Aria Midi Tower 420W PC Case

Aria, £17-04 including VAT

For those of you who are upgrading their system rig to something a bit more recent in terms of processor power, such as an Athlon XP or Pentium 4 processor, what you'll often be told is that your current case just isn't powerful enough to run the modern day components included anymore. To give you an idea, around 1999 a 250W power supply in a case was considered to be high specification. Nowadays, 300W is the absolute minimum although 350W tends to be more the norm, too. Now, of course, you could change the power supply in your case, but this is only a good idea if your power supply doesn't overhang where the motherboard is. And with the price of power supplies, when you consider the price of a case that comes with a power supply, you'll always end up thinking that a new case with power supply built in is going to give you slightly less handle.

Aria fill the gap for many a PC upgrader with a series of cases that will do the job. The one I'm looking at here is their own brand one, which retails for the astonishingly low price of just £14-50 plus VAT (£17-04 inclusive). A bargain too good to be true? Well I had a chance to find out for myself when a friend bought this case for their PC upgrade and asked me for assistance in putting it all together.

First off, in terms of looks compared to the bright colours or the fancy open windows of many PC cases these days, it might not be the best looker. However, the mostly white is supplemented by a large blue button for the power, a small white reset button, and a mostly blue bottom part of the front fascia that conceals two front mounted USB ports, handy of course if you wish to connect any external USB devices without going round the back of a PC. I'll talk about those in more detail later on.

Now to get the case open, and there were a mere two screws, one on each side, holding the side panels on. The side panels slide on and off pretty easily, making it an absolute ease if you wish to put in a whizzo graphics card in the future as well as taking a look inside the PC if you need to. Inside the case was a bag containing some screws (plenty of them, too) and a small pictorial instructional leaflet that wasn't that effective. There was also the standard power supply lead, and with the screws were also some little square plastic pegs that could be put into the case's metal plate for mounting extra screws if the motherboard's screw holes were in awkward places. The power supply looked to be of a reasonable quality and also the case's design meant it wasn't going to overhang the motherboard any. And, what was also good, was that the motherboard had the square four pin power cable that is used on Pentium 4 boards and indeed now some Athlon XP boards (the Microstar K6-Delta, for example, has it)

As it was, the metal plate had some small humps with round holes which were pretty much the ATX standard mounting holes, and the motherboard that was going in (an Asrock K7S8X) seemed to match up with all these holes, except one in the top left hand corner of the board (the one nearest the power supply). No matter, I would later fit one of the plastic pegs, screwed a screw into that and it was pretty snug. Screwing the other screws in to secure the motherboard to the case plate was simple enough, and the screws had enough to be nice and secure and didn't move very easily.

One word of warning at this point. More than likely you'll remove the ATX back plate that's stuck on the case and replace it with the one that came with your motherboard so you can line up the motherboard to the back plate when screwing the motherboard to the case. When removing the back plate, the edges are very sharp, so handle with extreme care, and don't do what I did, which was cut myself. However, it's positive to note that was the only really sharp edge that I came across, which wasn't bad at all really for the price.

With the back plate replaced and the motherboard screwed into place, it's now time to match up the cables from the case on to the motherboard. One word of note here, the power LED cable is of a three pin configuration. If your motherboard only supports two, you'll have to do without the power LED being on. But that shouldn't matter too much. The other cables fitted into their respective motherboard slots, including the speaker, hard disk LED, power and reset switches. All of them were labelled without any problems. And most pleasing of all was that despite the USB cable having eight separate wires, the ends are labelled with what goes where, nice and clear. Checking them against the motherboard manual was a doddle (as it showed all the pinouts), and I soon had them all connected, although they were a little bit finicky.

Now time to fit all the drives. The case comes with 4 5.25" and 2 3.5" drive bays. In effect, the 3.5" drive bays are used up straight away by a hard drive and floppy drive. Something worth considering if you want to run more than one hard drive for sure. Interestingly, one of the four 5.25" drive bays was already opened up, with no metal to remove and no plastic cover to remove either. Assuming you're using at least one CD or DVD drive, I actually found that quite useful (although a spare plastic cover should be supplied just in case). Also, the drive bay opened up was at the top, which might not necessarily be your preferred position. I used the first and third drive bays for the CD and DVD drives, and removing the metal back plate, then the plastic cover, was really easy. No twisting metal for ages trying to prise it off, and that was a good thing for me. The drives slotted in with some guides to help it keep level, and the screwholes were easy to find. Using the supplied screws, both drives were secured.

The floppy frive wasn't a problem either, I simply twisted off the metal back plate (another easy one) and then removed the plastic front, and in it went. Even though there's only two 3.5" drive bays, putting the hard drive at the bottom of the two bays gave it adequate space between that and the floppy drive, which was good to see. It looked the part now and everything was together and connected in terms of drives.

Now for the expansion cards such as the graphics cards. The blanking plates at the back that cover where the cards would fit were prised off easy enough, but they're nigh on impossible to replace (they can be, but they're not as tight). So unless you have any spare back blanking plates, handle with care and only prise off the ones you need. However, with them off, screwing the cards to the back of the case once inserted proved to be a nice and secure and snug fit, so that was a little reassuring to say the least.

The only minor gripe may be is that the case doesn't come with any fans to blow out any heat. However, there were mounting holes for three 8cm case fans (two at the back, one at the front) and so if you really needed to add them, you could always add them at a slight extra cost. As it was for the rig I set up, it wasn't really needed. The retail fan of the AMD Athlon 2500XP+ really did its job, and with there only being a Geforce FX5200 and ADSL modem, even with a CD and DVD drive, the power supply was more than plentiful, and the motherboard reported the CPU temperature at a fair and reasonable level that would be more than reliable enough. And the front USB ports worked first go too, which was most excellent indeed.

Overall Conclusion

You can obviously see that with things like the back blanking metal plates for the graphics card etc, costs have been cut by making them of a thinner metal and non-replacable, and indeed the sharp edges I encountered may put some people off. However, you simply have to look at the price tag and also the fact you're getting a reasonable 420W power supply, and a good bag of screws that for most people will put together all their components in the case with a minimum of fuss, not to mention working front USB ports thrown into the bargain. And that's what this case is. A bargain. You'd be hard pushed to find a case of equally good value for such a giveaway price. So if you're on a tight budget when upgrading, mix this with one of the Asrock motherboards and you're on a good start. It was a nice surprise to work with and looks the part as part of a PC setup. In short, an excellent case for the price.

Warren's rating: 83%