What's been interesting about the chassis marketplace in recent years is the influx of new manufacturers. To name but a few, Corsair has taken the world of PC enclosures by storm, NZXT has come in screaming and shouting, and Swedish manufacturer Fractal Design has made a name for itself as a producer of quiet, well-rounded cases.
We're all for welcoming newcomers to the party, so today we're turning our attention to Cougar, a German outfit founded in 2007 by - and we quote - "a group of enthusiastic and professional people in Germany who felt PC hardware had changed very little over the past 20 years."
The company states that "most cases and PSU models remain rectangular boxes, having the same boring looks and an internal layout with endlessly uncreative cosmetic variations and poor quality." Hoping to shake things up, Cougar set out on a mission to "provide gamers more stylish product concepts meeting strictest quality requirements."
Sounds a lot like the promises made by 99 per cent of the world's other chassis manufacturers, but hey, we like seeing new things, and the German angle still holds weight - anything produced in the Fatherland has to at least ooze quality, right?
To find out, we're taking a look at one of the company's first gaming towers, the £90 Cougar Challenger. We're told that the design takes inspiration "from the pilot unlock missile cover than fire!" and one thing's for certain, it ain't for the faint hearted.
The Challenger comes in a choice of colours - black, black with white accents and black with orange accents - and the latter is particularly brash in appearance. Like so many gaming enclosures, you're either going to love it or hate it. At its core the Challenger is essentially an all-black steel frame measuring 268mm x 514mm x 523mm in size, but Cougar's attempts to "shake things up" have resulted in a flared plastic facade that looks overly aggressive. It's what we imagine you'd get if you crossed a Transformer with a Dilophosaurus.
This isn't our idea of stylish, but if you find yourself drawn to the aesthetics for reasons you can't explain, you'll find plenty of quirky features throughout the Challenger's body.
At the front of the chassis, the I/O panel consists of just two USB 3.0 ports, audio jacks and power and reset buttons, but it's made to look like a launchpad for a nuclear missile. The power switch is partially hidden behind a plastic red cover that clicks awkwardly when opened, and a couple of red LED strips are positioned either side for effect. Somewhat strangely, the HDD activity LED is used as a backlight for the slim reset button, which also sits beneath the flip-up plastic cover.
What's handy, however, is that Cougar has also found room for a dedicated SATA hot-swap bay. Sat just behind the USB ports, the hot-swap bay is easily accessible and both 2.5in and 3.5in drives attach comfortably. Though, an eject button would have been nice as unplugging any attached drive requires a fair bit of force.
Browsing the chassis' exterior reveals four well-sized rubber feet, a magnetic dust filter positioned beneath the PSU bay and plenty of mounting holes up top for extra fans. The windowed side panel, however, has both ups and downs. We like the arrow-shaped cutout, and the magnetic dust filter on the 120/140mm fan mount works well, but the positioning of the window is off - on an ATX build you can barely see your CPU cooler or graphics cards.