The original CM Stacker was so audacious that we wondered what Cooler Master would do to one-up it: Now we know. The follow-up—dubbed the CM Stacker 830—improves on the original design in every way possible, and is one of the most badass cases we’ve ever laid our grubby (yet grounded for static) hands on.
So, what’s new in the second rev of the Stacker? Damn near everything but the materials: It’s still made entirely of aluminum.
Now, before you go thinking all-aluminum cases are too flimsy, know that this is old-school, Wave Master-style aluminum. It’s thick, and feels incredibly solid. This is not a case that flexes when you sit on it, but yet it’s light enough that you won’t inflame your hernia when you pick the case up by the handles built-into its top.
USB, FireWire, and audio ports are now on top of the case as well as in the front—a marked improvement. The internal audio cable that dangles from the connector sports four various plugs to ensure compatibility with every kind of audio jack on the market. The case still boasts 10 5.25-inch bays, and you can fill them with whatever you want—including optical drives, fan buses, and the included 3.5-inch drive cage, though the latter holds only three drives. If you have more drives than that, you’ll have to purchase a 5.25-to-3.25-inch adapter. This is clearly a mark against the Stacker, though not a big one. The only PC we’ve seen in the past two years that had more than three drives is our very own Dream Machine—still, it’d be nice if Cooler Master threw in an adapter or two for storage mavens.
Perhaps the biggest improvement to the Stacker is in the cooling department. The case’s included hard drive cage has its own dedicated 12cm fan, but you can also mount two more 12cm fans in any remaining empty 5.25-inch bays. Cooler Master only includes an adapter for one additional fan. Where the case gets insanely cool is with the swing-out, removable side door that hides behind the left-side panel. It can hold up to four 6cm-12cm fans, and if you’re not using it you can simply remove it with the push of a button. You can also attach another 12cm fan on the top of the case. And there’s yet another 12cm exhaust fan in the traditional location—above the ATX connector block.
In total, the Stacker 830 accepts nine 12cm fans, providing almost ridiculous cooling power. There’s even an optional cross-flow fan that blows air across the motherboard, but it’s not included with the case.
Other trick features include a front-panel door that can open to either side—extremely convenient! Removing the front-bezel slot covers is much easier with the new case, as now narrow metal wings on either side of the bezel swing out to give you easy access to the bezel’s locking mechanism (before you had to pop out the slot covers using force from inside the case). When you push the wings back in place the bezel is secured.
Just like before, the case is completely tool-less, though you will have to attach the hard drives to their cage via screws. Aside from that, everything comes off or locks into place with just the twist of a lever. The removable motherboard tray even has a handle on it, which should be a feature of every case. Both side doors and the motherboard tray unlock with the push of a lever.
What’s really shocking is the list of motherboard formfactors that the Stacker supports: ATX, E-ATX, Micro-ATX, BTX, Pico-BTX, and Micro-BTX. Yep, that’s all of them—even BTX, should that formfactor ever see the light of day.
Aside from the aforementioned drive-adapter shortage, there’s really nothing missing from the Stacker, aside from the “dream case” features we imagined in our Holiday 2005 case roundup—interior lighting, a tool tray, cable runs, and other pie-in-the-sky features we’d love to see. If Cooler Master saw fit to add these extras to the next iteration of the Stacker, we just might want to marry it.
— Josh Norem
Month Reviewed: January 2006
+ BIG CASE: Huge and highly customizable, abundant cooling.
- BAG RASH: Holds only three hard drives out of the box.