We are back with our third case labs review although this one feels a little different. The 'Merlin SM8' is a break from the norm, in the sense that most people would say its a sensible size. Case labs are renowned for their massive designs that can house everything including your pet hamster, beer fridge and enough water cooling to make a plumber excited! The SM8 may look small compared to its behemoth brethren but don't be fooled, there's more room in this case than pretty much any other chassis of its size on the market. Read on through the spec's and get comfy for the video boys and girls!
Aluminium Construction: The case is made using heavy gauge all aluminium construction. Unlike some imports using thin aluminium (.040” - 1mm), our cases are made from .090” (2.3mm) for the frame and .063” (1.6mm) for the doors and covers for a case that can stand up to the rigours of large scale water cooling and frequent system tear-downs. Aluminium is much lighter than steel, dissipates heat better, and is easier to mod.
Quick Access: The doors and covers can be removed in seconds to facilitate access and minimize the chance of damaging exterior panels during a build. The doors are on hinges that allow them to easily swing out of the way for quick adjustments. The front and top covers snap on and off – no screws to slow you down or get lost. The “cover over frame” design allows the frame to be modified as needed without affecting the appearance of the completed build.
Slide-Out Motherboard Tray: The entire motherboard tray easily slides out and can be converted into a free standing tech station (with the included parts). Your build can be completely assembled and tested on a table top. No more working inside a cramped case trying to get everything in place. The tray is held in place with four self-retaining thumb screws – nothing to get lost. How many times has a screw rolled off the edge of your desk, never to be seen again?
Reversible: The SM8 can be reversed so the motherboard can be on the right or left hand side of the case, so if your needs change, the case will adapt to the new setting.
Mod Friendly: The SM8 was designed for modders. The case is screwed to together so it can be completely broken down. Each case component will available separately, so feel free to cut, drill and mod without fear of “destroying” the case.
Flex-Bay System: Almost every case on the market today has a fixed structure at the front of the case - maybe four or five 5.25" bays on top, a 3.5" bay below that and HDD cages below that. What if that layout doesn't work for you? We've all seen people who have had to mod their cases (sometimes irreversibly) to fit things like radiators. With our Flex-Bay System, you can design that superstructure to be anything you need, and put things wherever you want and change it as often as you like, within minutes. In that respect, you become the case designer. We have a wide array of Flex-Bay adapters and mounts, so you have complete freedom to design it just the way you need it.
Accessory Mounting System: If you ever wished that you could put a fan in a particular spot or needed a surface to mount something to, our Accessory Mounting System will make your life much easier. By using the holes around the perimeter of the case, or by using vertical or horizontal accessory mounts, you can place fans, reservoirs, pumps, and more, exactly where you want them (maybe just a flat plate to cover up messy cables). We have a wide variety of plates and fan mounts for almost every need.
Drop-in/Side Radiator Mounts: If you have ever mounted a push-pull 480 radiator inside a case, you know what a pain it can be. Our optional drop-in and side mounts (pedestal) let you assemble the whole thing on your desktop and install it as a single assembly into your case.
Size: 22.44"H x 11.18"W x 22.38"D (570mm x 284mm x 568mm)
Form Factor: mATX, ATX to 12.38" x 10.75" (315mm x 273mm)
Expansion Slots: 8
Flex-Bays (5.25" bays): 11
Native Drive Support (without using 5.25" bays): [14 using Optional MAC-102 HDD Cages]
Maximum Radiator: 120.4 (480)/140.3 (420)
Radiator Clearance (Top/Bottom): 114mm
Cable Management Clearance: 1.5" (38mm)
Cooling Tower Clearance: 180mm
PSU Mounts: 2
Weight: 20.5 lbs. (9.3kg)
So the first of the more user friendly size cases code named Merlin, what are our thoughts? Well despite it being the smallest chassis to be released to date it still has the ability to make your hardware look tiny. For the video we test fitted a normal ATX sized motherboard although you can fit something like a Rampage IV Extreme which is an E-ATX on to the tray without an issue.
There was a 60mm thick 480mm Phobya in the roof and a further 60mm thick 360mm in the front both in push pull and yet there is still ample room around the motherboard and without it looking cramped. The front and roof rad mounts are optional extras all available at the time of purchase or even if you decide to upgrade or tweak later. This case could easily house an 80mm thick 480mm rad in the roof and another on in the front if you wanted. Push pull wouldn't be advisable on the roof rad without tweaks but its going to be fine in the front. There's so much room in the front even a Monsta rad would look small!
That's the beauty of the Caselabs designs, they are all modular. You can buy the exact parts you want or need to make the basic case suit your needs. Normal window, large window, maybe mesh? 4x120mm rad support or maybe 3x140mm? Case colour options are black white or basic primer, this will come in real handy if you want to paint or powder your case a custom colour, they can even send it flat packed to save you time stripping it too! You can choose your layout to be conventional or reversed which is perfect for matching your rig to the layout of your room or desk!
The only thing we are not sure on is the textured satin white finish. The old style gloss white had a much better feel and finish to it, but that could just be us being very picky, I think we have spent too much time at the spray booth again!
All in all it another brilliant enthusiast chassis from CaseLabs with awesome water cooling support even though the overall size is much smaller. If the STH10 or M8 were just a bit too big for you then the SM8 could be just what you are looking for. We cant find a single reason why this doesn't deserve the OC3D Gold Award.
Thanks to Caselabs for the sample on review today. You Can discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.