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Coolermaster ATC 500 aluminium case
Product : Coolermaster ATC 500 aluminium case
Produced by : Coolermaster
Price : ~115 excluding VAT

We are getting quite familiar with Coolermaster's cases here at UKGamer. In previous models we have reviewed, Coolermaster's products have been well made and highly desirable. This model, given the 500 badge is chiefly meant for places where space is a minimum. It features all of Coolermaster's great traits and introduces some new innovations into the fold. However, it isn't all great news.

From a gamer's point of view, this would be the ultimate LAN party case. The height of the ATCS 500 is only 35cm high, compared to most mini-tower ATX cases which are 44cm. And as every LAN party addict knows - anything that reduces the size of what needs to be carried is a good thing.

On initial looks many way discard the ATCS 500 because it "only" has 2 5.25" drive bays, but you have to ask yourself how many 5.25" drives do you have in your computer? DVD/CD ROM drive and maybe a CD writer? Okay, it's quite probable that you might have more than two 5.25" devices however then your computer is most probably a server of some sort - in which case (no pun intended) this unit is not for you.

Our initial thoughts was that this case is designed for micro ATX motherboards. However, it isn't. It takes full size ATX motherboards... with ease. So how did Coolermaster manage to reduce the height of this case? Instead of mounting the power supply unit vertically above the motherboard they mounted it horizontally. This produces two quite different results. The obvious one is that it reduces the height of the case. The other is that you have height restrictions on the heatsink/fan unit you are able to use.

We found this out when fitting our Swiftech MCX462 we had severe problems sliding the motherboard tray in with the 80mm Papst fan fitted. Using some unusual screw drivers we managed to fit the fan on after sliding the tray in. It is quite obvious that some of the taller "focused flow" fans will not fit. However, for most people's purposes the Swiftech MCX462 is more than capable of handling itself. If, however you are considering overclocking we would suggest you to either look for watercooling solutions or a different case altogether, since air flow isn't great (having only 5-7mm of headroom generally results in poor air circulation). When we had a look at the temperatures with the MCX462 (review coming shortly) in an ATCS 201 and then in the ATCS 500, there was a 8C rise in temperatures. This pretty much confirmed our initial assumptions regarding air flow.

Looks like the London Underground at 5:30pm

Coolermaster always makes the claim that when their cases are made out of aluminium they act as a very large heatsink. For once we were able to feel the surface of the case get hot. In fact if you place your hands near the back of the case it can get uncomfortably hot. There was two main reasons for this, greater number of exhaust fans required and we were testing this case on a very hot couple of days.

This case is completely made from aluminium. In past Coolermaster cases the side panels have been made from a number of materials, however this is the first case we've seen that is truly all aluminium. All the panels have a brushed finish which gives them a sense of quality, and because the whole thing is made from aluminium it is considerably lighter than other cases, weighing in at only 5 kilograms. As usual the blanking plates for each 5.25" slot is made out of aluminium.

From the outset it is clear that this case isn't going to be an overclocker's dream. Although whether Coolermaster intended it to be is unclear, there are several pointers why it's "performance" won't be up to other models in the Coolermaster and general market. It only has 1 80mm fan which blows air into the case through the bottom of the case. This isn't very effective because if your computer isn't on a hard surface (wooden floor etc), then you won't have the clearance at the bottom to get cool air to be sucked into the case.


You see something in the second picture that is quite rare in desktop cases (less so in rack mount ones). The bottom fan can have it's angle of inclination changed. Although initially it requires an uncomfortable amount of force, it does swivel quite nicely after that. It is held in place by some beautifully made thumb screws.

There is one exhaust fan positioned at the top of the case rather than the back. This is a 60mm unit which isn't extremely powerful - a thinner 80mm unit would have been a better choice. Both case fans are quiet are provide a decent amount of air flow, however there is no doubt that extra "power" is needed from those fans.

In it's compact form the ATCS 500 has 2 5.25" bays (as we've mentioned earlier) and 4 3.5" bays. With hard drives having such large capacities it is rare to see systems with more than two drives, however if you do have a full complement of hard drives then you will encounter problems. Unlike previous Coolermaster cases we've reviewed, the ATCS 500 doesn't have good ventilation for hard drives. It might be adequate for a single drive however if you have a number of them stacked on top of each other you might get worried.


Coolermaster has included two front mounted USB ports, which are covered by a 5mm thick aluminium door. It's push to open and adds to the quality feel of the case. It certainly makes the cases that have front mounted USB ports without a cover or a plastic one look extremely tacky. The whole case has a clean finish to it, with a slightly curved front panel trying to blend away the boxy dimensions. The front panel is finished off with a couple of beautiful blue LEDs which look great.

One striking admission is the reset button. As we saw with the ATCS 710 (review). This can be extremely annoying at times. We still can't quite figure out why Coolermaster has left it out. That said, the power on button is not your normal plastic thing but a lovely cylindrical aluminium piece which oozes quality. Behind it there is a blue light which gives off a brilliant effect with the lights are dimmed. Indeed, during night-time at a LAN party people will be gathering up in front of your case. It's always the little touches that show a case like the ATCS 500 up.

Conclusion

With the ATCS 500 it's a case of style before performance. There is no doubt that it has been made to the highest of standards. Every little bit of this case shouts out quality. From the beautifully crafted aluminium panelling to the blue LEDs the ACTS 500 will draw attention from people. It's compact dimensions are both advantageous and problematic. If you are looking for a case to fit in small places or to show off to customers then there is no doubt the ATCS 500 will fit the bill. If, however you are looking for something that will help you to overclock your CPU then this case isn't it. The height restrictions caused by having the PSU horizontally above the motherboard means that you can either have a large heatsink and a small fan or a small heatsink and a large fan. Not both. Watercooling may be an option but you'll have to find another place to put your radiator.

So, a painfully beautiful case but only if you don't require overclocking.
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