For most of you who have any experience building enthusiast systems the name "Cooler Master" is known. Whether you are looking for cooling for the processor, power supplies or even enclosures, this company has been working with hobbyists for quite some time.
Today's piece will cover a new style of enclosure that is becoming popular very quickly; that being a case which cools well and still maintains a high level of silence. The COSMOS 1000 is Cooler Master's response to this new desired product and we plan on seeing if it can deliver both qualities it claims.
So relax for a bit as we dig deeper into the latest trend in computer enclosures. We will test to see if it can really produce decent cooling with a minimum of noise, then we'll see if its price tag makes it a worthy contender for our upgrading dollars.
Beginning with the front of the case we see a brushed aluminum finish and a glossy plastic insert for the front door panel. The silver and black colours set each other off very nicely, so you should have no issues with aesthetics. The entire case has a high degree of eye appeal and simply looks good.
While much of the exterior paneling is made of aluminum, do not have any fears regarding the sturdiness of the enclosure since the entire interior chassis is steel. This combination of materials offers both strength and good looks. It also means that this is one heavy beast you probably aren't going to want to lug around too often. Packaged weight of the shipped case (empty of course) runs in the neighborhood of 19Kg (about 42 lbs for those metrically challenged folks).
Overall dimensions of the enclosure measure out to (H)266mm x (W)598mm x (D)628mm. That works out to roughly 10.5" x 23.5" x 24.75" in overall size. While the width and height are not terribly out of the ordinary, the depth of this thing is going to make it a requirement that you have a large space to devote to the new system you build. Of course that added depth also allows you to go to town and check out some of the newer Extended ATX boards that are hitting the marketplace. Of course, the COSMOS 1000 also easily handles ATX and mATX boards without any problems, so you can always upgrade later to the bigger toys.
Opening the front door shows a front bezel that is all mesh. While not that effective as a cooling aid (there is a closed door here), it does give a nice appearance. Cooler Master seems to have taken a lot of pains to make this enclosure look good and it shows.
Above is a bit of a closer look at the mesh material on the front. In this area you can install four externally accessible optical drives and one 3.5" drive. For those who have no need for a smaller drive being accessible from the front, this fifth bay can be converted to handle another optical drive. If you like to burn multiple disks at once, this could be a huge benefit for you. If not, it still gives you the ability to update later on or stash an internal water reservoir behind the unused bay covers.
Located just above the front door you will find the I/O ports of the COSMOS. This small panel includes the power and reset buttons, the HDD Activity and Power LED lights as well as the I/O ports that we have come to expect on our modern enclosures.
Of course, I normally expect to see a couple of USB ports, maybe a IEEE1394 Firewire port and your standard headphone and microphone jacks. While all these appear on this product, I also was happy to see two additional USB ports and an eSATA port built into the front I/O panel. Having some extra USB ports is always a good thing and most motherboards nowadays have more than enough headers that will allow you to take full advantage of this feature. The eSATA port was also a very pleasant surprise since many of the external hard drive enclosures are now taking advantage of this faster interface. Simply connect the cabling from this port to an empty SATA port on your motherboard and you are ready to roll.
Moving to the side panel shows off that brushed aluminum surface area. While not all shiny like many cases being sold, it provides a very classy appearance that will still make others turn and look.
And while I mentioned that, you may not want to move this beast around too much, it can still be (relatively) easily transported to your next LAN event by means of the carrying handles mounted to the top. You may want to enlist the help of a friend however, since the COSMOS loaded with your system will easily top 50-60 lbs depending on your hardware.
Also make sure to take note of the same carrying rail system on the bottom of the case. No, this isn't for you to set up your system upside down, but is designed for the cooling aspects of this product. Those rails lift the entire enclosure off the ground and allow for ventilation to allow for a cool interior, but we'll dig a little deeper into that in a bit.
The rear of the case is pretty standard fare, but this is always to be expected since all enclosures still need to satisfy certain industry standards when it comes to accessing the ports and slots of your motherboard. It would be rather useless to change up the back plate and then not be able to, say, install a video board.
There are a few items to take note of however. First is the fact that this enclosure is mounting the power supply at the bottom of the box instead of high up. With modern power supplies becoming so strong and hot, the warm air inside a case that is circulated through the PSU just isn't handling the task anymore. This design allows for cool outside air to be brought in from the raised base of the case and does a much better job keeping that power supply cool. It also keeps the hot PSU away from the primary heat producers in your case, the processor and video board. It is simply a more efficient manner of keeping both the power supply and the case interior at more reasonable operating temperatures.
Secondly, take a look at those two rubber grommets mounted above the rear fan. These grommets allow for both incoming and outgoing water tubing that run to an external reservoir/ pump setup. While not everyone will find this useful, more and more enthusiasts are taking the plunge and using water cooling with very good results. Those little grommets keep you from having to bore holes in your new case and also allow for any normal sized tubing you may be using.
Finally, the two tabs to either side of the grommets are the tool-free method of opening the side panels. Just lift the tab and pull the corresponding side panel outward and you're in. Very simple and you don't have to worry about lining everything up then sliding it home to close the system up again. Very convenient.
Moving up just a bit shows the venting of the top fans on this unit. Since these fans are exhausting heated air, filtration is not a requirement. In the event you need to clean the grating for these fans, just lift the tab and slide the panel off. Small features like this make it obvious that some thought has gone into the design of the COSMOS.
Now that we've taken a tour of the exterior features, let's pull off the side panels and see what is hiding inside!
Putting the side panel down shows an interior that isn't your normal everyday layout. But before we dig into the guts of this case, take a look at the interior facing of the side panel.
The eggshell pattern you saw before is actually a foam backing that acts as a soundproofing material for the COSMOS. While not incredibly thick, it still manages to dampen the noise coming from within the case. It isn't totally soundproof, but it does reduce the noise levels of the fans so that they are much less noticeable. The only complaint I had in this area was the fact that this foam is mounted to the panel using a thin two-sided tape. Given the porous nature of the foam material, I had a few issues with the material coming loose in one corner. Not a tough thing to fix, but you may want to have some sort of adhesive handy to do a little repair work here.
It should also be noted that this soundproofing material will make a side window something that you won't want to consider. The only way to add a window will be to remove the acoustic foam, making the concept of silent a moot point.
Moving to the actual interior shows some more innovative concepts that you may not be familiar with. The first thing that is noticed is the black plastic arm that sits nearly half way up on this side of the case. This works in conjunction with the natural case airflow to create a sort of wind tunnel that is designed to aid the movement of air throughout the enclosure. It also corresponds with the external venting that is located adjacent to the PCI slots, so the air being moved will help gather heat and then be expelled directly out the rear of the case.
Moving this arm out of the way shows off the massive interior work area. As noted earlier, this case is designed to hold a motherboard up to and including the Extended ATX sized boards, so is a good deal larger than most tower cases you may be accustomed to working with. For those unfamiliar with the proper positioning of the brass standoffs, there is a guide taped to the motherboard tray showing which holes should be set with standoffs for the three supported sized mainboards. Once you have the studs in place you can simply remove the guide sheet and dispose of it.
The fan shown above is mounted to the bottom of the case and also includes a filter on the bottom panel. This fan is an intake and is one of the primary reasons for raising the entire enclosure off the floor. It pulls cool air from the bottom of the unit and moves it upward and backward by default. The fins you see mounted on top of the fan shroud can be moved and give direction to the airflow that best suits your needs, so a little experimentation may be in order to get the most out of this cooling device. Like all of the fans mounted in this enclosure, this fan is a 120mm variety that spins at 1200 RPM and is rated at only 22 dBA of noise output.
On the other end of the base is a filtered vent for your power supply. No fan is included here as most high-end power supplies come with an intake fan already built into the bottom panel, so this will allow the PSU to get cool outside air and operate at a higher level of efficiency. Again, the raised base allows for the cooling method to work wonderfully.
The drive tower is our next stop on this tour of the new COSMOS enclosure. At the top of this tower are the bays for the optical devices. The top four bays are set up to handle standard 5.25" optical devices and the bottom one is set up to handle a 3.5" floppy drive or externally accessible media reader. IN a pinch you can remove the rail system for the 3.5" bay and use it as an additional optical drive bay.
From this angle, you can also see that behind the oval wiring cage that there is another piece of acoustic foam on the far panel. This helps keep everything as quiet as possible and shows that Cooler Master wasn't thinking of taking shortcuts by omitting the far panel in the noise protection area.
To keep with a design that is as tool-free as possible, your optical drives are secured within the enclosure by sliding it into the bay, lining it up properly and pushing in the button as noted in the middle bay shown above. It clicks itself into a locked position and extends small detent pins into the drive to hold it firmly in place. This method of retention is only required on one side and does not require the removal of the back panel. Even so, once I seated a drive in place and secured it, there was no movement of the device.
Moving down the tower brings us to a drive tower capable of holding six 3.5" hard drives. Alignment of the drive carriages require that the cabling be run out the back of the tower, helping to eliminate cable clutter and giving the finished system a much cleaner appearance. Excess cabling can be zip-tied behind the drive tower and out of the way of airflow. Each drive is installed into its own tray and held in place by a thumb screw, so again we see a good effort at a tool-free design.
I do have one concern here... this section of the drive tower is designed to hold a whopping six drives in a small confined space but there is no active cooling in place to keep fast spinning drives cool. Furthermore, there is no built in mounting bracket to add a fan on your own, so care should be used if you are running a lot of hard drives. Given the positioning of the intake and exhaust fans in this enclosure, normal airflow will not be moving within this portion of the drive tower.
Don't misunderstand, the drives will get a bit of airflow since there is more exhaust fans than intake and there is a ventilation hole under the drive bays. It is just that when it comes to hard drives, active cooling is never a bad idea.
When the trays are removed you can see that they are set up with rubber grommets at all four mounting hole positions. This is a feature that has been becoming popular but not nearly popular enough for my liking. The purpose of these grommets is to eliminate vibration of the drives when they are accessed and begin to spin the platters. This lack of vibration is another feature that keeps this case more silent than many of its competitors.
Hidden in front of the HDD tower is a little surprise, so let me pull it out and see what we have.
This color coordinated accessory kit is a nice way to keep track of all those little screws, standoffs and zip ties you need to get your system properly set up. It also includes a small screwdriver set that is simple to use and convenient as well.
When it comes to having a tool-free design, there are any number of ways to pull it off. I've seen many different methods of securing your peripheral cards, some work and others are nothing more than a concept gone terribly wrong. Cooler Master decided to go with a tried and true manner of retention of these cards, KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). Instead of having some fancy and breakable plastic harness that snaps everything into place, they went with thumb screws. Unlike the thumb screws securing the hard drive trays in place, these have a larger head that makes them easy to remove and install even in this awkward position.
Just above the expansion slots is the second of the four 120mm fans included with the COSMOS. Since this fan sits adjacent to where the processor is normally mounted, it will help get rid of a large quantity of hot air with a minimum of noise.
Finishing off our tour of the interior brings us to the two 120mm fans mounted on the roof of the case. Both are set as exhaust and will work in conjunction with heated air's natural inclination to rise. Top and rear are the proper place for exhaust fans and this unit has plenty of exhaust airflow working for it.
After installing a system in the COSMOS I had no issues or problems. All of the features discussed simply worked as they were supposed to. All drives were securely installed and cable clutter was easily tucked away to establish maximum airflow throughout the case. While I did not load all hard drive bays to capacity, I had no overheating issues with three hard drives in place. I did however use a bit of common sense and did not stack them all on the same row, but separated them as much as possible to maximize the cooling that was being provided to them.
While I generally have issues with an enclosure that does not have a removable motherboard tray, there were no problems with the COSMOS due to its huge size. Even a large handed builder will have no problems with getting into this case and getting right to work.
I liked the innovation brought forth by Cooler Master and enjoyed a near tool-free installation of the entire system. The system was not totally silent since I use a video board with a vacuum cleaner motor attached, but the noise levels were a good deal less than I have become accustomed to. This is certainly something that I could get used to very quickly. Cooling was ample and I had no overheating issues with any system components, but I still believe that there needs to be some sort of active cooling in place for the hard drive tower.
As far as price is concerned, you can expect to give up in the neighborhood of $200US for the COSMOS 1000 enclosure. While that may seem a bit steep, a quick search of similarly equipped full tower cases with six HDD bays and solid cooling shows that other contenders are running at about $100 more, so value is not out of line at all. Cooler Master seems to have done a good deal of work to keep the price point well under the community average.
Overall I would have to say that while not a perfect product, value and features allow the COSMOS 1000 to be a very solid enclosure that should work well for any building enthusiast and it also contains features for the hardcore among us.
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