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Few would dispute that Cooler Master has taken its place among the upper echelon of case designers with a range of quality enclosures at nearly every price point. Not all of the company's cases have been noteworthy, but others, like the Stacker 830 and Cosmos 1000, have shown that the self proclaimed masters of cooling understand the demands put forth by enthusiasts who require more than an ordinary enclosure. Not all case manufacturers can claim this.
Today HardwareLogic has in its labs Cooler Master's newest enclosure, the HAF 932. While we're not sure what the 932 stands for (lucky lotto numbers?), the HAF designation means High Air Flow, and not Hot As F**k, which is what you might find yourself muttering if you dig the rugged appearance. But will the aggressive styling combined with attention to airflow add up to a winning combination, or does Cooler Master's latest case simply blow hot air?
|Main Board Size|
Sift through any long time enthusiast's assortment of spare parts and you'll inevitably run across all shapes and sizes of screws and standoffs. But in case this is your first build, you'll get a head start on your collection with the bevy of screws Cooler Master throws in, separated by size into individual baggies. The multi-language manual offers up some useful tips, like detailing which 230mm fans can be swapped out for a bundle of 120mm units. A spare bezel serves as a 5.25" to 3.5" converter for those still kickin' it with an old school floppy drive, and the zip ties come as welcome additions that are often overlooked by case manufactures. You also get a case speaker and 8-pin PSU connector extender (more on that later), but the real treat here are the optional wheels. The HAF 932 doesn't qualify as absurdly heavy, but why lift your system when you can simply push it? And should you get frustrated enough, the wheels make it easy to push your insolent setup down a steep hill in a moment of rage.
We're seeing a shift in gaming-centric case design, and instead of gaudy LED monstrosities with over-the-top aesthetics, case manufacturers appear to be going for the rugged look. Both the Antec 900 and 1200 bring a somewhat menacing look to the table, as does Zalman's Z-Machine, but no other case we know of manages to pull off an exterior more suitable to today's generation of first person shooter gamers. From the vented grills to the criss-cross window pattern, every detail on the HAF 932 adds to the rough-and-tumble aura without ever becoming tacky. Kudos to the design team that conjured up this pattern.
Could it be that a case manufacturer finally got the memo? Peering at the top, it's apparent Cooler Master has. Not only does the HAF 932 include an eSATA port (a feature we consider a must-have for any new chassis), but it doesn't sacrifice a FireWire port to accommodate it. Not only that, but you get a generous four USB 2.0 ports, along with the obligatory mic and headphone jacks.
This full tower can mingle with up to four 5.25" drives, once of which can be converted into a 3.5" floppy bay, and all the bezels are easy to remove. Below the bays sits a removable grill giving you easy access to filtered dust and grime. And behind that on the inside of the case rests a 230mm intake fan, which emits a soft red LED glow.
Our main complaint with the front of the HAF 932 is the amount of plastic used. If we had our druthers, our ideal case would be devoid of any plastic whatsoever, and while Cooler Master's newest chassis utilizes a mostly all-steel frame, we're bummed that the front panel is ultimately far less rugged than its appearance. How many times can the lower panel be removed before the plastic clips snap off? We have no idea, but had it been made of steel, we wouldn't find ourselves worrying about it.
There are several things to note when checking out the HAF 932's rear quarters (and we do love looking at rears). First is the inclusion of thumbscrews, which Cooler Master not only provides for the main side panel, but for both side panels. Like the front panel's inputs, it's another sign that CM understands what power users look for when shopping for a case.
Secondly we find rubberized water cooling in/outlets, an inclusion that has become so prevalent in today's cases that we've come to expect them on any high end enclosure.
Finally, you'll notice the in/outlets take residence where most cases would hide the PSU compartment, but the HAF 932 moves the power supply bay to the bottom. If you prefer having your power supply in its traditional place at the top, you can still do so, but you'll have to move the water cooling in/outlets to the bottom and remove the top 230mm fan altogether. To help persuade users to utilize the existing design, Cooler Master throws in an 8-pin CPU PSU connector extension so cable length won't become a problem, and the area below the power supply comes vented to let your swank new PSU be able to breathe.
Both the power switch and reset switch are found on top, but it's what you find behind them that elicits an 'Oh neato!' Removing the top flap reveals a fill port, potentially making easy-work out of adding coolant to your water cooling setup. And once you do that, the rubberized flap transforms the tray back into a makeshift storage compartment. Since it's made of rubber, you can toss your keys down or spare change without worry of scratching your new case, or fill it chock full of M&Ms for that quick burst of energy during those late night internet forum quibbles.
As expected with any case that supports E-ATX motherboards, the HAF 932's interior comes with plenty of room to shovel in your high end components and gizmos, with enough space left over to splash the scene with a water cooling setup. But it's the cable routing scheme that has us jumping for joy, with several well placed cutouts for routing unsightly (and airflow restricting) cables to the back panel. It's the same concept as when you used to sweep your toys and clothes under the bed when tasked with cleaning your room (a habit some of us never grow out of!).
Marring an otherwise well thoughtout interior is a ghetto labeling scheme for standoff placement. Rather than engrave the proper standoff designations onto the motherboard tray, Cooler Master instead tapes a piece of paper to the inside with appropriate cutouts. It works, but to say this is taking the tacky route is like saying Heidi Fleiss has been around the block a few times (anyone still get that reference?).
Cooler Master bills the HAF 932 as being completely tool-less, and it's also one of the better screw-free implementations we've run across. Up to five hard drives can be installed, and doing so is as easy as plopping the HDD into the plastic support and sliding it into the side facing drive cage. Optical installation is also a snap - literally. Just slide your DVD burner into a free bay and push the button to secure it in place. If you ever need to remove it, push the button a second time to release the grip.
Getting back to the hard drives, we're thrilled that Cooler Master opted for a side facing cage, but we wish we were able to install the drives either frontwards or backwards. As it stands, you have to insert your HDDs rear first, which helps with cable management, but might mean having to remove both side panels to take out a drive.
We're not as sold on Cooler Master's tool-less PCI retention system. Rarely do we run across an effective design that eschews screws in favor of a tool-less mechanism that ensures a snug fit, and this isn't one of those times. The implementation is serviceable, but expect your PCI cards to have some give. Of course, you could always use standard screws instead, and the inclusion of additional thumbscrews would have been a much welcomed addition for those opting to go this route.
If you're going to name your case High Air Flow (HAF), it better deliver on its namesake, and the HAF 932 does. It accomplishes this with three large 230mm intake fans (front, side, and top), and a slightly enlarged 140mm exhaust. The use of monstrous-sized fans allows the case to offer titanic air cooling without imposing a noise burden to you, your roommate, or even your neighbors. During testing, the loudest fan in our chasses was the Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro CPU cooler.
For those looking for a gust of air more along the lines of a hurricane, the side 230mm fan can be replaced with up to four 120mm fans, and the top 230mm unit can be swapped out with up to three 120mm fans of your choosing.
We have nothing but praise when it comes to installing a system into the HAF 932. No matter how long your power supply is, it's going to fit, and thanks to the 8-pin CPU connector extender, you needn't worry about running out of cable length. In fact, it's the cable management that steals the show. Cooler Master has taken a page from Antec's P1xx series and used it to write a much better story, one in which you don't find yourself frustrated by the time you get to the end. Intelligently placed cutouts abound all throughout the motherboard tray, including running up the side behind the drive cage and bays. With a little effort, you can have one of the cleanest installs on the block.
As previously mentioned, the HAF 932 gives you plenty of elbow room to muck around, and this means you can install all the 10.5" elongated videocards your motherboard can accommodate.
Behind the motherboard tray exists ample room for hiding your excess cables, and should you decide to utilize the included zip ties and various notches, this hidden area can be made to look almost as neat as the main compartment, as opposed to our 'shove everything wherever it fits' approach.
|Build Quality (Durability & Construction)||18/20|
|Aesthetics / Appearance||20/20|
|Internal Layout & Installation||18/20|
|Performance (Sound & Cooling)||10/10|
|Warranty & Support||10/10|
|Price / Value||8/10|
We often find ourselves scratching our heads when evaluating cases wondering why the manufacture chose to ignore what we feel like are obvious omissions. Almost without fail, Cooler Master avoids doing this with its HAF 932 and the end result is a gaming oriented case that finally pays attention to the details enthusiasts care about.
It starts off with a bad ass exterior that looks as though it could have been pulled from within military confines, but this case is about so much more than just looks. How about not only throwing in an eSATA port (we're still shocked at how many new cases neglect this feature), but surrounding it with four USB 2.0 ports, and still making room for a FireWire port? We're in love with the top storage tray, but we're most smitten with the cable management scheme. The HAF 932 does for cable management what Antec's P1xx series has tried to do all along, which is to make it easy for OCD case builders to maintain a tidy interior with minimal effort. Throw in installable wheels, thumbscrews on both side panels, a unique tool-less HDD and optical drive system that works better than most others we've seen, and the ability to swap out the ginormous fans for higher velocity 120mm units, and we're left with an almost ideal chassis.
Cooler Master does leave itself room for improvement, should it decide to come out with another revision. We'd gladly trade in the plastic front bezel for steel or aluminum, and the PCI retention clips leave too much wiggle room for our add-in cards. But the worst offense is the paper label taped to the motherboard tray indicating where the standoffs go. Sure it can be removed, but why not engrave the motherboard tray in the first place?
Other Reviews of Note
It's always nice to have more than one opinion on a component before you spend your hard earned money. For one, we may see something others missed, or vice versa. As with all reviews published at HardwareLogic, we'll not only give you our opinion, but also point out some other reviews from around the web.