The Blackhawk Ultra PC Case from Rosewill is designed to push a lot of air. Most full-tower ATX cases will ship with three to four fans, typically arranged for front intake, side intake, rear exhaust, and top exhaust. The Blackhawk Ultra ships with seven. Everywhere you’d normally think to put a fan, there’s already a fan on this system. Multiple front fans, multiple top exhaust fans, rear exhaust fans, and an enormous side intake fan coat the interior. There’s even room up on the side panel for another giant fan, and there’s an unusual spot for an exhaust fan directly behind the CPU.
The next thing you’ll notice is that this case has a huge interior. Rosewill advertises that it can hold up to HPTX, a form factor that very few motherboards have ever used. Here’s what that means in relation to the other various form factors: ATX, Extended ATX (E-ATX), and Enhanced Extended ATX (EE-ATX) should all fit this case. Rosewill specifies a 13.6-inch by 15-inch maximum board size, which is going to cover virtually every workstation and consumer board built in the past decade. Only a handful of products are going to be larger, which makes the Blackhawk Ultra a credible two-socket tower case if you’re looking to buy one.
The Blackhawk Ultra’s aesthetics are trim and conservative—it’s not as striking as the black-on-white Rosewill Thor V2-W or the NZXT Phantom 630. The front is a mesh grill with four 5.25-inch drive bays. The last bay has a 3.5-inch pop-out section for anyone who needs to mount a floppy drive(!) in the 21st century. All of the USB ports and jacks are mounted on the top of the case. Two USB 2.0 ports and four USB 3.0 ports are placed up top, with a standard pair of audio in/out ports, the power button, and the reset button. The deep notch just behind the top panel isn’t just for show— there’s a hot-swap SATA port inside it for easy hard drive mounting. Both 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch drives are supported. That’s a smart feature, particularly if you have an internal HDD you use for backup but only access intermittently.
Other features of the Blackhawk Ultra include the option to mount a secondary power supply at the top provided you remove one of the pre-mounted fans and a set of fan control hubs that are already wired and ready to go when you unpack the system. The case supports up to 10 PCI-E cards and has space for up to seven radiator hoses. There’s room for ten 3.5-inch hard drives, and up to 14 HDDs if you use the 5.25-inch drive bays for internal storage. Converter kits for doing so are also included.
Working inside the Blackhawk Ultra’s voluminous interior is easy, but there are a few niggling points that need to be addressed. First, there’s the fact that the power supply routing holes at the bottom of the case are obnoxiously small. That’s annoying, particularly since a case this huge is clearly designed for major enthusiast needs. Routing through the tiny holes at the bottom of the chassis was genuinely difficult, and needlessly so.
One of the advantages of the Blackhawk Ultra’s fan-crazed design is that it allows for dense component configurations without risk of overheat. Packing 10 hard drives into the side bays will effectively choke the benefit of the front exhaust fans, for example—which is why there’s an additional fan mount in the 5.25-inch drive bays, too. The side panel’s grille is large enough to mount up to nine 120mm fans (it comes with a single 230mm fan by default). The power supply bay at the top of the case can also be used for a small internal radiator, if you’ve got no need for additional power or a redundant supply.
One downside to the Blackhawk Ultra is the dearth of fan filters. In a system with nine fans, proper filtration is essential, but the Blackhawk Ultra has just a single filter for the PSU fan. That’s a major oversight for a case designed to move this much air volume. The Blackhawk Ultra is a positive-pressure case that maintains a higher air pressure inside the chassis than outside, but while this reduces the growth of dust bunnies, it does not stop them. Positive pressure cases still need fan filters to avoid regular cleanings, and the Blackhawk Ultra doesn’t have any.
The other thing missing from the Blackhawk Ultra is a fan control knob. This is a feature the lower-priced Thor V2 offered, which is why it’s a bit surprising to see it absent here. With seven fans and two fan hubs, this is a case that cries out for fan controls, and preferably more than one.
Rosewill has attempted to compensate for this by picking fans with good noise characteristics. While it’s somewhat louder at idle than I prefer, relying on 230mm fans has ensured that the sound is full-bodied, not the high-pitched whirring that characterizes smaller fans. Temperatures are excellent, as one would expect from all the cooling, but the volume is higher than most other cases until you really load the Blackhawk Ultra up.
Whether or not the Blackhawk Ultra is a great case option depends a great deal on what you want to do. For most enthusiasts, there are frankly better options. The Thor V2 offers most of the benefits of the Blackhawk Ultra, and it’s much cheaper. The NZXT Phantom 630 is one of the best cases we’ve tested (stay tuned for the review), and at $40 cheaper, it might be the better option if you’re an enthusiast with fairly modest needs.
If you need a case that can handle a giant motherboard, lots of external radiator tubes, a secondary power supply pay, or you really like the cooling and integrated external HDD options, the Rosewill Blackhawk Ultra is a great case. It’s true that there aren’t many people out there who actually need 10 hard drive bays, but if you happen to be one of them, you need a case that can handle them. The small power cable cut-outs and lack of a fan controller are issues that make it more difficult to recommend the Blackhawk Ultra without caveat, but if you need a chassis that can handle a massive motherboard, go for this one.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc