In and Around the Cougar Challenger

I was actually surprised by the aesthetic of the Cougar Challenger. More ostentatious designs like this one tend to be more the province of Taiwanese companies like NZXT while European engineering tends to look more like Fractal Design's hardware. In my experience, Western consumers tend towards simpler designs that are functional, attractive in that "black goes with everything" kind of way, but still have a hint of style. Plastic is seldom well-received. Cougar actually offers the Challenger with accents in three colors: white, black, and orange. When they asked me which one I'd like to review, I felt like the white would go over best, but surprisingly they told me that the white one wasn't being marketed in the United States, and they felt the orange would go over better. I respectfully disagreed and if my hunch is correct, most of you do too.

Cougar is going for a jet-fighter kind of motif with the Challenger, with hard angles and honeycomb-patterned intakes on the front. That motif culminates with the flip-up cover over the power and reset switches at the top of the case, not too far off from Corsair's Vengeance C70. I've been mostly trying to stay neutral when judging the aesthetics of the cases I review, because I'm not necessarily an arbiter of taste and I have known people who prefer flashier designs like this one, but the Challenger's awkward angles and the way the fascia juts out in almost every direction just feels too busy. Flashier designs like NZXT's Phantom 820, those I can understand, but the Challenger seems like too much.

The side panel comes with the 120mm/140mm fan mount completely open; Cougar includes a magnetic snap-on filter that covers it up and seems to get the job done, but it's a clunky solution to a problem most other case manufacturers have already solved. That mount winds up being slightly more than a quarter of the diamond-shaped side window, but the rightmost corner of that window overlaps the drive cages while leaving the CPU area mostly covered up. When I was a windowed case kind of guy, I would've wanted to see the beefy cooler on the CPU.

Perplexing design decisions unfortunately continue when you remove the side panels. They're secured with thumbscrews, but are the types of panels that require lining up multiple small extrusions into grooves to slide onto place, making them frustrating to remove and replace. Interestingly, when you get inside the Cougar, the whole design becomes remarkably staid. You've seen this before: toolless optical drive bays, two drive cages (the top of which is removable), motherboard tray with holes for routing cables. Where Cougar gets it really right, though, is by including a peg in the center mounting hole for the motherboard tray, making installation much easier. The typical mounting points are also extruded and built into the tray itself, so no standoffs are required for basic ATX boards.

Where things get wonky again is with the removable center drive cage. The two screws used to secure it face towards the back of the case, making them incredibly awkward to get to. They're not thumbscrews either, just garden variety screws. I'm not sure why this was designed the way it was, but if you're going to remove the cage you'd better do it before the motherboard goes in, otherwise the innermost screw is going to be basically impossible to remove.

Reviewing the Challenger visually is tough because I don't want to rag on them, but the problem is that their internal design is extremely conservative while the exterior design is gaudy almost to a fault. There are good touches here and there, but while working on it I often found myself feeling like I'd seen everything here before. If you're just hawking cases by the truckload to boutiques like NZXT does, that's not necessarily an issue, but if you're a smaller company trying to get your foot in the door in the States, a design that doesn't actually stand out much from the garden variety gaming enclosures can be fatal.

Introducing the Cougar Challenger Assembling the Cougar Challenger
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  • C'DaleRider - Monday, October 29, 2012 - link

    From the article-- "...these smaller companies are often very hungry for your business and are typically willing to take risks. The result is that oftentimes you can find diamonds in the rough and bring to light a product that people might otherwise miss."

    I don't think this hideous monstrosity is anything close to a diamond, in the rough or not, and certainly wouldn't be missed by anyone.

    Hideous.
    Reply
  • j thomas - Monday, October 29, 2012 - link

    The mobo area and rear panel look like the exact same parts as a 300R. They should have copied the rest too. Reply
  • ajemm - Monday, October 29, 2012 - link

    This thing beyond hideous. Reply
  • Bonesdad - Monday, October 29, 2012 - link

    REALLY?

    How does a case like this even find it's way to getting a review on Anandtech? Someone needs to preview these reviews and just say "Ah, no....we aren't running with this."

    This thing is an embarrassment to Transformers everywhere.

    Just stop doing reviews on crap like this, you should know it when you see it by now.
    Reply
  • Wellsoul2 - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - link

    I like this case. It looks different and retro. Reply
  • buzznut - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - link

    I was actually waiting to see what the reviewer said about the aesthetics. There's being politically correct, and then there's simply stating the obvious. Most of us would not want this anywhere near our desk.

    I happen to like flashy gaming cases, I'm a modder and I really dig a unique look. I fail to see what they were going for here though, even the different parts don't really seem to go together.

    Its sorta like someone came along a stack of disparate parts and told his R&D team, "See if you can make something out of this stuff. You got two hours."
    Reply
  • WT - Thursday, November 01, 2012 - link

    And they said my Thermaltake Level 10 GT Snow was ugly ?? C'mon man, this redefines fugly. Reply
  • bauper - Thursday, March 14, 2013 - link

    1. Orange is my favorite color. This case looks cool. Like a hot Euro-Trash Babe. Almost full tower size this casi is BIG for a mid tower. Takes the new 280mm Liquid coolers in push pull and plenty of room. takes up to 400 mm video card and still hold hd drives and 5.25 bays. I love it. Comment. A. As the song says, "Make an ugly womean your wife". B- whats ugly to one is sexy to another. Reply
  • SKZdman - Saturday, April 26, 2014 - link

    I have this case, and I think it's fantastic. Yes, it's a little 'aggressive' shall we say(!), but it's quiet, cool and really easy to keep tidy.

    I also cannot believe that you've not mentioned the most salient point - The three possible configurations of the central drive bay to fit 3.5", 2.5" or no drives whatsoever (and thereby allow more space for a longer graphics card). This is a feature I cannot fault.
    Reply
  • SKZdman - Saturday, April 26, 2014 - link

    Like this:

    http://www.cougar-world.com/uploads/pics/case_deta...
    Reply

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