Corsair Carbide Air 540 Reviewred454 - October 22, 2013
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Corsair Carbide Air 540 Closer Look:
Let's take a look at the main chamber and see what is inside. First, I have to see what is behind the front and top covers. Both covers consist of a plastic frame with six long ribs spaced at about 3/4" and a perforated metal mesh insert. Both of the mesh inserts are contoured to compliment the ribs of the plastic frames. To get the front cover off, you have to remove the top cover first. There are two thumb screws that hold the top cover on. After you get the top cover off, the front cover pops off by raising it up. Right away on top you can see the mounting holes for dual 120 or 140mm fans and this location can handle up to a 280mm radiator. Up front we have two 140mm Corsair Air Series AF140L intake fans. The AF140L fans are based on the award-winning AF140 and provide great airflow performance at lower noise levels than typical case fans. The front can handle up to a 360mm radiator.
The front filter is easy to clean and reinstall, what I really like is that the filter frame is magnetic and it fits right in the recessed pocket. So what is behind the filter? Pop it out and you reveal a better view of the twin AF140L front intake fans. All the supplied fans are of the 3-pin style. You can see the mounting provisions for a larger front radiator.
Here is the front filter. You can see the eight round magnets. It fits nicely in the pocket and stays put. Grab the center of the filter frame and give it a quick pull, it pops right out.
The Air 540 does not have the typical hard drive cages up front. So there is a shorter distance from the front fans to the rear or top exhaust fans, allowing the front intake fans deliver cool air directly to your components. There are eight large grommeted holes, a generous access hole in the motherboard tray, and towards the bottom there is an oval slot for your I/O cables to reach the bottom of the motherboard. At the top of the case there is room for two 120mm or 140mm fans, or up to a 280mm radiator.
The side of the case gives you an unobstructed view of the two front 140mm fans (included), which as mentioned, does also accommodate a front mounted 360mm radiator if you like. At the rear is the included 140mm rear exhaust fan. Plenty of room around the motherboard tray to work and install all of your components.
Now to a better look at the hot swap hard drive bays. Well, not so much bays - really I should call them docks. Either way, they are definitely a nice touch. The hard drive trays fit neatly into the side guides. Now, when I added my hard drives, I couldn't figure out why they weren't showing up in the BIOS. I checked the BIOS and I did have the Hot Swap enabled for those positions. So I tried again, several times. Nothing. I looked a little more closely and realized that they weren't even spinning. No power? They work fine when I power them up on an external USB dock. Surely the power sockets weren't damaged? Well, it turns out that I had a noob moment. A good solid push and you hear and feel a nice "click" as they lock into position. I was just a little too careful when I plugged them in, only because in the past I have used a little too much force and sometimes the click you hear is actually something snapping off - but not in this situation. So give them a firm push, so the sockets engage and you'll be fine.
So now we flip the case around and look at what I'll call the back, which is actually the second chamber. This is where the power supply, optical drives, and your SSDs will mount. There is a lot of space here, which provides easy access for cable management. If you want to use a custom water cooling loop, you have some room for the pump and associated hardware in this chamber.
The power supply mounts on its side in the bottom and there is an adjustable support/foot. Two thumb screws hold the support in place and there are seven positions for longer power supplies. The power supply is situated so that the intake is directed at the vented side of the case, which ensures a steady supply of outside air. The SSD cage has room for four SSDs and mounts directly above the power supply.
There is space behind the power supply (below the optical drive bays) for stashing excess cables. It's nice to not have to cram the cables in to get the side panel to close. At the bottom, you can see the two SATA / power cables for the Hot Swap bays on the other side (one set is behind the power supply support). Just above this area are the two optical drive bays.
This is what the SSD cage looks like when it is removed from the case. Each cage attaches to the one above it with six integrated clips. They snap together and the top unit is a dummy unit that only attaches the cage assembly to the side of the motherboard tray. Be careful when pulling them apart or snapping them together, the little clips can break off (oops!). This cage system is the same one used on the Corsair Obsidian 350D and I managed to break one of the clips during that review. But even with the broken clip, the assembly is still locked firmly together with the other five clips. I was a little more careful with this cage and didn't break anything.
Here you can see the SSD cage where it mounts to the motherboard back plane.
The hardware consists of some cable ties and motherboard screws. The instruction set is very clear and easy to follow, as is typical with Corsair.
Now we can test fit the motherboard. Here is where the space allowed by the dual chamber case design comes into play. It is a breath of fresh air to be able to access the top, bottom, and right side of the motherboard for all your cable connections. Often times the way the SATA cables connect to the motherboard, there are problems making sharp turns to clear the hard drive cages. Not with the Air 540. No hard drive cages mean a clear shot at getting your main power, USB 3.0 header, and SATA cables connected to the motherboard. Even with the massive Noctua cooler in place, you still have access to the top of the motherboard. Plenty of room for a top or front mounted radiator. And with the two hot swap docks below, your SATA and power cables are handled in the second chamber, out of view. This all adds up to an exceptionally clean build with less effort.