We all know the typical ATX form factor case - tower-style, upright motherboard (typically) 5.25" bays in the front, PSU at the bottom, etc. etc. Cooler Master however has gone in a completely new direction with their latest offering, the HAF XB. The HAF XB is basically a hybrid test bench and standard computer case. In fact, it can function both ways equally well. And for only $99.99 shipped it's a bargain compared to most towers and test benches alike. Let's take a closer look at this interesting new offering from Cooler Master now...
As you can see right off the HAF XB is short and stout compared to the typical ATX tower format most of us are accustomed to.
|Materials||Steel body, Front Mesh, Plastic Bezel|
|Dimension (W/H/D)||442 x 330 x 423mm / 17.4 x 13 x 16.7 inch|
|Net Weight||8.2kg / 18.1lb|
|M/B Type||ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-TX|
|5.25" Drive Bays||2|
|3.5" Drive Bays||2 (From X-Dock)|
|2.5" Drive Bays||6 (2 from X-Dock)|
|I/O Panel||USB 3.0 x 2 (Internal)|
|Audio In & Out x 1 (Supports HD Audio)|
|Cooling System||Front: 120mm Fan x 2, 1800RPM, 21 dBA|
|Rear: 120mm Fan x 1 (optional) and 80mm fan x 2 (optional)|
|Top: 200m Fan x 1 (optional)|
|Power Supply Type||ATX PS2 (Support max. of the PSU in 180mm length)|
|Maximum Compatibility||VGA card length: 334mm / 13.1 inch|
|CPU cooler height: 180mm / 7.1 inch|
|Water Cooling Support||240mm radiator x 1 (front), 120mm radiator x 1 (rear)|
The Cooler Master HAF XB comes packaged in a full-color glossy box. The front of the box shows a clear picture of the front of the HAF XB and a quick few lines of info.
One side of the box shows the case along with UPC bar codes and model information.
The backside of the box shows more detailed pictures and information about the case.
And the final side of the box shows specifications and basic info in a variety of different languages.
The case itself is wrapped in a plastic bag and encased in a pair of tough stryofoam endcaps. This type of packing is typical of just about every case you will see these days.
Once the case is free of its packaging you get your first good look at it. It's simple yet functional.
Cooler Master included a bag full of goodies to help you get your system installed. They've included cable ties, tool-free rails for the 2.5" cage, a chassis speaker and a bag full of screws, standoffs and the now-common standoff-installation tool.
Also included is a nice 24-page owner's manual complete with installation and setup instructions and a detailed layout of the 2-year warranty policy in several languages.
The front of the HAF XB is laid out pretty nicely. There's 2 5.25" bays on the bottom left, 2 hot-swap bays on the bottom right, power, reset, HDD activity LED, audio jacks and USB 3.0 ports in the center and a large mesh intake on the top with a pair of 120mm 1800RPM / 21 dBA Cooler Master fans mounted as intakes.
The left side of the case features a steel panel that's held in with a pair of black thumbscrews. There's a handle top center and a vented mesh cutout underneath. The right side of the case is identical to this.
The rear of the HAF XB has the PSU mount and spots for a pair of 80mm fans on the bottom. right above these are the 7 expansion slots and I/O panel, followed by a spot for a 120mm fan, 3 punch-out style holes on the left and some venting cutouts on the very top.
The top of the case has a raised center portion with a large meshed area for ventilation. You can also mount a 200mm fan here via the provided grommets. Cooler Master also offers a windowed top panel as an accessory for the HAF XB.
The bottom of the HAF XB features a removable PSU intake filter and several cable management tabs to help you zip-tie your cables neatly. The 4 screws on the top right are for the inner 2.5" bay.
The inside of the HAF XB is roomy for this style of case. Here you can see the included pair of 120mm fans. Cooler Master has also included 3-pin to Molex adapters for both of these fans. Optionally you can swap these for a pair of 140mm fans, or install a 240mm or 280mm radiator here as well.
Here we have the HAF XB with both side panels and the top panel removed. On the left side we can see the 2.5" drive cage and the tool-free mechanisms for the 5.25" drive bays. Right above this you can see the 2 black thumbscrews that hold in this side of the motherboard tray. All the joints are double-riveted for strength and stiffness.
The tool-free mechanisms are Cooler Master's typical offerings. flip the lever to open, slide your device in and flip it back to lock and you're done. These can also be removed so you can screw in your devices if you so chose. Unfortunately there's only screw holes on this side of the cage.
Here's a closer shot of the tool-free 2.5" bays. This cage can be moved backwards about 1" from this position via 6 Phillips head screws, or removed altogether.
The front of the case pops off via 7 clips on the inside of the case. With the front, top and side panels removed the case is in "Testbench" mode. This allows easy access to the components for testing, changing etc. It also allows for coolers larger than 180mm to be used.
The PSU mount is the same as what we first sat on the Elite 120 Mini-TX case. More on this feature in a bit. You'll also notice the foam dampener for the PSU to rest on and ahead of that is the PCB for the hot-swap bays.
Looking from the top in Testbench mode with the motherboard tray removed you can clearly see how everything is laid out on the bottom level.
Here we have the motherboard tray removed. The tray itself is held in with 4 black thumbscrews. It's got holes for ATX, Micro-ATX and Mini-TX motherboard mounting as well as a large CPU back plate cutout for easy cooler installation. On the bottom right you'll see a small hole for routing your front panel wiring through.
The bottom left portion of the motherboard tray lists what holes to install standoffs in for Micro-ATX and ATX boards. Mini-TX boards will use A, B, D and E.
I tried several different ways of installing components and I settled on the following as the easiest.
The motherboard gets mounted to the tray via the included standoffs and black screws.
The PSU mounting bracket sits over the PSU then gets attached with the 4 included black screws.
The entire assembly then gets mounted to the chassis via the 4 included thumbscrews.
Here you can see the clearance between the PSU and the PCB for the hot-swap trays. This particular Ultra unit is rather large and still fits with plenty of room to spare.
The 3.5"/2.5" hot swap drive trays are some of the easiest tool-free trays to use I've come across from any manufacturer.
Installation is as follows, clockwise from top left.
That's it. No bending/twisting trays and fighting with the steel pins and their rubber grommets. Simple, easy and effective.
Now if you try to install a 2.5" drive into one of the hot swap trays you'll notice one of the pins gets in the way. No big deal here - just pop it out and remove it.
Cooler Master thought of this and included a spot on the tray to mount the spare pin and grommet to keep it from getting lost. Nice touch here.
With the pin stored securely you can now mount your 2.5" drive via the 4 included black screws.
Installing 2.5" drives into the cage is simple as well. We've removed the cage from the chassis to better show the procedure. Again, clockwise from top left.
That's it. Simple as can be, really.
Here you can see the system fully installed. Notice the large amount of room between the front panel and motherboard. This ensures you have enough room for a thick radiator or a radiator with fans in a push/pull configuration.
This shot shows the cable routing between the levels. I found the easiest way was to route the 24-pin cable around the hot-swap bay and the SATA and PCI-E power cables between the hot-swap and 5.25" cages.
With the top panel installed you'll notice the mesh venting covers almost the entire motherboard. Throw a 200mm exhaust fan here and it'll pull hot air from everywhere up and out of the case. Or install the windowed top panel and show off your rig.
That's it! Everything's installed and connected. Just remember to install all of the components on the lower level before you put the motherboard tray in or you'll find yourself removing it again.
The power LED is (thankfully) red as is the HDD activity LED (not lit in this picture).
Overall Cooler Master has a winner with the HAF XB. It's a unique (and inexpensive) case that can be used as an everyday closed case, a test bench or anything in between. The side and top panels as well as the motherboard tray come out with thumbscrews for easy disassembly. There are a few flaws present here, most noticeably the lack of 3.5" drive bays. The only 2 available are the hot-swap trays, which are also not lockable.
They do however include a cage that allows you to install up to 4 2.5" devices. It would have been nice for this to have been a 3.5" cage with the plastic trays to install 2.5" drives instead.
The 120mm exhaust mount is very narrow. It's possible to install a 120mm radiator here but only a compact one (like the XSPC RS120 Compact) will fit due to width restrictions. Another 1/2" or so in height here would have alleviated that issue. Also the 3 holes for cable/tubing routing are the punch-out style rather than the grommeted holes most cases these days are coming with. One more thing that's an observation more than a con is the addition of the two 80mm fan mounts. 80mm fans haven't been used in quite some time as they tend to have a poor noise to airflow ratio compared to the 120mm, 140mm and 200mm fans most cases presently use. With that said though it's nice to have the option to give some extra airflow to the bottom level of the case if need be.
We chose to give the Cooler Master HAF XB our Gold award. Having a little bit more height and more 3.5" drive support would have easily netted the HAF XB a platinum. However for the $99.99 price point it's packed with features and has a unique styling and layout. This case is sure to be a hit with the modding community. In fact, Pro Modders Lee Harrington and Brian White are working on mods for the HAF XB to be displayed at CES in January 2013. Their worklogs can be found at Coast 2 Coast Mods forums and The Mod Zoo forums, respectively. We've also got a mod planned for our HAF XB as well, stay tuned to the site for more info on that!