Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/1455




Introduction

Quick Look
Cooler Master Centurion 5 The Good


+ Front panel audio/USB/FireWire
+ Included 350W Cooler Master Power Supply
+ Five 5-1/4" drive bays
+ Five 3-1/2" drive bays (1 exposed)
+ Tool-less drive bays/expansion slots
The Bad
- No removable motherboard tray
- Unclear documentation

We have seen many variations in the external look of desktop and mid-tower cases. Some of these had clean, elegant designs that were extremely attractive, while a handful of others were designed with themes that were extremely unattractive and did not appeal to AnandTech readers at all.

From the comments posted, we came to the conclusion that the majority of our readers, instead of having a fancy-looking product lacking the features that they need, would rather have a case with a very simple look and with only those certain features that they can't do without during their regular use.

Cooler Master has five mid-tower chassis in their line and all have a design that is simple, yet tasteful. They were kind enough to send us a sample of the latest in their Centurion series, the Centurion 5, to test out and compare with past products that we have reviewed. The Centurion 5 is similar in internal design to NZXT's Guardian. We will look at what puts Cooler Master's product apart from the Guardian and others.




External Design

The entire front bezel is composed of a mesh grill, which includes the drive bay covers. This allows air to move in and out and create a cooler atmosphere inside the chassis. Cooler Master has also added air filters on the backside of the mesh grill to keep dust from entering.




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The top half of the bezel is composed of five 5-1/4" drive bays, all with mesh covers. These can be removed to install drive bays by detaching the bezel (there are four screws to be undone before the bezel can be taken off). Since the manual stated nothing about the screws, it took a bit of time for us to figure out that we had to unscrew the bezel, unlike other cases that have easy pull-off bezels.




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Below the 5-1/4" drive bays is the single exposed 3-1/2" drive bay, which is ample for simple rigs with a single floppy drive.

The bottom fourth of the case consists of the Power/Reset buttons, Power/HDD LEDs and the auxiliary ports, which includes two USB ports, Headphone and Microphone jacks, and a single Fire Wire(IEEE 1394) port. They are all clearly labeled on the front panel as well as on their designated connectors on the inside.




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The side panels are the simple "slide-back-to-remove" type. Both side panels are identical in that both have a machined out array of slots, which is positioned at mid-height towards the middle of the panels. We assumed that they were put there for added air circulation, but we don't believe that they will have a great effect, if any, on thermal conditions of the case. Both also have indentations at the back to grip them when sliding them back.




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Internal Design

As soon as we looked inside the Centurion 5, we realized that we were working with the same layout used in the NZXT Guardian, which we looked at in April. There are slight variations in the construction of the shell of the Centurion, but besides that, the design is very much alike.




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The drive bays, for one, use the same tool-less locking devices that we saw in the Guardian. We believed these devices to be much better than drive rails, since they are attached to the case. The drive rails, which were used in the SilverStone TJ05, were a bit difficult to work with, since they wouldn't easily slide into the bays.




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One feature on the NZXT Guardian that was a turn off was the expansion card area and the devices used to secure them in place. They were little, flimsy plastic mechanisms, which could barely hold an expansion card in place. Our ATI 9800 card, which is extremely heavy due to its fan and heatsinks, had to be secured with a screw to keep it from falling out. Thankfully, holes were provided for screws to be used in the Centurion 5 instead of these flimsy plastic clips.




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Cooling

Unlike NZXT in their Guardian case, Cooler Master has included a complete set of fans in the Centurion 5. NZXT did put two fans in the Guardian, but decided to install them on the side panel and at the back of the case.




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The Centurion 5 has an 80mm fan at the front as an intake placed in front of the 3-1/2" drive bays which helps cool HDDs and a single 120mm fan at the back as an exhaust. Both are house brand fans, which are rated at 12V, 25-26dBA, and 12V, 13 dBA, respectively.




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Since the Centurion 5 is a small case, this set-up should provide ample cooling to any system. Though, we would have liked to see an option for expansion; perhaps a fan mounted on the left side panel.




Construction

Besides the vertical trim on the front of the case and the plastic tool-less devices for the drive bays and expansion slots inside the case, the Centurion 5 is constructed completely of steel.

We went through the inside of the Centurion 5 and felt for sharp edges that could cut wires or wandering hands, and found a few around the drive bay area. We have noticed that unlike the thinner steel used years ago, this thicker 0.8mm SECC results in slightly duller edges when cut. Most manufacturers do fold over as many edges as possible to avoid any problems.




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As we mentioned before, the plastic clips used to secure expansion cards are very flimsy and can break easily. There are many alternatives that we can think of which would be more effective at doing their job. For example, Thermaltake (Xaser III, Xaser V Damier) uses sliding clips that are made of a thicker, stronger plastic, which can easily support the heaviest of expansion cards. We also did not mind the thumbscrew idea that SilverStone used in their Temjin 3 and Lian Li implemented in their PC-V1000.




Expansion

Since the internal design and layout of the Centurion 5 is almost exactly the same as that of NZXT's Guardian, there is just as much room for expansion. The Centurion has, in total, five 5-1/4" drive bays, all with the tool-less mechanisms to secure each drive.

In addition, there are a total of five 3-1/2" drive bays, one of which is exposed. The top two 3-1/2" bays use mechanisms designed for floppy drives, but with only the top-most bay exposed; the second bay seems useless. The Guardian, however, had two exposed 3-1/2" drive bays. It would have made much more sense to have four bays reserved for HDD applications and the single first bay for a floppy drive.




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At the back, there are a total of 7 expansion slots, which are standardized on all typical ATX cases nowadays. Each slot has its own tool-less device to secure the expansion cards installed in the case.




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Motherboard Tray

In the past, we have always emphasized the positive aspects of a removable motherboard tray and why it is such a beneficial feature to have. When we talked about how much simpler it would be for users to replace their motherboard or other hardware when on a removable tray, we were specifically talking about those who constantly replace and update hardware, like the AnandTech team, for example, for testing and reviewing purposes.

Though it does not have any negative aspects, the normal day-to-day end user may not feel the need for a removable tray. The typical end user would usually find little or no benefit in this feature, since their hardware would most likely last them for years before they find a need to upgrade.




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Even though it is not removable, the motherboard tray on the Centurion 5 is designed to accommodate various types of motherboards, including standard and micro ATX for factors. The manufacturer has molded letters into the metal tray to help distinguish which holes are to be utilized for each form factors. Using screw-in stand-offs, motherboards can be secured to the tray using traditional screws.




Installation

With tool-less designs being implemented in more cases, the devices cut off a good amount of time for component installation. The total time taken to install the motherboard, CPU, VGA card, HDD, and our OCZ power supply that we swapped out was about 10 minutes.




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We have received many questions regarding included power supplies and why we do not include them when performing our thermal benchmarks. The answer to this question is that we are testing the performance of the case and comparing it to cases that we have benchmarked in the past, and not testing the hardware installed in it, no matter if the power supply was included with the case. Hopefully that helps clear up any confusion.




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Benchmarking - Thermal

When benchmarking the Centurion 5, we test the temperatures of key components including the actual CPU temperature, the actual temperature inside the heatsink, the temperatures of the DDR, Northbridge, Southbridge, HDD, PSU, and the ambient temperature inside the case, all during normal operation. During our testing, the PSU and CPU heatsink fans remain on to measure temperatures during normal system operations.

Chaintech VNF3-250
AMD Athlon 64 3200+
OCZ PC3200 DDR x 2
Zalman CNPS7000 Copper
Seagate Barracuda 120GB SATA
ATI 9800XT AGP8x
OCZ 520W PowerStream



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The thermal readings for the key components and points on the motherboard during operation were as follows:

Thermal Benchmarks - CPU

Thermal Benchmarks - Heat sink

Thermal Benchmarks - HDD

Thermal Benchmarks - DDR

Thermal Benchmarks - Northbridge

Thermal Benchmarks - Southbridge

Thermal Benchmarks - Power Supply

Thermal Benchmarks - System Ambient

With its combination of 120mm and 80mm fans, the Centurion 5 performed comparably to the Enermax Sea Hawk and Chenbro's Xpider II. CPU temperatures remained cool and well under the Athlon 64 3200's maximum operating temperature. Though it did not perform as well as the Temjin 5 or the Damier V6000A, it kept temperatures of all components at stable temperatures.




Benchmarking - Sound

The other performance meter when it comes to cases is noise levels. We measure the noise level of the Centurion 5 at a distance of 12" from the closed chassis with the power supply fan turned off. Take a look at our results.

Sound Benchmarks

The Centurion 5 performed better than its main competitors, the Sea Hawk and the Xpider II, when it came to case noise. Had Cooler Master used a quieter 80mm fan, like some of their quiet house brand fans, the noise levels could have been cut down a bit. The Centurion 5 still performed extremely well.




Final Thought

The benchmarks show that Cooler Master's Centurion 5 can compete with the other cases on the charts. The thermal readings for the CPU remained at a stable and cool range between 36 and 46 degrees, which shows that the Centurion is clearly well designed. We believe that the mesh front bezel had a lot to do with the thermal results, since it allowed air to move in and out freely, passively cooling components.

The Centurion 5 also performed well in the noise benchmarks at 44dBA. Though noise levels could have been further reduced by using Cooler Master's higher quality fans, this is the quietest case compared to the rest of the products on the chart.

Even though the internal design was almost a replica of NZXT's Guardian, we felt that the external look put the Centurion 5 on top. Cooler Master could definitely target a wider customer base with the Centurion 5 with its sleek look and external design. We believe that this tops the Guardian in that area as most of you probably will also.

The Centurion 5 has a price tag of about $105, which is a great deal considering that they include a 350W power supply in the package. The Guardian is priced at $70 and does not include a power supply. We would definitely recommend Cooler Master's Centurion 5 to those seeking a great looking case with features that you can't find in other products.

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