickly and easily. The structures also had far more flex than I like, though the customers were clearly more concerned with the aesthetic marring on the front. For reference, these were the Phantom 410, Phantom 630, Guardian 921, and the very recent Noctis 450.
I've only worked with the Fractal Design Define R4 and R5, so I can't comment on their other products. As far as these go, I've had decent luck. They don't really scratch up any worse than their competitors and the noise dampening is solid. The structure has a little more flex than I'd like, but generally isn't bad.
However, it is hard for me to recommend one of these Fractal Design cases if you can get your hands on a Nanoxia Deep Silence case. On the more expensive end, the high end Silverstone and Lian Li cases have some of the best build quality I've seen. The Silverstone Fortress FT02/Raven RV02 were some of the best cases I've ever built into. CaseLabs is probably the best, but Dat price. Only ever got to build into one of these and still dream of the day I can afford one for my own system. Corsair's offerings range from solid value with decent build quality (Carbide series) to high end case with a price that matches (Obsidian series). They also happen to be some of the easiest cases I've had the privilege of building into.
BurntMyBacon - Monday, November 16, 2015 - link@zeeBomb
If you are considering a Fractal Design Define R5 case, you may want to look into Nanoxia's Deep Silence series cases. Much higher build quality IMHO.
BurntMyBacon - Monday, November 16, 2015 - link@Samus
I generally agree with the above. I've had decent luck with Fractal Design, but I've only built into a Define R4 and R5. That said, like you, I find that there are better options out there. I would only add one manufacturer to your list: Nanoxia for noise dampening cases. Build quality is much higher than the Fractal Design cases IMHO. Cable management is only adequate, but I'd be remiss not to mention them for build quality, especially if you are looking for noise dampening. They don't have much in the way of mini-ITX, though. Sorry CaseLabs. You make some of the best cases out there, but $500 is a bit much.