It wasn't all that long ago when I was given the opportunity to have a look at the HAF 922 from Cooler Master. When the box arrived at the door, my better half was taken by the looks and her words to me were "is that case for me?". I chuckled at first, as she looked like a kid at Christmas when she asked, so I went online to see what the case was all about. After a bit of research I found the chassis did seem to offer some nice options and had great airflow incorporated already. As I reviewed the chassis, I found a few more plusses about the chassis, but the things that stick in my head are that the door's alignment was off when trying to close them, and the lack of interior "blackness". Had those issues been addressed, I think Cooler Master would have hit the nail on the head.
I am proud to say that the HAF 922 spent a few months sitting at the side of her desk, with the red glow of the LED fans. And the thing I liked the most, is once the doors were off, the case was a real pleasure to work in and swap hardware without any undue "procedures" or "special ways" of manipulating the case to get things in and out. In my mind, as the HAF was almost spot on, I am going to be comparing this chassis directly to my HAF experiences and it sets the bar pretty high.
This time Cooler Master has sent the Storm Sniper Black Edition chassis for us to have a look at. My first impressions are that the Sniper is an expanded take on the main HAF 922 chassis, as you will see as the review progresses. They do however separate the two both visually and with the options available between the two. Things like looks and portability are things that all gamers look for, especially if going to LAN events is your cup of tea. Let's get down to the facts and see just how well the scope is dialed in on the Sniper Black Edition chassis.
Specifications, Availability and PricingSpecifications, Availability and Pricing
Cooler Master's SGC-6000-KXN1-GP or Storm Sniper Black Edition is an all steel chassis, painted black both on the inside and the outside. The front bezel and top panel are constructed of mostly ABS plastic, also in an all-black motif. The Sniper does incorporate two handles into the top to make it easier to move this 24 pound, empty chassis to any location. Mind you, once your components are installed this weight goes up quite a bit. There are five 5.25' bays that are external, one of which is convertible to a 3.5" drive if you wish to use a floppy drive. On the inside there is room to house up to five 3.5" hard drives as well.
Air flow inside the Sniper is handled by four fans as it arrives to your door, three of which are rather large. I am speaking of the 30mm deep, 200mm blue LED fans that are housed in the front lower section of the front, the door panel, and the top of the chassis. All of these three larger fans also have LED and fan speed controls incorporated, as I will show you in a bit. The set up is configured to pull air in from the front and the door panel, leaving the 200mm fan at the top, and the fourth fan, a 120mm plain fan in the rear of the chassis for additional exhaust.
Locating a Sniper Black Edition isn't all that hard. I should make a funny comment about snipers not being easy to find, but in this case I think we may want to be able to find these Snipers. Doing my usual Google shopping, I found there are quite a few e-tailers offering this chassis at a fairly reasonable price. Right in the middle of all the offerings I found a listing at Newegg for $159.99, plus shipping of course, which they list as being an additional $25. Look around as it is the season to find good deals, even paying a bit more for the case if the shipping is free may still save you some extra beer money. Let's pull this Sniper from the fields and get a good close look at what may be taking shots at us later.
Cooler Master packs the Sniper Black Edition in, of course, an all-black box! There is a view through the scope at the Sniper itself and in the bottom left of the scopes image there is a sticker added to this box stating it includes a Tactics DC game pad.
Continuing the white text on a black background, the specifications chart on this side is displayed in the same fashion.
The rear starts with an image of a SWAT-like Sniper with the main features flanking the right side. At the bottom there are images to go along with some of the more LAN friendly features of the Sniper.
The last side is a bit more on the plain side of things, but does give a good look at the Sniper as it appears powered up.
Removing the cardboard box, I am left with the typical internal packaging found with most chassis'. Styrofoam caps that do a fine job of securing the chassis during shipping are placed on each end and the inner plastic liner; both of which did just fine in getting me a perfect Sniper.
The Cooler Master Storm Sniper Black Edition Mid Tower CaseThe Cooler Master Storm Sniper Black Edition Mid Tower Case
The Sniper logo is a bold accent to the well ventilated front, black, ABS plastic panel. This panel consists of five removable vented covers for the drive bay half. The bottom houses a 200mm fan behind it, and this mesh area is a removable dust filter that doesn't require the whole front to come off to clean it.
Covering the top is a black, ABS plastic cover that houses the two handles. As we move down, the bumped out style of the door has most of the said bumps cut out and replaced with mesh. This makes the 200mm door fan breathe better and when the lights are down, gives a good look inside the chassis as well. The bottom of the chassis has a matching plastic panel at the top, so it gives the Sniper a "total" finished look.
From the top, the rear of the Sniper consists of two grommets in holes for water tubing to pass through just above the rear 120mm exhaust fan. To the left of the fan is the rear I/O, just above the seven plus one expansion slots. The "plus one" has a cover that is used to wind a mouse cable, but can be swapped out for a fan controller as well. This leaves us with the rather large hole for the PSU at the bottom. There are a couple of knock-outs here, too. You can use them for tubing passages as well.
The opposing side has the bump style door to leave plenty of room behind it for wiring. I do find the Storm logo to be a nice little touch, as most manufacturers assume you will never see the back side of the chassis in normal use. Being driven to gamers, this chassis is designed with LANs in mind, and we all know there isn't any place to hide things on a table with competitors on both sides of you.
The top of the Sniper is where all the controls are, but I will get to all of them next. I wanted to show off the vented top that has large openings at either end to allow you to slide your hands in and securely carry the Sniper from the car to the table, or back to your desk.
The rather large power button is easy to feel for, but the tiny reset button is hard to use at best. The dial to the right gives you fan speed control, while the button inside of the dial allows the LED's to turn off and on. The whole right half houses an e-SATA connection next to the microphone and headphone 3.5mm jacks. Last of the top row are the HDD activity and system power LEDs. The second row consists of four USB 2.0 ports and an IEEE 1399 (FireWire) port.
Inside The Cooler Master Storm Sniper Black Edition Mid Tower CaseInside The Cooler Master Storm Sniper Black Edition Mid Tower Case
As you can see, the panel is well ventilated and has a 200mm fan screwed onto the framework that supports the mesh. The mesh is just held in place with bent over bits that slip through the framework, and locks it in place enough not to rattle when in operation. The fan itself has two wire leads coming from it. One is for the fan power supply and the other is to connect to the LED power switch.
The first look into the Sniper shows just how it is packed for shipping. The wiring and hardware box are securely strapped in place and don't move about during shipping. The mouse pad, however, was just placed inside, and gets a free ride during shipping. There were no issues with damage; I personally don't like things "free riding" loose inside of a case.
Pulling out all the hardware, gifts and the paper riser template, there is a good unimpeded view of what you get. The inside of the Sniper uses the same frame and design as the HAF I linked to earlier, but it does add a couple of things. Of course, the obvious painting of the interior is a step in the right direction, and the additional 120mm fan clips and dust cover in the floor is another. The rest of the features include the screw-less hard drive trays and the push button optical drive locks we have seen in the HAF. I do like this interior a bunch more in black than my HAF's plain, exposed metal.
All five of the optical drive bays are tool-less if you want, but the back side needs the use of screws if you want to be sure the drive is "secured". Below are the five slide-out trays for hard drives. Just release the left side latch, gently move it to the right and slide out the tray; simple really. Just in front of the hard drive bays is where the 200mm front intake fan is placed. As you can see, the sides of the rack assembly is as open as possible to allow the air an easy time through the rack.
The rear of the chassis houses the 120mm exhaust fan that is powered with a 3-pin connection and does not have LED's or a connection to the fan speed controller. Just below it the seven expansion slots that utilize a plastic, tool-less retainer to hold the cards in place, something the HAF lacked. If you remember reading my Storm Sentinel Advanced review, you would have seen this mouse wire retention bracket in the extra slot to the left. At the very bottom, under the PSU, there are bumps that have been rubber padded to support the fan grill on the PSU when you install it fan down; this keeps noises and vibrations to a minimum.
Looking at things from the back, you can see plenty of "room for idea" on where and how to hide the wiring and make this chassis look as sleek with components as it does without them. All the wires start in a good place on the side of the drive racks, but keep in mind there are quite a few wires for the front I/O, plus all the fan controller wiring to contend with here.
Splaying out all the wires, you can see there is quite a few to connect. Two USB 2.0, a 1394, HD and AC97 Audio, and an e-SATA connection cover the left half. At the top in the middle is some of the fan power wiring , leaving the power, reset, HDD activity and power LED connections to hook up.
After removing six little screws from the back side of the panel, the entire panel pulls free. The bay covers are just held in with tabs and are easily removed. The fan filter half of the bottom will pull free for cleaning out of the box, but in order to load the optical drive this cover needs to come free.
Laying the Sniper on its back, you can see the supportive feet that turn out to help stabilize the chassis if there is a lot of shaking going on. I suggest they be spun out farther away from you. There is the last of the 200mm fans. As with the other two, it also attaches to the controller for both lighting and speed control.
Accessories and DocumentationAccessories and Documentation
The brown box that was strapped inside the chassis earlier contains all of this hardware. The baggies to the left are pretty self explanatory, and the two to the right are for adding fans, hardware, and the bottom one is for the motherboard mounting. The top row consists of four rubber feet that can replace the swivel feet that come on it, and two extra grommets for the bottom of the rear of the chassis. Moving down, there are both the floppy drive adapter brackets and the SSD adapters, while in the middle are ten tie straps for a bit of management later.
The instruction book is not only of almost magazine like looks, but very comprehensive with drawings and pictures to go along with the text. I looked it over briefly, and I can say they will even get the most novice user through a build.
Can't forget about the included mouse pad! This is the same pad I received with the mouse for my review of it. The CS-M FPS Tactical DC is a cloth topped foam pad with an antiskid bottom. It is large and accurate, a real pleasure to mouse over.
The Build and Finished ProductThe Build and Finished Product
As much as it pains me to do, I have to show what happened. While I was loading the components and trying to get a couple of pictures, I must have shifted the weight wrong, and I hear a snap. To my dismay the foot snapped right even with the bottom of the chassis. In Cooler Master's defence, I simply asked for a replacement, with a brief description of what happened, and they are currently shipping me a replacement foot. Thanks for the great support Cooler Master!
Just like those from the HAF, the hard drive trays just "flex" onto the drive itself. You set two of the pins on one side of the drive, then bend the tray a bit and force it up the other side until the pins line up. Once at this point it's ready to slide into place.
Assembly was pretty easy and I ran into no issues as far as getting things to line up or even a way to keep things clean while still getting power where it's needed. Plenty of room in here for SLI or Crossfire of even the largest cards!
With an adapter or two, and a bunch of tie straps, I was able to manage to get both my rat's nest of PSU wiring and the case wiring under control. Within reason, it doesn't matter much where the bulky connections are, as the bump in the door allows you to hide thicker wires like the 24-pin, although mine was just too short to go around the back.
Sorry, I just liked this image, and it shows you just need to reach under the front of the dust cover for it to pull out for cleaning. I was just about to snap it back into place and add some power.
Once the power is added the Sniper comes to life in a glow of blue LED lighting. With the lights down in the room the case looks a fair bit different.
As most of you about to sit at the table at a LAN event would see it.
A look at the rear all completed. I really need a black PSU for these reviews, and I now wish the rear I/O shield came in a black nickel finish, or even just painted or coated flat black for that matter.
Looking at the front, you can see the optical drive in the second slot. This not only gave me a better look inside, but allows a bit of the glow from the top 200mm fan to show through, as if the 200mm fan right here in the front doesn't provide enough already.
Final ThoughtsFinal Thoughts
As an ex HAF 922 user, I have to say I like the Sniper more. It packs more options, better airflow, and a cleaner more acceptable profile to look at. You know by now I love all black cases, and Cooler Master didn't disappoint me there. I always preferred blue over red in LED's, so again it's a win. Including a very nice gaming surface for your choice of mouse is also a plus and continues with the Sniper theme. How accurate is your mouse on an eight foot long rental table? Roll this up and stuff it in your bag, problem solved.
The build went very well, as expected, but I did run into two issues. The first one is a quality issue. The foot, in my opinion, is a nice concept, but possibly a weak design. It really didn't take too much to snap this foot clean off! Since Cooler Master has taken steps to replace the foot, I can't really ask for much more of a solution. The second and more dysfunctional issue was the door panel's ability to be screwed in. The doors set right in the tracks and locks, but when it came time to replace the thumb screws into the rear of them, it was nearly impossible. It took both forcing the door down and applying pressure to the I/O area to align the holes so the screws would thread correctly. I guess there are some things not better than the HAF 922 on the Sniper, too. As much as I get in and out of my PC's, this is a real turnoff. If it was just something I did every three months for cleaning, it might not matter so much.
The Black Edition Sniper chassis is available at most of the major e-tailers out there. In mid towers you can get $50 and $100 chassis', but they don't offer most of what the upper end of the "premium" designs require to get one to your house. The Black Edition Sniper is no exception as it requires spending $159.99 at Newegg, and we haven't added in the shipping. At almost $200 to get one to your door, it is pricey, but does offer quite a bit of options for those who want to have a mobile system; priorities may vary from my own.
For those of you who actually are looking for a LAN chassis, this may in fact be the case that does the job. With handles incorporated into the top, I was easily able to handle the roughly 35-40 pounds of case and equipment. Be careful on how you move it at table height, though, as that is when I broke my foot. If I had used the rubber feet included inside the chassis, this is all a moot point then. For those who aren't into LAN events, this is still one sexy piece of hardware for your desktop. If I hadn't just found a replacement to my rig house in the HAF, it would have been moving to the Black Edition Sniper, as even with its foibles, I still liked it more than my HAF.
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