Cooler Master HAF XB Review

BluePanda - 2012-10-30 10:56:03 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: BluePanda   
Reviewed on: November 12, 2012
Price: $99.99

Introduction:

There is yet another member joining the High Air Flow product line from Cooler Master today: the HAF XB. Not only is she the newest in the series, she is also the first of a new form factor Cooler Master is adding to its line. This chassis is designed for all of you LAN party goers as it was built for transporting, but it also reaches out to benchers alike with the option for open bench testing. Its small enough, yet somehow roomie enough to support three double wide graphics cards, a full ATX board, and up to a 120mm radiator for water cooling. It seems like a lot to pack into a traveling case – but CM says the XB did it.

This new form factor (name pending?), isn't quite a mid-tower, not really a full-tower, and not exactly a tower at all. It's, I guess, what you'd really call a "LAN" form factor – it fits the more desktop-style case from when your old CRT used to sit right on top of everything. It's quite a bit taller than that, but still not half the height of a full tower case, and I'm adding to the confusion. The HAF XB is a wild card on the market; it brings to the field its own design that you will either love or loathe. To me it appears to be the ultimate LAN rig; let's see what you think…

Closer Look:

Starting off with the box, well, normally I would; today I'll give you a little sneak of how it came to me this time. Since the case is being released today – I got a pre-release sample, so this is really before the finalized graphics for the box were ready. It's kind of a neat aspect of reviewing products, sometimes you get a little brown box with a surprise inside. The HAF XB was just this. I couldn't "Google" to see pictures of it; I had to open it up to find out what was inside.

It does, on the other hand, pack like the finalized packaged product; it's bagged in plastic to keep it safe from the elements and capped with foam to protect it on its journey to you. Even the box comes with nice hand holds to carry it on in. I'm pretty excited to see the full rig and exactly how the guts are going to work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, I'll admit I'm being a bit cruel holding back the actual full appearance of the case from you on this first page – but isn't the anticipation just killing you now? The next page dives right in, so go get your fill on this exciting new case.

Closer Look:

I'll hold out on you no longer; pictures you demand, pictures you receive. Plastic and foam removed, and it appears even smaller than I might have thought. She stands wider than tall but still has a bit of girth to her. A Cooler Master logo stands out as the first thing I notice on the front of the case in the mesh, hiding two fans. It reflects light nicely and creates quite the entrance. The HAF-esque look is still held up with the right and left edges carrying the ladder look. The bottom carries some symmetry with two external drive, mesh covers to the left and two X-Dock spots on the right. The front I/O panel breaks a line two thirds of the way down the case with a power, reset, audio ports, and two USB 3.0 ports.

The back of the case is a bit different to look at with it being a fatter case. The motherboard will actually lay flat in about the middle of the case with the power supply and wiring mess to be hidden below it. There are seven PCIe slots to fill, two 80mm fan options, a 120mm fan spot, and an extended PSU holder that hangs out a bit further (you can see just how far in the side profile shots). It seems like there's a lot going on back here, but in reality there's about the same as any case – just in a different direction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving to the side profiles of the case you can see the extended PSU region I mentioned previously. It doesn't hang out too far on the back side; it only takes up about as much as any cables you may have plugged in. It helps add to the space inside as you will see later, and those of you with longer power supplies will be thankful to have it (mind you if you extend past 180mm on your PSU, this case will simply reject you).

The sides are essentially the same with only the direction of the panel being different between the two. There are a bunch of oblong hexagons cut out for ventilation and an awesomely large handle on each side to carry the little beast. Both panels are held on with two thumb screws each and hold on rather tight (not super easy to take off), to prevent any rattle noise from being produced.

 

 

The top of the case seems to act as really just another "side" panel to the case. It is also fastened in the same manner as a side panel in the fact that it slides on and is secured with two more thumb screws. If you weren't already counting, that is six case screws on the back side of the case. It seems like a lot to undo, but with them being thumb screws – it is quick and easy access to any of the three sides. It also adds to one of the nicest features allowing you to remove three sides of the case for some nice open air benching. Let the fires begin!!

 

Focusing on the front of the case again, I figured you'd like a little closer look at things. The front 5.25" bays are stacked on the left under the power switch with an easy remove/install panel to cover things up when you don't have a drive in. You can easily squeeze the left and right edge and the cover comes right off. There's a nice double mesh with large honeycomb covered by smaller mesh to allow for additional airflow in the front here.

The X-Dock system, something CM added back with the CM Storm Trooper or before, allows for a hot-swap on the HDDs. The two X-Dock locations support both 2.5" and 3.5" drives as you choose. The trays are built rather nice (picture ahead) and should take a lot of beating for time to come. On another note, you will later see there is no mounting space inside for anything but 2.5" drives, so if you have any HDDs, they will mount here or in the 5.25" bays with adapters (just a heads up).

 

 

 

The bottom of the case is where the one lone removable fan filter lives. It keeps all the "nasty" out of your power supply allowing you to keep it clean, as long as you remember to wash it once in awhile. It has a nice little handle to pull from beneath the PSU and slide back in with little effort (so DO IT).

 

 

Overall I'm quite impressed with the HAF XB so far (at least from the outside). It's quite a sturdy little booger, especially considering the $100 price tag. It's well built, it's of the usual CM quality (high, for those of you who haven't had the joys of trying it); I'm looking forward to getting my hardware in and seeing how it goes. This case not only looks like an awesome LAN build, but I think it will BE an awesome LAN build; too much fun.

Closer Look:

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.

Specifications:

Available Color:
Black
Materials:
Appearance: Steel, Front and Top Mesh, Polymer Bezel
Case Body: Steel
Dimensions:
422(W) x 330(H) x 423(D) mm / 17.4(W) x 13(H) x 16.7(D) inch
Net Weight:
18.2kg / 18.1lb
M/B Type:
ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ATX
5.25" Drive Bays:
2
3.5" Drive Bays:
2 (from X-dock)
2.5"/3.5" Drive Bays:
6 (2 from X-dock)
I/O Panel:
USB 3.0 x 2, Audio In and Out
Expansion Slots:
7
Cooling System:
Front: 120mm fan x 2, 1800 RPM, 21dBA (converted from 140mm x 2)
Top: 200mm fan x 1 (optional)
Rear: 120mm fan (optional), 80mm x 2 (optional)
Power Supply:
Standard ATX PS2 (Max length 180mm)
Maximum Compatibility:
CPU cooler height: 180mm/7.1inch
GPU card length: 334mm/13.1inch
Water cooling: 240mm radiator (front), 120mm radiator (rear)

 

 

Features:


 

All information courtesy of CoolerMaster @http://www.coolermaster.com/index.php

Testing:

Testing the Cooler Master HAF XB required pushing my hardware to heat things up as much as possible. Testing involved recording temperatures for the CPU, GPU, chipset, hard drives, and overall system during idle and load phases. Recently, OCC upgraded to the ForceGT 240GB SSD from Corsair and has removed the HDD temps from case reviews. Thus, HDTune is no longer a part of the case benchmarking process.

Load was simulated by running Prime95’s small FFTs along with 3DMark Vantage looping for one hour. The maximum temperatures were recorded using HW Monitor. It is important to note that each case is tested from its factory setup, including location of fans, unless otherwise noted.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Cases:

 

Results:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The temperatures for this case were a bit surprising but somehow not all that surprising at the same time. With the open nature of the case I had expected low temperatures, but where is what surprised me a little more. I was expecting GPU temperatures to be a little better than the "average" middle of the pack – but adding an additional rear fan would likely make that happen. CPU temps were warm for the racket the front fans make but still not disappointing. The chipset on the other hand was phenomenal! This impressive result is likely due to the additional cooling across the backside of the motherboard tray (where most cases have little to no airflow) from the front panels fans. Overall, it did great! I can't wait to start benching with no panels!

Conclusion:

In conclusion the HAF XB brings back the BluePanda "Gold" award. I choose to give few gold awards here on OCC and reserve them for the products that really deserve them by going above and beyond expectations in a product. To be honest the HAF XB is cheap as hell for a chassis of its quality. Sturdy, solid builds are hard to find in this price range without the loss of some feature or another. The HAF XB shows up with its game face and never looks back. The case itself has a strong frame – due to its smaller size, I'm sure it was easier to beef up with the "leftover" money; but this case truly holds up to me sitting on it, swinging it around, roughing it up, and will surely hold up to any LAN party touring and trolling. The quality is what you would expect from Cooler Master and quite frankly beats out the original HAF 932 and even the revamped 932 in quality all around at the significantly reduced price. Everything about this case is AWESOME; there's great airflow, great cable management, great quality, easy to work with, easy to move, there just aren't enough words to stand up to it.

I will admit the squatty stature of the build might not be for everyone. It is a lot fatter than your typical case – easily two Corsair 650Ds next to each other, but it stands less than half the height as well. If you can afford the extra floor/desk space, then I highly recommend the HAF XB. Cost, appearance, and quality can't be beat at this price range. This is the ultimate LAN rig. Props to CM and the HAF XB.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: