CM Storm Sniper Page: 1
Introduction

When it comes to computers, bigger isn't always better. However, when it comes to cooling, it almost always is. The bigger the fan, the slower it has to spin to move the same amount of air as a smaller fan, thus producing less noise. So, whilst big fans make your PC look like a monster, fortunately they don't make it sound like one.

Storm is currently a partner company to Cooler Master, with Cooler Master them assistance in establishing themselves. Therefore this case will be sold as the 'CM Storm Sniper'. Storm have spent a great deal of time researching with gamers to come up with the 'perfect case'. We also been informed, other models are in the works. The Sniper itself is aimed directly at gamers and air coolers. Featuring big grills and outrageously large fans, it should prove something of an air cooling treat, whilst also having the nifty feature of being waercooling-ready.

Here are the full specificaitions:

Available Color: Black
Material: Steel, ABS Plastic, Mesh bezel
Dimensions:
(D)566.6 x (W)254.6 X (H)551 mm (D)22.3 x (W)10 x (H)21.7 inch
Net Weight:
10.6 kg / 23.42 lb
M/B Type: Micro-ATX/ATX
5.25" Drive Bay: 5 Exposed (without the use of exposed 3.5 inch Drive Bay)
3.5" Drive Bay: 5 Hidden 1 Exposed (converted from one 5.25 inch Drive Bay)
Cooling System:
Front: 200x30mm Blue LED Fan x 1 (500 - 1000rpm, 17 - 23 dBA)
Top: 200x30mm Blue LED Fan x 1 (500 - 1000rpm, 17 - 23 dBA)
(can be swapped for two 120mm fans or 120x240mm Radiator)
Rear: 120x25mm Standard Fan x 1 (1200rpm, 17 dBA)
(can be swapped for 90mm fan or 80mm fan)
Bottom: Supports 140mm Fan x 1 or 120mm Fan x 1 w/ Dust Filter (optional)
Side: Supports 200x30mm Fan x 1 (optional)
120x25mm Fan x 2 (optional)
Expansion Slots:
Standard x 7, Special x 1
I/O Panel: USB2.0 x 4; IEEE1394 x 1; eSATA x 1; Mic x 1; HD Audio+AC’97 x 1

What can we say? The cooling looks incredibly impressive. Not only are there two 200mm fans inside the case, there are also mounting holes present so you can remove one of those fans to fit in a dual radiator for watercooling. It's those little details that make all the difference, so without further ado, let's move onto the case itself.

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Packaging & Up-Close

Although packaging may not seem an obvious one when reviewing a case, due to their large size, packaging plays an important role in getting the case to your door in one piece.

CoolerMaster Sniper packaging CoolerMaster Sniper Packaging

As you can see, the front of the box has an image of the case, which is in the crosshairs of a sniper rifle. Round the back there is a CGI man with a sniper rifle, along with a list of case features. It has four images, which show the key selling points of the case and a cooling diagram. The whole box is coloured in a dark blue/black night effect gradient.
 
 CoolerMaster Sniper Packaging CoolerMaster Sniper Whole case

The case came wedged between two pieces of foam, holding it nice and secure within the box. Around the case is a thick plastic bag, which will help to prevent scratches. Once out of the bag, you can see the case in all its glory. It's fairly symmetrical, with a large grill up top for expelling hot air and the side is almost entirely grilling.
 
CoolerMaster Sniper Front CoolerMaster Sniper Control Panel

The front of the casing is also dominated by massive grills; you get the impression that airflow probably won't be a problem with this case. At the bottom, the big grill is for the mammoth 200mm fan, which should certainly keep things circulating inside.

Up top we have CM Storm's revolutionary control panel. The big dial controls the speed of all the internal fans, and you push it in to activate/deactivate the LED's on the fans. To the right we have the usual array of ports; 4x USB, Firewire, E-Sata, Headphone + Mic, HDD and Power LED's.
 
CoolerMaster Sniper Side CoolerMaster Sniper Back

Surprsingly, the rear side of the case doesn't feature any grills, but is sculptured in the same way as the front side of the case. The side panel is thick steel and has a solid, weighty feel to it. Round the back, the case follows a fairly standard layout. The PSU is mounted at the bottom, while there are two tubing holes up top for watercooling and a 120mm fan mount. Unusually, there is an eighth expansion slot cover. We can only assume this is so that you don't waste precious motherboard slots when using back panel USB etc.
 
CoolerMaster Sniper Case Feet

The case has 4 fairly large feet, each coated in thick rubber. This gives the case excellent stability and grip on the surface it is put upon. Like many others, they also twist around so you can get optimise them for your desk setup.


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Internals

Obviously external appearances are only a small part of the decision when it comes to buying a case. The internals are where it all happens, and you want to make sure your new powerhouse has a nice place to live.

CoolerMaster Sniper Internals


The internals are well laid out, with the hard disks mounted sideways just behind the big 200mm fan and the PSU at the bottom. We don't normally commend sideways mounted hard drives as they tend to block off airflow from entering the rest of the case, but with the size of the front mounted fan we have a feeling that may not be a problem.
 
CoolerMaster Sniper Hard disk caddy CoolerMaster Sniper Hard drive mounted

The hard drive holders are incredibly easy to remove. They are incredibly light and bend rather easily; treading on one of these will almost certainly break it, so be careful. You have to bend the caddy open and pop your disk in. Once it's in, it's held fairly securely, and then you just slide it back in the case and lock it in place.
 
CoolerMaster Sniper Bottom CoolerMaster Sniper Large fan

At the bottom of the case, we have room for another 120mm fan to be mounted. All the clips are already there, so you just need to push the fan into place. Unfortunately, this doesn't leave loads of room for long PSU's, so if you have anything much larger than standard, you will have to sacrifice this mount. Up the top we have the 200mm fan. It uses blue LED's and is an absolute whopper. Behind it you can see the mounts for a dual radiator should you want to mount one.
 
CoolerMaster Sniper Bundle


Inside the case was a small box, which included the following goodies: two metal plates for adapting a 5.25" bay to 3.5", 4 rubber feet (for even more silencing), two rubber push outs for the back of the case (for tubing), a few cable ties, a packet of screws and the manual.

 
Installation

Installation was fairly straightforward, with the case accepting our hardware nicely. It didn't take us long to get our PC in there and fired up ready for testing.

 
CoolerMaster Sniper Installed

As you can see, we didn't manage to make a terribly neat rig. This was down to two things: The gap to route cables behind the motherboard tray is far too wide, making wires clearly visible, and our PSU doesn't have cables long enough to route behind the motherboard and still reach their desired slots. In essence, hole placing around the motherboard for cable routing is a bit poor. Apart from that, installation was a doddle, and installing the hard drives was especially easy.
 
CoolerMaster Sniper Lighting CoolerMaster Sniper Lighting

Here we have lights on (left) and lights off (right). The dial to control fan speed can be pushed in to toggle the LED's on the two 200mm fans on or off. As you can see, it doesn't have a massive effect on overall system lighting, but this is partially due to all the LED's on the rest of our components lighting the case to a reasonable degree anyway.


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Test Setup

For testing we went for a fairly high-end system, one that most gamers would consider adequate. Here is the full spec:

Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 3.0GHz 1.35v,
Cooler Master Z600 CPU cooler,
4GB Crucial Ballistix @ 667MHz 1:1,
ATI Radeon HD4830,
Dual Raptor X RAID 0,
250GB Seagate Media Drive,
730w Hiper Type-R PSU,
LG DVD-RW Drive.

As you can see, we applied a fairly large overclock on the Q6600. The Z600 cooler had just one fan mounted on it, which was a quiet, low CFM model, so that the case was left to do most of the cooling legwork. Apart from that, all other component cooling was left at stock.

Testing


We tested with the fans set to the minimum and maximum that the onboard controller would let us use. For the idle tests, we booted into Windows and left it to idle for 20 minutes, before recording the temperature values from Everest. We then ran four instances of Prime95 to load up the CPU and an artifact scan on ATI Tool to stress the GPU. Each test was performed under Low and High speed fan environments, giving an indication as to how well the extra fan speed affects cooling. An average of all four cores was used, as this is more accurate than the 'CPU' temperature that Everest lists.






Results analysis


As you can see, the Sniper performed extremely well in all tests, keeping our test system well within its thermal limits. Interestingly, the extra fan speed didn't have a massive effect on temperatures, lowering them by a degree or two at most. The only exception to this rule is our motherboard's northbridge, which benefited massively from the extra airflow, but the X38 is a particularly hot northbridge. We'd therefore recommend that most users have the fans set to low, as they did become quite audible once running at full pelt.


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Conclusion

The desire to produce a 'gamer friendly' case by manufacturers has certainly pushed some interesting cases our way in the last couple of months. The Akasa Infiniti Zor is of particular note, as it aimed to cater to gamers on a budget, but seemed to cut too many corners. The Sniper then delivers on two very important factors when buying a case: build quality and cooling performance.

Since the Sniper is made up largely of grills and fan blowholes, the appearance isn't anything particularly outstanding, but CM Storm have done a reasonable job on this. The I/O panel is particularly good on this model, and we hope CM Storm continue this with all their new cases. The built-in fan controller saves you a good £20 on buying one separate to the case, and it also controls the LED's in the fans, which is a nice touch.

Priced at £133.96 from Scan.co.uk, it is reasonably priced, but not outstanding. For example, Ebuyer have just listed the Antec 902 for just under £100, which has similar cooling power and comes with anodised black internals. This doesn't mean the Sniper is a bad buy, far from it, but there are plenty of other choices out there, so the case really needed to be an outstanding value, rather than just 'ok'.

The Good:
+ Fantastic cooling
+ Easy installation
+ Impressive fan controller and I/O bay

The Mediocre:

* The price

The Bad:
- Poor options for cable routing



Overclock3D would like to thank Cooler Master for supplying today's review sample. Discuss in our Forums.