It’s that time of year again where we decide which case manufacturers deserve our praise and a GN Teardown Crystal, and which deserve eternal shame and have to pay $19.99 for their own Teardown Crystal from store.gamersnexus.net. Last year, the Lian Li O11 Dynamic took the prize for Best All-Around, and the Silverstone PM02 and Fractal Define S2 took home the “Best Worst” Trend award for the unforgivable sin of being pointless refreshes. Also, the PM02 is just a bad case. This year’s award nominees pick up from where we left off, starting with the lackluster Thermaltake Level 20 MT in December of 2018. Spoilers: it didn’t win anything.
With over 220 rows of case data now -- or maybe more, we haven’t really checked too recently -- there’s a lot to consider in our round-up of the best cases for 2019. Fortunately, that list instantly gets whittled-down to, well, just 2019’s data, which is still populous. With the prevalence of several bad cases this year, we can narrow the list further to focus on only the most deserving of recognition. This article will continue after the embedded video.
This is a prototype, and it’s one of the most unique closed-loop liquid coolers we’ve ever reviewed. Cooler Master sent us their first engineering sample of a new 200mm closed-loop liquid cooler – or AIO, as some like to call them – and it’s built for the mini-ITX Cooler Master H100 case. Technically, a cooler like this could also be used to mount to other cases with 200mm fans, like the H500M or H500 cases, although the tubes would need to be longer. The cooler tries to solve the problem of matching radiators to 200mm case intake fans, since most radiators work best with 120 or 140 fans, and would exhibit worse performance without leveraging the full surface area of a 200mm fan. Today, we’re benchmarking this new cooler on our standardized bench.
The Cooler Master 200mm closed-loop liquid cooler is as yet unnamed, but it’ll be included in a bundle with the H100 MITX case from Computex. The total bundle cost should be around $100 when all is done, but standalone units are unlikely to be sold right now. Cooler Master noted that it would read our YouTube comments section to help determine if there’s enough demand for a 200mm CLC standalone, but that it otherwise is targeting this cooler specifically for its new mini-ITX case with one 200mm fan.
The biggest challenge with 200mm fans, as always, is that none of them are standardized. Cooler Master designed this cooler to fits its CM MF-200R fans, and so fans with alternate hole spacing – like the Noctua 200mm fans – will not fit without twist ties and clamps. We still tested the cooler with both the CM MF-200R and Noctua 200mm fans, but the Noctua unit does not natively fit.
Separately, we’ll re-embed some airflow LPM tests from our previous CM vs. Noctua 200mm fan comparison.
Cooler Master sent over its NR600 enclosure at the same time as the Q500L, but we judged it a little less time sensitive since there wasn’t any melting candy inside of it. The NR600 is a budget mesh-fronted mid tower moving in on the market segment that the RL06 used to occupy, back when it was around $70.
At first glance, the Cooler Master MasterBox NR600 bears a strong resemblance to the NZXT H500, mostly thanks to the partial glass panel that cuts off at the level of the PSU shroud, but also the flat, unadorned exterior. Cooler Master has gone increasingly minimalist with their branding, which is limited to a logo-shaped power button and an embossed hexagon on the side of the PSU shroud. We went so far as to put the NR600 side-by-side with the H500 for comparison, but their glass panels are in fact slightly different sizes.
The Cooler Master Q500L is an ATX retrofit of the micro-ATX Q300L, designed to fit full-sized ATX motherboards and components. All of this is done entirely within the footprint of the existing SFF case, which is the gimmick of Cooler Master’s Q series: multiple different cases, one (small) external size. That’s good, because Cooler Master decided to fill the entire thing with Reese’s Cups before they sent it to us, and if they’d done that with something from the Cosmos line we’d be in serious trouble. We have been well-fed, though, and we’ve learned that freezing them makes them much better. Seriously.
We’re definitely losing money on this review, and it’s not just because we had to hire an intern to eat the 18 pounds of Reese’s cups that Cooler Master included in the case. We tried hard to make the Q500L perform well in testing – we tried to force it, with Patrick spending a week longer working on this case testing than we typically spend. This is Cooler Master’s Q500L mini case for full ATX motherboards, re-using the Q300 tooling from a micro-ATX case design, but shifting the power supply around to accommodate ATX motherboards. It’s a unique approach to an enclosure and, at $60, we can overlook a lot of limitations in favor of affordability.
This is the article version of our recent tour of a cable factory in Dongguan, China. The factory is SanDian, used by Cooler Master (and other companies you know) to manufacture front panel connectors, USB cables, Type-C cables, and more. This script was written for the video that's embedded below, but we have also pulled screenshots to make a written version. Note that references to "on screen" will be referring to the video portion.
USB 3.1 Type-C front panel cables are between 4x and 10x more expensive than USB2.0 front panel cables, which explains why Type-C is still somewhat rare in PC cases. For USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C connectors with fully validated speeds, the cost is about 7x as expensive as the original USB3.0 cables. That cost is all because of how the cables are made: Raw materials have an expense, but there’s also tremendous time expense to manufacture and assemble USB 3.1 Type-C cables. Today’s tour of SanDian, a cable factory that partners with Cooler Master, shows how cables are made. This includes USB 3.1 Type-C, USB 2.0, and front panel connectors. Note that USB 3.1 is being rebranded to USB 3.2 going forward, but it’s the same process.
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.
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