Date: August 28, 2014
Author(s): J.D. Kane
Corsair’s Obsidian series of PC chassis represents the apex of the company’s offerings in the market. Innovative and user-friendly, they’ve also been overkill for most users. Now, though, the 450D has come onto the scene, intent on proving that the Obsidians shouldn’t be the exclusive preserve of users with deep pockets. Does it live up to its pedigree?
Corsair entered the chassis market with its iconic Obsidian 800D way back in 2009. Even back then, I was impressed with that chassis’ design and aesthetic. At that time I couldn’t afford or justify getting the 800D, but I settled for its slightly more sensible and affordable brother, the 700D. To this day, it has remained as one of my all-time favorite PC chassis.
Fast-forward two years, and a third Obsidian chassis joined the ranks, the 650D. Our very own Ryan Perry reviewed it in May 2011. One year after that, the family welcomed another member, the smaller 550D. Both the 650D and the 550D, by the way, were good enough to earn Techgage’s Editor’s Choice award.
Last year, Corsair expanded the Obsidian range yet again. It introduced the gargantuan 900D as well as the scaled-down 750D. Although Techgage did not get a chance to review either chassis, I have to confess that I so dearly wanted to get my hands on the 900D. I just have this thing for well-designed, no-nonsense PC chassis that boast innovative features and all-black paint jobs.
All told, the Obsidian range is huge these days. Although the 700D has been discontinued for the last three years or so now, there are now no fewer than nine models available. Aside from the aforementioned 900D, 800D, 750D, 650D, and 550D, the Obsidian family of chassis also includes the two 350D variants (Windowed and standard) for mATX systems, the 250D for mITX PCs, and, finally, the star of this review, the mid-tower 450D.
We actually wrote a news item when Corsair announced the Obsidian 450D back in March of this year. When I saw pictures of it and wrote the news story, I requested Techgage chef d’equipe Rob to secure a sample for me to review. He acquiesced, and Corsair delivered, much to my delight.
The Corsair Obsidian 450D is a proper mid-tower PC chassis. As with the rest of its family members, it features that signature monolithic black look that I just simply adore. Black, imposing, albeit a little less than actually large compared to its bigger brothers (especially the 900D and 800D).
One look at it, and you recognize the Obsidian DNA immediately. It’s got the no-nonsense aesthetic going for it, with its Darth Vader-like all-black color scheme and hard edges. Try as you might, you won’t find any feminine curves on this chassis. Perhaps the only feature that sort of deviates from the majority of its Obsidian brothers is the prominent front air intake grille, a feature that only the 650D shares.
That air intake grille is actually a removable air filter. Push on its top corners to release it from its catches. This makes it easy to access the twin 140mm fans and clean the filter itself as needed. If you wish, you can also fit two 120mm fans or a 240mm/280mm radiator in this position. The two 140mm fans are included as standard.
This view shows the window installed on the left side panel. Rather like the transparent engine lids of many supercars, this allows people a look into the heart of the beast. Particularly noteworthy about this window is that it is mounted flush with the side panel, a detail I appreciate a lot. As an aside, I’m a bit of a fuddy-duddy (purely a function of my age, most likely), so windowed side panels aren’t really my bag; I’m past the time when I definitely wanted people to see into my PC’s innards. I wish there was a non-windowed option for the Obsidian 450D, but not having one is definitely not a deal-breaker. By the way, both side panels are affixed to the chassis with a pair of thumbscrews.
Moving on to a view of the rear, well, there’s really nothing spectacular here. Everything you’d come to expect from a well-designed chassis is here. The rear exhaust fan is a 120mm Corsair fan. Perhaps the most salient features here are the three grommeted openings for externally-mounted radiators (not that this is the typical way of doing a custom water-cooling set-up these days; at least the option is available), seven PCI expansion slots, which is appropriate for most systems bar the highest end builds, and the bottom-mount position for the PSU (I still remember the time when power supplies, by far a PC’s heaviest single component, were mounted above the motherboard). A somewhat unique detail is the vented panel to the right of the expansion panel. This should facilitate airflow through the rear of the Obsidian 450D.
There’s nothing of note on the Obsidian 450D’s right side panel, so our visual tour continues with a look at the top of the chassis. Dominating this view is a vented opening, under which are mounting points for either a 3 x 120mm fan/radiator set-up, or a 2 x 140mm equivalent. Out of the box, the Obsidian 450D has these fan mount positions vacant.
The top fan mounts are protected by a clever magnetized dust filter. This is, by far, the most innovative dust filter I’ve ever seen. It is flexible and peels off the chassis roof panel, making clean-up a breeze. It’s such an elegant (and aesthetically beautiful) solution that it makes me wonder why PC chassis haven’t always had this.
The bottom surface of the chassis also features a full-length magnetized dust filter. The filter is pictured removed to show the floor of the chassis. What’s notable here is that virtually the entire chassis floor is vented. The rear venting is for the PSU’s air intakes, while the vents in front of it are to feed any fans/radiators that may be mounted at that position. Alternatively, you can leave these vents fan-free, and air can still enter through these openings. Corsair did not include fans for the floor vents, but you can install two 120mm fans if you wish.
Back at the front of the chassis, the I/O panel sits atop the two 5.25 optical drive bays. At the top edge of the I/O panel is the power switch. To its left are the 3.5mm audio connectors (headphone out + microphone in) and small Reset button; to its right is a pair of USB 3.0 ports. The Obsidian 450D does not have any USB 2.0 ports on the I/O panel. However, it’s worth noting that there is a good amount of space between the two USB 3.0 ports, which should account for wider USB devices being plugged in them simultaneously. Good attention to detail, Corsair.
Speaking of attention to detail, you’ll see an excellent example of this in a place which most end users never bother to check: The rear of the motherboard tray. Just below the CPU cooler cut-out is a pair of SSD mounting cradles. I’m quite chuffed to see this particular feature at last as a stock feature on a PC chassis. In past personal system builds I’ve been wanting to mount my SSDs in precisely this part of the chassis; where I’d resort to such kludge solutions as Velcro or double-sided tape, Corsair has come up with a clever, well-engineered execution of the concept.
We’ll conclude our visual tour of the Obsidian 450D with a look at the chassis’ interior.
You can clearly see the motherboard tray, which is dominated by the largest cutout for accessing the backplate for the CPU socket area. But also clear to see are the four grommeted oval openings for cable management, a feature seen in the first Obsidians, the 800D and 700D. Also, note that all the cable sleeves for the I/O panel-to-motherboard connections are black. There’s a reason for this, as you’ll see later in the review.
The top front of the interior shows the tool-less optical drive bays, while the HDD/SSD drive cage sits just above the floor on a raised plastic box. This drive cage can actually be mounted under the optical drive bays as well, or removed completely (to accommodate a front-mounted dual radiator, perhaps) as shown in the following photo.
This option might be useful for users who may want to install a 240mm radiator on the floor, for example. Just remember to remove that plastic vanity panel on the floor, which is done by undoing four screws.
Corsair includes a box of accessories comprised of several baggies of screws of different types and sizes and a few black zip-ties. It’s a sparse, basic bundle, but it does come with most of what you need to install a system. The only thing I’m a little miffed about is that it didn’t come with screws for the PSU. I honestly don’t recall whether or not any of my previous chassis included these screws, but I found their absence from the accessories package to be somewhat inconvenient.
Now that we’ve seen the Obsidian 450D in detail, let’s install a system in it and appraise it from that angle. After that we’ll have some concluding thoughts.
I’ll be reviewing the Corsair Obsidian 450D on a few key criteria: Ease of system installation; cooling performance; a subjective evaluation of its noise output characteristics; and a few miscellaneous subjective observations and comments about the chassis and its design and features.
Mounting the motherboard is simplicity itself, facilitated greatly by the fact that the motherboard tray comes with nine standoffs permanently in place already. Just line up the motherboard with the “central” standoff (it’s the only one what has its center section jutting up), then lower it until it sits on the rest of the standoffs. Finish the motherboard installation by using the provided screws to secure the board onto the standoffs. This is all routine and normal for experienced PC builders.
I very much like having the standoffs permanently in place on the motherboard tray. This completely makes this phase of the installation idiot-proof; it’s impossible to lose standoffs by dropping them onto a heavy shag carpet, for instance. Plus having that central key standoff is pure genius. It’s yet another example of the intelligence of Corsair’s design and engineering staff.
Installing the rest of the hardware – the PSU, GPU, GPU cooler – and hooking up the cables to the system and its components did not reveal any nasty surprises. Overall, system installation is an easy affair. Indeed, the only thing that may require extra time and effort is cable management, but even this is aided by the Obsidian 450D’s grommeted holes in the motherboard tray. I know my build here doesn’t truly demonstrate this facet of the Obsidian 450D’s design to best effect, but this is not the fault of the chassis; I simply didn’t have enough time available to do a better job. And don’t let that mess of unused cables fool you; that “bundle of snakes” is unavoidable because of the fact that the PSU is from a time before modular cables came into vogue. Again, I’m absolving the 450D for my less-than-ideal job at cable management.
But things aren’t perfect with the Obsidian 450D. If there’s a nit to pick with this chassis, it’s the lack of fans in the roof section. Corsair might argue that including a fan or two at that position would drive the price for the Obsidian 450D up, but it’s easy to justify the added cost because of the enhanced value and performance benefits having fans up top would give this chassis. It’s an interesting decision by the company, in my opinion.
Also noteworthy as a bit of a caveat is the suitability of the using the roof to mount a 3 x 120mm/3 x 140mm radiator, especially thick ones. There’s insufficient room to fit such big radiators up there, particularly if you need to install 5.25″ optical drives. Visual inspection also suggests that push-pull set-ups with rads bigger than 2 x 120mm/140mm might be a no-go as well.
Finally, there is a strict limit as to motherboard compatibility in the Obsidian 450D. Corsair touts it as the smallest Obsidian chassis that can fit an ATX motherboard. That means EATX (and larger) motherboards cannot be installed in the 450D. Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX systems, though, are compatible.
Now that we’ve addressed system installation in the Obsidian 450D, let’s move on to cooling performance testing.
First, though, we must established some controls by listing the components of the test system. This is the same system I use for all of my Techgage reviews:
|Techgage Chassis Testing System|
|Processor||Intel Core i5 2500K @ 3.3GHz/1.2V VCore|
|Memory||GSkill Ripjaws DDR3 1600 2 x 4GB|
|Graphics||EVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX680 (reference design)|
|GPU Cooler||Arctic Accelero Hybrid II-120|
|Storage||Crucial C300 (128GB) SSD|
|Power Supply||PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750 Quad|
|Chassis||Corsair Obsidian 450D|
|CPU Cooling||NZXT Havik 140|
To test cooling performance, I will use the OCCT CPU stability test program to generate maximum CPU load and temperatures as well as MSI Kombustor for the GPU temperature testing. Ambient temperature will be kept constant at 72°F/22.22°C.
A preliminary note about thermal testing: A PC chassis being reviewed ought to be in as close to stock configuration as possible. That means I won’t add fans to the system (other than what comes with certain components’ cooling systems). Also, per usual practice outlined in previous cooling equipment tests (like my most recent one, I keep the ambient temperature at 72°F/22.22°C during testing. I’ll also use the same exact torture tests to put the CPU and the GPU under maximum load conditions. I made sure to run OCCT for the CPU and MSI Kombustor for the GPU while the test system was installed in an open-air Danger Den Torture Rack test bench first, before transferring the components over to the Corsair Obsidian 450D.
In the open-air test bench, the CPU got up to 50°/54°/54°/55°C on each core; in comparison, each core ran a maximum of 49°/52°/51°/52°C when the system was installed in the Obsidian 450D. This suggests that the Obsidian 450D’s default fan configuration does a good job of promoting airflow to the NZXT Havik 140’s fans.
But how does the GPU’s thermal performance compare?
As installed in the Torture Rack, the GPU got as high as 55°C. In contrast, the GTX680 with its aftermarket cooler registered a maximum temperature of 63°C. Eight degrees Celsius is a fairly significant difference. I’m unsure as to what might account for this temperature difference. I tried swapping fan orientations on the Arctic Accelero Hybrid II-120, but it made no difference at all. Perhaps if I had mounted the Accelero Hybrid II-120’s radiator somewhere other than the roof panel, its performance could have been better. However, I wanted to test the Obsidian 450D’s performance without altering its default configuration much. Moreover, Arctic is explicit in saying that the Accelero Hybrid II-120’s radiator should be installed higher than the pump is; because the NZXT Havik 140 runs dual fans, it was impossible to mount the Accelero Hybrid II-120’s radiator on the rear exhaust fan position because of the AIO cooling system’s tubing (they would have fouled the Havik 140’s rear fan). This is why I installed the radiator on the roof panel.
So here’s the upshot of the temperature tests: CPU temperatures are a little bit better in the Obsidian 450D, while GPU temperatures are a somewhat worse. Don’t take this to mean that your own system’s performance will reflect these findings, though.
As far as noise output is concerned, the Corsair Obsidian 450D makes what was an already quiet system even quieter. Even with it beside me, I couldn’t hear any noise output from the system.
Overall, I’m quite impressed with the Corsair Obsidian 450D. As I’ve stated before, I’ve long been a fan of the black, monolithic aesthetic. Moreover, Corsair’s designers just continue to wow me with their attention to details. I’ve already mentioned the SSD sleds on the rear of the motherboard tray. Another noteworthy detail, all of the cables in the chassis are dressed in black. This apparently simple detail goes miles towards endowing the 450D with a visual uniformity; cables apparently “disappear” against the all-black sea of the chassis’ interior. It’s a simple way to enhance cable management, really, and it’s such an elegant idea it makes me wonder why other chassis manufacturers never thought of doing it this way from the beginning.
Another nod to better cable management is the approximately 2.5cm (0.98″) gap between the rear of the motherboard tray and the right side panel. This space is ample for even that fat bundle of 24-pin motherboard power cable as well as other bunched-up wads of extra cable lengths. As far as I’m concerned, Corsair is the foremost chassis designer when it comes to facilitating cable management. After all, it introduced the grommeted openings in the motherboard tray with the Obsidian 800D/700D all those years ago, as well as the SATA backplane (in the 800D). The 450D shows that the company has not rested on its laurels at all.
Let’s move on to some final thoughts.
There is no question that I just adore Corsair’s Obsidian series. I’ve nursed a serious hardware crush – or is it outright lust? – for several members of this family of PC chassis from the moment it emerged in 2009. The 700D still rates as one of my all-time favorite PC chassis that I’ve owned, while the 900D is definitely the one PC chassis I would love to someday use and be part of my collection. I like the 750D as well, looking to all the world like a scaled-down 900D.
The 450D only strengthens that adoration. Although smaller than many of its siblings, it is possibly the most sensible member of the Obsidian family. It is the smallest Obsidian that can fit an ATX motherboard, but it’s neither too big nor too small, so this chassis sits in the sweet spot as far as suitability for most system builders is concerned.
It’s priced accordingly, as well. The Obsidian line is Corsair’s premier chassis family. At $119.99 (MSRP), the 450D is the most affordable of all ATX-compatible Obsidian-series chassis. So if you’re one of those holdovers of the classic PC format still based on the ATX/micro-ATX form factor and you’re just pining for an Obsidian-series chassis from Corsair at the perfect price point, the 450D just might be the one for you.
I mean, it’s got everything you’d probably expect from an Obsidian chassis. It’s still a black tower with no-nonsense good looks, augmented with the functionality of a front intake grille which won’t restrict airflow into the chassis. It’s got a flush-mounted window on the left side panel, which is great for those of us who like to show off our builds. It boasts a formidable assortment of features designed to facilitate the best cable management possible, including almost a full inch’s worth of space between the rear of the motherboard tray and the right side panel, as well as Corsair Obsidian-originated grommeted cable management holes. Heck, even the cables in the chassis are black to help us cable management fetishists.
It’s got a plethora of features to help keep your system cool as well. A pair of 140mm fans up front feeds the system with a healthy supply of air, and all air intakes are protected from dust with filters secured in position by magnets.
Then there are those wonderful details that just delight the wannabe chassis designer in me. Foremost of these is the pair of SSD cradles mounted on the backside of the motherboard tray. The way the front grille just pops off is a simple concept executed brilliantly as well. Everything adds up to making the 450D the best value in the Obsidian family. And it’s not even a close-run thing.
But things aren’t quite perfect. Perhaps the most galling shortcoming that comes to mind is Corsair’s decision to leave the chassis roof devoid of fans. I understand why the company decided to do this: Adding fans would have increased the asking price for the 450D. The lack of fans installed up top out of the box, though, is something all Obsidian-series chassis share. However, I just think that most customers would probably prefer having the roof populated with fans. It’s just added value.
Another shortcoming is a bit more specific to custom water-cooling enthusiasts like me. The lack of room for a beefier radiator system up top feels like an oversight by the designers. Using a triple rad will obligate you to use only one optical drive at most. The bigger sin, though, is that using a thick radiator and/or a push-pull fan set-up is not an option due to a lack of vertical room to accommodate such a set-up.
I had hoped, actually, to move my primary PC into the Obsidian 450D. But since my rig needs its fat XSPC RX360 radiator to keep up with my overclocked i5 2500K and GTX680, I was honestly a bit gutted when I discovered the 450D’s couldn’t quite fit that thick rad with its push-pull fans. And, yes, I do still use a pair of optical drives in my primary machine. (Oh, and my primary system is based on an EATX motherboard too, so there’s that…)
These shortcomings may be disappointing to me specifically, but don’t let them make you think the Obsidian 450D is a badly-designed chassis. Far from it. I can honestly say that this is one of best-designed chassis I’ve ever had the pleasure of handling. For most users, it will probably be more than enough for their next two or three builds/upgrade cycles.
It’s very easy, therefore, to give Corsair’s Obsidian 450D Techgage’s Editor’s Choice award.
Corsair Obsidian 450D
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