- Category: PC Cases
- Published: Tuesday, 14 May 2013 13:00
- Written by Fildy
One of the biggest down falls to having a smaller form factor case and motherboard has always been lack of room for aftermarket cooling solutions, namely water cooling. Cooler master has released the N series brand of cases, a new line that hopes to tackle the water cooling conundrum that many small form factor users are faced with. The N series is touted as a mainstream computer case aimed at the masses, a simple, cheap solution that will house all of the gaming essentials. And as an enthusiast, it might not be your next rig, but it could very well be a candidate for your next LAN rig or for a budding gamer friend.
Product Name: Cooler Master N200
Review Sample Provided By: Cooler Master
Review By: Brennon
Pictures By: Brennon
Plastic bezel with mesh, steel case body
202 x 378 x 445mm / 7.95 x 14.9 x 17.52 inch (W x H x D)
4.3 kg / 9.5 lbs
5.25" Drive Bays
1 (Max. length of 5.25" device: 170mm / 6.7 inch)
3.5" Drive Bays
2.5" Drive Bays
N200: USB 3.0 x 1, USB 2.0 x 2, Audio in and out
N200 Advanced: USB 3.0 x 2, USB 2.0 x 1, Audio in and out
Front: 120mm black fan x 2 (one XtraFlo is pre-installed)
Rear:120mm black fan x 1 (XtraFlo pre-installed)
Side: 120mm fan x 1 (optional)
Top: 120mm x 15mm fan x 1 (optional)
Power Supply Type
ATX PS2 (Max. length: 180mm / 7.1 inch)
CPU cooler height:
w/o 120mm x 25mm side fan: 160mm / 6.3inch
with 120mm x 25mm side fan: 140mm / 5.5inch
*Side panel with stamping
Graphics card length: 355mm / 14 inch
The packaging for the N200 certainly fits the mainstream aim that Cooler Master stated they had for the case. It isn’t flashy or over the top, but rather simple to the point and informative for your average user. On the front of the brown and black packaging we get a brief look at the front of the case as well as a short list of product features, including the support for water cooling radiators up to 240mm, and SuperSpeed USB 3.0.
On the back we begin to get a more in depth look at the case on the inside. This diagram of the internal scheme of the case gives us a good idea of where things are going to be located once we get this puppy opened and start installing things for our brand new rig. We also get our first peek at how Cooler Master managed to sneak in room for a water cooling kit in a micro/mini ATX form factor case.
On one side we get a quick and clean list of the product specifications. This list contains all of the technical specifications that you would expect to find listed on product packaging as well as on the product website. This list is indeed listed in both of these places. On the other side of the case we get another peek at the case, but this time from a different angle and we get to see what model of case we have contained within our box via the sticker at the bottom.
Once we open the package and are able to get our hands on the goods we can see that not only is the case much lighter than expected, but it is also packaged very well. The case is wrapped in plastic to protect it from scratches or scuffs and it is stuffed into a couple of formed pieces of Styrofoam to prevent any unnecessary movement during the shipping process. Also included in the package are an installation manual and a bag of screws and zip ties to help in the installation and cable management process.
Right away it is clear the look that Cooler Master was hoping to achieve. With the case being all blacked out with a mesh front it gives it a business classy feel. It is the type of computer that can sit next to your desk and not draw any stares, but garner respect when gazed upon. The mesh design also shows that Cooler Master was keeping their namesake in mind when designing the case.
On the front we have all of the necessities including our power and reset buttons, headphone and microphone jacks, and three USB ports. One of these USB ports is the SuperSpeed USB 3.0, which is awesome because it is important to not only have the higher speed USB ports, but also be able to access them with relative ease, however I find it a bit odd that they only gave us one USB 3.0 port considering that a single plug into the motherboard is capable of doing two at the same time. I do wish that the buttons and ports were on the top of the case rather than on the front, but it’s probably due to my history of cases and a tiny bit of pickiness on my part. Finally at the bottom on the right hand side we do see a tiny bit of branding which feels like a bit of an eyesore on this otherwise beautiful look.
On the top we can see more of the simplistic and clean look continued on the top with a flat surface for soda and other computer ending beverages. There is another mesh cover that looks to be a place inside for another optional fan and some additional airflow with or without another fan.
On the sides of the case we get more of the same. The clean look continues, but this time on expanded out sides. On the one side the expansion isn’t doing much, but on the back or off side of the case it looks like it will help tremendously with cable management. We do also see another slot for an optional fan and some added cooling.
On the bottom we see that Cooler Master was once again thinking about temperatures in a couple of different ways. The removable filter and mesh opening will allow for good airflow to the power supply and also allow for easy cleaning. The filter is also able to be removed from the back of the case without having to pick the case up and the tabs on the bottom will also help glide it back into place. Also the feet on the base of the case look to be a bit bigger than on other cases. This will undoubtedly help the airflow and perhaps even allow for better airflow and cooling, specifically to the power supply, while on carpet.
On the back of the case we can see yet another slot for a fan, but this time the fan is actually included with the case, and we didn’t even have to pay separate shipping and handling. Along with this are four vented PCI slot covers, two water cooling punch outs, a place for our power supply, and lastly an open area in the back is where our rear IO panel will eventually be housed.
On the inside at first glance it is both difficult to see how everything is going to fit, but somewhat astounding how they managed to move things around to make additional room in unorthodox spaces. Right away in the front of the case we can see where the water cooling reservoir would be located. Currently in its place is a 120mm fan with a room for a second, or we can have zero fans and one big box of awesome! This is probably the most unique feature of this case, up until this point if someone has built a micro or mini ATX computer they have had to find other cooling solutions to try to keep all of their temps manageable. With this design it allows users to not have to sacrifice cooling in exchange for a smaller form factor computer.
Another thing that we notice right away is that the hard drive bay is in an odd location. This is for the added space for the water cooling reservoir. By relocating the hard drive bay just a few inches, Cooler Master managed to make room for an entire water cooling system. This bay is also removable via a few screws located on the bottom of the case, which will allow for an easier installation of the water cooling system when it comes time.
The next couple of things that we notice are the bays at the top of the case. The first is an ODD bay for your blue ray or dvd drive, and the second is a standard 3.5 inch bay. This 3.5 inch bay could be used for fan controllers, hard drives, card readers, or even a floppy drive if you really want a blast from the past. The cool part about the 3.5 inch bay is that it can be used as a hard drive solution. If you really want to remove the bay at the bottom of the case for additional room, you can locate your hard drive up in the top bay and completely remove the bottom bay all together.
One thing that I am beginning to see is that Cooler Master put a big amount of thought into wire management. There are holes both to the right of and below where the motherboard would go to make it easier to run power behind the motherboard for a cleaner look. There is even a special opening near the top of the motherboard made specifically for the motherboard power pins. I do still worry that we don’t have enough room for cable management behind the motherboard, even with all the extra holes to run cables, but we will see if that comes to be when we actually get to testing.
As far as the inside as a whole it is interesting to see how they made the amount of room as I said before, but it is still somewhat bothersome how little room it looks like we have. Another thing I want to note is that everything inside of the case does require screws, which doesn’t really surprise me. The fact that this was built and marketed as a budget case makes it apparent that we aren’t going to get features that are for more expensive cases. This isn’t a bad thing at all, I don’t mind screwing things in, I just felt it deserved to be noted in case anyone was curious as to how hard drives and such were held in.
Installation and Performance
After taking at long look at both the inside and outside of the case it was time to start the installation process. One feature we noted on briefly earlier that made the installation process incredibly easy is the weight of the case, it is incredibly lightweight and easy to maneuver with one hand while running wires or setting up other things within. The first thing we installed was the power supply, once I slid it into the guides (the right way, it may or may not have taken me two tries) I tracked down the right screws out of the bag and got them installed. It was a little bit saddening that there were not thumb screws ear marked for the power supply, but you could easily replace them with some thumb screws from somewhere else.
Cable management was both difficult and easy at the same time. The difficulty came mainly from the power supply that we used, which was not modular combined with the small amount of room on the behind the motherboard. Everything did fit, but it was tight and making it look good was very difficult. That being said, the holes that Cooler Master cut out to make cable management easier were incredibly helpful in keeping wires hidden and made access to all of the components relatively easy. With a modular power supply, cable management in this case would be a breeze.
Installing an SSD in the unique hanging mounts was a little different than what I am used to but wasn’t too bad. The same goes for the 5.25 inch bay and all of the 3.5 inch hard drive mounts as well. There wasn’t really anything for tooless installation but anyone with a screwdriver should be able to get everything installed without any issues.
As for performance the N200 came with two 120mm fans, just what you would expect from a case this size and at this price point. That is more than enough to keep all but the most powerful rigs cool. The best part is there are three other locations you can install fans on if you need to beef up the cooling at all. Add a 240mm water cooling kit into the mix and you actually have a cool little rig. As for noise, there isn’t any sound dampening or overly thick metal to keep the noise down but the two fans provided weren’t too bad. You could still quiet everything down a little more with a couple high end fans but frankly two high end fans would double the money you have into the N200.
Overall and Final Verdict
To sum things up, I think that the Cooler Master N200 is an everyman’s case, but not every man’s case. Its size and limited ability for additional hard drives, video cards, and optical disc drives severely hinders its ability to be an enthusiast case, but that isn’t what it is made for anyway. Its design as a small form factor case with room for water cooling is brilliantly executed. The additional space for the water cooling reservoir was magically syphoned from areas that I wouldn’t have expected, but the non-water cooling design was not overlooked either. With room for five 120mm fans it can also be an efficiently air cooled system. Its lightweight design makes it easy to maneuver during both installation and relocation (LAN Box anyone?). Lastly, priced at only $49.99 the case is incredibly affordable. I know for me it will be the case that I use to build systems for friends/family who want to get into gaming on a budget system. It can easily house all of the parts they could possibly need, but it also has the ability to be water cooled, which isn’t always something an entry level gamer will want or need, but it doesn’t hurt to have the option. If you are looking for a new budget build, or even a LAN box I would definitely suggest looking in the direction of the N200 for the next home for your parts.