This month we had the Cooler Master HAF XB to play with. It is a large, square chassis, with space for motherboard on top, and disk drives and power supply down below.
When you remove the top panel for the first time you are struck by how capacious this chassis is. It is a two level square design, with space for up to ATX motherboards and the ability to swallow more than one oversize high-end graphics card with ease.
With space for graphics cards up to 33cm long and enough headroom to fit large after-market CPU coolers up to 17cm high this chassis is a joy to install with. There is even space for a front or rear mounted liquid cooling radiator, and the twin story design affords enough room to creatively hide plumbing and cabling. Please note though that the version we had makes provision for a 200mm chassis fan on top, but there is a version available with a perspex/plastic window instead of the grid. Make sure which one you get when you order on-line or from a retailer.
To further ease installation, the HAF XB is easily stripped of both it’s side and top panels, and then the motherboard tray easily removes as well, making mounting and fastening even the trickiest motherboards a breeze. Removing the top and side panels is referred to as a “test bench” configuration, and makes it easy to swap out components for testing and benchmarking.
A nice touch is the etching of a key on the motherboard tray, with unique identifying letters for every size motherboard that the HAF XB supports and corresponding lettering next to corresponding mounting screw holes.
The novel design does afford some challenges though. With the PSU sitting below the motherboard, we had to get creative with getting the motherboard power plug to it’s socket. If your power supply, like ours, has a shortish motherboard power cable, you might have some difficulty getting it to reach. While there is enough space around the edges of the motherboard tray, distance was an issue.
As is the case with the rest of the HAF XB panels, the power supply can be installed by simply removing four thumb screws and sliding the unit in. A question mark hangs over the cooling of the 3.5-inch hard drives since the PSU sits right behind them, and this arrangement does not allow for a cooling fan behind them, and the front has no space for a fan due to the hot swap rails.
Installing 3.5-inch hard drives is also a breeze, with two plastic rails that slide from the front into an enclosure that sits in front of the PSU. At the rear of the enclosure is Cooler Master’s X-dock, that allows easy hot swapping of hard drives. An added bonus is that this arrangement frees up a SATA power cable.
Installing 5.25-inch optical drives is standard fare as would be the case with most high end chassis, with plastic lock brackets and oodles of space making life easy.
Behind the 5.25-inch dock, and next to the PSU, is space for four 2.5-inch drives, also easily installable with the provided plastic rails, and next to them provision is made for fitting an after-market 80mm cooling fan.
This is easily one of the most user friendly chassis available today, and build quality requires a special mention. The light weight of the chassis belies the sturdiness of the design, and no wobbliness or shabby workmanship was found. Every component feels sturdy and sports a quality matt black powder coat finish.
For all the positive aspects to this design there are some negatives. The Cooler Master HAF XB has a large footprint. While a traditional tower will fit next to your knees under your desk, the HAF XB will not. It is low enough to fit under some half-height desk-mounted drawers though, so a little creative arrangement might be needed.
The lack of 3.5-inch drive bays is a bit disappointing. While the layout of the HAF XB allows lots of internal space, there really is only space for two 3.5-inch drives, unless the 2.5-inch bay is sacrificed to fit two more, and then it would be a squeeze to fit them at best. Tower cases generally have more space for hard drives, generally four 3.5” and two to four 5.25” bays that can easily fit after-market hot swap bays for extra storage. Many newer towers sport space for 2.5-inch bays on top of that.
That said, with the pricing of 2.5-inch drives coming down, and their storage sizes going up, this might all be a non-issue in the future. If you are a digital pack rat the HAF XB might not be for you.
The plethora of grids might also present a dust problem, the front, rear and sides of the chassis is almost entirely open to the elements, so keeping your internals dust free will be a routine job.
Price wise the Cooler Master HAF XB competes well with contemporary gaming chassis, selling for around R1030.00, with is acceptable pricing when you look at rivals. They might offer better storage options, but none of them will be able to compete with the HAF XB on ease of use and accessibility.
Added to all this the built-in carrying hand-grips that actually make sense and work as they should and the HAF XB has to feature on the frequent LAN gamer’s shopping list.
|Very good build quality. Best in class.||Lack of storage options.|
|Lots of configuration options and internal space.||Only 2x 3.5″ bays.|
|Ease of installation and access to components.||Might need to get creative with some PSU power cables.|
|Provision for liquid cooling.||Could have more fans offered as standard.|
|Hot swappable drive bays with X-Dock.|
Cooler Master HAF XB Mid Tower specs
|Size||33(h) x 44.2(w) x 42.5(d)cm|
|Expansion Slots||7, supporting boards up to 33cm|
|Storage||2 x 5.25″|
|2 x 3.5″ (X-Dock Hot Swappable)|
|4 x 2.5″|
|Form Factor||Micro ATX, Mini ATX, ATX|
|Cooling||2 x 120mm 1800rpm fans (FRONT) built in, capable of taking 140mm fans instead.|
|1 x 200mm optional TOP|
|1 x 120mm optional rear|
|2 x 80mm optional rear bottom|
|Provision for liquid cooling radiators front and rear.|
|Recommended Retail Price||R1,030.00|