Not too long ago, I took a look at the first chassis to release from the N series. Then we were given the N200, which was a short and squatty mini-tower chassis that was packed quite full of features, even in its limited space. The idea there was to deliver a sleek looking chassis that offered both great ventilation options, but also was able to keep enough room for the longest PSUs and video cards, while giving Micro-ATX systems a snug new home.
That same sense of chassis design has been enlarged into a mid-tower design, but keeps the same styling of the N200 on the outside. This means room for larger components, more expansion slots, and this time you get a large tinted window on the side of the chassis for your viewing pleasure.
There is another idea that Cooler Master was going for in this newer version. They have the idea that this chassis needed to be designed for water cooling as well. Therefore, this design incorporates three locations to add in radiators, two of which can be dual 120 radiators. On top of that they have obviously increased the size of the chassis, so now the ATX board owners can enjoy the N series as well.
Between the two designs of the N200 and the N600 we are about to see, there is also a mid-range version of these designs that you will find in the N400. The N600 is the top of the line in this series of cases, and from what I saw with the N200, random things like bumped out door panels and hard drive storage have been addressed and improved.
In almost every way, the N600 is superior to both the N400 and N200, but let's get right down to it and see if the N600 from Cooler Master is worthy of your money over all the other mid-tower offerings on the market.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
Just like the Fords of old, you can have the N600 in any color you want, as long as that color is black. The front of this chassis offers a full length bezel made of shiny plastic on the edges, and the entire front is comprised of a composite grid with mesh behind it for dust filtration as well as aesthetic appeal. The top of the chassis offers similar ventilation near the rear of the chassis and offers room for a pair of 120mm fans to be installed, and is also one of the radiator locations in this chassis.
The left side has a large tinted window on it that only allows line of site to the hardware and not to the drive bays. The rear of the chassis offers a high and low switch for the equipped fans, has room for a 120mm fan or radiator, offers a seven plus one expansion slot arrangement, and has a filtered spot for the PSU at the bottom of the chassis. The right side of the chassis is mostly just the texture painted steel, but behind the HDD bays, there is another mesh opening cut into the panel. This also allows for a pair of 120mm fans, and with some work, you can also house a radiator here if you would like to.
Inside of the chassis you are given room for three 5.25" devices above a two part HDD rack that can hold up to seven 3.5" drives, or with the top section adjusted, you can also house up to four 2.5" drives here as well. There is one additional spot for a 2.5" drive that is found behind the motherboard tray. In front of the HDD racks, Cooler Master has installed one 120mm fan for the chassis intake. The motherboard tray offers room for boards from Mini-ITX all the way through ATX motherboards, has three large wire managing holes with grommets in them plus two smaller ones at the top of the tray, and has nine locations to tie wiring too.
The roof of the chassis will allow for two 120mm fan or the radiator as I said before, but these spots are shipped empty, much like the spot in front of the PSU on the floor of this case. The rear of the chassis is where you will find the second installed fan. This is set up to exhaust the chassis, but is the third location for a radiator.
Each time you try something a little newer in a chassis design, it costs a lot of money to incorporate. What is evident is that the pricing is getting near the higher-end for what most people will pay for a mid-tower chassis these days, but it is able to stay well below the $100 mark if you shop wisely. Most locations are starting with a base price of $79.99, which is acceptable. It is only when you don't look for the best base price and shipping combo that you can get into trouble.
Most places will only charge you an additional $9.99 for shipping and handling fees, and again that is very acceptable. If you don't pay attention though, there are some lunatics trying to get near $150 for this chassis too, so buyers should definitely be aware.
The packaging is kept simple, but Cooler Master wanted to keep things looking better than just plain cardboard. Here they have placed an image of the front of the N600 to take up the bulk of this panel, and at the bottom are the chassis naming and three key features to get you interested.
Cooler Master tops this side with their logo and bar code stickers with the model number on it. Lower down this side there is an image of the front and left side of the N600, and again it finishes out with the chassis naming at the bottom.
The back of the packaging puts the naming and CM logo at the top. Then there are three images of the chassis. Around the front, the inside, and the back of the chassis there are 12 features being addressed, as the lines direct you from the image to the text. The bottom here displays a list of seven features repeated in eight languages in total.
As with anything we usually get from Cooler Master, there is this purple panel. For the N600 this panel is used to show off the same specifications chart we just covered. There is also a box that denoted options, and there is a green sticker next to the "with side window" version.
Inside of the cardboard the chassis is centered and mainly protected by the thick Styrofoam caps at the top and the bottom. There is a plastic liner that wraps the entire chassis, but as an added layer of protection, there has been plastic applied to the shiny bits of plastic on the bezel, as well as being on both sides of the window. This typical packaging allowed the N600 to arrive in perfect condition.
Cooler Master N600 Mid-Tower Chassis
The N600 has that same protruding plastic strip that contains the front I/O panel as well as offering a place for the Cooler Master naming. The rest of the panel is comprised of a tight mesh design that is backed with an even finer mesh for dust filtration. Lastly, there are three removable bay cover that need the bezel off to be removed.
The front I/O starts off with a small reset button just above the backlit power button. There is then the HDD activity LED and the HD Audio jacks. That leaves us with the USB 2.0, USB 3.0, and the light switch at the bottom.
The top of the N600 starts off flat, and then has a raised section in the back. That raised section has had a mesh pattern cut into it, has room for two 120mm fans, and even has a dust filter installed from the factory.
The left side of the chassis uses the same textured black paint as the top has, just this time rather than a small fan opening like on the N200, it has been swapped out for a large and well places tinted window.
The back of the chassis has a lot going on. There is a switch for fan speed above the rear I/O, and there are water cooling holes above the rear exhaust fan. Below that you have not just the seven expansion slots, but you also get the additional vertical slot to use, leaving room for the PSU at the bottom.
The right side panel is mostly a mass of textured black steel. Near the front of the chassis there is a mesh section cut into this panel. This will allow for air to pass through, and lets the section to house two 120mm fans, or add another dual radiator into the mix.
The bottom of the chassis offers hard rubber feet, that are placed well, and gives the chassis solid footing. There is also a plastic framed dust filter with a latch at the back to grab and help remove this filter for cleaning.
Inside the Cooler Master N600
The first look inside the chassis shows that the wiring is tied up to avoid it rubbing against the window, and there is a box of hardware found in the slim section of the HDD racks.
The 5.25" bays have tool-free clips on this side of the bays to offer some very solid mounting on their own. If you plan to travel a lot and are worried about it, you can add screws to back up the clips as well.
There are defined sections of the HDD bays. The top section that will hold four drives is adjustable from its 2.5" configuration it is in now, to a 3.5" drive bays just by moving the left section. The lower half is permanent as is it riveted in place, and the drives run front to back here instead of side to side.
If you need more room for video cards, or need a place for the pump and reservoir, you can remove the top section of the storage bays all together. There is also a fan bracket at the back to allow you to put in a single fan, or hang a radiator from it.
The top of the chassis offers room for a pair of 120mm fans to be installed with or without the dust filter that is in place now. There is a good offset to the motherboard to allow for slim radiators here as well.
The motherboard tray is marked for standoff installation depending on the type of board you want to use. The access hole is large, and there are plenty of places to tie and route any cabling you need to tend to.
The floor of the chassis offers little rubber pads to set the PSU on top of, and there is room for a 120mm fan too, as long as your wiring doesn't block it off.
We finally see the second fan that comes inside of the N600, and it comes with a 3-pin power lead and a Molex adapter for powering of this fan. As for the expansion slots, the all use thumbscrews, and keep in mind the +1 slot is accessed from outside of the chassis.
Behind the tray, you are offered 25mm of space to tend to the wiring, but off to the left there is much more room offered. The fan bracket that is there is inset to allow for a thin radiator, but the fans need to go on the other side of this bracket.
As for the chassis wiring, there is plenty of length to all of the cables to get them routed cleanly. I also like that the front panel wires, the USB 3.0, USB 2.0 and the HD Audio and AC'97 cables are all black and will hide easily inside of the N600.
Accessories and Documentation
Inside of the box of hardware, you will find what I have laid out here. There are 12 tie strips to manage the wiring, and a motherboard speaker included. There is also a bag with all of the fan screws, standoffs, he socket for them, motherboard screws, and drive screws all thrown together. There is also a Kensington lock for the left side panel, and a bag of PSU screws to finish off this bit of the kit.
Cooler Master also bundles two groups of the plastic slides used to mount 3.5" drives. There are 14 in total to fill all seven bays, but if you want to use the top section for 2.5" drives, they get installed with screws.
The installation guide seen here can be found packed over the plastic liner, but under the Styrofoam, and will give new case builders a good idea of what they need to do to get their components inside of this chassis.
When you unfold the paperwork, you end up with a one sided sheet of instructions. Even though small and short on detail, there is a step by step tutorial given on how to install every component, and should clear up any issues you may run into with this build.
The Build and Finished Product
Removing the front bezel is as easy as any other chassis, and notice the front I/O stays attached to the chassis. You can now remove a bay cover if you need to, but if you plan to move the front fan or add another, you do need to remove the I/O panel to get to those mounting holes.
I did in fact move the fan up for a little better breeze inside of the chassis, and I also added the DVD drive. While the drive doesn't detract so much from the design, the missing section of plastic does look a bit odd.
Inside of the chassis there was plenty of room and accessibility to get everything installed and mounted properly, but this is also where the main faults of the case become blatantly obvious, but I will address those concerns on the next page.
Getting the parts into the rear of the chassis was also relatively easy. The I/O shield popped right in, the card aligns nicely with the screw holes, and the PSU fits snug into the bottom of the chassis.
Wiring was a bit tough, but I was able to pull it all off without interfering with the door panel. What I will give to the N600 is the fact that I was able to get everything, but the video card leads back here, and with all the tie points and holes as options, there shouldn't be any issues for the average builder either.
All back together and ready for power, I can say that you are getting a solid and attractive chassis. While I do have my own personal issues with this chassis, it is more based on the way it is promoted rather than what it can or cannot do.
With the N600 now powered on, there is very little noise to be heard from it, in either High or Low switch positions of the fans. What is a shame, or not, is that the fans LED lighting and the power LED in the switch, neither of them show up at any angle, you have to be dead on with the chassis to see any of the white LEDs used in this design.
The N600 comes with a lot of things I like. The front of the chassis has a unique look that is well ventilated and allows for air to come through almost anywhere. The top of the chassis is ventilated with room for a pair of fans, and even comes with a dust filter over all of the fan openings, everywhere in the case. Overall the chassis is very solid and strong, even without the panels or front bezel attached to it. On the inside there are things like the removable and adjustable upper storage bays section, and even offering a 2.5" drive spot behind the motherboard, this chassis tends to all of your storage needs.
I also liked the amount of holes, accessibility, and tie points offered on the motherboard tray. Even though we have seen it before, I still like the +1 expansion slot to add in things like case lighting switches or anything short that you need easy access to. The last thing that really set this chassis off for me was that CM added a very large window, which while tinted, does offer a look at only the hardware and not the structural components of the chassis.
With only two fans in the chassis as it is shipped from Cooler Master, the air flow is sufficient, but ends up with slightly below average results thermally. In defense of this design, you can easily add five more 120mm fans and drastically improve on this slight issue with the N600. Where I had a major issue is in the fact that they claim this chassis can house water cooling in various locations. While the top can hold a slim radiator and fans, the motherboard cooling, even the memory will cause issues for you there. Then they offer a location next to the hard drive bays. I found two issues here. One, why isn't the bottom section of the hard drive rack removable? This would allow both the front and the side to hold a radiator. The second issue is that as it stands, the side fan bracket will hold either a radiator or a fan on the one side. This means if you wanted to use a dual radiator, you can only have a fan at the top of it.
Just to check my measurements and what I was seeing first hand, I went over to CM's website and looked at their images. Even there they show the slots holding the radiator only, or if it does have a fan, it is set obviously with the lower fan missing. On the flip side, as I said, these all will work beautifully with fans, just billing it as radiator ready is sort of a farce, in my opinion.
With all of that in mind, I am sort of at a loss of where to go from here. While the chassis can hold its own in the mid-tower market as far as the basic feature set and styling are concerned, I really don't care for the way Cooler Master promoted this design. If they had not billed this chassis as water cooling ready, I would say it is a better than average solution for the $79.99 base price. Where I am stuck is with all the potential buyers who see this on a shelf and get hoes of grandeur and water cooling madness, just to get kicked in the grapes when they open it up and realize that it is near impossible to do what Cooler Master says this chassis is capable of.
To me, CM either need to promote this chassis for what it is, a good air cooling mid-tower chassis, or just consider this a lame duck. As it sits, I am hard pressed to even think of an award that fits when things are as grossly overstated as they are with the N600 from Cooler Master.
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