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Coolermaster ATC 201B, aluminium CD bezel & mini heatsinks
We've always been impressed in the past with cases from Coolermaster. All, with the exception of the ATC 710 were of full aluminium construction and were light. The quality of construction and design has been generally very high with the ATC series, however recently Coolermaster has addressed the fact that their great rival, Lian Li have been taking the market by storm with a number of accessories to go with their cases. Users don't want their aluminium investment be spoilt by the plastic drive bezel of their CDROM drive. Another important product was the supply of pre-cut side panels with perspex, which alleviated the need to take a jigsaw or Dremel to your case.

Coolermaster first sent us a "pre-modded" side panel as a separate unit for the ATC 101 and the finishing was impressive, if a little flamboyant. This time around Coolermaster has gone one better, modifying an old classic to come pre-fitted with a perspex side panel. A couple of years ago we looked at the ATC 201. This was Coolermaster's second aluminium case available on mass here in the United Kingdom and followed on from the highly successful ATC 200. It featured understated styling on the outside, but all the features one could require on the inside.

When we looked at the original ATC 201, it presented us with a wealth of features which at the time were considered extra-ordinary in a case. Times have changed and those features we found surprising back in 2000 lead us not to exhibit the same looks of amazement today. It is simply a testimonial to the industry and how far it has come through competition. The price of such cases have also fallen to a level at which they aren't seen as an extreme extravagance.

As we mentioned a couple of paragraphs before, just selling a case isn't good enough these days. Customers expect a range of matching accessories which will complement the case's styling. Today we look at a few products from Coolermaster that represent the company's effort in providing a full range of products to complement their case range. All without the need for cans of spray paint or any manual labour.

Aluminium CD bezel

For a number of years we've seen Coolermaster cases have sleek and stylish front panels, however the dull plastic bezel of the CDROM drive is a constant reminder that computers are generally seen (and are) boring pieces of beige plastic. Coolermaster have made this, easy to assemble, 3 piece unit that can be placed on top of your plastic bezel and remain in place through adhesive pads.

Installation does require some patience if you want a nice finish, but it shouldn't take more than 5 minutes. The finish of the bezel is extremely high, with a brushed satin finish transforming your dull CDROM drive into something that will look good against your new aluminium case.

With prices around 5 the aluminium bezel is a must have due to it's low price and the work it does to finish the job that an aluminium case does. An extra fiver isn't going to hurt when you spend in excess of 100 on a case.

Aluminium & copper RAM heatsinks

Passive RAM cooling is something that is mostly taken of by the memory manufacturers, however for those looking for something other than just simple heat spreaders then these mini RAMsinks might be just what you might be looking for. Coolermaster have made sure that RAM isn't the only thing these mini heatsinks can be used for and other suitable suggestions are provided on the reverse of the packaging. Suggested are chipsets, video cards and sound cards. While a heatsinked sound card may sound a bit far fetched, it brings home the point that this product isn't solely intended for RAM.

The fact that Coolermaster have decided to make both aluminium and copper versions of the same product made little sense to us. With the difference in price being very little, and the product being aimed at the enthusiast who has little care for the extra few pounds the copper version has over the aluminium, there is very little point in making two versions.

Installation is made very easy by each heatsink having it's own double sided tape which affixes the heatsink to the memory module/chipset. Coolermaster recommend that no part of the heatsink actually touch the circuitry on the PCB since the heatsinks can, and do conduct electricity. This means that a little bit of care has to be taken with the installation.

These products from Coolermaster are very well made and their packaging makes you feel as if some effort has been put into something that is very small. The aluminium version comes with a little less recommendation from us since it's only a few pounds less than it's copper counterpart and whilst the performance difference isn't all that huge, whenever you have a choice, go for copper.

Sadly for Coolermaster, the overall attractiveness of this product is brought down by the fact that all the major RAM manufacturers that aim for the overclockers market supply their modules pre-fitted with heat spreaders. Whilst heatsinks do a better job than heatspreaders, hardcore junkies will be looking to active cooling, be it air or water.

Coolermaster 201B-SXK aluminium case

Finally we look at Coolermaster's regeneration of an old classic. The original 201 was a very good product and although it wasn't made completely out of aluminium (the side panels were made from a compound), it had good performance due to it's 4 80mm case fans and through impecible finishing was able to be one of the most desirable cases available on the market at the time.

So what did they do with such a good product? Leave it alone, and rightly so. Coolermaster have made a few changes which are welcome and this really helps the 201B become a complete aluminium case. Looking at the 201B from the front there is very little that has changed, and whilst the clean looks are a welcome from the artificial curved looks we see on a lot of cases, some may have preferred a two-tone front rather than this simple, diminutive front. As they say, it's impossible to please everyone.

The 201B comes pre-fitted with a window side panel which is great news for anyone who wants to show off their hardware and not risk destroying their aluminium clad investment. This is the second case we've seen with a pre-fitted side panel from Coolermaster and while the quality of manufacture is still extremely high, and above that of most manually fitted jobs, it can be seen that Coolermaster have used thinner perspex for their panel than in the past.

That said, originally the thickness seen on the panel of the ATC 101 was over the top. Either way, the whole job of attaching and keeping the panel in place is done beautifully by chromed domed screws. A professional finish, as we have come to expect from Coolermaster.

As with most cases coming from Coolermaster, the 201B has front mounted USB ports which are neatly stowed away behind a spring loaded door. Opening this door is made easy by the overhang that sticks out of the otherwise flush fitting front panel. Unlike the ATC 101, where the USB header cables were too short for some motherboards, this time there is more than enough to go around.

Looking inside you get the feeling that very little has changed over the years, and again this isn't always a bad thing. With sharp edges sanded down and a clean, clinical look to the interior you get the feeling that care has been taken in the assembly of this unit. Case fans, as always come with chromed grills and a hologram Coolermaster sticker. However, unlike the original 201 we don't have a top mounted exhaust. This is a real shame because whenever we've used any Coolermaster case with a top mounted 80mm exhaust (our test machines are all made up of computers held in Coolermaster cases), we've noticed a large volume of warm air ejected by these fans.

Coolermaster have left the rear exhaust fan in place and kept two 80mm units at the front to cool hard disk drives. In front of these fans is a highly effective dust filter. The cleaning of this filter is harder than it needs to be, and a removable filter would be encouraged in order to maintain efficient airflow. The fans are quiet and provide good airflow in the case, keeping the hard drives cool.

PSU installation has become a lot easier, with Coolermaster supplying an oversized slot onto which a mount is screwed from the back panel. This also means people with PSUs that have fans on their underside won't have problems using this case. The motherboard tray slides out easily and is big enough to accommodate extended ATX motherboards along with standard size models.

Thumbscrews are extensively used throughout the 201B and are a cut above the sometimes cheap looking ones you find at overclocking stores. They do have a Philips head on them so if you want to really tighten them up, you can.

The 201B is more of a progression rather than being a revolutionary. Coolermaster have raised the expectation bar so high, producing some really high quality and stylish cases in the past that it is almost impossible for them to surpass their earlier models. The 201B adds to what was, 3 years ago, a truly brilliant case. TIt is missing some of the original features such as top mounted exhaust fan, however the changes that have been made are, on the whole for the better. With a beautifully assembled side panel window, the 201B is one of the best mid sized ATX cases on the market, and if you are willing to cough up the 150 then you will not be disappointed.

Final thoughts

Coolermaster have released three good products. All manufactured to high standards and giving you the ability to show off your computer in what will become a centrepiece. Spending such large amounts of cash on a case will not be to everyone's taste and this is quite understandable. However if you do decide to spend in excess of 150 on the ATC 201B then we recommend you purchase the aluminium CD bezel which will only set you back a few more Pounds.

The RAMsinks are useful products in their own right, however with most manufacturers pre-supplying their RAM modules with heatspreads on, and not allowing you to remove them without voiding your warranty the market for these heatsinks is limited. The copper version is recommended over the aluminium, due to only a small price increase that is present between the two. You have to make sure that your motherboard will allow you to fit these heatsinks on consecutive sticks of RAM.

The ATC 201B is a very desirable case. It isn't perfect, but takes most of the bad points in the original 201 and corrects them. The only thing we would have liked to see is a top mounted exhaust fan. Other than that minor gripe, we have little cause not to justify this case. 150 might sound like a lot of money, and sure enough it is, but if you are interested in quality cases which come with a first class finish then you won't go far wrong with the 201B.