CoolerMaster sent us a couple of boxes recently, one of them contained the excellent Silent Pro Hybrid power supply I reviewed recently, the other one was a far larger box containing the subject of this review – a shiny new Cosmos II Ultra Tower case!
You may find yourself saying “ultra tower?”, I certainly would have said that if I hadn’t seen the box before I had read the ultra tower bit. To say this box is big is like saying that it’s cold in Antarctica. It’s a factual statement, but just a bit of an understatement. To really do it justice you have to see it in person, but until you do that the numbers will have to tide you over.
The box is 15.5 inches wide, 28.75 inches long and stands 30.4 inches tall. There was either a staggering amount of protective foam inside the box, or a normal full tower could fit inside the Cosmos II! In a bit we’ll crack the box open and check things out, but first let’s look at the specifications and features, copied directly from Cooler Master’s web site.
Features and Specifications
The COSMOS II Ultra Tower features a streamlined design accentuated by a pair of distinctive handles like no other. The smooth, brushed aluminum touch of the side panels unlock and swing open like the doors of a luxurious race-car.Hidden behind the front slide cover lies a stack of hot-swappable drive bays. The black interiors provide enough space for oversized XL-ATX System Boards equipped with 4 double width graphics accelerators. A second slide cover on top hides the Advanced Control Panel to manage up to 10 fans and their respective LED lights. The combination of its elegant looks, numerous expansion options and features make the COSMOS II a “Dream Case”.
I wasn’t aware that race cars were luxurious: the only ones I’ve encountered have been rather uncomfortable and staggeringly short on luxury features, but their meaning is clear enough.
- Stylish and streamlined race-car inspired design
- Brushed aluminum and steel for strength and elegance
- Airflow Optimized Design
- Supports up to 10 fans and 13 HDDs (2 from X-dock)
- Supports 4 Way SLI/CF
- Supports XL-ATX / SSI CEB / SSI EEB boards
- Advanced Control Panel includes 4 channel fan speed control
- Rich I/O support: USB 3.0 x 2, USB 2.0 x 4, e-SATA x 1, Audio In and Out
- Source: coolermaster.com
There are lots of fan placement possibilities. It would have been nice if it had came with fans in more of the places that they can be installed, but those supplied should be enough to keep most hardware cool. The rest of the features list looks quite nice: there’s a huge cutout for installing heatsink backplates, lots of big cable management openings and enough room for more hard drives than I’ve ever owned at one time! I’m particularly interested in the fan controller, which I have managed to remove and test separately.
|Available Color||Midnight Black|
|Material||Exterior: Aluminum, Mesh, Synthetics;|
Interior: Steel-Alloy, Synthetics, Rubber
|Dimension (W / H / D)||344 x 704 x 664 mm / 13.5 x 27.7 x 26.1 inch|
|Weight||22 kg / 48.5 lb|
|M/B Type||Micro-ATX, ATX, E-ATX, XL-ATX, SSI CEB, SSI EEB|
|5.25″ Drive Bay||3|
|3.5″ Drive Bay||13 (2 from X-docking with key locks, 5 HDDs in the Middle cage, 6 HDDs in the bottom cage)|
|I/O Panel||USB 3.0 x 2, USB 2.0 x 4, e-SATA x 1, Audio In and Out|
|Cooling System||Front: 200mm LED fan x 1, 700 RPM, 19 dBA(converted from 120/140mm x 1)|
Top: 120mm black fan x 1, 1200 RPM, 17 dBA
(200mm fan x 1 / 140mm fan x 2 / 120mm fan x 3)
Rear: 140mm fan x 1, 1200 RPM, 19 dBA
Side: 120mm fan x 2 (optional)
HDD: Mid.HDD: 120x25mm fan x 1 (optional); Bottom HDD: 120mm fan x 2, 1200 RPM, 17 dBA
|Power Supply||ATX PS2 / EPS 12V (optional)|
|2.5″/3.5″- SATA HDD Drive Bay||11 (converted from 3.5″ cages)|
|Maximum Compatibility||CPU cooler height: 190mm / 7.48 inch|
VGA card length: 385mm / 15.15 inch
I was surprised that there were only three 5.25″ drive bays. I suppose most people don’t use more than one, now that the days of multiple CD-R drives are long gone. Plus, if you want to have room for thirteen 3.5″ drives you’ll need to make some sacrifices somewhere. Still, it’s surprising to me. It’s nice that the case comes with a pair of fans for the lower HDD cage. According to the official specifications, all the included fans should be nice and quiet even without a fan controller. I really like that CoolerMaster specified the maximum CPU cooler height and GPU length, as trying to guess or measure correctly before buying a GPU or a CPU cooler is a pain. Lastly, check out the weight: 48.5 pounds. They’re serious about this case, I love it! It’s definitely not lightweight. Lugging it up the stairs to my house took some doing. This implied very solid construction though, which is a major plus.
If you want any color other than midnight black, tough. I don’t think it would look nearly as good in a different color anyway, though.
Okay, that does it for features and specifications, now to open the actual box and see the Cosmos II in the flesh!
The Box, The Packaging
The box got a bit beaten up in the shipping process. Cooler Master wrapped it in an extra layer of cardboard and gave it to UPS to bring to me. At some point after that it suffered a fall, so we’ll get to see how well Cooler Master’s packaging worked protecting the Cosmos II.
The above pictures don’t really capture the size of the box. I think I could actually fit in the box! The packaging looks pretty standard from the top. Upon pouring the case out of the box (tip: flip it upside down and lift the box off the case. It’s far easier that way.) I found the case in a large bag with foam on both ends, and the exposed rails on the top and bottom of the case wrapped in thin foam. With all that removed, I was finally able to look at the case.
The Case Exterior
We’ll start from the front and work our way around, then finish off with some glamor shots of the case from other angles.
As you can see above there is a sliding door that covers the three 5.25″ bays as well as the two locking 3.5″ hotswap bays. When the door is open it blocks most of the front vent, though only about half of the fan that comes installed in the front. I haven’t noticed any temperature differences with it open or closed. Up at the top are the front panel ports, of which there are many. You get two USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port and headphone/microphone jacks, but no Firewire ports. I can’t say I’ve ever used a Firewire port but it’s nice to have the option. Also at the top is a sliding panel that covers the buttons; we’ll discuss the buttons in more detail later on.
Next we’ll flip the case over and check out the bottom. As a side note, the rails along the top and the bottom of the case make it far easier to pick up, carry around, lay down or flip over. I rather enjoy the look as well, I wouldn’t call it a racecar look like CoolerMaster does – it looks more like a spaceship to me. Spaceships have a higher awesome factor than a racecar does anyway.
The PSU intake filter is the only one of the filters that pulls out rather than coming off with a panel, but unfortunately I don’t think CoolerMaster did quite enough stress testing on it as the very first thing I did was crack the handle trying to get it to pull out! It looks like the plastic injection process left a fault line through the middle of the plastic panel, which cracked when I pulled on it. Functionally it doesn’t hurt anything, but I was a bit miffed. You can see the crack in the right hand picture. Be gentle with it!
As long as I’m pulling filters off and looking at fans and such, I figure I ought to do the same to the front fan and filter!
I’m not certain how you’re supposed to clean the filter material if you don’t have access to high pressure air, I suppose running water would work. You can’t use a brush or similar things because of the hexagonal mesh in front of the filter mesh. Removing the filter is extremely easy, grab the bottom part and pull. Reinstalling it took a bit of fumbling the first time, but nothing serious. With a bit of practice it’d probably take a couple seconds at most.
We’re almost done with our tour of the external bits, the rear of the case and the door functions are all that are left.
The doors themselves are quite solid, they’re mounted on hinges via some slide pins. To remove the door entirely you open it and then lift and it comes off easily. To my surprise, putting the door back on the hinge is quite easy as well, Cooler Master did an excellent job here. By this point we’ve seen the entire case and it is free from damage. Cooler Master’s packaging did it’s job well and protected the case during whatever incident crumpled one of the corners of the box.
Lastly we have some photos of the case as a whole from a variety of angles, the straight on shots above don’t really capture the impact the Cosmos II makes very well.
The Case Interior
With the doors open and removed we can see the guts of the case. We’ve already seen the rear, so here is the front (or whatever you would like the call the area you install the motherboard into).
Do you think there are enough wires? The twisted wires are all fan controller or LED controller output wires, then there is a SATA cable from the front eSATA connector, a USB 3.0 wire, two USB 2.0 wires, and each of the hotswap bays have a Molex power wire and a SATA cable, plus of course the internal fans have their cables hanging around too!
We start our tour of the insides of the case with the drive bays. There are three different types of drive bays in three different places; starting at the top: we already saw the front of the 5.25″ and locking hotswap 3.5″ bays, so lets look inside them. Starting with the front 5.25″ bays, once the front door has been slid down you have access to the bays, at that point you can hook a finger in the latch on each bay cover and pull, that will unlatch the cover as well as open it and remove it from the case. It’s a nice system. At that point you can push the Cooler Master logo buttons on the side of the bays to retract the locking pins, then push the button again to re-engage the pins.
This is easily my favorite latching mechanism for 5.25″ bays. It beats rails, it beats knobs on removable locks, it beats a lever you swing back and forth, it beats everything!
Heading down a bit we get to the locking hotswap bays, like the 5.25″ bays these do not use rails or any sort of cartridge for the drive, once you use one of the four included keys to unlock the bay it opens much like the 5.25″ bays do, though this cover stays attached. Once it’s open, slide the HDD in as far as you can and then close the cover. Presto! Drive installed.
To remove the drive just open the cover, it is attached to a lever at the rear of the bay that pushes the drive out. It’s a nice system, but it does mean that only 3.5″ HDDs can be used in the hotswap bays, 2.5″ drives such as SSDs will not fit. Note that your SATA controllers have to be set to AHCI mode for hotswap to function.
Now that we’ve seen the externally accessible drive bays (and my younger son’s rather awesome bulldozer in the background), we’ll move on to the internal 3.5″ bays. All of the internal bays use the same trays, they use small rubber grommets with a metal pin to hold the HDD to the tray, and then the tray slides in and latches via the cover. Getting a drive into the tray is on the annoying end of things, but it’s worth it as once the drive is in the tray installing or removing the drive from the case is a snap.
The lower bays are extremely similar, though they hide behind two fans mounted to a hinged door. The door is easily removable: to do so you open it all the way and then lift gently and out it comes.
As long as we’re looking at the lower HDD bay fans, let’s check the rest out as well. We already saw the hub of the top fan as well as the front fan, so here is the view into the upper rear corner of the case, where we can see the 120 mm top fan as well as the 140 mm rear fan.
The top fans can be mounted inside the case or outside the case, which allows you to install a slim 120 or 240 mm radiator on the top of the case on the inside and put the fans on the outside. Alternatively, it looks like it might be possible to install a 360 mm radiator on the outside of the case at the top. I don’t have one to test this with though, so I cannot guarantee this.
The Fan Controller
The fan controller’s buttons are built into the same panel as the power and reset buttons, and the whole operation is covered by a sliding door on the top of the case.
As you can see, you get a nice big square power button, one button for each fan channel, one button to control the LEDs and lastly a reset button. Each of the fan control buttons and the LED button have LEDs next to them, the LED control button lights the LED blue when the LEDs it controls are turned on and turns the LED off when the controlled LEDs are off. The fan control LEDs are snazzier: the fan controller has three speeds and the LEDs change color to indicate those speeds. Low is blue, high is red and medium is purple (both the red and the blue LEDs lit, depending on how your eyes and brain are wired it may look purple or it may look like red and blue next to each other). My camera believes the purple to be white, or at least that’s how it appears in the pictures!
Being the sort of person I am I decided to pull the fan controller out and see how it was made and what flavor of controller it uses.
The rectangular chip is the brains of the operation, unfortunately it has absolutely no markings, so I have no idea what sort of brain it is. The control setup is quite interesting in that it is neither straight PWM nor a buck controller type voltage regulator (note the lack of inductors; no inductor, no buck regulator). In the interest of figuring out what method it does use I hooked my oscilloscope up to the output with a fan hooked up as a load, the following picture is a graph of the voltage delivered to the fan, each line vertically is two volts and each line horizontally is 10 milliseconds.
For starters we see that this is pulsing the voltage at a very low frequency, around 14 Hz or so. Beyond that it looks like the control chip feeds some voltage to a transistor that fills a capacitor and that capacitor in turn feeds voltage and current to a second transistor that controls the fan itself, as the capacitor drains out the second transistor lets less current/voltage through and the fan doesn’t get as much. It’s a rather interesting method and much cheaper to design and build than a buck regulator, while still capable of delivering the full 12 V when set to full, unlike a linear regulator setup.
The only real issue with this setup is that some fans will make a noise every time the voltage pulses. When set to full speed the controller doesn’t pulse the output voltage, so of course the noise goes away entirely. Both medium and low speeds require the voltage to be pulsed and hence can cause fans to make noise. Of the included fans only the rear fan makes noise; the top fan, the front fan and the two lower HDD bay fans make no noise on medium or low speed settings beyond airflow noise.
Other than that noise from the rear fans, all the fans are very quiet on low, and still quite quiet on medium. On high they ramp up and make more noise, but nothing offensive and no mechanical noises. Unfortunately one of the two SMD chips that are paired up for each channel is marked only with A79T, which I cannot find any data on at all. The other chip’s markings decode to a fairly standard NPN transistor with 0.2 A maximum capacity. Because I don’t know what the other chip is exactly, the above description of the fan controller is my best guess, rather than known fact.
The fan controller is rated for a maximum of one Amp per channel, not one Amp per connector! Each channel has at least two connectors, and one of them has three connectors. Be sure to add up the power draw of the fans on each channel to avoid letting the magic smoke out of one or more parts of the fan controller; unlike the controller that comes with the Cooler Master Silent Pro Hybrid 1300w PSU there does not appear to be any over-current-protection on this controller.
The Included Accessories
Before we move on to installing the motherboard we need to install the standoffs, they’re in a box that comes inside the case, along with a fair number of other accessories. Let’s check ’em all out.
Four keys, five reusable cable routing ties with double-stick foam on their base, a stack of one time use cable ties, a CPU power cable extender, a piezo buzzer / speaker, two rails of unknown function and a well sized pile of screws and standoffs. Also included is a standoff installation tool, which we’ll talk about in the next section.
I haven’t figured out what the rails are for, there is a mention of a “cross brace” on the web site, but no instructions or pictures. The user manual doesn’t mention them at all. Very mysterious!
The motherboard tray isn’t removable, which is understandable given the cable management holes and grommets. Interestingly, the case comes with two brass standoffs installed, and those two standoffs have a different top bit on them than the other ones, it’s designed to stick up into the motherboard’s mounting holes to align the motherboard. In testing I found that they work very well for that, but that if you aren’t careful it is not hard at all to scratch the back side of the board. The accessory pack comes with an interesting little tool which allows you to use a screwdriver to easily install motherboard standoffs, the pictures below should suffice for instructions.
Once the standoffs are all in place you can stick the rear I/O port cover that comes with your motherboard into the hole in the case and install your motherboard. As you can see in the following picture you won’t have any issues installing an aftermarket cooler that uses a backplate, even if it is a thick backplate and/or you forget to install it till after the motherboard has been installed. The cutout behind the motherboard is huge!
One odd touch is that the expansion slot covers and the cards you install in the slots are held in with thumbscrews rather than a tool-free setup. At first this was annoying to me, but having worked with the case a bit I’ve decided I like the thumbscrew route better. Cooler Master left plenty of room in the area for large thumbs and the cards are very well secured. The major plus in my book is that it’s a straight shot to install a card, while the majority of tool-free systems I’ve worked with either haven’t held the card very well, or you’ve had to sneak the card in across the motherboard, which can tear small surface mount bits off the board if you aren’t careful enough.
Last in the installation section, the PSU. Cooler Master has done something interesting here: there is a removable mounting bracket that you screw your PSU into and then that screws into the case. The PSU can go into the bracket right side up or upside down and the bracket can screw into the case right side up or upside down. Alternatively you can slide the PSU into the bracket without removing it. The bracket supports the PSU very well, but it is a tight fit so if your PSU is wider or taller than normal you may have issues installing it!
Below is my 24/7 build installed and operating in the Cosmos 2, it’s a Cooler Master Silent Pro Hybrid 1300 W PSU, a Gigabyte P67A-UD4 motherboard with an i7 2600K CPU in it; a MSI 6970 GPU rounds the primary hardware out. The 3.5″ HDDs are installed in one of the hotswap bays as well as one of the lower bays and a DVD-RW drive is in one of the 5.25″ bays.
My build almost looks silly inside this case. Even the 6970 looks tiny, despite being almost 11″ long! Even a cable management newbie like myself won’t have any issues with cable management in this case, as there are an incredible number of options and plenty of room between the back of the motherboard tray and the side of the case.
Conclusion and Final Thoughts
My first thoughts upon seeing the UPS guy drop this case off aren’t printable on a site that aims for a PG-13 rating; they’re best translated as “wow, this thing is huge!“, my thoughts haven’t changed much on that aspect: this is a BIG case!
I described it to my friends as having “features on it’s features”, and it really does. I’m going to list the high points and the low points, but this likely won’t be a complete list of all the features.
- To kick things off, there is plenty of room inside this case for pretty much anything, a four processor server board might not fit, but an EVGA SR2 board should fit without any issues at all, and would likely do it even with a 360 x 120mm radiator installed at the top.
- Did I mention there is lots of room? Four very long GPUs will fit without issues as well, plus there are bays for 13 HDDs.
- The stock fans that come with the case have proven to be plenty for my 24/7 build, which is fairly impressive. This case appears to have excellently engineered airflow at stock and you can install five more fans if you feel like it.
- The fan controller functions well, fits in very nicely indeed and can control a fair number of fans if they aren’t screamers. On the down side, some fans will make noise when set at low or medium.
- I love the look of the case; Cooler Master says it’s styled like a luxury racecar, I say it’s styled like a science fiction spaceship. Either way, it looks great.
- The HDD trays and bays work well. Mounting a 3.5″ drive to a tray is a bit finicky, but once mounted getting it in and out of the case is a snap.
- Having spent some time looking around Newegg, I can’t find much that I would put in the same category as the Cosmos II. There are a few Thermaltake and Lian-Li cases in the same basic price range, but neither manufacturer has anything especially similar. This makes it very difficult to gauge the price of this case compared to others. In the extreme-high-end market the Cosmos II is towards the top price wise, but is also right up at the top when it comes to features. I would like it to be a bit cheaper or to have a more advanced fan controller; the included controller works decently, but in a $350 case I’d like to see something snazzier or at least higher capacity.
- The 5.25″ bays are fantastic, and they have the best tool-free mounting system I have run across. Similarly, the 3.5″ locking hotswap bays are very well designed.
- The motherboard tray has a huge cutout. By huge I mean really, really, really big.
- The case is very solidly built; it pays the price for that in weight, but buying an Ultra-ATX case to drag to LAN parties is rather silly if you ask me. Still, if you transport your computer often you may want to look for a smaller and lighter case.
- Cable management is really easy, there are plenty of holes and grommets scattered around the case, as well as lots of room between the back side of the motherboard tray and the door.
To summarize as much as is possible, there are pros:
- Tons of internal space, tall heatsinks and long GPUs will not be an issue.
- Built in fan controller looks great and works well.
- Tons of cable management options.
- Tons of HDD bays.
- Best 5.25″ tool-free mechanism I’ve ever seen.
- Fan filters everywhere, only the rear exhaust fan is filter-free.
- Huge motherboard cutout it very easy to install heatsinks that require backplates even after motherboard installation.
- Doors latch closed nicely and open easily, plus they’re easily removable and reinstallable.
- Plenty of room for long power supplies.
- Rails along the bottom make for fantastic stability, despite the case being quite tall.
As with anything, there are a few cons too:
- Fan controller runs at a fairly low frequency and causes some fans to make noise at low speed settings.
- Quite heavy, while unsurprising it’s still a con.
- Not cheap, current price is $350 on Newegg.
Given the pros and the cons and the staggering features list, as well as the massive grin I notice on my face every time I look at or work with the Cooler Master Cosmos II case, I am giving this case the official Overclockers seal of Approval. This is one hell of a nice case!