Cooler Master HAF XM Review

Author: Chris Ledenican
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Tuesday, April 24th, 2012
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/Cooler_Master_HAF_XM/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

The HAF (High Airflow) series of cases from Cooler Master is regarded as some of the best on the market, and for good reason. HAF cases tend to offer exceptional thermal performance, come packed with features and look good to boot. It wasn't a stretch to see the cases making quite the impact on the market..

The latest HAF case from Cooler Master is the HAF XM. This new case is the little brother of the HAF-X, which was released nearly two years ago. Despite its time on the market, the HAF X still stands out even today. Now Cooler Master has decided to take the HAF X formula and shrink it down to fit into a mid-sized chassis. However, don’t let this fool you: the HAF XM boasts nearly everything its older sibling offers, but it will be more accessible to the average user due to its smaller footprint and more affordable price tag.

Specification
Available Color
Black
Materials
Appearance: Mesh, Synthetics; Case body: Steel
Dimensions (H*W*D)
252(W) x 530.5(H) x 579(D) mm
Net Weight
10.5kg / 23.1 lb
M/B Type
Micro-ATX, ATX, E-ATX
5.25" Drive Bay
3
3.5" Drive Bay 8 (Hidden x 6, X-Dock x 2)
2.5"/3.5" Drive Bay
9 (2 from X-docking, 6 converted from 3.5" bays, 1 behind motherboard tray)
I/O Panel
USB 3.0 x 2, USB 2.0 x 2, Audio In and Out
Expansion Slots
8+1
Cooling System
Front: 200mm Red LED fan x 1 (converted from 120/140mm x 1)
Top: 200mm fan x 2 (1 is optional: Converted to 120/140mm fan x2)
Rear: 140mm fan x 1 (Converted to 120mm fan x2)
HDD: 120mm fan x 2 (optional)
PSU ATX PS2 / EPS
Max Compatibility

CPU cooler height: 190.6mm/ 7.7 inch
GPU card length: 354mm/ 13.9inch (with HDD cage), 463mm / 18.2 inch (without cage)

The Cooler Master HAF XM comes packaged in a medium sized box that has a profile picture on the front along with the model number and a list of a few of the key features. Turning the box around reveals more information about the case including the specifications, which are found on the side panel, as well as a rundown of all the main features of the case on the back. Like most Cooler Master products, the box is predominantly black, but one of the side panels is purple.

With the case out of the box we can instantly see the HAF XM's family resemblance to other cases in the series, but the XM has been toned down in comparison to the HAF X. The design still has what Cooler Master calls militaristic aesthetics, but the tread-like panels are more conservative, and features such as the rubber pads along the bottom have been removed entirely. In our opinion this actually improves the look of the case, as the original HAF X's bold visual style proved polarizing.

At the front of the case Cooler Master has included a top mounted control panel, followed by three external 5.25" drive bays and two hot-swap bays. Even further down is a larger perforated ventilation port that has the Cooler Master logo at the middle, and a large intake fan hiding behind it. The reverse side of the case has a standard layout, but unlike many cases the expansion slots are set up in an 8+1 configuration that can support up to 3 dual slot graphics cards.

The side panels of the Cooler Master HF XM both have the same layout and convex area throughout the middle of the panel. This convex area is designed to improve the internal volume of the case, as it improves the cable management by adding more room behind the motherboard tray and increase the spacing available for fans on the main panel. For the most part the sides are standard, but there are a few features that stand out. The first is of course the latch found on the main side panel. This latch is designed to make removing the side panel easier. The other feature is the fan vents use a dual perforated design. Essentially this means there are two layers of metal with holes that are offset from each other. This is design is going to reduce the amount of dust that can enter the case, and not reduce the airflow as much as a traditional fan filter.

The front of the case is most mesh with a plastic frame. The front panel, list most cases has a removable panel that gives users access to the front portion of the chassis. With the panel off we can see there is a larger 200mm intake fan situated just in front of the internal hard drive bays, and ample from for external drives. Nestled just between these are the two hot-swap bays, which connect to an internal circuit board that serves as both a power and data transfer hub for the connected drives. The circuit board has to be connected to both a power supply and motherboard SATA port, and it has connections for both on the opposite side.

AT the top of the HAF XM is the main control panel. This panel includes a power button, reset button and a LED on off switch. Below these buttons are two USB 2.0 ports, the front audio jacks and two internal connected USB 3.0 ports.

Behind the control panel is a small compartment that has a removable rubber pad, and a large mesh area for ventilation. The top panel is held to the case with a thumbscrew attached to both the panel and the chassis, which when removed allows the top panel to be removed. Additionally, just below the rear portion of the panel are three grommet covered access holes. Of the three holes the two outer ones are designed to accommodate tubing from an external radiator, while the middle hole is for external connections such as an external USB 3.0 cable.

Below the top panel is another 200mm fan, which is setup as an exhaust fan. These fans can of course be removed, to allow the case to accommodate a 280mm radiator, which can either be positioned on the top of the case of internally.

 

Since most of the hardware is installed via tool brackets, there are actually very few accessories included with the case. What you do get is a set of hard drive installation brackets, various screws, motherboard standoffs, zip-ties, a buzzer and an installation guide. While this might not seem like much, there is still more than enough to help set up virtually any high-end system for starters.

While the exterior of the HAF XM is similar to cases previously released in the series, there are some differences such as a larger back-plate retention hole. First off, the HAF XM has ample internal volume which allows it to support motherboards up to E-ATX motherboards, graphics cards up to 13 inches in length, nine internal hard drives, and up to three dual slot graphics cards. Additionally, the HAF XM features four large grommet covered cable management holes that allow cables to be routed behind the motherboard tray. There is a maximum of 36mm of free space between the tray and side panel, so even larger cables should be easily accommodated.

Since the HAF XM is a mid-tower, it is dramatically smaller than the HAF X and measures just 20.7” (H) x 9.3” (W) x 21.5” (D). The case is still larger than some mid-sized towers on the market, but this just means it will accommodate almost any high-end piece of hardware while remaining smaller than full-sized behemoth cases.

The external 5.25" drive bays are located in the usual spot and in total, the HAF XM supports up to three external drives. Each drive has its own independent cover with an integrated dust filter that is removed via two clips on the side. Once the cover is removed, a 5.25" drive can be secured into the bay by sliding the drive in through the front of the case. When the drive is in the proper location, you can secure it into place by flipping the switch on the mechanism to the locked position.

When it comes to internal hard drives, the HAF XM uses a bracket system for installation. The brackets use a combination design that fits both 3.5" hard drives and 2.5" SSDs. This means the case can either support a total of up to eight HDDs or SSDs without modification. Traditional hard drives are secured to the bracket using four locking clips on the sides of the bracket, but SSDs still need to be secured manually with screws.

Once the hard drives are secured to the bracket, they can either be placed internally in the case or in one of the hot-swap bays. Of course the internal and hot-swap bays each use a different bracket, but installing the drive to the bracket is essentially the same.

The HAF XM has ample internal volume for a mid-sized chassis, so installing our hardware was a breeze. As you can see from the first image below, the HAF XM easily fit all of our hardware with ease, even the AMD Radeon HD 6970. Since the HAF XM borrows its cable management system from the HAF X, routing the cables proved very easy, leaving a very clean case.

With everything installed, the last thing to do is turn the system on to get a look at the LEDs. As you can see, the lighting from the LED fan is red and not all the bright. We prefer this over an LED that will light the room, but if LEDs aren't your thing there is a button at the top of the case to turn it off.

Testing Setup:

Comparison Cases:

Testing:

For testing I maintained an ambient room temperature of 70°F and used HWMonitor to monitor each component's internal temperature. The idle temperatures were taken after the computer remained on, but with no operating load for an hour. The load tests were taken after a 15 minute period with Kombuster's power supply test active.

The Cooler Master HAF XM did an excellent job at cooling most of the vital components. Since this case is part of the HAF series we weren't too surprised, but considering the case is a mid-tower we were impressed it cooled at the same level as a beast such as the Cosmos II. The only area we found lacking were the upper hard drive bays, which would have enjoyed better cooling if the front intake fan was positioned just a hair higher.

The HAF XM is built on the foundation of the flagship HAF X case, but has been reduced in size to make it more accessible to average users. This means the case leverages design features from the HAF X, such as a rugged outer design paired with ample from for additional fans, storage drives and large motherboards. These help make the HAF XM one hell of a mid-sized chassis. However, Cooler Master has added more modern features to the HAF XM as well, like internal USB 3.0 support, 3-way SLI/CrossFire support and a massive CPU retention cutout. The feature we found the most helpful was the side panel latch. This simple latch made accessing the interior of the case much easier, and our only complaint here is that Cooler Master didn't include one on both side panels.

Along with the excellent feature set, the HAF XM continues the rugged look of the series. All the cases in the HAF family draw inspiration from military vehicles and the HAF XM is no exception. The overall visual style has been toned down this time around, which could increase the HAF XM's appeal to a wider audience. In our opinion, the toned down visuals only improve the appearance of the case so unlike the HAF X, the XM doesn’t suffer from a love it or hate it design.

The internal layout of the fans in the HAF XM was also well executed. The thermal performance was among the best we have seen in our labs. The layout follows a traditional push-pull fan configuration, but the difference between this case and others is that the HAF XM's 200mm fans actually work well. We have tested too many cases with large fans that were extremely quiet, but could hardly move enough air to cool our components. The HAF XM doesn’t fall prey to this pitfall, as the fans were more than capable of moving ample air throughout the chassis. The only area that could have had better airflow was the upper hard drive bay, but since hard drives are hardly a major source of heat inside a case, this is not a major issue.

Overall the HAF XM is an amazing case that offers nearly all the features as its older and larger sibling, but in a mid-sized chassis and $129 it will easily fit into any budget and under any desk as well.

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