Buying a budget case can be a tricky and occasionally risky business, with the cut-price tag often belying inferior build quality and a distinct lack of cooling. Hitting the right balance at a competitive price is certainly a tough ask, but Akasa thinks it has nailed it with the Freedom Xone. With 120mm and 140mm cooling fans - complete with dust filters, no less - fitted by default.
A second look quickly reveals that the Xone is a little more familiar than we’d expect a new case to be: it’s incredibly similar to the NZXT Beta we reviewed a couple of weeks ago. While the front fascia has been changed for a flatter, more utilitarian offering that’s heavy on ventilated mesh, the core chassis is a very similar design. That means that the Xone also uses steel, painted black inside and out.
A little digging soon revealed that the Xone shares all its internals with the slightly redesigned NZXT Beta Evo. This is a version of the Beta where the PSU mounting has been shifted to the floor of the case rather than the roof. In fact, the Xone and Beta Evo cases are so similar that you can take the side panel from one and slide it onto the other perfectly. We strongly suspect that Akasa and NZXT are buying from the same OEM, or one is making cases for the other.
Click to enlarge
Sadly, this doesn’t bode well for the Xone, as we weren’t too impressed with the build quality of the Beta. It was very much the same deal here, with steel that was disappointingly thin and too easy to distort. This was especially true when it came to the interior fittings like the motherboard tray. That’s not to say the Freedom Xone didn’t fit together well - like the Beta everything lined up well enough. However, there was little in the way of strength or solidity in this case.
Click to enlarge
The Xone does look to offer some desirable features though, especially at this price range. There’s a 140mm roof-mounted exhaust fan and a white LED-lit 120mm front mounted intake to provide balanced airflow through the case. There’s also plenty of mount points for additional fans should you want to upgrade cooling, with two 120mm fan mounts on the side panel and one 120mm fan mount at the rear.
There are also dust filters fitted over both the intake and exhaust fans, and the PSU intake in the floor of the case. While you need a screwdriver to remove these, their inclusion is still welcome. Like the Beta, the Xone also uses plastic tool-less fittings for both the 3.5in (of which there are five) and the five 5.25in drive bays. While these fittings feel a little flimsy, they do the job.
The Xone also benefits from a number of design tweaks over the NZXT Beta, with a cut-out in the motherboard tray behind the CPU socket. This will help you swap CPU coolers that require backplate without having to remove your motherboard.
There’s also better cable routing, with holes that are cut around where the motherboard will sit rather than behind it, as with the Beta. The motherboard tray and drive bays are also placed more toward the middle of the Xone than the Beta, which allows for more room between the motherboard tray and side panel for hiding cables.
Click to enlarge
However, as the PSU has been moved to the floor of the case, hiding unwanted PSU cabling is more of a challenge than with the conventional Beta. We found the best spot was within the 3.5in hard disk caddy, but tucking cables away here will interfere with airflow from the front intake fan. This exacerbates the problem that the perpendicularly mounted hard disk caddy creates.
The movement of the motherboard into the top corner of the case also means there’s less room to play with when installing hardware than in other cases. The roof-mounted 140mm fan in particular might cause problems for those with very large CPU coolers. Even owners of coolers using push-pin attachments will need to practise their finger gymnastics if they plan on any in situ hardware changes.