Cases Misc Reviews

AeroCool’s Dream Box – Wait… What??

Sometimes, we just need that extra level of customization in a computer enclosure. Of course, with products like the In-Win Chopin, we are sometimes able to get options like picking the colour of the accent portion of the case, if we are so fortunate. I suppose that’s nice enough.

With the Aerocool Dream Box, however – the subject of today’s review – we get quite a bit more tweak-ability, if you will. With parts that seem to be based on the OpenBeam style kits (extruded aluminium beams), the Dream Box offers almost unlimited options when it comes to building what you want. In fact, the Dream Box is so customizable that you aren’t even limited to building PC enclosures – you can just as well use the system to build other handy fixtures, as we will demonstrate in short order.

And indeed, that’s one of the greatest advantages of a kit like this – it’s not just a PC case, and its utility thus extends far beyond that of a metal box. Aerocool illustrates this themselves with examples of creations on the Dream Box website that include a helicopter model, and even a wild boar, of all things! Further, I’ve used the Dream Box in a couple of different ways myself.

Enough idle chat regarding the Dream Box, though – let’s take a peek and see how well it holds up as an enclosure.

About Aerocool (from their website);

AeroCool Advanced Technologies (AAT) was founded in 2001. At the earlier stage of operation we were committed to share our technical expertise and innovative design in providing total-solution for thermal management in industrial and personal computers.

With our solid and innovative design experience in thermal engineering, AAT was the first company to adapt U-shape heat pipe and heat column (1″ diameter heat pipe) technologies to CPU cooler design for desktop computer.

These new applications became a trend and leading the market in heat pipe application in desktop computer industry. Our unique and innovative design also made “AEROCOOL” as one of the favorite brand name in over-clocking and PC DIY (Do-It-Yourself) market.

With this successful experience in thermal products, AAT has expanded its product lines to computer peripherals such as computer case, fan, mutli-function control panel and power supply etc.

With our creative thinking and innovative design, we had launched some successful PC cases and multi-function control panels (for example, we were the first company to introduce “Double-Bay” (2 standard 5-1/4″ bay) front panel controller).

Today Aerocool is one of the market leaders in the “Gaming Market”. Our strong brand and product image are well received by gamers and enthusiasts world-wide. We offer a full line of performance products including gaming cases, gaming PSUs, gaming mouse, gaming headsets, gaming keyboard, gaming headsets, Multi-functional panels and fans.

Aerocool will continue to innovate and deliver the best user experience to gamers world-wide.

Components

The box includes the following;

Type Size Quantity
Aluminium Pipe 80mm 7
Aluminium Pipe 150mm 12
Aluminium Pipe 200mm 8
C Clip 20
4-Way Bracket 9
3-Way Bracket 6
90 Degree 2-Way Bracket 8
45-Degree 2-Way Bracket 6
180 Degree 2-Way Bracket 8
End Cap 12
Structural Bar 4
Structural Bar 4
PSU Bracket 1
90 Degree Bracket 2
IO Unit 1
Screws and Nuts Lots!

Unboxing the Dream Box

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Alright, let’s get started! After unpacking the enclosure from the box it shipped in, we find that Aerocool has elected to go with a very bright and bold design for the packaging, perhaps accentuating the strong design language of the parts within. Not a bad look, in my opinion.

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On the rear of the box, the various components of the Dream box are listed, along with with some more build ideas. This is a particularly helpful inclusion given the modular nature of the Dream Box, though you’d best consider what and how you want to build before you buy.

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Turning the box to the side, the bullet points from the front of the box have been translated into a bunch of different languages, for those who cannot read the linguistic disaster that is the English language. (Ed. note: Silent letters! What’s up with that?)

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Flipping the box around, we find that the remaining panel has a wireframe graphic printed on this side. The QR code links to the Dream Box website, thankfully. No sneaky Rickrolls here…

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Above are the components included in the kit. We will detail these below… except the screws, because everyone knows what a M3 screw looks like and does. Right. Right?

In  Detail

“ALUMINUM PIPE”

The aluminum “pipe” (really a beam more than a pipe!) comes in three lengths, measuring 50mm, 150mm and 200mm in length. The aluminum beams form the major structural component of the kit. They use a straightforward  T-slot-style format like the tradition aluminium extrusion kits, enabling parts to be mounted at any point along the length of the beam.

Although not a feature Aerocool themselves would advertise, for the modders out there who are comfortable making cuts, the choice of aluminum means it’s easy enough to trim the beams to an exact length if you have a very particular final design in mind.

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“METAL BEAM”

The metal “beam” (really a bar rather than a beam!) comes in two lengths – 245mm and 395mm long. These bars include mounting holes and slots to assist in the mounting of motherboards, hard drives, optical drives and other components. They can also be used as further structural support within your creation as well.

The bars are mounted to the aluminium beams with the included C-Rings (see below).

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“PSU BRACKET”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, you can mount a power supply unit to your build with this straightforward part. The bracket disappointingly only supports an ATX power supply, which is a shame, as I would have liked to see a SFX bracket included as well. You’ll have to buy an aftermarket adapter, it seems.

In any case, and once again, the C-Rings are used with this part to mount it to the rest of your design.

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“MULTI-PURPOSE BRACKET”

A simple, right-angled bracket, that has two screw holes and a slot. Not much else to say:

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“I/O UNIT”

This I/O unit provides the power and reset buttons, MIC & headphone jacks, two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 connections. This unit can be mounted to an aluminum beam with two C-Rings.

“C-RING”

These are the main mounting parts in the Dream Box kit. They attach around the aluminium beams, are securely clamped to it with a screw and nut, and can be used to attach most of the other components to the beams. The C-Rings are made from a dense plastic, with rubber padding to assist in holding the part in place. Metal would have been preferable, but they are definitely robust.

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“4-WAY JOINT”

This joint allows you to connect with aluminum beams in four directions. Useful for mid panel cross beams, etc.

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“3-WAY JOINT”

This joint allows you to connect with aluminum pipes in three directions.

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“2-WAY 90° JOINT”

This joint allows you to connect with aluminum pipes in two directions, but at a 90∘ angle.

 

“2-WAY 135° JOINT”

This joint allows you to connect with aluminum pipes in two directions, but at a 135∘ angle.

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“2-WAY 180° JOINT”

This joint allows you to connect with aluminum pipes in two directions, but at a 180∘ angle (i.e. in a straight line)

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“JOINT CAP”

Finally, you can use this cap to close off the unused part of a joint. It can also be used as a foot of a design.

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Building the Dream Box

 The mechanics of the Dream Box are simple – most of the parts you will need are included (more on that in a few). With respect to tools, all you need to build the kit is a Phillips screwdriver.
Assembly is simple: just use the joints to link together aluminium beams, and use the C-Rings to mount other parts to the structure.
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One shot, many mounting methods. Apart from the predictable end-on joints, shown in various formats above this image, the picture just above shows a few more – sliding nuts, C-Rings and using the sliding nuts as a regular fastener.
 
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Closer to the sliding nut method. The nut behind the screw can slide along the aluminium beam, enabling almost infinite part positioning.
 
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 Using the same nut as a fixed nut, we can attach parts to the C-Clips and other parts.
 
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The C-Ring in more detail. The tighter you screw in the M3 screw, the tighter this grips the aluminium beam.

The Builds

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A microphone stand! With the vibrations of my keyboard passing through the standard Blue Yeti microphone stand from my desk, I felt that a custom stand may assist in better quality recordings. The stand achieves this, quite well in fact. Try doing that with a SG-09!
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…Speaking of which, it’s about time we assemble an actual enclosure, yes? How about a test bench!
Beyond being an appraisal of the Dream Box as an enclosure, we’re happy to say that this open workbench-style setup will actually become the standard test bench for SmallFormFactor.net. I feel that the design and flexibility of the Aerocool Dream Box parts allows this to be a long term solution for our thermal testing, providing a flexible platform that supports most hardware and eliminates most concerns with respect to clearance. That said, we continue to iterate on the layout, so a “version two” will be coming soon, and will be featured in an update article for our review test bench.
 

Conclusion

The Aerocool Dream Box is a fantastic, creative product, and I applaud Aerocool for bringing it to the market. This product will enable not only creative use of hardware, but also the opportunity for simple prototyping of layouts. I had a lot of fun building with the parts provided with the kit, and much of the reason to purchase is derived simply from that experience and experimentation. The intent and design of the Dream Box is such that those who aren’t interested will know that fact the moment they see it, but for those who are intrigued, the Dream Box delivers on its vision.
I do have a few suggestions for Aerocool to make in a Version 2, however:
  • A proper corner piece needs to be included. The ability to make a pure cube, with three beams coming away from the joiner, would make building a case easier and cleaner
  • Less screws, or pre-threaded screws, would be a great upgrade. Having to thread M3 screws into holes with powdercoating in them became quite tiresome. (And while you’re at it, make them hand-tightenable!)
  • Re-usable ties would be appreciated. The cable ties included in the kit are very much single use. The addition of reusable ties, or velcro strips (as I have used in the test bench images above) would add to the re-usability of the kit significantly.
  • A proper HDD and SSD bracket – none was included!
  • And, along the same lines, a SFX bracket would be appreciated. In most case products, a SFX to ATX adapter would work, but in an open design like the Dream Box, it seems the same adapter would lead to wasting of space and external volume.

Overall, I really like the Dream Box. While there are a few areas that need improvement in my opinion, the overall package is a very good product.

The Aerocool Dream Box is available for around US $150 on Amazon.com