Corsair Carbide Series 400R Review

airman - 2011-08-03 14:35:04 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: airman   
Reviewed on: September 1, 2011
Price: $99.99

Introduction:

When it comes to shopping for a new case, the myriad of available choices and features is always incredibly expansive. While some cases can be obtained for as little as $30 or $40, others require upwards of $300 and $400 for something that, in general, accomplishes the same task. Of course, the price premium usually results in larger sizes, better build quality, additional features, ease of use, or other bells and whistles. In the last few years, Corsair has delved into producing a large variety of computer components – starting with power supplies, they have also moved towards cases and SSDs. I can't particularly speak for Corsair's power supplies or SSDs, but I have had positive experiences with their computer cases – recently, I've reviewed Corsair’s Obsidian Series 650D and Graphite Series 600T. While both cases were in the category of mid-towers, their size was teetering on the verge of being standard full-towers. Overall, I enjoyed testing both of those cases, so I am excited to take a look at another recent development from Corsair, the Carbide Series 400R – a mid-tower case that is much smaller than their previous products.

The Corsair Carbide Series 400R shares a lot of the same features as its more expensive counterparts, but is concentrated into a smaller package at a cheaper cost for the buyer. Like the Graphite Series 600T cases, it offers some serious airflow with an expansion capability of up to ten fans. Although it does not feature removable hard drive cages or other doodads like the Carbide Series 500R, Corsair gives your ample room to manage 316mm (12”) PCI devices with no problem. You can also expect the Carbide Series 400R to offer full SSD support, front panel USB 3.0 headers, Corsair's proven wire management, and a fully-painted interior. Available with either a black or white exterior, the Graphite Series 400R appears to be a feature-rich case for those on a budget. Without further ado, let's get started with this review! (Hey, that rhymed – I'm a poet and didn't even know it.)

 

Closer Look:

Just like their other cases, Corsair packages the Carbide Series 400R in a box with large print and case images exposed. However, the package is much smaller than the behemoths in which the Obsidian and Graphite arrived. On the front, we see a wireframe drawing of the case at an angled view, with "Carbide Series 400R" printed underneath. Also on the front, in several different languages, are paragraphs of information that describe some of case’s features. On the left and right side of the box, Corsair has listed numerical specifications of the case such as its dimensions, weight, expansion slots, and motherboard support. This is accompanied by a similar wireframe image, though of the left and front view. Turning to the rear, we see an exploded view of the product, clearly labelling each feature of the case and painting a wonderful picture of the included accessories. The method to which Corsair has developed this packaging is pure genius – it is cheap to produce, neglecting glossy printing or expensive artwork, but conveys even more information than the flashy boxes that we often see. On top of that, it still looks pretty good in its own regard.

 

 

 

Opening the box, we find the Carbide Series 400R case wrapped securely in a cellophane-like bag and sandwiched between two pieces of stiff foam. This is nothing new, as manufacturers have generally been packing cases using this method for as long as I can remember. From what I can tell from the outside, the Carbide Series 400R made it safely to my door.

 

 

Included inside the case, there is an accessory box that contains the usual pieces: screws, zip-ties, a warranty card, a Corsair product mini-brochure, and a quick start guide that goes over the basics of the case and its inner-workings. Upon first impressions, I feel that this case is a much more reasonable "mid-tower" as far as its size goes. I will be checking out the exterior of the case on the next page, alongside my thoughts and evaluations.

 

Closer Look:

The front of the case is mainly constructed of a mesh material and surrounded by a bezel – both plastic. Starting from the top, you can see the front I/O and control area between the two rounded edges of the front face. Located on the matte bezel, it consists of two USB ports, audio jacks, power and reset buttons, a Firewire port, and LEDs indicating power and HDD activity. Below that, there are the four 5.25" device bays, which are each closed off by their own mesh cover. Beneath the 5.25" device bays, there is room for two fans and an integrated dust filter that conceals them. Turning to the left side of the case, there is a non-windowed, meshed side panel. Here, two additional 120mm or 140mm fans can be attached. Otherwise, the panel has a simple, plain design. The right side of the case is pretty much identical to the left, minus the mesh for the fans. In this case, it also features a protrusion that allows for a lot of extra room when tucking wires behind the motherboard tray. This is especially important for those who like clean cable management, where it is best to have a large area to hide and route wires. Unlike the higher-end Corsair models, the side panels on the Carbide Series 400R are not secured by quick-release mechanisms, but by two standard thumbscrews in the rear. However, the lines and contours of the panels do a good job at keeping the flow of the case continuous.

Having a look at the rear of the case reveals a familiar sight. To the right of the I/O cutout, there is an included 120mm (140mm optional) exhaust fan. Like its older siblings, the 400R has eight expansion slots with water cooling grommets at their side. The power supply is mounted at the bottom of the case and can be oriented either upwards or downwards. This is helpful for those who may prefer their power supply to sit with the fan facing towards or away from their other components; luckily, this feature is now very common, to the point where I would be surprised if there was no option to orient the power supply as I pleased.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What can be found on the top and bottom of the case is standard design. The top features a large mesh area through which the top 120 mm fans can exhaust warm air, though they must be bought separately. The hole pattern is arranged such that two 140 mm fans may be otherwise attached at the owner's preference. There is also a pocket towards the front – it acts like handle to help stabilize the case while carrying. I can't say for sure whether I'd completely rely on it to transport the case, but it's there nonetheless. The bottom of the case, like other designs, reveals a removable filter that prevents dust from entering through the intake vent on the power supply. It is made of plastic and mesh so it can be easily cleaned. The case has four large rubber pads as feet, which helps to stabilize it on hard floors and prevents vibrations or other noise from being transferred.

 

 

 

Unlike other Corsair cases, the fan filter on the front of the 400R is actually not removable. Generally, there would be locking tabs at the top that are released once pressed inwards. The filter would pivot along the bottom and could then be removed. In this case, the filter is fixed to the bezel. Thankfully, the entire front bezel can be removed by popping out several plastic tabs on each side. There are no wires or accessories attached to the front, so it makes removal much easier. On cases where LEDs and fans are wired directly to the front bezel, these connections can sometimes be broken if the wires are not long enough or if they snag on something while being removed – an otherwise poor engineering choice!

 

 

So far, I am liking this case – it is a good medium size and strays away from being too flashy or cheap-looking by using clean lines and a simple design. The paint is of good quality and I expect the inside to be just as nice! Following this page, there will be a close-up look of the case’s interior, features, build quality, and overall functionality.

Closer Look:

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.

 

Specifications:

Dimensions
20.5” x 8.1” x 19.8”
MB Support
ATX, mATX
Expansion Slots
8
Form Factor
Mid-tower
Material
Steel structure with molded ABS plastic accent pieces
Drive Bays
(x4) 5.25”, (x6) 3.5”/2.5” Drive Caddies
Cooling
(x6) 120 mm/140 mm fan mounts, (x4) 120 mm fan mounts. Includes (x2) front-mounted 120 mm white LED fans and (x1) rear 120 mm fan
Front I/O
(x2) USB 3.0, (x1) IEEE1394, (x1) Headphone,
(x1) Microphone, Power, Reset, Lighting toggle switch
Power Supply
ATX (not included)

 

Features:

 

All information provided courtesy of Corsair @ http://www.corsair.com

Testing:

To test the Corsair Carbide Series 400R, temperatures will be recorded for the CPU, GPU, chipset, hard drives, and the overall system during both idle and load phases. Load will be simulated by running HD Tune and small FFTs in Prime95 for one hour, while recording maximum temperatures using RealTemp. The GPU load temperature will be determined using the maximum value as recorded by Catalyst Control Center after five loops of 3DMark06’s Canyon Flight test. For idle temperature readings, I will allow each setup to remain idle for one hour and record the minimum value achieved during this period. Each case will be tested as is from the factory. The fan configuration for this Corsair case is left in its default state, which comprises of two front 120 mm intakes and one 120 mm rear exhaust. I will not be using any fan throttling for these tests.

Testing Setup:

Comparison Cases:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From these tests, we can see that the Corsair Carbide Series 400R gravitated towards its older brothers but came out relatively warmer than the bunch. The CPU temperature was the highest value of all of the ones we tested – though tied with the NZXT H2 Classic – but is the only comparison case that does not come with a top exhaust fan. I'm sure with that addition, the CPU temperature would be much more satisfactory. The hard drive temperature was recorded as a low one at 29°C loaded – I'm sure this was nudged down by the two 120 mm fans and low-restriction cages.

Conclusion:

The Corsair Carbide 400R has continued my belief that just because there is a $300+ dollar case on the market, it doesn't mean a $100 case cannot perform similarly. Of course, we aren't going to see matching numbers as far as temperatures go. If you're only in it for the most airflow though, why fork out hundreds of dollars for temperatures that are just a few degrees cooler? With a case like the Carbide Series 400R that houses up to ten fans, you can find yourself wondering if spending an extra $30-$40 in fans would be worth it. From my perspective, it absolutely is. With just the three included fans, I can almost see the locations of the airflow dead spots inside the case. I can name two right off the bat: the graphics card and heatsink areas. With a push-pull configuration like I use, the air at the top is truly stagnant. Alongside the self-contained blower system on the HD6970, the same holds true directly above the card, between itself and the heatsink. Adding an intake fan or two on the side panel and by the hard drive cages would absolutely help out all temperatures, especially with the well-ventilated rear panel.

While I like this expandability for fans, I just wish that Corsair chose to add either a top exhaust fan or a side intake fan...or both. I'm sure it was a careful decision, but the lack of the top exhaust fan really hurts the CPU load temperature in my opinion. That aside, I'm incredibly thankful that Corsair included the internal USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 header adapter. Before writing this review, I had read other articles to educate myself on the case and saw no USB 2.0 ports on the front! I was shocked, but then very relieved to find the adapter – something of which I didn't even know existed – alongside the included accessories. The lines of the case are nice, as I prefer the harder, sharp, "edgy" edges. The one thing that breaks the flow is the rounded portion at the top of the bezel. The rest of the case is dominated by a sharp and clean-cut geometry, but finished off with a “bubble” bezel – it just bugs me! While you may like it, I don't prefer mixing rounded and sharp geometries. Another note about the front bezel is that unlike the higher-end Corsair cases, the front fan filter is not removable in the way that the others are. On the more expensive models, the fan filter is attached by a simple push-clicker that releases and reattaches when pushed in. In this case, the entire front bezel must be pulled off to clean the filter. While slightly disappointing, we must keep in mind that this is a less-expensive case. Thankfully, pulling off the bezel is fairly easy.

The handle at the top is useful for picking up the case and carrying it while it is empty, though I'd be nervous to rely solely on this handle with a full computer installed inside. With all of the components, especially if you're running multiple GPUs, the computer can get heavy! That being said, the top handle can still be used, but definitely not while "one-arming" it – I would suggest holding the bottom when carrying the case. The ability to turn off the front LED fans is also there for those who like to sleep with their computers on and ready to go in the morning. Corsair made the right decision to include this feature, as it makes all consumers happy, whether or not they prefer to keep the lights on.

As far as wire management goes, if you skimmed through the review, I would definitely go back to page 3 for a brief but up-close wire management guide. I chose to do it with this case because it's not a super-duper specimen for having the best wire management, but offers features that are common with many other cases on the market. I did run into a bit of trouble with the areas around the perimeter of the case behind the tray, as there wasn’t really enough room. In my opinion, Corsair could have added an extra 3-5 mm to the distance between the rear of the motherboard and the edge of the frame to help get the side panel door closed. However, the popped-out shape of the side panel really makes a big difference with cable management and offers loads of room to pile up wires. Overall, I achieved the look that I always go for, though with slightly more effort. In conclusion, this case is definitely a great option for someone looking in the $100 range. It looks good (leaving my opinion of the bezel aside), is capable of installing TEN FANS, has good wire management possibilities, and comes with Corsair’s famous build quality.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: