When it comes to computers, we’re accustomed to assuming that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. But for top of the line performance, that’s not always true. PC cases are an integral part of any computer, and it’s not all about aesthetics. Besides keeping the computer together, they provide mounts for the motherboard, “bays” for hard drives and optical drives, mounts for add-on cards, and most importantly, play an important role in cooling the components and keeping them running smoothly and safely.
Cases are tasked with containing and mitigating the effects of an extreme environment. Because all the electronic parts generate substantial heat, cases must be engineered for maximum airflow, allowing the fans and heat sinks to cool components. Furthermore, due to static electricity and airflow, significant amounts of dust can collect—ergo, cases must also be designed to impede dust from entering. Some cases even provide cable management systems, designed to prevent blocking of air passages by manifold cables. The noise pollution of computer systems is also a factor in cases, especially if you’ll be around a PC 24/7 or attempting to record audio with the system.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the Cooler Master Centurion 5 ($50). It is primarily produced in black, though you can get it with a blue or silver trim.
The overall layout is very good, allowing for easy airflow, fairly easy access to components, and plenty of room for expansion. The side panel is accessed by two thumb-screws, which is a nice touch—especially for those of us who don’t always have a Torx wrench nady. Drives are held into their bays by a sliding lock system, which works very well in practice. On the expansion card slots, there are plastic retaining clips. They work well on most small cards, but with heavier cards, screws are required to hold the card in place.
The Centurion comes with two factory installed fans. Although a 120mm fan would have done a better job cooling the hard drives the manufacturers installed an 80mm fan for the front intake and a 120mm to exhaust the heated air. On the side panel, there is a chute designed to cover the CPU exhaust fan, and immediately exit that super-heated air. It is possible to install a 80mm fan there as well. Overall, it does a good job in moving air through the various sectors of the internals, keeping things within acceptable temperature ranges. One nice addition was a mesh front, which cuts down on the amount of dust admitted into the case.
Accessories and Expansion Slots
The Centurion 5 also has two USB ports, audio in/out, and a FireWire port on the front panel. Because of their placement at the bottom of the case, they are hard to reach when the case is on the floor, which is something you may want to keep in mind when narrowing down your choices. With a bit of persistence and patience, you can find your way around this case, but many users have complained about the somewhat unhelpful manual that’s included with the PC case.
If the Centurion does not quite meet your needs as shipped, there are plenty of ways to upgrade it with aftermarket fans or other coolers. This is a great case for any of your builds, with a thought-out layout, excellent cooling, and plenty of perks it will do for any computer.