Cooler Master is known for creating affordable cases that provide excellent airflow, with the potential for more airflow if you add fans. The N600 is a new Cooler Master case that has a number of promising features. Let us do a deep dive and explore this case.
Features and Specifications
According to Cooler Master’s website:
The N Series stands apart from the competition. It does so with a full array of exciting options that have been designed specifically with cooling performance in mind, especially liquid cooling. Its full mesh front panels and well-ventilated layout provide for a more abundant flow of air throughout the case.
- Front panel and I/O area feature a premium mesh for a modern look
- Dual Super Speed USB 3.0
- 3 designated places for radiators: 240 mm – top, right side, 120 mm – rear
- Both XtraFlo fans are arranged for optimum airflow with support for up to 10 fans
- (KKN1/KKN2: 10 fans, KWN1/KWN2: 9 fans)
- New ODD tool-less design “EZ tray” for quick installation
- Supports up to 5 SSDs (4 in the removable HDD/SSD combo cage, 1 behind the M/B tray) and 7 HDDs
- Supports all high-end graphics cards up to 430 mm / 16.9 inch
- Multiple dust filters (top, right side, bottom) for easy maintenance
With the upper HD bay sidewalls set for 3.5-inch drives, there is room for 320 mm/12.6-inch Graphics cards.
A comprehensive downloadable product “sheet” is here.
|Cooler Master N600 Specifications|
NSE-600-KWN1 (W/Window Side Panel)
|Material||Polymer, mesh front bezel|
|Dimension||207 x 455 x 520 mm / 8.1 x 17.9 x 18.9 inch|
|Weight||8.1 kg / 17.8 lbs (net)|
|M/B Type||microATX, ATX|
|5.25″ Drive Bay||3 (exposed, with new tool-less design “EZ Tray”)|
|3.5″ Drive Bay||7 (hidden)|
|2.5″ Drive Bay||5 (hidden; 4 in the SSD cage, 1 behind the M/B tray)|
|I/O Panel||USB 3.0 x 2, USB 2.0 x 2, Audio In & Out (supports AC97 / HD Audio)|
|Cooling System||Top: 120/140mm fan x 2 (optional)Front: 120mm fan x 2 (one white LED XtraFlo installed, one optional), or 140mm fan x 1 (optional) – for KKN1/KWN1; with no LED XtraFlo – KKN2/KWN2Rear: 120mm XtraFlo fan (no LED) x 1 (installed)Left Side: 120mm fan x 2 or 180/200mm fan x 1 (optional) – for KKN1/KKN2 onlyRight Side: 120mm fan x 1 (optional)Bottom: 120mm fan x 1 (optional)HDD cage: 120mm fan x 1 (optional)|
|Power Supply||Standard ATX PS2 (optional)|
|Maximum Compatibility||VGA card length: 430mm / 16.9 inch
CPU cooler height: 167mm / 6.6 inch
|UPC Code||NSE-600-KKN2: 884102023729
Tour of the Cooler Master N600
The N600 comes to us in a standard carton with a picture of the case on the front and a set of pictures on the back that illustrate its various features.
Opening the carton reveals the case is bagged and capped with Styrofoam on top and bottom.
Inside the bag the case is further protected with sticky plastic on the sensitive rim of the front panel and on the window, inside and out. Cooler Master clearly wants you to have a pristine experience.
The picture on the right shows the right side of the N600. You can see there is a filter behind the cover lattice, fastened to the cover with tabs. In the second picture, with the protective layer pulled off, you can see the inner plastic through the left-side window.
The left picture shows the bottom of the case, with its pull-back filter. More about that later.
The middle picture shows the rear of the case. From the top, the two-position switch governs the speed of the front fans. Inside, there are sockets for two fans, so that up to two front 120 mm fans can be set to high or low speed. Next to the switch are a pair of grommets for you waterheads to play with. Below those is a fixed-speed 120 mm exhaust fan. The grill is not as restrictive as some grills, but more restrictive than the N600’s bottom and front grills. There are seven blank slot covers with an eighth next to the left panel, which runs parallel to the motherboard. This would be useful for some slot-mounted hardware such as fan controllers that do not interface with the motherboard. Finally, we can see the hole for a bottom-mounted PSU.
Note the little slot to the right of the PSU hole in the picture. The accessories include a theft-prevention metal loop you can mount there. Cooler Master politely leaves it off for the majority of N600 users who will not be taking the case to LAN parties. Yet they include the option for those who do. A nice touch.
In the right picture we have a preliminary view of the top of the case. We will revisit the filter that is fastened underneath.
Wrapping up our outside tour of the Cooler Master N600, we return to the front of the case. We can see daylight through the 5.25-inch slot covers. The steel lattice is backed with fine mesh, making the slot covers potentially into filters. If you wish to forego having a DVD or other ODD – there are nice USB external DVD units available – there is room for a 140 mm fan in the 5.25-inch bay (some room at the top beyond the standard three slots means a 140mm fan will go there), so you can mount an intake fan with a straight shot to your heatsink. Below that, in the normal intake area there are provisions for two 120 mm fans, or a single 140 mm fan. Next to the upper fan space the IO cluster includes two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports. This is good because if you have wireless items like a mouse and a keyboard, their signal may not reach to a rear USB port. Yet you don’t need more bandwidth than USB 2.0 for mice and keyboards. So, you can populate those ports and still leave the USB 3.0 ports open for your USB 3.0 flash drives. With so many cases providing only two USB 3.0 ports and no USB 2.0 ports, this is a much-appreciated decision by Cooler Master. Additionally, below the IO cluster is a button for toggling the front fan’s LED’s off and on.
Popping off the front cover we can see that nothing attaches to it. You can put it somewhere while you are working in the case. The fine mesh filter – the same material used in all the filters – is visible on the back of the cover. Looking through the 5.25-inch bay in the main body you can see the top filter sagging a little. In front, we have the same relatively open grill as on the bottom. However, since the front panel covers the front of the case, there is no need for any grill here at all. Note that the screw holes show positions for two 120 mm fans, or three positions for a single 140 mm fan. Peering through the grill you can make out the moderately restrictive right wall of the upper hard drive cage. Why would you separate the air windows on that cage? In the bottom – still peering through the grill – you can see how open the lower HD bay is. No obstruction to airflow for any drives you put there once you get past the front grill.
Opening up the Cooler Master N600
Let’s take off the side panel and have a look at the Cooler Master N600. This oblique bare-bones view gives you a perspective on this case. For example, we can see that Cooler Master is using the swerved fan blades from its successful Blade Master fan series for both the exhaust and the intake. CM calls these “XtraFlo fans.” The rear fan can hook up to a Molex connector from your PSU, or it can hook up with a three-pin fan plug. You can see the left side of the upper hard drive cage in this view. If you look carefully you can see two of the screw holes for mounting a 120 mm fan there. Given the restrictive nature of the upper HD cage, if you put any drives there you would probably want to put a mid-case fan on that left HD cage wall.
Now we are ready for the motherboard cavity, the main open space in a case. Starting at the left side, you can see that the rear exhaust fan has a three-pin plug that goes into the socket of a Molex adapter. If you can plug your exhaust fan into a three-pin socket or header elsewhere, you will have an extra Molex fan adapter to use somewhere. In the upper left corner is a hole in the motherboard tray. It has some wires for the rear-mounted fan switch, but its main job is to provide an opening for the CPU power plug (EPS12V) to pass through. It barely does that, but you must fight with it a bit; thankfully it is not a job you are likely to do more than once. Also, the edges of the hole are hemmed – the steel is folded back on itself – so you won’t cut your fingers or any wire. Next we see a wide CPU window. It certainly looks large enough. Above and below the CPU window we see two pre-installed spacers. These spacers come with lips that partly enter the screw holes of the motherboard to help you position it before inserting your screws. A nice touch. It certainly makes motherboard installation a lot easier.
The 5.25-inch bay has tool-free locks for your ODD’s. The upper HD cage below that comes by default set for 2.5-inch drives. Actually, it comes with the accessory box nestled in there. Because the sides are removable, you can set it for 3.5-inch drives (note the additional screw positions) or remove it entirely (this improves airflow).
The bottom of the case has a provision in the middle for a 120 mm fan, and there are shallow rubber pads for the PSU.
Behind the upper HD cage is a round opening for a 120 mm fan to cool any hard drives in the upper HD cage. Between the mounting and the HD cage there is enough room for a 240 mm radiator and its fans. This is an excellent place for a rad. Hats off to Cooler Master. One nice thing about that upper HD cage is that you can mount your drives with the wires in either direction. Between the fan/rad mount, the drive width choices, and the drive bidirectional capability, you can have significant flexibility.
The N600 has bog-standard plugs for Power LED’s, Reset and Power switches, USB 2.0 twin-port plug, HD Audio plug (with AC’97 takeoff; does anybody still use those?) and a USB 3.0 twin-port plug. They are spread out on part of the single-sheet users guide.
On the right side of the N600, behind the motherboard tray, you can see that the right side of the 5.25-inch bay has nothing on it – no tool-free clips. Instead, the list of parts on the users guide tells us that some of screws are used to “Lock ODD.” Next we come to the first of three large grommets that fit on the motherboard tray. The edges of the tray are hemmed, so if you pull the grommets off neither the wires nor your fingers will get cut. The CPU window you have already seen. There are at least ten tie-down positions. The fingers for an SSD allow you to fasten one with two screws – two points stick into one side’s screw holes to stabilize the drive while you put in its screws. If you take off the fan frame to put a fan in it, you will discover it has tabs that go into slots at the front of the case, holding it in place while you fumble with screws. This attention to detail makes the N600 easier to work in than a lot of other cases.
Behind the motherboard tray we only have about 17 mm – less than 3/4 inches – to run cables. With a flat right side panel, this means you must take care in routing those cables.
Inside the right cover is the fine mesh filter, held on with four tabs. But don’t look just at the filter. Notice the open hinge on the front edge that will allow you to put the panel on without having to insert it into clasps. Notice also the shelf along the bottom to hold the panel while you slide it forward to engage the dogs that hold it down. A similar shelf on top keeps your panel in line.
The right photo shows you a close-up of the right side filter.
Another look at a panel edge, this time the left panel. It is remarkable what this little feature does to make working in the N600 a lot easier. As a bonus, you can see the inner layer of protective plastic on the window.
This image shows the bottom with its fine mesh bottom filter removed. We can see several things. First, the filter covers the PSU air intake and a bottom-mounted case fan, if the user mounts one. The filter pulls straight out the back. Sadly, you must pull your whole computer forward to extract the filter from behind. There is no provision for leaving the case in place and pulling the bottom filter out the front. But the filter has enough structure to hold itself together without so much structure that airflow would be restricted — a nice balance.
The grills for the PSU and bottom fan are comparatively open. Air will pass through them more freely than through normal grills. I have man-handled this case with systems in it, and I can report to you that these seemingly skimpy grills are nonetheless strong enough to take normal handling.
The top filter should look familiar by now. Same fine mesh, different dimensions.
A topside view makes it clear that the fan positions are set for radiators. You can put a 240 mm rad or a 280 mm rad there. If you forego rads, you can put one or two 120 mm fans up top; alternatively you can put one or two 140 mm fans there. The filter you can leave under the top or put it on the top – it attaches to the case with little tabs. The nice thing about a top filter is that some users like to feed their heatsinks cool air. And the closest place to get unheated air is from the top of the case. So a top intake is called for, and the N600 can deliver it. Not many cases come with top air filters. Cooler Master should be applauded for supplying this feature.
Finally, our tour ends with a look at the accessories and the users “manual.” The accessories box contains two bundles of hard drive rails – a bundle of right rails and a bundle of left rails. They pop easily onto 3.5-inch HDs. You must use screws to fasten them onto 2.5-inch drives. The screw bag contains a variety of short screws, ten standoffs, some long screws, a standoff socket (allows you to screw in a standoff with a Phillips screwdriver), and the aforementioned Lock Buckle, along with a special screw for it alone. The collection is polished off with a decent number of six-inch zipties and a “Buzzer” – older users would call it a PC speaker. You don’t often see cases including those any more. Behind the accessories, the sides of the upper HD cage have been removed and are leaning against the lower HD cage.
The “Manual” is a large two-sided sheet that comes in twenty languages. Twenty! One side gives you the specs (you learn that the only the available color, for example, is Midnight Black), diagrams of parts, their names, how many are in the bag, and what they are used for. The other side gives you diagrammatic instructions on how to install gear in the case. You learn, for example, that while a top radiator goes inside the top of the case, it’s fans go outside, on top of the case. It is all very comprehensive. It is also online.
Now that we have completed our tour of the Cooler Master N600, there is one important point to observe. Every filter on this case – all four of them – can be reached from the outside. Every single filter can be cleaned with a common vacuum cleaner. If you live in a dusty environment, that single feature could mean the difference between an easy or a difficult case to live with (but if you live in a place given to static electricity, best avoid a vacuum cleaner).
Cooler Master says of the N600, “Its full mesh front panels and well-ventilated layout provide for a more abundant flow of air throughout the case.” This is indeed true. Another aspect to note: the front filter is 4.5 by 11 inches (11 x 28 cm), or 308 cm2 (49.5 square inches). Two 120 mm fans have a swept area of 207 cm2 (32 square inches). What this means is that the filter area is about 50% larger than the area swept by fan blades. The fans don’t have to work as hard to pull air through the filter as they would if the filter was the size of the fans. So, the front fans will be less noisy. Also, you have nearly an inch (2+ cm) behind the filter to play with. For example, you might want to put some LED’s in there.
This was a good design choice by Cooler Master for several reasons. They don’t market this feature. They should.
Building a System in the Cooler Master N600
Building a System in the Cooler Master N600 is actually a pretty easy task. The hardest things you have to do are getting the EPS12V plug through the little hole above the motherboard and deciding what you want to put inside the case. We will start with a basic build, using your typical components – motherboard and contents, PSU – with an SSD and a 2.5-inch hard drive from a laptop in the upper HD cage.
Lower down, we can see that the case wires are plenty long enough to go behind the motherboard tray, pass through the PSU’s grommet, wrap around and go up to reach their sockets. That cleans up airflow. You can also see a 3.5-inch HD mounted in its bay where it can get the full output of a lower 120 mm fan. Here, the SATA III data cable loops through the PSU grommet before looping back through the hemmed pass-through and reaching its place on the motherboard.
The right picture shows the right side. It’s a little messy because the case cables are still in their original bundle, and the rear switch adds a mess of wires. The surprise comes when you look at the heatsink bracket. It doesn’t quite fit the CPU window. You can see the motherboard standoffs; they are the gold dots on the motherboard tray. The CPU window could have extended lower, closer to the second row of standoffs. That would have given heatsink brackets room to go on and off the motherboard freely while it is in the case. As it is now, you must extract the screws first, while holding the bracket so it won’t fall. It’s a minor annoyance, but it is an annoyance.
Here’s another surprising note: the panels fit on easily. With many cases, to get the panels to close properly you either need four or five hands, or you need to lay the case down and let gravity help you slide the panels in place. With the N600 the panels rested on those lips we saw and slid into position effortlessly; no gravity assist necessary, no extra hands needed. Even in the back, where I thought my ATX 24-pin cable would cause a problem, the panel went on without a glitch. I was and remain impressed.
Back in the motherboard cavity, here is what 2.5-inch drives look like, installed. Note that their wires could, as here, go to the right side of the case. Or they could have come out the side facing the camera, the left side of the case.
Now let’s put a fan on the side. For purposes of illustration we will use a Cooler Master Sickleflow fan.
It is time to test this rig. The setup you see below is the system I have moved from case to case to see how hot the cases would let their contents get, and how much noise they made in the process. What this system did was to let air flow through the system and carry off the heat from the NH-D14’s fins. Each test was run 60 minutes. When the system reached a stable temperature, that was averaged to calculate net temperatures — HD, GPU and CPU temps minus ambient temperature (measured outside the case). The backplane slots were kept covered, which is how the N600 is delivered. Note also that the test used only the stock fans; no side fans or others were added for these tests.
|CPU||Intel i7 860 HT enabled, LLC enabled; ran at stock 2.8 GHz|
|Motherboard||GA-P55A-UD3P; supplied 1.1125 Volts to the CPU.|
|RAM||4 x 2 GB G.Skill Ripjaws DDR3-1600 at 10x (1333 MHz)|
|Graphics Card||PowerColor AX3450 Radeon HD 3450 (fanless)|
|Solid State Drive||Kingston SSDNow V+100 64 GB|
|Hard Drive||Toshiba DT01ACA100 1TB 7200 rpm SATA3|
|Power Supply||SeaSonic X750 (fan mostly doesn’t run) 750 Watts|
|Heatsink||Fanless NH-D14, with Gelid GC-Extreme TIM|
|Stress Software||OCCT 3.10; logs temperature readings|
|SSD Software||CPUID HWMonitor; keeps track of max temperature readings|
|Tenma 72-942 Sound Pressure Level Meter|
|Digital TEMPer USB Thermometer with dedicated logging software|
The SPL (Sound Pressure Level) readings were taken at 10 cm diagonally from the front left corner. A 20 dB adjustment was made to make the SPL reading comparable to that at 1 meter.
Results of Testing
The N600 has a switch that can set the front fans to Low or High, so this case was tested that way. When the fans were on High, the setup was designated H. With the fan at its fixed speed in back and set Low in front, the setup was designated M. Unfortunately, the SSD was not reporting its temperature, but the hard drive was kept nice and cool by its position in the middle of the front fan’s airflow.
Next, we’ll look at how well the N600 cooled a passive GPU and the CPU sporting a big passive heatsink. The noise it made was fairly average. The CPU wasn’t bad, and the GPU was kept reasonably cool. So, with a mere two 120 mm fans, the N600 was about average in the sound pressure level it produced, and how well it cooled the GPU and CPU.
But those fans have to go. They click, whether set to High or Low. You can hear each of them clicking. If you buy this case, you will need new fans.
We have seen a build and tested it. However, there is space for more fans. The left picture shows a CM Sickleflow ready to blow into the upper HD bay.
We could put another fan on the left side of that upper HD cage. The second picture shows the 120 mm exhaust fan from the N600 mounted on the detached sidewall. You use long screws from the accessories bag. Additionally, I tried some 140 mm fans there – a couple that come with standard screw holes for 120 mm fans. A TY-140 just does fit comfortably. The NF-P14 has some small side ribs that press against the end – the bottom of the picture. You have to force that fan a little bit, but it goes.
After working in this case, I decided to explore its possibilities by building a Haswell system in the N600. From the right side, you can see that with the case cables unbundled, they can be rebundled more neatly than before. The tie-down points certainly help with cable routing.
This rig has two 900-rpm front fans. There is a PWM side fan and a PWM mid-case fan to blow air across the chipset, with the speed signal responding to chipset temps. Note that the mid-case fan has been suspended with zipties. This arrangement does away with obstructions to airflow that would be caused by any HD cage. The screw holes for the upper HD cage’s left side provide anchor points for the zipties that hold the fan. There is another PWM fan (not in these pictures) set as top intake to feed the heatsink. The top fan is on a PWM Y-cable with the heatsink push fan.
Behind the front panel there is room for a pair of LED holders to light up the non-LED front fans.
The Cooler Master N600 is a pretty nice case. It is handsome, well-built and designed with much care. In the front, for example, there are four USB ports, two each of USB 2.0 and USB 3.0. Since most modern motherboards ship with both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, the N600 allows you to connect them all up. That means your wireless gear has a shorter, line-of-sight transmission path, which can make a big difference in a radio-noisy environment. And because the two USB 2.0 ports can serve a mouse and a keyboard, you have the USB 3.0 ports available for faster gear.
The face of the case is square to the body, opening up the maximum surface area for its front filter. That means your front fans can run very quiet, if you like a quiet rig. Because all the IO – not only the USB ports but the microphone and headphone jacks as well – are mounted on the front panel, you can put this case under a shelf.
The N600 was easy to work in, with the exception of that EPS12V opening. Why were they so stingy with that? Just another half centimeter would have turned an irritating job into an easy one. But other things were easy: the side rails were a cinch to slap on the sides of 3.5-inch drives – the pins did not bind going into the hard drives. The rails had to be fastened with screws (in the bag) on 2.5-inch drives, though. The tool-free ODD clips worked easily, but they were only on one side. You would need thumbscrews (again, in the bag) to clamp in your DVD and whatever 5.25-inch accessories you are using. In essence, a number of potentially annoying tasks were made easy, without Cooler Master having to indulge in more costly options and having to raise the price.
The N600 has mounting points for ten fans, if you choose to use them. Cooler Master says you can mount a 240 mm radiator on the side, a 280 mm or a 240 mm rad on the top, and a 120 mm rad on the back. I’m thinking you might be able to put another 120 mm rad in that mid-case position.
Such is the flexibility of this case you can do lots of things. You can put one or two 120 mm or 140 mm fans under the top and run them as exhaust or intake – Cooler Master provides you a filter for every fan position that contacts the outside. There is even a version of the N600 that replaces the window with two fan positions so you can lavage your graphics card(s) with fresh air.
Speaking of fresh air, because all of the filters on this case are accessible from the outside, you can clean the dust off by taking a few seconds to run a vacuum over it. It is so easy to clean you will clean it often.
As I worked on this case, I was thinking $100-$110. I was surprised to find the non-windowed N600 online for $80 (here and here). The N600 with a side window so far appears online for just under $90 (here).
- Handsome design.
- Excellent workmanship throughout.
- Not any bigger than it needs to be.
- Filters on the surface for convenient cleaning.
- Front-mounted IO panel.
- Front filter is 50% larger than front fans, making for a quieter intake face.
- Two USB2 as well as two USB3 ports on the front panel.
- Delightful flexibility in fan placement.
- Designed to accommodate radiators.
- Two pre-installed spacers that help you install your motherboard.
- All openings in the motherboard tray are hemmed to avoid cutting hands or chafing cables.
- Side panels are easy to install.
- Hard drives are easy to install.
- Fun to play in.
- Stock fans click, not usable. You will need to buy fans separately.
- The EPS12V opening is small enough that getting the CPU power plug through it is irritating.
- Remove the front and rear grills. The front grill is hidden behind the front filter, so it isn’t needed. With the rear grill gone a builder might wish to eschew a rear fan entirely and let air flow out silently.
- A USB 3.0 SD card reader in the IO cluster. Of course, that would make the case a bit more expensive.
-Ed Hume (ehume)