While many custom PC builders will look at the motherboard, processor or GPU as the most important thing in their build, the lowly computer cases gets overlooked far too often. Hell, you can use a pizza box if you really want to. But cutting corners with your case to make up elsewhere isn’t always worth it. From a visual standpoint, super cheap cases usually look and feel the part. In terms of performance, important metrics like temperature and available hard drive space may be sub-par, affecting your build in the long run.
CoolerMaster sent us their HAF XB mid-tower case which immediately piqued my interest. It’s apparent from the moment you see the box that it isn’t your typical PC case. While it is seemingly small compared to a normal case, the HAF XB will swallow up to an ATX sized motherboard (sorry E-ATX users).
Is this test bench(ish) box all it’s cracked up to be? Let’s check it out.
Specs & Features
- 5.25-inch Drive Bays: 2
- 3.5-inch Drive Bays: 2
- 2.5-inch Drive Bays: 6
- Weight: 18.1lbs>
- I/O: USB 3.0 x 2 (internal), Audio In & Out x 1 (supports HD Audio)
- Motherboard: ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX
- Dimensions: 442(W) x 330(H) x 423(D)mm / 17.4 x 13 x 16.7 inch
As a mid-tower, one would expect small(ish) dimensions in terms of accessories it can swallow. But CoolerMaster has actually built quite a lot of space into the XB so that it can house up to a 13.1-inch GPU, 7.1-inch tall CPU cooler (6.1-inch w/ 240mm top fan installed) and support either a 240mm radiator up front or 120mm in the rear.
Design & Construction
Being a squat, solid chunk of metal (with some plastic) would lead one to assume that the HAF XB is a heavy little thing. But in reality it’s actually quite surprising how heavy it isn’t. At just 8.2kg it’s a far cry from some 25kg+ cases that CoolerMaster pumps out. Weight aside, the HAF XB doesn’t ever come across as feeling cheap or too light weight. And naturally, of course, that lightness is well appreciated in a LAN box that makes carrying the HAF XB to and fro far less painful.
On the front of the XB you’ll see two 120mm fans, an input panel with power/reset buttons, 2 USB 3.0 ports as well as headphone and mic inputs. Also on the front you’ll see two 5.5-inch drive bays on the bottom left and two 3.5-inch hot swappable (motherboard supporting of course) on the bottom right. On each (removal) side you’ll see handles and vents. The handles are well sculpted and don’t cut into your hands at all, even when the XB is fully loaded.
Inside the XB on the upper portion you’ll find a removable motherboard (big plus) and tons of cutouts and open spaces for cable routing. Underneath the motherboard tray is where you’ll find the spots for your PSU, miles of cables, 5.5-inch and 3.5-inch drives as well as a 5-bay 2.5-inch rack for laptop/SSDs.
Being based off of a test bench, one would assume that access and ease of building would be far more plentiful than with a standard case. And to some degree, it is. With the large cut outs on the left and right sides as well as ample spacing on the lower level underneath the motherboard tray, routing cables and components is super easy. Dare I say I’m now spoiled and expect this kind of headache-free building from every case. Things take a couple steps back, however, if you leave the motherboard tray installed. For some scenarios it’s just easier up front to leave the motherboard in tact instead of disconnecting everything and removing it. In the XB because of how most of the cabling is hidden underneath the motherboard, it actually makes things a fair bit harder than a typical case because there’s a lot more space underneath to navigate. Factor in several drive bays, mountains of cables and not a lot of space to actually see means things aren’t so easy. All that said, a minor annoyance though limited in scope.
Other than that, if you’re doing things with cabling above the motherboard or anything involving the CPU cooler, GPU, RAM, fans, etc., the XB models a typical test bench in pure fashion. The orientation puts everything right up front, making it super easy to work on.
What’s a LAN box without being mobile? The XB by CoolerMaster excels. Some may prefer a case that features a built-in handle that allows one-handed carrying, the XB is lighter than even many mid-tower cases, so in some ways, it might be “better”. Carrying it from house to house, LAN party to LAN party is simple. And most importantly, your back won’t be angry at you after the fact. Fully loaded my configuration ends up weighing ~25lbs – quite a bit less than the ~38lbs my HAF X full-tower setup tips the scales at.
Unless you have a huge array of hard drives and/or three or more GPUs, the HAF XB is a great mid-tower case to consider or your build.
Gaming With The XB
In daily use I have to say, the XB is quickly becoming one of my favorites. As a longtime CoolerMaster Storm Scout user, I’m shocked/relieved to finally find another case I can use full-time. Believe me. I’ve tried many different cases over the last few years and end up moving back to the scout for its combination of space, portability and looks. The XB meats or beats it.
After many days of gaming my eyeballs out, I’m mostly happy with the XB. Despite having a large vented cutout on the top of the panel as well as heavily meshed and vented sides, the XB isn’t overly loud even with two radiator fans and a larger 240mm fan in the top of the case. (By default, the XB only has two front and one rear 120mm fan.)
After many hours of gaming, those worried about temperatures will find the XB a suitable case. Because of the large open area up top where the main bulk of the hardware sits as well as the plethora of vents, ventilation is awesome. If you add a 240mm exhaust fan on the top of the lid (as I did here), you’ll notice a degree or two (C) decrease in GPU temperatures. It may not seem like much, but if you’re also running overclocked hardware, every degree means a few more MHz you can eek out of your hardware.
Is It Really Worth It?
If you have an E-ATX motherboard, sorry, it just won’t work. The HAF XB is a mid-tower case as unconventional as it is. But even as “just” a mid-tower there is still plenty of room for all your gear. Besides being roomy, it’s lightweight and super easy to carry around. It’s not overly loud despite all the open space to the outside world and it has killer looks to boot. And let’s face it. The orientation of the motherboard that has it facing upwards combined with the top cutout in the case is simply cool to look at. And at $99, it’s quite a bargain. A Gadgetsteria favorite for sure.
Get it: CoolerMaster.com