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Hotmodz.comís Xpod Xbox Replacement Case
>> This is the first in a number of reviews of available third party Xbox Case replacements.

Xbox-Scene


Hotmodz.com sent this unit in for review to XS a week ago and weíve taken the time to look it over and assemble and disassemble it a few times.

Xpod Package as sent included:
Xbox-Scene


- Acrylic Panels for the Top, Bottom, Sides (2), Front and Rear as well as the Drive Tray Panel. (also includes 2 smaller panels used to secure the Power and Eject Button PCB.)
- 2 Acrylic Buttons
- Selection of Screws and nuts in Ĺ and ĺ sizes.
- Acrylic Joining cubes for the corners and matching brass screws.
- 4 carriage bolts, with matching nuts, washers and caps
- Acrylic Feet
- Metal Risers and Screws for motherboard and Power Supply Mounts.
- White Gloves

Optional Extras sent for the review but not directly reviewed:
- Hotmodz Jewels with Acrylic Top.
- Customs Xbox-Scene Laser Etched Top (used in this review)

Tools used: Driver set, wrench and/or vice grips.

The packages, when properly assembled makes an acrylic clear case that measures 14.5"L,9.5"W,4.5"H.

First I needed to remove all the innards from a working xbox. (always fun.. and always good for cut or two.) For this I chose an Xecuter 2.3b (done with pinheader method)

So without instructions to start (they are available now from Hotmodz.com) I set forth to work with this unit. I carefully opened the parcel, separated the panels from the joining parts. (The package was well packaged with shrink wrap, bubble wrap and foam chips ensuring the product received was in excellent condition.)

Assembly is not difficult, but it can be time consuming peeling the protective paper from both sides of each and every piece of acrylic. Starting with the bottom, you screw in the risers for the motherboard and power supply on the bottom panel. Mount the motherboard and power supply and fasten with the supplied screws. This would be the best time to install the rear fan.

Attach the sides, and the back using Acrylic cubes and screws. Then mount the Hard drive, Controller ports, and Dvd Drive to the drive panel. Using the carriage bolts secure the Drive Panel to the unit. Then take the front panel, and using the 2 small panels sandwich the Power and Eject panel between them and secure them to the front panel. Then apply the supplied acrylic buttons to the button PCB micro switches. (using the adhesive goop that was already on the acrylic buttons.

Plug in the Power/Eject PCB into the xbox motherboard and attach the acrylic front panel to the unit. Once done, attach the supplied lid and you are done.

The process I used differs only slightly from the now available instructions. I recommend people follow those instructions. The unit was easy to assemble and took less than 25 minutes to do. (I was in no rush).

Having completed the first build, Iíd like to point out some small areas of concern. The 2 fan grill areas (the primary at the rear of the case and the secondary on the dvd side of the case) both properly fit an 80mm fan. Unfortunately, neither spot will accommodate the stock xbox fan without some creative dremel work on the case. So be prepared to purchase an 80mm fan. (Posted specs on the site did note that they accommodate the 80mm unit but donít mention you canít easily use the Stock Fan. Most modders will not see this as an obstacle though.

Second issue I found, was that the space between the top of the DVD Drive and the Top Acrylic Panel wasnít enough to place many of the lighting options available today. Example many of the LED and cold cathode kits will not fit in the center of the top of the case because of the lack of clearance between the Dvd Drive and the Top Panel. Itís not a big issue but as you can see from some of the photos the optional laser etched Tops and the laser etched Jewels (that are place dead center) proper lighting for these can be troublesome. (EL Wire worked well though) Again.. this isnít anything that will stop an adventurous modder.

I would recommend that anyone wanting to be creative with the top of the lid get customs etchings from Hotmodz.com on the HD side of the lid as it will provide all the space necessary for your lighting pleasure.

My third concern was how well the case performed under sustained loads with heat issues. I spent some time testing some intense titles and switching tasks to get that Hard Drive spinning and thrashing pretty decent. I found that the Xpod with a single 80mm fan running at default speed (no software fan control upgrade, no 12v mod enabled) preformed decent, causing a couple of degrees increase in heat with the one basic fan. (I recommend everyone either use dashboard software control to run the single fan faster, do a 12v mod, or add the second fan to drop the unit back down to stock case levels.)

With all those concerns.. I was still very happy with this case. Non of these were critical issues and nothing that should stop anyone from making a purchase in my opinion. After all this is a case for modders and what better way to personal it than by solving minor issues.

I did have a fourth concern. To address it I had to disabled the unit and remove the Xbox board with the Xecuter chip. I replaced it with an Xbox with an Xenium Solderless install. My concern was well founded. People with ANY (Chameleon, Xenium, Xecuter Xapter, X-Chip) Solderless Adapter that requires it to be screwed down to where the screw near the LPC is will have an issue to tackle. The risers included with this package are finely threaded. All of the current Solderless Adapters come with a longer replacement screw that has wider threading that is incompatible with the risers included. Option one would be to find a riser with wider threading, but I had none. Option two, was to take a 1 inch screw from an 80mm fan install kit and Dremel it in half. This screw now worked perfectly, in tandem with a metal washer or two to secure the solderless adapter in place.

Again a minor issue and nothing any modder wonít quickly overcome. This issue is currently being addressed by Hotmodz.

Iíve spent a lot of time detailing 4 minor issues with this Xpot Replacement Case. However.. it has far more going for it that it would appear by what Iíve written so far.

The entire case is precision laser cut acrylic and it shows. ľ inch acrylic used for all the panels except for the top and the Button PCB area means this case is strong and heavy, and durable. The attention to details, measurements, and edges are excellent. Every screw hole on the case is perfectly aligned and straight. The Rectangular holes for the controller ports on the front, and the connector ports on the rears are equally perfectly cut. The supplied Acrylic Cubes, and their matching holes in the panels and the screws used to fasten them are also perfectly aligned.

You can actually build this whole case with your fingers and simply twist tight all the screws and fasteners and itíll be secure enough for normal use. (ideally.. use 1/8 twist with a screw driver to secure all the screws though) At no time did the holes/screws cause a crack or split granted I was cautious.

The specs list that this case can hold 2 HDís, however I managed to jury rig a third in the case with no problem. For those that want to try and run this box with 2 or more Hdís Hotmodz included a hole near the nic port for a standard rotary switch. (like the one used in Project 411 style mods)

There is a lot of space for a number of lighting schemes, including EL Wire, Cold Cathodes (note the one grievance earlier) and other LED options.

The space in front of the HD on the front panel can easily accommodate an LCD 4x20 panel with minor Dremeling. (or not.. just place the LCD behind the acrylic for a clean no cut look) Below the Controller ports on both sides of the front of the case also can sport the same LCD units, or a combination of smaller units like the temperature LCD units that are popular.

The Rear panel has a lot of clear space to accommodate small add-ons like the placement of small NIC and/or USB hubs, or for VGA or Stereo out ports. (follow XS guides on how to do these)

Every time I look at the case I get new ideas for customization with lights, LED and LCD options, and even some paint. Painting the interior and masking off key areas (so they remain clear and unpainted) will provide some awesome customization potential.

Pros:
- Cost, at 55$ US for the base unit itís hard to beat.
- High Precision, Laser cut Acrylic that mates to other panels perfectly.
- Aesthetically pleasing design and attention to detail like adding the acrylic feet and Acrylic Buttons to complete the look.
- Dvd portion of the drive tray accepts any stock drive past or present including the old Philips with the bottom ďbumpĒ
- Space for extra fans and hdís.
- Lots of lighting and Customizing potential
- White Gloves, included to aid in a finger-printless build. (I still had to take them off periodically so I ended up with prints all over)
- Options for Clear or UV Top variants, as well as Custom laser etched Jewels.

Cons:
- Itís clear acrylic, so fingerprints will now become your enemy. (build it and clean it with the supplied white gloves and this wonít be much of a problem for you.
- Unable to use stock Fan without altering the case or the stock fan. (you will need to have or acquire an 80mm fan for your box if you havenít already.
- Heat: this case with one basic 80mm fan runs a bit warmer than a stock case with a stock fan. (easily remedied with additional fans or 12v mods, and/or software control)
- Solderless Adapter users will need to be creative to secure their adapters with the existing supplied risers.

Can I recommend this Xpod Case Kit?

Most definitely, especially if you canít cut Acrylic clean or straight like me. For those that need a DIY Case Replacement Option that is quick, easy and painless to install this is the kit to start with. Lots of room for all of your future mods, like Leds, LCDís, and other gimmicks. For anyone who says you wonít feel a sense of accomplishment after building an Xpod, you simply havenít tried one. Xpod provides enough challenge to a regular modder, while allowing an entry level modder to step up.

Enjoy.
Review VideoClip: WMV
Hi-Res Pics: Pictures
Follow the ongoing discussion : Case Mod Forums

Buy Now: Hotmodz.com
(August 5 04:31 CEST) - (direct link to article)
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