Cooler Master HAF Stacker System Review
Published: 11th January 2014 | Source: Cooler Master | Price: 210 |
We don't think we've ever had a case review run to seventeen pages before, however doing so recognises the sheer size and level of flexibility of offer with the Cooler Master HAF Stacker system. A truly modular range of cases that can be assembled in many and varied combinations to suit the needs of the builder.
At the heart of the HAF Stacker system lies the HAF Stacker 935, in simple terms a large EATX capable case with clear HAF lineage. This base ATX sized case comes boxed with a smaller 915R case which can be attached to main case either above or below by means of a simple yet sturdy rail mount system. Cooler Master claim the rail system mimics the Picatinny rail system utilised on modern combat weapons, whether you buy into the macho military themed rail mount system or not, there's no denying it does the job extremely well. Bringing the two cases together opens up a plethora of opportunities for both water cooling and storage alike, with the insides of both cases having interchangeable parts allowing, for example, for you to house 9x3.5" drives in the upper section whilst basing the actual PC and water cooling loop in the main case. The absence of the drive cases from the front of the main case opens up this area and enables the market's thickest radiators to be mounted, albeit by means of an adapter plate. Alternatively the upper 915R case can be harvested of all its internals freeing up the interior to accept 2x360mm or 2x280mm rads. Theoretically there's enough room across the case for 2x60mm thick units each in push pull, but in reality we think it would be more than a bit of a squeeze, with slightly thinner rads or fewer fans being the solution. One thing's for sure though, you're not going to be short of rad space.
That isn't though where the story ends as there's yet another member of the HAF stacker family to add into the mix. From the outside a least the 915F which can be purchased separately for £56 looks the same as the 915R that comes as part of the 935 assembly. Those that have taken the time to read the full review will know though that these cases differ substantially inside, the main variance being the site of the power supply, with the R or F suffix informing of its location. The 915F, more than the 915R is aimed at enabling the assembly of a second M-ITX based PC within the HAF stacker assembly, that's not to say a PC can't be built into the 915R, but the unit that comes bundled with the 935, although having all a PSU and rear I/O cut out, does not in fact have a front I/O (the 915R when purchased separately does have a front I/O). The 915Fs front PSU location also gives much greater CPU cooler headroom as the PSU is no longer located directly over the Motherboard as it is with the R model, so anything up to 170mm should be fine.
Build quality and assembly of the components is as we've come to expect from Cooler Master, but never taken for granted. We do sometimes catch out top end case manufacturers letting something through that they shouldn't. Not so with the HAF Stacker. Paint finish is excellent as are all shut lines. Extensive use of screws as opposed to rivets means that the vast majority of each of the case’s interiors can be removed, but not only that, as the fittings for hard drive cages for example are universal across the range it's entirely possible to move components from one case to another.
Building a system, or systems into the HAF Stacker is a joy. The main case having plenty of space to work in both in front of and behind the motherboard, with plentiful and well distributed rubber grommeted management holes and cable tie points helping ensure a tidy loom is within everyone's reach. The smaller 915 models with their fully removable side and roof panels also make building a system or a water cooling loop into them pleasurable, but of course all this would be for nothing if it weren't for the pass through holes that Cooler Master have built into the system that will allow for both cabling and tubing to pass freely and tidily from one part of the system to the other.
In reviewing a case, or any other item of kit, we, as reviewers, always strive to be objective in so far as we want to give you the facts without mixing it with too much of our opinion as this would lean us too far down the road of subjectivity. However, when it comes to aesthetics, aside from describing an item and presenting you with images so you can make your own mind up there is no other way for us to comment other than by giving our subjective opinion. The HAF is a difficult one for us to call. So let us try to put it this way. On one hand there will be those who are impressed by the sheer physical presence of the fully combined Stacker system, whilst perhaps at the same time wondering how extensive the needs is for a triple case, two or three system assembly that stands nearly a metre tall. But then they might remember that you can pick and choose the components that suite their needs, even down to just having a simple 915F housing a M-ITX build. On the other hand though, although recognising the looks of the HAF Stacker system reflect its clear "HAF" lineage others will perhaps find themselves feeling it's maybe a little too much, a bit too aggressive, and dare we say although beginning to look a little dated now lacking a certain maturity. Perhaps we've all been overly influenced by the clean cut lines of Coolmiesters SR-2 Stacker and feel let down that the HAF Stacker didn't share these aesthetic traits.
So what of the competition? Well there's little out there that can match the modular versatility of the full HAF Stacker system, but there are cases that can bring to the party much of what the base 935 is able to offer. The Nanoxia DS6 we looked at a little while back offers storage for 13 HDDs with simultaneous water-cooling support, granted not on quite the same scale as the 935 with its twin 360s but water cooling none the less. At £154 the 935 is also a good £45 cheaper than the DS6s eye watering £200. You might also want to consider the Xilence Intercepter Pro (we looked at the standard version back in July 2012). I does have to be said that the 935 does look remarkably similar to the Pro, with the Pro preceding it to market by a good year and a half. Admittedly although the Pro has a "top box" in which a separate PC can be built it does not offer the modular functionality of the 935 or stacker system as a whole, however as it's unlikely you're going to buy the HAF 935 and not stack it we think it's a viable comparison. If it's modular functionality you're after then there's always the boys at Cubitek with their Magicube system. Undeniably sleeker and sexier than the HAF system and with excellent build quality to boot. Maybe, just maybe he HAF stacker system isn't quite as innovative as you might think?
Ignoring for a moment the sheer mass of the fully assembled three case HAF stacker 945 system and putting to one side the Marmite aesthetics, we do think that the HAF Stacker system has a lot to offer the builder who is looking to assemble multiple systems in the same chassis or who wants the versatility that the system offers. With M-ITX boards becoming ever more popular we also quite like the idea of combining a 915F with a 915R to produce a smaller than ATX sized case able to take massive GPUs, with ample storage while at the same time offering up the ability to house a truly awesome water-cooling set up.
As you can no doubt tell we're in two minds about the HAF Stacker. We think as a whole the fully assembled 945 is way over the top, but at the same time we're rather taken with the modular concept and the versatility it offers, and as this is a review of the system as opposed to the fully assembled 945 it's on those grounds that we're going to score it.