Upgrading an old computer is always fun for me. Who doesn’t like new gear? So when I was tasked to upgrade the case and hard drive for an older lab machine used for testing, I was eager to jump in. I did some digging around and came up with these two items for the upgrade:
I went back and forth for a bit between the 431 Plus and the Cooler Master HAF 912 for quite a while for a couple reasons. First, my personal machine at home is inside a CM HAF 912 and I love it — tons of space for organizing cables and a large aftermarket CPU cooler, sturdy build, and plenty of fan options are the big winners there. Second, the price between the two are almost the same, with the HAF 912 being just a few dollars more. However, I went with the 431 Plus because I had never built a rig in one and wanted to see how well it would work. Also, since it wasn’t my money going into it, I needed to stay on the cheaper side of things even if it was only to save a couple bucks. Unfortunately, it was a poor choice.
More on the unboxing and install woes after the bump. Click to read more!
Luckily, imminent death/eternal life wasn’t on the line here. Sanity, however was. Unboxing is always a gamble because you never quite know what could have happened in transit. Luckily, the UPS guys around here are awesome and I’ve yet to receive a damaged box from them. The first thing I noticed, though, after pulling the case out of the box and opening the side panel was this.. mesh.. thing on the bottom with the sticky whatsits fastened to it:
Obviously, it’s a filter for the two 12cm fan slots on the top of the case, I just didn’t quite understand why it wasn’t fastened to the top, or why the adhesives had been exposed and then slapped on the mesh to begin with. This doesn’t really knock off any points in my review of the case, but was just an odd thing to find. Since my airflow diagram had the two top fans as exhaust fans anyway, I wasn’t too worried about dust getting in from those openings anyway. I set this piece aside and started putting in the fans.
I’m a huge fan of the top fans, to be honest. I utilize both 12cm fan slots in my HAF 912 and I have no doubt that the box would run a lot hotter when gaming if they weren’t there. Even though the rig I was transplanting is no where near a gaming rig, I had a few extra fans kicking around and mounted the two top fans as well as a rear fan for exhaust. Everything was going so well!
Unfortunately, that was the last of the going well. As it turns out, while the dual-top-fan idea works out great on paper, it went horribly in execution. I added the motherboard standoffs in the appropriate places and when I went to place the motherboard in its new home, I ran into a little physics problem: I physically could not get it to fit.
I outlined where the case fan and the heat sink were touching, as well as the standoff and its corresponding hole to show how far off I was from being able to install the board. Perhaps these slots were designed for thin profile fans? Maybe? Do they even make those? Either way, this is probably 48% of what I really don’t like about this case.
The next 48% is that cabling is kind of a mess. From the get-go, I knew that this wasn’t going to be a fancy, professional looking install because the hardware was quite outdated and the only upgrades came from some extra parts I had kicking around – namely, a power supply and SATA DVD drive to replace the IDE drive. Still, while there certainly could/should be enough room under the motherboard plate for running cables, this was a convenience that Cooler Master left out, it appears. I was able to get some smaller cables up and around from underneath the board, but the overall cabling job looks a little messy. A lot messy. Like a kitten and a box full of yarn messy. I didn’t take a picture of this because a) I didn’t think to and b) I think I’d be a little embarrassed if I did.
The last 48%* of my dislike for this particular case is the build quality. The case as a whole is fine, but the punch-outs for card expansions were poorly cut. Combined with the thin and low-quality metal used, The cross pieces between the expansion card slots got very bent very easily while removing the punch-outs. When this happened, I had bent them back into place before thinking to take a picture of it and wasn’t about to go bending them back out of place. Perhaps this is par for the course now in computer cases, but the HAF 912 didn’t have that problem and I had never come across it before when building a computer.
So, there you have it: Useless fan slots, missing features for easy cabling, and poor build quality sum up my review for this case. For almost the same price, if you’re penciling out a machine and are trying to decide between the Elite 431 Plus or the HAF 912, go HAF 912. 10 times out of 10.
As for the hard drive, the OCZ Arc 100 240GB SSD has been working like a champ. Super snappy even though it’s scaled down to the SATA2 speeds of the older motherboard, but I had no problems installing various flavors of Linux on it. So far, it’s the star performer for this show.
If you have any questions, let me know!
* – yes, I can maths. My dislike for the case reached 144%.