Date: September 12, 2011
Author(s): Ryan Perry
Corsair’s cases have long been considered to be some of the best, but at prices of $180+, many have had to sit out and hope for more modest offerings. With the Carbide series, those have arrived. The 400R mid-tower we’re looking at here retails for just under $100, so let’s see how it compares to Corsair’s other offerings.
It’s time to take a look at another Corsair case – but it might not be what you expect. Up to now, Corsair has only offered higher-end cases that tend to carry a price-premium (which is justified more often than not), but the model we’re looking at today is different.
A few months ago, at Computex in Taiwan, Corsair announced the launch of the entry-level Carbide series of cases. The lowest-priced offering, the 400R, is the only case in the company’s portfolio to break the sub-$100 mark, and we just so happen to have one on the review table today.
It claims to have all of the functionality of existing cases, but will allow users to keep a little extra cash in their wallet. It may not have a fancy brushed aluminum front panel or a built-in fan controller, but I can’t wait to have a look and see if this new low-priced option offers more than the price tag indicates.
The construction of the 400R is fairly typical with a black steel frame and panels that match the plastic accents. Able to hold micro-ATX and ATX motherboards, it measures 20.5″ long, 19.8″ high and tips the scale at around 15.5 lbs when empty.
Most of the front panel is taken up by the metal mesh covering that spans the four 5.25″ drive bays near the top and runs all the way to the bottom where it hides two 120mm white LED fans. If more airflow is needed, the two 120mm fans can be swapped out in favour of a single 140mm unit behind the silver Corsair logo.
At the top of the front panel is the I/O area. From left to right is the power button with a white LED below, two USB 3.0 ports with connectivity provided internally, a set of 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks, an IEEE 1394 port, an LED on/off switch for those who would rather have the front fans run without lights, and a small reset button below finishes it off.
Spinning the 400R to the left gives a nice view of where two optional 120mm or 140mm fans can be installed on the panel. There are rubber dampeners installed in the 120mm fan holes to help absorb vibration from any fans installed there, but these can be moved to the other mounting points if needed. The fan area along with a large portion of the panel is raised to ensure there are no clearance issues, meaning fans can be installed without intruding into the CPU cooler, GPU and power supply areas.
The back of the 400R has the motherboard I/O opening in the top left and a 120mm non-LED fan to the right. This fan is also equipped with the rubber dampeners, so vibrations are not transferred to the case. Below the I/O opening are 8 vented PCI slot covers, four pass through holes to the right with rubber grommets for hoses if running external water cooling, and the power supply opening at the very bottom.
The right side panel has the same raised area as the left but without the opening for additional fans. This time the raised area is directly over the back of the motherboard tray and provides extra room for running cables. Both panels are held on by captive thumbscrews that will remain attached to the panels when loosened.
On top near the front is a load-bearing handle that allows for easy transport. The rest of the top is taken up by the raised area where two more 120mm or 140mm fans can be installed. There are more dampeners in the 120mm fan mounting holes here along with enough room to mount a 240mm radiator.
Rounding out the exterior on the bottom are rubber pads on each of the feet to elevate the case off the floor. This will help with airflow and absorb any vibrations. Starting at about the midway point and going all the way to the back is a removable fan filter. It can be slid out the back for cleaning and should keep dust from being pulled in by another optional 120mm or 140mm fan or by the power supply if mounted fan down.
So far, so good. Some may think that the 400R is a little light on features or even style when compared to other Corsair offerings, but the interior view is up next and if it’s one thing that makes or breaks a case, it’s that.
Stripped bare and starting at the front we see that the panel comes off cleanly leaving all connections on the frame. Below are the open drive bays and the two LED intake fans. The inside of the front panel shows the filters for each of the 5.25″ bays and the fans.
I figured an overall look at the interior is needed seeing how it differs from current Corsair cases that are on the market.
The hard drive cage at the lower front of the case is still rotated 90 degrees and can hold six 3.5″ or 2.5″ drives mounted to plastic trays. 3.5″ drives can be installed without the need for tools but 2.5″ will require a screwdriver. The hard drive cage is not modular or removable as some are, but this is not surprising given the moderate pricing.
Found above the drive cage are the tool-less locking mechanisms for the 5.25″ drives. These are a little different than previous ones but they function in the same way with a push release.
On the bottom are the openings for the optional fan and power supply. The power supply sits on four raised areas that are capped with rubber to absorb any vibration created by the fan.
When looking at the motherboard tray the first thing that’s immediately noticeable is the reduction in the number of cable management areas compared to other Corsair cases. This time around there are three down the right side, one in front of where the power supply mounts and another up in the top left corner; the latter being the only one without a rubber grommet. Those with sharp eyes will also notice that the tray is recessed, meaning there is a channel running around the perimeter to help with cable management.
A quick look at the rear panel shows off what we saw from the exterior but also the thumbscrews used to secure each PCI slot cover and any installed expansion cards in place.
From inside, the top panel shows the mounting points for the optional fans but also the large amount of room available for an internally mounted radiator.
The back of the motherboard tray gives an even better look at the amount of room where cables can be run thanks to the tray being moved further back towards the right panel. Having the tray in this location means there will not be as much room between the two, however the channel that runs along the perimeter coupled with the raised side panel should offset this.
Included with the case are the usual motherboard standoffs, screws to secure the power supply, motherboard, hard drives and optical drives, and also a bag containing long bolts that are threaded on the end. There’s no mention of these in the parts list found in the included documentation, although I have a hunch that they may be used for mounting a radiator. The rest of the hardware is made up of some zip ties, a couple of stick-on cable management clamps and a USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 converter – important since not all motherboards feature a USB 3.0 header.
Having reviewed a couple of higher-end Corsair cases and even using one for my personal system, I’ve come to expect a lot from the company, but can’t wait to see how the lower priced 400R will perform. The installation and temperature testing is up next and should prove if this case is truly worth the price.
When it came time to put our test system into the 400R, there was a very minor snag and one small thing to keep in mind while using it for a build. They were certainly nothing to write off the case over but are worth mentioning nonetheless.
The first was the installation of the power supply, which slid into place easy enough but the screw holes on one side didn’t line up correctly due to the odd layout on the mounting plate. It didn’t matter if the power supply was mounted fan up or fan down, and a product shot of a Corsair power supply and our Antec test unit were compared; both have the mounting holes in the same position.
A shot of the PSU mounting plate on a 650D was also compared to the 400R and they were found to be quite different with the 650D not running into any problems during installation. The screws did go into place but not as cleanly as usual and with more resistance than I would have liked, with one only contacting the plate along the top edge instead of being surrounded by metal.
There were no problems with the motherboard though. The center standoff worked like a holder that comes up through the mounting point just enough to keep it in place until the rest of the screws can be tightened. The H60 also slid into place without any problems.
Hard drive installation was cause for concern but not because they didn’t install correctly. The 3.5″ drive simply popped into the tray and a 2.5″ drive secured from the underside with screws once a bar was removed from the side that has the pegs used to hold the larger drives in place. The problem here is that the hard drive trays feel thin and brittle. They certainly aren’t the same quality found in other Corsair cases, so I’d advise against being too rough with them. Also, due to the high degree of flex in the trays I found that they jumped out of the bay every so often when removing them while empty.
Our big ol’ GPU was next and it slid into place to be secured with thumbscrews. The holes lined up perfectly so there was no strain on the card itself or the PCIe slot.
The optical drive also installed just as easily. All that was needed was a quick pull forward on the release latch to disengage the pins in the bay so the drive could be slid into place. Once there, it was held in place with a click.
Even without the large number of options found in other Corsair cases, cable management was very easy. All cables were long enough to reach the appropriate headers and the inclusion of a USB 3.0 to 2.0 adapter is also welcome. The bulk of the adapter does cause a bit of clutter but it’s a small price to pay in order to keep the front panel USB ports active.
So, here we have our test build in the latest Corsair case. Cables were able to be well hidden so airflow was not interrupted, and because all of the front panel cables are black, they blend in perfectly with the interior of the case.
On the backside of the motherboard tray, cable management is a dream. There’s a ton of room to route cables through the channel around the motherboard tray and, thanks to the raised side panel, even securing them to the tray was possible without causing the panel to bow outward.
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
Cooler Master HAF 932 Advanced
Cooler Master Silencio 550
Corsair Carbide 400R
Corsair Obsidian 650D
Corsair SE White 600T
Silverstone Raven RV03
Thermaltake Level 10 GT
Corsair H60 (Exhaust Configuration)
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Despite the lower price, the 400R turned in some very nice numbers, and although it finished towards the back of the pack, it’s in good company and only trails the 650D and 600T by 2 degrees at the most while overclocked. The other Corsair cases feature better cooling solutions with 200mm fans in the front and top, so with additional fans installed in the top of the 400R the temperatures should pretty much line up. The downside is that this would translate into more money being spent, possibly negating the advantage of a lower priced case.
When powered on, the system is surprisingly quiet with all of the included fans being lost in the sound of the H60. And speaking of fans, including the option to turn the LEDs off is a big plus. I know a lot of people who have their system in their bedroom and don’t want to have a loud, glowing box keeping them awake.
With everything wrapped up I’d say that this is a pretty good first attempt at launching a case that is more affordable to those of us with thinner wallets.
First off, let me say that I started out as a budget builder. I’ll always have a soft spot for lower priced components that provide as much performance or functionality as those in a higher price range. I still use an overclocked i3-530 in my personal system because it can pretty much match a stock i5-750 when gaming, so that should tell you just how much of a tight wad I am.
Luckily, we’re seeing more and more available for less and less, and the 400R is no exception. However, the slight alignment issue with the power supply, and also the flimsy hard drive trays, do cause some concern. All of the components did install properly in the end, however.
If you’re looking for build quality, this case certainly has it. There is no flex in the frame and very little in the side panels. The top handle is also extremely solid. While carrying around our test system I felt no danger that the handle would let go but I’m not sure if I’d trust it to hold a heavier system with multiple GPUs and all of the hard drive bays filled.
The case looks a tad aggressive with the mesh front and raised side panels but stays under the radar with the a single silver accent in the form of the Corsair logo and white LED fans. There’s also a good degree of functionality with room to grow. Internal USB 3.0 support, 8 PCI slots and enough hard drive bays to hold some serious storage could allow for a monster system. Even little things like the captive thumbscrews that secure the side panels will be appreciated.
Cooling is also very good considering the configuration of the stock fans and what little noise they generate. The 400R is edged out by many of the other cases in our temperature database but most of them feature more fans and retail for more, meaning you’ll get a lot for your money if you were to run out and pick one up along with an extra fan for the top or side panel.
Even though the 400R retails for $99, it’s still out of reach for some folks, however the lower price tag is certainly easier to justify. For those who want just a bit more substance (and style), there is also the Carbide Series 500R that comes in at around $130 – the 400R certainly seems like a steal when compared.
If you’re in the market for a well-built, good-looking case but want to stay out of the triple digits, the 400R should be very high on your consideration list.
Corsair Carbide 400R Mid-Tower Chassis
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