Cooler Master HAF XB Case / Test-bench Review
Published: 28th January 2013 | Source: Cooler Master | Price: £82.99 |
Performance Testing and Conclusion
If you've read the full review or even just skimmed through it you'll know by now that we're quite taken with the HAF XB. Not a standard affair by any means, and indicative of Cooler Masters design flair that they feel confident enough to stir the pot on a classic design. It's HAF, but not as we know it.
So let's have a bit of a recap on what we've found out about the XB. Quality wise it ticks all the boxes. Good thick steel, blemish free finish, well fitting panels no sharp edges. The simple act of undoing the thumb screws and removing a panel is enough to bring home the inherent build quality and attention to detail here. The panels slide nicely into place, with no grunting or peering into the shut lines to check if everything is lined up right. The panels just slot into their tracks in nice and smooth with the holes for the thumbs screws lining up perfectly. it's what we expect from Cooler Master, but we should never take it for granted.
Building into the XB is about as easy as it gets short of using a dedicated test bench (and even they can be a bit of a fiddle at times). With the ability to remove the sides and the top as well as work with the motherboard and tray removed there's not a corner you can't get into. Couple this with cavernous space below decks as well as cable routing holes and more cable tie points than we can count (seriously we gave up trying after 25) and you start to get the feeling that this is one of the easiest cases we've built into in a long time. Now that's not to say it's intuitive, it's not, as the layout varies from the standard tower design you will have to think hard about your wiring routes, and of course make sure you attach and route all your cables up to the upper deck before securing the motherboard tray. And if we're honest we can't help wondering if the PSU bulge at the rear was there from the beginning or a fix to enable the accommodation of longer PSUs once the overall dimensions of the case had been determined. We think the former rather than the latter as proportionately the XB wouldn't have looked right if it was much deeper.
Looking at the XB first and foremost as a case you're not going to have difficulty getting your kit in here. OK if you're rocking a dual CPU motherboard and 4 GPUs then you need to look elsewhere, but for the majority of us there's ample space. With the ability to house CPU coolers up to 180mm in height and GPUs up to 334mm in length you'd be hard pushed to find something that won't fit, and with 7 expansion slots there's even room for some multi card madness. Now let's remember that this little tank of a case is LAN portable, with a deep sturdy handle on either side you're not left feeling that you have it gripped only by the tips of your fingers.
The XB isn't just a case though, a few seconds stripping away the panels and you have yourself a test bench. OK, not quite in the same league as the Dimastech offerings, but to be honest it makes a pretty good fist of it. There's ample access where you need it, with perhaps the only suggestible improvement being the ability to remove the upper cross struts, although we do recognise this may compromise structural integrity.
Designed primarily as an air cooling case, and remembering that HAF stands for High Air Flow, we were perhaps a little surprised by the absence of an extract fan at the rear of the case. Granted you could always add one in, as you could add in a pair of 80mm into the lower section, or a 200mm into the roof, but we feel that perhaps the rear fan is something of a given these days. Still with the large roof vent and ample ventilation the absence of the vent fan didn't appear to have any major impact on the thermal characteristics of the case.
Let's not forget that the XB also lets you get wet. Lob a 240 or 280mm in the front, a pump/res combo into one of the 5.25" bays and you've got yourself a fully functional watercooling rig without the need to get Mr Dremel out, can't be bad.
Now it would be normal at this point in the review for us to give a bit of a roundup of other cases that are just like the one we've reviewed, but may be better, or worse or cheaper etc. Thing is, there's nothing really out there that is the same as the XB. Yes we know there are other cube cases, yes we know there are other Mid Towers that offer watercooling support, and yes we know that there are test benches that offer better functionality and yes we know there are other LAN portable cases. What there isn't though, for the time being at least, is a case that can match the XB trait for trait. With the urge for PCs to get smaller and encourage greater living room integration, could the birth of the XB be one of those moments where the vain hand of history inserts a page marker. Only time will tell.
We were going to leave it there, but there's one more thing we'd like to add about the XB. If you Mod cases (and we do) then you'll be familiar with the feeling of seeing a case and thinking what you would like to do with it. Some cases stimulate this desire more than others, and this doesn't mean they're bad cases, far from it, it usually means they're good cases and as such they get your juices flowing. For us, the HAF XB is one such case, it gets our creative juices flowing, and this is a very very good thing.