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Review: Coolermaster ATCS 201

by David Ross on 28 January 2001, 00:00

Tags: Cooler Master

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qaeh

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Coolermaster ATCS 201

David's review of the ATCS-200 case is where I first saw CoolerMaster's all aluminum case. I convinced my wife to buy one of those cases to house her dual P3 system, and she's averaging processor temperatures of 24°C under load on processors 1, and 26°C on processor 2. (Processor 1 is right next to the case's rear exhaust fan!)

As Xevito finished off in his review: "Summary, this case gets the Hexus.net Case of Cases award, it has nice design and well thought out layout with no sharp edges at all, everyone should have one... but how do you work out the price of it, at the end of the day if your looking for a case this is your one!"

All in all, the ATCS-200 is a very nice case... but the only problem is that a case with only 3 5.25" bays just isn't big enough for my needs (DVD, CD-RW, SB Live!Drive, DigitalDoc (planned)), and I really don't want (or need) a 6 external bay full tower.

Fortunately, Overclockers UK listened to it's customer's requests and got in a supply of the ATCS-201 case.

So, here we are - a review of the CoolerMaster ATCS-201 case.

First off, what is the difference between the 200 and the 201?

Well, both have the same all aluminium construction, but the ATCS-201 has 4 5.25" bays and a pair of front mounted USB ports hidden behind a spring loaded cover. The only downer is that compared to the ATCS-200 you lose two of the internal 3.5" drive bays for the privelige of having the extra 5.25" bay.

As the design of this case is largely based upon the ATCS-200, most of Xevito's comments are valid here, but we'll go over this case in full here (to save you having to bounce between reviews):


CASE SIZE & TECHNICAL SPECS:

Case Form Factor: ATX Mid-Tower.

Cooling: 4 80mm fans (all fitted with grills and standard sized molex connectors), two intake at the front, one rear exhaust and one top blowhole.

Removable motherboard drawer - includes entire backplane, so you can easily fit all your PCI & AGP cards without the mobo in the case.

Case Material: - Aluminium - the whole case pretty much acts as a really big heat sink!

Drive Bays:

  • 4 x 5.25" external bays with aluminium faceplates
  • 2 x 3.5" external bays with aluminium faceplates.
  • 4 x 3.5" internal HDD bays with 2 80mm case fans (with grills) in front of them.

Dimensions: 196mm W, 452mm D, 497mm H

Case Weight: 5kg (empty)


BUILD QUALITY & APPEARANCE:

Build quality is absolutely SUPERB - no sharp edges at all, unlike my old PC case where fitting RAM upgrades to the non-removable motherboard was like bobbing for apples in a pirahna tank...

This case also looks amazing - the front panel is brushed aluminium while the side and top panels have been painted with a light metallic grey finish, then gelcoated so they are reflective without being bare metal - enough for me to see my reflection in! This complements the brushed aluminium front panel nicely - having the entire case in brushed aluminium would probably look "tacky", whereas this just exudes class and style. Like the ATCS-200, this case has gold plated feet which complement the rest of the finish very well. (P.S. PLEASE don't fix case badges or stickers on this case, you'll spoil it!).

Unlike the ATCS-200, on the left hand side of the ATCS-201 front panel is a spring loaded aluminium flap, neatly labeled above as "USB inside". Open it up and it locks open, revealing a pair of USB ports - someone at CoolerMaster's design studio was listening to their customer's wishes on this one! This is REALLY useful if like me, you've got a few USB peripherals that you don't always have connected (e.g. joystick, digital camera, MP3 player) and hate having to go round the back of the case to plug them in!. However, I did have a problem with these ports, see below.

Another nice touch is that the reset switch really needs a good push to work - so much so that I thought I hadn't connected it! No risk of accidentally brushing it and rebooting your PC. While we're on the subject of switches, both the reset and power switches are aluminium to match the case front, and both press with a satisfying click.

Many people with the ATCS-200 case have gone out and bought black drives in order to "match" the case's looks. Well, I've got news for you - the normal beige drives look just fine in here!

Overall - 10/10


INSTALLATION OF COMPONENTS

How easy is it to get in to the case? What about actually installing the components?

One thing this case has in it's favour is the thumbscrews. Lots of thumbscrews! - Basically, they secure the case panels and AGP & PCI slots. Unlike my wife's ATCS-200 case, the thumbscrews here are also cut for a phillips screwdriver on top. While this doesn't make much difference for the case panels, it means that you can make sure that your PCI and AGP cards are well fixed in place, as it's easier to tighten them down firmly with a screwdriver than just by hand.

Plenty of room for drives - 4 x 5.25" bays (all external) and 6 x 3.25" bays of which 2 are external, and 4 internal. So you can get a few less hard disks in here than the ATCS-200, but you gain the space for an extra 5.25" device!

Like the ATCS-200, there are 2 80mm case fans sitting in front of the 3.5" internal bays. They pull air into the case through the grey metal mesh grill on the front of the case.

Access to the inside of the case is a peach. No screwdriver needed - they're all thumbscrews, just undo and slide the panels off (although on my case they are quite stiff). The blanking plates are held in with two screws, so once you've removed them you gain a few extra screws that might come in handy (see below!)

The motherboard tray slides on plastic rails and is removable from the case. Plenty of motherboard supports (12) are provided so you can make sure that your mobo is held securely in place; unfortunately, they only give you 10 screws of suitable size for the mobo supports. :-(

Fitting the drives was a really easy, but because my case is pretty much fully loaded I had to break into my "bits" tub and pull out a few extra screws to fix the drives and mobo in place. If you're not planning on fitting 3 5.25" devices, 3 HDDS, an internal ZIP drive and a FDD as well, then there's plenty of screws provided!

Routing IDE cables in the case is really easy - there's plenty of room next to the 3.5" internal bays to tuck cables in to so that you have a clean interior that doesn't obstruct the airflow too much.

The only problem I have found with kitting out this case is that the the cables from the power/reset switches and front LEDS are not quite long enough to reach out the back of the case so you can plug them into the motherboard, before you slide the mobo drawer back into the case. I therefore found it a bit fiddly to plug these in to the connectors on my ABIT VP6 as there wasn't much space between the base of the case and the pins, probably because I've got big hands :-).

BIG PROBLEM: The cable from the front mounted USB ports follows the standard for connecting to the USB header on the motherboard - this is a 10pin block with 2 ground pins, 2 data pins and 1 power pin for each USB port. Because my motherboard (an Abit VP6) only uses 8 pins on the USB header, (so that you can't connect the extra USB ports it came with the wrong way round), when I plugged the cable for the front mounted ports onto the mobo, they won't work. If I want them to work, I'm going to have to modify the plug on the cable, either by swapping the plugs over between the two USB cables I have, or by modifying the case's cable to fit. Depending on your motherboard, you might not have this problem, however if you've got an Abit VP6, you WILL.

Overall 6/10 - (I needed to find some extra screws and I'll have to modify the USB connector cable on the case to get it to work with my motherboard.)


COOLING PERFORMANCE:

Okay, what does this case have to keep cool?

  • Abit VP6 motherboard
  • two Pentium III 700Mhz FC-PGA (SL45Y) processors
  • two Taisol CEK734092 heatsinks
  • Enermax 430W ATX PSU
  • 512Mb Crucial CAS2 PC133 SDRAM (4 * 128Mb)
  • Hercules GeForce2 ULTRA 64Mb AGP card
  • two IBM 75GXP UDMA100 7200rpm HDDs
  • one Maxtor DiamondMax+ UDMA66 7200rpm HDD
  • SoundBlaster Live! Platinum 5.1 sound card (with Live!Drive IR)
  • Creative Labs 4x4x24 CD-RW drive
  • Pioneer 105S DVD drive
  • Internal ZIP drive & 3.5" FDD
  • 3Com 10/100 autosensing NIC

The Pentium IIIs are not overclocked at the moment as I'm "running in" the system for a while at stock speeds before starting overclocking, but I'm planning on running them at 933Mhz instead of 700Mhz once that's finished. However, please bear in mind that the processor temperatures listed below are with the processors running at the stock speed (700Mhz). The maximum operating temperature (according to Intel) for the P III 700s I am using is 80°C, so whatever happens, we've got to stay well below that!

Temperatures were monitored both under load and when idle using MotherBoard Monitor 5.03 running under Windows 2000 Professional Edition, reading from the thermal probes on the motherboard. The temperature readings were logged once per minute to a file to allow them to be analysed more easily.

So what are the average temperatures?

Case: 27°C
CPU #1: 26°C
CPU #2: 27°C

Even after 7 hours of heavy load, the temperatures never exceeded:

Case: 28°C
CPU #1: 31°C
CPU #2: 32°C

Overall 9/10 - everything is nice and cool!


NOISE:

Despite the 4 80mm fans running at full speed all the time, the case gives off little more noise than the hum of the fans doing their job. Maybe I don't notice it much as my office at work is next to the server room and that is LOUD!

Anyway, I'd say that this case is only a bit louder than my old mini-tower, and with music on or when gaming it's not really noticeable. The only time it's noticeable is when I'm just doing email or something like that and I don't have any music playing.

Overall 9/10 - I've got used to it and don't really notice it anymore


SUMMARY & CONCLUSION:

This is one hell of a case, OK it was expensive, but the build quality is superb - no sharp edges. Apart from the USB problem I'd recommend this case to anyone who wants a good quality case to fit their system in.