Introduction, Specifications and Pricing
Cooler Master is looking at chassis design in an entirely new way in this latest chassis. Where they have been known in the past to come up with some really top tier offerings, and have always offered low-end and mid-range solutions as well, whatever your choice in design, what you got out of the box is what you will have until that chassis is replaced. The idea here is a bit different. This time around, Cooler Master is looking at three different versions of the same chassis, but is also introducing their first modular chassis. This means nothing about the interior capabilities, we mean modular in an exterior or aesthetic sense, and is accomplished with a lineup of parts allowing users to buy the chassis they need up front, and with a few extra goodies you can find online, you can have the chassis grow with your needs, and even change its style to give it that new to you feel again.
In the most basic sense, we are given a mid-tower chassis with a completely new interior layout, and this stays very similar throughout the trio of offerings. In the options pile, we can select to buy the lower-end model and give it things like an AIO support rack for the top, a new top cover panel, a windowed side panel, even extra SSD and HDD trays and racks to fill this chassis the way you need it to happen. While we have seen manufacturers offer windowed side panel options, and maybe a bezel with a color option to it, it is rare that a major manufacturer would go the route of a customizable chassis. This is something usually left to smaller companies, but Cooler Master has done some homework and found that this is a very viable market, enough to stake a lot of money and their reputation on.
The version of the chassis we are going to see today is the MasterCase 5, the lesser of the three models, but that does not mean this chassis is lacking in any way. Adding a few drive bays and SSD trays, a top cover and water cooling bracket, and even adding in the windowed side panel will give you what they are calling the MasterCase Pro 5. In the literature we were given, it also appears they may offer a third version called the MasterCase Maker 5, as this whole endeavor is based on the Maker Spirit to begin with. In this version, we are seeing a solid front panel, and with an early Q4 2015 release date in mind, other options in that design could very well be changing as this is being typed. Even with the more modest design of the MasterCase 5 mid-tower chassis that we are about to see, it is easy to appreciate what has been done, and where the idea is going.
The chart provided from Cooler Master shows both versions of the chassis that are releasing first with the MasterCase 5 specifications to the left, and the MasterCase Pro 5 to the right. Both versions are the same size, and both support ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX motherboards. Both again supply the back of the chassis with seven expansion slots, but the drive configurations are where we find some of the changes. In the MasterCase 5, there are two 5.25" bays, two 3.5" bays, and the SSD trays are setup with two trays that can be used in four locations. The Pro 5 gets an additional three 3.5" drive bays, and also a few more locations for 2.5" drives as well. Both have the same front I/O panel with USB 3.0, USB 2.0, and HD Audio along with the power and reset buttons, neither of which offer a fan controller.
Cooling is a bit different between the two as far as pre-installed fans are concerned. The MasterCase 5 offers a single 140mm fan in the front, nothing in the top, and a 140mm in the back. The Pro 5 offers a second fan in the front and also keeps the fan in the back. As to what this chassis offers as options, this is the first mid-tower chassis to accommodate three 140mm fans in the front of the chassis, but is also 120mm fan ready as well. The top of the chassis offers room for a pair of either 120mm or 140mm fans, and the rear fan can be removed and replaced with a 120 or 140mm fan. We also see that when it comes to water cooling, the MasterCase 5 offers 40mm of room in the front for a radiator and fans, and no real support for the weight in the top. The Pro 5 offers the same in the front, but with the water cooling bracket and the top cover, you are then offered 64mm overall for the radiator and fans hanging there.
Restrictions are minimal as well. There is an astonishing 190mm of room for CPU air cooling options inside. They offer 296mm of room for video cards with the HDD cages in play, and with them removed, you then are given 412mm of room. We also see that they offer the measurement behind the motherboard tray where we find there is 25mm of unimpeded space for whatever wiring needs to be done. The last things that get mentioned are that there are dust filters in the front, top, and bottom of both versions, and that the Pro 5 comes with the top cover, top water bracket, and a side window, which the MasterCase 5 does not offer.
While everything was pretty much handed to us as far as information goes, we did have to make a call over to Cooler Master to get the pricing information. What we found is that neither of the two designs that are releasing as you read this are going to break the bank. The MasterCase 5 is slated to release with an MSRP of only $109.99, and as for the MasterCase Pro 5, it has an MSRP of just $139.99. Much lesser cases will cost you as much as the MasterCase 5, and considering what all you get moving to the MasterCase Pro 5 for only $30 more is well worth it too. As of this moment, they are keeping a tight grip on information about the MasterCase Maker 5, but we do know, when it is released, it will be limited and at the CM Store only.
Cooler Master wants you to "Make it Yours" with this MasterCase 5. Along with the large images of the inside of the chassis and the front bezel, they make mention of the FreeForm modular system that allows you to customize, adjust, and upgrade this chassis as your needs in this hobby progress.
This slimmer side of the packaging continues with the flat black backdrop as they present all three versions of the chassis in view here. The MasterCase 5 is just under the handle, and the Pro 5 and Maker 5 are at the bottom, and only the Maker gets a solid front panel.
On the back of the packaging, we are given an explanation of what the FreeForm system is all about and the idea and options offered with it, and next to that is an exploded image of the chassis. Along the bottom in many languages, we are offered a list of six features the modular system offers.
As we make it around to the last side of the packaging, we find a large specifications chart offered, and this is specific to the MasterCase 5. Below that, we find the company information and that this is the MasterCase 5 at the very bottom in plenty of languages.
Moving away from a plastic liner, our MasterCase 5 is surrounded in a thin layer of foam fist to protect the surfaces and paint treatment. Around that, on the front and back of the chassis, we see the use of thick Styrofoam end caps to protect it from the drops and bangs that can and will happen along the way. As to this specific chassis, the packaging all did what it was supposed to and leaves us with a MasterCase 5 that is in terrific shape under all of this.
Cooler Master MasterCase 5 Mid-Tower Chassis
The front of the MasterCase 5 is sleek and simplistic. It has angled sides that run the entire length of the center steel mesh insert sporting a chromed Cooler Master logo near the bottom. As it makes its way to the top of the chassis, we find a stretched octagonal shape is made from all the angles coming together.
That octagonal section is also the front I/O panel where we find a tiny HDD activity LED, a pair of USB 3.0 ports to either side of the HD Audio jacks, and the reset button finishes the top row. The larger power button stands alone under all of that to make it easier to feel for.
Specifically to the MasterCase 5, the top of the chassis consists of two large metal handles covered with angled plastic, and between them is a thin metal removable fan plate. This can be removed with the screws seen on the sides both to ease fan installation as well as to access the dust filter there.
Again, specific to the MasterCase 5, this side of the chassis is a vast expanse of solid steel panel painted in black. If you opt for the Pro 5, this side offers a window, and you can always order a new windowed side panel if you still do not want to opt into the Pro 5 all together.
At the back, we see the rear I/O next to the fan location with adjustable mounting. Below, we find seven expansion slots, the last of which has a cord tender cover in it, and mesh next to is for some passive ventilation. The PSU is slid in from the back and has a PSU mounting bracket hanging in place now.
No matter which of the versions you opt to buy, the right side of the chassis is a solid expanse of black steel. Also, there is no need for bumps or funky things going on, as there is already 25mm of room behind this panel as it is.
Under the chassis, we find that the feet mimic the handles at the top as they cross from side to side and offer very solid footing, and to keep it in place, long skinny rubber pads are used on the outer edges. We also see the dust filter for the PSU that will slide out the back for cleaning.
Inside the MasterCase 5
Starting off the interior shots, we first removed the bezel. The front is completely free and the entire thing can be rinsed to clean it, and along with the front I/O staying on the chassis, we can also see the one intake fan that the MasterCase 5 ships with, rather than the pair that the Pro 5 offers.
Inside of the chassis, we find that they have the wiring not only tended to in a trick wire track in the back, but it is also run through a grommet in the floor to keep it from moving about. Looking into the drive bays, we located the hardware box that has all sorts of goodies in it.
The MasterCase 5 offers a pair of 5.25" bays with tool-free locks on this side, and the use of screws needed on the back. The nice thing about these is that they can also be removed to allow for more radiator to be fitted in the front of the chassis.
Below the ODD bays we find only two 3.5" drive trays in this small cage. This cage can be adjusted to any position in the rack as well as being removable all together, again to allow for water cooling needs.
The top of the chassis offers one large rectangular hole in it. The metal plate, once removed, makes installing fans a breeze, but then cleaning the filter will require a lot of work after that. We will also show what the Pro 5 offers, but that comes later.
The motherboard tray offers a large access hole and room for ATX, Micro-ATX, or Mini-ITX motherboards with five wire management holes around it. Something to note though, there is a lack of wire tie points outside of the pair offered for the 8-pin lead.
Inside the MasterCase 5 Continued
The back of the chassis sports the second fan offered in the MasterCase 5, and that fan uses a 3-pin header for power. We also see that the ventilated expansion slot covers are held in with thumbscrews.
The subfloor of this design offers a pair of locations for SSDs, with an option to hang these behind the motherboard tray as well. We also find two medium sized holes with grommets to help with wiring or tubing runs, depending on your layout inside.
Below the SSDs, we find rails to support the PSU that can only be installed from the back of the chassis. No issues here with the design, and we find plenty of support and ventilation for even the longest of power supplies.
In the front of the chassis, we found what we believe is an optional 3.5" drive location. This plate is also removable as it sits under where a radiator would go, but there is no mention of this plate in our reviewers guide or in the manual.
Behind the motherboard, we have 25mm of room, and to the right near the bottom, we see the two locations for those SSD trays. The bottom is entirely open to pass cables upwards, and the left is wide open to either accommodate water cooling or get wiring to the drives hanging there.
The wiring is all routed through a track in the back that have Velcro straps on them to keep the wiring in the track. While the wiring that is left seems short, all of the front I/O wiring is able to reach for our system, and it's all black, so it will hide nicely inside as well.
Accessories and Documentation
In the hardware box, we found this sitting in their own little compartments inside of it. Along with the ten wire zip ties at the top, we are also given a pair of Molex to 3-pin fan power header adapters. For those that do not have or do not want to use extra motherboard headers, these will come in very handy.
The front of the chassis is designed to hold up to three 140 or 120mm fans, but with the ODD bays in place, it is tough to offer fan mounting at the top. This is solved by offering a bracket that screws in once the ODD bays are out and offers a secure way to mount the topmost fan.
Front fan screws, a socket and standoffs, HDD cage screws, and a Kensington lock loop and screw covers what is offered along the top. PSU screws, motherboard screws, normal fan screws for the top, SSD, ODD, a pair we are not too sure about, and the last pair of screws are to mount the fan bracket.
Just in case you missed what we just explained, inside of the manual, the first thing offered is an explanation as to what each bit of the kit is for.
The rest of the manual, seen on the left, offers a step-by-step guide through the major component installations and even touches on most of the features and how it all works. To the right is the warranty information that offers what to do and what not to do, along with what they will cover for two years.
Case Build and Finished Product
For our build needs, we do not opt for an optical drive to be installed, so there is nothing to break up the center line of mesh. This monolithic look seems to grow on us as well. For something so simply angled, it does have its own distinct appeal.
More to show off the roominess to the right, we removed all of the bays, but all could be left in place for our build with plenty of room and compatibility. We really like the sleek and simple styling that makes even this aging build look rather good sitting in the MasterCase 5.
There are no issues with the dust shield, and loosely installing the PSU adapter plate and waiting to set the plate screws before setting the PSU screws helps everything align better and easier. As for the expansion slots, we did have to force the chassis to fit, but we managed to get it mounted despite that.
With the wiring track and the Velcro straps, not only can you run the front I/O wiring in there, but various runs of the SATA, Molex, and even the 24-pin can all be held in place there as well. While we opted not to, we found plenty of room to wire this chassis any way we saw fit.
With everything now buttoned back up for further testing, we like that while a tad on the more subdued side as far as styling goes, we are left with a chassis that has enough styling to get by, and with solid panels, any noise we get from the fans will be minimized as well.
As we powered the chassis, we first noticed the white stripe that lights up under the power button, which is followed by an occasional flicker of white LED off to the left where the HDD activity is indicated. Outside of that, there is 34 db of noise that can be heard from the front of the chassis and the rear, at a foot away, with the fans at full speed.
MasterCase Pro 5 Options
In another box, we were sent all of the optional hardware to turn our chassis into the MasterCase Pro 5. First of which is a two bay HDD rack to add into the chassis. It also comes with the screws needed for drive mounting and try locking.
We were also sent a three tray model as well. This now is a total of seven 3.5" bays. Keep in mind too, not just the metal trays on the subfloor are for 2.5" drives, each plastic tray is also drilled for their installation.
Then there is the third 2.5" drive mounting plate. Now you can not only use the two locations on the subfloor, but this allows you to hang a third drive behind the motherboard as well, without giving up the pre-installed locations to do it.
Then we also pulled the water bracket out of the box. This allows users to fully support the weight of an AIO or any water cooling. This bracket also offers more height above the motherboard to allow for over 60mm of space there.
The last two options can both be seen from here. First of all is the angled top with the same styling as the front with a large mesh center panel and solid plastic on either side. The other option of course is the windowed side panel that offers a full view of the top, and while the window is lower than the subfloor, that strip of window is blacked out so the wiring is not visible.
This is a bit strange, as in essence, we are really looking at two different cases in this review. First, we have the more basic MasterCase 5. Here we find a very solid foundation with the use of plastic and mesh to add the styling without being overly aggressive with the angles. Externally it may look more basic, but the strong handles at the top, and the feel of the chassis will definitely win you over. Inside there is a lot going on for a mid-tower, like the fact that you can install a 420mm radiator in the front, modular systems to make room where it is needed, and even leaving out tie points in the motherboard tray, we found the track for wiring is sufficient, and there is room enough behind the tray to just allow the wiring to lay where it falls for the most part too.
Then there are the little things to ponder like the way the panel screws and some of the drive trays use a thumbscrew, but at the same time only require a thread or so to lock them in, simplifying their usage. The chambered design is nothing new, but those that have used them know there are benefits to be had, and it is also appreciated in a chassis, and is in the MasterCase 5.
Then you also have the option to step up your game and get an even better suited chassis for water cooling by opting to buy the MasterCase Pro 5. In this deal, for just roughly $30 difference, you get quite a bit of extra gear. Of course, you get the pair of HDD cages and the extra SSD rack, but to most, the top cover, water bracket, and the side panel window are what is going to sell you on the upgrade. Being completely honest, we did like the MasterCase 5 out of the box, but we will admit that the basic design does take second chair to the MasterCase Pro 5 and its more refined and finished look. As to what makes this specific chassis what it is, we have no issues advising you go right on ahead and pay up front for the options in the Pro 5, rather than doing it piece by piece in optional parts.
In either configuration for our testing gear, we found the chassis to be very well ventilated, and with the AIO in the back and the fan there moved to the front of the chassis, we got very cool results inside of how the MasterCase Pro 5 would be cooling, offering two fans in the front rather than just the one. We found no issues with the motherboard alignment, the card sat more level than in many other designs, and wiring everything is a real treat, even if it is not the best maintained behind the tray. On the flip side the track they offer will suit most users needs, and as we mentioned earlier, anything else can hang freely and still not be in the way. Even when it came to the noise levels around the chassis, unless you are directly in front or behind the chassis, there is very little to be heard, but in those rare occasions when you are, the noise can get up to 34dB. Not very loud at all, but it is audible.
In the end, considering the basic model, the MasterCase 5, is only going to set you back $109.99 to begin your path to a modular chassis that can grow with your needs in a more long term outlook is pretty good. The thing is though, the MasterCase 5 is strong enough to stand on its own at this pricing. There is a lot to this feature set, and knowing there is a full of assortment of optional parts that you can pick up as you can afford more or need to change the layout and looks, there is always that option too. However, always looking for the best deal, and the most amount of case you can get for the dollar, this is where the MasterCase Pro 5 steps in and takes charge. For just an extra $30, you can get a side window, a top cover, more water cooling options, more storage options, and a chassis that is not only solid and will hold all the gear you can want to use, it definitely has a more finished look that we know everyone will like more.
So, it is our opinion that you just dig a bit deeper and buy the MasterCase Pro 5 at $139.99, unless you want to wait around to see what the MasterCase Maker 5 has in store, but with so much of that still up in the air, for now our money is riding on the MasterCase Pro 5 as the best option currently for anyone in the market for an updated, feature rich, and solid mid-tower chassis.
|Quality including Design and Build||98%|
|Bundle and Packaging||96%|
|Value for Money||99%|
The Bottom Line: While you can't go wrong with the MasterCase 5, we prefer the value and options afforded in the slightly sexier and refined MasterCase Pro 5. This is one mid-tower chassis that is ahead of the curve, and is well worth its cost!
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