You wouldn't believe how difficult the sides are to get back on once off: it requires more hands then you have available, but can be done with just one person using their head and shoulder to assist in the awkward pressing, lift and slide motion. Alternatively you could lay the case side down on the floor or desk and while holding the front with your other hand press down and then push both hands towards each other.
Take it from me, just do yourself a favour and don't open it because you shouldn't need to. On a plus point, Commodore has included black thumbscrews to match the core case aesthetics and thankfully the back is black as well, even if the inside is just ambiguous grey steel.
Not only is this boring, it also doesn't do the machine any favours when it comes to thinking about what makes your investment special. I guess the fortunate thing is that you won't see it if you take our advice and leave the case's side firmly in place. Commodore has used 5mm sound deadening on both sides to kill some fan and hard drive noise, but nothing is used on the top, front, back or bottom of the case to complete the sound deadening exercise. Everything is screwed in solidly and the cables are kept very tidily with zip ties, although these could be black to match the cable braiding.
The side fan pushes a lot of air in, but it hits the PSU heatpipe/heatsink shroud and CPU heatsink side on. It's all good for the heatpipe array and chipset cooling, but the 70mm fan and blue shroud could be done away with since the side fan shifts so much air all it needs is a shroud to direct the flow. There is no choice on the website for a plain window without fan, although you can unplug it if you find it too intrusive, but this means doing the funky awkward dance to get the side back on. Overall it's not that quiet, but it's not overly invasive either: it's pretty much a rush of air rather than a whiny irritating noise.
There is no fan controller, except for the Asus BIOS software which can be linked to temperatures but these were set at 100 percent on 'Duty Cycle Mode' anyway. A hardware switch or rheostat option would be nice in the spec list for an easy, custom control over cooling, but would it be at the expense of users not knowing what they are doing and turning it down too low, then complaining their systems are unstable.
A SATA DVD-RW is used, so there's less cable mess than an IDE drive. It's held in with a quick release connector, although no extra connectors for the 5.25" drives are provided, you can select an additional optical drive and there is even the option of a Blu-ray burner, but you can add another £500 premium on top of the cost of the rest of your system for that!
But what about HD DVD? We asked Commodore and got the following response: "...we are also looking at options for offering a Blu-ray/HD hybrid drive."
With this case the size it is, the included pair of Point of View GeForce 8800 GTX graphics cards invade the space the hard drives use. This means that, despite having several 3.5" slots, only three can be used in total. Commodore does offer four, but I can't see where a fourth hard drive could be easily installed.
As there are already got three hard drives in there in the XX model, that really does limit your future expansion. You could try and force one into the lower 3.5" bay, behind the front I/O panel, but it's not the intended design. The drive bays aren't removable or sit side facing like a few other cases, this makes removing the existing drives a task and a half. In order to remove a drive, you first need to remove all PCI and PCI-Express cards to make enough room to get your hands in. The problem is Catch-22; make the case bigger and people will complain it's too big and not portable enough to carry to a LAN party, but keep it small and the heat density is greater, making cooling harder and it's more difficult to fit everything in.
An Arctic Cooling Freezer Pro 7 CPU cooler is used, which is certainly better than the standard one bundled with box processors, but it's not good enough to really get stability when overclocking one of Intel's quad-core processors. Since the only available processor option is a selection from Intel's quad-core line up, it makes for a strange choice if it's trying to appeal to the gamer.
On the operating system front, you only get the option of Vista Ultimate with the XX model. It kind of makes sense for an Ultimate PC, but if all you need is Home Premium why does Commodore force you to have it all? Some might argue why force the consumer to have Vista in the first place and to an extent we can agree given the mixed reception to the OS, however DirectX 10 games are already starting to dribble through and without Vista you're going to be left out. Linux? Dual booting? It's not something the vast majority of consumers who are looking for a pre-built system will consider, but it doesn't stop you doing it yourself.
Commodore does offer Home Premium on the G and GS models, but the GX and XX are designed to be the best available so therefore come with Ultimate only.