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Cooler Master ATC-201A SX2: Cooler Master, pioneer of the aluminum cases, overhauled one of their most popular models, and released something enthusiasts should consider when shopping for a new case.

Date: January 6, 2003
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There was a time when many enthusiasts were content with buying a beige box. Overtime, mostly due to the popularity of LAN parties, enthusiasts would begin to customize their rig. In some cases, these modifications were functional, but in most cases, it was for aesthetic reasons. Everyone wants to stand out, and be it a fancy paint job, or a cool cutout in the side panel, everyone fought to be Waldo (read: standout in a sea of normality).

Case manufacturers see this as a cash cow though, and today, more and more companies are springing up, offering their cases to compete for your wallet. These companies offer pre-modded cases, either with windows, or with blowholes.

Getting further into this, aluminum cases were another market. Other than the physical benefits, they were sought after because they simply looked cool. Aluminum cases are becoming a dime a dozen these days. Once upon a time (read: 18 to 24 months ago), there were only a couple manufacturers, but now there are dozens. These cases can also be bought pre-modded, and even companies such as Lian-Li give their cases a little extra to catch the buyer's eye.

It should seem fitting then, that the pioneer of aluminum cases, Cooler Master, went back to the drawing board, and improved upon one of their most popular models, the ATC-201, and end result is the . Make no mistake though, as they didn't just add an air duct and call it a day. There were some overhauls done, and this is one case you're going to want to check out.

Specifications

Material: All Aluminum Alloys

Drive Bay: 5.25' Bays (exposed) x 4
3.5' Bays (exposed) x 2
3.5' Bays (hidden) x 4
Slot Bracket: 7

M/B Type: Standard ATX MB

I/O Bracket: Standard ATX

Power Supply: None

Cooling: Dual 80mm x 80mm x 25 mm Fan attached front panel. -- Air flow in --
One 80mm x 80mm x 25 mm Fan attached back panel.--Air flow out --
One 80mm x 80mm x 25 mmFan attached top panel. --Air flow out --

Weight: Case : 5Kg (12 lbs)

Dimension: 497 mm x 196 mm x 452 mm


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The Cooler Master ATC-201A-SX2 ships in a fairly average sized box, just a little larger than the case itself. Everything is neatly packed, and there's enough folded cardboard and packing foam to keep things secure during shipping.

There isn't much in the way of instructions, except for a small leaflet on installing a redundant PSU. I suppose anyone who purchases an aftermarket case; i.e., you build a PC yourself, won't miss the instructions too much. There are plenty of screws provided, though sadly, no extra thumbscrews, which we'll get into a little later.

External Features


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As with most aluminum cases, the ATC-201A is light. At a mere 12lbs (case alone), you should have no problem lugging the rig from place to place. Like most of the aluminum cases on the market, you're on your own when it comes to the power supply. In most cases (no pun intended), stock power supplies aren't of the best quality, and I'll bet most of you have an aftermarket PSU anyways.


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There are 4 external 5.25" drive bays, and 2 external 3.5" drive bays. This should be enough expansion room for most users, as being a mid sized case, you do sacrifice the number of drive bays when compared to a full tower.

Our Cooler Master, and from what I hear, most Cooler Masters, was missing one external 5.25" drive bay faceplate. I suppose the idea behind it is you'll have at least one optical drive to put in there, but for those of you who wish to stealth their CDROM drive, you'll have to resort to painting it instead, or picking up one of Cooler Master's aluminum bezels.


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The ATC-201 has a mesh grill (to allow for airflow for the fans), which will be a hit or miss for some people. Personally, I find it a nice aesthetic (and functional) feature, whereas there are people who prefer an untainted front panel. We will discuss why this vent placement is better than how most cases draw air later on in the review.

The power button and reset button are nicely recessed on the right side. The power button is a little "squishy" for my tastes, but that's a minor complaint on my part. On the left of the vent are the USB 2.0 ports. Personally, I don't like the idea of USB ports that "show" on the front, so the spring door to cover the ports is nice. I'm not sure if it was our sample or if it'll be a common issue for all of the production 201As, but the spring door doesn't really lock in an open position. A couple of times, it just swung shut, bending the cable to my USB device. No damage was done, but you'll need to take some care with the door.


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Taking a cue from home audio equipment, there's a nice gold trim around the 4 feet on the bottom of the case. I do question the colour choice though, as being a silver case, a silver trim would be a better colour match for the rest of the case. The feet are fairly spongy, and do a pretty good job at keeping the case from slipping around.


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As with past Cooler Master cases, both side panels are removable. There are three thumbscrews on each side panel, and each panel has a small grip on the back to pull them off. The side panel on the left side has a pre-cut blow hole, which is referred to as the "Air Guide". The case is available without the Air Guide, but as our tests have shown, it works prety good. We'll talk more about this in the cooling features.

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