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It's all about image
Product : Coolermaster ATCS 201 case
Available from : Scan
Price : 215.03 (price includes VAT @ 17.5%)
Related articles : [Coolermaster ATCS 200]-[Globalwin 802]-[Powercase Oblivion]-[Juno P6]-[Samura mini tower]

Earlier this year we looked at Coolermaster's first case, the ATCS 200. At the time, the case was the first Aluminium/Aluminium Alloy case you could purchase in the United Kingdom, and now Lian Li has entered the fray with their range of cases. Coolermaster has recently updated it's range of Aluminium Alloy cases, and this, the ATCS 201 is the successor to the ATCS 200. More of a steady progression than a brand new case, the ATCS 201 provides something new, along with sticking to what the ATCS 200 was all about. High quality, high performance and above all style.

Coolermaster have stuck to using an Aluminium Alloy rather than going for heavier and cheaper steel. When we first got this case in, we were again taken aback by the attention to detail and the high level of workmanship that was put into this case. The first striking change from the ATCS 200 was the inclusion of front mounted USB ports. We will come to those a little later.

ATCS stands for Active Thermal Convective System. We won't go into a physics lesson by explaining what convection is, but simply put it is one way of transferring heat. It uses the fact that hot air is denser and therefore rises. This explains why some of the fans are where they are. Indeed we all know how important a fan at the top of your case is and Coolermaster finally have put a swanky name for it. Incidentally, all their cases follow this ATCS theme.

Packaging

So you've spent 200 on a case which is laser cut and has brushed aluminium panels, the last thing you want is a huge scratch down the side. To stop this, Coolermaster packages each case themselves, and they seem to take extra care, using foam padded sides to hold the case in the middle of the large box. They also wrap the case in a thick plastic bag, and the sample we received had no scratches that were visible to the eye.

Whats new

Looks mean everything. Of course they do. Or at least they do to you if you've just spent the 215 asking price for one of the nicest looking cases on the market today. The front side of the ATCS 201 is a one tone polished aluminium, unlike the ATCS 200 where you had two tone black and polished aluminium colouring. The front panel is also flatter than it's predecessor, in the sense that the ATCS 200 had a slightly raised panel for the 5.25" bays, in the 201 they are flush with the sides of the case.

New in the ATCS 201 is the inclusion of front side USB ports. This is one of the most useful features I've seen implemented in any case. If you go to LANs or take have a number of appliances that use USB (namely a digital camera), you always seem to fiddle around trying to find the USB ports, and then trying to guess if the USB connector is the correct way around, or at least we do on a regular basis. With the front side USB ports those nightmares can be a thing of the past, with easy access to the ports only seconds away.

The ports are covered by a spring loaded door (made out of aluminium alloy, of course), and bring USB connectivity both to the front of the computer, as well as doubling the number of ports to 4, should your motherboard have a USB header supporting this.

Inside there isn't a huge amount of difference between the ATCS 200 and the ATCS 201. They both have identical motherboard trays, which can come in useful. The 201 does have one more 5.25" drive bay, so that reflects on the decreased number of hard drive bays (or hidden 3.25" drive bays).

There is still more than enough hard drive bays to keep most people happy, and now that there are 4 5.25" bays, Coolermaster seemed to have reached a happy medium between hidden 3.25" and 5.25" bays. Two 80mm fans are placed in front of the hidden hard drive bays which suck air through the front filter (which incidentally does it's job extremely efficiently). and cools the hard drive rack.

There is two other 80mm fans, one placed as an exhaust behind the processor, and one placed at the top of the case to disperse hot air (which rises) in the case. In total, the 4 fans are placed in exactly the same position as in the ATCS 200. The fans aren't Coolermaster's own this time around, they are YSTech fans, and they perform well, without causing too much of a background din. Every fan as a chrome drill and have a hologram of Coolermaster's logo - a very nice touch which we thought shows off the attention to detail that has been paid in the manufacture of this case.

Thumbscrews are all around this case. Each of the expansion slot covers are held with thumbscrews, and all external screws are thumbscrews too. The only place where thumbscrews aren't used is to retain the power supply unit. Each thumbscrew feels like it's a class above from the ones you can buy off the shelf. Even though each screw has a Philips head bored into it, you feel like taking a screwdriver to these screws to be sacrilege.

The advantage of aluminium is that you have a light case, and indeed you can feel a huge difference when carrying an aluminium case compared to a steel one. One down side to aluminium is that it is one of the softer metals. Then again, you aren't going to sit on the case, are you?

One small difference is that the ATCS 201 seems to have the power and reset buttons not as tightly sprung. This means you don't have to put a huge amount of pressure to switch the case on or when you want to smack the reset button.

Performance

Buying a 200 case won't improve your computer's performance will it? Maybe it will. If you take overclocking seriously then you'll have picked up the point on Coolermaster's web site that says :-
  • Constructed out of aluminium alloy, which doubles acts as a heatsink
  • At first we weren't quite sure that they were trying to imply. A heatsink is a heatsink you say, but we all know heatsinks to have "fins". The fins are there to increase surface area, and greater the surface area, the greater the heat dissipation. Now the only problem I found with this heatsink theory is, the case itself isn't in contact with any of the hardware. The metal that touches the hard drives (one of the primary contributors to heat inside a computer), isn't directly in contact with the air on the outside of the case. Even so, it's very hard to proove/disproove Coolermaster's quote that the case acts like a heatsink, but should it do so then all the better for us.

    Even though the case might not be a heatsink, we did some tests to see if there was any difference in temperature caused by the fans or by it's design over the ATCS 200. Please note however, since temperatures in a case can vary from where you take the temperature, and has the chance of being affected by more variables than taking the temperature beneath the processor, the temperatures we get might not be ones you get in your rig at home.





    As you can see there wasn't a huge difference in performance between the two Coolermaster cases, and this probably can be put down to the fact that they both feature 4 fans in the same configuration.

    Conclusion

    Overall the Coolermaster ATCS 201 is a very nice case to have. The overall quality is near faultless and Coolermaster have tried their best to think of everything, as they did with their previous version, the ATCS 200. Coolermaster, has again produced a very desirable case with a brushed aluminium finish and subtle colour palette the ATCS 201 should appeal to most people's tastes.

    The only thing that will stop people buying this case is it's price. Over 200 when you include VAT is certainly a lot of money and some people might find this unacceptable. Coolermaster certainly do their upmost to make it worth the cash, and the product itself is certainly worthy of your hard earned notes.

    We spent quite a bit of time on deciding whether this case is better than the ATCS 200 and it was a tough choice. The ATCS 200 is a very nice case, even though it has been on the market for some time. The ATCS 201 has an extra 5.25" drive bay at the cost of 2 hard drive bays. That said, there is still more than enough space for most users, and cooling is great.

    Performance wise there's really nothing in it. The fans in the case are positioned at exactly the same point on both models and therefore it's no surprise they perform almost identically. So, unless you particularly hate one's design or require the 2 extra hard drive bays in the ATCS 200 we thought the ATCS 201 just edged out it's predecessor. The thing that did it for us was the inclusion of the front mounted USB ports and we preferred the cleaner look of the front panel. The ATCS 201 comes highly recommended from us, just as long as you can afford the 215 asking price.
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