ProsEye-catching styling; excellent airflow; competitive price; clean interior design; non-proprietary RGB lighting
ConsPlastic front fascia; sub-par hard drive mounting system; glass panel only removable with a screwdriver
Here at The Tech Buyer's Guru, we always start our case reviews by noting that we've reviewed more PC cases than any other category of product. With this review, we're now up to 22 and counting (we have another one sitting here waiting for review, as it happens). So you could say we have a pretty good sense of what makes a great case, and where the simply average cases fail.
When we first saw the H500P prototype at PAX West 2017, we knew that Cooler Master was on to something. In the end, the first-gen H500P wound up having a few critical flaws (including disappointing airflow), but in truly honorable fashion, Cooler Master owned up to these failings and prepped an improved H500P, dubbed the H500P Mesh, just six months after the release of the original H500P (which is being discounted in advance of being discontinued). In a world where many sub-par case models live on for years, we really have to hand it to Cooler Master for not taking the easy way out.
And that brings us to the MasterCase H500P Mesh you see here. This model is so new that it's not even for sale yet, although the H500P Mesh White hit the stores a few weeks back. That being said, we've received clearance from Cooler Master to publish this exclusive review, as the H500P Mesh differs from the H500P Mesh White only in color (it comes in the gunmetal grey of the original H500P).
So what makes the H500P Mesh so much better than the original? Well, the first improvement is obvious: the mesh! Indeed, Cooler Master kind of goofed up with the original design, going for style more than substance by placing a solid acrylic panel right in front of the H500P's twin 200mm front intake fans. With the Mesh, you get unimpeded airflow to and through those giant fans. Other improvements include minor details like a latch on the front panel (which flips forward to expose the fans), a screw to hold on the top panel (which previously could be knocked off easily), and an improved power supply mount. But what does all this add up to? Is the H500P Mesh a great case? Read on to find out!
Description and Features
The first thing you notice about the H500P, before even turning it on, is its size. It measures 21.3" tall, 9.5" wide, and 21.4" deep. By modern standards, that's pretty big, but honestly, it feels (both literally and figuratively) pretty well proportioned. We've seen a number of cases that are unusually tall (and feel top-heavy), or unusually long (and therefore have a huge footprint), but Cooler Master has done a great job with this case. Take note that it has nearly identical height and depth measurements, which we think contributes to its proper sense of scale. And while the H500P is a handful, it's not inordinately heavy, in part because much of its exterior is clad in plastic, which we'll discuss further a little later on.
Once you get past the size, your eyes will undoubtedly turn to the large tempered glass panel adorning the left side of the case. Some may scoff at the trend towards tempered glass in cases, given its fragility (note the "Fragile" sticker on the window as it comes right out of the box!), but honestly, we wouldn't have it any other way. If you're going to use a side window on a case at this point, go glass or go home. There's simply no place for acrylic in today's market. Yes, it's light, and no, it doesn't shatter easily, but it scratches at the slightly touch, and we've had far too many expensive cases be reduced to worthlessness due to scuffed acrylic side windows. Glass is really hard to scratch, and now that manufacturers have figured out how to package these cases so they don't shatter in transit, they are the only option when it comes to showing off a case. By the way, another advancement we've seen in the past six months or so is more innovative glass mounting methods. Whereas all first-gen tempered glass panels used four themscrews to affix them, which slowed down access to the PC and required manufacturers to drill multiple holes in glass, which no doubt was tricky, the H500P uses a convenient rail to hold the lower edge of the panel. In the case of the H500P, you can actually tip the glass out and leave it there, at least temporarily, as shown in the accompanying photo.
Now, that doesn't mean everything is perfect with the H500P's design. First and most glaringly, the single latch on the glass panel could have been so great, save for the fact that it's extraordinarily tight and requires a flathead screwdriver to operate. Any guesses as to what will happen over multiple attempts to open this glass panel with a flathead screwdriver? Yeah, it's kind of like taking a chisel to a window. Cooler Master, if you're listening (and we know you are), please, please, make a running change to your inventory to source a rubber-coated thumb screw that will allow users to operate this without the need for a sharp tool!
Of course, no high-end modern case can get by without a little RGB in the mix, so let's dive into the RGB effects of the H500P Mesh. As it turns out, they are limited to the front fans (no RGB strips are included), but the great news is that Cooler Master is the very first manufacturer that we know of to introduce a full line of RGB fans that are fully compatible with the industry-standard RGB header on all modern high-end motherboards. SilverStone has done something similar with its RGB fan grilles, Phanteks allows it with an extra-cost adapter, and Thermaltake allows it on its ultra-premium cases, but Cooler Master is bringing truly usable RGB to the masses with its H500P Mesh, and we applaud the effort. It takes some courage to make a case that allows consumers to buy accessories from competitors. NZXT and Corsair, are you listening?
Given that they are a defining feature of this case, we think it's only right that we provide a bit more insight into the MF200R RGB fans used in this case. They most definitely aren't just for looks. These twin 200mm monsters serve up copious amounts of air, unimpeded by any solid front panel (which is all too common on high-end cases today, not just the original H500P). While a few other companies have offered cases like this in the past (notably the Corsair Obsidian 750D Airflow with its twin 140mm fans, the Phanteks Enthoo Pro with its single 200mm fan, and the SilverStone PM01-RGB with its triple 140mm fans), the H500P Mesh really makes a statement with its two spinners behind that mesh curtain. They provide massive airflow at low noise levels - our samples spun at a maximum of 790RPM and 825RPM respectively, and produced just 47dB from a six-inch distance, which is quite incredible given the amount of air they can move. Furthermore, because they require very low RPMs to achieve their maximum airflow, they have a very clean acoustic signature. Noise is experienced by humans as more than dB, it's also pitch and variance, and these are some of the best fans we've ever heard in these regards. Note that in classic Cooler Master fashion, the bearing type of these fans is not specified, but based on the life expectancy ratings and the relatively low $20 retail price per fan, we believe they use sleeve bearings. That's not necessarily a premium option, but at this size, and when oriented vertically rather than horizontally, this type of bearing can be very quiet over time, even if it won't last quite as long as a fluid dynamic bearing.