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Aerocool's Project 7 P7-C1 Pro case reviewed


From black to white

Tempered-glass case windows are probably the most popular design choice in PC chassis this year, perhaps even more so than RGB LEDs. Aerocool's Project 7 P7-C1 Pro evolves the design choices of the Project 7 P7-C0 that I reviewed a while back to serve a different kind of builder. The P7-C1 trades away dual tempered-glass side panels in exchange for better top-mounted radiator support, and it offers an improved RGB LED control arrangement to better harmonize its trio of RGB LED fans and front LED accent with other Technicolor components.

Like its smaller sibling, the P7-C1 is a pretty standard ATX mid-tower. It measures 9.6" wide by 21.7" high by 17.6" deep (245 mm by 550 mm by 446 mm). This case is compatible with ATX, microATX, and Mini-ITX motherboards. Unlike its smaller sibling's side panels, only the P7-C1's left-side panel is made of tinted tempered glass. The right side is covered by a standard metal panel, which I prefer since it hides any potential cable mess that might gather behind the motherboard. Empty, this case weighs 23 pounds (10.4 kg), although a fair deal of that weight is concentrated in the tempered-glass panel. Upon pulling the case out of the box and stripping it down, I didn't get the sense that the underlying steel chassis was all that substantial.

The front panel of the P7-C1 is made of plastic and metal mesh. The edge bevels into a LED strip that outlines that large metal mesh opening. A rather firm pull from the bottom of this panel will disconnect the front panel from the chassis. Once that cover is removed, we can access the removable dust filter and the 3 preinstalled 120-mm RGB LED fans. To remove the filter, I just had to pull out on its integrated handle and slightly bend the frame to remove it from the four tabs holding it in place.

Behind the front panel, we get room for one 240-mm, 280-mm, or 360-mm radiator. That heat exchanger would need to be mounted directly behind the fans. Ultra-thick 360-mm radiators might not fit into the cutout in the PSU shroud made for that purpose, so builders will want to measure carefully before loading up their carts with custom liquid-cooling gear for this case.

The left side of the case, as I've already noted, boasts the sole tempered glass panel on this enclosure. Removing four thumb screws allows the panel to be pulled off the chassis. The rubber grommets that provide the cushion between the glass panel and the mounting points are designed to stay on the glass panel. This is a great improvement over Aerocool's P7-C0, as the panel grommets on that case tend to pop off and bounce into inconvenient locations quite frequently. The glass panel mounting “pegs" seem to be standard motherboard standoffs.

The P7-C1's rear panel offers a standard I/O cutout and metal mesh exhaust fan mount. Aerocool populates the rear fan mount with a black 120-mm fan, and that's as large a spinner as a builder can put on this mount. As with many modern cases, the power supply mounts at the bottom of the case. Seven expansion slots provide ample room for expansion cards, and those cards are held in place with a sliding bracket. Sadly, only the top expansion slot cover is designed to be removed and replaced. The remainder are breakaway-style covers that can never be reinstalled once they're removed. We don't like this approach on $50 cases, and it's hard to defend on a case that's twice as expensive at retail.

On its top panel, the P7-C1 offers two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports, standard power and reset buttons, separate microphone and headphone jacks, and a built-in card reader for SD and MicroSD media. The card readers connect to the PC's motherboard using an internal USB 2.0 header.

With a firm upward pull from the back of the case, the plastic top panel will pop out of its mounting points, exposing a removable sheet of metal mesh and mounting locations for two 120mm fans or a 240mm radiator. This “turret" approach lets the case remain narrower than it otherwise might while also allowing for a top-mounted radiator, a luxury that the P7-C0 does not afford builders.

The bottom of the P7-C1 is largely covered by a large plastic fascia with mesh vents for the power supply's intake. Unlike the top and front panels, the bottom panel is screwed into the bottom of the chassis, making removal of the PSU's dust filter difficult (if not impossible) without taking off the panel. The whole case sits on two legs with rubber pads for the contact points to reduce the potential for noise and vibration transfer to a floor or desk.

The “Pro" in P7-C1 Pro comes from the included P7-H1 RGB LED hub and the three RGB LED fans in the front of the case. This hub allows you to control the color of the three front fans. In a useful change from the P7-C0, the P7-C1's RGB LED accent ring can be controlled by the P7-H1, as well. That means builders can employ the full range of RGB LED lighting colors with their systems instead of coordinating the rest of their system with just 10 solid colors, as on the P7-C0.

The hub can employ three different modes for the LED lights: static, breathing, and pulsing. Those effects are all controlled by Aerocool's P7-S1 utility, and if that's not enough rave lighting, the hub can also connect to the increasingly-common RGB LED strip headers on many motherboards and pass the signal from that header to its connected devices. For more information about Aerocool's RGB LED software and the P7-F12 fans, check out my run-down in the P7-C0 review.

We surveyed e-tail for the P7-C1 Pro, but surprisingly, we couldn't find a retailer with this case in stock yet. Aerocool suggests a $165 price tag for this case tag in its materials, though. That price tag puts the P7-C1 Pro in the upper echelon of similarly-equipped cases. It rubs shoulders with RGB LED-bedecked enclosures from the likes of Corsair, Silverstone, and Phanteks for that kind of money, so we'll be keeping that in mind as we evaluate its features and performance.