Installation and Testing
Of course the only decent tests for a case are ease of install and cooling. So that’s what I shall test. Firstly how easy it is to install components. Secondly how cool the case is kept by its 3 120mm fans.
My test setup was as follows:
|Intel core 2 Quad Q6600 2.40 ghz
|4gb corsair dominator
|Ati x800 GTO (old I know)
|Gigabyte EP43 – DS3R
|Samsung 320gb hard disk, Seagate 120gb hard disk
|NZXT Sentry LX fan sped controller Nebula electronics TV card
Installation for the main part was easy. The rounded edges on the case meant that there were no grazes to my hands when trying to get them into tight places. I had no trouble with fitting the motherboard, apart from forgetting which holes the brass spacers go into. So after the motherboard was in RAM, graphics card, CPU etc were easy to fit. there was enough space to work relatively comfortably within the case. The only exception is the ATA connector was hard to fit into place due to the hard disk cage being in the way.
The PSU was easy to fit however the cables weren’t. There is no room behind the motherboard plate to fit any wires, and nowhere to cable tie wires out of the way. There is the space above the drive mounts where you can put the wires, but this is only really useful for wires not in use. Wires that have to go to other places in the case must trail over the motherboard and all the components attached to it. Even the case itself brings a lot of wires including ESATA, temperature probes, front audio and so on.
The screw-less drive installation was easy for the most part. The only problem I had was that my DVD-drive has a cover stuck onto it to make it look black so it fits in with all the black cases I’ve had. This means that my drive is a few millimeters longer than normal. So if I place it in how the instructions tell me too, i.e. screw holes showing in the right place, then it sticks out of the front of the case. This made it very difficult to slide the mechanism into place and lock it but after a bit of persuasion and a voided warranty it fits fine.
I especially love the hard disk installation because it’s as easy as placing the plastic slides into the right place and then pushing it into the slot until it clicks.
Graphics card and PCI installation was very easy with no screws involved, the process of unclipping the metal cover, placing in the card and finally clipping the card in place was less than stressful.
As far as cooling goes the case performs outstandingly, especially compared to my old case. I placed the temperature probes from the case and the temperature probes from a fan controller around the case to record the temperature almost everywhere. Altogether there were 8 probes. Based on average temperature readings with the system idle here are the readings from the Guardian 921 compared with my old Centurion 1
|General ambient case temperature
As you can see the case is kept very cool by all the fans. With the system under stress these figures increase but only by a few degrees – NZXT pulled through with the Sentry LX which managed to keep a fairly constant temperature whatever I did to my system.
Two things that must be said about having this cooling power is that they come at a price – Dust and noise. There is such an extensive amount of dust sucked into the case, that only three days after I got it I was cleaning it. The front and side fans have fine metal mesh’s which catch a lot of the dust which can then be wiped clean but a lot gets through and plasters the window and your hardware in a thick layer. As for the noise the term “low noise” is an outright lie. With the fans running at half speed they can still be heard over the noise of my PSU, CPU and graphics card fans combined. The plasticy nature of the case also plays a role here as every vibration can be heard through the poorly made side window. Even without the fans, there is nothing in place to stop the vibrations of other things, such as hard disks and disk drives.
With the low cost of sound dampening materials, I’d like to see more of this type of material used in cases. Also, dust filters are a must for any case with large intakes.
The Guardian 921 retails online at around £60-70, PSU not included. Hardly a small, ammount and some of the missing features should have been included for that price, but it’s not horrendous.