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Introduction

As an enthusiast, it takes a lot of time, patience, and perseverance to really push the limits of your computer whether it be for performance or aesthetics. For this review, when it comes to aesthetics, nothing shows the time and care of your work better than sleeving the cables in your computer.

It should be noted that my experiences with cable sleeving are pretty limited. Therefore, I am learning as I go.

With that said, even with my limited experience, I hope to be able to shed light on some notable differences between different manufacturers.

The Contenders

Budget Black Expandable Cable Sleeve Kit (TechFlex FlexoPET)
https://www.jab-tech.com/Budget-Black-expandable-cable-sleeve-kit-pr-2385.html

th_IMG_1621.jpg

The package above, which is a variation of TechFlex's FlexoPET, was purchased in April of this year from Jab-Tech. For a grand total of $6.99 before shipping, you get a variety of sleeves that come in 1/8", ¼". 3/8" and ½" sizes. It also comes with heatshrink in 9 mm, 19 mm, and 24 mm. FlexoPET does come in a variety of colors, but for this review, I only have the black in my possession.

While there certainly is a lot of variety within this package, there simply isn't a whole lot of any one size to go around; especially if you are looking to do a single sleeve job on a power supply, for example. However, if you are not very particular, you may be able to get away with using the larger sized sleeves, and bunching up some cables, which will make your job much easier, but leaving the result to not be as aesthetically pleasing, in my opinion.

Once we move on to actually opening the package, we find that the 1/8" sleeving, in particular, has been folded like so:

th_IMG_1622.jpg

The drawback to this is that it will make it very hard to snake your cable through the sleeving without running into a lot of snagging all along the way. The larger cables were curled up in circles, so they did not pose such a problem.

Going back to the 1/8" specifically (as it directly compares with FTW sleeves) take note of the weave pattern:

th_IMG_1627.jpg

It might not be easily perceivable in the above picture, but in real life, the sleeving is very porous and easily falls apart as soon as you make your cuts. While it may not matter if the cable itself is black for this black colored sleeving, when you are trying to hide red or yellow cables, it will prove to be an impossible task as the brighter colors will show right through as I will demonstrate later.

th_IMG_1628.jpg

Above, is a picture of the type of heatshrink that comes with this budget package. It isn't openly advertised, but it likely has a shrink ratio of 2:1 from my personal usage.

FTW Sleeving
http://ftwpc.com/cables-and-sleeving/ftw-sleeve.html

Because FTW is a growing player in this enthusiast sector, I feel I should briefly share my overall shopping experience in this segment.

I purchased my sleeving on 7/7/11. At the time, the pricing was listed at $0.39 per foot, however, the current promotion (as of 7/13/11) puts the new pricing at $0.29 per foot. At first, I wanted to purchase a little bit of every color offered, but I ultimately decided to pursue some sort of theme so I chose the colors black, white, electric blue, and orange for the sleeving, and all black heatshrink.

Due to the large volume that I ordered, I was contacted by Adam to add a couple more dollars to my order as my initial choice of the small Flat Rate box was not going to realistically hold all of my items together. I sent the remaining amount for shipping charges, and within a few hours, I had a tracking number sent to me by email. Shipping was fast, as usual, through USPS Priority Flat Rate, and once I opened the package I saw exactly why I needed to pay more:

th_IMG_1611-1.jpg th_IMG_1615.jpg th_IMG_1618.jpg

The Medium Flat Rate Box was literally filled to the brim! Each color was put in its own separate zip-lock bag and all sleeving was curled; not folded like the FlexoPET above. Right off the bat, this allowed less snagging when sleeving cables, which offered a great "out of the box" experience.

As you can see in the following picture, the weave pattern is very tight:

th_IMG_1629.jpg

Please note that the fraying you see is due to my particular sleeve being cut from the beginning of the reel. In real life, once you cut it yourself, unless you purposely push your finger through the sleeve or pull it apart at the ends, it should not look like that naturally.

FTW also offers heatshrink that costs $0.64 by the foot, or you can buy bags for $3.99 that contain 50 pre-cut pieces that measure 15 mm each. I chose the pre-cuts for the sake of convenience, but those who are good with their hands and are meticulous enough would do well to save a few dollars and cut it themselves to custom lengths.

It is also worth noting that the heatshrink is advertised to have a shrink ratio of 3:1. This should provide a nice and tight grip to the sleeves. Keep in mind, at present, the only colors available are black and white.

The Test Subjects

Two Swiftech MCP655-B Water Pumps*

th_IMG_1637.jpg

Scythe Gentle Typhoon AP-15*

th_IMG_1652.jpg

Corsair AX1200 PCI-E Cable

th_IMG_1672-1.jpg

*NOTE: One of the pumps and the AP-15 fan are already sleeved with the TechFlex in the pictures.

The Results

Swiftech MCP655-B Pumps

I had mentioned above that FlexoPET is very porous, and here is a very good example of that:

th_IMG_1638.jpg

The two cables that are shown above are actually both yellow cables (one from each pump) that lead into the molex connectors. The top one is sleeved with FlexoPET, which does not do a good job of concealing the actual cable. The bottom one is, of course, sleeved with FTW sleeving.

The difference is literally like night and day. Even if you held the FTW sleeved cable up to the light, you would be hard pressed to find any hint of the cable that is being concealed, regardless of what color it is.

No contest here. FTW is full of win for this round!

Here are some more gratuitous pics of my FTW sleeved pumps:

th_IMG_1643.jpg th_IMG_1646.jpg th_IMG_1647.jpg th_IMG_1648.jpg th_IMG_1649.jpg th_IMG_1651.jpg

Scythe Gentle Typhoon AP-15

When using the FlexoPET, I was unable to sleeve the cables of the AP-15 fans using the 1/8" sleeving. Due to the way the sleeving was folded flat, and the fact that the sleeving itself was very tight to being with, the pins would snag as soon as I started sleeving, leading to nowhere. Therefore, I had to use the larger ¼" sleeving, which was too big for all three cables put together, let alone a single cable, but it is what I had to work with so I made the best out of it:

th_IMG_1653.jpg th_IMG_1654.jpg

It may be hard to tell, but the porous nature of the FlexoPET shows through again with all three cables.

It is also worth mentioning that the heatshrink that is bundled with this package does not do a good job of holding down the sleeving. With its 2:1 shrink ratio, this leaves a lot of wiggle room for the sleeve to slide up and down the cable.

The FTW heatshrink, on the other hand, does an amazing job of securing the sleeving:

th_IMG_1663.jpg

What is interesting is that the sleeving that FTW sells is also labeled as 1/8" in diameter, same as one of the strands that FlexoPET sells; however, I was easily able to all three of the AP-15's cables into a single FTW sleeve, whereas with the FlexoPET, I was unable to even get a single cable in:

th_IMG_1658.jpg th_IMG_1662.jpg

This most likely has to do with how the TechFlex was folded up when packaged, but this is definitely not the way to have your product perform right out of the box.

And again, with FTW, the weave is nice and tight where none of the bright colored cables showed through at all. Another win for FTW!

More pics of the fan:

th_IMG_1666.jpg th_IMG_1669.jpg

Corsair AX1200 PCI-E Cable

Note: I only sleeved this cable with FTW sleeving, but I wanted to highlight some of the problems I ran into and possible solutions that may be helpful, while also showcasing the other colors I purchased.

This cable presented the biggest challenges for me, as a beginner. For starters, I didn't own a molex pin removal tool. I was making do with a paperclip at first, but after the first few attempts, which left my fingertips raw and only succeeding in getting one cable free, I ended up making a second purchase at the FTW site for their pin removal tool.

mortimersnerd dropped some advice for me to try and use some heavy duty staples as a temporary solution, in the mean time, while I waited for the package to arrive. A quick stop to the local Office Depot and Walmart later, I was back to work with this PCI-E cable.

Sure enough, the heavy duty staples (3/8") worked well in getting the remaining cables out. However, this left my fingertips in worse shape than before. I later discovered that I could have saved myself all of the agony by using a pair of alligator wrenches to feed the staple down the pin hole, but as I said earlier, this is still a learning process for me.
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The other major challenge that I ran into with this cable was the overall fitment of the sleeving and the heatshrink. In order to get that nice, clean, uniform look, it takes A LOT of patience, a steady hand, and meticulous measurements. Because of all of the mistakes I had already made, I found myself going through the pre-cut heatshrink a lot faster than anticipated; so I ordered some more of that along with the molex tool.

Originally, I had used a blow dryer to heat up most of my heatshrink, but it would be an experiment in dexterity for me to balance everything while heating things up. I thought about buying a heat gun for this very purpose as it would take a lot less time due to how much hotter they can get over a normal blow dryer, but I would still run the risk of doing some serious damage to myself if I wasn't careful - similar to the blow dryer. I then thought of using lighters, but my fingers were already really raw from using the staples and paperclips.

And like running into a brick wall, it hit me. I came up with the ingenious idea to light up a small candle! This worked wonders and allowed slightly better control over how the heatshrink settled. Now we are finally in business!

All of the above allowed me to turn this:

th_IMG_1672-1.jpg

Into this:

th_IMG_1671.jpg th_IMG_1670.jpg

The above is still a pretty poor attempt, but I am hopeful that the more I do, the better I will get. Let's hope the molex tool will make things easier.

With that aside, the colored sleeving from FTW is very bright and vibrant. The pictures don't really do them justice as the electric blue and orange look so much better in person. (I also just noticed that I seem to have this New York Knicks or New York Mets color theme going on too. This actually wasn't intended, but it does seem pleasing to the eye though!)

Conclusions and Afterthoughts

By now, you might be thinking that this really wasn't a fair fight to begin with, and for the most part you may be right. The comparison above showcases similar products, but in completely different pricing categories, and for obvious differences in quality.

So why should you even bother to consider buying the TechFlex FlexoPET to begin with? Well, the positive aspects of it are that it is cheap, easily accessible, comes with varying sizes of material, which all serves as a good starter kit to get your feet wet, and for all intents and purposes, it could be the solution you are looking for if you are not too picky.

However, if you can afford the slightly higher cost, you are not afraid to put in the extra work to do single cable sleeving, you want something that is easier to work with, and you are looking to add that high-quality, special touch to spiff up your rig, then FTW Sleeves should be at the top of your short list. There aren't many U.S.-based operations that offer as competitive of products, selection, and customer service; and with the special pricing that is going on now, you can get more sleeving for less money!

FTW is currently working on adding more colors to their sleeving lineup. Although some of this has already been confirmed to be in the works, I, personally, would like to see some greens, yellow, purple, and silver/gray to really round out their selection. More importantly, I would also like to see matching heatshrink colors as well.

But even with their current selection, they already stand to be a very competitive player in this niche market. At the rate that they are growing, once they really build out their full line, they may be a force to be reckoned with.
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Quote:
Originally Posted by t-ramp;14223169
Great review!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rchpi36;14223192
I second that
+1 rep
Thanks guys! I really do appreciate it.
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I was planning on buying some MDPC-X soon to add to this review, but Rushmore has posted some great comparison pictures here:

http://www.overclock.net/case-mods-general-discussion/1065954-ftw-vs-mdpc-x.html#post14221777

Pricing has also dropped considerably for MDPC-X, so it seems that we are finally starting to see some good, long-overdue competition in this market! These are definitely exciting times!
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Wonderful review, I'm glad you like it.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by covertash;14223508
Pricing has also dropped considerably for MDPC-X, so it seems that we are finally starting to see some good, long-overdue competition in this market! These are definitely exciting times!
biggrin.gif
Now we all see what kind of profit margin MDPC-X has been running for the last few years. They dropped their price $.10-.15/ft as soon as we launched.
 

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covertash, you should mention that the TechFlex kit uses FLEXO PET. If you were to compare that to Clean Cut, there would also be a drastic difference.

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Quote:
Originally Posted by SimpleTech;14224466
covertash, you should mention that the TechFlex kit uses FLEXO PET. If you were to compare that to Clean Cut, there would also be a drastic difference.

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Thank you Simple! I have made the proper corrections now.

Yes, I would really like to get a hold of other samples and do more comparisons. Putting this together took a lot of work, but it was good fun at the same time. Obtaining some MDPC-X and Furryletters will be on my short to-do list over the coming weeks.
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Great review
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I have a bunch of Furry CleanCut sleeve as back up (never know when I might get a new psu
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). I rarely have to singe the tips.

For my first sleeve project, Furry was out of stock, so I ended up buying a "clean-cut" sleeve from Fry's Electronics. It was a bit more expensive, the color was more charcoal than shiny black as in the TechFlex, and the weave was a bit different. Once Furry was back in stock, I just purchased from him. I think the TechFlex is a bit better than Fry's. I can't comment on FTW or MDPC since I never used them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Quote:


Originally Posted by wermad
View Post

Great review


I have a bunch of Furry CleanCut sleeve as back up (never know when I might get a new psu
). I rarely have to singe the tips.

For my first sleeve project, Furry was out of stock, so I ended up buying a "clean-cut" sleeve from Fry's Electronics. It was a bit more expensive, the color was more charcoal than shiny black as in the TechFlex, and the weave was a bit different. Once Furry was back in stock, I just purchased from him. I think the TechFlex is a bit better than Fry's. I can't comment on FTW or MDPC since I never used them.

Thank you.


Haha yeah, I over-ordered a bunch of black sleeving with FTW just in case as well, but thankfully that is coming in handy with all the mistakes I have been making these past few days! This sleeving project that I am working on happens to coincide with my watercooling project, and my vacation, all at the same time; so I have been working frivolously to get everything the way I want it.


Hopefully this will turn out as good as I envisioned it.


Once this is finally done, I will try to get my hands on some Furry and MDPC-X to make a proper comparison.

Quote:


Originally Posted by Nova.
View Post

Hmm when I do sleeve, I think I know who I will be buying from


Nice!


Make sure that you also buy a molex pin removal tool from FTW, if you don't have one already. This has saved me a LOT of hassle and has kept my sanity, especially when I have made mistakes and need to redo the sleeving!
 
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