Introduction.

Today I am going to be looking at a product from Akasa, now if like me you associate the Akasa name primarily to cooling products you maybe a little surprised to learn I am going to be looking at a new offering from Akasa in the shape of the Akasa Zen pc case. Before we look at the Zen case here’s a little bit of background on Akasa. The Akasa Group of companies was founded in 1997 with offices in Taipei and London. The management team are all experienced in Electronic and Electromechanical product development and currently have offices in London, Taipei, Rotterdam and Sao Paulo, Brazil. The Akasa brand was launched in 2000; the name comes from a Sanskrit word meaning; atmosphere, space and the ether. Akasa' s famous blue and yellow style is instantly recognised. The slogan “cool it with colour” was introduced in 2002 and is now inextricably linked to Akasa products. The Akasa cooler component range includes CPU coolers, case fans plus low profile heatsinks and high efficiency coolers for the specialist market. The Akasa product range also includes the modding components such as thermal efficient Case, Paxpower Ultra Quiet PSU' stylish Integral and colourful connection cables and lights. These s, components are often to be found in award winning PCs. Akasa’s client list includes many well-known names and major OEM system developers and board manufacturers throughout the world.

Ok onto the Akasa Zen case.

Next page: - Presentation.

Presentation.

The case comes in a sturdy, glossy box that shows 2 different coloured versions of the Akasa Zen on either side.

The small sides of the box carry all the specifications in several languages.

On one of the small sides there is also a little diagram showing which of the 6 colours available the case inside is, useful if you are confronted with several boxes in a shop and you want one particular colour.

Next page: - Specifications.

Specifications.

All in all a good spec nothing seems to be missed out, its good to see 2x120mm fans included and being from Akasa you know they are good and they are pretty quiet as well at approx 23db yet they shift a reasonable amount of air too. No power supply is included but then most system builders would probably rather choose their own power supply anyway.

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From Akasa’s website.

Lets have a closer look at the case itself.

Physical Layout.
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Next page: - Physical Layout.

Upon opening the box it was good to see there was some nice thick padding for the top and bottom of the case and the case it’s self was also in a polythene bag.

Lets move onto the case itself.

I have to say this is one of the best looking “budget” cases I think I have ever seen, and for £30ish it is definitely aimed towards the budget end of the market.

The case is painted in a matt black finish and has a rather unusual clear plastic surround to the front, its very different but striking and looks rather good. The power button is quite large and as there is no power led I assume it’s illuminated, time will tell. The reset button is somewhat smaller and slightly recessed. In between the buttons is the drive led and below them is the front audio / usb panel. The drop down panel is very sturdy and feels like it’s pretty strong and is up to being opened and closed many many times. The top drive bay comes complete with a drop down front so you don’t even need to buy a matching drive if your old one isn’t black.

Round the back the first thing you notice is the fan and its honeycomb grill this will allow as much airflow as possible whilst maintaining the quietest noise levels possible and keeping fingers out of harm way. There are also ample pci slots so plenty of room for extras should you need them, fan controllers for example. There is also a small vent above the pci slots.

The side has a large vent towards the bottom of the panel and this should help to cool your graphics card and there is also a vent positioned over where the CPU would sit. There is also a small vent running for most of the length of the side of the case at the top on both sides of the case. This is also another nice touch, as it will allow any hot air to escape. The other side panel is just a plain panel with nothing of note.

Removing the side panel to gain access to the mounting tray for the motherboard I found that the CPU vent was actually adjustable. Again yet another nice touch.

Onto the inside of the case there doesn’t appear to be a sharp edge in sight as all the edges are folded over. The fans are, of course, Akasa’s own. The one thing missing is labelling for the motherboard standoffs, I’ll have to offer up the motherboard to work out which holes the standoffs screw into.

The front panel cables are of sufficient length, which is nice as normally they are way to long in other cases I have had and they are clearly marked.

There was also 2 bags of screws, though 1 bag only had a few parts in, the other was full of screws / standoffs etc etc.

The case has a lot of drive bays, for both internal and external drives so most people will find it sufficient for their needs.

Also the 5 ¼” bays use a tool less design comprising of a mechanism that folds up to allow the drive to be installed then clicks back down to lock the drive in place, it’s a very simple but very effective looking design.

Ok so that’s the case inspected lets put some parts into it.

Next page: - Installation and Testing.

Installation and Testing.

For this review I will be installing the following system into the Akasa Zen: CPU: Opteron 148 fitted Akasa 859 cooler. Motherboard: MSI K8N Diamond Graphics: ATI x700pro (pcie) Memory: 1GB Ocz value PSU: Tagan 480. DVD rom and Maxtor 120gb HDD.

The first thing I had to do was to line the motherboard up to the mounting holes to work out where I needed to fit the pillars this was an easy task but would have been easier if the motherboard tray was labelled as seems to be the norm these days.

Once this was done I set about installing the rest of the components.

After I had fitted the optical drive, which I had to remove the case front to do, I realised what the second bag of screws was for. They are extra long screws for securing the drives in should you wish to do so. Personally I don’t think they are needed as the screw less mechanism works very well. I don’t particularly like the fact that once the optical tray is out the case flap obscures the eject button so you have to manually push the tray back in, that’s just my personal feelings though.

Once everything was fitted I powered it up and everything was fine, the case fans are indeed quiet and move quite a bit of air and there is no noise from vibrations, the case is a nice sturdy and quiet case.

Next page: - Conclusion.

Conclusion.

Well what can I say, the Akasa Zen is probably one of the best “budget” cases I have used, and I use that term loosely as in my eye’s it’s a budget case in price only retailing at approx £30-£35. It has a lot of features you wouldn’t expect on a case in this price range, folded edges so no cuts were experienced, a built in stealth panel for the optical drive, a built in cpu vent and very solid construction, some budget cases feel like they are made out of tin foil, not the Akasa Zen. My only issues are with the mentioned stealth panel for the optical drive, personally I don’t like pushing the tray in to make the drive close and when it is open the eject button is obscured. I would have also liked to be able to move it to a different position, as with it in the top position there isn’t really anywhere to hide the unused power cables, I tend to drop the optical drive down to the second from top position and hide them in the top slot. These are just personal niggles though. All in all if you are looking to build a new pc you could do a lot worse than spend £30 or so on the Akasa Zen for the price it puts some more expensive cases to shame, I definitely give it a RECOMMENDED award.

Pros.
• • • • Very solid construction. Looks good, and a bit different. 2x 120mm quiet Akasa fans fitted as standard. Plenty of vents to aid cooling.

Cons.
• • • Stealth panel for optical drive is unmoveable Stealth panel for optical drive obscures eject button when disc tray is out. Motherboard tray isn’t marked so you have to place motherboard in the case to work out where the mounting pillars go.

Many thanks to www.akasa.co.uk fro providing the Akasa Zen for review.