Cooler Master HAF X Review

jlqrb - 2010-05-15 13:26:32 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: jlqrb   
Reviewed on: May 25, 2010
Price: $199.99

Introduction:

The HAF 932, despite its age, continues to be a force in the enthusiast case market. This is in large part due to the HAF 932 being a full sized chassis that is not only stylish and well built, but also one that comes with the latest and greatest technologies, exceptional cooling, as well as room to fit virtually any type of setup. All these attributes helped to heighten the HAF 932's popularity with enthusiasts. However, with the case originally being released back in 2008, many features that were once considered a luxury in design, have now become standard. So to continue the evolution of the HAF series, Cooler Master is introducing the new HAF X, which will become the new flagship of its current line-up.

Like the 932, the X is a full sized chassis that continues with the original rugged and industrial look that has become a staple of the HAF series. It also adds all new features, such as twin USB 3.0 ports, dual hot-swap bays, nine rear expansion slots for quad GPU use and much more. All of these new features came from the Cooler Master design team, which were said to be focusing on key elements to deliver a case with excellent airflow, easy cable management, support for the latest hardware and even water cooling. Cooler Master has great record when it comes to adding cases to a popular series, but with the HAF cases being no ordinary line-up, Cooler Master will definitely have to push themselves to come up with something great.

Closer Look:

The HAF X comes packaged in a glossy black box that is rather small for a full sized chassis, but this just means that there is no excess packaging or wasted material used. On the front panel of the packaging, there is an angled image of the HAF X, with the red LED fan glowing at the bottom of the case. Next to the image of the case, we get our first look at the new logo, which comes with the HAF X name standing out in front of a fiery bed of sparks in the background. Turning to the reverse side, you will find multiple images of the HAF X, with one image being the front of the case, one of the back side and a side shot showcasing the interior. Each image is a diagram that highlights a specific features of the case, both internal and external. Under the diagrams are four images that are close-ups of some of the new features and each of these comes with a short explanation found under the image. Turning the box to the side you can see that one side lists the specifications and the other has a smaller image of the case, product sticker and some general information in multiple languages. Inside the box, the HAF X comes wrapped in a thin layer of plastic with two extruded polystyrene foam inserts on each side for protection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The accessories that are included with the HAF X come in a small cardboard box found inside of the case. Before the box can accessed though, the widowed side panel must first be removed. The accessories found in the box consist of installation hardware (screws and stand-offs) wheels, cable ties, case speaker, 8-pin power cable extension, VGA bracket and a special cable used to convert USB 3.0 to USB 2.0. Also included is an installation guide, but this is found inside the large box that houses the HAF X and not the accessories box. As far as extras go, Cooler Master definitely didn't leave anything out, and there is more than enough here to get the case setup.

 

 

If you're looking forward to seeing the HAF X in action as much as I am, you will definitely want to keep reading!

Closer Look:

Right off you can see that Cooler Master did a good job maintaining the industrial/military feel of the HAF series with the HAF X. The case itself is a 30 pound, .8mm SGCC steel chassis, with plastic front and top bezels. It is with these and various other features that give the HAF X a very bold and almost tank like look, and this resemblance to a modern war machine was by no means a mistake. While in development, the HAF X designers drew inspiration from actual battle tanks. This is evident in the tread-like design that runs down each side of the front bezel and continues at the bottom of the case, on to the two mesh exhaust ports at the top. Also continuing on the rugged look, the HAF X has a large amount of mesh, that is found throughout the front and top bezels. This includes all six of the bay covers and extends down to the mesh cover that sits in front of the 220mm intake fan. The front I/O panel is actually part of the top bezel. It tilts over the top portion of the chassis to connect to the front bezel and it looks almost seamless.

Turning the case around to the back shows that the gray is gone and the whole chassis, inside and out is now painted black. This not only helps with the appearance, but it aids in cable management as well. Also on the back, are three large, pre-drilled holes that are used to route 5/8” ID tubing from a top-mounted water cooling radiator. The third hole can be used to allow cables or wiring to be passed though the back panel. One feature that really stands out on the rear of the case are the nine expansion covers. This is in place of the usual seven or eight and for those of you that aren't familiar with what this design is for, it's very simple. With nine expansion slots, the HAF X will allow for the installation of up to four, dual-slot graphics cards to be used simultaneously. This means that owners of the HAF X can use four HD5870 graphics cards in a Quad-CrossFireX setup or four GTX480's utilizing Nvidia's SLI technology, making this an exceptional case for hardcore enthusiasts. Getting a look at the sides of the case you can once again see the military-inspired design in action as each side panel has a look that is similar to that found on the door of a Humvee or possibly a military gas container. The side panel comes with a clear side window and a 200mm intake fan. That fan do a great job of keeping your components supplied with cool, fresh air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The front panel on the HAF X comes with a few very interesting options. First, let's look at the top portion of the panel, which is where the power, reset and fan LED on/off buttons are found. Each of these buttons feels very secure and are all easily accessible, but what is interesting is how the HAF X uses a built in shutter that can slide back and forth. This protective panel will be useful to prevent any accidental damage or shut downs. Directly below these buttons is the front I/O panel. This panel comes with the standard ports, such as: e-SATA, FireWire, USB 2.0 and headphone/microphone audio, but what's different is the use of USB 3.0 ports. This makes the HAF X one of the first to utilize this technology on the front panel and does so by means of actual USB 3.0 cables that extend though the case from the top panel. These cables can then be routed out one of the water cooling holes in the back and plugged into the USB 3.0 ports on the motherboard. This option is a bit awkward, but since there are no other methods to achieve this at this time, it is a very nice addition to the case. Cooler Master is also aware of this and have stated that when a better method becomes available, they will supply HAF X owners with the means to use that new method. Behind the front panel on the top bezel, are two mesh ventilation areas that can house dual 200mm fans. Even with the ability to fit two fan in this area, Cooler Master has opted to only make one standard, with the other fan being optional. This top panel also as the ability to hold a 240, 360, or 280mm radiator with no modification needed. The radiator is simply added by removing the top 200mm fan(s) and then securing it in place using the pre-drilled screw holes.

 

 

The front and top bezels on the HAF X are ABS plastic with mesh covers that use a internal clipping system to lock the bezels to the chassis. Both are easily removed and once off, you have access to the top fan as well as the front I/O circuit board. The way Cooler Master setup the circuit board is very clean and instead of using a soldering method, they gave each cable a designated port to plug into on the board. This makes removing and replacing (if necessary) the cables very easy. Also since each cable can be removed, you can switch the blue USB 3.0 cables with the additional black USB 2.0 converter cables that are supplied with the case. This is nice because if your board does not support USB 3.0, or you prefer not the use the pass though method, you can change these ports to standard USB 2.0. Also, when using the USB 2.0 cable in place of the 3.0 ones, you no longer have to route them to the back of the case and they can instead be wired directly to one of the internal motherboard USB headers. 

 

 

 

On the front bezel of the HAF X, there is room to install four 5.25" devices, with two hot swap bays below, making for a total of six removable bay covers on the front. Each bay cover comes off the same way and this is by pushing inward on the side clamps and pulling the cover out of the case. The covers on the inside have a very thin dust filter that will reduce the amount dust that enters the case.

 

 

The hot swap bays are found directly below the four empty 5.25" bay slots on the front bezel. The hot swap trays are removed the same way as the covers above, but instead of just being a cover, they have an additional tray where a 2.5" or 3.5" storage drive can be installed. The drives are secured to the tray by using the screws that run from under the tray and into the screw holes on the drive. After the drive is secure, it can be placed back into the bay where it plugs into a SATA power and data connector. Power to this area is supplied by means of a molex power connector that plugs into the back side of the circuit board and data travels though a SATA cable that is plugged into the back panel and then into the motherboard, making a direct connection with the SATA port. This means that there is no reduced performance when using a hard drive in the swap bays.

 

 

 

 

Below the 5.25" device bays is a 220mm clear intake fan with red LEDs that can be turned on or off by a button on the front panel. The fan sits behind a removable, filtered mesh cover that comes off easilly to allow the filter and fan to be cleaned of dust without having to remove the whole front bezel. To switch out the fan, the bezel does have to be removed. Once the fan is out it can be replaced with a 220mm, 140mm, or a 120mm fan.

 

 

The bottom panel of the HAF X comes with a large ventilation area that will improve airflow to the power supply, unlike the rest of the fan areas though, there is no filter included here. A filter would of course help reduce the amount of dust that is drawn into the power supply, but this will most likely not be a huge issue. Also on the bottom, there are four large rubber pads that will help stabilize the case. you can also use these points to attach wheels to the bottom of the chassis. These wheels secure to the base via screws that run though the bottom panel and slightly in to the case. With the wheels attached, the case the HAF X becomes much more portable and with the case weighing 30 pounds even before any hardware is installed, this is a very welcome feature. To ensure that the case does not accidentally move around when it is meant to be stationary, the wheels can be set to a locked position.

 

Closer Look:

The interior of the HAF X is very well laid out and since the case is a full tower, there's plenty of room to install even the largest components. For motherboard installation, the HAF X uses the standard motherboard staff-offs that are positioned throughout the tray to fit specific motherboard sizes. The sizes supported are mATX, ATX and EATX, with Cooler Master stating that some non-standard motherboard types will be accommodated as well, such as at of the EVGA X58 Classified 4-Way SLI. This however, will not apply to all non-standard sizes. This large amount of internal room allows the HAF X to support graphics cards that are 13.46 inches in length. This give plenty of spacing for large graphics cards, including room for the largest of them all the HD5970. The additional room also applies to CPU heatsinks and with the HAF X supplying 6.88 inches, even the tallest CPU coolers will fit. Some of the additional features found on the motherboard tray are a CPU backplate access hole that is rather large and should fit well across multiple socket types and cable management holes that use rubber grommets to improve the ability to conceal cables. Also with .5 inches of spacing between the side panel and motherboard tray it should be a breeze to run all cables though the supplied space to keep the case clutter free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After you remove the mesh cover on the 5.25" bay, you can can add an optical drive and secure it using the tool-free installation clip. This is the same design that was used by the HAF 932, so most people should be familiar with how it works. For those that aren't, I can say it is the easiest design you will probably ever use. All that is required is to slide a drive into the bay and simply press the button to lock the drive in place. The same rule is applied for removing the drive, so to do this you press the button to unlock the clip and the drive can then slide right out of the bay.

 

 

The HAF X holds hard drives by the same means as the HAF 932, as well as a few other cases made from Cooler Master. With this design, there are five tool-free HDD trays that are locked into place by pushing the front latch toward the HDD cage, which secures the locking mechanism to the cage itself. To unlock the tray, you pull the latch away from the cage, which releases the tray, and allow it to be slid out of the case. Once out you can place a 3.5" drive onto the tray by slightly bending on each side to create additional room for the drive to fit into. Once on the tray the hard drive is locked in place with four pins that fit into the screw holes on the sides. Each pin that connects to the drive has a rubber pad on the end that will reduce vibration while the drive is active which will as lower the noise level as a result. Found on the top tray is a 3.5" to 2.5/1.8" drive converter. This converter can secure up to two drives and works with both 2.5" and 1.8" varieties. With the five internal hard drive trays and two hot swap bays, the HAF X has a total hard drive capacity of seven 3.5" drives. Also, with the ability to install 2.5" and 1.8" drives in the hot swap bays, the HAF X can accommodate four SSD's with no modifications.

 

 

The bottom-mounted power supply area found in the HAF X has a large ventilation area for air to freely travel from under the case to the power supply. This helps reduce the power supply's operating temperature, which can improve the overall performance of your PSU. With the wheels lifting the case off the ground, the ventilation holes will allow ample airfllow, but without the wheels, it might be hard for the PSU to pull in enough air for proper cooling. To address this, Cooler Master supplied screw holes to allow the PSU to be installed with the fan facing down, toward the ventilation holes or facing up, so air can be drawn from within in the case.

One issue that is often found in this area, even with a case that has great cable management, is that there is really nowhere to hide the bulk of cables that project out of the power supply. To better hide these cables and create a cleaner looking case, Cooler Master includes a black cover that will not only hide the cables that are being routed behind the motherboard tray, but also blend into the black interior of the case.

 

 

The CPU backplate access area on the HAF X is quite big and should fit well with both AMD and Intel motherboards. The ASUS 890GX motherboard that I used during the review fit great into the opening, although it was very close to the left side of the hole.

 

 

The HAF X comes with four case fans throughout the chassis. The fans vary in size and speed, but all are setup to operate at low noise levels. All the fans are badged with the Cooler Master logo and I was able to find the specifications for all, but the front 220mm fan. The front intake fan is a clear 220mm fan with red LED lights that operates at 12V with 0.40A draw. The top exhaust and side intake fan are both 200mm fans that are the same model. These are 12V fans that operate at 700RPM with a noise level of 19dBA. The last fan is the rear 140mm exhaust fan, which is a 1000RPM fan that produces 60.9CFM at a very low noise level of 16dBA. The duct that is connected to the intake fan on the side panel works in combination with an nVidia cooling solution that we will be looking at shortly.

 

 

With so much room to work with, installation was a breeze and there were no issue to report. As you can see from the first image below the full tower size of the HAF X made the installed components look rather small in the chassis and even the HD5870 seemed a bit miniature in stature. Also, with the improved cable management options supplied by the HAF X the case was very clean and routing the cables was very easy. In fact, with the .5 inches provide behind the motherboard tray I didn't even have to zip tie any of the cables down to close the side panel. Once the case was turned on all the fans fired up, including the front LED fan, but even with so many large fans moving air, the noise level from the HAF X was very low.

 

 

Lastly, lets take a look at some of the extras that Cooler Master includes with the HAF X. The first of these is the Advanced GPU retention bracket. This tool secures to the back of the case and uses plastic attachments to support the weight of multiple graphics cards. This reduces the pressure that is applied to the motherboard's PCIe slots. The bracket works with many different vga configurations and with the vertical adjustment, can fit a GPU in any expansion slot.

The next tool is a cooling solution developed in cooperation with nVidia that is used to cool GTX480/GTX470 graphics cards when used in SLI. The way it works is by adding a high power fan to the duct that will attach to the case where it will fit behind the graphics cards. The fan will then supply air to the intakes holes on the graphics cards for additional cooling performance. For best results, nVidia recommends a fan with 150CFM and at least 120x38mm in size.

The last portion of this configuration is the duct that is found on the 200mm side intake fan. This duct is set up to blow air toward the installed graphics cards, adding to the effect of the installed nVidia bracket. This setup should cool even the hottest SLI setups. However, this will be at the expense of an increase in noise, especially if a 150CFM fan is used.

 

 

Specifications

Available color
Black
Material
Steel + Plastic
Dimension (D/W/H)
Main Unit: 230 x 550 x 599 mm / 9.1 x 21.7 x 23.2 inch Box: 675*300*620mm
Weight
Net Weight: 14.35kg
Gross Weight: 16.08kg
Motherboard Type
Micro-ATX, ATX and E-ATX
5.25” Drive Bay
6
3.5” Drive Bay
5 Hidden
SATA HDD Drive Bay / 2.5 Drive Bay
 
2 (converted from 5.25” drive bay)
I/O Panel
USB 3.0 x 2, USB 2.0 x 2, 1394a x 1, Audio x 1, Mic x 1
Expansion Slots
9
 
 
Cooling System
Front: 230 x 30mm red LED fan with LED Switch x 1 /700RPM / 19dBA
Top: 200 x 30mm fans x 2 / 700RPM / 19dBA (one optional)
Side: 200 x 30mm fan x 1 / 1200RPM / 19dBA
Rear: 140 x 25mm x 1 / 1200RPM / 19dBA
VGA Fan Dock: 120 x 25mm or 120 x 38mm x 1 (optional)
VGA Holder: 80 x 15mm fan x 1 (optional)
Power Supply
Bottom-mounted / ATX PS2

 

 

 

 

Features

Exterior features

Interior features

 

 

All information courtesy of Cooler Master

Testing:

We all know that cooling performance can either make or break a case. Companies can add as many features and novelties as they want, but if the cooling is sub-par, that pretty much dooms the product in the overclocking community. The HAF X however, does not seem to be a case that will be lacking in cooling performance. It has one 220mm front intake fan, as well as a 200mm side intake fan that will bring in cool air into the case coupled with a  200mm fan at the top and a 140mm fan at the rear for exhaust.

Though the HAF X does seem ideal for cooling, there is really only one way to know for sure. So for testing I am going to install the same components in the Cooler Master HAF X that I have used across multiple cases and run the same benchmarks, in the same controlled environment and see how it stacks up to the other cases. During the testing process the room will be kept at 75°F and the programs used will be Prime 95 to stress the CPU/chipset, HD Tune for the hard drive and Furmark v1.8.2 will be used to stress the GPU.

 

 

Testing System:

 

Comparison Cases:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cooler Master HAF X did a very impressive job cooling all the internal components. This allowed the HAF X to reduce the HD5870 GPU temp by 4°C over the best performing comparison case and 2°C better when it came to cooling the 890GX chipset. The CPU and HDD temperatures were, however, at the same level as some of the other cases, but this is not a knock at the HAF X, because the cases it was equal to were the best performers. So as a whole, the HAF X performed better than all the comparison cases in terms of cooling. Also, even with four included fans, the HAF X was very quiet, making it almost inaudible from just a few feet away.

Conclusion:

After using the HAF X for sometime now, I can easily say that this case is not just an improvement upon the original design, but one that is very well deserving to the be the new face of the HAF series. A few of the main factors that drew so many enthusiasts to the HAF 932 was the industrial style of the case, the High Air Flow design (aka HAF) and the ability to support the latest technologies. In these regards the HAF X did an exceptional job not just meeting, but greatly exceeding all the expectations I had prior to the review. This is in part due to its very efficient cooling setup that utilizes four large case fans to cool all the internal components. With the added bonus of having the option to use a large, top-mounted radiator, without any modification, this makes the HAF X absolutely phenomenal when it come to cooling performance. The new look of the case is also very appealing and most past HAF users should be extremely pleased. This is because the original bold design of the HAF is maintained, but thanks to the inspirations drawn from battle tanks and military style design, it is defiantly quite unique.

Cooler Master also did a very good job with the new additions and in my opinion, one of the best is the new hot swap bays. These new bays allow for easy installation of two SSDs or HDDs thought the front bezel. When connected, the drives are actually attached directly to the motherboard via the circuit board, so there is no reduction in performance when using your hard drive via the bays. Another new feature and one that should be included in more full towers, is the use of nine rear expansion slots. This will allow for up to four dual slot graphics cards to be installed in the case at the same time. So, for users that can afford to setup a quad-SLI or Quad-CrossfireX gaming rig this case is ideal. Since the HAF X is a full sized tower, it will have no issues accommodating even the largest graphics cards. Along with these you also get exceptional cable management, support for up to four extra 2.5" or 1.8" drives, USB 3.0 support on the front panel and additional VGA cooling options.

When using the HAF X, I found very little to dislike, as this was a very well thought-out and executed design. There were however, just two things I would point out. The first is the awkward solution used to power the front USB 3.0 ports. I know that Cooler Master was working within limitations, as this really is the only means to supply USB 3.0 support to the front panel. Cooler Master is very aware of this, and they have stated that when a new method becomes available they will send out support for it. Now, it's just up to the motherboard manufactures to find a way to get USB 3.0 headers on their boards. The other issue is that when using four high performance graphics cards, the power requirement will be huge and with the HAF X supplying space for only one power supply, it might be hard to fully power (for example) four GTX 480 graphics cards with one PSU. There are however, extremely high wattage power supplies available, and they should fit in the case with no problems.

As you can see, these issues are rather small and they in no way take away from the case.  Even with all the high end features this case offers, it manages to come in at a price of $199.99. Now, it might just be that I have gotten used to seeing full towers coming in at the $300+ range, but I would say for all the HAF X offers, it is very much worth the asking price.

So, for those of you looking for a new case that can hold your extreme gear and sacrifice little in return, then the HAF X is definitely for you!

 

Pros:

 

Cons: