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Cooler Master ATC-600 Case: Looking for a nice HTPC-type case? This case may be just the thing you are looking for.

Date: August 29, 2003
Manufacturer:
Written By:
Price:
 

Tour: EXTERIOR
 

The bezel itself is a refined affair. There is not much in the way of molded surfaces; the case presents a beautifully modern, "less is more" aspect that is refreshing. The clean lines are broken twice: moving left to right, the power switch, reset switch, power LED and HDD LED comprise one grouping, and a pair of USB ports flank a IE1394 Firewire port on the right-hand side. The LEDs are in the signature "cool blue" look that Cooler Master pioneered. It occurred to me that it may have preserved the esthetic more properly had the designers slightly recessed the USB/Firewire ports, and covered the affair with a latch of some sort; I hope to see such a change in a later revision, assuming there will be one.
 
The eye will be immediately drawn to the transparent (in this model) strip of acryllic that covers the two external 5.25" drives. This single feature properly defines and differentiates the ATC-600 series from the rest of the Cooler Master ATCS cases. It is an elegant affair, speaking more to console Hi-Fi rather than computer cases. There is no visible latch, no key to turn, no button to depress, not even a magnet to disengage; the designers chose to give a nod to elegance. The 5.25" drives are exposed by pressing the cover in slightly, and then releasing. Instead of flopping down and bouncing like some cheap toaster-oven, the cover glides open, supported by two counter weighted gears mounted just inside the faceplate. The video clip illustrates exactly how this mechanism works, and it will show how thoughtful design can make or break a concept.
 
One may notice that there is no external 3.5" drive mount. Strictly a matter of opinion, but the necessity of 1.44mb floppy disks has all but declined. Modern motherboard chipsets will boot from a CD-ROM more easily than a floppy diskette. For an forward-thinking case design, the lack of a 3.5" external mount is a plus.
 
Turning the case around, one realizes that as large as this case is, it is still designed for a Micro-ATX form factor motherboard. Four slots await filling. The guide-plate for the onboard connectors is easily removable and replaceable in the event your motherboard has a non-standard configuration.
 
The sides of the ATC-600 are remarkable only in that one can see the intake cuts made in the case cover; the fans themselves are mounted to the internal frame (as will be illustrated further below).
 
The attention to detail is further emphasized by turning the ATC-600 on its side. Instead of your basic, run-of-the-mill rubber feet, slapped to the bottom of the case with glue or a bolt, Cooler Master opted to attach aluminum casters (this the right word?) ringed with a brass trim, and capped by high-quality rubber soles. This adds to the "speaking to Hi-Fi consoles" aspect.
 
The cover itself is light-weight aluminum, support by the internal frame. I did not test weight capacity, but putting nearly all my weight on one hand did not buckle or seem to strain any part of the case; rest assured that this case can support a large 21"+ CRT monitor.
 
In the Cooler Master tradition, the majority of the case screws are thumbscrews. In my experience, the only benefit that I find in using thumbscrews is that they are easier to remove once unthreaded; I use a Phillips-head to tighten down ALL my screws, regardless of where they go.

Tour: INTERIOR
 

Removing the case cover reveals a very thoughtful interior. The case is visually cut in two by an aluminum crossbar. Ostensibly, its purpose seems to be to support weight. Upon closer inspection one finds that the bar is held in place by 6 small screws that would take all the vertical pressure, negating the function of the crossbar. It seems at this point that its main function is to prevent the front and rear of the case from buckling inwards.
 
There is no removable motherboard tray. This missing feature alone may cause the casual seeker to pass the ATC-600 up in favor of another case. At first glance, it may seem that the small space would be packed too tightly to have engineered a proper motherboard tray, but even after filling the case with hardware, there is plenty of vertical and horizontal (both width and length) space. A motherboard tray was doable. It occurred to this writer that structural integrity may be compromised if there were a removable tray, but not being an engineer, this thought was left strictly to speculation.
 
Here we see one of the side air-intake fans. Notice its proximity to the drive mount? This becomes an issue that I will address further below.
 
Taking a much closer look insides: on the left, one sees USB and Firewire cables, and PC speaker assembly. On the right, the bundled reset, power, LED, etc. wires.
 
The USB cables are standard and will attach to any motherboard that has the proper options. They are long enough to reach the back of the case with slack to route around PCI cards, the IDE cables, etc. The Firewire cable, on the other hand, is actually kind of a jury-rigged affair. It is a standard external male 6-pin connector. To connect the cable to a Firewire card, and assuming it does not have an internal female 6-pin input, one must route it OUT the back and into the proper card. This is how I was forced to connect the cable. Not pretty.
 
You may have noticed in some of the images that the mount points for the motherboard, the drive trays, etc. have actual bolts sunk into the aluminum. This allows you overzealous types to torque your heart away attaching the brass motherboard mounts. If instead you were forced to screw directly into aluminum, I am fairly certain one would strip the threading almost instantly.
 
One very minor design flaw reared its ugly head when I began installing the motherboard and its PCI cards. Careful inspection revealed that the metal shims have an about 1-2 mm give when pressed in, as illustrated in the picture. The chances of vibration or other annoyances can be greatly reduced by tightening the thumbscrews down with a screwdriver, rather than relying upon one's fingers.

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