Cooler Master Hands-On

TheMurph

It's always a happy day when a new, mysterious box of unknown product arrives at the gates of Maximum PC. Specifically, my desk. Today's latest offering comes straight from Cooler Master, and it was wholly unexpected -- as we say at magazine, "surprise and delight!" Like a kid on Some Major December-ish Holiday, I tore open the packaging to find three new goodies: Cooler Master's new CM 690 chassis, a Glacier 600 cooler for ATI 2900XT video cards, and a Hydra cooler for Nvidia 8800-series cards.


I didn't shoot a picture of it, but this box was wrapped in more tape and cardboard than any package I've received this year. Unpacking the case's box took probably as long as it would take to mount a rig in the chassis.


An exterior shot of the 690's left side shows its copious space for air-cooling. In total, the chassis comes with space for nine fans. Nine fans . We might have a worthy contender to the Hurricane Chassis .


Here's an awesome little innovation -- Cooler Master has included all the screws you need for assembly... directly in the case. These are mainly for the hard drive bays, as everything else on the chassis is screwless. Still, it's a wonder that no other case designer has thought of this fun way for users to preserve their screws (least, we haven't seen any cases do this over the past year). Take that, Ziploc bags.


First off, sorry this picture is huge. But It does a wonderful job of illustrating the 690's screwless hard drive bays. Well, semi-screwless. As previously mentioned, you still have to attach the drive to the holder. But after that, it's just a simple pop-in, pop-out whenever you need to shuffle the drive around. You can't see it in the shot, but there's a fan pumping air into the case on the right, snuggled up against the front of the chassis.


Another big picture, I know, I know. But you can see how the 690 uses Cooler Master's typical, screwless setup for the PCI slots. I fondly recall the first Cooler Master case I ever reviewed; snapped one of these blue tabs clean off. Careful!


While you can still wrap your cables around the back of the motherboard tray, the 690 comes with a series of handy little clamps that, in theory, should prevent you from making a mess of the inside of your case. In theory .

Two grills sit on the bottom of the case -- curiously, Cooler Master includes the case's only screw-less fan mounting mechanism on one of the bottom grills. This would have been perfect in another area, methinks.

After the jump: Water and Air! VGA cooling gets crazy!


Cooler Master's new Hydra Cooler looks pret-tee sleek. And yes, that's right -- it's a combination of air cooling and water cooling. That's like puppies and kittens being friends, and we all know how that goes...


The Hydra comes with fittings for the standard 1/2" and 3/8" tubing. The nozzles themselves rotate a full 360 degrees, which is an awesome little feature for those of us who consider the aesthetics of our tubing setup.


This might sound a little strange, but the underside of the waterblock just doesn't... feel... like the typical copper blocks we're used to seeing. It's lighter, and I'd even go so far as to say it's flimsier. But that's something we'll determine through rigorous lab testing; looks aren't everything! You can kind of see them poking out, but the device itself uses three heat pipes to transfer warmth away from the base.


An artsy shot of the underside of the card. You still have to use thermal pads on each of the 8800's memory chips and mosfets, but at least you get pads with the Hydra. Sure beats smearing messy thermal paste everywhere!


I'm certainly curious to see whether that fan lights up or not, though it's nice to see that Cooler Master hasn't gone logo-crazy on the front of the cooler. Er. On the bottom of the cooler.

After the jump: The Glacier 600!


The Glacier 600, pictured here, differs from the Hydra in that it's just a water block. No air cooling need apply.


As you can probably guess, the Glacier 600 shares the same nozzle configuration as the Hydra -- 360 degrees of operation, and included fittings for 1/2" and 3/8" tubing setups. At least you don't have to manually screw any of those retaining mechanisms onto your tube. Tightening devices are already built into the nozzles for you.


The waterblock itself is light as light can be. I was actually surprised by the weight; I'm used to beefier blocks. Obviously, that's a good difference between aluminum -- the Glacier 600 -- and an all-copper design!


The underside of the water block has an awesome, circle-pathway effect going on. Now if only Cooler Master could have resisted the temptation to slap the biggest logo ever smack in the middle of the block. Sigh.

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