Coolermaster ATCS840 Case Review
Reviewed by: Zertz
Reviewed on: November 20, 2008
When you look at someone's computer for the first time, the first thing you notice is the case. Whether it looks bad or awesome, it's easy to have a quick judgement on the hardware that's probably resting inside. High end cases usually house high end components and the same is true of the opposite. Of course, looking good is always a nice thing, but it should also do a fine job at being a case. Important factors often looked for when shopping for one include, but not limited to, are size and air flow since all this precious hardware needs some of its own fresh air to cool down after a hard gaming session. Materials used by the manufacturer also often play an important role since nobody wants a flimsy piece of plastic falling apart within weeks. Finally, price is, of course, a vital sale argument, although most people are willing to pay the proper amount for their case. With so many different models available on the market, there is most likely one out there to fit everyone's want and needs.
Coolermaster specializes in designing and manufacturing thermal solutions for consumer applications like fans, heatsinks, cases and various other accessories. The company is dedicated to provide us with fine products so every design goes through a strict series of testing before it leaves the factory and is brought to retail market. Just a few weeks ago, we reviewed the HAF 932, which was Coolermaster's latest case before now. Today, I am looking at its newest piece of engineering - the ATCS 840. This one is also a full tower, but with a much classier look.
The first thing I noticed when I took the box inside is how big it is, the box is about two feet high and another two feet and a few inches long. The box is pretty sturdy and therefore arrived in good shape. As you can see from the pictures below, the box isn't flashy or anything, just plain cardboard. On the main side, there's a rough picture of what it looks like with what looks like circus themed art around. The back side gets a little interesting and technical, showcasing all the removable parts, which seems like pretty much everything.
On the left side is quick rundown of the features while the opposite end of the box gets all of the specifications in detail. Both side also sport a handle, which highly facilitates carrying this huge box around, which weighs in at a hefty 35 pounds.
With the box cracked open, I was welcomed by the top of the case housing two huge fans. It is tightly packaged and nothing worrying could be heard moving when shaking the box, but perhaps I was expecting a little more Styrofoam in there in order to better protect it from shipping damage, since you just never know what can happen during shipping. At least it arrived in good shape and that's all that really counts.
In the box itself, there is the ACTS manual floating around, while other case accessories are all hiding within the enclosure itself. The manual is very well done. Everything, from installing the power supply, drives and the motherboard to taking the whole thing apart is well detailed with plenty of pictures. Even though the pictures are in black and white, they are printed in higher than average quality so they are easy to read and understand. Fast forward into the case, a few, more precisely two, more boxes are found. One of them contains an air duct to attach to the back of the case. The other one contains a myriad of screws, mounting hardware and even a bunch of tie wraps. Bottom mount power supply implies you will most likely need a longer ATX12V connector, so they bundled an extension. The metal plate is used to support the back of the power supply for users wanting to install it on top. Basically, it's more than enough to successfully get going.
Read on for a 360 tour around this enclosure.
Side panels are made out of over one millimeter thick aluminum sheets, ensuring a solid structure while maintaining the very refined and sleek brushed look. Although they seemingly are identical, both panels bottom and top edges are not made exactly the same so one will only fit on its assigned side. They are each held in place by two easy to work with thumb screws.
The front side has the same well done aluminum finish, with the five optical drives slots as well as the lonely floppy disk drive, which can be used as a full 5.25 inch slot. The covers are made out of plastic, but at least it looks good and clearly is not the cheapest piece they had laying around. The top most drive cover has the model's name printed on it – ATCS 840 for the short memories out there. The bottom part is dominated by Coolermaster's white logo stamped on a plate attached about half an inch further than the main structure. This allows the front fan to breath some fresh air with more facility and efficiency.
Speaking of the front fan, it is an impressive 230mm in diameter and is rated to produce 19dBA at 700 RPM, which is virtually silent. The metal panel hiding it is easy to remove once you figure out how or actually take time to read the instructions. There are fan filters all around and this one isn't an exception - it is also easy to remove and clean. I had a somewhat important issue with the front fan, which was most likely just one bad mount in between all the ones they made. One of the blades was stuck in the casing, so obviously if I had turned it on before taking it apart, the pictures below would probably be one of a broken fan.
Computer enclosures back sides rarely draw much attention if any, but this one actually offers more than the average case. It features the mandatory 120mm fan found on the vast majority of cases, but that's not all. It is designed to fit the power supply either at the top, bottom or even both, whichever the user prefers, and the remaining opening can be used to route water cooling tubing. There is also a handle to pull the motherboard tray out, a very nifty feature covered within the next few pages. Finally, notice how Coolermaster brilliantly decided not to include a useless I/O plate most companies still bundle for some obscure reason.
Keep going to finish the tour around this huge case.
Climbing on top of the two feet tall tower reveals an interesting "front" panel along with another pair of huge fans. Up front are the power and reset buttons, both well built and appropriately sized. Between them are the power on and hard disk access LEDs, which both brightly light up blue. The "push to open" type panel door feels relatively sturdy, something rare in this type of opening, and, once popped open, a generous array of inputs and outputs are offered. A total of four USB ports, a single FireWire and eSATA ports along with a sound input and output, enough to get most people's external peripherals going quickly.
Continuing toward the back, the 230mm fans immediately jump into sight. Covered by a sleek sheet of aluminum full of honey comb shaped holes. This cover definitely keeps the very streamlined look of case going. Even though they don't sport an air filter other than the honey bee cover, they are meant to be used as exhausts so that's to be expected since there is no need not to let dust out. Both are solidly held by four screws keeping vibrations to a minimum, although the one on the back will have to be removed if you choose to mount the power supply up there. Unfortunately, that will leave the huge fan unused since there is no other spot to attach it. These two should allow for good airflow while keeping noise at a very tolerable level, thanks to their larger than average diameter, allowing them to push just as much air at a much slower rotational speed compared to a smaller fan. They can also be removed to open the space for three 120mm using the special brackets included within the accessory bag. It can also accommodate up to a triple liquid radiator - neat.
Beneath all this stuff, one metal foot in each and every corner keeps it still and stable with a piece of foam stuck under, absorbing vibrations. They are screwed into the casing so there is no risk to lose them when dragging around the case, although you probably don't want to carry something this big too far too often anyway. There is also a fan inlet designed for power supplies that have their fan on the bottom, so it can still pull air inside should you decide to mount it on the bottom. That is often a problem with bottom mounted units so it's nice to see that Coolermaster got this one right. The other trap can be used as a 120mm fan inlet, allowing a quick way for hot air generated by the power supply and video card to move away.
For those who are interested, here is the 230mm fan model used all over this enclosure. They can be powered either straight from the power supply using the molex connector or through the motherboard using the three pin header, allowing you to control their speed. They draw nearly 5W, so if you are to use your motherboard's fan headers, make sure they can take it as some are quite limited in the power they can supply. Unfortunately, Coolermaster doesn't sell these in the retail market. Finally, I installed the air duct, which is supposed to help reduce temperatures by letting air out from the expansion slots as fast as possible. I kind of doubt its usefulness, but we'll see how it does later on.
Now that I've went all around the outside, let's have a peak inside.
With the front panel off, the impressive spaciness of the ATCS 840 reaches another level. Here's where the accessories seen on the first page came from. Both box are attached so they can't move at all during shipping. The one on top, right below the top fan sits on what can be used as the power supply rail. The panel on the back actually has to be screwed off before the box can be taken out of its prison. Now that those two are out of the way, I can move to the case's hardware. Coolermaster included a nifty sheet with mounting holes for micro ATX, ATX and Extended ATX, all of which are clearly labeled.
Remember that handle on the back of the case pictured a few pages back? Whether you do or not, I can tell you they didn't just stick it there for fun. They made the motherboard tray removable like a few other high end enclosures now feature, which makes motherboard and add in cards installation much easier to accomplish. The tray is easily slid in and out on the rails, thanks to the significant amount of ball bearings. Some grease would help, however it would be way too messy. Heatsink assembly is also made much less of a hassle thanks to the large hole they cut out. So there is no need to take the board out of the case to install a new cooler, saving time and possibly frustration. This makes the whole building experience much more pleasant.
There is enough space to fit a generous number of drives - six 3.5 inch hard drives and five 5.25 inch bays for optical drives, a small water cooling unit, and a fan controller or whatever you wish to use the drive bays for. There's also a spot for the undying floppy disk drive. Tool less designs are another feature case manufacturers like to brag about these days and it's also something computer builders enjoy. No need to search for that screw you dropped on the carpet, simply clip the hardware in and call it a day. Coolermaster is no exception and its implementation is well done and easy to use. Optical drives simply need to be pushed in, lined up with the pins and with the push of a button, the drive is now locked into placed. The button works like a toggle switch, so unlocking it is done by pressing the button once more. Hard drives need to be inserted into the tray at an angle so one side has the pins locked into the screw holes and then bend the other side and force it into place. Both are tightly held into their tray and no unusual vibrations could be heard.
Cable management is something more and more computer enthusiasts care about and definitely not every case is well suited for a good, clean looking job. Due to the length of the enclosure, a modular power supply is almost a necessity, because although there is close to an inch between the tray and the panel, which is totally awesome, it wouldn't be realistic to think you'll be able to squeeze many unused cables there. It's not impossible, but it wouldn't be simple. Of course, for someone using most or all of the leads, this isn't an issue at all. The leads for the front panel connections are plenty long, so they can be neatly routed through the back of the tray and then back up at the bottom of the board where those connectors usually are. As you can see, I used angled SATA connectors which greatly relieve the stress on the headers and generally make routing easier. In order to have a clean route to your SATA optical drives, they will have to use either very long cables or be mounted at the bottom of the cage. I have chosen the latter.
Once every cable I needed was plugged into place and had a rough idea how and where to route them, I got back to the accessory bag and took a few tie wraps out of it. This is what I ended up with. Clearly, it's not quite perfect, but that's what my cable management skills could achieve within a reasonable time frame.
The tour is done, the hardware is in, let's move on to testing.
|Available Color||Black, silver|
|Dimension||(W) 9.57 x (H) 22.83 x (D)24.80 inches|
|Weight||Net Weight: 13.25 kg (29.21 lbs)
Gross Weight: 15.75 kg ( 34.72 lbs)
|Motherboards||Micro-ATX / ATX / E-ATX|
|5.25" Drive Bay||6 Exposed (without the use of exposed 3.5" drive bay)|
|3.5" Drive Bay||6 Hidden
1 Exposed (converted from one 5.25" drive bay)
|I/O Panel||USB x 4, IEEE 1394a x 1, eSATA x 1, Mic x 1, Audio x 1|
|Cooling System||Front: 230 x 30 mm standard fan x 1, 700 RPM, 19 dBA (included)
Top: 230 x 30mm standard fan x 2, 700 RPM, 19dBA (included)
(can be swapped for three 120mm fans)
Rear: 120 x 25mm standard fan x 1, 1200 RPM, 17 dBA (included)
Bottom: 120mm (optional)
HDD Module: 120mm fan x 2 (optional)
External Air Duct: 120mm fan x 1 (optional)
|Power Supply||Dual Standard ATX PS2 / EPS 12V (optional)|
- Two 230x30 mm fans for improved outward airflow.
- 230x30mm fan x 2 can be swapped for internal mount radiator.
- HDD fan 120mm x 2 (optional).
- Slide-out MB tray.
- Easy CPU cooler changing.
- Top I/O panel.
- Tool free 5.25" system.
- Tool free HDD system.
- Washable air filter.
All information courtesy of Coolermaster @ http://www.coolermaster-usa.com/product.php?category_id=18&product_id=2870product_id=2810#
In this part of testing, the Coolermaster ATCS 840 enclosure will be put through a series of temperature tests to see how high they rise during idle state and while the computer is under full load conditions. Temperatures of the processor, video card, hard drive and chipset will be monitored and collected. For idle state, the computer will simply be left untouched for thirty minutes, making sure nothing is active besides the Windows operating system, and then temperature readings will be taken. After, in order to simulate a full load, Orthos, 3DMark Vantage and HDTune will be ran simultaneously for half an hour to ensure that the hardware will still be fine in a worst conditions scenario. To gather the temperatures, the latest version of EVEREST will be used since it provides accurate readings of every important part. Cooling for the cases will consist of stock cooling that came with the cases along with an additional fan installed on the hard drive tray and the processor heatsink will be the Zalman 9700NT. The Coolermaster case will be compared to the Antec Sonata III to get an idea of where it stands amongst other cases on the market.
- Case: Coolermaster ATCS 840
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 @ 3.0GHz
- Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-X48-DQ6
- Memory: Mushkin Redline XP2 PC2-8000 5-5-5-12 2 x 2GB
- Video Card: Palit ATI Radeon HD4850 w/ Catalyst 8.10
- Power Supply: Mushkin 800W Modular
- Hard Drive: Seagate 300GB S-ATA2
- OS: Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate Edition
Comparison Case: Antec Sonata III
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo @ 4.0 GHz (471x8.5) w/ 1.4750Vcore
- System Memory: Mushkin Redline XP2 PC2-8000 2x2GB @ 942 MHz 5-5-5-12
- Palit ATI Radeon HD4850 @ 705MHz
As far as temperatures go, Coolermaster's enclosure took the top position in every single test and sometimes by a wide margin. The processor enjoyed the most significant temperature improvement, decreasing by up to a whole 11 Celsius in fully loaded overclocked settings. The chipset cooler didn't benefit nearly as much from the huge case, except under load where it cut the temperature by four degrees Celsius. The hard drives were also able to run quite a bit cooler and only had two Celsius delta between load and idle conditions. Finally, the video card did run ten degrees Celsius lower while idling, but load temperatures we're still pretty high using the card's default fan settings.
The whole tour is done, so let's conclude this.
Coolermaster's latest full tower is definitely a great computer case, the subtle cardboard box keeps the brushed aluminum beast secured. A good thing since it is very well finished, looks awesome and is solid. Dust and fingerprints seem to enjoy the surface, but it's not a problem you can really blame the case for. The included bundle is quite generous with more than enough screws, an air duct and even a fan grill. All these little extras make a good impression and shows Coolermaster's dedication to provide a solid product. The exterior layout is good too. The IO panel located on top is a smart idea, especially on such a tall case. It doesn't scream "look at me" like many gaming cases out there, this one is rather more, like its name implies, classic. The two fans up top are great, although, unfortunately, their already highly limited airflow is slowed down so much by the cover over them, that it is very hard to tell if they are moving any air at all. At least they are nearly inaudible and they can be swapped out for a bunch of smaller fans or even a radiator, which is really something to consider if you're into watercooling. No modifications are needed should you decide to take the plunge.
Keeping this case clean and up to date is made easy, thanks to the removable motherboard tray. Installing hardware was a breeze, nearly everything can be done outside the case, leaving you ample space to work. The processor's heatsink backplate can even be changed just by taking off a side panel. Speaking of heatsinks, the case can accommodate up to 200mm high coolers, so even the tallest ones out there will fit without a hitch. The whole enclosure is also a breeze to take apart, especially after a quick glance over the well detailed manual, making maintenance that much more enjoyable. Fortunately, there is an air filter in front of each intake in order to keep dust outside as much as possible.
Perfection isn't part of our world and Coolermaster's enclosure is no exception to this rule, although it does come pretty close. The fans were quiet, almost silent actually. However, it would be nice to have the option to crank them up when needed because even though they can easily be controlled, and by controlled I mean slowed down, using the standard three pin connector instead of the Molex, they already spin at a mere 700 RPM. Also, the air duct didn't, as expected, have much of an effect, if at all, on the video card temperatures. Its usefulness could be extended by adding a hole on top letting us route USB, audio and Ethernet cables through it, along with the video cable. That would make the desk's back area less of a cable mess. Back on Earth, the case was still able to keep temperatures well under control and lower than Antec's mid tower. So, except for ATI's 4850, although this one is already a lost cause with only the stock cooler, it performed very well in my testing.
Overall, Coolermaster's ATCS 840 is a great, large and high quality enclosure. It's truly up there along with the other high end cases on the market. With just a few minor adjustments, the company could have an even shinier gem under its wings. It's not out on the retail market yet, but availability should come within the end of this month. Until then, hold your breath and make some space for this classy monster.
- Removable motherboard tray
- Build quality
- Mostly tool free
- No fan control