Around the globe a select few sites were granted the opportunity to have a sneak peak at Cooler Master's latest entry into the full tower chassis market. I'm sure between all the news and videos abound, you have a good idea of the basic ideas of what this new chassis has to offer. If this is completely new to you at this point, don't worry; I will cover this chassis just as if it was a full review. Keep in mind; this chassis is a pre-release and there are some changes already in the making for the actual retail product that will fill shelves soon.
Cooler Master has had great success with the HAF series of chassis'. Personally I wasn't a fan of the exterior of the 932, as it reminded me of a gas can they used to strap to the back of a WWII era Jeep. In defense of the case, it still offered plenty of options and a bunch of good air flow. On the flip side, I did have the chance to review the 932's little brother, the 922. In my opinion the 922 had the better looks of the two and it kept most of the same features. Large fans, water cooling potential, tool-less operation are all what made the 932 and 922 a success and those ideas aren't lost here.
With this next evolution of the HAF series, Cooler Master has taken the original HAF 932 and reworked it a bit. They've been listening to the requests for improvement from 932 owners, keeping up with modern technology and all this with keeping all the great features the HAF series is known for. I'm sure I could go on all day about what the HAF-X brings to the table, but let's get right to it and I will just show you. From what I have already seen, I am impressed and I have a feeling by the time you are done reading this, you will be, too!
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
This new chassis from Cooler Master, the HAF-X, is also denoted as a 942; only fitting as it is the next evolution of the series. Building off an already great foundation, it uses the same SECC and plastic construction, but this time it gets painted black throughout. The HAF-X isn't quite two foot tall out of the box and it is just over twenty-one inches long. The case keeps the nine inch side to side spacing to allow for any cooler under 175mm in height. All this space equates to motherboard compatibility going from m-ATX all the way up to EATX. Larger EATX boards are not an issue, but don't be confused with a board like the SR-2 from EVGA, as it uses its own form factor which is larger than EATX. Around the chassis you will notice a few additions as well, like a larger window than the 932 and the addition of USB 3.0 connectivity in the front I/O.
The front of the chassis is well ventilated. All of the bay covers are ventilated and have thin foam for a dust filter. The lower half has a removable fan filter that covers a 200mm intake fan with switchable red LEDs. Speaking of fans, this case is chocked full of them. Aside from the front intake, there are also 200mm fans found in the door panel and at the top. Retail samples will have two 200mm fans in the top, but due to this being rushed out, the tooling wasn't quite right to install two on this sample and will be fixed and installed in the retail cases. Cooler Master also adds a 140mm to exhaust the rear of the chassis and all four of these fans are rated at 19 dBA and are near silent in full swing.
Even if air cooling isn't your thing and you want to add some internal water cooling, Cooler Master has you covered. In the retail samples the HAF-X will support a 240, 360 or 280mm radiator out of the box and there is plenty of room inside for a pump and reservoir. On top of all of this, Cooler Master keeps on giving! I haven't even touched on the dual pronged attack to cool the graphics cards. There is the same GPU fan assembly and support that we saw in the CM 690 II Advanced case, but this time there is also a shroud to house a 120mm fan to blow right into the end of your cards.
Since we are privy to getting the HAF-X early, they aren't yet available to the masses. Via emails with Cooler Master, I was given all the pertinent information. Retail pricing is set from Cooler Master at the MSRP of $199.99 USD; almost $70 over the original HAF 932. I don't have a specific date it will hit store shelves, but I have been lead to believe that it will be sometime in early June, worldwide. Time sure is flying this year and June is right around the corner. Let's dig deep and see if the HAF-X is all it is promoted to be and if it warrants the asking price of just over $200 once shipping is taken into account.
The packaging is reminiscent of previous HAF packages, but there is little doubt which this is once you get a glance of the large X on the right side of the chassis image.
We get to see the front with the back side exposed here. The bottom is a multi-lingual listing that this is the HAF-X and it is a full tower case.
With many images of the HAF-X, both inside and out, Cooler Master uses this to show the majority of the included features.
Just like UPS usually does, they always tend to paste their shipping tags over the specs. For what can't be read, refer to my specifications chart.
Even with a large and heavy chassis, Cooler Master went with the Styrofoam end caps and a plastic liner. There is a bit of static clinging plastic on the window for added protection. Traveling all the way this case did to get to me, I have to say the packaging is more than sufficient.
The Cooler Master HAF-X RC-942-KKN1 Full Tower Case
The front of the HAF-X takes a lot of the styling and design from the original, but more refined this time around. The middle ventilated area consists of six 5.25" bay covers that remove from the outside and the bottom is to act as a fan filter for the intake, with a Cooler Master logo right in the middle.
Just a gentle tug at the very bottom releases this washable fan filter from the bezel. What I do love is that Cooler Master has removed all the metal in front of this fan which will allow for a much stronger flow of air into the intake and over your components.
Gone is the look of a gas can for this larger window and the door keeps the 200mm fan of the elder. Retail samples will have the HAF-X etched into it as the box shows, but the press samples were sent out before they were ready, so yours will look slightly different. While the view inside isn't that great, the fan is positioned perfectly, so you have to take a trade off.
Gone is the optional PSU plate in favor of three water cooling pass through grommets, one of which can be used for wiring. Just below are the rear I/O area and the flanking 140mm exhausting fan. Nine ventilated expansion slot covers fill the left, while the right has tracks for the GPU cooler and a well ventilated area on the right. That, of course, leaves us with the large hole at the bottom for your power supply.
The back side panel is a bit more subdued. A bump for room behind the motherboard tray and a bit of styling in the bottom corner are all you will find. That way this panel isn't completely void of interest.
The front I/O panel is where things get interesting. The HAF-X is the first case I have seen to offer USB 3.0 ports on the front, denoted by the "SS" and USB symbol. Moving right, there is e-SATA, Firewire, two USB 2.0 and front audio connections to round it out. Above this is a sliding panel; slid to the left it exposes the Power, Reset and LED switches. Moved to the right, it will keep them out of sight and clean; also somewhat tamper proof.
The top has ventilation areas that will obviously support two 200mm fans, even though currently I only have one installed. Removing this top cover, by gently releasing tabs underneath, is how to gain access to the fans or swap them out for a radiator.
As shipped the HAF-X is supported by two side rails made of plastic that have rubber pads for anti-skid. Inside the chassis you will find casters that go in each corner in the screw holes provided. The power supply area is well ventilated and should make any PSU comfortable and breathing easy.
Inside the Cooler Master HAF-X RC-942-KKN1 Full Tower Case
Removing two thumbscrews, the door panels open like a car door. Once they are swung open the front can be released and the panel set aside. Inside the windowed panel Cooler Master adds not only a 200mm fan, but also a shroud to better direct that airflow into your graphics cards.
With the door removed we can get our first unimpeded view of the interior; well, almost. Time to get the goodies out of it and strip it down so I can show you what all we get.
The top four 5.25" bays use Cooler Master's tool-less locks that we are used to seeing from them. The bottom two 5.25" bays are hot swappable and can be used with 3.5" and 2.5" drives. At the bottom, five hard drive sleds are present; again, what is typical in today's cases from Cooler Master. Tucked in front of these bays is the 200mm, red LED, intake fan.
The hot swappable bays are controlled with this PCB attached to the case. Simply add a 4-pin Molex and two SATA cables and you have yourself two hot swappable bays ready to go.
The motherboard area has basically the same layout as the 932. Of course, this time it is black and sports new wire management grommets to fill the holes that are in the original. The tray is labeled alphabetically to help set the risers by form factor and has a large CPU cooler access hole at the top.
Near the floor you can see a large hole for passing wires behind the tray and above a series of slots and holes. These are for the adjustable wiring and power supply cover. The floor itself has two long rubber pads to support the PSU over the ventilated floor.
Inside the rear we can see the 140mm fan Cooler Master installed. Both the fan on the top and this one in the rear come with 3-pin connections and 3-pin to 4-pin Molex adapters.
Behind the scenes you can see a line of tabs for tying down all the wiring from the front I/O area. With the bump in this door, wiring really shouldn't be an issue as there is an additional " of room inside the panel.
Connectivity of the front I/O is just like any other, except for one thing. That's right; you are looking at USB connections. These can be run out the case and into the rear I/O of the motherboard if you so choose. There is also an adapter that will convert it to a motherboard connection that I will show in the accessories section. All the rest of the connections are clearly labeled and ready to connect to any motherboard.
Accessories and Documentation
In the box you can find a motherboard speaker, a handful of motherboard screws, some power supply screws, a couple of thumbscrews as spares, risers, a handy little socket-like tool for the risers and fine threaded mounting screws for the drives. To tidy things up, there are ten zip ties included as well.
In that same box you will also find these. There is the GPU support and fan bracket, minus the 80 x 15mm fan it needs to work, four casters and the screws needed to mount them.
Extra wiring is always good! Cooler Master includes an 8-pin power extension for those shorter cabled power supplies. To the right is the USB 3.0 to motherboard connection converter. If you remove the top of the HAF-X, the blue USB cables can be removed and replaced for this.
Here are those connections as the case is shipped.
To convert them, just unplug the blue lines and swap it out for the included adapter. If this is the route you go, feel free to eliminate the blue USB leads from the case.
Here is the power supply cover and organizer at the left and the fan shroud for cooling the GPU's on the right. Both of these are adjustable and are held in place with thumbscrews.
The hot swappable trays are ventilated in the front and as you can see with the one on the right, it offers mounting holes for both 3.5" SATA hard drives as well as 2.5" ones.
It's just as easy as screwing four screws into the bottom of the drive and you are ready to slide it into place for use.
The fan shroud for the GPUs allows for a 120mm by 25mm fan, as I have installed here; but it also allows for 38mm thick monsters like Deltas to populate this space. Cooler Master has even incorporated a groove in one side to allow for the wiring to be tidy and out of sight.
Can't forget about the manual! - If you do run into any issues with removing any part or just what wires go to what, this manual has got you covered from start to finish. The writing isn't so good, but the images more than make up for the lack of informative text.
The Build and Finished Product
All the components are in and I am just about to close up shop and power this beast up. Since I chose to use the hot swappable drive bay for my OS drive, I moved the optical drive down to not only show it can go anywhere, but it keeps the wiring together on the inside, too. With an all black front bezel, adding fan controllers and drives will blend in nicely.
All of the pieces almost fell into position in this chassis; that is to say, I ran into not one issue when I did this build. Along with being black and sexy to look into, Cooler Masters power supply cover offers a place to tuck excess wires as well as keeping other wires tidy in the pass-through hole on the top. The GPU shroud went in easily and has cut-away holes in the side to allow for the powering of the cards. Even though I used the dreaded stock cooler, there should be no issues getting a Noctua D-14 or a Cooler Master V10 in here.
At first the three holes at the top were perplexing, but now I see more use for the third hole. Not only will it allow for a drain or fill tube, but also allows for a way to get those blue USB 3.0 cables to the rear I/O. As I think about it, it's the only way. I wish I had a 4-way SLI board and four GPU's, but I had to settle for one. But I would have loved to fill eight of those slots!
Since my motherboard wasn't USB 3.0 compliant, I just tucked the cables behind the drive rack so I could get the images. The rest of the wiring is done in a way that even for me is a bit messy and has all the wires grouped thickly in one area. Even with this "trunk" of wires, with the bump added to the panel that covers this and the car-like function of the door, it was simple to replace the panel and there were no clearance issues.
When things are all fired up and running full steam, the case has just a slight hum. The low dBA rating of the fans really shines here. Speaking of shining, the 200mm intake fan offers a nice flood of red lighting to the front of the chassis and also puts a glow on the surface it's sitting on.
Take it all in and enjoy this last view of the HAF-X and ponder this for a minute. Does this case offer what you need in your next full tower purchase?
Answering that last question, all I can come up with is a resounding Yes! - I don't even have the fully functional version of the HAF-X and I for one am already sold. Keeping with the cooling power that we all loved from the earlier HAF cases and beefing things up even more and at near silent levels is a huge "win" for me. It's black all over and I am a sucker for black. The case was and is a breeze to install, assemble and maintain with all the tool-lees features and a well thought out front ventilation system. Honestly, every image I go back over, I can't see where they went wrong.
Cooling was beefed up for obvious reasons, such as NVIDIA's Fermi releases. Things like the VGA support and fan combination not only keep heavy cards in line, but offers cooling near the SLI bridge area of the GPU's. On top of that, Cooler Master made a slick shroud to keep air going to the top three cards of a 4-way SLI stack. Now, Cooler Master recommends that a fan of around 150 CFM be used to offset the lack of air. If you are stacking your cards four high, I can understand this. For my single GPU purposes and the fan I chose still offered a seven degree drop of my idle temperature and a five degree drop at load. With more cards and more CFM in your fan choice I can see how this shroud can help make the overclock versus them stewing in their own juices.
Now, let's answer the rest of the pertinent questions. Does the HAF-X have appeal? Yes, yes it does! Does it look better and offer more than the two predecessors? It certainly does! Are all the additions, new paint job and bigger window enough to make it worth the $70 over the 932? Absolutely in my mind! What the HAF-X brings to the table is top notch. While I don't see myself getting rid of my 800D for this, at least not quite yet, even at today's pricing the HAF-X 942 offers almost all of the appeal of the Obsidian, plus some innovative concepts on top.
There are some things I would have liked to have seen, such as a couple black SATA cables for the hot swap PCB and maybe a cover for it to clean things up. To be really honest, though, for the $199.99 MSRP I think the HAF-X is worth every penny. Keep your eyes peeled to your favorite e-tailers, as June is just around the corner.
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