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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  • SunLord - Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - link

    All that wasted space in the back chamber is a major turnoff to me. With all that space I would've prefered to of had some more hdd bays they could've gotten at least 3 or 4 3.5" bays in the massive back void Reply
  • hammer256 - Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - link

    Looks like the little brother of CaseLabs' Magnium line of double-wide cases. Of course, CaseLabs is also a lot more expensive... Reply
  • Ninhalem - Monday, July 8, 2013 - link

    Also Case Labs' enclosures are all made out of thick aluminum, and are specifically built with modification and custom liquid cooling loops in mind. Although, I must give Corsair credit for thinking outside of the box for a mainstream manufacturer. Reply
  • Popworks - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Actually I'm seeing some inspiration from a...

    Black Caselabs M10 with 64mm top and XL window
    Reply
  • lmcd - Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - link

    I'd have liked to see drives at the top of the case, with 2 2.5 and 1 3.5 configured for hotswap in addition to the 2.5 bays and 3.5 bays available. Reply
  • marc1000 - Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - link

    yeah, the empty space begs for drive bays, but they would be hard to wire and place.

    maybe two 3.5 hot-swap bays below the DVD bays would get the job done - even if a little expensive.

    other than this, pretty awesome case!
    Reply
  • marc1000 - Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - link

    this is the kind of drive cage i'm talking about: rows of drives in front of the case. just two would be enough (look at first picture of this server case)

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/7121/trials-of-an-in...
    Reply
  • lmcd - Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - link

    Yeah that's kinda what I was thinking, though I thought at the top of the case. Same idea though. Reply
  • Ammaross - Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - link

    The AzzA Hurrican 2000 has 6 front hot-swap trays. Unfortunately, it wastes about 2 3.5" bays worth to do it.... http://www.targetpc.com/uploads/blog.12.h.jpg Reply
  • kilkennycat - Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - link

    I agree, a cage for 2 stacked HDDS could readily fit the lower left-hand corner (of the plenum view) but the HDDs would definitely need some circulating air to be thermally-happy... there is ZERO airflow within the plenum with the power-supply mounted as pictured. Notice the SSD temperature rise in the graphs - a consequence of no airflow !!! A side-cover fan could be provided, or maybe the following alternate:-

    If there is enough air-clearance between the power-supply and the MB mounting-plate the power-supply could potentially be mounted in an inverted configuration and draw its air from the plenum and rear air-holes -- which would create some air-circulation without an extra fan. Holes in the side-panel over the added HDD-cage would enhance this cooling.
    Reply

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