ProsEye-pleasing styling; high-quality materials; competitive price
ConsRGB effects do not sync with industry standard controllers
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 23 and counting (and we have another case review waiting in the wings, with all photography complete, making it a solid two-dozen that we've been hands on with). So you could say we have a pretty good sense of what makes a great case, and where the simply average cases fail.
One company that's been conspicuously absent from our reviews for quite some time is Corsair, a name known to anyone even vaguely familiar with the PC component market. That's not because Corsair doesn't make cases, but rather because it hasn't been making many new cases. In fact, between 2016 and 2017, it released just a handful of cases, and most targeted markets that were new to Corsair (like ultra-budget models). Luckily, Corsair has regrouped for 2018, and has a fresh top-to-bottom lineup of cases, with new ones being released every month.
And that brings us to the Carbide SPEC-06 RGB you see here. This model is brand-new (hitting store shelves on our publication date, in fact!), and it has all the features PC builders are probably looking for: tempered glass, RGB, big cooler compatibility, a sleek interior design, and overall great looks. Interestingly, it's not a brand-new design, being based on the Carbide 275R released earlier this year. The only difference is the front panel, which has a "swooshier" look plus an RGB element. Luckily, the 275R was a great platform to start with, and a huge step up from the budget platform all prior SPEC series cases were built in. So we know that the SPEC-06 ticks off the boxes, but does it actually prove at least the sum of its parts? Read on to find out!
Special thanks to Corsair for providing us a sample of the Carbide SPEC-06 RGB Mid-Tower Gaming Case featured in this review.
Description and Features
We've spoken to Corsair on numerous occasions over the past few years about its case development strategy, and our impression is that it has done a bit of experimentation with various product lines to see what would stick. The Carbide line was once its mid-range gaming series, which often had the flashiest design elements, with Graphite being the high-end gaming series, with high-end features and big capacities, and Obsidian being the "pro" series, sticking with the formal "black box" look but using ultra-premium materials. Back in early 2017, the Carbide series started to splinter, with a new budget gamer (SPEC) range being introduced within the Carbide family, joined by some new mid-range non-SPEC Carbide models (like the 400Q) sporting higher prices and styling more reminiscent of an Obsidian case, but without the premium materials.
We've already mentioned that the SPEC-06 is based on the 275R, which itself is one of the new-for-2018 cases in Corsair's Carbide lineup. Frankly, we think Corsair has finally sorted things out with these models. As you'll see in this review, the SPEC-06 may not be perfect, but given the price, it's amazingly close. Either Corsair did its homework, or it simply learned from its mistakes, but the end result is a case that's just really well sorted, and stands toe-to-toe with the best of Corsair's Carbide series offerings over the years. Our only concern, and this relates more to marketing than anything inherent to the SPEC-06 itself, is that the various Carbide cases are starting to seriously converge in terms of styling, making us wonder if the SPEC sub-sub-brand is necessary at all.
So what does the SPEC-06 bring to the table? Well, first, it's pretty big for a SPEC case, but quite small (on the outside) for a Carbide case. According to the specifications in the manual (which unfortunately do not appear on the Corsair website), it checks in at 215mm wide, 474mm deep, and 455mm tall. Our tape measure suggested it was a bit more of a perfect square than that (at about 460mm deep and tall), but it may depend on whether you count the screws sticking out the back and the rubber bumpers underneath the stylish round feet. In any event, this makes it pretty compact for an ATX case, but the width in particular is a big step up from many SPEC cases. With that said, we'd really like to see companies push further into taller towers with smaller footprints, because so much room is still being wasted up front, as you'll see on the next page. Now that big drive cages are no longer in vogue, form factors can change to be more in keeping with components people actually use.
And that gets us to internal capacity. Thanks to its substantial width, the SPEC-06 can fit tower air coolers up to 170mm tall, which basically means any air cooler, while also providing ample cable management room, as we found during our build session. It also has room for any video card you can buy. In terms of storage, it can fit four 2.5" drives (mounted vertically), two 3.5" drives (mounted horizontally in trays), and according to the specs, can fit either dual 140mm fans up top, or a 240mm radiator for a CPU cooler. But in our testing, it became obvious that this was a bit optimistic - like most short cases, there's simply insufficient headroom for a radiator/fan stack to clear the motherboard. Specifically, our 240mm cooler struck our mid-height RAM sticks. The only way we can see this working would be to use ultra-low-profile RAM sticks, and while we have some in our ITX test builds, we don't use them for ATX systems anymore. The fact that they are required to use a fancy liquid cooling system really isn't ideal, as most users of liquid coolers might also like to step up to fancy RGB RAM, such as Corsair's Vengeance Pro series. For better or for worse, this is most definitely not the only chassis we've reviewed that claims to have more liquid cooler support than it actually does. Given the pricepoint, we feel it's OK, as many buyers of this case will probably stick to air cooling, but it's still going to cause some consumer confusion.
Now, let's talk about aesthetics. First, the tempered glass panel looks great, with a perfect tint and a flush fit with the case frame (many first-gen tempered glass panels were just bolted onto the side of existing designs, meaning they stuck out). And as a bonus, Corsair even throws in low-profile allen-head screws for the glass in case you'd like something sleeker than the standard thumb screws that come pre-installed. Because we need quick access to our test benches, we stuck with the thumbscrews.
As you might imagine from the name, the SPEC-06 RGB also sports some RGB effects, although they are relatively limited, consisting of a single RGB strip down the front panel of the case. Unlike most of Corsair's previous RGB cases, there are no RGB fans included. Given that Corsair is a major vendor of RGB fans, but doesn't market any RGB light strips (unlike most of its competitors), it's a bit curious that it's taken this route with the SPEC-06. The odd arrangement is probably due to a desire to maintain some resemblance to the rest of the SPEC family, which all used semi-solid front panels, which obscure RGB fans. We'd love to see Corsair port this chassis over to its Crystal series, where it could be fitted with a glass panel up front along with some RGB fans and serve as a major improvement upon the existing Crystal 460X. Note that unlike the Crystal series, the RGB controls aren't built into the front panel; instead, they reside on the back of the chassis, where a small controller box is affixed, with a wire entering an opening in the back panel. And like all current Corsair RGB products, it will not sync with any other brands, thanks to its proprietary connector. While we didn't have a Corsair "Commander" controller box to try it with, we're not sure if it can sync with other Corsair hardware, but because it does have a detachable connector inside the case, it may well have that feature.
In our testing of the RGB system, we found it was pretty basic. It's just a 7-color controller (white, red, blue, green, orange, yellow, and purple), so the rainbow cycling is pretty unimpressive, as color changes are very abrupt. Cycling really only starts to make sense with 256-color controllers. And while there are a number of effects, like flashing, heartbeat, etc., our two favorites (and the only ones worth using, in our opinion) were the single solid color, and a riplling single color. The latter was actually a really cool effect, but difficult to describe in words - essentially the LEDs turn on and off to replicate a liquid flowing through a tube. One major letdown is that despite the promotional photos Corsair has published (including the one at the top of this page), the RGBs are not addressable, so they can only display one color at a time.
Flip to the next page for our thoughts on assembly and performance.