Dream Machine Case Redux

Kaya Systems

Spin-offs of old case favorites square off

Ah, Cooler Master and Corsair. We know you well, especially since the cases we’re checking out here are derivatives of cases that have previously been featured in Maximum PC’s annual opus, the fabled Dream Machine.

Here’s a spoiler, though: We’re not likely to pick either one for next year’s big build. We’re pretty impressed with Corsair’s offering, but a few quirks in design keep this strong case from achieving a better score. As for Cooler Master, it’s time to take the Cosmos SE back to the drawing board, unless you fancy a game of “Honey, I Shrunk My Components.”

Cooler Master Cosmos SE

Maybe we’re spoiled, but the phrase “full-tower chassis” tends to evoke a certain image in our minds—a sense of space, in particular. We hear “full-tower” and we think beaucoup room: tons of empty mounts for hard drives and 5.25-inch devices, lots of room in which to work and move around (and string cables throughout), as well as a super-easy installation for parts and pieces—one that doesn’t feel like you’re trying to wedge a very expensive square into a round hole.

Get out the grease; you might have a bit of work ahead of you if you're trying to stuff big parts inside Cooler Master's cramped chassis.

Perhaps Cooler Master should have reconsidered calling its Cosmos SE chassis a full-tower, because to us, the description seems a bit stretched. Sure, there’s plenty of room for storage. The case supports no fewer than eight 3.5-inch hard drives or a whopping 18 2.5-inch drives (assuming you’re slapping two SSDs into each of the case’s eight total drive bays). Six of these drive bays can be removed en masse if you want to stash a radiator in place or, annoyingly, if you need a bit more room for your graphics card.

That allows us to segue into our primary criticism of the chassis: It’s cramped. To the company’s credit, Cooler Master does specifically call out the exact measurement of graphics cards that the case supports on its website. However, it does so using the measurement taken if the aforementioned drive bays are removed (15.5 inches in length, if you’re curious). When the bays aren’t removed—and frankly, we wish we didn’t have to remove them, as they’re both more useful and aesthetically pleasing than a large, gaping hole—you only get 10.9 inches of clearance for GPUs.

To put that in real-world terms, it felt as if we were on the verge of damaging our 10.5-inch Nvidia GeForce GTX 480 video card when wedging it—literally—into the case. We eventually got it in, but it left absolutely no room between the edge of the card and the hard drive bays. You’re then totally reliant on the cable-routing holes cut into the tray itself to power up your card, which isn’t saying much.

Adding to the space concerns of this already-tight chassis is the fact that installing a common ATX motherboard (using provided standoffs; they aren’t preinstalled) blocks a portion of two of the case’s primary, rubberized cable-routing holes—and, of course, they’re the ones closest to the video card you’ve just hammered into the case. The case’s top-mounted 14cm fan covers half of a routing hole on the top of the motherboard tray, as well.

If you have anything beyond a standard PC setup, you’re going to have quite a bit of hassle getting your cable management to work correctly in this case; we sure did. The case does come with two large holes near the power supply, but you sacrifice case aesthetics when you have to route cables right overtop your parts—at least, we didn’t like the picture we were seeing through the case’s large side-panel window when doing this workaround.

Cooler Master packs plenty of preinstalled cooling into the Cosmos SE. We wish we had a built-in fan controller to reduce the din (and keep us from having to string a ton of Molex connectors together). It doesn’t, however, pack in locking mechanisms for your 5.25-inch devices; you have to screw those in manually (hello, five years ago). Two USB 3.0 connections join two USB 2.0 connections on the front, in addition to a button that manually controls the case’s blue LED lighting (from the fans).

But really, that’s just dressing up a pig at this point. We’d recommend the Cosmos SE only to those who like meticulously measuring out all their parts and pieces before doing a build. The other 99 percent of you would do well with a chassis that works for you, not against you.

Cooler Master Cosmos SE

$170 (street), www.coolermaster-usa.com

Corsair 750D

Militaristic in its precision, Corsair’s 750D chassis is all about business, not adornments. You won’t find any fancy lighting on this case, nor an inordinate array of preinstalled, pretty cooling for a case of this size. What you do get is a ton of space to work with: plenty of room for cable management, video cards of all sizes, liquid-cooling support for a triple-fan radiator (3x 12cm), and then some. While the case offers plenty to begin with, you could theoretically add even three more drive bays to the interior without it feeling cramped in the slightest.

We almost wish Corsair's case came with an additional drive bay for SSDs; the trays on the case's rear don't quite fit.

As you might expect, the 750D fits just about any motherboard you throw its way. The simple ATX mobo we use for our testing felt a bit like Jack in the land of the giants; screwing it into the preinstalled standoffs was easy, and we loved that it was surrounded by a total of eight holes for cable routing (five rubberized, three cut into the top-side of the elevated motherboard tray). While you might lose one or two of these holes if your power supply is larger than five inches long, that still leaves a considerable amount of room to play with.

If you’re rocking an extended power supply, Corsair makes it fairly easy to remove the three-bay drive cage that stands in your path and relocate it above the similarly sized drive cage on the case’s bottom-right. We were a little surprised that this wasn’t the 750D’s default configuration, as it feels like one has an unnecessary surfeit of room around the graphics card area on the motherboard when both drive cages adorn the case’s bottom.

That said, the default arrangement does allow for a good amount of uninhibited cooling to churn from the case’s two front 14cm fans. A single 14cm fan gives a bit of exhaust on the case’s rear; given the 750D’s size, however, we’d prefer a larger 20cm variant on the case’s top, which could help boost cooling while simultaneously cutting out a bit of noise in the process.

While it might sound like we’re gushing over the 750D’s design, there are still a few quirks that keep this case from “killer” status. For starters, Corsair slaps four drive trays for SSDs on the right side of the chassis, directly blocking the rear of the 3.5-inch drive cage (or cages, depending on your configuration). It’s a pain in the butt to route cables and manage storage on the drive cages if you have all four 2.5-inch trays filled with SSDs.

While installing an optical drive into one of the three free 5.25-inch bays isn’t that bad (you have to pop off a front panel from behind and slide the drive in) the optical drive doesn’t actually sit flush against the covers. It ends up being recessed just a bit, which makes for a not-so-impressive aesthetic on the case’s front.

These misgivings are still minor detractions from an otherwise excellent chassis. The 750D is big, fairly easy to work with, and offers a great arrangement for all but the most tricked-out systems, storage-wise.

Corsair 750D

$160 (street), www.corsair.com

Note: This article was taken from the March 2014 issue of the magazine.

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