Cougar QBX Mini-ITX Chassis Review
Posted by Michael Pabia on Tuesday, October 6, 2015 - 9:00am
Gaming PCs are getting faster and smaller nowadays. Gaming PCs used to be dominated by tall tower cases but today you can see so many form factors available from those that are in a cube form to those that you can hang on walls and others in between. If you like it small and compact, the small form factor gaming PC is for you. Looking for a mini-ITX chassis can be quite challenging which I've personally experienced. A smaller chassis would also mean less supported hardware wherein size constraints limits your options. Cougar would like to improve that notion and provide and small yet very capable chassis which we will be looking at today. Follow us as we check out the Cougar QBX mini-ITX chassis.
Cougar's Take on the QBX
Enjoy full gaming and media capabilities wherever you want.
The QBX’s elegant, hairline surface front panel is the face of an ultra-compact case with one of the most stylish designs a pc case has ever seen. With the ability to house a full powered gaming computer with the latest technology, it allows the user to install up to 7 fans , thus providing the absolute best cooling on the market for a case of its kind.
A full, pro-level computer, including support for high-end graphic cards, up to 4 SSD, 7 fans with water cooling and much more, all in a compact case. QBX can fit almost anywhere you could want to put a computer in.
See and believe. The ultra-compact design of the QBX can host the best gaming technology of the market and keep it well cooled
- Support for up to 350mm Graphic Cards: Run everything on the market, and do it smoothly.
- Supports PS2 ATX Power Supply Units (depth up to 140mm): All the fuel you need.
- Supports Mini-ITX Motherboards: Full Capabilities, Minimum Space.
- USB 3.0 (two ports): Enjoy the full power of new generation peripherals.
- 1 Slim Optical Disc Drive Bay (Slim ODD) / SSD bay: Enjoy disc media formats or add more storage
- Space for a 3.5”HDD + Up to four 2.5” SSD or HDD: A world of High Speed Storage.
- Up to 7 fans with Water Cooling.
- Pro-Cooling design: the openings and fan placements are located to ensure a constant fresh air flow.
- Independent Power Supply Airflow: The air does not even get into the case, it cools your PSU and gets out again.
- Compatible with Water Cooling Systems (Radiators up to 240mm with a single 120mm fan)
The image above is a size comparison between the Cougar QBX and an EVGA SuperNOVA P2 1200-watt power supply. It is a bit larger than the ID-Cooling T60-SFX mini-ITX chassis I've previously reviewed but still a very compact case I could carry very easily.
Move on to the next page for the specifications and packaging.
Before proceeding, Cougar made a warning with regards to power supplies compatible with the QBX chassis. Although the QBX supports standard ATX power supplies, one must be keen with the input socket orientation. Pay attention to a power supply unit's AC socket and plug's orientation and confirm it corresponds to one of the formats defined in the pictures below.
- Case Type: Mini ITX Case
- Motherboard Type: Mini ITX
- Dimension (WxHxD): 7.01 x 11.46 x 15.12 (inch) / 178 x 291 x 384 (mm)
- Optical Disk Drive (ODD) Type: Supports ONLY Slot Loading Slim ODD
- 3.5" Internal Drive Bay (HDD): 1
- 2.5" Drive Bay (HDD/SSD): 4
- Expansion Slots: 2
- I/O Panel: 2 x USB3.0 / HD audio
- Cooling System: Maximum of 7 Fans
- Front: 80mm Fan x 1 (optional)
- Top: 120mm Fans x 2 (optional)
- Rear: 90mm Fan x 1 (pre-installed)
- Bottom: 120mm Fans x 2 (optional)
- Left Side: 120mm Fan x 1 or 240mm radiator with a single 120mm fan or 120mm radiator with a 120mm fan
- Cable management system: Cable feed through on the motherboard tray for easily routing and hiding cables.
- Fan Filter (Cleanable):
- 1 x Bottom Filter (pre-installed and removable)
- 1 x Front Filter (included, installed by the user)
- Water cooling support
- Left Side：240mm radiator with a single 120mm fan or Left Side：120mm radiator with a 120mm fan
- Max. Graphic card Length: 350mm
- Max. CPU cooler height: 105mm
- PSU: PS2 ATX Type (up to 140mm long)
About the written specifications, I did find out a few things you can do with the chassis that's not written above as I explored the potential of the chassis such as the maximum CPU cooler height and the ODD bay which is said to be for slot-loading ONLY. We will tackle that later in this review.
The Cougar QBX comes in a colored box and based on my experience, colored boxes tend to mean a flagship chassis or premium quality. Let's just say my expectations went up a notch higher just seeing the packaging of the QBX.
The packaging made it through an overseas shipment from Taiwan so we could say Cougar's packaging on the QBX worked really well.
Accessories included with the Cougar QBX chassis is a pack of screws with only two cable ties which I thought was not enough, a user's manual, another pack of smaller screws for the ODD drive installation, then a 80mm fan filter for the front 80mm fan mount if you do plan to install a fan there.
Now let's take a closer look on the next page.
Closer Look - Exterior
Both sides of the Cougar QBX chassis have identical panels which is majority composed of aluminum mesh. This gives you a glimpse of what's inside at the same time provide cooling unlike sealed panels with acrylic windows.
The front has a the 'hairline surface' which really feels and looks like brushed aluminum. Great job Cougar! Other brands tried to immitate brushed aluminum with their cases and failed but this certainly looks appealing.
Next thing I noticed about the front panel are the I/O ports. Aside from the two USB 3.0 ports, the audio ports are metal sockets contrary to the cheaper plastic sockets in green and light red colors, keeping up with the premium quality in materials.
Here's a look at the front and rear of the QBX chassis.
The top panel may look like a plain and flat top panel but there are fan mounting holes at the top with ventilation.
The top panel slides to reveal the hidden ODD bay which I think is very cool.
At the bottom, the case feet are quite high which gives the Cougar QBX case quite a good distance from the surface. The holes on the feet are for the screw placements of 120mm fans. You can install two 120mm fans at the bottom which we will also see later on this review.
The bottom also has a removable fan filter and it isn't an ordinary wire mesh.
At the four corners at the bottom are rubber feet for the case to have a firm hold of any surface.
Let's move on to the next page for the interiors.
Closer Look - Interior
The interior of the Cougar QBX chassis is quite amazing I have to say. The parts of the case is mostly modular where you can remove it, add hardware and put it back in the case. I also find the layout very smart which makes it compact yet capable of storing more hardware than what I've expected. Let me try to explain as much detail into each part of the case's interior below.
This is the left side of the QBX where you will be greeted with an interior panel once you've removed the side panel.
This interior panel is screwed and can be removed as shown in the image above.
This interior panel has screw holes for a 120mm fan and a drive cage for a single 3.5-inch hard drive and two 2.5-inch hard drives.
The drive cage module on this interior panel can be removed.
Cougar says you can install a 240mm radiator on this panel but can only mount a single 120mm fan on it. Obviously, a 120mm radiator will also fit just fine.
Here's a look at the right side of the chassis. There's a huge cutout hole on the motherboard area for easy access on the motherboard's back for cooler installation.
At the bottom behind the motherboard area is a 2.5-inch drive bay for SSDs. I did find this useful but there's an issue about it we will talk about later.
Here's a look at the Cougar QBX without the side panels and interior panel. It already looks open and accessible enough to install your hardware but it even gets better.
The top panel is screwed securely by two screws at the rear of the chassis.
Once unscrewed, you can remove the top panel for an even better access inside the QBX for a much easier installation of hardware.
The top panel has two slots for 120mm fans.
However, I was only able to install a single 120mm fan at the rear fan slot since the other slot has the power supply beneath it and the power cable is an obstacle for a typical 120mm fan with 25mm thickness. If you do want to install a fan there, it will have to be a slimmer one.
Removing the side panels and top panel will give you a bare skeleton of the chassis shown above. Let's move on to the build and installation for you to find out if it was easy to build with the Cougar QBX mini-ITX chassis.
Build and Installation
Before we start with the build and installation, some parts of the QBX chassis is really smart and tricky so I'm going to maximize our build by using every possible hardware we can install inside the QBX. I've used the following hardware below for this review:
- Processor: Intel i5-4670k
- Motherboard: ECS Z97i-DRONE mini-ITX
- CPU Coolers: Cryorig H7 / ID-Cooling IS-40 SFX
- Memory: Kingston HyperX 10-Year Anniversary Edition 2X4GB 1866Mhz
- Graphics Card: Gigabyte GTX 770 OC Windforce
- Drives: Kingston HyperX SSD, SuperSSpeed S304 SSD, Seagate Momentus 5400 RPM 2.5-inch HDD, Western Digital 500GB HDD
- Power Supply: Silverstone ST45SF-G SFX PSU
- Power Supply Cables: Silverstone PP05-E Flat PSU Cable Set
- Cooling Fans: NZXT FN120 V2, Thermaltake Riing 12
- Chassis: Cougar QBX Mini-ITX
- ODD: Slim Tray-loading Internal Bluray disk drive
Hidden Front Drive Bay and ODD Bay
At the front of the chassis, behind the front panel is a module for the slim slot-loading ODD and a single 2.5-inch drive. Since I will be demonstrating how to use the ODD bay, might as well utilize the hidden 2.5-inch drive bay.
This is the module removed from the QBX chassis. You do need to remove it if you want to install an ODD and a drive on it.
When you install the ODD and 2.5-inch drive, make sure the ports are all at the bottom just like in the picture shown above.
Install the module back to the QBX chassis.
Although Cougar noted you can only use a slim slot-loading ODD, a typical tray-loading ODD can also work but one must note the thickness of the ODD's front tray shield which should be also as slim as the ODD. Anything wider will not fit the slot.
Here's the power supply bay of the QBX which is located in behind the front panel and closer to the right side of the chassis. The power supply is mounted vertically with the rear and input power socket facing the top of the QBX.
I've chosen to use a SFX power supply to give me more space inside the chassis for cable management and better airflow. A standard ATX PSU can also fit the power supply bay but do note that it needs to be shorter than 140mm or 14cm. Notice the power cable plug extends outward which is the obstacle if you plan to add a 120mm fan directly above it. As far as a standard 120mm fan with 25mm thickness, the cable will be an obstacle.
Based on the orientation, the power supply would be getting fresh air from the side of the chassis blowing hot air upwards.
Let's continue with our build and installation on the next page.
Build and Installation Continued
Motherboard and Cooler
I will feature two setups for the Cougar QBX wherein on maximizes the CPU cooler height limit.
For this review, I've used an ECS Z97i-DRONE mini-ITX motherboard and this board has a challenging layout for its SATA ports but this will have to do.
For the cooler, I've used a Cryorig H7 cooler without the shroud and this cooler has a height of 145mm, 40mm taller than what Cougar recommended. So yes the QBX can fit a much taller CPU cooler of up to 145mm but that would disable you from installing the inner side panel.
With a cooler this tall, there's just enough space for you to put back the outer side panel as shown above which looks cool if you have a shiny CPU cooler.
Here's the other setup with a SFX CPU cooler so that the inner side panel can still fit.
The inner side panel can hold a 120mm fan or load the drive bays with one 3.5-inch hard drive and two 2.5-inch drives or have everything on the panel.
With the outer side panel, this is how the Cougar QBX would look like.
There are many drive bays in the QBX chassis and they are in three separate locations. One that we already covered is the hidden front drive bay with the ODD bay.
The other 2.5-inch drive bay is behind the motherboard tray. I did find an issue with this bay since an 8mm SSD drive would have troubles fitting into it.
I did fit a SSD on it which is a SuperSSpeed S304 thinner.
On the inner side panel is a drive bay module.
The outer bays can hold two 2.5-inch drives.
The inner part of the bay holds a 3.5-inch hard drive.
Bottom Cooling Fans
Screws for the 120mm fans at the bottom of the Cougar QBX will have to go through the feet of the chassis as shown above.
Here are two 120mm fans installed at the bottom of the case. There are Thermaltake Riing 12 fans.
With the Gigabyte GTX 770 OC Windforce graphics card installed, the fans of the graphics card can still spin but it really is a tight fit that I wouldn't recommend. If you do plan to install fans at the bottom of the case and still be able to fit a 2-PCIe thick graphics card, you should look for a slim 120mm fan. As far as installing a 240mm radiator at the bottom of the chassis, the screw holes aren't aligned to fit a 240mm radiator since the two fan slots have a small gap in between.
Let's wrap up this review on the last page.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
There are a lot of things about the Cougar QBX mini-ITX chassis that I really find impressive. Let us begin with the appeal and design of the chassis because it is important to create a good and solid first impression. The hairline surface front panel that looks and feels like brushed aluminum is very impressive. Even the photos capture that perfectly.
The size of the Cougar QBX is perfect for a mini-ITX chassis. It may not have a handle but it is certainly easy to pick up and carry it along to let's say a LAN party. The layout of the QBX chassis is what impressed me the most. Of all the mini-ITX cases I've reviewed so far, this is the most capable chassis where it can store the most hardware particularly drives and fans. If I had slim 120mm fans, I could probably install four, two at the bottom and two at the top.
The structure of the Cougar QBX is sturdy, worthy to be called a premium quality chassis. Ventilation and cooling capability of the QBX is also very good considering that there's ventilation holes all over the chassis and the multiple fan mounting options I mentioned above. There's really nothing in the QBX that I could find substandard, even the bottom fan filter and chrome audio ports has a touch of class.
With all these great features mentioned above, another great thing about the QBX is the value. You can get the Cougar QBX mini-ITX chassis for only $54.99 at Newegg. With that, we will give the Cougar QBX our Editor's Choice and Best Value award.
- Compact with smart layout
- Brushed aluminum-like finish (hairline surface)
- Four 2.5-inch drive bays
- Ventilation and cooling performance