The Cooler Master SL600M was one of the most promising cases we saw at Computex 2018, using CM’s now-familiar 200mm fans in a bottom-to-top airflow configuration. Although the “chimney effect” and “stack effect” are genuine insofar as their physical existence, the usefulness of natural convection processes fades when confronted with high CFM, directional fans. Hot air does rise, of course, but air blasted through a fan goes wherever you want it. In this regard, we are not firm believers in the “chimney effect” as a marketing characteristic for computer cases -- not unless those are passively cooled, anyway -- even still, the last case we tested with a similar configuration was the RV02, which remains one of the best cases we’ve tested thermally.

These improvements are for other reasons, not because the heat is rising. It’s because the air path is superior, and placing several large fans at the bottom of a case (given sufficient distance from the table) can cool parts faster. The path to the GPU is shorter, and so cooler air is hitting the video card fans faster.

Cooler Master’s SL600M ends up at around $200, and enters a market with more competitors at its price class than is typical: The NZXT H700i, Cooler Master’s own H500M (or H500P Mesh), and the Phanteks Evolv X are all relatively recent contenders in this arena.

Today, we’re reviewing the Cooler Master SL600M for thermals, acoustics, build quality, and value.

We reviewed the behemoth Cooler Master Cosmos C700P almost exactly a year ago, and now CM is back with the even heavier 51.6lb C700M. Like the H500M versus the H500P, this is a higher-end and more expensive model being added to a family of cases rather than replacing them. The new flagship has a few upgrades over the original, but it retains the same basic look with pairs of big aluminum rails at the top and bottom and dual-curved side panels.

Cooler Master’s C700M is very much a halo product, but our review of the C700M will focus on build quality, thermals, acoustics, and cable management. Ultimately, this is a showpiece -- it’s something one might buy because they can afford it, and that’s good enough reason. We will still be reviewing the Cooler Master C700M on its practical merits as an enclosure, as always, but are also taking into consideration its status as a halo product -- that is, something from which features will be pulled to the low-end later.

The newest Cooler Master Mastercase H500[X] case is the H500. Not the H500P, or the H500P Mesh, or the H500M. Just plain H500, but not the identically-named NZXT H500, or the H500i, or the Thermaltake A500 we saw at Computex, nor the Corsair 500D. If NZXT comes out with an H500 Mesh, we’re going to take matters into our own hands and start assigning names.

The look of the H500X family was established by the H500P late last year, and the cases that followed all share the dual 200mm RGB intake fans and a similar front panel. The H500 steers further away from the original than the others, though: most obviously, the top of the case has an odd hump at the front, similar to the old HAF 912/922/932s. On the 912, this was advertised as a “top platform for personal belongings,” but it’s more practical on the H500, hiding a plastic handle for lifting the case. It’s not as bulletproof as a metal handle would be, but it’s fine for lifting the case onto a table, and these days that’s about the only reason anyone needs to pick up a PC.

Cooler Master’s H500M is the 18th addition to our “Cases Named H500” chart. The H500M was shown at CES 2018, and follows-up the initial H500P, the H500P Mesh, and the unrelated H500 and H500i cases from NZXT. This is Cooler Master’s high-end solution, shipping at $200 and including user-swappable glass or mesh front panels, with the mesh panel pre-installed in a default configuration. Today, we’re reviewing the Cooler Master H500M enclosure.

Cooler Master’s H500M officially launches for product availability to consumers in the second week of June, just after Computex ends, and carries an MSRP of $200. For clarity, this is a different product than the H500P Mesh that we previously reviewed, although it does ship with a mesh front by default. The H500M also includes a swappable glass front, and otherwise primarily differentiates itself with additional gloss and ARGB support and controllers.

From the ARGB side, software is still to come, and immediate compatibility includes ASUS motherboards. Cooler Master is working with other vendors on further integration. For our purposes today, we’re more focused on overall build quality and thermal performance; besides, we’ve got Computex and flights to Asia breathing down our necks, so we’ll stick with what we’re good at.

If you went through our original H500P review and addressed each complaint one by one, the result would be the H500P Mesh, Cooler Master’s new mesh-fronted variant of the (formerly) underwhelming HAF successor. We previously built our own Cooler Master mesh mod, and the performance results there nearly linearly mirror what we found in Cooler Master’s actual H500P Mesh case.

In our Cooler Master H500P Mesh review, we’ll run through temperature testing (thermals), airflow testing with an anemometer, and noise testing. Additional quality analysis will be done to gauge whether the substantial issues with the original H500P front and top panels have been resolved.

 

As this case is the same barebones chassis as the original H500P, we encourage you to read that review for more detailed notes on the build process. The focus here is on airflow, thermals, noise, and external build quality or other resolutions. As a reminder, the original marketing advertised “guaranteed high-volume airflow,” and suggested to reviewers that the case was a high-airflow enclosure with performance-oriented qualities. That, clearly, was not true, and was what resulted in the lashing the H500P received. Honest marketing matters.

We recently revisited the “King of Case Airflow”, the SilverStone Raven 02, which we originally reviewed back in 2013. It’s certainly the king compared to anything we’ve tested recently, but competition for the crown was a lot stronger back when the case was released, and the ultimate example of high airflow early 2010’s cases is the Cooler Master HAF X (still available, by the way). 2010 seems like ancient history, back when certain people were working for Newegg TV and others for NCIX, but the HAF series remains so respected that Cooler Master leveraged the name to promote the H500P last year; the HAF X specifically was so popular that brand new ones are available for purchase on Newegg right now, nearly eight years after its release.

GamersNexus did exist when the HAF X launched, but we never officially reviewed it. Steve bought the case featured in this revisit for his own system years ago, and we ran a contest for a HAF X shirt in 2012. It seems like everyone had a high opinion of it, including us, which made the H500P a big letdown. This revisit aims to find out whether the HAF X was really worthy of all that hype.

We’re revisiting one of the best ~200mm-ish fans that existed: The SilverStone Air Penetrator 180, or AP181, that was found in the chart-topping Raven02 case that we once held in high regard. We dug these fans out of our old Raven, still hanging around post-testing from years ago, and threw them into a test bench versus the Noctua 200mm and Cooler Master 200mm RGB fans (the latter coming from the H500P case).

These three fans, two of which are advertised as 200mm, all have different mounting holes. This is part of the reason that 200mm fans faded from prominence (the other being replacing mesh side panels with a sheet of glass), as companies were all fighting over a non-standardized fan size. Generally speaking, buying a case with 200mm fans did not – and still does not – guarantee that other 200mm fans will work in that case. The screw hole spacing is different, the fan size could be different, and there were about 4 types of 200mm-ish fans from the time: 180mm, 200mm, 220mm, and 230mm.

That’s a large part of the vanishing act of the 200mm fans, although a recent revival by Cooler Master has resurrected some interest in them. It’s almost like a fashion trend: All the manufacturers saw at Computex that 200mm fans were “in” again, and immediately, we started seeing CES 2018 cases making a 200mm push.

We have a long, known history with the Cooler Master H500P. Our review set the stage, with our mesh mod “fixing” the product (as we said), and the disappointment build closing-out the year. Although Cooler Master didn’t particularly like what we had to say (and challenged us on the mesh mod), it seems that the company took the criticism to heart. Nearly every issue we complained about has been fixed. The company never told us about these changes, of course – we had to hear about it from you all, via Twitter – but we found out, and we visited the suite to look at the H500P Mesh and H500M.

The H500P Mesh enclosure fixes these primary concerns from our review: (1) The case falling apart, (2) the limited intake, (3) the power supply shroud installation procedure, and (4) the left panel no longer ‘wiggles’ or ‘wobbles’ side-to-side.

The revolution of 200mm fans was a short-live one. Large fans are still around, but the brief, bombastic era of sticking a 200mm fan in every slot didn’t last long: The CM HAF X, NZXT Phantom 820, SilverStone Raven 02 (180mm), Throne & Thor, and 500R all have designs that have largely been replaced in the market. That replacement comes in the form of an obsession with the word “sleek” in marketing materials, which generally means flat, unvented paneling that would conflict with the poorer static pressure performance of large fans. That’s not to say 200mm fans are inherently good or bad, just that the industry has trended away from them.

That is, until the Cooler Master H500P, which runs 2x MasterFan MF200R units dead-center, fully garnished with RGB LEDs. We didn’t necessarily like the H500P in its stock configuration (but did fix it), but we know the case is popular, and it’s the best test bench for 200mm fans. There’s a good chance that purchasers of the NF-A20 are buying them for the H500P.

And that’s what we’re reviewing today. In this benchmark, we’re reviewing the Noctua NF-A20 200mm fans versus the Cooler Master MasterFan MF200Rs, which come stock with the H500P. The MF200R fans will almost certainly become available separately, at some point, but presently only ship with the H500P.

Our review of Cooler Master’s H500P primarily highlighted the distinct cooling limitation of a case which has been both implicitly and explicitly marketed as “High Airflow.” The case offered decidedly low airflow, a byproduct of covering the vast majority of the fan – the selling point of the case – with an easily removed piece of clear plastic. In initial testing, we removed the case’s front panel for a closer look at thermals without obstructions, finding a reduction in CPU temperature of ~12~13 degrees Celsius. That gave a better idea for where the H500P could have performed, had the case not been suffocated by design, and started giving us ideas for mesh mods.

The mod is shown start-to-finish in the below video, but it’s all fairly trivial: Time to build was less than 30 minutes, with the next few hours spent on testing. The acrylic top and front panels are held in by double-sided tape, but that tape’s not strong enough to resist a light, sheer force. The panel separates mostly instantly when pressed on, with the rest of the tape removed by opposing presses down the paneling.

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