In just over two years of reviewing I have seen many cases come and go, loads of ideas and implementations of some really creative solutions. I am pleased to say I have had the pleasure of working with some of the more expensive models as well as the majority of midrange and budget models. Rarely do I run across cases that cross those borders, but every once in a while you find that deal that you just can't pass up. It may be an offer of an unbelievable price, or it might just be exactly what you are looking for at the time. Either way, you just cannot keep yourself from adding it to your cart.
Cooler Master has come up with a creative solution to help those who want to build a budget gamer, or even the guy who wants a basic net surfing machine, but wants a bit of flash to go with his or her investment. Now, just about every manufacturer out there has a budget line of cases in their lineup, and most demand pricing near $100 here in the U.S. Usually this gets you a black case with a black face with a box or two of hardware. Aside from any tool-less options or if the interior is painted, they all consist of all the same major steel parts. Cooler Master offers this; a bit of flash and a bonus feature.
What Cooler Master offers is a nice looking case, but they also add the Cooler Master eXtreme Power RS550. Taking a look over at Newegg, the power supply would run you about $70 just to get one to your door, so keep that in mind as I go on in this review. Think about that a second. Cooler Master is offering a sub-$100 case and there is already $70 in power supply offered and we haven't even discussed the case. I know from constantly surfing Newegg, getting a case for $30 is a possibility, but highly unlikely you will find anything you will like, or what the USP 100 has to offer. I think it's about time we get down to business and see just what you get in the latest submission from Cooler Master.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
Cooler Master brings the USP 100 to the table built from mostly steel with a plastic and mesh front bezel. Stepping away from all black, the USP 100 comes with all the mesh painted red in the front bezel and also has two red vents at the bottom. The chassis will house both mATX and ATX motherboards inside of this nineteen by twenty inch box. Behind the front bezel there are four bays that have removable mesh panels to allow for optical devices. Hidden underneath you will find room for up to six hard drives and they even made room for a floppy drive. In the rear the USP 100 offers seven expansion slots to allow for Crossfire or SLI and still have room for a NIC or sound card.
Cooling inside this chassis, well, it leaves a little to be desired, but costs get cut somewhere and here is where in the USP 100. Cooler Master does ship the chassis with a 120mm red LED fan to act as the intake, behind the front bezel. From there it is up to you. Options for placement are one in the bottom, one in the rear, and one in the door panel. Something I do like about the way it is designed, though; what fans can fit. Each of the three optional positions for fans will allow for 80mm, 90mm, and 120mm fans to all be mounted. This means you may be able to use a couple fans you have lying around, and you may not need to incur more cost in the overall price to get superior airflow.
The power supply included is a Cooler Master eXtreme Power RS550. This PSU offers two +12V rails at 16 amps and roughly 70% efficiency overall. Connectivity is well covered with the typical 24-pin and 8-pin power leads as well as more for the components. Two separate lines, both with three SATA power connections, a 4-pin Molex line with three connections, and two 6+2-pin GPU power lines wrap up the rest. While the power and amperage are a bit limited, it should power anything in Crossfire or SLI that only has one 6-pin per card. I plan to run my trusty GTS 250 off of it and it requires both leads, so no SLI for me this time around.
Google shows me that this chassis shouldn't be hard to find at all. Over ten pages of sales hits tell me that it's widely available and the pricing is varied. On the high end, I saw the USP 100 with the power supply listing for right around $150, and if you pay that you didn't shop that hard. Way lower on the price spectrum you will find The Cooler Master USP 100 listing at Newegg for $89.99. Now, of course there is shipping, and that does take the total price to just over that $100 mark. Shopping frugally and possibly waiting, free shipping may happen from Newegg, as they seem to revolve what cases do and don't get free shipping that day or week. Even so, for a chassis with a power supply included, this just may be the answer to house a budget gamer or LAN box.
The Cooler Master USP 100 ships in a plain all brown box with black outlined images and text. Here you can see a rendering of the chassis, seven listed features and a check box to signify colour of the front mesh and what wattage PSU is included.
Not much to see on this side but a multi-lingual list of what is in the box at the bottom.
The back houses the specifications list.
This panel mirrors the opposing side.
You can't go wrong with a plastic liner and the Styrofoam end caps. Even though the box was in rough shape, the standard shipping garb has always provided a solid sample inside.
The Cooler Master USP 100 Mid Tower Case
I know you caught a glimpse at it under the plastic, but here is all the red I was talking about earlier. Quite a bold and flashy look for a mid tower! This should make the red team buyers happy, but there is no reason the green team can't disguise their PC as a sort of "unexpected sleeper". As Cooler Master has done with many others, the only naming is in the simple brushed metal on black plaque stuck to the front of the chassis.
Spinning the USP 100 to the left, we have the removable panel with a hand grip in the back and ventilation stamped out of the panel. The top area is just for passive ventilation, while the lower section provides mounting holes for an 80mm, 90mm or 120mm fan to be added later if you choose to.
From the back you can see that you get just the basics; no water pass-through holes or added controller slots here. The typical rear I/O section flanks the exhaust fan area. Again, this fan is optional. These are just above the seven expansion slots and just below is a look at the exhausting side of the included PSU.
The opposing side panel offers the same hand grip for easy removal, but this time the panel is completely solid.
Above all the bright red mesh, there is a raised plastic section mounted on the top of the chassis. This makes for a little storage cubby and allows a place for Cooler Master to install the front I/O connections. In this case it is just two USB 2.0 ports and front panel audio connections. On the far right you will see the HDD activity light. Strangely, there's no power light, though.
Inside the Cooler Master USP 100 Mid Tower Case
Removing the door took the removal of two screws like you find when mounting a PSU, but once they are out the panel slides off effortlessly. Inside you will find the power supply and its wiring tied neatly near the floor and a box of hardware stashed in the hard drive bays. The front I/O wiring is held back with wiring management, but the power supply power cord was left floating around inside during shipping.
All of the unpainted steel has an SEC coating on it to prevent corrosion and riveted together to give you these four 5.25" bays, and the seven 3.5" bays, one of which is for a floppy drive and has a swappable front cover. Just in front you will see the only fan included. To be real honest, most of it is blocked by the bays, so I would plan to add more once the chassis arrives.
I removed the PSU for clarity so you would have a better look at the motherboard tray. At the top there is a large hole for CPU cooler back plate access and the tray had risers and wiring "holders" already installed.
The rear of the chassis is lacking the optional exhaust fan and will allow air to passively flow out the fan area and the section alongside the expansion slots. I would strongly suggest adding at least one fan here to actively draw out the heat.
Wiring is kept simple. Included here is the front fan wiring on the left that offers both 3-pin and 4-pin Molex connectivity. From the I/O area we see one USB 2.0 connection and the HD Audio and AC' 97 connectors. And in the background are the power, power LED and HDD activity connections.
Looking from the opposite side and it's a little hard to tell from a photo, but the tray is set deeper than usual. This should allow for most of the wiring to easily be routed back here and not take three men and a small child to get the panel back on.
Underneath the case you will find two rather chunky back feet, and the front built mostly from plastic with rubber pads for support. In the floor of the chassis you will see the ventilated areas. The one to the left is obviously for the power supply and Cooler Master offers a space for another fan to draw the cool air in from the bottom.
Removing the front bezel just takes a tug from the bottom and it releases easily. Be careful when removing it completely, as all the front I/O and LED wiring are attached directly to the panel, so be sure the other ends are free to be pulled. In the chassis there are steel panels that need to be removed if you plan to occupy those slots and as you can see the fan is slightly impeded with the fancy design of the holes rather than just a more open pattern like the side and rear fan holes. The bezel itself has tabs to release the red mesh covers. The bottom half uses the red mesh as a fan filter and has a honeycomb design to allow for air flow and support for the mesh.
Accessories and Documentation
Inside of the cardboard box that was stuffed in the hard drive bays is where you will find these goodies. There are three smaller, tool-less clips for the 3.5" drives and five clips for the 5.25" bays. Above them is the floppy drive cover to swap out with a full cover, if you install a floppy drive that is. To the left there are seven screws for mounting hard drives if the clips aren't enough, and the same goes for four screws for optical drive mounting. To the right side there are thirteen screws for motherboard mounting or replacing lost PSU or panel screws. That leaves the two extra risers and an extra thumbscrew to finish it all off.
There is a fold out sheet of instructions to help you through the build process. Once I skimmed it as I took this image; I had no need to refer to it later as the case is pretty intuitive.
Here I removed the power supply just so I could show it off a little, as it is rough to do inside the chassis. There are plenty of leads and an included power cord, so getting this up and running should be a snap.
Here you can get a bit of information about what the power supply is capable of powering. Two +12V lines at 15A each isn't going to run Fermi's in SLI, but it should hold its own with most single GPU builds and has potential for say a pair of HD 5770's.
Just in case you wanted to know a bit more about the power supply, other than what the basic sticker information explains.
I just wanted to lay out the wiring so it was a bit easier to see the lines and connections. In case you are wondering, the leads are about fourteen inches to the first connection, and if they branch, the sections are roughly six inches each. Plenty to get around inside of the USP 100!
The Build and Finished Product
Adding drives to the front does detract from the flow of the red mash, but not enough to make me dislike it. Still attractive, especially if you like red!
In most mid towers I dread cutting myself or having to fight to install my goods, but it just wasn't the case here. I got a full ATX board and a GTS 250 crammed in there with no issues, but as you can see longer graphics cards may not fit without a mod or two. The wire holders do their job, and while not the sexiest wire job to look at, they do stay out of the way of what air flow is inside the USP 100 out of the box.
Here we have the rear again with the card and motherboard in place.
With the bulk of the wiring, the 24-pin, GPU power lines and the SATA power line all strapped up front, it left the back very clean. I was able to wire the 8-pin CPU power wire and the front I/O wiring behind the tray, and the rest got run through the tray and laid on the floor behind the drive bays. Couldn't have been easier really!
Something I completely missed at first when I noticed the HDD activity light and no power LED. This would be why. The USP 100 uses a Knight Rider inspired light setup for this chassis. While the lights don't go left to right, it does pulsate from right to dim.
With only one supplied fan, the only other LED lighting to be found is in that fan. With the lights turned really low I was able to get this image. When the lights are on in the room, it is hard to see the red LED through the red mesh.
One last image; taking a step back to absorb it all again!
The Cooler Master USP 100 is not only a looker, but does seem to offer quite a bit of included power. Look at it this way; I was able to play around a bit on the rig and with antiquated hardware. The E6400 pulls a lot of juice when overclocked and I was able to get to 3.3GHz on the stock cooler and still have power enough to clock the card a fair amount. While running a couple of stress tests, the main issue came to light; chassis cooling! Better yet, the lack of any! They have supplied a single 120mm fan that does add some flow, but very little, as most of it is blocked by either the intake grid, or the hard drive bays. Things got hot inside too fast for my liking, but I am doing something most buyers wouldn't. I mean, not everyone likes to push parts just because they can. While at stock, temperatures were a few degrees warmer, but still very acceptable.
Moving on, there is a really sturdy well thought out and designed mid tower. All the bones are there for a strong build, whether it be a gamer or a PC to surf the internet, this chassis and power supply combination will keep the low end to mid range guys very happy. As I say, this is not an extremist setup; don't let the name on the power supply fool you. While it is quite capable, don't let it fool you into trying to add Molex adapters to power a pair of HD5850's or say GTX280's. I can solidly say a pair of HD5770's would do nicely or on the green side, maybe some single plug 250's or similar.
If red isn't your color of choice, then there is no need to bother. IF you have a slick, tricked out ATI/AMD build and want to accentuate it, then this may be the case and power supply combo for you. Even if you have a brown or green motherboard, this case offers a nice beginners platform to work from. The power supply isn't top notch, but it is plenty to do the job at hand. The case doesn't have the best air flow, but still offers the end user options for customization. For all you "builders" out there who like to find a good combo deal for customer builds, have a look! - In my opinion, this can get the job done, offers stylish looks and doesn't break anyone's wallet in the process. Like I said, to get both a power supply and a good foundation chassis that won't take hours with a Dremel and leave the taste of metal in your mouth; it isn't easy and is rarely cheap.
I think Cooler Master found a nice balance and the pricing at Newegg of $89.99 confirms that.