Atomic's had bit of a love affair with the HAF cases. Both the 932 and 922 models that we've reviewed previously have been Hot Award winners, and the 922 even has the dubious honour of housing the Editor's own system. The HAF series - or High Air Flow - features bold military styling combined with serious cooling power. The new HAF X, first unveiled at CES and further teased at the recent Computex trade show, is now in our labs. Does it continue to hold sway over our hardware hearts?
Well, put simply, we could just say "Yes!" right now and fill the page with pictures of us hugging the case, and scrawls of love hearts containing the words "Atomic 4 HAF". But that's hardly professional. And it's not as if there's nothing to write about...
Like its illustrious forebears, the HAF X features a ruggedised-style case design, all hard edges, ridged metal and mesh inserts. The powder-coated metal surface is great for handling, too, as it really doesn't pick up finger prints at all. The front fascia features a large mesh insert on the bottom half to protect the front fan, and slot guards for the external drive days. And it's all filtered, too, to make that your High Air Flow doesn't become a Serious Dust Storm.
The power and IO options are pretty interesting, too, showing a lot of thought. There's everything you'd expect up here, and a couple of surprises - namely, two USB 3.0 ports and a sliding port to cover the power and reset buttons. It's great seeing USB 3.0 filtering into case design now, but the implantation is still clumsy - you'll need to run cables from the front of the case all the way out the back (via a watercooling hole) and into the back of a compatible mobo. But that's the only way to play at the moment, so until motherboard vendors fix the issue, Coolermaster and anyone else wanting to join in is stuck. On the upside, Coolermaster has promised to help HAF X owners out by supplying them with whatever fix is needed - so keep your receipts, just in case you're going to need proof of purchase down the line.
The rest of the top panel houses a mesh insert protecting a single 200mm fan.
The main sidepanel boasts a window and another fan, this time a 230mm model that's focused right onto your video card array by a neat plastic shroud. At the case's rear the 9 expansion brackets are all meshed to increase airflow, and wherever Coolermaster can get away with it there are more slots and mesh plates to help exhaust hot air. The other sidepanel has an extruded surface to increase the cable space behind the motherboard plate; this also adds strength to the panel, and the entire case is extremely sturdy.
The interior continues to please, all clad in sexy black. The expansion sockets are all secure by thumbscrews, which is a nice touch for this grade of case. Yes, tool-less can be cool, but with a case like this you're likely going to be installing one or more very heavy cards - and screws are still the most secure method of keeping big video cards beasts from rattling around. The mobo plate is roomy, with great cable management options. In addition to the shroud on the side-panel fan, there's also one that sits over your video cards, and another over the PSU. These really direct and focus airflow, making this arguably the best of the HAF models we've yet seen. The 5.25in drive bays are the only real weak spot. Coolermaster's push-button tool-less implantation is super-finicky - we even had one of the little push-button units explode in a shower of springs and soon to be lost parts! But they're easy enough to remove, so falling back on traditional screws is not an issue. There's even a bracket for an SSD in one of the 3.5in bays - a very welcome touch - and two front caddies that slide out reveal hot-swap mounts for HDDs.
This is a luxurious case for any grade of user, but if you're going to build a hot machine packed with overclocked CPU and up to a triple SLI/Crossfire setup, it's just about perfect.