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Cooler Master HAF Xb Cube LAN/Test Bench Gaming Case Review

Cooler Master HAF XB Front Panel

Cooler Master's HAF series has been a prolific and popular lineup offering gamers edgy aesthetics for gamers and versatile cooling solutions for enthusiasts and overclockers.  The latest, and smallest, addition to the HAF family is the HAF Xb, which blurs the line between LAN box and test bench and holds true to the HAF name.  In addition to the two 120 mm front intake fans that are included, a 120 mm rear fan, two 80 mm lower bay exhaust fans, and a massive 200 mm fan may be added, so achieving High AirFlow (HAF) won't be a problem... 

 

Overview


Cooler Master HAF Xb

 

The HAF Xb is Cooler Master’s newest addition to the High Air Flow product line and the first in a new form factor. This chassis has been designed with transportation and open bench testing in mind. The HAF can be quickly converted into an open air test bench with the removal of the side and top panels. This new chassis supports up to 3 double width graphics cards, 240mm and 120mm radiators and ATX motherboards. We have kept gamers in mind and answered the call for the mobile gaming needs with our HAF and CM Storm chassis. The HAF Xb supports ATX motherboards and multiple graphics cards, so if you want to fit a full sized system into the smallest box possible this is where you should start.

 

Features

• Supports up to 3-Way Crossfire or SLI
• Supports ATX, m-ATX, m-ITX Motherboards
• Removable Motherboard Tray
• Dual Chamber Design
• Two Front X-Dock Slots (Compatible with 3.5” & 2.5” Drives)
• Power supply is easy to access and remove when necessary
• Dust filters on the front bezel and removable dust filters under the PSU
• Supports up to one 240mm and one 120mm Radiator
• Top 200mm Fan (Optional)
• Easy to transport with steel reinforced handles
• Individual airflow chambers for system components

 

*Courtesy of Cooler Master

 overview

Specifications

 Available Color Black 
 Materials  Appearance: Steel, Front and Top Mesh, Polymer Bezel
Case body: Steel
 Dimensions (W / H / D)  442(W) x 330(H) x 423(D) mm
17.4(W) x 13(H) x 16.7(D) inch
 Net Weight  18.2kg / 18.1 lb
 M/B Type  ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX
 5.25" Drive Bay  2
 3.5" Drive Bay  2 (from X-dock)
 2.5"/3.5" Drive Bay  6 (2 from X-Dock)
 I/O Panel  USB 3.0 x 2, Audio In and Out
 Expansion Slots  7
 Cooling System  Front: 120mm fan x 2, 1800RPM, 21dBA (converted from 140mm x 2)
Top: 200mm fan x 1 (Optional)
Rear: 120mm Fan (Optional), 80mm x 2 (Optional)
 Power Supply  Standard ATX PS2 (Max length 180mm)
 Maximum Compatibility  CPU cooler height: 180mm/ 7.1 inch
GPU card length: 334mm/ 13.1 inch
Water Cooling: 240mm Radiator (Front), 120mm Radiator (Rear)

*Courtesy of Cooler Master

 


 

Exterior


HAF XB LAN Case Front PanelCooler Master HAF XB LAN Case Side
Cooler Master HAF XB LAN Case Right SideCooler Master HAF XB LAN Case Rear/Back Panel

The HAF Xb sits relatively squat, being wide enough to accommodate a full ATX motherboard and tall enough to fit four staccked 3.5-inch drives and leave plenty of space above the motherboard for large coolers. After all, a HAF case shouldn't impose hard limitations on the best of processor cooling options.  Each of the two sides are the exact same, with a sturdy handle near the top flanked by a large-holed vent with ovalized cutouts.  The top panel is essentially one large vent for the addition of a huge 200mm fan.  If you haven't used a 200 mm fan before, they are great because they can move alot of air at low RPM, which makes them very quiet, plus they look awesome in their own way.  Cooler Master will be offering a windowed top panel in the near future, allowing clear views in at your build.

The rear panel looks very much like a typical case, but lays flat with the power supply just behind (underneath in this case) the motherboard.  Just to the side of the processor, three external water cooling holes are found, although they are the punch-out variety and are not grommeted, so it seems Cooler Master is leaving it up to those with external water coolers to file/grommet the holes themselves to protect the hoses.  The rear 120mm exhaust and two 80 mm drive bay exhaust fans are complemented by vented expansion slot covers and a large vent above the expansion slots.



Cooler Master HAF XB LAN Case BottomCooler Master HAF XB LAN Case Hot Swap X-Dock

The bottom has large padded feet which provide a slightly-raised platform for a down-facing power supply to draw plenty of air and also keeps the case from sliding when on a table/desk top.  The power supply intake has one of Cooler Master's awesomely convenient removable dust filters which is removable without even having to lift the case.  These have been outstanding for maintaining a build I've had in Cooler Master's Full Tower Trooper for over a year which has a similar dust filter.  With a little click you can pull the filter out, run it under some water, pat it dry, and slide it back in.

The front panel is simple, with a large power button, a reset button, audio and microphone jacks, and two USB 3.0 ports.  Cooler Master has taken a stance that most of the people looking to build in their HAF Xb will be serious gamers/benchmarkers/overclockers who keep their builds relatively up-to-date and won't miss not having any USB 2.0 ports up front, and for the most part, they're probably right.  The two drive bay covers are filtered and removable as we've seen on the Trooper, which is a very handy feature.  The other thing we have going on up front is two of Cooler Master's external drive bays, which they refer to as the "X-Dock."  The trays have a telescoping setup so it's easy to drop in a drive, slide the pins into place, and slide the drive into the case.  This can be handy when transferring data from a backup drive for a fresh install or new build, something gamers and frequent builders will likely be fond of.

 


 

Interior


Cooler Master HAF XB LAN Case Open Side

Cooler Master HAF XB LAN Case Front FansCooler Master HAF XB LAN Case Side Panel Vent

When peering in through the top panel, the HAF Xb looks much like a mid tower sans drive cages.  The two 120mm fans are positioned to blow air over the entirety of a standard ATX motherboard.  One thing that would have been a cool inclusion could have been adhesive rubber feet or possibly feet built into the side panels that would allow the HAF Xb to stand on its side so you'd have a bit more flexibility in your system's orientation.  The top panel, which has a large mesh vent, has mounting holes for a single 200 mm fan, which would ensure plenty of airflow while keeping noise at a minimum.

Cooler Master HAF XB LAN Case Open Sides TestbedCooler Master HAF XB LAN Case Side Front Fans No Front Panel

Removing the two additional side panels turns the HAF Xb into an open air test bench.  The lower drive bay is also revealed.  The metal chassis frame has an additional bracket to brace the built-in carry handles on the side panels to ensure they wont give way to the weight of your system.   Removing the front panel reveals the two 120mm fans, which are mounted on the outside of the chassis so that a 120 or 240 mm radiator can be mounted on the inside of the case.  The holes are already thoughtfully placed so you shouldn't have any trouble mounting a radiator.  Depending upon the thickness of the radiator you choose, there should be enough room to squeeze in a second set of fans for a push-pull configuration.  There is approximately 3.25 inches from the front of the chassis to the motherboard, so with thoughtful cable routing you've got about 3-inches of depth for a radiator and pulling fans.

Cooler Master HAF XB LAN Case Drive BaysCooler Master HAF XB LAN Case Side Drive Bays

The bottom chamber houses the drive bays and power supply.  The X-dock bays have a PCB mounted at the back which powers both drives, which slot in cleanly from the front, and also has SATA connections for each to run to the motherboard.  Behind the X-dock is the power supply mount with a raised platform and rubber standoffs to minimize vibration.  The lower intake is also filtered, as previously mentioned, to keep dust intake at bay.  This creates a good thermal isolation of the power supply from the rest of the case as it intakes cool air and exhausts the warm air directly out the back.

Tool-less drive bays allow SSDs to be quickly clicked into place in a convenient SSD drive bay.  For traditional 3.5-inch mechanical hard drives or 5.25-inch optical drives, a tried-and-true design is used by Cooler Master to allow you to easily slide the drive into position and flip over a lever to lock them down.  The tool-less feature is clearly labeled so it should be clear how to use it.

 


 

Installation


Cooler Master HAF XB LAN Case Power Supply InstallationCooler Master HAF XB LAN Case Motherboard Tray

 Power supply installation is similar to what we saw on Cooler Master's behemoth of a case, the Cosmos II.  We liked it then, and it's even more handy in a small build like this.  Remove the power supply mounting bracket, secure the four screws as usual, slide the power supply in, and attach to the case via 4 thumb screws.  Easy.  Cooler Master also wanted this to be a capable test bench/torture rack, so they added a removable motherboard tray.  The tray is held in place by four easy-to-access thumb screws, and it slides away and up from the back panel.  This makes installing the motherboard onto the tray, and the cooler onto the processor, very easy.  Cooler Master will also offer additional motherboard trays in the near future for those who are testing multiple motherboards/systems at once.  As a reviewer, that has my interest thoroughly piqued.

Cooler Master HAF XB LAN Case Installed SystemCooler Master HAF XB LAN Case Running

 I'm pleased to say that the HAF Xb is actually fun to build in.  Small form factor builds can be fun in anticipation of the end result, but the process can be tricky and borderline frustrating.  The HAF Xb, though, is small but it was still super easy to build in.  There is tons of room to hide extra cable in unused bays or in-between the drive racks themselves.  Cooler Master has also left space and a couple strategically-placed holes to allow you to keep those cables hidden.  Additionally, the cable tie points run along various points of the chassis so that logical and clean cable management is really very easy.  My result seen above is with no tie-downs, no planning at all, and it is just painless.  With the motherboard tray out, you have easy access to install anything you need, roughly route the cables and hide the ones you don't need, then lay the motherboard in.  Attach the motherboard tray with four thumb screws, and you've basically already got a super clean and compact build.

The HAF Xb doesn't sacrifice on the components you choose, either.  It's got plenty of ventilation, and all the clearance of a full-sized case as far as graphics cards and CPU coolers are concerned, so you're really not held back.  Tri-SLI/Crossfire and full-sized tower coolers about as likely to fit as most other cases on the market.  And the good news for your motherboard is that heavy coolers won't strain your motherboard nearly as much when the motherboard is laying flat to the ground.  The HAF Xb is also a perfect candidate for an All-in-One watercooling solution, like Cooler Master's recently-released Seidon 120M.  Want even more watercooling capacity?  The front will allow the accommodation of a 120 or 240 mm full-sized radiator for full-on watercooling.  Pretty awesome for a LAN box.

 

Testing

Test Setup

CPU Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge @ 4.0 GHz
GPU ASUS GTX 560 Ti 448 Core
Motherboard ASUS P67 Sabertooth
Memory Kingston HyperX Red 8 GB DDR3 1600 MHz
Cooler Enermax ETD-TB-T60
PSU Cooler Master GX 750
SSD OCZ Vertex 4 256GB
HDD Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM
Optical Drive LG GH22NS90 Super Multi - DVD±RW

 

The HAF Xb really uses every bit as good as larger traditional cases.  The front fans both move quite a bit of air, and they're also very quiet since they only operate at 1800 RPM.  They're more than adequate to paint the relatively-small motherboard chamber with cool, fresh air.  Even without adding any exhaust fans, the heavily vented side and top panels kept the case from becoming a heat box and we saw cooling performance that was only marginally worse than when mounted in larger cases.  With a rear exhaust fan added, the processor temperatures matched those of the Trooper or Cosmso II. 

Although the out-of-the-box acoustics are great, as it's a pretty quiet little box with the two stock fans and a push-pull CPU cooler, keep in mind that this case is still fairly open even with all of the side panels on.  It's thoroughly vented, so if you put a high-RPM and noisy fan in the case, don't expect to to be muffled too much.  The same can be said about the fan system on your graphics card, so be aware of that if acoustics are a bit concern for you.  This is particularly relevant because it's more likely that the HAF Xb will be placed on a desktop a few feet from earshot.


 

Final Thoughts


HAF Xb Cooler Master Badge

Cooler Master's HAF series has been highly successful over the years for a number of reasons.  HAF cases have consistently accommodated a large number of fans, have consistently had subtle features like intelligent placement of cable routing holes, and also had just enough aesthetic spark to appeal to a gamer crowd while not going so far to turn off those with a subtler taste in their cases.  The HAF Xb marks a new form factor for the HAF series, but it hasn't failed to bring along the features that have become staples of the HAF brand.  There is a ton of flexibility for cooling, with two 120mm fans up front and space for a 120/240mm radiator with additional pulling fans and a huge 200mm fan to exhaust out of the top. The flexibility doesn't stop at cooling, either.  The HAF Xb will also allow you to have 3-way SLI or Crossfire support for those wanting extreme performance in a small box.

 The tool-less drive bays make installing drives a breeze, and the X-dock means you can plug-n-play additional drives without opening the case.  The power supply borrows the mounting method from the Cosmos II, which is especially handy in the tight space in the lower chamber.  The removable motherboard tray also lends a helping hand to making installing a CPU cooler a breeze.  For those who find themselves trying out alot of CPU coolers, this is likely to be a stand out feature, as well as knowing that Cooler Master will soon be offering more motherboard trays for sale for testers/reviewers and overclocking enthusiasts to be able to swap out entire builds in and out of the case rapidly.

Then there's the hybrid nature of the HAF Xb.  On one hand it's a formidable LAN box which squishes the typical tower form factor down to make it more transportable.  On the other hand, it's a great open-air test bench.  A neat little case which you can put an LN2 pot into, and then just as eaily put your favorite air cooler into, put the side panels back on, and you're back to a typical system.  It's unique, and I actually found it a fun box to build in as it has a small form factor footprint without the SFF limitations.  Cable management was a breeze, and the end product is very clean and transportable.

 The case is also solid, with little flex of the chassis frame in the absense of the side panels.  Metal brackets on the chassis have been wisely added to reinforce the plastic handles on the side panel, and it's reassuringly sturdy to carry around.  At an MSRP of $99.99, the HAF Xb delivers on the HAF name, and is a solid buy at that price.  You get a smaller box without the sacrifices most other small chassis make, the flexibility for a full 240mm radiator and/or Tri-SLI/Crossfire, and a case that is as fun to build in as larger cases and is super easy to manage your cables as well.  Cooler Master has thoughtfully executed on making a small case that is easy to build in, and also giving the user plenty of options normally reserved for full towers.  Bravo.

 

The Good

alt

The Bad

  • Flexible, allows 240mm radiators, Tri-graphics, and 200mm top fan
  • Super easy to build in, thoughtfully designed
  • Clean and simple cable management
  • Removable motherboard tray
  • Tool-less drive bays
  • X-dock can be very convenient
  • Sturdy
  • A capable and convenient open-air test bed
  • No feet for standing the case vertically
  • No inclusion of an exhaust fan

 

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Comments   

 
# Ben 2013-01-12 15:20
great review, will definitely try one for my next build. many thanks