I had been in the market for a new Home Theater PC Case, the Criteria, 2 stacked 5.25” bays to accommodate the Antec Veris Multimedia Station premier (http://www.antec.com/Believe_it/product.php?id=NzEy) I got about 6 months back at Micro Center on clearance for $20 (down from the regular MSRP of $100) The other major criteria, be capable of holding a full ATX motherboard, because I intended to recycle my old Core 2 Quad CPU and Asus P5E Deluxe motherboard from my old desktop PC. The idea being this HTPC would be capable of still fitting inside of my Home Theater entertainment center, while still being able to hold a full ATX board… So I really just wanted a Tardis style PC case (bigger on the inside).
My original thought was to purchase a Cooler Master Elite 360 or 361, but this became difficult as the case had been discontinued and was rather expensive to find and get shipped on Amazon or Ebay. I didn’t want to pay over $50 for a case which had an original MSRP of $40. So I started looking at modern (currently stocked) cases.
Two cases I kept coming back to; the Corsair Carbide Air, and the Cooler Master HAF XB. My first frustration with either of these cases was the placement of the Optical media bays, below the motherboard tray. These cases are tall cubes or double wide mid-towers. In the case of the HAF XB, I realized it was better choice for me because the case was meant to be used a desktop configuration, after looking one day at the Carbide Air and noticing the feet placement was designed to have a wide tower case with the Optical media bays side (which is just weird). The HAF XB also being priced slightly cheaper than the Corsair Carbide was also a plus.
The HAF XB was far from perfect though, I don’t really like open air or mesh grill cases, all of that ventilation leads to dust, and in my case; cat hair clinging to the grills. But I did like the HAF XB’s Hot Swap drive bays. I should mention that some of the reviews I have read claimed the hot swap bays have had problems, and I believe Cooler Master has changed the back plane since releasing the case, because my back plane was different than one I had seen in pictured in those reviews; the SATA cable connectors being on the top of the PCB instead of coming straight out the back.
Okay, what else do I like about this case? The removable motherboard tray! I don’t see this feature enough in cases, and it’s really nice in this case. I also like the front dual 120mm/140mm fan mounts, as this leaves some potential for future radiator mounting. The additional drive bays in the bottom rear of the case are nice as well. The version I purchased used the dual 3.5” bays, unlike the HAF XB EVO. which has 4; 2.5” bays. Though ironically I was placing an SSD in that bay, but I still I prefer 3.5” bays (Who is putting 4 SSDs into PCs these days? If you are, I’m jealous).
The Power supply bay is a mixed blessing, on the one hand I like that the cage protrudes from the case to accommodate longer PSUs, but if I’m using the smaller PSU, I should have option to not have it protrude and have it flush inside the side case, perhaps the inclusion of a different cage bracket if they revamp the model? I do however love the anti-vibration foam the PSU rests on, and the under mounted dust filter.
Speaking of protrusions, my major gripe with this case is the top panel that has a raised grill from the top of the case; for some reason this case doesn’t want to just be a box/cube… This protrusion is to accommodate a 200mm fan… Okay so the idea is to have a lot of Air Flow in this case… I should probably mention HAF stands for “High Air Flow”. But I hate 200mm fans; they are just gaudy in my opinion; and I really wish they would have gone with a windowed top… Which Cooler Master does sell for $11.99 (http://www.cmstore-usa.com/haf-xb-transparent-top-window-panel-oem) so I guess I shouldn’t complain… But I’m going to anyways, since the shipping cost on this part from the cooler master store actually exceeds the items itself. And the panel isn’t flat, it still protrudes, and I’m not sure why since there is no fan to mount there, so the panel could have been flat.
I’m not sure how great the cable management in this case is because I don’t really understand how I was to properly manage the cables in my situation. My setup is weird because the Antec Veris panel not only connects to the power supply header, but the on/off switch (and the on/off switch from the front I/O has to connect to it), and a USB port. Also my USB 3.0 header had to connect to PCI USB 3.0 Expansion card; which also required the use of a Molex power tap. I did what I could to keep the cables from obstructing air flow. The case does come with a several mini zip ties, and there are places to use them, but it wasn’t really for me.
I like the case, and the handles on the side panels are a nice touch though, and I do like that it is really easy to remove the top and side panels to get easy access inside the case. The remove-able motherboard tray is awesome, but I wish they would have put some of that same thinking into the power supply cage (why can’t I have a flush mount bracket?). And the top of the case just isn’t for me; I don’t like 200mm fans. The hot swap bays so far haven’t had any issues, and the mesh grill hasn’t been too much of a dust magnet yet. I don’t regret buying the case, but I’m not sure I would recommend it for everyone.
Picture of the completed PC using the HAF XB and the Antec Veris front panel all in my Entertainment center.