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Coolermaster Active Thermal Convection System 710
Product : Coolermaster ATCS 710 Tower case
Produced by : Coolermaster
Price : around 100 including VAT

Aluminium cases aren't always produced for overclockers or people that want a great looking case on their desktop. This Coolermaster model has a number of features which make it more suitable for the server market rather than the computer enthusiast.

In the aluminium case market there are only two main competitors. Coolermaster and Lian-Li. Whilst Lian-Li targets the enthusiast, producing cases and add-ons, such cut panels, Coolermaster aim to produce a professional finished product with can cater for both professionals and enthusiasts. We have reviewed Coolermaster cases in the past (ATCS 200 & ATCS 201) and both models have exceeded our expectations. Therefore, we had quite high expectations on this model too.

This model, given the 710 badge is not a full aluminium case. Whilst all outside fittings are aluminium inside, the chassis is steel. This causes it to have extra weight. The inclusion of steel within this case reduces the price. It is not a great surprise why Coolermaster choose to make a steel/aluminium composite case since they are targeting the server market which this model. Servers are, on the whole, less fashionable pieces of computer than their modded desktop counterparts.

We keep referring to the 710 as a case for servers, here are the main reasons why :-
  • Lockable front panel - Increased security.
  • Lockable side panel - Again, increased security.
  • No thumb screws - a server isn't intended to be upgraded every 2 months.
  • Drive rails - Allows screwless removable of drives, important in file servers that use "hot swappable" hard drives.
  • Size - It's almost a full tower case.

    You have a very clean finish on the front with the now trademark brushed aluminium panels. We couldn't get enough detail from our digital camera, however the back of the door has an even more impressive finish than the front. Magnets hold the door shut when it isn't locked. The grill placed at the bottom half of the front panel does a good job at keeping the insides dust free, however complete dust isolation is not achieved.

    There are a couple of noticeable exclusions. There is no hard drive activation/transfer LED, which can be annoying. Although most people can hear their hard drives making noise when reading or writing it is always good to have a visual indication of this. The second is the lack of reset button. We can't quite understand the reason behind leaving this behind. You could argue that servers aren't intended to be reset.

    The back is well laid out with two exhaust fans instead of the one we usually see in most cases. Exhaust fans can be more useful than having a fan up top, since they directly influence the temperature of the air that is hitting the heatsink on top of the processors. Some might say that for a server case there should be space for a second power supply unit. Possibly, although for the retail price you can't complain too much.

    The locking mechanism for the 710's side panel is quite a sturdy piece of kit. Unlike the locks you see on cheaper cases (although locks are quite rare these days) this thing managed to stand up to quite a lot of brutality, at which stage we were happy to say it would withhold a sensible amount of pressure. There is no doubt that if you get a hammer and a crow bar the lock will give way, however if you require that sort if security, you shouldn't be looking to keep the machine under your desk.

    Inside you are given a good display of what a server case should look like. A large number of 3.5" drive bays and removable drive bay modules. The removable drive modules are important, since they allow very easy access in the event of swapping hard drives (this is a relatively common thing in big file servers). The lever to release the drive modules is nicely made and swivles easily above it's pivot. The lower drive bay has a plastic 80mm fan holder to allow air to pass through those high speed server hard disks which get hot very quickly.

    For the four 5.25" drive bays there are no screw attachments. Instead you fit the drives onto plastic rails which sit tightly against the case wall. It's an ingenious idea since it allows the "hot swapping" effect to be there. Hot swapping will become more popular in the desktop market when serial ATA comes through. It allows hard drives to be removed from the system without the machine having to be shutdown - very useful in server environments.

    The front of these plastic clips are attached with metal hookes which can be sprung back to allow the drive to be taken out. The whole job of inserting/removing a drive from the 5.25" drive bays is quite nicely done. So much so, that we felt we would take pictures of the procedure.

    Going from left to right, initially you have two little doors which cover the metal retainer clips. These clips keep the drive secured in it's bay, however when bent back they allow the drive to slide out. So, open both the bay doors and you end up with something that is in the second picture. You can see (clearer in the larger picture) the metal retainer clips. Whilst on their own they look flimsy, they are very good at what they are supposed to do and during our review period none of them broke. You are now free to remove the drive. Although this might sound useless to most people for the reason that you'll have to unplug the cables from inside the case anyway, it is very useful if you have hot swappable hard drives (ones that use the SCA interface), and in server environments this is not uncommon.

    The 710 has space for 4 80mm case fans. Two are positioned to be exhausts and two are intakes. You can't help but feel that the lack of top mounted exhaust fan was an unusual choice, since many of Coolermaster's previous cases have this feature, however the two 80mm exhausts positioned above the CPU do a very good job. In fact with our test rig (an Athlon XP 2000+ fitted with a Swiftech MCX462-B and Papst 34CFM fan) without the use of the two exhausts we had a job to keep our processor under 70C (under full load). However with all four case fans fitted, this dropped to 54C (again under full load). A lesson learnt in the importance of air flow within a case.

    These case fans aren't however just screwed in. They are held into place by plastic moulds which remove the need for those hard to find screws that never seem to be about when you need them. To release the moulds from the case you have to pull back the plastic paddle. Although the plastic around the joint soon becomes worn and felt like it was about to snap. Not the nicest bit of kit in the case. However the idea is very good and if the moulds were made a bit better then maybe it would be a brilliant solution.

    So overall, we have an aluminium/steel case that retails for under 100 including VAT. All the important bits are aluminium (ie. the bits that face outside), and the innards are steel, which is a great way of bringing down the case of such a case. Intended for the server market rather than enthusiasts it has all the features you look for in a full size server case. Lockable doors to drive bays and a lockable side panel means that security isn't a issue. The ability to slide out drives is very important and welcomed in a case of such low price (you'll be surprised what good server cases cost).

    The plastic fan moulds need to be better made, however you can argue that with a case that is going to be pretty much left to it's own devices why bother with re-engineering a bit of plastic. The pricing of this case is aggressive and Coolermaster has done very well producing (yet again) a case that is of high quality and very aesthetically pleasing. Highly recommended.