FSP CMT230 Mid-Tower Chassis Review

FSP CMT230 Mid-Tower Chassis Review

For under $70 does the FSP CMT230 impress?

@chad_sebring
Published Tue, May 8 2018 10:00 AM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Nov 15 2019 1:16 PM CST
Rating: 75%Manufacturer: FSP

Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing

Going by what FSP has to say about this chassis, we can see that they are trying to hit on all of the features which draw in customers. They speak of a sleek and elegant design. Support for most motherboards, and optimal airflow patch, which is intended to keep the parts inside cool. Things like this we see on every product page for a chassis with a wide open interior which is what all companies are doing now. However, with what we see all the time, we have a higher standard of what is expected and plan to dissect this chassis to see if it is worthy of your hard-earned dollars.

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VIEW GALLERY - 35 IMAGES

The whole idea of the CMT chassis line is to give FSP a foothold in the market, offering many of the things that customers want to find in a chassis today. They offer multiple fans, some of their cases have LED fans, and each chassis in the series is unique in some way, while internally are similar. We have seen an earlier release from this series already, but FSP has released a trio of cases that they wanted to ensure we got our hands-on too. That being said, we are about to venture into the most compact of the series, and see what FSP has in store for us.

We would not go as far as to say that the CMT230 is the bottom of the barrel, although it is a budget-friendly model which has had much of what made the CMT510 so attractive removed. At the same time, they stick with the wide open interior, room for all of the major components while offering water cooling capability, all while not trying to dig so deep into your pockets. On paper, this chassis seems like a real contender, but we have to get up close and personal with the CMT230 Mid-Tower Chassis before we make any claims about it.

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The CMT comes with one option for color, and that is black, inside and out. Most of the chassis is made of steel, which has been painted, but some of the parts are made of plastic and are color matched to the rest of the chassis. Dimensionally the CMT230 stands 450mm tall, it is 210mm wide, and from front to back, the CMT230 is 390mm deep. One fact that says a lot about this chassis though is the weight. In this instance, the CMT230 is said to weigh in at only one pound empty. The last things to mention on looks and external features would be that FSP uses a plastic side window in the left panel and that the front I/O panel has HD Audio as well as USB 3.0 ports to stay relevant.

Inside of the CMT230, there is room for a pair of optical drives, something many makers moved away from. For storage, you have four locations. Two of them are in a cage for 3.5" drives, while the other two locations are specific to 2.5" drives. There are seven expansion slots in the back, room for Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX, or ATX motherboards.

The chassis is shipped with a trio of fans, all of which are 120mm fans, and all are lit by blue LEDs. Two of these fans are in the front of the chassis, while the third is in the back. On top of that, there is a total of six locations for fans, and even holes for 140mm options too. Water cooling is also supported, but you have some limitations. The front of the chassis will hold a 240mm or 280mm radiator, and the same is found at the top of the chassis. Sadly, even though you can install three 120mm fans in the front, the PSU cover blocks room needed for a 360mm radiator.

What we see right now, is that about anywhere you wish to look up this chassis for purchase, the cost is the same. On the FSP product page, they show the MSRP of the CMT230 set at $69.99. Wherever we looked, we are seeing that the major e-tailers are sticking to that price. Both Newegg and Amazon have the CMT230 in stock, and the prices are identical to the MSRP. At first glance, we feel the cost is not out of line, as it appears this chassis has what everybody wants in a case, but by the time we are done, that opinion may change.

Chad's Chassis Test System Specifications

Packaging

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While FSP is saving money on the packaging, they sure know how to dress up the front of a plain looking box. In large letters down the left side, we can see the name of the chassis and who makes it, but it is the rendering of the chassis flanked by the skeleton warrior that attracted our eyes first.

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The right side panel offers the names at the top, along with USB 3.0 support, but the bulk of the panel is used to deliver the specification.

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The rendering on the back of the box has the panels removed so that FSP could point out for things. They want to ensure you know about the fans, the PSU cover, the multitude of USB ports, and the side panel window.

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The last of the panel is not wasted. Here, FSP covers a list of six features that this smaller mid-tower chassis has to offer.

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The window is covered in plastic on both sides, and the entire chassis is covered in a plastic bag. While that is protecting the finishes, thin Styrofoam is used for impact resistance. Due to the lack of weight, more protection is not needed, and our CMT230 arrived ready for images without damage to it.

FSP CMT230 Mid-Tower Chassis

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The front of the CMT230 starts off with the I/O panel at the top, and then a pair of removable covers for 5.25" bay access. The remainder of the panel uses thick plastic sides on either side of the mesh and is where FSP has placed their logo.

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The front I/O panel starts with a power button, where an HDD activity LED follows it. Next is the reset button followed by the HD Audio jacks, leaving a pair of USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports on the right.

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Behind the front bezel, the top of the chassis is made of steel and is ventilated for additional fans. Covering the area at this time, is a plastic dust filter, with tiny holes, and it is magnetically attached to the chassis.

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With all the tempered glass around these days, it is strange to see plastic windows again, but the view offered is of only the motherboard, video card, and any storage you may have installed on the right. The front bezel has angled lines in the corners for a bit of style, and the contrast of the natural metal-like feet is a nice touch as well.

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The back of the chassis has the I/O and fan very close to the top of the chassis, but there is room for a 140mm fan there. The seven break-out slot covers are locked into place with the external screw cover, and the bottom of the case is used to house the PSU.

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The left side of the chassis is pretty boring to look at, but once in the room, many will never see this. The panel is flat, there is a hand-grab at the beck edge, and the only styling offered comes from the front bezel.

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Under the chassis, we can see that the feet are large, and have foam pads applied to them for grip. Near the front we see rivets holding in the HDD cage, and at the rear is a touch to remove dust filter for the PSU.

Inside the CMT230

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Removing the bezel is hampered by the fact that all of the wires are attached to it. There is a dust filter in the front of the chassis, but it is a pain to remove, and we can see wires poking through, which is how the logo is attached. The front of the chassis has two fans there already, but there is room above for a third if you do not need to populate the optical bays.

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With the panel out of the way, we can see the large opening to accept the bulk of your hardware. The wires are bundled or run behind the motherboard tray to keep from hitting the plastic window. We also see the manual laying on the PSU cover, and you may want to give this a look through before continuing forward.

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At the top of the chassis, looking at the inside of the front, we see that the wires have a large hole to pass through, and it will keep wires out of the fans. The bays have break-out panels, and short side supports on the left while mounting the drives on the right is done through the motherboard tray.

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Moving lower, we run into the frame which holds the pair of fans in place. This can be used to support other fans or a radiator, but you can see the lowest fan location is blocked off by the PSU cover.

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The top of the chassis will take on three 120mm fans, a pair of 140mm fans, or radiators. However, due to the lack of room inside, even radiators from an AIO can be too thick when looking at 140mm fan-based cooling solutions. 120mm solutions are set far enough away from the motherboard not to matter.

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The motherboard tray has a large opening to access cooler back plates; standoff locations are marked with numbers. There are eleven places to tie wires to, a few holes at the top and to the right for wires, but the bulk of them are intended to go through the slit to the right.

Inside the CMT230 Continued

Inside the CMT230 Continued

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The PSU cover is solid from front to back, and the side of it has the FSP name pressed into it. Again we see rivets holding in the drive cage below it, but there are three holes near the motherboard tray to allow wires to pass through it.

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The back of the chassis holds the third blue LED 120mm fan, and we also see that it uses a 4-pin Molex connection for power. The expansion slots are accessed externally, and now is as good a time as any to break out the ones needed, as once the motherboard is in, it is too late.

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Behind the motherboard tray, we can see the wires running down the left side with 20mm of room, and the hardware is hanging at the bottom of them. On the left, you can mount an SSD near the top, facing this way, and below another can go in, but it is made to face the front.

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Back to the front of the chassis, this time below the motherboard tray, we find the open rack to fill with 3.5" drives only. We can also see that the front fans also use Molex power connections.

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The remainder of the area is left to fill with a PSU and wires from it. There are raised steel rails to support the PSU, and the bottom is ventilated, and the PSU slides over the support rail of the chassis to be installed.

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The wires are not extraordinarily long, but in a smaller chassis they do not need to be, and there is enough length to get them all connected. We see the thin wires which are used for the buttons and LEDs, but the thicker HD Audio, USB 2.0, and native USB 3.0 leads are all here too.

Hardware & Documentation

Hardware & Documentation

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The bag of hardware does contain everything you will need to fill the CMT230 with components. On the left are the rubber grommets and HDD screws below them. There are a couple of thumbscrews; there are the socket and three standoffs to be driven in with it. At the bottom, there are hex head screws for the PSU and video card mounting, and a set of M3 screws for the motherboard and 2.5" drives.

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In case you happen to break out one of the wrong slots covers, or you move from a triple slot cooler to a dual slot cooler, FSP has provided one replaceable expansion slot cover. To help with wire management, we are provided with five zip-ties, which is not enough, but is a good start.

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The manual once unfolded, starts with a parts list, and usage for each bit in the hardware bag. Past that things move on to the build process, and near the end of it all, we are shown optional fan locations and what size radiators can be fitted where.

Case Build & Finished Product

Case Build & Finished Product

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Once we were finished with the build, at the front of the chassis nothing has changed. We could have added in an optical bay drive or device, but we did away with them years ago. We would have preferred move ventilation in the front due to the water cooling setup behind it, but it is what it is.

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We opted for as smaller AIO this time, but it does show how thick cooling solutions can be up top, and still fit. The motherboard went in without issue, the video card is level, and the interior is left clean looking with the PSU cover hiding much of the mess.

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The dust shield did not want to go in nicely at all, and partly due to the lack of thickness of the steel. This is also seen with the GPU installation, where the gap is so tight, you have to flex the chassis to allow the card to reach the slot. The PSU; it went right in without a problem.

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Wire management is there to be used, but it could be better. If you have plans for a 2.5" drive on the left, it will tighten things up, and we feel the chassis is designed with flat PSU cables in mind. There was plenty of room for the PSU and cables at the bottom, and we would prefer that the HDD cage was removable, with more water cooling options for the front added.

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Even though this chassis has an old-school feel to it, the overall look is not aggressive. The view through the clear plastic window is of everything you want to see, and none of the things you don't.

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Once powered up, we immediately noticed two things. The first of them is the blue glow inside of the chassis, through the mesh in the front, and the power LED matches both. The second thing is the lack of noise coming from the chassis.

Final Thoughts

There is much to like with the FPS CMT230. We like the simplicity, the open interior, water cooling options, and the layout and feature set will keep many happy. The aesthetic is not aggressive, allowing the chassis to fit in nearly any environment, the blue glow is a nice touch, and allowing us a view of the components is also a good selling point. The CMT230 is affordable, and even if we did find a few smaller issues along the way, we were able to complete the build and have an end product that many beginners would be more than pleased with.

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However, with the good comes some of the bad. The point that sticks out the most to us is the flimsy nature of the chassis. With the panels off of the case, it is easily warped out of square and lead to a couple of other things we noticed. First is the complications it offers when trying to install the dust shield. The metal would flex away from the I/O cover, and with half of it clipped in, when we tried to clip in the other side, the first side popped right back out. There is one instance where the thin metal comes in handy, and that is when you can flex it to allow the GPU to be installed, as otherwise, much force would be needed, risking the damage of something.

While the fans are quiet and recorded at just 28 dB a foot away from the case, they are powered by a Molex plug for starters and do not provide enough flow to keep our temperatures where other cases can. The last sticking point is that with typical PSU cables like we used, some areas have you forcing cables through the metal, as we feel the designers assume everyone has custom cables or flat cables on the PSU.

Typically, if we were to run across a chassis like this, we would expect to be paying something less than $40. However, FSP is charging you another $30 for LED fans that do not do much good other than when lighting up the interior of the chassis. At $69.99, we would expect many of the oddities to not be present in the chassis, and we do expect thermal results to be better than what we saw. Yes, the chassis is silent. Yes, the chassis has water cooling potential. Yes, the chassis did get the job done in the end. If it were our $70 though, we would keep shopping, as with just one or two of the issues, we could have glossed over it a bit, but the market today demands more, and we do not feel that the FSP CMT230 is the right choice.

Chad's Chassis Test System Specifications

Performance79%
Quality75%
Features80%
Value65%
Overall75%

The Bottom Line: The CMT230 will house your components, and the style is likeable. However, we found that it is not very sturdy, the cooling is not up to par, and even with fancy lighting and a view of the interior, there are better solutions out there.

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

USUnited States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com

UKUnited Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk

AUAustralia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au

CACanada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca

DEDeutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de

After a year of gaming, Chad caught the OC bug. With overclocking comes the need for better cooling, and Chad has had many air and water setups. With a few years of abusing computer parts, he decided to take his chances and try to get a review job. As an avid overclocker, Chad is always looking for the next leg up in RAM, cooling, as well as peripherals.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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