Aerocool’s Project 7 P7-C0 Pro case reviewed

When I first opened the box of Aerocool’s Project 7 P7-C0 Pro case, I felt like a kid at Christmas. This is the first case with RGB LEDs that I have ever beheld. I was excited! It took a lot of self-control to photograph this case before I pulled it apart, put a system inside, and generally covered it in fingerprints. This isn’t a case I would put under my desk and forget about. Thanks to the lighting inside, it would live on top of my desk in full view.

The P7-C0 Pro is an ATX mid-tower that measures 8” wide by 17.5” tall by 16.1” deep (205 mm x 468 mm x 451 mm). Aerocool made it compatible with ATX, microATX, and Mini-ITX motherboards. The chassis itself is made from steel that Aerocool claims is about 0.7 mm thick. Both the left and right sides of the case are covered with tinted tempered glass measuring about four millimeters thick.

The front panel of the case has a chamfered plastic rim that helps spread the light emanating from the RGB LED strip it frames. The panel mostly consists of metal mesh to allow plenty of airflow to the three front fan mounts. On the bottom of the front panel there is a handle to pull the panel away from the chassis. With a firm pull, the panel pops free. Be careful when removing the front panel as the RGB cord can become caught and damaged. This cord has to be unplugged from the I/O panel to allow the front panel to be completely removed.

Strangely, the front-panel RGB LED connector doesn’t connect to the included P7-H1 RGB LED fan hub (more on that later), so it can’t be controlled with the hub’s software. I think this incompatibility is an oversight, since it limits the number of colors a builder could choose in Aerocool’s RGB LED utility that would match up with the front-panel lighting.

The integrated RGB LED controller in the I/O hub cycles through 10 different colors, and that’s probably enough for most builders’ tastes, but I still would have preferred the option to connect it with the P7-H1. That compatibility would also give builders a reason to upgrade to the P7-H1 if they bought the non-Pro version of the P7-C0, much like Cooler Master’s modular system gives builders reason to stick with that company’s ecosystem. As it stands, the RGB LED accent at the front of the case has to be adjusted manually, and that’s unfortunate given the P7-H1’s tight integration with other Aerocool Project 7 hardware.

With the front panel removed, we can see the P7-C0 Pro’s removable dust filter. The filter uses magnets to keep it closed. Pulling it from the right swings it open on an integrated hinge. Once the dust filter is completely swung to the left, it pulls out for easy clean-up. With an open mesh front panel like the P7-C0’s, a filter like this is essential, and I’m glad to see one included.

At the rear of the case, Aerocool provides the standard I/O cutout along with a preinstalled 120-mm exhaust fan. This fan is a plain black affair with no RGB LED lighting, and it uses a three-pin connector for motherboard fan control. Although many motherboards now ship with headers that can control both three- and four-pin fans, we’d have preferred to see a four-pin PWM fan here for the best motherboard compatibility. The exhaust fan can be replaced with a radiator that uses either a 120-mm or a 140-mm fan.

Like most mid-towers, the P7-C0 offers seven expansion-card slots. There is a plate that slides over the expansion card brackets once they’re installed, which helps to better secure the cards. At the bottom of the rear face is the cutout for the power supply unit.

On the bottom of the case, Aerocool included a removable dust filter for the power supply. It easily slides out towards the rear of the case, although getting around to the rear of cases to remove dust filters like this one can be a bit of an inconvenience with a system installed. The feet on the case are constructed from plastic, and they have rubber pads on the bottom to reduce vibration and noise transfer to the system builder’s floor or desk.

On the top of the case, Aerocool includes another welcome dust filter. This dust filter is made of metal mesh and attaches to the case with magnetic strips on the borders of the filter. Underneath this filter, the company includes mounts for two 120-mm fans or one 140-mm spinner. Thanks to the narrow width of the case, however, radiators can’t be installed here—they’d run into the top of the motherboard.

The top I/O panel includes two USB 3.0 ports and separate headphone and microphone jacks. The large power button lights up blue when the system is powered on, and it’s paired with a hard drive activity light. The company’s engineers didn’t provide a reset switch, so holding down the power button to perform a hard reset is the only option for rescuing a locked system.

The final button on the top panel allows you to change the color emitting from the front panel’s RGB LEDs. As I noted earlier, this button cycles through 10 preset color options and doesn’t affect the color emanating from peripherals connected to Aerocool’s P7-H1 hub. Holding down this button for about a second and a half will trigger one of three separate lighting modes: solid, “breathing,” and “pulsating.” Holding down the button for four seconds will turn off the front-panel LEDs entirely.

 

All of the lights

The P7-C0 Pro comes with Aerocool’s RGB LED fan hub, called the P7-H1, and three RGB LED-illuminated P7-F12 Pro 120-mm fans. These spinners are high-quality hydraulic-bearing units, and they’re outfitted with four rubber pads on their corners to minimize noise and vibration transfer to the host enclosure.

This hub connects to the motherboard with a fan header and a four-pin Molex cable. The choice of an increasingly-antiquated Molex connector to juice up the P7-H1 seems a bit curious to me, since the P7-C0 itself powers its front-panel RGB LED lighting with a SATA plug. The P7-H1 also needs an open USB header on the motherboard to interface with Aerocool’s P7-S1 RGB LED control utility. That’s a lot of cables.

The hub can provide a speed signal to as many as five fans using a single PWM signal from the motherboard. Although the P7-S1 utility doesn’t provide speed control over the connected fans directly, it does offer RPM monitoring for those fans through its interface. Just how much control one will have over the connected fans will depend on the capabilities of one’s motherboard and its utilities. Although we’d prefer to see the P7-H1 provide a one-stop fan-control solution, that capability likely would have raised the cost of the P7-C0 Pro package overall. Offering a pass-through for the speed signal from the motherboard’s fan header is a fine compromise, even if it’s still a compromise.

Each fan has a male four-pin RGB LED plug that allows Aerocool’s software to control the color of the fans, as well as a female LED plug to allow daisy-chaining of the fans from one of the hub’s RGB LED headers. With the P7-S1 software, you can set the fans’ color and animation modes. The P7-S1 software offers three lighting modes, just like the P7-C0’s integrated controller: solid, “breathing,” and “pulsating.” Folks who want more elaborate lighting effects might have to chain the P7-F12 Pro fans from an increasingly-common RGB LED strip header on a motherboard, at which point the P7-H1 becomes a perfectly functional PWM fan hub.

Getting inside

Both of the P7-C0’s side panels are identical sheets of tinted tempered glass. After removing the four padded thumb screws on each side panel, you can ease the glass panel away from the chassis. The panels are held in place with a rubber grommet on what appears to be a motherboard standoff screw. Once either panel has been removed, you’ll want to take care not to misplace any of these grommets, as they tend to fall off. Reinstalling these glass panels can be a little tricky, too. Lining up all the holes with the grommets can take a little bit of patience. I found it easiest to line up the panel on the bottom grommets first, as the top ones then align almost automatically.

On the left side of the case, we can see that the mount for the power supply unit and the two 3.5” drive sleds are enclosed in their own compartment accessible from the right side of the case. We’ve encountered similar permanently-installed metal shrouds and drive cages in other cases, and we’re not fans of the design. The shroud can make installing a power supply and routing cables a headache, and the permanently-installed 3.5” drive cage makes room for extra cables quite limited in the P7-C0. While a permanent shroud may be the most aesthetically-pleasing way of hiding the power supply and its cabling, it’s not as user-friendly as it could be. At least Aerocool perforates the shroud with holes for PCIe cabling and the like.

The mostly-open main chamber allows for the installation of graphics cards up to 15.3” (390 mm) long with front fans installed, or 415 mm without. The maximum height of a CPU cooler is a generous 175 mm, too. A cable pass-through cut into the motherboard tray lets builders run cables from the back of the motherboard tray into the main chamber, although it’s not the most generously-sized cutout I’ve ever seen.

On the right side of the case, we can see the large hole Aerocool punched into the motherboard tray to ease the installation of after-market CPU coolers. The layout provides plenty of tiedown locations for cable management. In its tightest spots, the P7-C0 offers about half an inch (13 mm) of clearance for cables, but most of the cable routes one might want to use offer about 1.1” (29 mm) of space.

There are two SSD mounting plates on the right side of the case mounted behind the motherboard tray. Like the rest of the case, these trays are constructed out of steel and are removed by loosening the thumb screw and sliding the tray up. Securing SSDs to these trays requires the usual quartet of small screws, even if the trays themselves are tool-free.

The build

Now for my favorite part of any case review. Aerocool preinstalls the motherboard standoffs in the P7-C0, removing an annoying step in any build. I had zero problems installing the motherboard using this preinstalled hardware.

Once I had the rest of my test system’s components installed, I discovered how little room the P7-C0 offers for running cables from the power supply through its various cut-outs and channels. I routed my wires though all of the holes I expected to use with the belief that there was enough room behind the motherboard tray for my preferred routes. With the limited space the case offers in some spots, though, I found myself rearranging wires often before settling on my final routing arrangement. As a result, I would warn prospective builders to plan their cable-routing schemes prior to installing components and cabling permanently. I suggest using twist ties as a method of figuring out cable routes before using the included zip ties, for example.

Once I had my system’s main power cables where I wanted them, I installed the three P7-F12 Pro RGB fans that came with the case on its front panel. Aerocool designs the fan hub to fit in a 2.5” SSD tray (or at least, it’s a happy coincidence), so I slid it into one of the P7-C0’s 2.5” drive sleds. I didn’t use any permanent attachment method for my testing, but the hub seemed to stay in place there. As we’ve seen with other cases that use similar layouts, the area in front of the power supply and behind the hard drive in the P7-C0 becomes a major pinch point for unused cable lengths and cables that just need to pass through to various components.  

With the large amount of open space behind the front fans, I was sure I could get Cooler Master’s MasterLiquid 240 all-in-one cooler installed in this case, but that turned out not to be so. The large end tanks on the MasterLiquid 240 ran into protrusions near the I/0 panel mounted at the top of the case, and I could never quite get the cooler aligned with the front mounting points as a result. Builders using common Asetek liquid coolers with slimmer end tanks might have better results.

Given that my 240-mm radiator seemed incompatible with the P7-C0, I turned to the 120-mm push-pull setup offered by Cooler Master’s MasterLiquid 120 closed-loop cooler. I had no issues mounting this heatsink on the case’s rear wall. Since I had some extra places I could mount additional fans in the case afterward, I installed the former exhaust fan on the top of the case to help with airflow.

Other than some minor annoyances with cable management and my issues putting a 240-mm radiator in the front of the P7-C0, my build experience with this case was pretty easy, even if it wasn’t the most hassle-free build I’ve ever had.

 

Our testing methods

Here are the specifications of our test system:

Processor Intel Core i7-6700K
Motherboard ASRock Z170 Extreme7+
Memory 16GB (2x8GB) G.Skill Trident Z DDR4-3000
Graphics card Sapphire Radeon R9 380X
Storage OCZ Vector 180 480GB SSD

WD Black 1TB HDD

Power supply Aerocool P7-850
CPU cooler Cooler Master MasterLiquid 120
OS Windows 10 Pro

Our thanks to Intel, ASRock, G.Skill, OCZ, Sapphire, WD, and Cooler Master for their contributions to our test system. Our thanks to Aerocool for providing the case and power supply we’re testing today, as well.

Our case-testing cycle consists of the following phases:

  • 10 minutes idling at the Windows 10 desktop
  • 10 minutes running the Prime95 CPU torture test
  • 10 minutes running the Prime95 CPU torture test and the Unigine Heaven GPU torture test
  • 10 minutes idling at the Windows 10 desktop

Our testing methods are generally publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, feel free to hit us up in the comments or join us in our forums.

Cooling performance

Here are the results of our cooling tests, plotted over time:


And here are some minimum and maximum temperatures from each testing phase:


My temperature tests show that the P7-C0 leaves the CPU running much warmer than the Cooler Master competition, but it’s worth noting that the MasterCase Pro 6 benefited from an air conditioner in my office that’s no longer running now thanks to seasonal temperature differences. It’s probably best not to worry too much about the Aerocool’s CPU temperatures, then, given that the other components inside seemed to fall within ranges similar to those of the Cooler Master case’s. Overall, the P7-C0 and the MasterCase Pro 6 seem about on par in cooling performance.

Noise levels

Cooling performance is just one part of the picture, of course. It’s no good if a case can’t keep components cool if it’s making a terrible racket. As I turned my test system on for the first time and the fans started spinning up, I did notice the fan noise was a little higher than I was expecting. The noise character of the P7-F12 Pro fans is smooth, but they just ended up sounding a bit louder than I figured they would be. Let’s see how loud the case gets in absolute terms.


My noise testing proves that my initial response to the fan noise wasn’t just in my head. In comparison to the MasterCase Pro 6, the P7-C0 is quite a bit louder than the competition. Keep in mind that even though the P7-C0 is somewhat louder than the MasterCase Pro 6, it also has six fans spinning inside compared to four in the MasterCase. In my opinion, the fan noise from the P7-C0 is bearable, but it’s definitely possible to tell when it’s running.

 

Conclusions

Aerocool’s Project 7 P7-C0 Pro makes an excellent first impression. If you hadn’t already gathered, I definitely like the way this case looks. With its aggressive angles and tempered glass panels, the P7-C0 offers a modern and classy appearance. Its mesh front panel, numerous fan mounts, and generally open design lead to fine cooling performance, as well.

While the P7-C0 Pro looks sharp on the outside, its interior didn’t impress me in quite the same way. The case suffers from the same headaches as many other cases with non-removeable power-supply shrouds and hard-drive cages. Installing a power-supply unit is more difficult than it otherwise might be in a case with a removeable shroud, and the permanently-installed hard-drive bay drastically limits room for extra cables. A modular PSU (like Aerocool’s own P7-850) is a must in this case.

I’d have also preferred to see Aerocool scale up the case a bit to allow for the use of top-mounted radiators and more 140-mm fans. The front radiator mount couldn’t quite swallow the large end tanks of the Cooler Master 240-mm liquid cooler we wanted to install, either. I think a few extra centimeters here and there would make the P7-C0 much more user-friendly.

Aerocool’s P7-H1 RGB LED fan hub, the defining feature of the Pro version of this case, also has its ups and downs. We’d have preferred to see a common SATA power connector on this hub instead of the increasingly-unusual Molex connector, and it’s a shame that this hub can’t control the P7-C0’s front-panel lighting. For all the talk of 16.7 million colors with RGB LEDs, though, the 10 color options from the P7-C0’s front panel should be enough to please most builders.

The P7-H1 hub offers a better RGB LED software-control experience than even some larger companies do, and that’s usually the hardest part of RGB LED peripherals to get right. The included P7-F12 Pro fans sound nice enough, too, and it’s rare to find a case with as many included 120-mm fans as the P7-C0 offers these days, much less RGB LED-illuminated ones.  

We couldn’t find the Pro version of the P7-C0 at retail, but the case itself and the P7-F12 Pro fan kit are available separately for about $157 on Newegg, all told. A fully-outfitted P7-C0 like ours doesn’t come cheap, but a quick look at other manufacturers’ RGB LED fan systems suggests that it would be hard to assemble a similarly RGB LED-bedecked case for much less money. Given the P7-F12 Pro fans’ broad RGB LED compatibility and its solid performance otherwise, I’d happily recommend the P7-C0 Pro as a foundation for RGB LED-bedecked builds, but folks who are more concerned with noise levels and ease of use can get more case for less money.

Comments closed
    • Shobai
    • 2 years ago

    Mike, how securely does the expansion card lock hold cards in place? I’ve never found them to be of any use: they often have no way to locate a card into its given position, they usually only really ‘work’ for a single card (letting all cards flop free when you only want to adjust a single card), etc.

    Can you choose not to use the lock, and use common screws instead?

      • MikeLongworth
      • 2 years ago

      During my build and testing, I only had one card installed. I cannot comment on the security of more than one card. There are standard screw points as well as the card lock. I personally feel my cards are safest with the standard installation methods but, I did use the locking plate as an additional measure

        • Shobai
        • 2 years ago

        When you say ‘additional measure’, are you saying that you used a screw (as per other cases) AND the locking cover?

    • uksnapper
    • 2 years ago

    I still find it difficult to believe that reviewers enthuse over coloured lights in a box.
    I just want a computer to deliver what I need to its interface, the screen.
    It can stay tucked away under the desk leaving me with space to spread my clutter around on top.

      • K-L-Waster
      • 2 years ago

      This.

      The only light show anyone should be watching is the one on the monitors. The only time I look at my case while I’m computing is during troubleshooting.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 2 years ago

    Its a nice looking case for the design intent. Color me impressed.

    • NTMBK
    • 2 years ago

    Pointlessly heavy glass panel, hideous looks, no external drive bays, gallons of wasted volume… this case is a complete disaster.

      • Waco
      • 2 years ago

      I’m on the same page. It’s bulky but puts none of the bulk to good use.

      I’m slightly surprised temperatures aren’t normalized as deltas over ambient, as well. That’s case reviewing 101, no? You have to take into account the ambient temp when comparing fan noise (assuming they are temperature controlled) as well.

    • juzz86
    • 2 years ago

    Great review, Mike – top job.

    Very disappointing that you couldn’t fit a 240mm radiator in there, the setup looks like it should lend itself well even to a slim 360, are the front fans on fixed holes as opposed to slots? Also seems a bit odd that the top mount wasn’t off-centered away from the motherboard mounts a bit – seems to be par for the course for AeroCool in their (newer) cases – almost there, but lacking the little touches to make them truly friendly.

    I ran out a lot of their Dead Silence Cubes, though – excellent little platform.

    Cheers!

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