Cougar Challenger Mid-Tower Case Review

The Challenger is a new Mid-Tower case from Cougar. When you see it you are to think about missile firing switches. It is designed to accommodate large graphics cards and to facilitate cooling as well as looking cool. And though they don’t advertise this, Cougar has clearly gone to some lengths to make the Challenger easy to work in. So did they succeed? Let’s go exploring.

Cougar and the Challenger

Cougar describes itself as follows on their about us page:

COUGAR is particularly targeting enthusiast gamers who not only demand state-of-the-art PC chassis and highly efficient power supplies, but also want to express their dynamic gaming life style with reliable quality products.

Features:

(from Challenger product page)

  • Innovative & revolutionary UI design takes inspiration from the pilot unlock missile cover then fire!
  •  Interior black painting
  • Advanced two USB3.0 ports for maximum data transfer speed and compatible for non-USB3.0 function’s motherboard
  • Top access external 3.5″ & 2.5″ HDD/SSD hot-swap for easy mobile data transfer
  • Support for 7 fans:
    • Front 120mm fans x 2 / 140mm fans x 2* / 200mm fan x1
    • Top 120mm fans x 2 / 140mm fans x 2 / 200mm fan x 1
    • Bottom 120mm fan x 1 / 140mm fan x 1
    • Rear 120mm fan x 1
    • Side 120mm fan x 1 / 140mm fan x 1
  • Front COUGAR 200mm red LED fan x 1 and rear COUGAR Turbine 120mm fan x 1 are pre-installed
  • Acrylic side panel
  • Support for longer high-end graphics cards up to 300mm, 330mm & 410mm. (depending on varies graphics cards requirement to change position with HDD bracket)
  • 7 PCI slots provides flexibility for multiple graphics cards solutions.
  • Screw-less mechanisms on 5.25″ devices
  • 3.5″ HDD trays x 7 compatible for installing 2.5″ HDDs/SSDs x 7
  • Provide 2.5″ HDD trays x 3 to install depending on the graphics cards length
  • Holes x 3 on the rear panel for water cooling solutions. (with rubber protection)
  • Installation opening in the MB tray for easy upgrade CPU cooler
  • Cable feedthrough on the MB tray for easy routing and hiding cables
  • Vented slot bezels for better cooling performance
  • Air filter on the bottom cover & side cover to prevent dust from entering the enclosure (magnet filters are easy to uninstall and clean)

(* While you can fit two 140mm fans in the front, you cannot use them. We will explore this in detail below.)

One of the first things I noticed about this case is that everywhere, except the back, you can install 140 mm fans. For cases, 140 mm fans usually provide the right balance between airflow and noise levels; fast enough to cool devices but slow enough to not make excessive noise.

Color Choices

Black (the reviewed case), Black with Orange facings (this seems to be Cougar’s color theme), and Black with white facings. To see how they look, see the product page here.

Specifications

(from Cougar)

Case Type

Middle Tower

Motherboard Type

Micro ATX / ATX

Dimension

268(W)x514(H)x523(D)

5.25″ Drive Bay

3 Exposed

3.5″ Drive Bay

1 Exposed & 7 Hidden

2.5″ Drive Bay

3 Hidden ( converted from 3.5” drive bays )

External  3.5′ ‘  & 2.5′ ‘  HDD/SSD Hot-swap

1

Maximum 3.5′ ‘  HDDs  Installed Quantity

9

Maximum 2.5′ ‘  HDDs / SSDs  Installed Quantity

8

I/O Panel

USB3.0 x 2 (internal),  Mic x 1,  Audio x 1

Cooling System

Max Installed : 7pcs Fans

Front

120mm Fans x 2 / 140mm Fans x 2* / 200mm Fan x 1

Top

120mm Fans x 2 / 140mm Fans x 2 / 180mm Fan x 1 / 200mm Fan x 1

Rear

120mm Fan x 1

Bottom

120mm Fan x 1 / 140mm Fan x 1

Left Side

120mm Fan x 1 / 140mm Fan x 1

COUGAR 200mm Red LED Fan (front)

1 (pre-installed)

COUGAR 120mm Turbine Fan (rear)

1 (pre-installed)

Expansion Slots

7

Maximum Graphics Cards Length

410mm

Power Supply

Standard ATX PS2 (optional)

(* We will see about those 140 mm fans below.) Cougar also provides a datasheet that lays out the specifications and features, along with providing clear drawings of how it can function (pdf here).

Packaging:

The Challenger comes in a cardboard box with one-color graphics. On the back of the box we get treated to a set of diagrams that show how the case comes together, and how the interior expands to accommodate ever-larger graphics cards.

Challenger Carton

Challenger Carton

Carton Obverse

Carton Obverse

Open the box and the standard packing shows: Styrofoam top and bottom caps with a polyethylene bag covering the case.

Carton Open

Carton Open

External Tour

The Challenger has protective plastic film strips to protect many of its surfaces, but the lines of the case shine through. That light rectangle spanning the second and third 5.25-inch slots is actually the opening for the motherboard’s rear IO shield shining through. This phenomenon demonstrates that the top three 5.25-inch slot covers are filters, which gives me some ideas. Alas, the exposed 3.5-inch slot does not share the 5.25-inch bay. Too bad, because there is less and less call for external 3.5-inch devices these days, and building it this way means there is one fewer 5.25-inch slot to play with.

The left side shows a protected window. It is only protected on the outside, though; this is a mid-priced case after all. That open space is a place for either a 120 mm or a 140 mm fan.

Face, Wrapped

Face, Wrapped

Left Side, Wrapped

Left Side, Wrapped

The back of the case shows us a 120 mm Cougar fan, with the same blades as their Vortex series, though without the PWM and fancy frame. There are three positions for radiator hoses. With a screwdriver you can pry them out, but otherwise they are just part of the case. Later we will see that Cougar provides rubber grommets for these holes if you want to use them, but if you are not a waterhead, these are just part of the steel at the back of the case. This is actually a nice compromise that fully meets everyone’s needs. Good job, Cougar. There are seven PCI expansion slots. The PSU goes at the bottom.

Water coolers take heed: The rear exhaust fan is recessed, along with the three rad hose holes. Now, it might seem that the face of the fan is merely flush with the back plane, but the fan is actually pushed back into the case so the metal top of the recessed portion forms a metal shelf that overlaps a 140mm fan hanging down from the top.There is 35 mm between the top of the metal recessed portion and the inside of the top of the case. I suspect that this means you can forget about trying to mount a 280 mm radiator and fan at the top of this case. If there were a plastic top on the case and no grill in the top sheet metal, you might put a 280 mm rad inside the case and the fans on top of it outside. But the way the Challenger is made, it looks like you will be limited to a 240 mm rad (there appears to be space enough under the top for a 240 mm rad and its fans; we cover this below). A 280 mm rad and fans won’t fit.

Rear

Rear

The right side of the Cougar Challenger shows the shape and build with no distractions.

The bottom of the case shows fat feet, and a filter that covers everything but the case feet and the front part where the HD cage sits. What you can’t see is that this filter is held on by magnets. That makes it easy to remove, clean, and put back. Nice filter BTW.

Challenger Right Side

Challenger Right Side

Challenger Bottom

Challenger Bottom

Bottom Filter

Bottom Filter

Bottom Without Filter

Bottom Without Filter

The top of the case shows a standard grill surface which spans the full length and breadth available to it. You can see the fastener positions for two 120 mm fans, two 140 mm fans, a 180 mm fan, or a 200 mm fan. The restrictive under-grill behind the steel grill looks to be a means of reducing any dust that might fall into your case. But if you want to put fans on the top, that under-grill mesh will have to go; it is too restrictive. Those shiny buttons on top actually can pop off for reuse. Later on, we’ll see how.

Across the Top

Across the Top

Let’s take a look at the top of the Challenger from overhead. Full-height, full-width grill, with a plugin spot for a SATA HDD. Below that is an IO cluster, and a ruby red button cover. Pretty.

The SATA drive plugin spot is convenient, but it is limited to SATA II (3 Gbits/s).

Top View

Top View

Hot Swap Bay

Hot Swap Bay

Here’s a closeup of the IO cluster. It’s limited to two USB3 ports. And there is that ruby. Well, it does look like a jewel.

On the right we can see that our jewel was actually a red button cover – inspired by the covers of missile firing switches. Cute.

IO Cluster

IO Cluster

Button Cover Lifted

Button Cover Lifted

Popping Off the Faceplate

It turns out that as snug as the faceplate clings to the case, it pops off without any alarming struggle. At the bottom you can pull on the faceplate without lifting the case (nice touch, that) but you can pull off the front by grabbing anywhere and giving it a tug. Just right.

Pulling off the Challenger’s faceplate reveals an orange, 11-bladed 200 mm fan. The frame is 201 mm wide and 21 mm thick. That would correspond with the fan’s model number: A2020L-12S – or (nominally) 20 cm wide, 20 mm thick, low speed, 12 Volt, sleeve bearing that is held on with four machine screws. There is a male/female double Molex plug attached to a 3-pin plug, so you can take your pick of methods to power it.

Faceplate Open

Faceplate Open

200mm Front Fan

200 mm Front Fan

While we are looking at the front of the case, let’s try something. Let’s put a 140 mm fan in the 5.25-inch bay. Hmm. It turns out there is room above the bay to fit the fan in (a 140 mm fan takes up more than three 5.25-inch slots). So, if you were willing to do without an internal DVD drive, you could have a nice supplement to your ventilation system. Most of us hardly use our DVD drives any more, and when we need one, we could plug in an external drive. Just a thought from an inveterate air cooler. Of course, this is why I prefer cases with four 5.25-inch slots: one for the DVD and three for a 120 mm or 140 mm fan.

For my next experiment, let’s try putting in two 140 mm fans in place of the 200 mm. These Yate Loons fit, but when I tried a Thermalright X-Silent 140, the screws were too short. The fans that fit were 25 mm thick and had beveled screw holes. The TR X-Silent was one inch thick (25.4 mm) with un-beveled screw holes. Not much of a difference, but it was enough to make me go look for my beveling drill bit. That worked.

140mm Fan in 5.25-inch Bay

140 mm Fan in 5.25-inch Bay

Two 140mm Fans in Front

Two 140 mm Fans in Front

What was more of an issue was that these prongs (the clips that hold the 3.5-inch device cover) stuck out from the faceplate and pressed on the frame of the upper fan. I was unable to close the faceplate. So you can only put one 140 mm fan in the front. Cougar tells us they are aware of the issue and “we will improve this problem soon.”

Faceplate Prongs

Faceplate Prongs

Why would you take the 200 mm fan out? Turns out we can use it elsewhere. Stay tuned.

Into the Challenger’s Innards

First of all, let us look at the thumbscrew. I noticed as I took the sides on and off that these were the easiest-to-use thumbscrews I had ever used. They made working with the Challenger just a little less work. So, what is the secret? Apparently a little bit of guide on the tip of the screws did the job. Such a little thing, but typical of the Challenger.

Challenger's Thumbscrew

Challenger’s Thumbscrew

Now comes the big moment: opening the case for the first time and having a look inside. Luckily, my camera was ready for the moment. Let’s go clockwise, starting with the lower left corner and the opening for the power supply unit (PSU). Then we see the screws holding the seven PCI slot covers, and above that the exhaust fan. At the back of the main cavity, over all the upper part of the motherboard tray, we see a CPU window about as wide as an ATX motherboard. On the left, the window’s upper edge rises up a bit to allow fans wires through.

Above the CPU window the motherboard tray angles back and attaches to the frame of the case. You can see the slope if you look closely. This leaves a lot of room to pass cables and wires across the top of the motherboard without impeding the airflow. In the upper right corner we see three tool-free 5.25-inch device latches. The 3.5-inch bay hangs from the 5.25-inch bay. Below that, we see trays for seven hard drives, mounted at right angles to the length of the case. Finally, there is the box of accessories and the case wiring strapped to the frame. All in all, it looks like a routine interior except for the oversize CPU window cut into the motherboard tray. It is not a new feature, but it is a welcome one. Hopefully case manufacturers will make more of their cases like this.

Inside Challenger

Inside Challenger

We will now take a closer look at that CPU window. Above it we can see the motherboard tray sloping back to join the frame. Where the purple arrow is pointing you can see where the slope above the motherboard tray has simply been trimmed diagonally to make a passage for the EPS12V plug. That’s all. When I think of all the complicated ways of attaching a motherboard tray, of all the too-small passageways for EPS12V wires, this way is just simpler and works better.

Looking at the bottom of the main cavity we can see how open it is. Unlike many cases, there is no particular restriction on the air coming up into a PSU. It looks like the case was made to include a clip for pressing against the PSU, but none was included with the Challenger. There are four dimples that support the PSU, which made sliding the power supply in and mating it with screws dead easy. You can see that the attachment holes for 140 mm or 120 mm fans line up, so either fan will be next to the HD cage. That means a 120 mm fan will give you 20 mm more space from the PSU than a 140 mm fan.

CPU Window

CPU Window

Plenum Floor

Plenum Floor

Continuing with our theme of observing the little details, here is a closeup of a hold-on clip from the middle of the faceplate sticking through the frame. Because it is steel, you have metal to metal contact between the clip and the frame. Since the corner clips of the faceplate stick into plastic inserts, we see that Cougar is taking care that their contact materials match. It makes for a faceplate that is easy to remove yet firm with its grip.

The second picture shows the little collection of accessories. The collection may seem sparse, but this case doesn’t need many accessories. We start with the three grommets for the when you run hoses out the back of the case. Since not a whole lot of people actually do that, the Challenger’s use of frangible sheet metal is a sensible choice. Providing grommets for the few water coolers who actually do use those holes is plain courteous. The side fan filter is contained in a magnetic 140 mm frame that snuggles up to the left side panel but can easily be removed, cleaned, and replaced. Moving up we see a collection of screws, enough to fasten plenty of HDs to trays. Then there are a couple of 2.5-inch HD trays. They are very easy to use, easier than some other tool-free trays I’ve tried.

Down we go to have a look at the single-sheet manual. Again, we see the exploded-view diagram, with a list of parts and what they are used for. You can see a third 2.5-inch HD tray along with a 3.5-inch tray. They are very open on the bottom, clearly to facilitate cooling. Finally, before we leave I want to note that in the little pile of screws are three motherboard bumpers. There are some motherboards (mine for example) that are not as wide as ATX motherboards. Rather than leave the right edge unsupported, Cougar provides the bumpers to stabilize the free end of the motherboard. Again, attention to the little details is the hallmark of this case.

Mid-Plate Gripper

Mid-Plate Gripper

Accessories

Accessories

Ah. Now we come to the upward look inside the main cavity. You can see where the slot covers go. And they are fastened by hex-headed Phillips machine screws; a sensible choice. You might be able to make out the mesh attached to the top grill.

The main interesting features involve a kingpin and screw-in points for the motherboard. Of course, these are not features new to cases, but I guess I never knew how much easier it is to install a motherboard when you can start by hanging the middle hole on a peg, and then not having to install standoffs. If you need additional spots for motherboard standoffs, they are in the little pile of screws in the accessories bag.

In the closeup of the top deck area, you can see pegs pushing through. I put some purple arrows there to help you see. I call them top gripper buttons, because they hold up the top mesh (that sheet of holes under the top deck).

Plenum Details

Plenum Details

Top Gripper Buttons

Top Gripper Buttons

Just to remind you what the pegs look like from the outside, here again is the top of the case. In the next picture you can see the punch pin I used to push the pegs out of their grippers. Below the tool are examples of what the grippers look like with and without the pegs installed. The peg spreads the fingers of the gripper, and keeps it from coming out. They are reusable.

Across the Top

Across the Top

Gripper Buttons

Gripper Buttons

Here is the mesh removed from the case. As a case liner, this mesh brings a nice visual effect to the top of the case. For maximum airflow, you will want to remove it.

Top Mesh

Top Mesh

Building a System in the Cougar Challenger

Building a system in the Cougar Challenger is a quick and easy job. First of all, you just put the motherboard on the kingpin peg, then tighten install the rest of the mounting screws. The motherboard is done. Oh, if you have a non-standard motherboard like mine you might have to install a standoff or two before installing the motherboard. You might also wish to put the three support bumpers on the case or the motherboard. It seems to be a lot easier than installing nine standoffs, making sure they are tight, and only then installing the motherboard mounting screws.

At the upper right corner you can see the EPS12V plug looping around the diagonal cut and plugging into the corner of the motherboard. There was plenty of room. I could name cases where that is not true (on one case, I had to remove the top get the EPS12V plug through). You can see the fan wire I routed across the top of the motherboard tray to show how it’s done. Plenty of room, not in the airflow.

One thing you may miss is pass-through grommets. Good riddance, I say. With other cases I am always dislodging them and having to waste time putting them back. Not here. All the edges are rolled steel. No grommet is needed.

Those seven hard drives all installed easily. The drives went easily into their trays, and the trays went easily into their cages.

The next picture shows how a 140 mm fan would fit on the bottom. You also get a closeup of the USB3 motherboard plug, which includes a USB2 branch. If you want to hook the front panel USB3 sockets to a USB3 port on the back of the motherboard, you will need to buy an adapter. If your motherboard only supports USB2, you can use the USB2 branch plug as I did in this case. Finally, the wires that go to such things as the power and reset switches reveal themselves to be twisted pairs, while the LED wires are a pair of singletons.

Plenum, Built

Interior Built

Bottom Fan

Bottom Fan

Now we can see all the motherboard wires in one image. On the left, there is only an HD Audio plug. No obsolete AC ’97 to clutter your build.

Wires to Motherboard

Wires to Motherboard

A bit of secret delight here; the DVD player simply slides in and locks. Boy, this is really tool-free. Just flip the latch open and slide in the device. There are fingers toward the back of the slot that pick up the player as it comes through and shut the latch for you, locking the unit in place. Without a doubt it is the easiest insertion of a 5.25-inch device I have ever worked with.

DVD Ready to Go In

DVD Ready to Go In

DVD In Place

DVD In Place

Another picture of the DVD player mounted also shows the top HD and how much space there is for airflow across your hard drives.

DVD in Place

DVD in Place

Before we leave the main cavity, let’s see how much room there is. According to my 45-year-old steel ruler, we have 168 mm from the motherboard to the large steel ruler spanning the case’s interior. Since Noctua tells us that without the fan an NH-D14 is really 160 mm tall, we can estimate that from CPU to the edge of the case is 165 mm. That’s enough room to provide clearance for the D14, but not enough room to put an Archon in there.

With fans on the top of the case (to the right in the second picture) there is still room to get your fingers around to mount a fan on the side of the D14. That means you can mount the case fans before you install the heatsink. It also appears to have enough room for a 120 mm radiator and its fans.

Room For a Heatsink

Room For a Heatsink

Room Above Heatsink

Room Above Heatsink

Here is how fans fit in the top. I put different sized fans up there to show you that you can mount a 240 mm radiator as well as just fans. As I mentioned earlier, it seems unlikely that you will be able to put a 280 mm rad there along with its fans. At the rear of the case, the exhaust fan position is recessed into the case, closing off the opportunity to put both a rad and its fan there.

I removed the 200 mm fan from the front of the case and put it here. It fits nicely. At the very top of the picture you can see how the mounting holes for the 140 mm fan overlap the recessed position for the exhaust fan. As I noted, there is only 35 mm there, steel to steel. No 280 mm rads need apply.

Fans in the Top

Fans in the Top

200mm Fan in the Top

200 mm Fan in the Top

Hard Drive Cooling

The left picture shows the bottom of a HD tray with a hard drive installed, and to the right of that you can see the hard drive cage itself. There is a lot of open area built into the tray for cooling. At the top of the HD cage you can see the bottom of an installed hard drive. In the middle you can see there is space for air to run across the drives and cool them. While this is not the most open HD cage I have seen, it is one of the better cages for airflow. The design of the HD trays and HD cage are just another tidbit of thoughtful design.

In the right picture we see a reminder of what the default front fan looks like, and how it fits over the HD cages. You can also see the filter that will close over it when the faceplate is attached.

HD Cooling

HD Cooling

Faceplate Open

Faceplate Open

Testing the Hard Drive Cooling

I will now tell you about the testing I did. I ran the front 200 mm fan as you see it, and put the measuring head of an Extech anemometer on the back side of the HD cage (thank you Hondacity). At various spots on the back of the HD tray the velocity of the air coming through read 70-150 feet per minute, or 0.4-0.8 m/s. In the front, above the HD cage the Extech read 250 fpm (1.3 m/s) coming out the front. Clearly, a fair amount of air was not getting through the case. So, then I put the faceplate on the case. It restricted the air so much that, although I could feel a little air getting through, it was not enough to spin the vanes of the Extech sensor.

Then I buttoned up the case. I ran a single hard drive from the PSU, and snaked the USB cable out the back of the case to my testbed, where I used HDD Health to measure the internal temperature of the drive. The first test run was with no fans running. After one hour HDD Health reported an internal temperature of 39°C, 15.5° C over ambient.

Then I turned on the front 200 mm intake and the rear 120 mm exhaust fans and let them run for an hour. During the run, the front fan created 48.5 dBA noise 10cm from the front of the case, the equivalent of about 28.5 dBA from one meter away. Behind the case, the fan made 48 dBA of noise, the equivalent of 28 dBA at one meter away. My rule-of-thumb scale; under 20 dB is ultra-quiet, 20-25 dB is very quiet, 25-30 dB is quiet, 30-35 dB is moderate, 35-40 dB is moderately loud, etc. The Challenger falls in the quiet category, but you will hear it. At the end of the second run the internal temp was 29°C, 6°C over ambient. So, even with the restrictive filter, the fans cooled down the hard drive.

Room for Graphics Cards

In the left picture you can see the default position of the back wall of the upper HD cage. Cougar calls this “A-Mode.” This will accommodate 3.5-inch hard drives.

In the right picture you can see what Cougar calls “B-Mode.” Here, the left side wall of the cage has been moved closer to the front of the case. In B-Mode the upper HD cage accommodates 2.5-inch drive trays. Although, I have a 2.5-inch hard drive in there, you can also fit your SSD’s here.

A-Mode

A-Mode

B-Mode

B-Mode

Finally, you can remove the side wall so there is no upper HD cage. Cougar calls the sidewall-free configuration “C-Mode.”

C-Mode

C-Mode

In A-Mode you have right at 300 mm room for a graphics card. I think a 300 mm card would be a tight fit. In B-Mode you have pretty much exactly 13 inches, or 330 mm.

A-Mode VidCard Space

A-Mode VidCard Space

B-Mode VidCard Space

B-Mode VidCard Space

In C-mode you have 415 mm for various kinds of cards, 410 mm with no crowding. I’m thinking this might be more room than you need for a graphics card, but a GPU based computing card might need this kind of space.

C-Mode VidCard Space

C-Mode VidCard Space

Back of the Motherboard Tray

On the left image below, we see the back of the motherboard tray. Since Velcro now sells strips, we have a relatively neat way to deal with the excess length of fixed cables found on PSUs designed for full tower cases. Unfortunately, we are missing tie-down points here. It’s not a terrible problem, since you can buy stick on zip-tie mounts at your local hardware store (sometimes known as mounting pads).

You can see where the EPS12V cable goes up and over the right top corner. This picture also clearly shows the knurled edges of the cable pass-throughs.

The right picture shows that you have barely 2cm clearance behind the motherboard tray. Although this is enough room for the 24-pin ATX12V cable, it is not quite enough room for the HD Molex and SATA power cables after the HDs are installed in their cages. Putting on the right side panel requires a little pressure.

Back of Motherboard Tray

Back of Motherboard Tray

Space Behind Motherboard Tray

Space Behind Motherboard Tray

Built!

Finally, the case and system come together. At last we have a rig. The 140 mm side fan filter fits diagonally, and looks demure sitting in its place. Let’s turn the case a bit and see how shiny and handsome it is.

Side Image, Built

Side Image, Built

Overview

Overview

Turning the case again we get a nice view of the front. Oops! There’s a gap between the DVD and the slot cover above it. Well, it won’t be an entrance for too much dust. If we put a fan in the 5.25-inch bay there will be no room for a DVD so that gap won’t be there. The Cougar Challenger remains shiny and handsome, even with the small gap.

Lights out! Through the front filter comes a soft red glow, as if there is a coal fire in there. If you look carefully, you can see on each side the blue glow my PSU emits when it is running.

Front, Built

Front, Built

Night Shot

Night Shot

Conclusion

Sometimes you find something you like. You might start out not expecting much. The case looks like it’s done a face-plant, a hard face plant. It has unnecessary gewgaws around the front and top of the case, and it’s not the quietest case I’ve ever heard. Then it begins to dawn on you that this is a darned good case. The Cougar Challenger is easy to like. It grows on you.

The Challenger is also an easy case to work in. Cougar has gone to great lengths to make building in this case an enjoyable experience. The Cougar engineers have added lots of tiny touches to ease your efforts. They didn’t waste money adding stuff that would add to the cost of the case without adding value.

The case is packed to avoid damage. The shiny soft plastic parts are covered with sheets that resist all but the most egregious slices. We can pop a SATA unit on top for quick data swaps or backups. The filters are held on by magnets for easy removal and cleaning. The thumbscrews at the back center themselves. All this is on the outside of the case.

Delving inside we find more little things that make our job easy enough that it hardly seems like work. For example, I loved the way the center pin held the motherboard for me. And not having to fuss with standoffs was a major plus. The huge motherboard tray CPU window is one of those things that make you ask why other case makers don’t do this. You don’t have to worry if your CPU heatsink backplate will clear the edges of the CPU window. It simply will.

The way the motherboard tray joins the frame does away, in one stroke, with a variety of complicated motherboard tray attachments. This takes away a lot of moments where I have cursed at other cases. I’m sure it cost them less to build it this way, which holds down the price of the case.

To make an air cooler’s delight with this case, we would need to use an external DVD drive. Then a 140 mm fan fits in the 5.25-inch bay. But we also have places for top, bottom and side fans, all 120 mm or 140 mm (I recommend the latter for case fans). However, if you want to use the top positions for intake fans, you will have nowhere to hide your filters. So, the Challenger does have some limits to its flexibility. I would also recommend getting an IO/card-reader for the 3.5-inch slot. You can get one of the older USB2 socket models, since the case has its own USB3 sockets.

For you water coolers out there, it looks like you should be able to fit a 240 mm rad under the top of the case, and a 120 mm or 140 mm rad on the bottom.

Putting in the PSU and the DVD could not have been easier. For the DVD, the automatic clip is the slickest I have ever used.

In summary, the Cougar Challenger is fun. No case is perfect, but when you sum up all the features, little and large, this is a very likeable case.

Pros

  • Thoughtful construction that makes system building easy and fun.
  • Everywhere you look there are helpful touches.
  • Supports up to seven fans, up to six if you use the single front 200 mm red LED fan.
  • The fan filters on the side and bottom stop dust without overly restricting airflow.
  • Even with all the hard drive trays filled, the stock system cools them.
  • There is provision for a front-facing 3.5-inch device, which is a nice place for a USB2 IO/card reader.
  • There is accommodation for oversize graphics cards.
  • There are three trays for 2.5-inch hard drives.
  • At $85.99 the Challenger is appropriately priced.

Cons

  • Only two USB ports in the IO cluster – your choice of USB3 or USB2.
  • The top SATA hot-swap plug is SATA II (3 Gb/s).
  • The space behind the motherboard tray is only 2 cm. While that’s larger than many cases, manufacturers need to provide at least 2.5cm.
  • The filter for the front 200 mm fan is very restrictive, which means the fan must be stronger. This adds noise.
  • Although the Challenger is quiet, it is loud enough that you would not want it on your desk next to your head.

Quirks

  • You can’t really put two 140 mm fans in the front.
  • No hiding place for top fan filters. Since this case already has an elevated top in the front, extending it back would allow a builder to hide filters. This would also allow for fans on top of the metal when the builder is using a thick radiator under the metal.
  • The fan screws are barely long enough, and sometimes not quite long enough. They need to be another 5 mm in length.

Click the stamp for an explanation of what it means

-Ed Hume (ehume)

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Discussion
  1. I do want to point out at the lowly thumbscrew on the Challenger. I noticed as I took the sides of this case on and off that these were the easiest-to-use thumbscrews I had ever used. They made working with the Challenger just a little less work. So, what is the secret? Apparently a little bit of guide on the tip of the screws did the job. Such a little thing, but typical of the Challenger.
    link on the front page doesnt work keeps going back to the front page, but very nice review sir, still no decently cheap case with decent features and a big side window
    Not a pretty thing, but dang its got features and fan setup to make any watercooling guy happy, but the not so pretty part kind of kills it for me.

    But great write up!