The vast majority of computer cases available on the market seem to be gravitating towards a mean point, where all of the most-desired features reside - screwless installation, good cooling capability, roomy interior, plenty of scope to upgrade and a polished exterior. When all the cases you look at these days have plenty to recommend them, a case needs to have something a little extra to be a standout.
This can be something in realm of exceptionally intelligent design, or even that it just doesn't have anything that annoys you. Whatever it may be, it takes something extra special to warrant forking out the extra cash to house your computing investments.
The Stacker 830 by Cooler Master offers a LOT to the discerning computer buff, and is arguably the best case Cooler Master has out on the market at the present time. We acquired the unit from our friends at PC Case Gear in Australia and although we don't want to give the game away, this is simply the best case we've seen in a long time. But why, we hear you ask? Read on and find out some answers...
Brushed aluminium. It is to computer cases what chrome is to Harley Davidson's. And the CM Stacker 830 just reeks of it.
The overall aesthetics of the case are extremely pleasing. Apart from the drool-worthy aluminium finish, the detailing is picked out in black - black mesh for the side, top and front panels for airflow, and black plastic for the top power/USB console and the front USB/Firewire/audio panel. There's not much patterning on the case which gives it a sleek and uncluttered look. The side panels actually extend back further than the rear of the case which makes the whole thing look like it was tested in a wind tunnel, but has the unexpected benefit that the rear cabling is mostly hidden from view.
The front door swings out to reveal the nine 5.25" bays. The door itself is mounted on pretty heavy-duty springs and features some notably strong magnets. This, along with the weight of the door itself, means that when it's open it stays open, and when it swings shut it stays shut - none of this yes-the-door-is-shut-but-there's-still-a-gap nonsense. As an added bonus, you can remove the springs and the magnets to remount the door so that it swings whichever way suits you best. Yes, the door is a swinger and is left-right-curious....heh heh!
Running up the sides of the front bays are two panels which swing outwards to reveal the catch mechanisms for the covers of each bay. The contents of all the bays are mounted from the front, and these panels help keep things nice and tidy once you're done.
As the door takes up pretty much the entire front of the case, this has necessitated the USB/Firewire/audio panel to be mounted up the top. This is a slightly curious spot as the only other USB ports are mounted close by on the power console. The front ports are just a touch too far away from the ground for comfort - any USB cables for peripherals positioned on the desk are likely to drag and get in the way of the door. This, along with the top-mounted USB ports, the power/reset buttons and HDD LED suggest that this case was really designed to be positioned on the floor rather than on a desk.
Well, there are just so many things to talk about in regards to the interior. The best thing is that this case literally pulls right apart. The side panels aren't screwed in, and yet they're extremely stable and secure, and the front panel is mounted on spring-loaded hinges which pop right off for ease of access to the front bays.
With the left hand side cover removed, the entire side panel is dominated by a swing door which features mounting brackets for up to four 12cm fans. This, combined with the default front fan mounted in the 4-in-3 module and the rear fan, plus an optional top mounted 12cm fan means that you can fit up to seven 12cm fans in a standard configuration. Use three 4-in-3 modules and you'll have a grand total of nine 12cm fans. That's some serious wind power. Even if you don't mount extra fans, the individual housings are made of the same black mesh which protects all the air ducts, so it acts as an extra layer of dust protection.
The 4-in-3 module is a self-contained housing which fits 4 3.5" devices (hard drives, really) into 3 5.25" bays and has a 12cm fan with blue LED mounted on the front for in-house cooling. Funky. As with all 5.25" devices, it mounts via the front but the mesh covers fit back over the top for dust protection.
The rear cover over the PSU is removable, and is then fitted direct onto the PSU so that the whole unit can be fitted. It slides in from the rear and can actually be mounted upside down or as normal, depending on your particular PSU and how it best fits your personal preferences for cable management and airflow. As there's an air outlet at the top of the case (and optional fan mounting), pointing the PSU fan straight up rather than back into the case interior is perfectly feasible, and would actually promote some pretty good airflow.
One of my favourite features - the motherboard tray is completely removable - slides straight out with a convenient handle (they thought of everything!). And as the full PCI mounting brackets are attached, you can install the motherboard, heat sink and fan along with ALL the expansion cards safely without skinning your knuckles before sliding the whole thing back in. I'm in love!
So, apart from cabling everything together, you really don't need to have hand battles with yourself in the dark interior. Everything is put together outside the case and then just slots back in neatly.
Overall this was simply the quickest full installation of a machine I've ever performed (even with stopping to take pictures!).
The only thing which was slightly disappointing was the side panel with the four fan mountings. It's not incredibly bulky, but I had a Scythe Ninja heatsink on my CPU and I couldn't slide the motherboard unit back in as the side panel jutted in and collided with the thermal tower. Luckily the panel has the same spring-loaded hinges as the front door so it popped right off and that got past that particular problem. However once the motherboard tray was back in and I put the panel back on, it got in the way of the heatsink again and wouldn't close. I had little option but to the leave it off.
Admittedly, the Scythe Ninja is a bit of a monster, so it's unlikely that most people will experience problems, but if you have a large heatsink it's something to watch out for.
You'd have to be unbelievably difficult to please not to love the CM Stacker 830. We were extremely impressed. It really does offer everything you could wish for to make the installation process not only easy, but actually enjoyable.
It's extremely versatile, supporting E-ATX, ATX, m-ATX, BTX, m-BTX and PICO-BTX motherboard standards, and the internals are such that you have a wide range options for positioning your devices.
The thought which has gone into airflow and cooling principles is unparalleled; this is arguably the best case we've seen so far to address the ongoing search for a cooler system. As it is so strongly pitched towards air cooling, however, it doesn't make a good case for water cooling buffs. For the same reason, it wouldn't be the weapon of choice for case modders either. The metalwork and chassis are very robust, and everything has been put together and positioned with an overall frame of reference in mind. This is certainly a strength, but presents a pretty inflexible option for modding.
Exceptionally easy installation of all devices
Outstanding attention to airflow and cooling
Very limited options for modding/water cooling
Space issues for large heatsinks
Not for the budget-conscious buyer
- Latest Pricing
Rating - 9 out of 10 and TweakTown's "MUST HAVE" Editor's Choice Award
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