Cougar MX300 Review

hornybluecow - 2014-02-17 23:41:45 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: hornybluecow   
Reviewed on: April 7, 2014
Price: 59.99

Cougar MX300 Introduction:

Today we take a look at the Cougar MX300, which is part of the MX series gaming towers. Cougar is a company founded in 2007 by a group in Germany that wished to push the market towards a more stylish approach rather than the same "boring approach". In doing so, Cougar has made a name for itself while breaking into various other markets, which makes it a relatively new company compared to the competition. With a wide range of power supplies, fans, and accessories, Cougar is doing well for itself with a few great reviews already on OCC. Cougar has been on my radar for a while, so i hoped to get my hands on one of its chassis and today is my lucky day. So without delay, let's see what the MX300 has to offer.

Cougar MX300 Closer Look:

Looking at the pictures below, Cougar takes a different approach to the ever growing problem of the generic standard chassis, by going with a bee-hive front design to stand out. The front itself has two exposed 5.25" bays behind the grated bee-hive design, with a Cougar logo near the bottom and the chassis O/I ports at the top. The back comes with a silent 120mm rear fan, seven expansion slots, and a bottom mount for a power supply. On top of that, the chassis itself is slightly more compact than usual, making it necessary to have the expansion cards stick out when installed. Cougar also included a plastic cover that hides the thumb screws for the slots.

The left side panel includes an extruded section, both a window on the right, over the hard drive bays, and a vented section on the right for up to two 120mm fans. The right panel continues the design with a slightly extruded middle to complete the look and effetely adds more space behind the motherboard tray. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking a look at the top of the chassis, Cougar has its logo facing the front with the companies name below it. Further back is a vented section for up to two 120mm fans, but it's unlikely that a 240mm radiator will be able to fit because there is a possible issue with the clearing of the motherboard VRM heatsinks. On the bottom is a removable dust filter for the power supply and not much else. Being a compact mid-tower, it isn't much of a missed opportunity, because a front or side fan would be much more effective in moving air.

 

Cougar MX300 Closer Look:

Taking off the front panel was one of the easiest I've come across so far. Simply grab the bottom and pull, but make sure not to pull too far out, because all the I/O ports are connected to it. I wish companies would not do this as it has a high potential to cause someone problems. Once removed, you can see the top 5.25" bay used for the cable routing, which leave a total of two usable bays. Below that, is an extended dust filter, covering up to two 120mm fans. The fans themselves would be installed to the dust filter, so you don't need long M3 screws to mount them. While this isn't a big deal, just keep in mind the fans will have to be removed before cleaning the filter completely. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cougar takes the traditional route and puts the I/O ports on the front of the chassis. Looking from left to right, there is a small square reset button that also acts as a hard drive access light, which glows orange when in use. Next, the middle includes a USB 2.0, headphone jack, mic jack, and finally a single USB 3.0 port. At the end is a rectangle power button that is a bright white light when the computer is on.

 

 

The top also has a hidden section, which can be accessed by grabbing the opening in the back and lifting it up. Underneath, you will find a dust filter that is held in place by magnets, which was something a bit different than the usual. As I explained before, it's very unlikely a radiator can be installed on top because it will hit the motherboard VRM heatsinks. Fans, on the other hand, can be installed even with a large CPU cooler.

 

Inside the chassis was a box, which included all the accessories. In the box was a manual, screws, and a face-plate for a 3.25" device. The manual itself was detailed enough and included a blow-out diagram, depicting all the parts in the chassis.

 

Cougar MX300 Closer Look:

Removing the side panels just requires two thumb screws to be removed before the panel comes off. Once the panel comes off, you can see the black interior. Inside the chassis, you can see two separate non-removable hard drive cages; one for 3.25" drives and another for 2.5" drives. Finally, above that, are two exposed 5.25" bays and even though three bays are present, the top is used solely for the front I/O wires.

The chassis itself is very compact for a mid-tower, allowing just enough space for a 160mm cooler to clear, thanks to the extruded side panel. Even though the hard drive cage is not removable, installation of up to 310mm video cards is possible, which covers nearly all video cards currently on the market, but you may want to check if the card is over 11" (280mm) as not all cards have the power connectors on the side of the cards.

 


The tool-less design Cougar implemented here was very intuitive....I would say that if Cougar used a tool-less setup for both the hard drive cages, because the 3.25" bays do, but the 2.5" still use screws. It's not a big deal, but what I don't understand is, since it is already made out of plastic, how hard is it to add a few pins? In any case, people who read my reviews know I don't care about tool-less setups since I always have a screw driver handy. The 5.25" bays do, however, supports the tool-less setup with a simple locking system. When the notch up is open, the holder can come out, while in the down position allows it to be locked in place. Once a bay was used, I did not have much of an issue getting it to lock and generally you have to wiggle it a little to get it to fall into place.

 


Behind the motherboard tray is only about 10mm of space, including the extruded space from the side panel. Basically, there is no space unless you have flat cables, even then, it was hard to run anything behind. Is it bad? No, not really, since you can't expect a lot of space in this size chassis. Although I would have liked space to run the 8-Pin EPS cable.

 


Once the computer is assembled, you can see the the limited interior space. The CPU cooler just barely fit and there is no option to install a top mounted radiator as it would hit the VRM heatsinks. If you have a smaller CPU cooler, installing an extra fan would help airflow out a lot, as in its current state, it's a little claustrophobic. I also had to run the 8-Pin EPS cable around the motherboard as there is no cut-out behind the tray and even if there was, space is limited and it may not fit anyways for some power supplies with large round cables.

 

Cougar MX300: Specifications

Case Type
Mid Tower
Dimension
195(W) X 450(H) X 490(D) mm (7.6 x 17.7 x 19.3 inch)
Side Panel
Transparent Window
Color
Exterior & Interior : Black
Cooling System
Front (intake) :
2x 120 mm Fan (optional)
Side (intake / exhaust) :
2x 120 mm  Fan (optional)
Back (exhaust) :
1x 120 mm Fan (included)
Top (exhaust) :
2 x 120mm Fan (optional)
Bottom (intake) :
None
Material
Metal (Type Not Listed)
Drive Bays
Accessible : 2 x 5.25’’
Hidden : 3 x 3.5’’ / 3 x 2.5”
Expansion Slots
7
Motherboards
Micro-ATX, ATX
I/O Ports
1 X USB3.0 / 1 X USB2.0 / 2 x AUDIO
PSU
Standard ATX PSU (optional)
LCS Compatibly
Limited
Other
CPU cooler height limitation: Not Listed (160mm~)
VGA length limitation: 310 mm

 

Cougar MX300: Features





 

All information courtesy of Cougar @ http://www.cougar-world.com/products/pc_case/mx300.html

Cougar MX300 Testing

Testing a chassis requires the computer to stay at idle and load for one hour. Doing so will give you an idea of what your computer may be like under stress. Normally your computer will not be running this hot, but we do not all live in cold weather or do similar things. Therefore, a full stress test can give people the idea of what it can handle and whether or not heat gets trapped over time. The case is left with stock features to give you an idea of the temperatures without the need for extra fans. It's almost guaranteed to have a slight drop in temperature when more fans are added, but that will not be covered unless noted. I will be using Prime95 "small FFTs" for the CPU load and 3DMark Vantage "Extreme preset" for GPU for one hour. After an hour the temperatures are recorded using HWMonitor in Celsius (°C).

Setup:

Compared Cases:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*The motherboard is having difficulties giving correct readout and numbers may be incorrect.

Looking at the charts, you can see the MX300 is all around on the high side with the single included fan. I was starting to think maybe the Cooler Master Stacker was a fluke with its high load temps, but similar to that review, I removed the cooler and redid the test a few times to make sure it was accurate. In short, the MX300 simply does not do well with its included rear fan and could benefit with at least a second fan. Granted, it's not hard to add another fan, but just keep in mind you are looking at $7-15 for a good 120mm fan.

Cougar MX300: Conclusion

Let us recap my reasoning and scoring method before diving into my final words. First I look at what the company is saying it offers. For example, say the company states the case supports large / long graphic cards or ten quiet fans. In this example, I examine what is advertised versus what is actually offered. Most of this becomes uncovered as I take pictures to document the product. If the company does not stay true to its word, then it loses points because no one ever wants to be sold on false advertisement. Next I look at what the product is marketed for and put it into perspective. An example of this could be trying to overclock a CPU in a Mini-ITX case and expecting a low temperature. This would contradict its target market and something I try to catch so it does not affect the score. The last bit is my own interjection. What could the case offer in its price range, and what do other companies offer. This category may include an extra fan, cable management, different color paint, or support for larger video cards. This list is endless so let's move on to the conclusion.

Cougar has taking me on a mini roller coaster of ups and downs. I was enthusiastic to finally be able to review a Cougar chassis that I've read so much about, but as I took photos for the review, I noticed some potential flaws creeping up. While assembling the computer, a lot of those smalls thing became less of an issue and more just a fact of being a compact mid-tower.

Following suit of my previous reviews, I like to start with the negative things about the chassis and leave on a good note. There is no easy way to say this but Cougar with its great brand of fans has made a chassis with poor air flow. The single rear fan maxes out at around 1100 RPM and while dead silent, it doesn't move any air to be really called a fan. This chassis would benefit greatly from a font or top fan to get the air moving, even if it is a low RPM fan. A solution for the customer, who is looking to maximize savings, could invest in an AIO Cooler (All-In-One) like a Corsair H60 and use the now spare fan either in the front or top. In either case, if the goal is to have a lot of air movement, this isn't it, unless you add some more fans yourself.

Next is something I was on the fence about. It is technically okay to not have any space behind the tray when it comes to smaller, compact chassis. It is almost expected as the chassis is meant to save space and sometimes it's not possible to have everything. In this example, Cougar had little space (10mm) to allow small things like SATA or I/O cables to run behind the tray. If you happen to have a power supply with flat cables, you still have to squeeze them in as well. That being said, I'm more of an all or nothing type when it comes to chassis, either bump it out a bit more to allow more cables, or squeeze it down to really make it compact. Cougar left it in the middle and I think it was a missed opportunity to be able to hide or use the extra space behind the tray because it wasn't wide enough.

To follow up, the compact design really is utilized inside as where other companies would leave the space adjective to the video card empty, Cougar decided it was the perfect place for the 2.5" bays. The extruded side panel allows for either a CPU cooler up to 160mm to fit or something else and two fans on the side panel. Finally, the silent fan is a double edge sword; while being great for the quiet part, it does have poor air flow so take it whichever way you like.

To conclude, I think Cougar has a decent mid-tower that fits in a niche of compact chassis. Being priced around $60, it puts up a good fight for the price, and what it lacks, makes it up for in customization and layout of the fans. Cougar has landed in at the middle and to get the most out of it, you will have to invest a few more dollars in fans.


Pros:


Cons: