Video: EVGA Hadron Air Mini ITX Case Review
EVGA Enters the Chassis Market
Cases are a funny thing. Some people spend more time fretting over the chassis of their new system than any other component while some builders simply could not care less about what "box" is holding the carefully selected components that power their gaming rig. While I can see both points of view, I think it is a shame to completely ignore the "look" of your system as it will be the one part of your design choices that you'll see on a daily basis.
EVGA has a great reputation in the enthusiast market thanks to its top of the line graphics cards and the emphasis of the company on enthusiast level products, water cooling and more. In recent years EVGA has branched into motherboards (again), power supplies and now cases. But rather than target a market that was saturated and dominated by a few big players, they decided to target the Mini ITX form factor. Having just recently released the Z87 Stinger Mini ITX motherboard, EVGA has created an ecosystem that allows a builder to use exclusively EVGA components with the new Hadron Air case.
In our video review below you'll see our overview of the design, the positive and negatives of the design and of small cases in general and my final thoughts on this rather impressive mITX design. After you are done watching it head down to the collection of photos below for a written analysis of the Hadron Air.
If you have never worked in a small form factor PC before, let me warn you up front - this is not as simple of a process as building a computer in a standard ATX case. Space is tight and doing simple things like routing cables from the motherboard to the hard drive can be a 10 minute ordeal. Additionally, sometimes the ORDER of installation can make a HUGE difference in the ease of the entire process so pay attention to other users that might have used your particular chassis.
Don't let its small size fool you though, the EVGA Hadron Air can pack a lot of punch. Using the latest mITX motherboard and graphics cards from EVGA's lineup you can literally build one of the most powerful gaming systems around in its small 6x12x12-in space!
The face of the case is a glossy black design with very little on it; an EVGA logo and a power button with embedded LED are all that interfere with its appearance.
Most of the top and bottom of the case are perforated to allow for air flow in and out. Cases this size need to be sure to provide enough air for proper cooling of the cramped components inside. This image shows the top of the case and the included pair of 120mm fans for air exhaust.
On the left side of the case you'll find a window that is quite large compared to the size of the door, enabling the user to clearly see the components installed inside including the CPU, GPU and storage devices.
Opposite that you'll find the slot loading optical opening (drive sold separately) along with audio input/output ports and a pair of USB 3.0 port. I do like the positioning of the optical drive though, removing it from the front of the case makes things much more attractive.
The Hadron Air is angled up (from the back to the front) to help allow for more air to enter the case from the ventilated area up front.
Along the back of the Hadron Air you'll find the power supply at the bottom, the graphics card and motherboard connectivity options. There are a pair of grommeted openings if you happen to want to use external water cooling fixtures but keep in mind that no internal water cooling will work in this case, not even the self-contained units from Corsair and others.
The EVGA Hadron case supports dual slot graphics cards though there is a hard limit on the length supported: 10.5-in. But that does cover the reference designs of the GTX TITAN, GTX 780 Ti, GTX 780 and below.
EVGA has included a power supply with the Hadron Air; a 500 watt 80+ Gold rated 1U unit that makes the biggest leap in SFF designs to date: it's QUIET!! That's right, a 1U power supply with that annoying 40mm fan that doesn't over power the CPU and GPU fan combined! Seriously though, I am impressed with the work EVGA has done to keep the unit noise level low.
Even when empty, the Hadron looks cramped and you might be worried out the gate where all of those power and data cables are going to end up.
Our installation used the new EVGA Z87 Stinger Mini ITX motherboard, as we assumed that if any platform was ready for the Hadron case, it would be EVGA's own.
The installation process with the EVGA Hadron is definitely going to be tricky in a couple of areas. Cable routing is problematic in some places and it can be difficult to know whether you should install the graphics card BEFORE installing the ATX power cables, or after. Those types of issues crop up several times during our build process, but it's nothing you can't figure out with some careful trial and error. Just be patient!!
Even though we used the stock Intel cooler for this build you'll be able install larger and more efficient coolers if you want, but there are going to be size and installation concerns. EVGA does sell a heatsink and fan combination specifically for the mITX motherboards that should work just fine; it will run you about $50.
Other than the power cable routing for the motherboard around the graphics card, the other slight annoyance we found with the Hadron Air was in the hard drive sleds. Due to space considerations both the power and data connections are facing the window side of the case which isn't ideal for appearances and also means cable routing is less than ideal.
This is likely due to the placement of the optional slot loading optical drive, which EVGA also sells for about $50, and the need for power and data cables for it.
Those couple of issues aside, working inside the EVGA Hadron Air case was fairly straight forward and we were very happy with the results. A clean and incredibly powerful system can be put into a small case design if you are willing to invest the time and money into your rig. The EVGA Hadron Air is currently selling for $179 with a small mail-in rebate. That definitely doesn't qualify as a budget case for any PC but as with the notebook world, you pay more for smaller and more compact designs.
If you wanted to build a complete system in the EVGA Hadron Air similar to our configuration, you are looking at a sizeable cost to be sure.
|EVGA Hadron Air System|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-4670K - $219|
|Heatsink||EVGA mITX 92mm Heatpipe Heatsink - $50|
|Motherboard||EVGA Z87 Stinger Mini ITX - $199|
|Memory||8GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1600 - $89|
|Graphics Card||EVGA GeForce GTX 780 - $499|
|Storage||Intel 530 Series SSD 240GB - $164|
|Case||EVGA Hadron Air Mini ITX - $179|
|Optical Drive||EVGA Slot Loading DVD Drive - $50|
|OS||Windows 8 OEM - $99|
$1500 is nothing to sneeze at but if you commit to buying a system with these components there is no denying you will be impressed with the amount of gaming power you'll have compiled into a 0.55 cubic foot compartment.
EVGA's Hadron case is impressive, but not perfect. Gamers looking to build a small factor machine should definitely keep this chassis on their list of options.