What is with computers with transparent side-panel windows? Flashing LED lights? A dozen different case fans? What are people thinking? When did a clean, quiet, metal box with an “ON” button and power light become so passé?
Look, I get it; you want to stand out, you want to be different. You want to show up and be the belle of the LAN party ball. Your kickin’ rad, flame-throwing, tequila-cooled, coffee-making, techno-colored, 10-core computer reflects you in all of your extravagant gold-mining, camper-fragging, Mountain Dew-guzzling glory. I just don’t get it. You may call me out of touch, or jealous, or you might even call me a snob. I’m none of those and I can’t stand all these ridiculous, tacky cases for one simple reason: I’ve got good taste.
The Centurion 590 by Coolermaster might be just what I’ve been looking for. It’s a jet black, rugged looking, utilitarian case with the elegant simplicity that a beret-wearing, Mac-using, latté-sipping elitist like myself would be proud to shove his circuit boards in.
A quick look at the specifications:
|Dimension (inches)||(W) 8.27 x (H) 17.32 x (D) 20.08|
|Weight||Net Weight : 18.7 lbs ; Gross Weight : 20.5 lbs|
|Material||Chassis: SECC, Bezel: Metal mesh+ABS|
|5.25" Drive Bay||9 (Exposed; without the use of exposed any 3.5 inch drive bay)|
|3.5" Drive Bay||4 (Hidden; from one 4-in-3 device module (included),
1 (Exposed; converted from one 5.25 inch drive bay)
|I/O Panel||USB 2.0x2, IEEE 1394 x1, MIC x1, SPK x1 (supports HD / AC’ 97 Audio)|
|Cooling System||One 120x120x25 mm front fan (blue LED), 1200 rpm, 17 dBA (included),
One 120x120x25 mm rear fan (exhaust), 1200 rpm, 17 dBA (included)
|Optional Component||Transparent side panel|
|Power Supply||Standard ATX PS2/ EPS 12V (Optional)|
Within these cardboard confines is this evening’s excitement! While the packaging is damaged from it’s journey over the Pacific and storage at the Techware Labs offices, the contents are in perfect shape. With a little more than an inch of padding on each side, the box and the foam contained within performed brilliantly at protecting the jet-black beauty.
Free from plastic wrap, the case finally gets a chance to breathe. The first thing I noticed was the strikingly attractive front panel of the Centurion that, like the Roman officer it was named for, commands attention. The drive bay covers are constructed of a metal mesh with thin pieces of black foam behind them, creating the appearance of a solid surface that reveals some transparency upon closer inspection. There are a total of nine drive bay covers, one of them sporting the Centurion logo and one designed to accommodate a 3.5” external device such as a fan controller, memory card reader or, if you’re still stuck in 1997, a floppy drive.
The Centurion sports nine 5.25” external drive bays, four of which are usable as 3.5” internal bays. Our test unit came with two 120 MM, 1200 RPM fans, one of them rear-mounted and one of them LED lit on the front. The case also featured a semi-screwless design and, while not supplied, a design that allowed the power supply to be installed on the bottom of the case. At first look the best word that comes to mind for describing the Centurion 590 is “tasteful”.
With all of its style and class, even the most hardcore modders would appreciate the Centurion. Overclockers can rejoice in the pre cut holes with grommets in the rear designed to accommodate a liquid cooling setup. If the very capable fans included with the case aren’t cool enough, you can squeeze another five or six fans onto the top, bottom, sides or rear of the case.
Coolermaster's website shows us that modders and overclockers can embrace the Centurion 590's ability to let its hair down and be wild when it needs to be.
Although it passes the 10-foot test with flying colors, a closer look reveals some of the Centurion’s build quality issues. One of the panels didn’t fit flush with the back of the case and I was not impressed with some of the spot welds and rivets used in its construction. While this is nothing more than a nitpick, there some overspray inside the case and on the backside of the side panels.
With all the praise comes some criticisim. Poor panel fitment and ugly overspray are not expected from a pro like Coolermaster.
I have a big, legitimate gripe with the “tool-free” design of this case as Coolermaster describes it. If I read “tool-free” as written on their website, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the ability to install all necessary components, save motherboard and power supply, needing only my fingers to turn screws. While, yes, you can use the plastic brackets to secure one side of a drive, you’re left with the opposite side loose and unsecure. For most uses, this is fine, but those who take their computers to LAN parties or other functions will want to break out the screwdriver and finish the job.
To make installation trouble-free, Coolermaster includes every screw I would ever need to install a full ATX motherboard, a drive in every bay, a power supply, a couple fans and still have some left over to replace the ones I drop behind my desk. On top of that, a dozen or so zip ties were included to secure loose or hanging wires.
After installing my loosely fitting zip and optical drives, I moved lower in the case to install hard drives. I was impressed with the design that allowed up to four hard drives in a removable cage, but disappointed that, in order to remove the cage, I, cone again, had to use a screwdriver. From this point on, I’m no longer going to consider this case “tool-free” because, quite frankly, it’s not. After installing my four hard drives and reinstalling the cage, I was very happy with how clean and organized the inside of the case still looked.
Installing the motherboard and expansion cards were simple and straightforward. It would have been nice to have a removable motherboard tray, but with all the room inside the case allowing for easy installation, this was merely a thought and not a complaint. The only component of this case that is truly tool free is the mechanism that secures expansion cards. The little plastic clips are effective at holding cards in place and can be replaced or supplemented with regular screws if necessary.
I wish it were just a few inches longer
I can see why mounting the power supply on the bottom of a case would be a great idea; it frees up space in the top of the case, it keeps a fan near the floor to reduce noise and it allows for excellent rear cable management. In this case, the relocated power supply allowed me to easially install my 2 GB DDR400 RAM kit from Kingston without scraping my knuckles on the optical drives like I usually do. Unfortunately, at the bottom of the case, the power supply is just far enough from the motherboard to make connecting the two impossible. Of the two power supplies I had to test, both of their wiring harnesses were about six inches too short. If purchased with the optional power supply, or if Coolermaster had included a six to eight inch power supply extension cable, this wouldn’t have been an issue.
Conclusion: Something for everyone
On most fronts, I really loved this case. It was clean and classy looking with enough space inside to allow for excellent cooling and easy installation of components. Even with features that seasoned customizers and veteran gamers would drool over, the Centurion 590 manages to remain tame enough to fit in with the décor of even the most sophisticated home or office.
Whether you are leading a guild into battle, covered in sweat and Mountain Dew or you're sipping lattes while reading the Wall Street Journal, the Centurion 590 has features and aesthetics that are appealing to all of us.