At 20.9 inches tall, the HAF-XM fits the profile of a high-performance mid-tower. The case retains the notched cutouts and muscular side panels that have become a staple of the HAF series, however these features have been toned down and refined to give the HAF XM a great blend of desk presence and minimalist appeal. You still get a stealthy black finish and the signature honeycomb grilles that look amazing under LED backlighting. The hexagonal power button doesn't look bad when it's bathed in red light either. A bold silver badge displays the Cooler Master logo on the front of the case, while the company name has been engraved in the top and left side panels. Cylindrical feet with rubber pads and metallic rings keep the chassis standing proud. There is no option to mount a set of casters like you can on the HAF X. Then again, this case doesn't weigh 31.6 lbs empty, so there isn't much to gain by wheeling it around your office.
The HAF XM boasts two front USB 3.0 ports (same as the HAF X), along with two USB 2.0 ports and the customary audio line in/out ports. Unlike the HAF-X, there is no e-SATA or IEEE 1394a (a.k.a. Firewire 400), but we find our usage of those ports to be quite rare. The mostly meshed front panel is interrupted by two hot swappable bays that feature the same latched closure as the internal tool-free bays. Both drive trays pull out with little effort and snap back into place with sturdy plastic clips. A total of three 5.25" devices can occupy the front panel. That's one less than the HAF X, but enough for the average user.
The side window has been outed in favor of making room for two 140mm fans to be mounted side-by-side, or one centrally mounted 200mm fan. Directly above these fan mounts is the large latch handle that enables swift removal of the beefy steel panel. The right side panel lacks this feature, unlike the demo unit we saw at CES 2012. We were a little disappointed when Cooler Master told us that the final production model would be short one latch, but given the fact that both side panels come off smooth as butter and the rear panel doesn't need to be removed all that often, we can hardly complain. The top panel comes off just as easily after removing a single thumb screw, and it meshes seamlessly with the rest of the chassis. This level of fit and finish is something we've come to expect from Cooler Master and it makes for a very enjoyable unboxing experience. As we admired the exterior of this case, there were no instances that we found its styling to be overbearing or getting in the way of performance, although it certainly leaves behind much of the past styling which has defined the HAF lineup. The red LED for the front 200mm fan can be turned off, and there's a small rubber-lined stash area up top for personal belongings. In summary, the HAF XM looks and feels more practical than it's flamboyant brethren. The same goes for its interior.