It seems like it has been quite some time since I had the opportunity to bring you a new chassis from Cooler Master, but today changes all of that. Let me start by clearing up some confusion. All of the Storm series cases we have seen up to this point were spin-off's of the Storm Sniper, which itself was a CM 690 II in new clothes. Gone is the misconception that the Storm series is only for mid-towers, as this chassis is most definitely a full tower, and then some!
With it already in mind that we have left the basic design of the Sniper and 690 II moving to a full tower, my initial guess was that this was some new form of the HAF-X. As you will soon see, the new chassis to hit the scene is a much better thought out concept both inside and out than even what the HAF 932 or HAF-X brought to the table.
What seems to have happened is that Cooler Master has taken hints from other case offerings we have seen from time to time. Two things that come to mind is that this new chassis offers a non-marking rubber coating on the plastic components of the chassis, much like what we see from BitFenix with the SofTouch. The second bit that really stands out is the hard drive cages and the way they are designed. If you remember back to the Antec Lanboy Air, you'd remember they had a hard drive system that will allow you to install the drives in either front to back, or even side to side. With the Cooler Master version of this idea, it is more solid and very well thought out to offer every user the option to make it exactly the way they want it to work. There is plenty more going on both inside and outside of this chassis, these are just points to get your mind wondering what else might be offered in this new release.
Today we are going to be getting up close and personal with every little aspect of the Cooler Master Storm Trooper full tower chassis. I don't want to spill all the beans, but it seems Cooler Master is offering anything and everything in this chassis feature set. Things like push button fan and LED lighting controls, internal USB 3.0, aggressive styling and even a hard drive dock are all included with the Trooper along with many, many other hidden secrets and customizable options. Cooler Master says this is a perfect case for enthusiasts, LAN gamers, or even an encoder or folder with many GPU's, but I think they really cut themselves a little short. In my honest up front opinion, if you have the money to obtain one, this case is for you!
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The Cooler Master Storm Trooper (SGC-5000-KKN1) full tower chassis is completely black inside and out with accents of red LED lighting in the front I/O and side door, as it is shipped. The body, panels and drive cages and racks are all made of steel that receives a coating of black with a textured finish. The plastic bits, or the top cover and the front bezel, including the I/O panel, get coated black with a rubber finish for easy cleaning and scuff resistance. The Trooper stands almost twenty four inches tall from the top of the handle to the bottom of the feet and is almost as deep. Something to consider, and why my back is currently a bit tight, the Storm Trooper weighs in at 31.7 pounds, empty! - Completed as you will see it shortly, I am guessing I am in the fifty-five to sixty pound finished weight. Quite a lot for a single handle on a full tower chassis.
The top, front, bottom, rear and both sides are all ventilated in some fashion. Whether covered with steel mesh, louvers, or punched out venting designs, the Trooper offers every way possible to cool the components inside the chassis. The drive bay configuration in the front is a bit different than we are used to. There are nine spots available for 5.25" devices to go through the front after removing the covers, one of which also converts for a floppy drive and has an adapter installation kit included. In order to use all nine slots for 5.25" devices, you would need to remove the hard drive cages and part of the rack assembly. The case is shipped with the pair of four drive cages with a fan attached to one side, already using up the bottom six 5.25" bays. These cages work with plastic trays that slide in and out with pins for 3.5" drives, or with holes in the bottom of them for 2.5" drives. So those eight, plus a rack that can hold five more drives makes for a total of thirteen possible locations.
The included fans and placements are as follows. The top of the chassis has a 200mm fan installed. This area will allow for 120mm or 140mm fans or even a dual radiator as options. The front of the case has two fans already on the drive cages and depending on orientation they can blow from side to side, or front to back of the case. The rear of the chassis receives a 140mm fan as an exhaust. Optional positions for fans, but are not filled by Cooler Master are the pair in the floor that can be 120mm, and the pair of places in the left side that are the air intake to the hard drives. Don't forget, with the built in fan controls, the front pair, the top and the rear fans can all be connected and controlled from the front I/O panel. Others you add will not have fan plugs to be used with the controller, it only provides for four connections.
I haven't really even scratched the surface as to all the things offered in the Storm Trooper, but if I give it all to you now, you will have no reason to filter through the upcoming images of the Trooper. At this point you want to know when you can get one and how much it will set you back to obtain it. I have some good news and some bad news. Going with the bad news first, you will likely read this before the cases arrive at retailers. Emails from Cooler Master were projecting an early October release, so it is only a matter of days, but you will have to wait a bit. The good news, well, that is the pricing. In those emails I was able to obtain that his mammoth creation that even houses XL-ATX motherboards is releasing with an MSRP of $189.99 US dollars, and for that cost you are getting a very feature rich full tower. Stick around to take a look at it all, as there isn't enough room to dote on this chassis as much as I would like to this early in the review.
With a background image of soldiers on the move, any war genre FPS gamer can relate to the packaging. Over the top is a large image of the front, top and left side of the Trooper along with the CM Storm logo, and the large font splashed across the bottom with the case name.
The red logo carries over to this side from the front, and offers a look at the right side of the Trooper. By the name near the bottom there are three icons denoting that the Trooper is strong, secure, and offers easy control over the chassis at the push of a button.
The back of the Trooper packaging is where you get some idea of what is offered in the back, inside the case, and on the front as far as options and features of each section. Covering the market, Cooler Master offers explanations in eight other languages too.
Spinning the box one last time we run into a through specifications chart above a sticker denoting optional additional components. Various power supplies, passive, regular, and active, and many wattage options from 500W on up to 1000W, and even an option for a windowed version which I have yet to actually see are all included with check boxes on that sticker.
The box looked to be in pretty good shape, but the Styrofoam caps covering the front and back of the chassis tell the tale of some mistreatment in transit. These caps along with a foam based padding line the case to keep scratches at bay, as long as the caps are the only thing broken. Doing a thorough examination of the chassis I am pleased to say that the caps were the only thing to be damaged, the case arrived in perfect condition. The instruction manual was shipped outside of the packaging, so if you don't find yours right away, look in the box, it's likely there.
The Cooler Master Storm Trooper Full Tower Case
Departed from the inner packaging, you can see the Trooper is in fact a trooper and took all the hits in transit, but still made it to my door intact and blemish free.
The front bezel is made from plastic and the sides, as well as the edges of the nine mesh covers are coated in the rubber coating leaving a flat finish. The covers are removable from this side of the bezel which is a nice feature we are seeing on more and more cases. The Aluminum Storm logo at the bottom holds a secret behind it, but we will get to that soon enough.
At the very top of the front bezel, just before the transition to the Front I/O panel, you will find a slot for the 2.5" hard drive dock labeled X-DOCK. This allows for easy access to files on any 2.5" drive by sliding one in the slot until the connections click into place.
The Front I/O is surrounded in the rubber coating, offering a pair each of USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports, e-SATA, and audio jacks. It also houses the Reset button on the right and the activity LEDs on the left. The large darker plastic if the power button at the top indicator LEDs in the middle, and lighting and fan control at the bottom.
The rest of the top panel offers three sections of ventilation near the rear of the chassis. Between that and the I/O panel is a seriously beefy handle capable of holding up to ninety-five pounds, and has a cushy grip underneath for a comfortable fit in your hand.
The Cooler Master Storm Trooper Full Tower Case Continued
The left side panel is very well ventilated with the longer run of tight mesh with the punched out area above the right side. This allows for the hard drive cage fans to breathe as they are mounted from Cooler Master, and offers your cards a steady flow of air as well in the back.
Speaking of the back, here there is a lot to take in as well. The tab hanging over the top goes to a dust filter just above the three holes for tubing and wiring above the 140mm fan. Moving down you get a 9 + 1 slot configuration that offers nine slots to cards, and one slot to the wire tender, or any single slot controller of choice. That leaves the PSU to be mounted at the bottom.
The right side panel has a similar bump out as the left side did, but on this side the ventilation is trimmed down to the area just behind the drive racks, so that the fans have a way to exhaust their heat. This area will also allow for more wiring to be tied up behind the motherboard tray.
Under the Trooper it gets a large set of four plastic and rubber "boots" with an aluminum trim ring to accent them to give you good footing on any surface. Under the hard drive rack, as well as the optional fan hole and PSU intake areas are both covered with dust filters. As you can see they simply slide out each end for cleaning.
Inside the Cooler Master Storm Trooper Full Tower Case
Starting the deconstruction I went right to the top of the chassis first. I found once the top is removed you can see how beefy the handle and cross bracing is. At the top the front I/O panel is all mounted to the chassis and there are no wires to deal with. I removed the fan filter from the top to show the plentiful fan and mounting hole options. From what I can see, if you remove the 200mm fan, you can put two 120mm fans there, two 140mm, and a separate set for a dual 120mm radiator.
With the panels removed we get our first look inside of the Trooper. There seems to be a bunch of wiring to deal with, and it looks like there is a box of hardware to be removed from the 5.25" bays. We will get to all of the finer details, I assure you, for now let's continue.
Wire tied to the optical bays there is in fact a box of hardware I will open and show you in a bit. Noticeably gone from these bays are any sort of tool-free clips, but screws do offer a more solid installation for a case designed to be on the move. As shipped the chassis offers three 5.25" bays without changing anything.
Below there are two cages that hold four hard drives each. From this angle we can view the removable support panel on the left, and the red LED fans screwed to this side of the hard drive cages. There is a large area under the cages, but that houses the surprise behind the CM Storm Logo on the front. Screwed to the floor is a five drive rack specifically for 2.5" drives.
The motherboard tray offers twenty-one places to tie wires, six wire management holes, and a huge CPU cooler access hole to accommodate boards from m-ATX, ATX, and XL-ATX form factors. All of the holes are labeled alphabetically and follow the chart imprinted on the lower left corner of the tray.
At left, the PSU sits on a pair of rubber strips and has plenty of ventilation to allow a fan down installation. I also wanted to point out just how large the wire management hole near the power supply is, this will allow for all the wiring you need to pass easily through here.
The rear offers the 140mm exhaust fan which can be powered from a 3-pin connection, but also ships with a Molex adapter attached. The nine slots all have well ventilated covers held in with thumbscrews inside, while the +1 slot is accessed from outside.
Getting to that secret the Aluminum plate was concealing, with it removed, you now are shown that there are two screws in a plate that need to be removed, and the contents will slide out of here.
With the screws removed, the tray slid right out, and I saw there was a tab to open the top of said tray. Opening it reveals where Cooler Master has shipped most of the hardware which I will show in detail in that section.
Inside the Cooler Master Storm Trooper Full Tower Case Continued
Removing all nine of the 5.25" covers from the bezel you can see two separate plates with thumbscrews in the bottom of each. Removing these screws and the pair on the opposing side will allow for the hard drive cages to be able to slide in and out of the chassis. These screws are what lock them in place.
Sliding the cage out I found it is wired with two plugs. The wire up top is the 3-pin connection to power the fan; the lower connection is to power the red LEDs in these two fans. Be sure to pull them out slow as not to rip the wiring out of anything when you remove them.
I jumped a head a bit, and will show these panels later, but I wanted to get right to the fact that they are completely removable. If you don't like the left to right orientation, as shipped, of the hard drive racks, they can be repositioned to also go front to back.
Cooler Master says that once this is all removed there is 482mm of room here. Just to put it into perspective, I grabbed a spare triple 120mm radiator, and with some creative mounting, you can easily fit this, maybe even a quad radiator if you feel like cramming the most possible in this space.
Behind the motherboard tray there is plenty of room for all the wiring you will need to run here without a bump in the door panel that covers this area. My mind is already racing with ideas of how I am going to handle the amount of wiring, but there are plenty of places offered to try out.
Breaking up the mass of wires, I grabbed the e-SATA, USB 2.0 connection, internal USB 3.0 connection, and the AC'97 / HD Audio connections to cover in this image.
This group of wiring is all connected to the fan and lighting controllers in the Front I/O, the brown and black wire to the left is to power the 200mm and 140mm rear fans. In the middle the grey and black wires are the 3-pin fan connections for the hard drive bay fans, and there are three power connections for LED control. Giving a steady supply of power to the I/O panel is done via the 4-pin Molex connector to the right.
That just leaves us with these three wires to complete the bundle. To connect to the motherboard for switches and lighting, there is the power, reset, and HDD activity connections. Notice all of the wiring is basically black and will keep the finished product clean and nice to look at.
Accessories and Documentation
The Trooper's operators manual is exactly that. I am glad it is shipped outside of the case so you can give it a good once over before attacking the chassis right away. This manual explains every option, included piece, and all the hidden features with good renderings and basic descriptions of what is being shown.
Opening the box that was tied into the optical bays, I found that this is where they chose to ship the trays for the hard drive cages. On the sides of each tray are pins to lock in a 3.5" drive or using the holes you can see in the middle, you can also mount 2.5" drives in all the trays.
Everything you see here aside from the floppy drive adapter cover is found in the hide-away tray at the top. There is the pair of brackets for converting a 5.25" bay to a 3.5" bay for using said floppy drive. There are ten wire ties, a motherboard speaker, and an 8-pin EPS extension cable sent inside the tray.
Along with what we just saw, this hardware is all sent in one large bag shipped inside that tray. There are long screws for adding additional fan to the hard drive assemblies, a panel lock and screw, a socket for the brass risers, and a large assortment of thumbscrews, hex head screws, long Phillips screws, and shorter Phillips screws for drive installation.
Here is all of the components for the hard drive assemblies. Not only do the cages come out by removing the four longer screws to the right, the panels that align them are also removable. This is how the orientation can be changed, or completely removed to make room for the radiator I set in there. Once out, the side panels could be confusing. To sort this out, Cooler Master places arrows and instructions on each panel so they get installed correctly.
To keep metal to metal contact from vibrating from the spin of the hard drives, Cooler master backs each plate with four rubber inserts that make the contact between these and the case rails.
Another great feature of that hidden tray is when I got the case all assembled, I am able to hide all of my hardware here so I can easily remember where I left it. I did try to store the 5.25" drive bay cover I removed for the DVD drive, but they are simply too big to store in here. Another idea is this is a good place to hide anything you don't want others to find easily.
The Build and Finished Product
With everything I could think to add installed in the Trooper, it is now time to take a spin around it for final inspection. The front, even with the drives in place, is an attractive thing to look at from here. The way the shiny mesh plays against the flat rubber finish with the long lines on the sides really stretch the tower visually, but touches like the X-Dock, and the Aluminum plate make this an unmistakable chassis at a glance.
I like that the X-DOCK allows the drive to slide in 75% of the way in as it locks into place. This not only allows access to any 2.5" drive on demand; if you need to leave it there for an extended period of time you will be less likely to bump into it and knock it on the floor.
I tried my best to fill this chassis, but even with my ATX setup with two GPUs in place, the case still looks empty. I'm sure a Gigabyte G1 XL-ATX board can fill the space a little more, but there is still plenty of room for more GPUs for quad GPU solutions or even folding farm.
After I saw the possibilities for water cooling potential inside the chassis I don't see the need for the holes here, but none the less they are appreciated for the option to have external water cooling as an option. As for the rest of the chassis, the black on black of the cards and power supply keep everything, well, black!
I went a little crazy with wire management to try to use up as many of the tie points as possible while still coming up with a clean looking solution. With the use of near thirty zip ties, and taking my time, I was able to get everything in place and I think looking pretty good for something I have to cover over with a panel.
Since I reinstalled the drive cages to the orientation they were shipped in, the red LED lighting from these fans can be seen trough the side ventilation. If you spun these around to face the front, you would be able to see it there as well through the mesh covers.
The last and to me most interesting thing to cover is the front I/O controls. The large button up top is backlit with a storm logo and is the power button. The three LEDs below work to show the fan speeds, and lighting conditions. The plus and minus buttons allow you to change the LED display, and the fans speed or lighting condition at the same time. The LEDs will go from one dim light for low fan speed and dim lights to three bright LEDs for high speed and bright lights with four stages in between. If you want the lighting off all together, use the center button to turn them on or off, no matter the fan speed settings.
From every angle, every view, Cooler Master has something interesting to offer with the Storm Trooper full tower chassis. No matter how much I wrote as we went through the images, it seemed I was always cutting myself short in the explanations or full potential of everything I showed you. As the chassis is shipped, it is already a very feature rich chassis that covers any need currently being offered in today's cases. Externally, it has a rubber coating, a seriously beefy handle, fan and lighting controls, ventilation everywhere with dust filtration and aggressive styling that makes the Trooper a pleasing chassis to use and show to your competition at LAN events. Internally, wow, there is just so much going on while still looking almost ordinary as it is shipped; the options are only limited by your imagination. Seriously!
Once you have your layout of the drives established and the rest of the components installed, we can move on to the cooling in the Trooper. I left the fans in the front blowing side to side, even though I feel a front to back configuration functions better with only one drive, but the finished product isn't as clean. By this I mean you either need to reverse the wiring and get it out of the cage somehow, otherwise the SATA cables and power plugs will be seen inside of the main motherboard compartment. Essentially, this left the pair of red LED fans to cool just my single drive. The 200mm fan at the top and the 140mm in the rear of the chassis are not LED lit, but provide a good amount of airflow in through the chassis. With all the access to fresh air from the floor and through the mesh in the left panel, airflow inside is generous out of the box. Now let's backtrack for a moment. As I showed, once all of the drive components are pulled there is room for a triple, maybe even a quad 120mm radiator in the front, and we know there is room for a dual in the top of the Trooper. Even if you plan to go with a dual loop system, there is plenty of room left over for four cards; a single, double and triple radiator, and still offers room for pumps and reservoirs. I can see this case becoming a choice amongst water cooling users specifically for these reasons.
So what if you don't care about the air flow as it is shipped or water cooling, because your plan is to reconfigure your own cooling solution; what does the case have to give you? In short, it really has everything! Aside from tool-less features on either the expansion slots or the optical bays and maybe a USB 3.0 adapter, there isn't anything I found lacking. Some things to consider when looking into making this your next purchase, as I'm sure it will be! There are a couple of imposed limitations of 186mm for a CPU cooler and 322mm of GPU room with the cages in place. Offhand I can't really think of a cooler that tall, so it's hardly a limitation, but arrangements need to be made for some of the longest graphics cards. The other thing to think about is why did Cooler Master make a handle capable of holding ninety-five pounds? Two reasons! One, the case empty is over thirty pounds of thick steel, hardware and functionality. The second reason is twofold. With my build it is pretty light as far as the installed components, likely just over fifty pounds as you viewed it completed. Now think about the street value of those components in a chassis you plan to lug around somewhere. It would be a real shame to bring the Trooper to a LAN event and as you swing it on the table you toss it three feet in front of you as it freefalls to the floor! That will not happen here - Cooler Master made certain of that.
So who in the market for a new full tower chassis wouldn't fit the bill to be the next buyer of this chassis? Simply two groups - those who won't spend near $200 on a case, and those who don't have that sort of money to invest. For everyone else, this case really touches on every aspect of what a case can and should offer in today's market. With tons of features like easy access to 2.5" hard drive info via the X-DOCK, its modularity in design and even the hidden things that the uninformed won't even realize is there, makes this chassis one that I will not only recommend, but I will be putting this chassis on a pedestal as I gloat about everything it has to offer anyone looking for a large case with aggressive looks and styling to match its tough Trooper name. As I mentioned earlier, I wish you could just run out and buy one now to see and admire everything I am seeing first hand, but you will have to wait as stock is currently being shipped for release that will be here very soon. For everything Cooler Master delivered in the Storm Trooper chassis, the MSRP of $189.99 is a true bargain for this super solid design!
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