Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/8383/corsair-carbide-240-air



Introduction

Corsair is a company originally known for their quality RAM modules, but they have expanded into many other areas of the PC market. Today, Corsair is one of the most important players in the computer hardware market, with the company offering dozens of products, designed to cater to as wide an array of people as possible. Looking just at their computer cases, Corsair offers five series with an ever-expanding number of products, ranging from super-large cases for enthusiasts to low-cost products for budget-driven users. In this review, we will look at one of their latest case designs, the Carbide Air 240.

Compact cases and small form factors are all the rage nowadays. Some companies, such as Silverstone, have focused many of their R&D resources on the development of such designs. The first compact case that we reviewed from Corsair was the Obsidian 250D, a cubic Mini-ITX case of not so compact proportions; instead, it was designed to fit fairly powerful combinations of hardware. This is also true of the Carbide Air 240 that we will be reviewing today. Although it is designed to fit up to Micro-ATX motherboards, the Carbide Air 240 can accommodate very powerful hardware, including two top-tier GPUs and dual liquid cooling radiators. We will look at its design, features, strengths, and weaknesses in this review.

Corsair Carbide Air 240 Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX
Drive Bays External -
Internal 3 x 2.5" or 3.5" (rear cage)
3 x 2.5" (top cage)
Cooling Front 2 x 120 (2 x 120mm included)
Rear 2 x 80mm (optional)
Top 2 x 120mm (one included)
Right Side 1 x 120mm (optional)
Bottom 2 x 120 (optional)
I/O Port 2 × USB 3.0
2 × USB 3.0
1 × Headphone
1 × Mic
Power Supply Size ATX
Clearances HSF 125mm
PSU 200mm
GPU 360 mm
Dimensions ~315mm × 265mm × 400mm (H×W×D)
~12.4in × 10.43in × 15.75in (H×W×D)
Pricing ~$90 online

Packaging and bundle

The Corsair Carbide Air 240 comes supplied in a simple, brown cardboard box. The artwork on the box is limited to schematics of the case and text. Inside the box, the lightweight case is protected by thick polystyrene foam slabs and is wrapped in a nylon bag.

Corsair kept the items bundled with the Carbide Air 240 down to a minimum but organized them well, supplying each type of screw inside a separate nylon bag. There are also four rubber feet for the case and a few short cable ties.



Corsair Carbide Air 240 Exterior

"And we shall call it…mini-540". This is what Corsair must have been thinking while designing their latest addition to the Carbide series, the Air 240. The new Micro-ATX case looks exactly like an undersized version of the Carbide Air 540 that we reviewed a little over a year ago. With a size of 315mm × 265mm × 400mm (H×W×D) and a total volume of 0.0334m3, the Carbide Air 240 is not a very compact Micro-ATX case, yet it takes less than half the volume of the Air 540 (61.55% less) and less volume than the Obsidian 350D (21.87% less). It also adds Micro-ATX compatibility over the Obsidian 250D for just 16.9% more volume.

Corsair currently offers the Carbide Air 240 in two colors, black and white, both of which are depicted in the following galleries. It is interesting to note that the metallic parts of the black version have been sprayed with a grainy, satin black paint, while a smooth matte black paint covers the plastic parts. The difference in the paint on the black isn't a major deal, but it is apparent when performing a close inspection. The white version on the other hand is immaculate, with the entire exterior having being sprayed with a satin white color.

Aesthetically, the Carbide Air 240 sports an interesting asymmetric design that hints at the internal dual-chamber configuration. The left part of the faceplate is vented, as is the left part of the top and bottom panels as well, creating exceptional cooling possibilities for the main system. We can see the I/O ports and buttons on the right middle side of the faceplate, with the company logo in alignment towards the left side of the case. The left side panel is almost entirely covered by a transparent acrylic window, revealing the entire main system to the spectator.

The top and bottom panels of the Carbide Air 240 are secured with two thumbscrews each. By removing these thumbscrews, both panels easily slide off. However, as the case actually sits on the bottom panel, it will have to be placed on its side or upside down before removing it. The removal of either panel reveals the frame for the installation of 120mm fans and/or liquid cooling radiators.

It is very interesting that Corsair went with a "rails" design, allowing the user to adjust the location of the fans/radiator by a few centimeters towards the front or the rear of the case. Each of the side panels is secured with two thumbscrews each as well, but these thumbscrews are partially threaded and do not come off the panel when removing it. The front panel can also be removed, but the user needs to first remove both side panels and undo the plastic clips that hold the front panel in place.

Even though the right side panel of the Carbide Air 240 will have to be removed before the user can wire any of the drives, both drive cages are accessible from the exterior of the case. The 2.5" drive cage is beneath the top panel, which has to be removed in order to gain access to it. The 3.5" drive cage is accessible from the rear of the case, by removing a perforated metallic cover held in place with a single thumbscrew. The plastic trays of the 3.5" cage can hold 2.5" drives as well. Strangely, even though the plastic trays have been inserted facing rightwards from the factory, they need to be installed facing leftwards in order to fit three full-size 3.5" mechanical disks.

It is also possible to use the Carbide Air 240 sideways and there are even slots on the metallic right side panel for the rubber feet that Corsair provides in the bundle. However, that will also rotate the faceplate and everything printed on it, including the I/O legend and the case badge, making the Carbide Air 240 look rather odd and off-place. The case badge is magnetic and may be rotated, but that is not true for the I/O legend and buttons.



Corsair Carbide Air 240 Interior

Regardless of the external color of the case, the interior of the Carbide Air 240 is all black, with the sole exception being the grey stock cooling fan blades. The chassis is made from relatively thin SECC steel, but it offers adequate mechanical strength for the small size of the case, which is further supported by the motherboard tray. As we mentioned before, the Carbide Air 240 is split in two sections; the left section houses the main system, while the PSU and drives go to the right section.

There are several holes on the motherboard tray, covered with rubber grommets, for the cables to be routed between the two sections. The design dictates that, for the best possible visual result, the cables should be routed away from the system and into the opaque right compartment. For additional cable management, Corsair punched a few cable tie mounting points in the right compartment of the case. There is a large opening behind the CPU area as well, for the installation of CPU coolers, but it is blocked by the 3.5" drive cage. The cage has to be removed in order to access the rear of the CPU socket.

Motherboards of up to Micro-ATX size can be installed in the Carbide Air 240, but there is a catch: if you do install a Micro-ATX motherboard, you cannot install a liquid cooling radiator at the bottom of the case. You also cannot really install one at the top panel either, since the fan alone is just a hair away from the top of the motherboard. Therefore, you basically need to choose between two GPUs and a Micro-ATX motherboard, or two large liquid cooling radiators and a Mini-ITX motherboard (presumably with one GPU).

There are limitations for those of you who will be using air coolers as well. The clearance for an air cooler is about 124mm, which is ample for many air coolers but not enough for top-tier products. Super-tall air coolers, such as the Noctua NH-D15, will not fit inside the Carbide Air 240. Corsair also indicates that the maximum PSU length is 200mm, but technically there is nothing blocking the PSU compartment and even longer units can be installed. Of course, considering that >200mm units also tend to have a >1.4kW output, that would be the very definition of overkill inside a case such as this.

As far as stock cooling is concerned, the case ships with three Corsair A1225L12S-2 120mm fans installed from the factory. Two can be found behind the front mesh and one at the top of the case, above the CPU area. These sleeve bearing fans have been designed with silence in mind, with a maximum speed of 1300RPM.

Black cables and parts are easily hidden inside an all-black chassis; for visual clarity, we are using an AX760i PSU with a red cable pack and white SATA cables for our pictures. Building a system inside the Corsair Carbide Air 240 is a very simple and straightforward procedure. The spacious format and the tool-less expansion card locking mechanism allow for the very quick assembly of a full system. For those that care about a great visual effect as well, we believe that most of the assembly time will be spent optimizing the routing of the cables.

With a full Micro-ATX system installed in the Carbide Air 240, we found that we had a lot of space available for cable management in the right side of the case, with much of it needlessly taken by the long wires of the Corsair AX760i PSU depicted in the gallery above. We believe that it will not be long before short cable sets become available for specific fully modular PSUs that fit high performance compact systems, such as this one. You will most likely still have to use a long CPU power cable though, as the cable has to be routed above the motherboard and there is no opening at the top left side of the motherboard tray. Also, it is worthwhile to note that a Micro-ATX motherboard will block the first row of grommets, which are obviously meant for Mini-ITX motherboards instead.



Test Setup

Professional testing requires the emulation of real-world situations but with repeatable results; thus, a perfectly controllable test setup and environment are required, especially for comparable results. Testing the thermal performance of any case with a typical real-world setup technically limits the comparability of the results to this setup alone, as an active system interacts with its environment and the change of a single component would alter myriads of variables. For our case reviews, we developed synthetic loads that emulate the thermal output of real systems, but these are passive, steady and quantifiable loads. This allows us to test the thermal capabilities of the case alone, as if it would have to deal with the entire thermal load by itself, regardless of what system an end user might install in it.

Laboratory data loggers are used to monitor the PT100 sensors and control the safety relays, which are fully accessible via our custom software. We have created three such loads, and we'll use the Micro-ATX load for this case. The Micro-ATX version simulates a 180W CPU, 40W VRM, 20W RAM, and 1 × 120W GPU card thermal load. Finally, two 3.5" HDD dummy loads have also been installed, with each of them converting 30W of electrical power to thermal. Note that the total load is generally more important than the individual elements, and the total thermal load of the Micro-ATX test setup is up to 420 Watts. As such, the thermal load is very high and only the best of cases will be able to handle it for more than a few minutes. For comparison purposes, we are also performing a test with a thermal load of 230W by reducing the CPU load to 90W, removing one disk load and using a low-profile, 50W version GFX load.

Thermal testing is performed with all of the case's stock fans operating at maximum speed. Standard noise testing has been performed with a background noise level of 30.4dB(A). Advanced noise testing is also being performed, in order to assess the ability of the case to dampen the noise of the components installed inside it. This includes the installation of two noise-generating sources (strong fans) inside the case, one positioned approximately over the first expansion slot and one over the CPU area, which generate ≈ 44.2 dB(A) when unobstructed. During the advanced noise test, all stock cooling options of the case are disabled.

Results and Discussion

As we expected from a case designed for ventilation, and despite its relatively compact size, the Carbide Air 240 displays exceptional thermal performance, significantly superior to that of the Mini-ITX Obsidian 250D. Although a direct comparison is not really possible, as the GPU load we use to test ATX cases is much higher, it would appear that the Carbide Air 240 has little to be jealous of Midi-ATX cases as well, delivering CPU and HDD temperatures that can easily rival cases such as the XFX Bravo 01 and Corsair's own Obsidian 450D.

The three stock cooling fans of the Carbide Air 240 are fairly weak, but that also has a positive effect on the acoustic performance of the case. With only the stock cooling fans installed, the Carbide Air 240 is a relatively quiet system, which can be made entirely quiet by simply connecting the fans onto the motherboard headers and leaving their speed control up to the BIOS. However, due to its design, the Carbide Air 240 cannot dampen the noise of the components installed inside it. Our testing revealed nearly zero noise-dampening capabilities, which is true of any case with so many openings on all sides.



Conclusion

Aesthetically, the Carbide Air 240 is certainly eye-catching and very well designed. We cannot really claim that it is a unique case, both because many cubic cases are available and because it is based on the same external design as the Carbide Air 540, a case released over a year ago. However, this does not reduce the aesthetic value of the Carbide Air 240. Based on a minimalistic design of simple geometric shapes and grids, the Carbide Air 240 is a case that attracts attention without being extravagant. It is an understated, yet elegant design that ought to look great on any desk.

Due to its unorthodox shape, there are some limitations as well. For example, despite the width of the case, it is not possible to install very tall CPU coolers, leaving the end user to either settle for a smaller cooler or go for a liquid cooling solution instead. The large width is also going to be a problem for spaces and offices designed to hold standard tower cases, as the cubic Carbide Air 240 will obviously not fit.

One major weakness of the Carbide Air 240 is that there are no external drive slots, for 3.5" or 5.25" devices. Some advanced users have ditched optical media (never mind floppy disks and the like) a long time ago, but others still like to install a DVD-RW or Blu-ray drive. This severely limits the potential of the Carbide Air 240 to be used as a media center. However, that was never the intended purpose of this case, as it has obviously been designed to house little monster gaming PCs, not to function as an HTPC.

When it comes to performance, the Carbide Air 240 delivers as promised. It should easily be able to cover the thermal needs of even the most powerful gaming system that can fit inside it, even with the stock cooling setup if no overclocking takes place. For low-noise setups and overclocking, the installation of at least a good CPU cooler is highly recommended. If a Mini-ITX motherboard is installed, the installation of two liquid coolers, one for the CPU and one for the GPU respectively, can help to create a very powerful system with low operating noise. Unfortunately, due to space limitations, the installation of two GPUs and two liquid coolers does not seem possible, so it would be rather difficult to create a silent dual-GPU gaming system.

As far as quality goes, the Corsair Carbide Air 240 is a very well made product for its class. The plastics are solid and the mechanical cohesion of the chassis is very good as well. Our only complaint would concern the use of metallic meshes as dust filters. Although these metallic meshes are durable and convenient, they will not help with smaller dust particles at all. Furthermore, the panels need to come off in order to clean them, which is not very convenient. The mesh on the right side panel is an exception, as it is denser and can be cleaned very easily.

Recommending the Carbide Air 240 is easy enough, though as usual that depends on individual preferences. Aside from the fact that aesthetics are an entirely subjective matter, which is typically a major factor when it comes to choosing a case, the unorthodox design of the Carbide Air 240 is simply not meant for the majority of the users. Simply put, it is not a product meant for the average Joe to stick beneath an office desk and forget about it. Instead, this is a case meant to show off your powerful and yet compact gaming system, with an eye-catching cubic design. If that's what you're looking for, the Carbide Air 240 is definitely worthy of consideration. Pricing is reasonable as well, with both the white and the black models listed at Amazon and priced at $90 – $40 less than the larger Carbide Air 540.

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