OCC 2013 Products of the YearBosco , ccokeman , Wesstron - December 30, 2013
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OCC 2013 Case of the Year:
Winner: Corsair Carbide Air 540
This innovative computer chassis can be found at the time of writing for $120! Some might argue about the innovative part, but we will stand by it since it’s the first case that brings multi-chamber concept to the masses at an affordable price. Corsair hit the mark with the design, quality, and overall look and feel of this case. The separate compartments allow for a clean looking build, great airflow, and neat cable management. The Corsair Carbide Air 540 has enough room to accommodate E-ATX motherboards and comes equipped with three AF140L fans that are very quiet and able to push a good amount of air. The different cooling setups that can be housed in this case are impressive; up to six 120mm fans or five 140mm fans can be installed simultaneously. If water cooling is your thing, don’t let the air in the Corsair Carbide Air 540 name discourage you, as this case can be fitted with a 240mm or 280mm radiator up top and a 240mm, 280mm, or even 360mm radiator on the front panel.
Case modders are already enjoying this little cube concept from Corsair and the amazing amount of hardware that can be crammed inside while keeping clean looks and great performance.
This monster of a case is one of the latest additions to the HAF lineup from Cooler Master. We say monster because this thing is huge right out of the box; and if you want to go really BIG, Cooler Master offers stackable modules to add on the top or the bottom. The end result would be a ginormous case that’s definitely not going to the next LAN party. Basically, the HAF Stacker family consists of three members. First we have the HAF Stacker 935, which comes with two units: the main body that supports E-ATX motherboards and looks like a full tower case, and a stackable module that’s designed to stack either on top or at the bottom of the main body. This module can also be used as a Mini-ITX case, if you don’t mind the lack of a power button and no I/O at the front of the system.
Next we have the Cooler Master HAF Stacker 915F and Cooler Master HAF Stacker 915R. These are Mini-ITX cases that look identical; the only difference being that the 915F has front PSU mounting while the 915R has a rear mounting location. The 915F and 915R make the possibilities to work with this modular case practically endless. They can be stacked on each other and/or on the main unit of the HAF Stacker 935 and then used to house power supplies, radiators, reservoirs, pumps, card-readers, fan controllers, and more. This makes it clear that this is not a case for the average consumer or those of us using a little self-contained water-cooling unit. Cooler Master did not even bother adding stock fans to the HAF Stacker units; the 935 comes with just one 140mm fan while the 915F/R come with a single 120mm fan.
The HAF Stacker will appeal to enthusiasts that think outside the box and want to put together some extreme build without having to bring out the power tools and mod their cases themselves. The multiple stacking configurations and the ability to have multiple systems all-in-one is the selling point of this case. However, modularity comes at a price; the HAF Stacker 935 goes for $170 while the 915F/R modules are $70 each.
Cooler Master is a well-respected name when it comes to computer peripherals, especially in the cases department. The brand covers a very wide range of chassis, from the entry level to the enthusiast class. The Cooler Master COSMOS SE belongs to the latter and comes with a price to match at $230, which might be more than what most will allocate to a case on a build budget. Apart from the daunting price, this case is a thing of pure beauty for a classic tower form factor: the top handles give the case a sporty look and provide a convenient way to carry it around, an embossed right side panel providing generous room for cable management, a windowed left side panel to show-off the build, extensive I/O panel, and dust filters strategically positioned. The inside is all black and offers good flexibility for builders; it is able to house motherboards that are ATX or smaller, has up to 18 mounting spots for SSDs and eight for HDDs, and it can accommodate water cooling radiators on the top or the front.
This mid-tower chassis from Thermaltake is priced in the $100 range, which is a very delicate position to say the least, since an extra $20 can get you the Corsair Carbide Air 540. At stock configuration it comes equipped with a 120mm intake fan on the front, one 120mm exhaust fan on the back, and one 200mm exhaust fan up top. The Chaser A41 has enough clearance inside to accommodate E-ATX motherboards and a multi-GPU setup. It is also liquid cooling ready with the option to mount a 240mm radiator up top. In terms of looks, it’s all relative, but we're not a big fan of the front panel and the protruding feet. Overall, the Thermaltake Chaser A41 is a decent looking case that provides good airflow and internal working space; although we feel that it’s positioned at a price range with better alternatives.