During PAX West 2016 in Seattle, we checked out the latest case designs from three of the biggest players in the PC market, Corsair, Cooler Master, and EVGA. Corsair and Cooler master have been around a long time, while EVGA is a relative newcomer, their only previous entrant being the Hadron ITX line. Well, each of these companies has a very different take on wht the future of PC case design looks like, and we have a feeling some of these designs are going to resonate with users more than others, but which will win out is for you to decide!
If there's one company that has virtually owned the case market for the past five years, it's Corsair. But by their own admission, some of their designs are getting a bit long in the tooth. When asked whether they ever retire cases, Corsair said that if a case continues to sell, they'll keep making it. The case in point, so to speak, was the 5-year-old Carbide 200R, which is still one of their best sellers, despite being fairly outdated. Luckily, Corsair realizes that it's not alone anymore, with aggressive case manufacturers putting a dent in their sales (Phanteks is the one to watch from our point of view, and Corsair agreed). So Corsair chose two of its more popular recent cases, the Air 540 and the Carbide 400C, and took them to the next level.
The latest air is the Air 740, shown above, which takes the basic premise of the 540 and adds a more sophisticated look, while also pushing the dimensions out a bit. Overall, we think it will really appeal to fans of the original Air, as it offers the same unique form factor and exceptional cooling design, along with a much more refined look. It even sports a classy and functonal hinged door, which the Air 540 did not have. It will retail for $150, a very fair price for a case of this caliber. Note that as with many recently-released cases, the Air 740 jettisons the 5.25" optical drive bays for a cleaner interior and exterior layout.
The second new product is Corsair's Fall 2016 ATX lineup is the 460X. Building on the 400C that was released at the end of 2015, the 460X targets users looking to showcase their builds. Corsair has added a tempered glass side panel, along with a tempered glass front panel, which together really let your LEDs shine on through! And rest assured, Corsair has a huge assortment of LED case fans to complete the look, including the first ever RGB case fans, with full hardware control built into the case. Now that is awesome!
Corsair is also touting its new line of magnetic levitation (ML) fans, which are the first such fans in the consumer space (ML having previously only shown up in industrial applications). Corsair says it used Noctua as a benchmark for its new ML line, and believes it can outperform Noctua in terms of both cooling and noise levels at the same price points. Corsair promised they'd be getting us some ML fans to test out, so hopefully we'll be able to validate this claim sooner rather than later. Interestingly, ML fans only reach their potential on PWM controllers, as using DC control, which reduces voltage to reduce RPMs, actually shuts off the magnetic effect, which only functions at the full 12V supplied by a true PWM controller. If used with lower voltage, the fans will drop down onto an included backup sleeve bearing, so they'll still function, but will operate like a conventional fan.
The 460X will retail for $140, which is truly groundbreaking for a case with real glass panels. The least expensive models using tempered glass that we've previously seen have come in around $200. Corsair is clearly taking advantage of economies of scale in rolling out a glass-paneled case at this pricepoint, which it can do given the market share it commands. Just keep in mind, though, that this is still at heart a compact ATX case, so it's not going to be the ideal choice for a liquid-cooled, dual-GPU gaming monster. Also note that tempered glass panels require thumbscrews for attachment, and cannot be slid into place. That means getting into and out of your PC will take just a bit longer with the 460X than with comparable ATX models. But wow, those glass panels really do lend the case a "showcase" feel, as seen below.