One of the joys of being based out of the bay area is getting to actually visit the headquarters of some of these vendors. I've had one on one time with Antec, NVIDIA, Logitech, and my last visit to Corsair's headquarters in Fremont got me a good look at the early prototyping stages of both the Obsidian 900D and the Carbide Air 540. Corsair's designers were pretty enthusiastic about where they were going with what became the Air 540, and with good reason. Now that I've had a chance to handle the final product, I feel like I'm looking at the next BitFenix Prodigy.

Outside of Lian Li's eclectic lineup, cube style ATX cases are rare as hen's teeth and seeing one from Corsair is especially unusual. The one-off Graphite 600T notwithstanding, Corsair has tended to produce fairly conservative, extremely refined case designs. But the dual-chambered Carbide Air 540 is a radical departure and a much needed one. It's not a perfect design and there's plenty of room for improvement, but there are very good reasons I chose the Air 540 for my upcoming custom liquid cooling loop review.

Corsair Carbide Air 540 Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX, ATX, E-ATX
Drive Bays External 2x 5.25"
Internal 2x 3.5", 4x 2.5"
Cooling Front 2x 140mm intake fan (supports 3x 120mm)
Rear 1x 140mm exhaust fan (supports 120mm)
Top 2x 140mm/120mm fan mounts
Side -
Bottom -
Expansion Slots 8
I/O Port 2x USB 3.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic
Power Supply Size ATX
Clearances HSF 170mm
PSU 200mm
GPU 320mm
Dimensions 16.33" x 13.07" x 18.03"
415mm x 332mm x 458mm
Special Features USB 3.0 via internal header
Almost completely toolless assembly
Unique dual-chambered design
Supports 360mm radiator in front and 280mm radiator in top
Price $139

I'm going to address a minor elephant in the room before getting into the nitty gritty of the Carbide Air 540: a cube-shaped enclosure is arguably less space efficient than a typical tower. As someone who lives in an apartment smaller than he needs, I can tell you that floor space is always at a premium, and the Air 540 does have a pretty large footprint. It's not as tall as a conventional case, it's a bit wider, and when running it probably looks like a good place for a cat to sleep.

Of course, on the flipside, by breaking out of the ATX standard, Corsair's designers were suddenly free to start rethinking about how everything can come together to truly maximize performance and efficiency. The Carbide Air 540 is in many ways operating on the same principles SilverStone's Temjin TJ08-E, Raven RV-04, and Fortress FT-04 are: as direct a path for air as humanly possible. Yet while SilverStone's designs moved the power supply and 5.25" bays to the top of the enclosure, Corsair made the enclosure wider and created a separate chamber for all the parts that didn't need direct, active cooling.

In and Around the Corsair Carbide Air 540
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  • atragorn - Friday, July 05, 2013 - link

    You know what all these comments really say ?
    “You can please some of the people some of the time all of the people some of the time some of the people all of the time but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”

    You all want to make this thing into something it clearly is not. Personally i like it, i think im going to build my next water cooling rig in this box. It either works for you or it doesnt.
    Reply
  • Margalus - Saturday, July 06, 2013 - link

    exactly, this looks like a great case as is. If I was building a rig right now, this would most likely be the case I would choose. Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Friday, July 05, 2013 - link

    I would love to see a microATX version. I love the wideset form factor, but it's just too big right now.

    I suppose it's meant to be a tinkerer's case, but I think the Prodigy proved that enthusiasts can tinker with a small case just fine.
    Reply
  • Slomo4shO - Saturday, July 06, 2013 - link

    This is essentially a Cooler Master HAF XB placed on its side. Reply
  • Istrilyin - Monday, July 08, 2013 - link

    About the empty space: why not have a door/removable panel and some space for the manuals / guarantee papers / driver CDs that you may one day use / plugs and adaptors? I mean after getting a new computer, I usually have a graphics card box full of stuff that is going to sit somewhere on some shelf where I it gets lost... Reply
  • adamdz - Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - link

    This case is growing on me. Any word if a solid or meshed side panel might be available for it? I don't care much for windows and I'd rather had a meshed side panel with two 140mm fans. Reply
  • lwatcdr - Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - link

    Please offer a color besides black Reply
  • Zak - Thursday, July 11, 2013 - link

    You can have any color as long as it's black;) Reply
  • 1Angelreloaded - Saturday, July 13, 2013 - link

    This is interesting, cube cases are and tend to be expensive, like the MM cases, I believe starting the Bob slay is about $150. Bitfenix with the prodigy, seems to have sparked an interest in pre-engineered cases, which is nice especially for their price of $89. I wish we could get a Silverstone Cube case about the size of this to see what they do with the form factor, while these cases are cheap and refined to an extent for modders they are a perfect start. The Achilles heal of this case is that back chamber which could easily be resolved with some added server fans mounted to circulate the air. Reply
  • infoilrator - Sunday, July 14, 2013 - link

    Power supplies are about 3.4 inches tall or wide, depending on your perspective.
    80mm is about 3.16 inches.
    So on the dull side, front, bottom, or front and bottom 80mm fans would be a workable mod, as would top I think.
    Looks like fun, too expensive for me though. My budget, not price, special costs extra.
    And any case mounting double radiators front and top does cost.
    Reply

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