Corsair Carbide Series 400R Reviewairman - September 1, 2011
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Once inside of the Corsair Carbide Series 400R, I am rewarded by a very clean interior, a quality paint job, many wiring pass-throughs in the motherboard tray, and ample space in which to work. The wires for the top fans, front I/O, and front fans are routed through the top wiring grommet. However, the plugs for the USB, Firewire, and control buttons continue down the rear of the case and through one of the lower wiring grommets. One thing that I noticed – there is no wiring pass-through underneath where the motherboard would be. Having one would have been a nice addition to clean up the front I/O wires and keep them completely hidden while plugged in. I have, however, had no problem in the past getting wires to appear cleanly, but certainly not as nice as they would be with a pass-through directly under the motherboard. Looking behind the motherboard tray, you will see a very nicely-sized CPU mounting access hole – this will surely accommodate many motherboards. Only a year ago, I would have a lot of trouble finding cases with compatible cutouts. Now, it’s hard to find one that doesn't work well with a wide range of motherboards. With the addition of the pocketed side panel, there is also plenty of room behind the motherboard tray for routing even the heaviest of ATX power harnesses and other wiring. Having this room is definitely a good feature to have and I'm glad that many current cases offer it.
Similar to other cases, the PSU is housed on the bottom left corner of the inside of the 400R. There is plenty of room for the longest of power supplies, though there would be no form of support on the edge of where the power supply would rest. This isn't a problem for me, as I usually don't use long PSUs if I had the choice, but it may be an important factor for those who do. However, the rear panel is rigid enough to where I would expect even the largest of power supplies to be attached stably. There is a spot for a single 120 mm fan in front of where the power supply will rest, but I suspect that there is a short limit to the length the power supply before interference occurs. Moving up the rear of the case, we have another look at the eight expansion slot covers. Here, we see that they are held in by black thumbscrews to match the interior paint. They are also heavily perforated to allow for maximum airflow and pressure evacuation. Further up, there is an included 120 mm exhaust fan (no LEDs). Along the top are the cutouts for two optional 120 mm or 140 mm fans. Fitting a thicker, legacy radiator at the top of the case may pose a challenge but might still be possible.
Looking at the front of the case, there are four 5.25" bays along the top, each with a tool-less securing mechanism. At this point, mostly every new case model has some form of tool-less mechanism for its hard drives and 5.25" devices. For the Carbide Series 400R, Corsair uses a standard setup that involves a lever that, when switched forward or backward, will move a set of pins through the standard mounting holes of a device to lock or unlock it. The hard drive trays are also an industry standard for Corsair. The plastic trays flex to "stretch" around a 3.5" drive and lock into place using a total of four fixed pins – two on each side – that fit into the standard mounting holes of the drive. At this point, the drives are installed into the case by sliding them inwards until the front tabs snap into place. To remove them, just squeeze the tabs inwards and slide out the tray. To the left of the hard drive trays, there is room for two more 120 mm fans. However, installing fans here may bring down the total usable area for video card length to a maximum of about 290 mm (just over 11") if you intend on using standard 25mm fans. If you use slimmer fans, you will have about 300 mm to work with, so 11.5" cards should still fit — it may just be a little snug. On Corsair's website, there is a mention of the Carbide Series 500R being able to house video cards up to 452mm in length – this was written on the product page for the 400R. I was a little misled at first because I didn't realize that it was referring to the higher-end Carbide Series 500R. It took a bit for me to realize that, unlike the 500R, the hard drive cages in this case are NOT removable. It’s not a huge deal, but misleading nonetheless.
The side panels are constructed from formed steel and measure at around 0.7 mm thick. They are both fully painted and similar in shape to one another, with the exception of the left side panel having the mesh and hole patterns for two 120 mm or 140 mm fans. I'll do a recap here as well as in the conclusion, but let's take a quick count of the total number of fans that this case can support – we've got two in the front (included), one in the rear (included), two on top, two on the side, one on the bottom, and two on the hard drive cage. That's a total of ten fans! I have to admit, I didn't expect that many expansion options from a $99 case, so I am pleased with the customizability!
The hard drive trays themselves are constructed from plastic and seem to be identical to those of other Corsair cases. They are three-sided trays which each accept one 3.5" drive without additional hardware or a 2.5" drive with screws that secure the drive through the bottom crossmembers. The four pins that secure 3.5" drives to the tray have rubber washers around them that dampen vibrations from the hard drive and prevent additional noise from being transferred to the rest of the case.
One big drawback that I initially thought to see with the Carbide Series 400R's front I/O was its lack of USB 2.0 headers, as I had read before reviewing the case. However, I soon found that this was because other articles had no mention of the included USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 adapter! So although there are “only” USB 3.0 ports on the front, rest assured that there is an included adapter for those of you that have not made the jump. Other front panel connections include the standard interface/status panel plugs for power/reset buttons and power/HDD LEDs, a connection for the Firewire header, and plugs for the front audio jacks. They are all sheathed in black conduit, making them very discrete and easy to hide in your case. For the longest time, the front I/O gear was regularly covered in blue conduit and ugly multi-colored insulation. Luckily, it has become more common to make them much more low-key.
The three included fans are all 120 mm and identical in construction, though the two front 120mm fans are illuminated with white LEDs like those in Graphite Series cases. I will mention again that the LEDs on the front fans can be toggled on and off using the switch located on the front bezel. Other Corsair cases don't always have this, so it's nice to be able to turn these off in case you prefer to sleep with your computer on and don't appreciate being blinded or disturbed by the extra light. Personally, I like the look of the white LEDs. As far as specifications go, the fans do not have any listed numerical values such as voltage, current draw, or RPM. It's obvious that they will operate at 12V, but there's no easy way to determine their power draw. In my past experiences, I have not known Corsair cases to be very loud, even with fans at full speed. Thus, I expect the same for this case, as its fans seem to be the same model as those used previously by Corsair.
In the past, I have never really shared my methods to clean cable management with the community. I want to take the time to do that in this review and go the extra step to snap a few extra pictures during the installation process. I always begin with just the motherboard installed – excluding the heatsink helps here for certain cases, but I will demonstrate with the RAM and heatsink in place without fans. Certain heatsinks wouldn't allow access to the auxiliary 12v plug on this motherboard, but I can reach it with my Noctua. At this point, I try to snake all of the power wires through the same pass-through grommet – it helps clean up the look and consolidates the location of the wires. I will mention that although I orient the power supply with the intake fan facing down and reaching the fresh air from the bottom of the case, it is so the wires exiting the power supply can be positioned right next to the motherboard tray. The first thing that I plug in is the 8-pin 12V connector – I do this by routing it behind the motherboard tray and through the passage at the top of the case. Keep in mind that for aesthetic reasons, I try not to let wires wrap around each other – instead, I keep them as collinear as possible to make it appear like a "stock" job and not something that is randomly thrown together.
My next step to management is usually getting the I/O plugs where I would like to have them. Sometimes, the larger cables such as the 24-pin ATX cable and auxiliary video card power cords are too stiff to easily work around them. Thus, I try to position the I/O wires early, behind the bundle of cables coming out of the power supply – this helps to camouflage the former. In the next step, I snap the SATA plug(s) into the motherboard, as it can be hard to access the ports once the video card is plugged in. I route these cables in a straight line if possible. You'll notice the red SATA cable that I use is coiled up – it is something I did on my own. All it takes is a form of rod, such as a screwdriver. By wrapping the cable around the rod in a tight, coiled pattern and sliding it off, you will produce these results. If done right, the result should last until it is pulled apart. Yes, I know that coiling wires can induct a magnetic field, but the current through these wires is so minuscule that it does not concern me one bit. Once the SATA cables are in place, I go ahead and install the video card, plugging the power cables into it at the same time. If your ATX cable has wire loom around it, try to slide it as close to the plug as possible once the plug is in place – sometimes, pulling it through tight spaces can pull the loom away from the plug so this helps to make things look neater. Also, be sure to remain conscious of the room behind the motherboard tray and make sure that these cables aren't twisted around each other and are laying as close to the rear of the motherboard tray as possible.
By now, it should be coming together nicely and you can begin to plug in hard drives and hook up the fans or other devices. At this point, results and methods may vary between cases, but the ideas are similar. If the hard drives can be oriented with the I/O ports pointed towards the rear of the case, do it – it will make the case look very clean on the inside with minimal exposed wiring. If you lucked out and purchased a modular power supply, make sure to use only what you have to. If you can consolidate multiple devices to a single "run" of plugs, do so if you are not concerned about the myths of drawing too much power on that single rail. Generally, I can get away with adding only one line of molex connectors for fans, and another line for SATA plugs. When plugging everything up and routing cables, keep everything as neat as possible and don't be afraid to think outside the box to get the look you want! Also, keep in mind that the extra space behind the hard drive cages can be used in housing pretty much all of you unused wires. Don't forget that with most new cases, zip ties anchors and cables may be provided – so take advantage of them!
At this point, I've got everything in the case and everything is running smoothly. As an important note, it doesn't take a lot of skill to make the inside of a case look good when the accommodations are made as seen – just remember to take your time. With the case powered on, we can see the glow from the white LEDs from the front fans – personally, I like this effect. Although they are not excessively bright, it's still nice to have the option of turning them off for some peace and "eye" quiet for those who need it.