Conclusion: Building And Testing With The Montech Air X ARGB
The Air X ARGB has more than enough features to justify its price, and now’s the time to see how it performs!
That the Air X ARGB can be had for less than $80 is something I constantly keep in mind when looking at cost-cutting features such as an encased front-panel filter and a power supply filter that’s secured using tabs rather than slide brackets. Buyers still get a pair of 200mm ARGB intake fans and a 120mm ARGB exhaust fan along with a tempered glass side panel to view everything after all, and cases with a full fan set and tempered glass tend to cost at least 10% more. But now it’s time to build.
My platform uses only a single M.2 SSD, but I’ve tossed in a couple old 2.5” drives to show fitment. A slight misalignment for the cable holes pushes against the SATA data cable when using the factory drive tray position atop the power supply shroud, but the cable still latches, and users who have a problem with that are welcome to secure this tray to the tab and screw holes to the left of it.
There’s nothing to prevent straight cables from plugging into the drive tray that’s on the back of the motherboard tray, but it sits too far above the power supply opening to use 90° cables.
My test platform already had its Ryzen 7 3700X, Toshiba OCZ SSD and PNY XLR8 memory installed on MSI’s MEG X570 ACE, so I added the Air X ARGB's three additional standoffs to support the front of the ATX motherboard, secured the board with nine screws, added Fractal Design’s Celsius S24 cooler to the top panel and CPU socket, and finally installed Gigabyte’s RTX 2070 graphics card. Two things to note are the extra 1.25” (32mm) of space between the front edge of this full-ATX motherboard and the cable access holes, and the overlap between the radiator fans and the top of the board. The extra space allows proper cable management for EATX boards up to 10.9” deep, and the liquid cooling kit's overlap is made possible by the top-panel's offset mounting points.
With all the cables connected, everything works with synchronous lighting. Maybe I should have used some RGB memory as well?
Since I didn't have a similar case to compare, performance data compares the built system to an open platform with the same hardware, with the later using only the fans of each component. That leaves the question of whether this case can reduce total system noise while also improving system temperatures. That might not be easy, given that the case fans read 30.8db at full tilt when using a passive SATA power adapter. Yet the case fans use motherboard control, and the component fans going into this case are quite a bit noisier than the case's fans.
AMD Ryzen 7 3700X CPU (8 cores/ 16 threads, 32MB L3 Cache), O/C to 4.20 GHz (42x 100 MHz) at 1.3625 V Core
Fractal Design Celsius S24 2x 120mm Closed-Loop Liquid CPU Cooler
MSI X570 Ace motherboard with AMD X570, Socket AM4
PNY XLR8 MD32GK2D4320016XR memory (2x 16GB DDR4-3200)
Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2070 Gaming OC 8G graphics card (GeForce RTX 2070, 1815 MHz GPU, GDDR6-14000), Maximum Fan When Listed
Toshiba OCZ RD400 256GB NVMe SSD
Integrated HD Audio, Integrated Gigabit Networking
Corsair AX860 ATX12V v2.3 power supply (EPS12V, 80 PLUS Platinum)
Tested with AIDA 64 Engineer Version 6.00.5100 (Stress CPU, FPU, Cache, GPU), HWiNFO64 v6.28-4200, Galaxy CM-140 SPL Meter [Tested at 1/4 m, corrected to 1 m (-12 dB)]
Active power management by the CPU that operates even with the voltage set to “fixed” mode means that the biggest impacts of case cooling are on the CPU’s voltage regulator, rather than its cores. You’ll notice that the more I rely on case fans, the cooler it gets. All measurements were taken at 22 to 23 degrees ambient over a one-hour period.
The biggest differences in chipset temperature are attributed to how I set its onboard fan, though the added airflow of the closed build still provides slightly lower temperature than an open system.
GPU temperatures are almost completely tied to whether the GPU fan was set to full or default speed.
The minimized CPU temperature differences in modern active-managements me pine for the days when I used an overclocked Core i7-5930X to show greater temperature variation. I'll have to focus on other readings for my final analysis.
All of the noise levels appear acceptable when charted, particularly after considering that the tone of the Air X ARGB’s fans is fairly unobtrusive. We see that the enclosed case reduces total noise by 1-2 decibels even as its fans make noise of their own.
Because the decibel scale is logarithmic, a 10-decibel difference is ten times as powerful. Using the quietest configuration as the baseline means adding 100% to all numbers, so that the “26% louder” open configuration at auto fans is charted as 126%, and the “five times louder” open/full-fan configuration shows 600%. The lesson here is simple: Close your case and use automatic fan management.
The Air X ARGB from Montech does everything a case should, at a reasonable price: It blocks in some of the platform noise and pushes out some of its heat while securely holding system components. Being both cooler and quieter than an open platform, it goes on to provide a 32-mode ARGB controller with integrated fan hub and motherboard control leads, and a tempered glass side panel. Those later features add a level of style and panache uncommon at its $76 price point. You’ll sacrifice easy filter cleaning to get that price, and three of the twelve standoffs that would be required for a 13-inch-deep motherboard are missing, but hardly anyone uses 13”-deep boards and few competing cases even have room for those.
• Integrated 32-mode ARGB Controller with Fan Hub
• Cable leads for motherboard-based ARGB and RPM control
• Tempered Glass side panel to show off your work
• Multiple cable management point
• Twin 200mm ARGB intake fans
• Supports up to 3x140mm front and 2x140mm top-mount radiators
• Full cable access for motherboards up to 10.9"" (277mm) deep
• 12 mounting points for 13""-deep EATX motherboards"
• Includes only nine standoffs, even though it has 12 mounting points
• No USB 3.2 Gen2 Support
• Difficult bottom air filter removal, and front filter is stuck in front panel"
People like point systems, and if I deduct a point for the air filter servicing inconvenience and a half point for the inclusion of only nine standoffs in a full EATX case, that still gives the Air X ARGB 8.5/10 points. But so few budget gaming cases support the full EATX spec that I’m giving it a half point value bonus to make this one 9/10.
Nice setup. And a nice write-up as well Crashman.