For over two years, Cooler Master has awed members of the media at trade shows like CES and Computex with their CSX line of premium cases. CSX cases are part of a calibration between Cooler Master and Smooth Creations, a private company specializing in applying show quality automotive finishes to consumer electronics. 'Till now, Cooler Master has held on to their limited production cases with a tight grip; some costing as much as 1200 U.S. Dollars. Media samples were non-existent so coverage of the products has been limited to the snap shots thrown in from event coverage.
Things are changing at Cooler Master and they are starting to aggressively price the CSX line and media samples are shipping out of the door. This last month, Cooler Master built a dedicated website called the CSX Store and cases are far from the only items hitting the paint booth. Laptops, Nintendo DS', Apple IPods and many more products will be available in high quality auto finishes. The next step is submitting your own designs to be painted on your new product.
Today we are going to have a look at the Cooler Master CSX Medusa. The case is a Cooler Master Cosmos like the one reviewed by TweakTown's own Mike Wright last September. Since the Cosmos has not changed since the review, we are going to focus this review on the quality of work performed by Smooth Creations and the extras Cooler Master adds to the CSX package.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
Cooler Master makes several different versions for their CSX line. Not only are there different paint schemes, but some are available on different cases as well. The Medusa that we are looking at today is only available on the Cosmos case and is a limited production model. Only 300 of this design will be created and each case has a number painted on it, such as 101 of 300.
Cooler Master is starting to price some of the CSX products aggressively; some of the more basic designs have been lowered in price from 899 U.S. Dollars all the way down to 499. If you figure in that the standard case from Cooler Master is going to set you back between 150 to 200 Dollars, the price premium for the Smooth Creations master piece is only around 300 Dollars. I have dabbled into using automotive paints before and am even currently in the process of painting the fairings of my dedicated race bike and helmet and can say that the amount of time it takes to get a high quality finish is worth 300 Dollars, easily. And that is before you factor in purchasing the paints, reducers, primers, spray guns, compressor and items needed for buffing. Mid way through every paint product I have worked on, I always say to myself, "Next time I am going to send this stuff off to someone and just pay them to do it!"
The Medusa case we are looking at today has an MSRP price of 1299 but is currently on sale at the CSX Store for 1099.00 U.S. Dollars. When looking around online, I was able to find the case for just a hair over 900, so you may be able to find the exact case you are looking for a little cheaper through other e-tailers, but this largely depends on what model you are searching for.
Cooler Master has increased the amount of protection for the CSX case products over the standard flagship packaging. This was achieved by double boxing the case. The outer box is around three inches larger than the standard case box and hard foam was added between the inner and outer box. The inner box is the standard Cosmos packaging. The outer box is a plain brown box that gives no indication of the contents inside and is void of labels. This is actually a nice security feature since you really don't want to advertise a 1200 Dollar product nestled inside the package. A good example is if the package were to be left outside your door by a shipping company when you are not at home.
As you can see, the inner box for the CSX Medusa is the same size as the Cosmos, but is clearly labeled CSX. On the top corner you can see an image of the case inside the box.
On the side a bar code and part number are listed on a sticker and the rest of the box is flat black, adding to the excitement of opening the package.
The inner box packaging adds an extra inch and a half of solid density foam around the case.
Once the case is out of the box, it is covered with a thick plastic bag that keeps dust off of the case and case cover.
After stripping through the layers, we are finally down to the protective cotton cover that you can put on the case when not in use. This is a very nice accessory that did not come with the standard Cosmos, but should have.
The Cooler Master Medusa
The CSX cases are easy to spot since they are all design for maximum impact. Here we see the front of the Medusa with the cover closed.
The inside is very Cosmos like; the black panels are carried over from the original. You can also see that the back side of the case door has been left untouched.
For the most part, all of the insert panels retain the original black finish.
The side panels get the airbrush treatment and are stunning.
The other side is a mirror image of the first side. The detail in the art work is spectacular. The artists at Smooth Creation have done a very good job with the work done to the CSX line.
The back of the case was unpainted except for the side trim pieces.
It's all in the Details
To be honest, a product like this really needs a full blown photo shoot at a studio that is able to light the case properly so you can see the detail in the work.
A close-up of the cover shows some of the detail in the work as the limited edition label sparkles as light passes over it.
The white is not a camera effect from lighting. Smooth Creations went in to give the illusion of light reflecting off of the painted on bolt.
It is little touches like the reflecting light that really make the case stand out from the crowd.
To find a flaw in the work you have to look over the entire case with a flashlight and a magnifying glass. I was able to find one area that was not painted. It took around 30 minutes of searching to find this small imperfection, the only one I was able to find.
Going the Extra Mile
The CSX accessories don't stop with the case itself. Inside the package you will also find a mini attache case filled with extra goodies and documentation.
The case isn't exactly top notch but it will work to securely hold the extras that you will most likely want to store away as collector pieces.
Once opened, we found a T-shirt with CSX labelling and a nice surprise on the inside of the shirt.
With everything removed, you are left with a bare case that is lined with black felt.
A close up of the CSX shirt.
The back of the shirt has an unnamed character image, but it is what is inside of the shirt that is interesting.
I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the T-shirt. Cooler Master is taking the limited edition status of the CSX cases to another level by documenting the exclusivity with even more swag.
You mission, should you choose to accept it. Additional documentation outside of the standard Cosmo manual is located in a sealed frost white envelope.
Several documents printed on high quality paper are included; most are signed by Frank Wang, Regional Branch Manager for Cooler Master USA. A decent quality pen is also in the package. The pen isn't going to be joining my Monte Blanc collection anytime soon, but it is a nice little add-on that adds value to the overall package.
The Certificate of Authenticity that is included with the Medusa and other limited edition CSX cases.
The standard Cooler Master Cosmo documentation and manual are also included with the package. Cooler Master didn't miss anything when putting the package together.
The Cooler Master CSX products are not for everyone, but I am sure you will be hard pressed to find an enthusiast who could walk away from a viewing disappointed. For years enthusiasts have dreamed of making a custom case to show off their speedy system; some have managed to build a case they are truly proud of and many have learned just how difficult it is to make such a creation.
Once you figure in the amount of time it takes to build a master piece, the cost of the CSX cases start to look more reasonable. With entry level products starting out just under 500 Dollars and going up to 1300, it takes a special kind of enthusiast to even consider something from the CSX line-up. Only you know if you are one of those people who lust after such a remarkable collectors piece to house your personal super computer. Those who frequently attend LAN parties may find the case to be perfect for these events and you might even win a prize or two since many LANs send judges around rating case appearances.
The real story to the CSX line is the quality of craftsmanship of the products. Smooth Creations and Cooler Master have gone to great lengths to bring these products to market. Many companies have displayed similar products and never put forth the resources or effort to make a successful product line or even sell a single product. Cooler Master has shown that they are committed to continue making and selling CSX products and are even moving into items that are outside of the PC realm.
If you crave a unique piece of hardware to make you stand out from the crowd, take a few moments to look through the Cooler Master CSX store and see what is available. At the time of writing, many items such as power supplies and monitors still are listed as coming soon. Notebooks and Nintendo products are already listed and options are available; it will be interesting to see what Cooler Master and Smooth Creations come up with next.
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