Hands-on review: Corsair 600, 400 and Spec-Alpha Cases
Corsair is an industry leader for a reason. Their latest cases - the 600 and 400 series and their upcoming Spec-Alpha - are some of the best choices for anyone building a middle or high-performance computer, or really anything in between.
Corsair’s 600 series contains two models; the Q and the C. The Q (for quiet) model features noise-reduction panels inside the walls of the case. The C (for clear) model features an acrylic hinged left-hand panel that allows proud PC builders to gaze lovingly at their hard work. But the 600C has no noise-reduction material on this panel at all and the seepage makes the machine much louder. Noise is an important consideration when looking at full-tower cases - these are the machines with the most power, the greatest heat and loudest fans.
To counter this, the 600 series makes use of an Inverted ATX arrangement. If you like aesthetics (and buying the 600C), then this is a big plus. The PSU and all the cables are hidden away behind a steel panel at the top of the case, giving the internal components a sleek and clean look that compliments the steel case. In addition to the looks, Corsair promises that the Inverted ATX offers better cooling.
Getting our hands on the cases, we can see that the Inverted ATX arrangement does indeed improve airflow. The additional 360mm radiator space along the bottom compliments the 280mm radiator on the front keeping the processor and motherboard nice and cool. And hiding the cables away up top is more than just an aesthetic choice, as jumbles of wires can block the direct stream of air through the case. In fact, Corsair cases always have fabulous cable management - inverted layout or not - with easy-to-use holes that keep cables away from the processor and motherboard.
All that considered, the PSU resting on top of it all does raise concern. Be aware that if your power supply is under too much strain from your system’s requirements, this excess heat may be too much for it to handle. So be careful when picking your processor and video cards, or you may be in the market for a replacement PSU before long.
All in all, the 600 series keeps its promises. While the additional radiators can make the computer loud, without them the direct airflow may not be enough to cool high-performance components. The noise-reduction panels and the three-speed fan control switch won’t be enough to make your machine whisper-quiet, but that’s always going to be a trade-off when building a high-power, full-tower machine. My suggestion is simply to invest in some good headphones.
Another quieter alternative is the 400 series. It offers features similar to the 600 series with C and Q models, minus the inverted layout. The key difference is that it is much more compact. You can squeeze an Extended ATX motherboard inside, but the smaller space severely limits the amount of expansion cards or drives you can add. You lose the two additional 5.25” drives of the 600 (leaving two 3.5” hard drive and three 2.5” drive bays) and get knocked down from 8 to 7 expansion slots. Not too bad. You also only get one 140mm fan and one 120mm fan (as opposed to the three AF140L noise optimised 140mm ones in the 600). But if you’re a minimalist who wants the simple, sleek aesthetic of the 600 series in the form of a mid-tower case, this is still the best basic option.
Finally, if you think the 400 series sounds like a good idea but want a little more flare, (and don’t mind plastic), the Spec-Alpha case is certainly worth a look. While the 400 is best suited to sit under your desk (with buttons on top of the case), the Spec-Alpha can rest proudly next to your monitor. Its specs are comparable to the 400 series, but has better cooling (and of course, the more jagged appearance). According to the official product trailer, Spec-Alpha will have three 120mm fans at the front, but the pre-release we got to try out was missing the one by the drive bays - not a huge deal. It will be compatible with liquid cooling as well. Depending on how flashy you want to be, you can get it in either black and silver, black and red or white and red. It will be released some time this month.