Physical and electrical design
The CS Black Pearl may be aluminum, but it is by no means flimsy and unstable. The entire outer shell is 2mm solid aluminum, which is twice as thick as most cases. The thickness of the metal gives this aluminum case the stability of a steel case, but without the heaviness. That's important considering the Black Pearl's dimensions -- 21.5x23.5x11 inches. That's larger than most of today's midtower cases (there is no official specification for "midtower" and "tower" chassis dimensions).
The internal construction is just as intelligent and robust as the external. All of the aluminum support structures are thick enough that they can't be accidentally bent or creased, and all sharp edges are folded over onto themselves so that you won't cut yourself while working in the case.
Of all of the interesting features of the Tagan CS Black Pearl, the most shocking is the orientation of the motherboard backplane -- it's backwards and upside-down! Instead of removing the left side panel to access the internal components, you remove the right side panel, and the motherboard mounts on the left side of the case instead of the right. I have not been able to figure out why everything is backwards -- there does not seem to be a good reason for a left-mounted motherboard. Aside from obvious differences in system assembly, the left-mounted motherboard orientation also inverts your I/O backplane, so the keyboard and mouse connectors will be closer to the middle of the machine than the top.
Internal drive and peripheral support is as follows: eight 3.5" removable hard drive racks; six 5.25" slots, two with CD/DVD faceplates; one 3.5" slot with a floppy drive faceplate; seven peripheral card slots; and fan brackets for two 120mm fans and two 80mm fan brackets. In addition to the optional brackets, there is a 120mm fan installed in the front of the chassis near the hard drive cages, and in the rear of the chassis with an internal, movable aluminum hood that is designed to pull warm air away from the CPU.
On top of the CS Black Pearl is a concealable frontpanel I/O connector panel with two USB, one FireWire, and audio in/out jacks. Near the rear of the top surface is a 120mm "blowhole" fan bracket and two removable 1" holes for hoses for an external water cooling unit.
Click here to browse our directory of Tagan CS Black Pearl photos (shown with a Tagan TG-900 PSU, which is not included with the chassis).
The front of the CS Black Pearl features standard ATX power and reset buttons, plus an LCD display to show system temperature and two buttons to adjust the system fan speed.
As has become the trend, the power supply is contained in a fan-cooled chamber at the bottom of the case.
Putting it to the test
Assembly is a bit of a challenge with the CS Black Pearl because of its radical design. It may look like a normal tower case, but there are so many things about it that are at the very least different, and at most totally backwards and unexpected. Fortunately, the included documentation explains every necessary thing. It may be brief (only two 8.5x11 sheets of paper), but it covers everything you need to know, including a block diagram for the top I/O connectors, and it's all in English, so there aren't multiple language sections to wade through.
The process for installing the bottom-mounted power supply is interesting. If you can't fit it in through the side of the case (and there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to do that), you can remove a panel on the back of the case and put the PSU in through there.
The Tagan CS Black Pearl runs at a reasonably low temperature and with minimal noise, though the decibel level depends greatly on your CPU's cooling solution. If you have a high-RPM heatsink/fan unit on a hot-running CPU, there isn't much you can do with metal and plastic to mitigate the noise. I didn't find much use for the frontpanel temperature adjustment apparatus, but if I had a hot-running system, I suppose it would be much more important. At the very least, frontpanel fan switches are much more convenient than internal switches that require taking the side panel off, which is what most chassis offer; or rear switches, which are difficult to reach.
Once I got past the awkwardness of the unusual design, I found that I really liked the CS Black Pearl -- it's a great case to work on and work in. The fact that you can install the power supply by removing a panel in the rear of the case, the easily removable method by which the hard drives are internally mounted, and the vast amount of space in which to work all make this a pleasure to build a system with. It doesn't hurt that it's also lightweight and attractive, being made almost entirely of thick, black-tone, brushed aluminum.
You don't want to build your first system with the CS Black Pearl -- it's too unique, and you don't want to form work habits based on non-standard features and orientations. Plus, there is an added level of complexity in removing and replacing the faceplate on your optical drive if you want to use the provided brushed aluminum one. This isn't tough if you have some experience with it, but there are many small plastic parts that are easily broken with the wrong kind of force.
By the same rationale, I think that the CS Black Pearl is a wonderfully refreshing design. It breaks the monotony of ordinary system assembly. Brand new builders aside, I recommend this chassis to anyone who finds its looks and features attractive, which should be just about everyone.
|Device||Aluminum ATX tower chassis|
|Device support||Eight internal 3.5" drives, six 5.25" drives (two with brushed aluminum CD/DVD faceplates), one floppy drive (with faceplate), seven peripheral card slots, four 120mm fans, two 80mm fans|
|Market||Gamers, desktop PC enthusiasts|
|Price (retail)||U.S. ~$300 Buy it now from Amazon.com|
|Product Web site||Click here|