Completed Build, Performance, RGB, and Conclusion
The finished system is uncluttered thanks to rear cable management, and in practice the routing openings lost to a micro-ATX board were not significant so either form-factor can produce a clean build.
Around back things are still pretty clean without a modular power supply, with lots of extra room for bundled PSU cables along with all other cable mess (and of course all installed storage).
|Processor||Intel Core i7-7700K|
|Motherboard||ASUS Strix H270I Gaming|
|Memory||G.Skill Aegis 4 GB 2400 MHz DDR4|
|Graphics Card||AMD Radeon R9 290X (Reference)|
|Storage||Corsair FORCE LE 240 GB SATA 6.0 GB/s SSD|
|Power Supply||Seasonic S12II 620W|
|CPU Cooler||Noctua NH-U9S (PWM)|
|OS||Windows 8.1 64-bit|
Temps are what you might expect from a case with a tempered glass panel covering both intake and exhaust, though it manages better overal thermals than the Portal in this group. Thermals are not the 280X's strong point, clearly, but these temps are well under the limit for these components.
While among the louder cases for load noise due to the effort of the R9 290X fan under load, the Crystal 280X offers whisper quiet idle noise and good CPU load levels. With a quiet GPU this would make a nice low noise option (the R9 290X is a true worst-case scenario, as always).
Corsair's iCUE application can be used to adjust the color of either included RGB fan, and these are far more than your typical RGB enclosure's LED fans as you might have noticed from the photos.
There are multiple RGB lights around the perimeter of each fan, enabling various interesting effects - though single color options are of course available and the lights can be shut off completely. It's all controllable very easily using the software, and users can create and customize profiles to their liking.
The Crystal 280X RGB offers more than an extra helping of tempered glass, providing excellent construction a roomy interior for a trouble-free build. This dual-chamber design has advantages which are all the more apparent during construction of the system, even if overall size is affected at this form-factor. The RGB fans themselves, controllable through Corsair's iCUE software, offer a far better lighting effect than any RGB case fans I've seen to date thanks to a multi-element perimeter lighting structure.
The only downsides to the Crystal 280X RGB are relative size (being large for a micro-ATX case), and thermal performance, the latter of which was nonetheless expected given the front and top glass panels which cover most of the intake and, with no rear fan mounts, the top-mounted exhaust. Too much heat is able to build up behind the glass covering the primary component chamber for this to cool as effectively as it might, but understand that my results were measured using some of the hottest components around (Core i7-7700K and Radeon R9 290X reference design), and should be considered a worst-case scenario.
The Crystal 280X RGB provides a roomy interior some of the best build quality around - not to mention a triple shot of tempered glass and some very colorful RGB fans offering full customization. It is expensive at $159.99, though it has that 'premium feel' and a striking design to help justify the cost, and while thermals are not its strong point it does provide enough airflow to keep components running at full speed. Higher airflow would also help reduce load noise when the fans really have to spin up to keep things cool, so consider this a somewhat component-dependent choice.