Xoxide Laser Cut Fan GrillesReview date: 5 November 2002. Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
Fan grilles - or "grills", for those of you of the American persuasion - are useful things.
On the outside of equipment, they stop people sticking their fingers in the fan, which is particularly important for higher powered fans that'll slice your finger if you touch them, and probably break a blade in the process.
And, both inside and outside equipment, fan grilles stop other objects - cables, mainly - from poking into the fan and causing havoc. A cable that drifts into a fan will either make an irritating noise as its insulation is slowly worn away, or silently jam the fan solid. Both of these things are, in case you're wondering, Bad.
Fan grilles also, however, look pretty. Even plain wire ones. They're usually chromed, they're sometimes gold-toned, and they provide a little bit of 1956 Cadillac appeal for what is usually a rather tedious box.
If the basic concentric-circles-and-cross grille design isn't good enough for you, though, then a custom grille may turn your crank.
Custom grilles, cut from sheet metal or plastic in a variety of different shapes, don't actually work any better than the wire kind. Actually, they're likely to work worse, because the sharp-edged flat cut metal opposes air flow more than round wire, all things being equal, and also because many custom grille designs have holes big enough for cables or fingers to fit through.
But they look cool.
So here are six nifty laser-cut stainless steel grilles from Xoxide. These are the versions for 80mm fans; you can buy them for $US14.99 each. There are versions for 92mm and 120mm fans as well, for $US15.99 and $US17.99 each, respectively.
In no particular order, the grilles are:
The biohazard symbol is quite an attractive thing, provided it doesn't conjure up images in your head of broken containment vessels and guys in moon-suits and screaming melting people.
Thanks to such dangerous associations, and its curvy-pointy interestingness, this symbol's been used for decorative purposes in lots of places. On PCs, yes, but also on other nifty hardware.
As a fan grille, the biohazard symbol gives you enough metal to keep things out of the fan pretty well, without severely impeding air flow. It's therefore reasonably practical, as well as pretty.
This Biohazard grille also serves as a good example of the general manufacturing quality of these things. They're not the same on both sides.
This is a close-up of the front side of the grille. It's very accurately cut - probably with a 10.6 micron wavelength far-infrared carbon dioxide laser, in case you need to know. It doesn't, however, have the finger-slicing edge that you'll find in cheap guillotine-cut metal, like the stuff that's used to make low cost computer cases.
The other side of the grille, though, isn't nearly as pretty.
Laser cutting doesn't magically remove metal; it melts and vaporises it. Most of the melted and vaporised metal has the decency to go somewhere else in the cutting shop and not end up being part of the final product, but some of it stays. The back side of laser-cut metal will thus have a scorched look around the cuts, and have slag and "recast" on it, if it isn't ground away after the cutting operation.
Slag is a messy mix of oxide and metal. Recast is molten metal that's re-solidified back on the surface of the metal. You can see plenty of both in the above picture...
...and in more detail in this even closer image.
Since fan grilles aren't Space Shuttle components, and since you only see one side of them, it's acceptable to leave gunk on the reverse side. If it bothers you, you can grind it off yourself; knock off any bigger lumps with the chipping implement of your choice (this Biohazard grille was the only one I got for review that featured a slag-lump anywhere near as big as the one in the middle of the picture above), and then use some wet-and-dry paper to dress up the surface.
To the untrained eye, it's just some dude with a submachine gun. To most PC gamers, though, it's instantly recognisable as the Counter-Strike symbol. If this interminably-popular Half-Life mod is your thing, then this is the grille for you. If it isn't, it probably isn't.
This isn't a terribly good grille for keeping fingers out of the fan, but compared with what that AWP-lover on the roof just did to you, fan injuries are as nothing.
A rather angry looking Chinese dragon, complete with eye, and with neat-o spiral screw tabs on the edges.
The complexity of the dragon design, unfortunately, means this grille has a lot of slag around its rear edges. The gunk is visible from the front, though it won't be terribly obvious if there's a plain black fan behind the grille. This grille's also been scuffed up rather a lot in the clean-up process.
The Dragon is far from unsalvageable; a bit of abrasive paper and some idle minutes will let you tidy it up nicely. It just looks a bit ratty in stock trim.
Got blue case lighting and want to enhance your spent-fuel-rod-pond motif? Amused by 1950s nuclear mania? A supporter of the Springfield Isotopes?
Here's your fan grille, then.
Atomic's electron-orbits design may be, strictly, incorrect, but it's hard to cut probability clouds out of sheet steel, so you're stuck with them. This grille looks good, and it works reasonably well for object-exclusion purposes too.
Look. Viewed purely as an attempt to translate the, um, classic Mudflap Girl profile image into fan grille form, this thing is a complete success.
It's even got a teeny little nipple.
Viewed as a thing for you to actually put on your computer, however...
Let me be frank. If you're a heterosexual male who has not dedicated himself to celibacy, please don't do it. You'll be sorry. I mean it.
I am perfectly willing to concede that there are, in the world, women who find the Mudflap Girl to be a witty, playful expression of honest and uncorrupted appreciation of the female form. And who won't even charge you money to tell you so.
You will never see one of these women at a LAN party.
Where you will see one of these women is: At a truck stop.
If you are at a truck stop, and you are not the sort of large and husky chap who fits in well in such places (for your information, if you've ever used the word "chap", then you probably aren't), there is no way for interaction with one of these women to go well for you. And surprisingly few ways that do not involve a visit to the hospital.
Yes, OK, it's arguable that if a girl's looking at the fan grille, she's already in your bedroom. But who are we kidding, here. Either she's a friend of your sister's and she mistook your door for the one to the bathroom, or the experience will change her attitude.
I am so serious when I say "Pick one of the other ones, son."
Maybe not this one, though.
The Iron Cross means different things to different people.
To some people, it's not just a German military decoration first awarded in the early 19th century, in the "serif cross" shape that's been around for a long, long time.
Now, this isn't a Nazi symbol. All of the WWII Iron Crosses had a little swastika in the middle; this doesn't. And it's not hard to find the Iron Cross shape itself displayed by very definitely non-Nazi organisations; the modern German armed forces wouldn't use it as their logo if it meant something 'orrible.
That said, though, lots of enthusiastic pale-skinned gentlemen with very little hair and extremely solid footwear are of the opinion that Patriotic German Equals Nazi, and the Iron Cross is a symbol of German patriotism, so, according to them, the Iron Cross is a Nazi symbol. Plenty of other people now share that opinion. The first group of people are likely to proudly display it; the other group of people are likely to take exception.
If you're not part of the first group yourself, I think you'd do well to not buy this particular fan grille, just to avoid... unpleasantness.
If you are a neo-Nazi, of course, then hey, be my guest. Paint swastikas and SS symbols on your computer case to go with the Cross. Then go to the LAN party venue the day before the party's going to happen, bang your head on the computer a few times, and throw yourself down the stairs. That'll probably save your fellow gamers some time.
OK, OK, you're not a Nazi, you want the thing for some other reason, it's not as if it's a blooming swastika, and just because some neo-Fascist numbskulls are trying to co-opt it doesn't mean it's evil. Maybe you just always play Axis in Day Of Defeat, or something. Fair enough.
It just strikes me that there are plenty of people in the world who won't care to engage in a detailed discussion of the fine points of German military symbology with you. These people will just pour Coke into your computer while you're not looking, if you give them reason to think you're a little bit goose-steppy in your spare time.
If you like the Iron Cross design, and your circle of friends aren't likely to react in an unfortunate way to it, then go ahead and buy it. I'd give it a miss, though.
Peculiar designs aside, these grilles are solid products. They're not what you'd call dirt cheap, but by computer accessory standards they're not expensive. They're well made, and even the ones with really big holes provide at least some protection for, and from, the fan underneath.
Nobody needs these things, but I think some of you know, in your hearts, that you want them.
Off you go, then.
Review grilles kindly provided by Xoxide.