Computer cases haven't really changed much in the many years since you first brought home that dull beige box that housed your very first computer, with features added in fits and spurts usually over a course of many months. The process usually involves one manufacturer designing a whiz-bang must-have feature; and the rest of them slowly incorporating that same feature into their own designs, as seen with the window panels and holes-through-the-mobo-tray for installing heatsinks. However, recent startup IKONIK has thrown its research and development team not into what they can copy better, but rather what they can actually design better, resulting in the Ra X10 (full gallery here) you see before your very eyes.
From the exquisitely curved and shaped piece of 3mm thick aluminium that forms the fascia to the mind-boggling amount of features packed in, this is perhaps one case that actually rivals the Thermaltake Level 10 for sheer volume of cool stuff. Externally it is anodised completely black, and while the front is aluminium the rest is treated to a more standard (and cheaper) 1.2mm thick aluminium. This is a little flimsy compared to the front door, and indeed flexed more than an oiled-up bodybuilder at a lady's night. The case is physically very imposing, filling in at a size that could swallow most other cases and keep on going. It's got four extendable feet at the bottom that help to balance the case.
At the top of the case lies the first sign that it is created specifically for getting wet; a small pinwheel is mounted behind a plastic window that lights up bright blue when powered up, showing the flow of water in a very neat way. Just behind this lies the I/O panel that covers every port you'd want - mic/audio jacks, four USB, 6-pin Firewire and two eSATA ports. The power button is firm and responsive, with a nice amount of travel and a solid return.
Moving to the side of the case shows off the giant meshed sidepanel. While it isn't filtered, most bigger objects will be stopped, and IKONIK even throw in a replacement acrylic panel so you can turn it into a window! The sidepanels, however flimsy they are, are held on to the case with three thumbscrews each and quick-release buttons, giving access into the guts of the case - where the real excitement lies.
Packed into this vast, cavernous space is a motherboard tray that supports up to EATX motherboards, room for six 5.25in drives as well as eight 3.5in drives and, most importantly, the watercooling system. This is the most interesting part of the entire case, but even saying that is difficult - it's so integrated into the design that it almost appears the case was built around it!
Beginning at an aluminium reservoir and pump combo mounted at the bottom of the case, which is filled with the included blue coolant, liquid is pumped through to the copper waterblock. Compatible with sockets LGA775, LGA1136, AM2 and AM3, this waterblock is a relatively simple design that utilises a small forest of copper pins through which the water is forced, exchanging heat over the large surface area this affords. While the base is a bit rough and the finish imperfect, it's decent when considering that the price of a high-end waterblock can be over $90 alone. From the CPU, the heated liquid is run to the top of the case, passing through a 320 x 80mm radiator that itself is cooled by a whopping four 80mm exhaust fans! It then flows from the radiator to the pinwheel, and from there heads down to the bottom of the case - where it enters another radiator that has four 80mm fans intaking cool air. Only when the liquid has passed through all these stages is it deposited back within the reservoir, and the entire system has a cooling capacity of 500W - plenty for an overclocked CPU and a pair of GPUs.
Not only are the CPU and any other components you add to the loop cooled by the eight 80mm fans, but the remaining bits such as the mobo and hard drives are fed plenty of fresh air by the two 120mm intake fans, the single 140mm rear exhaust fan and yet another two 80mm rear exhaust fans. Considering you're getting an entire watercooling system, a case and thirteen bloody fans, the price of $450 starts looking like a bloody bargain.
Even without the cooling loop there are a lot of things to like about the case; every HDD mount is vibration dampened (as well as the rails where the PSU sits), there are eight expansion slots for crazy four-way Crossfire (or just fan controllers) and even the 5.25in bays have tooless securing. Where IKONIK has done something different here is something that NVIDIA tried to do with its Enthusiast System Architecture, a failed hardware-dependant implementation of monitoring. IKONIK has created its own system of both monitoring component temperature and controlling the speed of fans - allowing complete software management over the amount of noise generated, which you can even specifically tailor depending on temperatures within the case. Every single fan is pre-wired to this control box (which simply needs one power cable), and every watercooling component is pre-connected (simply needing electricity and liquid).
While there are a few small niggles concerning the rest of the case's build strength, so long as you don't LAN too much with it this is hands-down the most innovative case the industry has seen for years - and the best value case money can buy.