Group Test: Which Are The Best Cases On The Market? (Part 2) - Cooler Master Cosmos II

11/29/2012 11:06:19 AM


Price: $464

Manufacturer: Cooler Master


Description: Cooler Master Cosmos II

Cooler Master is a company with no shortage of experience in the high-end case market, but at $464 including VAT, this is a case that will impact your wallet almost as hard as it will your senses. Little can prepare you for the sheer enormity of the Cosmos 2. Without any hardware installed it weighs 22 kg, and at over 70 cm tall it's the largest desktop case we've ever tested. Despite the size of the case, the Cosmos looks gorgeous. Clad in thick black soft-touch plastic and brushed aluminium, it oozes quality from every pore, something only enhanced by the smooth sliding action of the 5.25" bay covers, and the two side panels that open like the doors of a luxury saloon.

Inside the case you will find a large EATX motherboard tray, 13 3.5" drive bays, three 5.25" bays and a bottom-mounted PSU tray. Six of these bays can be easily removed for replacement with a dual 240 mm water cooling radiator, and the top panel can also be removed to accommodate a triple 120 mm radiator. As standard, the case ships with a front 200 mm intake, a 120 mm exhaust for the roof and two 120 mm fans designed to cool the drive bays. Two of the drive bays are lockable 'X-dock' drives, which allow you to quick-release hard drives from the front of the chassis - handy if you need to take your data with you.

Under the sliding 'bonnet' on the roof of the case, you will find a touch-sensitive panel. This includes the power button, a reset switch, and four separate buttons that control the speed of the case's fans. The fans are grouped into four different 'zones': the top, front, HDD area and GPU areas. There's also a discrete button under this panel to turn the case's LEDs on and off. Towards the front of the bonnet area you will find the case's connectivity panel. There are four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, a single eSATA port and two audio jacks. Some might argue for the presence of a FireWire port in a case that costs almost £300, but it just goes to show how much of a fringe connectivity standard this is becoming since the release of USB 3.0.

Behind the motherboards tray there is ample room to hide your unsightly cables, and it's just as well. The rear of the Cosmos II is like spaghetti junction, with a myriad of leads feeding the fan controller. As well as a three-pin power connection, each fan also has a two-pin LED connection. Unless you're water cooling it's unlikely you will need to use more than a few of these, but if you do need them, rest assured they're available.

In terms of performance, the Cosmos II has good if not spectacular temperatures. The lack of dedicated GPU cooling means it runs warmer than the Xigmatek Elysium. The CPU and motherboard temperatures are more impressive, but much of that is by virtue of the fact there's so much breathing room.

There's no doubting the build quality of the Cosmos - it truly is a triumph in this regard - but given its eye watering price and the case's impractical size and weight, it will end up being an object of lust rather than a realistic proposition for most of us.

Fractal Design Define R4


Price: $143.98

Manufacturer: Fractal Design


Description: Fractal Design Define R4

The cases we've examined so far appear brash and arrogant when compared to the understated lines of the Define R4, but for some users this will be the essence of its desirability. For every customer who wants go-faster stripes and aggressive LED-illuminated vents, there will be at least another who prefers clean lines and a minimalistic appearance. In many ways the Define R4 owes its design ethos to high-end refrigerator manufacturers: just go to your local department store and you will find rows and rows of kitchen products that look almost exactly like scaled-up versions of this case.

Swedish manufacturer Fractal Design specialises in low-noise products, and the R4 is no exception. All internal panels have been clad in noise absorbent material, with even the spare fan mounts plugged with thick removable pads, which Fractal calls its 'ModuVents'. Leave them in place and no noise will escape through these normally open vents. Take them all out and you'll end up with a case with as much air cooling potential as any other case in this group test. As standard, the R4 ships with two fans: a 140 mm model at the front and another at the rear.

There's space at the front for another 140 mm fan, space for two more at the top and another in the side. Peer inside and you'll find yet another mount, this time at the bottom. Each of these can also accommodate 120 mm models, so if you already invested in low-noise fans, you can reuse them in this case.

Compared to the R3 that preceded the R4, not a great deal has changed. The case is a little wider in order to accommodate the larger fan units and the eight internal 3.5" bays can now be split in two in order to accommodate oversized video cards -remove the upper section and even the 12" 6990 will fit with ease. Fan speed can now be controlled from the front of the case instead of via a rheostat at the rear, and there are still only two 5.25" bays in the case rather than the more conventional three or four. With the number of 5.25" bay devices dwindling and users requiring optical drives less and less, this won't be a problem for too many people - for those needing accommodation for more devices, the firm offers an 'XL1 variant with four bays, albeit in a much larger chassis. All in all, the changes in the case are evolutionary rather than revolutionary, but then the R3 was a spectacular chassis already.

In operation, the R4 is practically noiseless for all intents and purposes when the fans are set to low noise. Run them at medium, and it's a match for any other case in the group test. Despite its low noise credentials, the Fractal is well designed. Its CPU temperatures are only a few degrees shy of the best cases here - something that could easily be remedied should you wish to take advantage of the many fan expansion opportunities available.

While its monolithic appearance may not appeal to all users, the Define R4 is another great product from Fractal Design. Its highly flexible nature makes it a suitable case for high-end gaming machines and media PCs alike.

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