Date: January 9, 2012
Author(s): Ryan Perry
Huge, feature-rich cases are nothing new, but the Cosmos II from Cooler Master becomes one of the best – if not the best. The company touts it as being an “ultra tower”, and after shoving lots of high-end hardware into one, we’d have to agree. But despite its mega-size and plethora of features, is it worth $349?
Are you depressed about having to go back to work after the holidays? Upset that the jolly old elf didn’t bring what you asked for? Worried that your “turkey pants” have become your everyday pants? Well our latest case review should put a smile on your face and help you forget about it all, at least for a little while.
Cooler Master has decided to ring in 2012 in a big way with the release of the Cosmos II “ultra tower” case. The term ultra tower may just be marketing hype for what most would simply call a really big full tower case, but there’s no denying that the Cosmos II embodies the word “ultra” from the get-go.
Some of you may be wondering why we’re so late with this review, and the reason is that we’re not satisfied with the status quo. We really want to see what this beast of a case handle so we decided to go the extra mile and build a special high-end system in addition to our standard test system.
With that said, it’s time to put down the left-over drumstick and get out of the ugly sweater from your dear Aunt Agnes, as we find out what Cooler Master’s latest release in the Cosmos series is all about.
The Cosmos II is a monster to say the least, but it has to be in order to support micro-ATX, ATX, E-ATX and the gigantic XL-ATX desktop motherboard form factors along with SSI CEB and SSI EEB server-based form factors. Most of the case is constructed of steel but features aluminum side panels and sliding covers along with plastic accents around the edges.
Hopefully your New Year’s resolution is to visit the chiropractor because the Cosmos II weighs in at 48.5lb and stands 704mm/27.7inches tall, which makes it the largest case we’ve looked at to date.
At the top of the front panel is the I/O area made up of the 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks in the upper left and an eSATA port below. These are followed by a set of USB 3.0 ports to the right that connect internally and four USB 2.0 ports to finish things off. Emblazoned with the Cooler Master logo below the I/O area is a sliding aluminum cover that moves down to reveal the drive bays.
The front cover is held closed with magnets and has enough resistance to remain in place when partially opened. 5.25″ drives can be installed behind the cover in the top three bays while 3.5″ SATA drives can use the lockable, hot swap bays. Each drive bay cover is made of solid plastic and has a raised release latch along the left side.
The lower half of the front panel has a metal mesh cover that can be removed with a slight tug outward at the bottom. Behind it is a 200mm LED intake fan that can be swapped out in favour of a single 140mm fan. Seeing how this is an intake fan there is a fine metal mesh on the inside of the removable cover to help keep dust out.
Swinging the case around we see plenty of vents that take up the lower half of the left panel allowing for two optional 120mm fans to be installed inside and as with the front fan, these vents are also filtered.
From top to bottom on the back panel just below a thumbscrew used to release the rear section of the top panel are three rubber grommet-lined pass-through holes for water cooling, the motherboard I/O opening and a 140mm non-LED exhaust fan that can be swapped out for a 120mm fan if needed. Further down are the 10 (yes 10!) vented PCI slot covers and an extra vertical PCI slot to the right for items such as a single unit fan controller or cold cathode lighting control should all of the standard slots be used. Finally at the bottom is the power supply opening with a removable mounting bracket that has been pulled back from the frame to allow for extra clearance with longer, higher wattage power supplies.
Instead of using screws or thumbscrews like most cases, the Cosmos II features a latch at the midway point on either side of the back panel that release the sides when pushed down.
More filtered vents are found on the right side but there are no mounting points to install fans this time.
Between the handles that run down both sides of the top panel is another generous helping of mesh that allows air to be pushed out courtesy of a 120mm non-LED exhaust fan. As mentioned earlier, this cover is removed by first loosening the thumbscrew on the back panel and then sliding it back and away. Users can go with three 120mm or two 140mm fans in this location with the option of a single 200mm fan or radiators up to 360mm for some high-end cooling. At the front of the top panel is a second sliding cover, but this time it’s spring-loaded and hides some extra surprises.
Sliding the top cover back gives access to the built in fan controller that features low, medium and high settings with blue, purple and red LED indicators respectively based on the current speed. On the left are the front and top fan controls and the reset button while the right side holds the hard drive and GPU area fan controls and the LED on/off button to control fan lights. Sitting in the middle is the large power button and the disk drive activity and power LEDs below. Rather than using separate buttons, Cooler Master has chosen to go with a plastic plate that features a metal-like finish that sits over the buttons to create a clean, high-end look.
Flipping the Cosmos II up is hard enough when empty, so expect a challenge when it’s loaded. The bottom features bars similar to the ones on top but each has a rubber pad towards the front and back and act as case feet rather than handles – although I’ve used them as the latter when moving this monster. Down each side towards the front are three screws that keep the mounting plate for the lower hard drive cages in place and an air filter at the very back that slides out with a light tug.
Before a review sample arrives I always do as much research on the product as possible so that I know what to look for, so when it comes to the Cosmos II you can believe me when I say that the best is yet to come.
Releasing the latches at the rear of the case allows the doors to swing open on the most heavy-duty hinges that I have ever seen. To say that they’re robust is an understatement. To remove the panels, you simply swing them out at least 35 degrees and then lift them away using the handles along the upper inside edge.
On the inside of both side panels are the removable filters. The left filter doubles as the mounting points for the optional fans and are installed by first removing three screws from the inside so the filter can slide out. Fans can then secured to the filter and the entire assembly secured back onto the side panel.
So without further ado, the innards! Here’s an overall shot to give you an idea of what you’re in for, and there’s a lot.
Since the interior of the Cosmos II has been broken up in two separate sections I’ll start off at the bottom towards the back. This portion of the lower section houses the power supply and features the detachable, pulled-out bracket. Once installed, the power supply sits on a padded riser to ensure there is enough airflow if the unit is installed fan down while absorbing vibrations.
In front of the power supply is a plastic arm that holds two 120mm non-LED intake fans to cool two hard drive cages.
Each of the lower drive cages can house three drives each. Once the release latch at the front is pulled the arm swings out where it can be removed. 3.5″ drives can be installed without tools while 2.5″ drives will need to be secured through the bottom using the included hardware.
The lower drive cages are each held in place by two thumbscrews accessible from the right side. Once those are removed, a plastic tab at the top of each cage can be pressed down while pulling out to slide them free. With the cages and the bottom mounting plate removed this area can hold a 240mm radiator using the included brackets.
Heading on up finds five more hard drive bays like the ones in the lower section. If extra cooling is required an optional 120mm fan can be installed on the side of the hard drive cage facing the motherboard. For those who want less restricted airflow this side of the drive cage can also be removed once two screws are taken off of the backside of the motherboard tray.
Above the upper drive cage are the two hot swap bays with the black power and data connections in place. Only 3.5″ SATA drives can be used in these bays and loaded through front locking covers.
All the way at the top towards the front are the push button locks for the 5.25″ drive bays, each with the Cooler Master logo front and center.
What would normally be the bottom of the case but in the Cosmos II is actually the topside of the divider for the upper and lower sections, features two grommet-lined cable management areas.
Speaking of cable management, the motherboard tray has two rows of grommet-lined openings down the right side and two more openings sans grommets along the top edge. There is also a large cutout around the CPU area to help with installation and removal of aftermarket CPU coolers as well as plenty of loops where cable ties can be used to keep everything pulled up snug.
The top of the case holds the single 120mm fan and the mounting points for the various cooling options mentioned earlier. There is a built-in bracket that holds the front fan in place if a triple 120mm fan setup is to be used.
Most of what could be viewed on the exterior of the back panel is here on the interior with the exception of the thumbscrews used to hold expansion cards in place.
Seeing how the Cosmos II can hold 13 hard drives including the hot swap bays and multiple GPUs, it’s not surprising that there’s about 3.8cm/1.5inches of space between the right side panel and motherboard tray. There’s also more room behind both hard drive locations, so even those with complex systems should have more than enough room to pull off some very nice cable management.
One final point to look at on the right side are the four thumbscrews to release the lower drive cages and the two screws that can be removed to allow for the upper drive cage wall to be removed.
Included with the Cosmos II are brass motherboard standoffs, black screws to hold the motherboard and all of the various drives in place while keeping with the overall colour scheme, and two sets of keys for the two hotswap bays that have also been given a black paint job. There are also five stick-on cable ties, a handful of standard black cable ties, a speaker, an 8-pin extension to ensure users can reach this connection on their motherboard and two brackets used to mount a radiator in the lower hard drive area.
In the past we’ve looked at some other full-tower cases that were designed to house some monster systems such as the Thermaltake Level 10 GT, Cooler Master’s own HAF 932 Advanced and the SilverStone Raven RV03, but none have been as large as the Cosmos II. Is bigger better? We aim to find out as we install our standard test system and also slap some high-end gear in it as well.
From start to finish, installation was a breeze. There were no issues at all and the build itself was very straight-forward. All components installed perfectly, but I wanted to show how the power supply installs since very few cases use a removable bracket. After removing four thumbscrews from the exterior the bracket comes off and is secured to the power supply using the included hardware. Then, the power supply and bracket slide in through the opening from the back and secure in place.
Cable management was also nearly perfect with loads of options at our disposal to keep the overall build looking clean, although an extra opening in the motherboard tray along the bottom of the various form factors would have been nice to see since this would allow front panel connections to be kept even tidier. Here is our test system installed in the cavernous interior – and I have to admit that I feel a little embarrassed to load up a case like this with such a light list of components, however this will still allow us to gauge where the out-of-the-box cooling performance of the Cosmos II stands.
All of our testing is performed in a near steady 20°C ambient environment with readings taken before and after with a standard room thermometer. AIDA64 Extreme Engineer is used for monitoring and recording all system temperatures throughout the testing process.
Windows is allowed to sit idle for 10 minutes after startup to ensure all services are loaded before recording the idle CPU and GPU temperatures. CPU load temperatures are generated by performing a 20 minute run of OCCT LINPACK using 90% of the available memory, while GPU load temperatures are generated by OCCT’s built in test, also for 20 minutes.
Stock CPU settings were obtained by setting the AI Tweaker option with the BIOS to Auto and the maximum stable overclock frequency of 4.0GHz was obtained after extensive testing to ensure stability. The final clocks for the GPU are 760MHz on the core and 1000MHz QDR (4000MHz relative) for the memory with the voltage increased to 1.087V using MSI’s Afterburner overclocking utility. As with the CPU overclock, testing was done prior to ensure full stability.
The components used for testing are:
Techgage Test System
Intel Core i5-661 – Dual-Core (3.33GHz)
ASUS P7H55D-M EVO mATX – H55-based
Corsair Dominator 2x2GB DDR3-1600 7-8-7-20-2T
EVGA GeForce GTX 470
Western Digital 2TB Green
Antec TP-750 Blue
Antec SOLO II
Cooler Master Cosmos II
Cooler Master HAF 932 Advanced
Corsair Carbide 400R
Corsair Obsidian 650D
Corsair SE White 600T
NZXT Tempest 410 Elite
Silverstone Raven RV03
Thermaltake Chaser MK-1
Thermaltake Level 10 GT
Corsair H60 (Exhaust Configuration)
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
With our test system at stock frequencies, temperatures fell in line with most of the other cases including the HAF 932 Advanced and were slightly ahead of the SilverStone Raven RV03, which I would say are the Cosmos II’s most likely sub-$200 competitors in our temperature database. The Thermaltake Level 10 GT however still steals the show with the best of the best cooling to date.
It’s the same story when the processor and GPU were both overclocked. Rob and I had talked about this during testing and it’s our belief that a case in a class such as this should have come with more than a single intake fan for the main section of the interior. At the absolute least another fan should have been included on the left panel to help reduce GPU temperatures, especially given what most people are likely to install.
Cooler Master was probably thinking that someone who picks up a Cosmos II likely has some cash to spare and will add their own fans anyway, but it would be nice to see a little extra cooling regardless.
So what does all of this mean for someone who has a insanely powerful system? I think that I’ve been dangling a high-end build in front of you for long enough, so let’s have a look.
Since the Cosmos II was designed for high-end components and our standard test setup doesn’t feature many of them, we’ve decided to build a system from the ground up with some of the most advanced gear available today to ensure it can do what it was designed to do.
Much like with our standard test system, everything went very smoothly even with larger components and more of them, so before we look at the finished product I want to cover the different options available to those who plan on water cooling their system. The first is mounting a 240mm radiator where the lower hard drives cages sit. Once the cages and the bottom plate are removed, the two brackets install at the back on the frame and the radiator is secured.
Ok, enough stalling. Here is our special high-end build in all of its quad-Fired, grossly-overpowered glory!
The list of components are:
Techgage Test System
Intel Core i7-990X Extreme Edition
GIGABYTE G1. Sniper
Kingston HyperX 6x2GB DDR3-1600 9-11-9-27-2T
AMD Radeon 6990, 6970, 6970
Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB
Western Digital Caviar Green 1TB
Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB
Intel 210 Solid State Drive (Mock-up only)
Corsair AX1200 Gold
Cooler Master Cosmos II Full-Tower
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
I’ll be the first to admit that due to the release date of the Cosmos II and how our test period overlapped with the holidays, there simply wasn’t enough time to truly put this system through its paces. A fully overclocked build would have been nice and a few hiccups during temperature testing could have been worked out.
CPU temperatures remained well under the thermal limits set by Intel thanks to the H100, but there’s not much that this capable cooler can’t handle if case support is there.
When it came time to test the GPUs, OCCT’s built-in test would only stress the HD 6990 and even then only the first GPU core seemed to come under full load as is evident by comparing the GPU 1 and GPU 2 load numbers. The two 6970s remained very close to their idle temperatures with only a ~5 degree increase, so running 3DMark 11 under Extreme would have likely provided more consistent results across all GPUs – but for the sake of time this had to be cut.
Even with these shortcomings during this round of testing the fact that additional cooling will be needed in setups such as this has been reinforced. This means multi-GPU users will likely want to install another fan on the side panel or on the side of the upper drive cage. 106 degrees is too hot for any GPU regardless of the setup and I can only guess at how hot the top card would get with two others being stressed directly below it.
For those who like to overclock their GPUs, the lack of airflow will pretty much put the brakes on there. Sure, not every motherboard has the GPU slots spaced like this and those who run three or four GPUs are the only ones likely to experience this problem, but again with such a high-end case such as this it’s surprising that a more robust cooling solution hasn’t been included.
The great thing about the Cosmos II is, well just about everything.
Subjectively, I think it’s sleek, has a great overall look and is probably one of the more eye-catching cases I’ve had a chance to work with.
From a design and feature perspective it has tons of room for any gear available today including extra large power supplies thanks to the way the mounting bracket is pulled back from the rest of the frame, which makes me wonder why more companies aren’t doing this. The built-in fan controller is also a great touch since it offers the ability to control multiple areas and has three speeds instead of simply high and low allowing users to balance noise versus performance. I could have done without the loud beep that accompanied each speed change, however.
The case as a whole is rock solid, almost to fault. It’s built like a tank and weighs as much as one when fully loaded. I wasn’t able to round up a scale before the high-end build was disassembled but after moving it to and from the photo area I will never complain again about how heavy my own mid-tower system is.
Even though I feel The Cosmos II falters a bit with lack luster out-of-the-box cooling, there is a silver lining – fans will likely be the cheapest component added to a case like this. Chances are the folks who will pick one of these cases up aren’t overly concerned with their bottom line and will have extra cash lying around to pick up some extra fans.
The biggest downside of a high-end case for most people will be the price. If you thought the Level 10 GT was too high then the price tag of the Cosmos II, ~$350, will seem outrageous. I’m on the fence as to whether or not the large price tag is warranted, but you do get a lot for your money. If you need a case that can support a large number of hard drives, need plenty of room for multiple GPUs or have a gigantic motherboard such as EVGA’s SR2-series, then absolutely the Cosmos II is a great choice. There aren’t many cases out there that can support an SR2 board, much less good-looking cases, so this will make the Cosmos II all the more appealing to some.
There’s no denying that with a little help in the cooling department this case will be king of the hill, if not the entire hill itself. It’s a near-perfect offering and a great way to start off the new year.
Cooler Master Cosmos II Full-Tower Chassis
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