Cougar Solution Chassis Review

BluePanda - 2012-03-02 23:43:17 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: BluePanda   
Reviewed on: April 3, 2012
Price: $59.99

Introduction:

Just recently we looked at the Evolution chassis from COUGAR. Today we get to take a second look at the COUGAR lineup with a peek at the Solution chassis. It is a true mid-tower with a price tag that is affordable for any budget. It is a little smaller in stature than the Evolution but still has a lot of the features we saw in that case, just reduced in either scale or quantity. I’ll try not to make too many references back to the Evolution for those of you who haven’t looked at its review, but the similarities do exist. Let’s take a closer look at the Solution and find out how it stacks up against the competition.

Closer Look:

I truly love the simple black-printed cardboard box COUGAR uses with their case boxes. The design is clean, quick to the point, and lacks the flashiness that screams, “We spent more on the box than your case!” The front of the box is covered with a UPS shipping sleeve that only hides a tiny bit of the COUGAR logo. A quick inverse image of the actual case is printed with “Solution” spelled out in the upper right and lower left corners.

The back side of the box lists the case's features (found on the Specifications & Features page of this review) and shows off sketches of a few of them just to get you excited. Again from COUGAR we find the “midi tower” reference which still leaves me wondering exactly what they are going for with such a name, but this chassis is truly midi file sized – small.

The sides of the box are nearly identical; one lists specifications at the bottom, and the other lists the same specifications as well as color and item number. There are handles on the box which is always a nice addition. Not only does it make it easier for the delivery man to not drop it as often, but it also makes it easier to carry into the house. Case boxes without handles still make me sad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening up the box we find the typical foam ends inside with a plastic-bagged case. Flipping it over and emptying the contents leaves us with another well-packaged case. No broken foam ends and no loose items is always a good thing when opening any case box. Broken foam generally means broken chassis, so the case appears to be in good condition here.

 

Closer Look:

Now that it is out of the box we can take an up-close look at the chassis itself. The front inherits its looks from the Evolution with the honeycomb patterns on the bottom half of the case. A COUGAR logo breaks the case front into two with the top three external bays having a generic mesh pattern. The I/O layout is directly on the front of the case, while the top is strictly case body. It looks pretty nice and doesn’t have an overly cheap feel to it.

The back side of the case shows us a preview of another of COUGARs bright orange fans. There are a couple ports for water cooling; not that I would really want to do water cooling in a case of this size, but the holes are often nice for running other things externally as well. There are seven PCI-E slots which all mount externally (screws are on the back rather than inside your case). The bottom PSU mount is of standard design and is ready to be put to work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at the left and right of the case shows off the chassis' true low-cost appearance. It is rather plain and looks much like a pre-built body with a front face lift and a couple COUGAR-specified features. The holes for installing additional fans don’t have specific holes for mounting, which makes it look either very cheap or incredibly uniform. I can’t decide if I like it or not. The top at least has two discrete mounts for two fans. Unfortunately, to save on costs here you’ll have to deal with two thumbscrews on the left panel and two archaic case screws on the other side – better break out the handy screwdriver and your panel holding skills.

 

 

You can see what I/O options are available as we take a look at the front of the case. It’s a little short of the average front panel since it's missing a reset button and only provides a single USB 3.0 and single USB 2.0 port. It does have a jack for your microphone and headphones which is always nice. It’s simple, symmetrical in appearance, and provides just enough function. I grabbed a closer shot of the honeycomb pattern and COUGAR logo, and as you can see, the front looks very nice even though it is mostly plastic.

 

 

Overall, it’s not a bad looking case on the outside. It would be something I’d buy to house a low budget build or just to toss some old hardware in if necessary. The price seems to be right at least for what you are getting on the outside. With a few fans and maybe a little modding, this case could go a long way.

Closer Look:

Taking off the side panels we can get a good look at the insides and find out what is going to work and what is not. The pre-wiring is a bit messy, but I generally re-route a lot of the case wiring anyway so this doesn’t bother me. It looks like a normal mid-tower in size and is hungry for some hardware. If you take a closer look at where the wiring is going through, you’ll notice a lack of grommets. There aren’t any sharp edges here, but I generally like the looks of grommets to help hide things even more. I guess at this price you can’t have everything.

There is not much to talk about when looking at the back side of the case. There seems to be lots of routing locations for cables but not a ton of space back here for routing the wiring. The side panel does provide a little bit of space to allow you to add in extra cables and squeeze those annoying molex connectors into position.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The back included fan is a nice COUGAR fan with the ribbed blades. When I give it a spin, I notice that it feels like a solid fan. It makes me think they might have been able to include a few fans for the cost of this one, but it’s nice to see quality fans being included with cases. A glance at the motherboard tray and you’ll notice the brass pin to help you align your motherboard as well as some lifters to reduce the use of standoffs. The cut-out is quite large and perfect for dealing with that CPU back bracket that always seems to be hard to install.

 

The external and internal bays come with a couple of screwless mounts that are vivid orange. The plastic clamps have writing on them to show that the vertical position of the knob is "unlock[ed]" and the horizontal position is "locked". When in the locked position, the knob reads "COUGAR". On the right hand side the drive size is engraved as 5.25”. There are three external bays available, but COUGAR decided you can use screws for the last bay if you have three external mounts.

Looking at the lower bays for internal drives you’ll find a slightly different screwless mount at the top. It’s actually a 3.5” mount for floppy drives. Who still even has a floppy drive in their case? The top two bays here are designed to hold HDD or FDD. This screwless mount will go to waste in most builds unless you have some use for a floppy drive (in 2012?) or have some other odd 3.5” drive to mount. If you have an SSD you need to screw it to the bottom, as there’s only one mounting option that it makes it hard to hook up (see the final build pictures).

 

 

The usual install manual was included and looks just like the front of the box. All the instructions were fairly clear diagrams of how to put parts together or how to remove things. A bag of screws was inside that included a couple grommets for the water hole punch-outs. I pulled out the bottom fan filter that sits below the PSU for you to see. It seems like a lot of plastic, and perhaps they weren’t thinking because you actually would have to remove your PSU to take the filter out for cleaning (it’s on the inside of the case). It was sort of a pain to remove let alone to try to put back in place. I think I’d probably just take them out permanently in order to increase air flow if I were going to continue using the case. If it’s that difficult to clean, then it's not worth the hassle to me.

 

 

Getting hardware into this case proved to be just as difficult as when you are working with any mid-tower case, but with a few unique extras. The first trouble I had was mounting the rear I/O plate for the motherboard.  I actually had to loosen the rear fan to install the plate because the clearances are so tight around the opening.  This was surprising since anyone testing the case should have realized there was a clearance issue here.

Routing cables elegantly became impossible when the front audio port cables had no choice other than to drape right across the front of the motherboard (it’s the sort of rainbow looking cable there). I’m pretty sure this is also taut enough to be in the way of a crossfire setup if I did have one. If I installed more HDDs, you can see where the issue would arise next to my video card – there is not a lot of room, but I guess that’s why there are seven drive bays here.

I mentioned it earlier, but if you have an SSD the mounting option is screwing it into the very bottom of the case. You can barely see it under the HDD and all the cables, but this was honestly the best I could do. I had to use the end SATA power connector as the middle chain ones would not fit on but at least it worked. If it were up to me I’d say set your SSD on top of your HDD with some sticky tape or Velcro to keep it in place. Don’t bother with this Frankenstein fix.

 

 

In the end it’s a fairly nice looking case on the outside; however, the inside left me wanting more with the awkwardly short, pre-wired cables and painful HDD/SSD mounting arrangement. If you don’t care too much about the inside looks this is a decent case, and for the price you can’t really beat it. Working inside was difficult and pieces felt cheap and breakable. To me, this chassis isn’t enthusiast grade, but rather a "build it once and leave it alone" type of case.

Specifications:

 

Case Type:
Mid Tower
Motherboard Type:
Micro ATX / ATX
Dimensions:
198(W) x 425(H) x 484(D) mm
Color:
 Black
External 5.25” Drive Bays:
3
External 3.5” Drive Bays:
1
Internal 3.5” Drive Bays:
6
Internal 2.5” Drive Bays:
1
Expansion Slots:
7
I/O Panel:
USB 3.0 x 1, USB 2.0 x 1, Microphone x 1, and Audio x 1

 

Cooling:

 

Features:

 

 

 

All information provided by: http://www.cougar-world.com/products/pc_case/solution.html

Testing:

Testing the COUGAR Solution required pushing my hardware to the limit in order to heat things up! Testing involved recording temperatures for the CPU, GPU, chipset, hard drives, and overall system during idle and load phases. Load was simulated by running Prime95’s small FFTs, HD Tune, and 3Dmark Vantage 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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After comparing the temperatures, the Solution might not be great for cooling with just the one rear fan that comes stock. The idles were about on par with everything else in its category but its load temps were pretty warm. With no fan blowing across the HDD bays, the load temps were impressively high on the HDD. It’s no superstar of cooling but it doesn’t roast your gear either. The case is cheap enough that buying a couple of fans to increase its performance won’t break the bank. As is, it performs well and competes alright with more expensive cases, which is a good motivator for sales.

Conclusion:

In conclusion I don’t think the COUGAR Solution is my solution for an amazing build. The flaws it has in build arrangement and cable issues keeps this case from being a top contender among mid-tower chassis. Arguing its low price doesn’t make it worth the effort, and it won't bring home any awards. The front audio cable blocking a crossfire setup can be enough to call it quits before ever taking a serious look at this case. The fact that not enough time or effort was put into considering how long the pre-wired cables should be likely means there wasn’t much thought put into the overall design of the case. Looking “pretty” on the outside isn’t enough. Inside functionality of hardware placement and consideration for the generation outside the floppy era shouldn’t be missing. 1987 marked the introduction of the beloved 1.44 MB floppy drive; it is now 2012, and they are almost collectors’ items anymore. I honestly still have a floppy drive, but it’s purpose is for shear laughter instead of actually running in any of cheapest builds today. I think COUGAR needs to think a little more about hardware setup and perhaps wire up a few rigs of their own before making their next case – little details go a long way.

Overall I’m genuinely not impressed, but for the cost it would be nice for an enthusiast who doesn’t have a lot of coin to dump into the case itself; however, I would recommend an NZXT Tempest or Source at an even cheaper cost over this one.

 

 

Pros:

 

Cons: