Tagan A+ Black Pearl Case Review
By Gabriel Torres on June 20, 2008


Introduction

Hardware Secrets Golden Award

A+ Black Pearl is an all-aluminum full tower case from Tagan featuring seven 5.25” bays (one comes with a 3.5” adapter for installing a floppy disk drive) and eight internal 3.5” bays, a panel for controlling the speed of up to four fans and also to monitor the temperature of any device you’d like (the CPU or the GPU are the two most common choices) through a thermal sensor that comes with the product, and plenty of room for installing a redundant power supply. Let’s take an in-depth look at this high-end product from Tagan.

The first thing you will notice about this case is that it is inverted compared to traditional cases. Usually the motherboard is installed on the right side of the case and we need to open the left panel to build our PC. On A+ Black Pearl this is reversed: the motherboard is installed on the left side of the case and you will need to open the right panel to build your PC. Half the right panel is meshed to help on the cooling.

Tagan A+ Black Pearl case
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Figure 1: Tagan A+ Black Pearl case.

Tagan A+ Black Pearl case
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Figure 2: Tagan A+ Black Pearl case.

In Figure 3, you can see the front panel from this case. As you can see, this case doesn’t have a door. This case has seven 5.25” bays and the two top bays come with optical drive “fake” covers, which is great: your optical drives will be installed behind these masks making their “faces” to be all aluminum. You can even install beige drives that it won’t make any difference to the aesthetics of the case, as these masks will cover them.

The 3.5” adapter for floppy disk drives that comes installed on the lowest 5.25” bay also comes with a mask for floppy disk drives, so your floppy disk drive will gain a black aluminum face. The only problem is that if you don’t have a floppy disk drive your case will still have this mask installed, i.e., you will have an ugly hole on your front panel. One solution would be moving one of the 5.25” covers to the lowest bay and installing an optical drive without its mask (if you use only one or two 5.25” bays). If you will use more than two 5.25” bays then this problem is solved as you will have to remove one of the covers anyway, and you can replace the floppy cover with this unused cover.

Tagan A+ Black Pearl case
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Figure 3: Front panel.

On the front panel you can also find the fan control panel. This panel monitors and controls the speed of up to four fans and you can also monitor the temperature of one device, as this case comes with one thermal sensor. This case comes with two 120 mm fans and two optional 120 mm fans, so the number of monitoring and controlling channels is perfect.

Introduction (Cont’d)

In Figure 4 you see the case top panel, where you can find space for installing two 120 mm fans (which don’t come with the product). This same space can be used for installing a radiator from water cooling systems on top of the case and that is why the manufacturer also calls this case “WCR Edition” or “Water Cooler Ready.” You can see that there are two holes for passing the hoses from the water cooling system from inside the case to the external radiator. What is good about these holes is that they use screwed covers. On steel cases that feature this kind of hole (usually on the rear side) you need to break the covers, making your case to have two open holes if you remove your water cooling system.

Tagan A+ Black Pearl case
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Figure 4: Top panel.

On the top panel you can also find a panel containing two USB ports, one FireWire (IEEE1394) port, mic in and headphones jacks. We think that a high-end case like this should offer one eSATA port. Another problem with this panel is that the two USB ports are two close to each other, preventing you from using them at the same time if you have two “fat” devices – USB drives, for example.

Tagan A+ Black Pearl case
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Figure 5: Connectors available on the top panel.

Finally we have the rear panel in Figure 6. On this case the power supply is installed on the bottom part of the case and this case allows the installation of redundant power supplies (more about this in a minute). You can also see that this case comes with a 120 mm fan on its rear side. The two side panels are fastened to the case using a mechanism that requires just one thumbscrew for each side panel. Once the panels are removed the screws are kept attached to the mechanism, so there is no way you could lose them.

Tagan A+ Black Pearl case
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Figure 6: Rear panel.

The power supply compartment is twice as big as the one found on regular cases. This allows the installation of redundant power supplies, which are two power supplies together and thus twice as big as regular units (click here to see a redundant power supply). When the main power supply fails the second one comes immediately into action, preventing your computer from shutting down due to a malfunction on the power supply, and you can replace only the faulty power supply, with your computer still turned on. The case comes with a frame on the external side of this compartment for you to install regular power supplies. If you want to install a redundant unit you will have to remove this frame and buy a frame compatible with your redundant unit from the case manufacturer.

Tagan A+ Black Pearl case
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Figure 7: Frame for installing regular power supplies.

Let’s see how Black Pearl looks like inside.

Inside Black Pearl

In Figure 8, you can see an overall look inside the reviewed case. All parts inside the case are also made in aluminum. The motherboard tray is permanently attached to the chassis.

Tagan A+ Black Pearl case
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Figure 8: Inside A+ Black Pearl.

Our first stop is on the power supply compartment, which can hold redundant units, as explained. What is really good about this case is that it is divided into three separated compartments: the power supply compartment, the hard disk drive compartment and the motherboard compartment. The communication between these compartments is made through holes, used to pass cables from one side to the other. See the hole on the upper left side of Figure 9 which is used to pass all the cables from the power supply.

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Figure 9: Power supply compartment.

In Figure 10 you have a close-up on the wall that separates the motherboard compartment from the lower compartments. See the big hole used to pass cables from the power supply and also cables from the motherboard to the hard disk drives. We loved this idea as it allows all cables to be more organized and held together, improving the airflow inside the case.

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Figure 10: Walls that separates the three compartments.

The rear 120 mm fan comes with an adjustable arm that allows you to configure your system for the best possible cooling. This adjustment is done by loosing two thumbscrews, so no tool is necessary.

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Figure 11: Rear 120 mm fan with adjustable arm.

This case doesn’t use a screwless mechanism to fasten daughterboards to the case, but on the other hand it provides thumbscrews, allowing fastening cards without the need of using tools anyway. In fact we personally prefer this approach, as we’ve seen countless times these screwless mechanisms breaking because they are usually manufactured using cheap plastic.

Tagan A+ Black Pearl case
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Figure 12: Thumbscrews for fastening daughterboards.

The Disk Drive Bays

This case has seven 5.25” bays (one comes with a 3.5” adapter for installing a floppy disk drive) and eight internal 3.5” bays for hard disk drives. If you don’t have a floppy disk drive then you can use this adapter for installing a ninth hard disk drive, if you are really a storage freak. These internal 3.5” bays are located inside two removable hard disk drive cages, located on the lower section of the case in a separated compartment. This compartment is cooled by one 120 mm fan located on the front of the case.

Tagan A+ Black Pearl case
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Figure 13: Hard disk drive cages.

The cages are fastened to the case using thumbscrews, so no tool is necessary to remove them from the case. This case, however, doesn’t use screwless mechanisms for installing hard disk drives. You will need to fasten four screws to each drive.

On the other hand this case uses an anti-vibration mechanism. Each screw uses a rubber ring to avoid the natural vibration from each hard disk drive to propagate to the case chassis, thus reducing the noise produced by them. The screws must be installed with the hard drive outside the cage and after four screws are attached to the drive you can install the drive in any hard disk drive bay by simply sliding it in.

Tagan A+ Black Pearl case
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Figure 14: One of the cages outside the case.

Tagan A+ Black Pearl case
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Figure 15: Screws and rubber rings that must be attached to each hard disk drive.

Tagan A+ Black Pearl case
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Figure 16: Hard disk drive with the screws and rubber rings installed.

Tagan A+ Black Pearl case
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Figure 17: Hard disk drive installed in one of the hard disk drive bays. See how the rubber ring fits the bay.

This case only use screwless mechanisms on four of its 5.25” bays. The top two 5.25” bays and the last 5 1/4” bay aren’t provide with such devices. The last bay is understandable, as it comes with the 3.5” adapter installed, but the two top bays are the ones that comes with the “fake faces” for your optical drives, so you will have to use regular screws on them.

Main Specifications

A+ Black Pearl case main specs include:

* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.

Conclusions

Tagan A+ Black Pearl is a very good all-aluminum case. Here is a summary of what we found about this case.

Strong Points

Weak Points

In summary, this is an excellent case for high-end users with the money to buy it. Its price isn’t bad at all for an all-aluminum full tower case loaded with great features, in particular the digital control panel – which would cost you some good extra money if bought separately. That is why we are giving it our “Golden Award” seal. Of course if you are just a regular user there are other good inexpensive cases on the market that will better fit your requirements (and pocket).

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Tagan-A+-Black-Pearl-Case-Review/572


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