RAIDMAX is known for their futuristic-looking, heavily-styled cases. The Blackstorm is another one of their visually-striking offerings, a mid-tower gaming-oriented chassis with a very novel party piece. Available in both black and white with blue trim (the latter bears a striking resemblance to R2-D2), the Blackstorm looks like a decent choice in the mid-tower market.
Like many of Raidmax’s cases, the front panel of the Blackstorm is an angular, sculpted piece that frames the fascia with an industrial look. From the front, the case appears muscular and intimidating, but the extensive styling doesn’t intrude on the practical stuff: four quick-release 5 1/4″ drive bays at the top provide decent expandability, and there’s a 3 1/2″ drive bay at the case’s “waistline.” The bottom third of the case is dominated by a 120mm blue-lit intake fan covered by a thick honeycomb grille. The whole construction—the fit & finish—is generally very good, except for the standard peripheral power connector on the front 120mm fan, whose Molex pins were loose enough in their plastic housing to make aligning them for connection very difficult.
The top of the case is solid—there’s no fan or radiator mounting points—for two reasons. First, the “styling feature” that includes the I/O panel extends back about a third of the case’s length, and secondly, the Blackstorm uses a top-mounted power supply. The I/O panel has a pair of USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port, the usual audio jacks, and the power/reset buttons. I would’ve liked to see USB 3.0, even a front-panel passthrough cable to the rear I/O panel.
Here’s the case’s party piece: the Blackstorm doesn’t open in the normal fashion. Rather than unscrewing a pair of thumbscrews and pulling off the side panels, the sides are bottom-hinged and open downward when you pull the latch at the top of the panel.
The latches feel very sturdy and are more than strong enough to double as carrying handles when needed, since they require a pretty considerable lateral pull to open. The right panel has a small grille to provide ventilation to a (not included) 80mm fan mounted above the hard drive cage, but is otherwise plain.
The left side, however, has a massive mesh grille (identical to the ones found on Raidmax’s Atlas and Serian cases) which has mounting points for either a 120mm or 180mm fan. Since the Blackstorm comes with a blue-lit 180mm fan preinstalled, I can’t see any users downgrading to a 120mm.
The motherboard tray, as well as the part of the back of the case containing the expansion slots and rear I/O panel, is a single removable piece. Held onto the right outside panel by a couple thumbscrews and a latch, the tray allows you to mount the motherboard and most of your components without the rest of the case getting in the way.
It’s very useful, except I would’ve preferred a cutout for mounting a CPU cooler backplate. In addition, the expansion slot covers themselves feel rather flimsy and sharp. The Blackstorm fits video cards up to 11″ (barely), although it intrudes on the 3.5″ drive bay and if you want to go with a CrossFire or SLI setup you may need to remove the hard drive cage.
Be warned: if you install a large CPU cooler on the motherboard tray, the top-mounted power supply will get in the way and prevent you from closing the case. There’s plenty of clearance inside the closed case, though, so you can easily install the CPU cooler’s mounting bracket first and then attach the heat sink itself once the case is closed.
A second negative consequence of the hinged panel and motherboard tray is the fact that there are no cable-routing holes, so the inside of the case ends up looking very cramped and disorganized when everything is installed.
The hard drive cage, which latches securely into the bottom of the case and is secured with a thumbscrew, holds your drives securely using a system of rather cheap feeling metal and plastic inserts that can be stored in a small blue tool box when not in use.
The tool box is mounted under the cage itself and is a rather nice touch.
Although it doesn’t feel like the hard drive shims were made with much care, they do their job perfectly and are very compact, an important quality in a case that is somewhat tight on space to begin with. Although there’s no anti-vibration rubber anywhere in the hard drive cage, the whole assembly is fitted very precisely and there is minimal vibration noise even with three 7200 RPM drives spinning at full tilt.
It’s a similar story of simple, functional design and bargain-basement materials with the tool-less 5.25″ drive bays up top. The plastic locks that secure your drives do their job fine, but the pegs that actually latch onto the drives’ mounting holes are rather thin plastic; I would’ve preferred metal.
When all is said and done, the Raidmax Blackstorm is a case that I seriously believe should have been built as a full-tower. As a mid-tower case, there is just not enough space inside to accommodate all of its novel functions. A bump in overall dimensions would have allowed for some cable organization, more CPU cooler clearance, maybe a bottom-mounted PSU. It would make multi-GPU setups more feasible. Overall, the design elements of the Blackstorm are all excellent—aesthetically, it’s very impressive, and there are many functional elements that are great ideas—but the whole assembly is let down by the lack of space. You’ll select parts to fit the case, rather than the other way around, and end up with a machine that can’t quite back up the case’s intimidating looks. There’s lots to like about the case, and I’m sincerely trying to justify it—but in the end, I cannot wholeheartedly recommend it.
The Blackstorm is currently available for $79.99 on Amazon.com.