Cooler Master HAF XB ReviewBluePanda - November 12, 2012
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Opening it up I decided to go all the way and remove all three sides. It helps with the lighting for these lovely pictures you see as well as gives you a nice look at the entire case. Looking from the top down you can see the motherboard tray with a couple standoffs already in place. The two front fans have some cabling hanging into the case and the full front I/O panel cabling is bundled nicely on top. It looks pretty clean and simple without doing much more than opening it up. The bulk of the cable routing will make it around the motherboard tray edges to the left, the right, and a bit here in the front center (just to get you thinking).
Taking out the mobo tray requires only the removal of four thumbscrews – two on the left, two on the right. It slides to the front of the case and then lifts out easily. I'm very excited as it's been awhile since I have gotten to play with a removable tray; I love them! Below is the incredible space I'll get to route the mess of cable. The nice thing is as long as you can route it, it's good – pretty cables don't matter when they are this hidden. You can see the area where the external bays carve out their space and the little stack of 2.5" bays in the upper left. This should help you visualize the actual size of what you have to play with.
Taking a look from the sides again you can get a better idea of how things are laid out in the case. You can see how the motherboard tray is supported about half way down the case and leaves just a little room between it and the height of your PSU (full build pictures will reveal all this). Despite the small, fat stature of this case there is a lot of room to pack in a good build.
Zooming in on some of the features of this case is where we'll spend much of the remainder of the review inspecting each element that makes up the HAF XB and its new form factor. First is the little 2.5" cage from the rear of the case. It can hold up to four SSDs or 2.5" drives of your liking. You should notice that the drive bays look like your standard 3.5" drive bays with no holes to thread in screws (thankfully, not quite that much room here). It comes with some "mini" drive rails – quite adorable when you see them. It's really just a miniaturized 3.5" cage for 2.5" drives.
The front 5.25" drive bays have quick mounts with little "Lock" and "Open" switches to easily and quickly add in new hardware. Both toggle open and close quite nicely and take little to no effort to use. I really like the minimal need for a screw driver at this point in the game.
Turning the case around so that the front is in front of us you can see the two 120mm fans mounted. There is room for two 140mm fans if you desire replacing them. These are two quick spinning fans (1800RPM) and move a decent amount of air with the cost of some noise. Personally I'd probably replace them if I were using it in my office, but as a LAN designed rig who cares about the noise?
The handles on the outside of the case are made from plastic but the inner rails support some bulky backup. There is additional reinforcement for carrying your chassis around from party to party, or simply room to room. There certainly don't seem to be many short cuts on this incredibly affordable case.
The X-Dock certainly requires a bit of a "brain" behind it, though I won't say it's an incredibly advanced brain – it does have one. Behind the two 3.5" mounts is the controller, which needs you to remember to power it up with a Molex connector (so many times have I forgotten to power these). There are also two SATA connections for the two drives to talk with your motherboard; don't forget to plug them in or you may be troubleshooting a long time before realizing a simple cable issue.
The extra hang from the PSU mount is easily removed with the loosening of four thumb screws. Though these are thumb screws to quickly mount and un-mount your PSU they are a bit awkward to use. Even with my small thumbs/fingers I found it a little hard to screw and unscrew them – but hopefully I won't need to do this too many times. The whole "shield" comes off nicely and fits to your PSU with a nice tight fit. This will allow you to route cables and manage your cabling before fully mounting your PSU. If you don't have even a partially modular PSU you will greatly appreciate this. Even with my partial modular ability cabling would be "tight" to say the least with everything running right in to the circuit board for the X-Dock station.
I wanted to show you the motherboard tray out of the case. Here it is! It really allows you to get everything mounted nicely and literally drop it in to cable up. Two standoffs come pre-mounted allowing you to choose the rest based on your board type (ATX, mATX, or mITX). There's also a huge opening for quick access to the backside of your board as well as nice airflow across all your components.
Now we're about done looking at the case, but there are a few pieces worthy of a few words or so before we get into the full build. I'll start with the HDD caddies for the front X-Dock. They do pull out completely allowing you to properly mount either a 2.5" or 3.5" drive. A little notch on the bottom allows you to press in and slide out the side of the caddy to a wider width – this allows you to drop in a full 3.5" drive without bending/snapping the carrier. Push it close and it "locks" to hold the drive in place. These caddies are well thought and appear to be strong/resistant to hold up to even years of my beatings.
The drive mounted looks like any other drive really; it really doesn't show off how awesome the caddy truly is. The mini drive rails for the 2.5" drive really just make the drives look normal. I've got a 2.5" laptop drive mounted to show you what it looks like, and if I didn't know better I'd probably say it was just a normal drive; that's why I provide you with the last picture in this bunch. It gives you the comical relief to the little drive with little rails.
The typical screw and manual picture remains before the full build pictures you desire, however, again that whole pre-release deal takes a little fun away from this one. The final manual will come with the case if you decide you need one like me, but for now you can gaze upon the screws and drive rails. There's a full set of rails for each of the four drive bay slots included; I decided to show only one set here. All the screws you need are included, probably with a couple extra (though it's hard to say, I rarely use ALL of them). A fun little mobo speaker is included and some zip-ties to clean up where you need to.
Alright – now to really put things in perspective of size, since you've all been dying to see exactly how big, or how little, this HAF XB truly is. Top down shows the motherboard fully loaded in place. A full, tall Noctua cooler reaches to nearly touch the top panel but misses by more than enough to not be a problem. My 7970 has even more room to expand if it so desired and it really just doesn't look like a full case (though the ATX board takes up about all the width).
A look at the sides provides you with a second view on placement of everything we discussed. You can see it is a bit of a mess cable wise underneath, but no one will ever see it unless you show them (I'll keep your secrets). There's still a lot of room on the opposite side of the PSU with only my SSD and a few cables hanging out. My video card and the mobo speaker take over the view here and it's a "done" build.
It was by far one of the easier builds I've done in a long time. If you haven't done a build with a removable motherboard tray before this is one to play with. It's so easy to put things together. You have all the extra space to mount up your motherboard and then it just "drops" right in. Plug in some cables (don't worry about routing looks) and it's solid. I honestly loved the HAF XB, and it's going to be awhile before you can pry it out of my cold, dead hands.