Corsair Carbide SPEC 01 & 03 Review
At the beginning of this review we noted Corsair's dominance of the PC case market and in particular the excellence of their high end cases. We did though remark that if anything was missing from their line-up it was an affordable gaming chassis. Some at Corsair appear to have been thinking the same thoughts themselves, and where the deviation into the manufacture of a "Budget" case may not have been top of everyone's "to do list", things have worked out extremely well for them.
Before we go any further we need to remind you that this case is expected to cost just £40. That's pretty damn low for any PC case, not made out of tin foil, let alone a Corsair. To be honest even if it happens to come in at £10 more we'll still be in awe of what is on offer for the price.
Let's start with the quality. You might be expecting us to say that hey this is a Corsair so it goes without question that quality is high, but we here at OC3D never take things for granted. Basically the case has been designed and built in such a way as to keep production costs to a minimum. What Corsair haven't done though is cut corners. We're guessing there was many a meeting and e-mail flying around about just how this could be done and we're pleased to say the time appears to have been well spent. Paint finish and shut lines are excellent, with no sharp edges or exposed rivets. The case feet are fairly lightweight and are clipped on as opposed to being screwed on but even so resisted all our attempts to dislodge them by dragging the case around the desk top. The case is predominantly steel with the only plastic part being the case front and even this is thick and sturdy. Even the large case window is beautifully recessed so as not to interrupt the lines of the case.
The inside of the case is covered in the same satin black as the exterior, and although the cable management holes aren't grommeted there are at least plenty of them, catering as they do for both full ATX and the smaller M-ITX and M-ATX boards the Spec-01 is able to support. A pair of 5.25" bays and room for up to 4x3.5" or 2.5" drives is more than enough for anyone and with only one drive bay rack there's room for a GPU up to 420mm in length. At only 200mm wide you might think your CPU tower cooler cooling options might be limited but with 153mm of space to play with there's be plenty of coolers on the shelf that will suit your needs.
Look closer though and you'll discover that although Corsair don't claim native water cooling support it's entirely possible to get a 240mm rad based AIO into the roof. Not only that, but if you choose your rad carefully, keeping the overall length below 277mm you'll actually be able to get a fully-fledged proper radiator in there. The good news just keeps on coming. Pop off the front panel and remove the fan and you'll reveal an additional set of screw holes with a 15mm spacing. We thought the presence of these additional holes just couldn't be a coincidence so offered up our RS 240 to the space only to find to our amazement that it fitted. Again it was tight, but it went in and with 130mm of space between the front panel and the motherboard tray if choose your radiator wisely it's entirely feasible to set up a 60mm thick radiator in push pull here. Granted we appreciated that it's unlikely someone's going to buy this case and then stick a custom loop in it, but the option's there if you want to and we can hardly ignore it, This is the sort of case that can grow with you as your skills develop and your pocket depth deepens.
But what of the competition? Well it appears this particular Corsair not only has sails but cannon also, as it's blown everything else in the price range clean out of the water, and scared of a few of the bigger vessels to boot. Basically if you've only got £40 to spend on a case you'd be nuts to buy anything else.
The Spec-01 is perfect for the home builder who's starting out on a budget and wants functionality, features and quality as well as a well-known, well regarded name on the front, but can't afford the pay the earth for it, preferring instead to focus his hard earned wedge on the components within. We also think this case will find favour amongst system building companies who are again looking for a quality feature rich case that won't hike up the cost of the overall build and so the cost to their customer and perhaps their profit margin. It goes without saying that at the ventured £40 this case gets a VFM award. This value for money, combined with the high quality despite the clear budgetary limitations and the high feature count, not to mention the native water cooling support also earn it the coveted OC3D Gold award. It's clear that the person that designed this case has a passion for his work, a passion for PCs and a desire to see that Corsair make the very best cases.
So have Corsair filled that particular gap in their line up? God yes, and then some.