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Coolermaster Centurion 5 mid-tower case

November 20, 2004 by Russ
Kinder

Product
Coolermaster
Centurion 5


ATX Mid-tower Case
Manufacturer
Coolermaster
Market Price
~US$90

Considering the sheer volume of Coolermaster products that SPCR has reviewed
in recent months, it should be safe to assume that the company itself requires
no introduction. Oddly though, the one product category that is noticeably
absent from all these Coolermaster reviews are cases. Since Coolermaster
built their reputation on their cases, it is high time that
we take a look at one. Luckily, CM recently
introduced their new Centurion 5, which has a a feature set that makes it
interesting for silent PC'ers.



Our review sample arrived with the blue anodized aluminum
accents.

Striking yes, but the aluminum proved a fickle photography subject.

The Centurion 5 is Coolermaster's midsize, mid-level case. At $90 you probably
would hesitate to call it a "budget" case, but it does price out
at 40% less than CM's high-end WaveMaster aluminum cases. Posted in the table below is information quoted directly from Coolermaster's web site.

Centurion 5 Specifications

Centurion, an honorable name, represents quality
of Discipline, Integrity & Loyalty. With the Centurion besides you,
now you can concord the world feeling safe and proud without having
to be a Caesar.
Key Features
Superior Airflow
Special perforated screen design provides the superior airflow and maximum
cooling performance; easy to clean and maintain
Tool-free
Tool-free assembly/disassembly for quick and maintenance or upgrade
120mm Case fan
Come with a 120mm rear fan to give your PC the best ventilation
Specifications
Dimension
480 mm x 202 mm x 435 mm (D x W x H)
Material
Aluminum Bezel , SECC Chassis
M/B Type
ATX 12"x9.6" max
Power Supply Form Factor
Standard ATX PS2; 350W
5.25" Drive bay
5
(Exposed)
3.5" Drive bay
1
(Exposed), 4 (Hidden)
Ventilation
One
80 x 80 x 20mm Front Fan (intake)

One 120x 120x 25mm Rear Fan (exhaust)
Application
USB
2.0 x2

IEEE 1394 (FireWire) x1

MIC x1

SPK x1
Available color
Silver,
Blue
Weight
9.7kg

The specs are fairly standard fare for a case in this price range. Of particular
interest is the use of a steel chassis instead of Coolermaster's famous
aluminum. From Cm's perspective, going to steel for the chassis is a cost
saving issue, but given aluminum's infamous vibration prone qualities, this actually makes the product more attractive to SPCR
buyers. Note, too, the 120mm exhaust fan, which has quickly become the de-facto
requirement in this age of runaway thermals.

Continuing the retail-friendly transformation of computer components
formally packaged in plain brown boxes, the Centurion 5 comes in a full
color packaging. Don't hold the condition of the testing sample's container
against CM, this much-abused box has endured more transoceanic trips than
a box typically would. The security inspectors of TSA were particularly unfriendly.
(But when you boldly label your package "Armed with Honor", perhaps
you should expect to get a second look from the guys in Customs
)

Included with the case is a nice box of goodies, and an honest-to-goodness
instruction manual. The accessory box includes a power cord, a replacement
PCI slot cover, wire ties, case badge, mainboard standoffs, and enough screws
to hold a couple of PC's together.

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you are new to SPCR and to Computer Silencing...

We review much the same gear as other PC hardware web sites, but our goals and priorities, and the point of view we bring to every component category is often markedly different. So much so that there are numerous comments in the forums of new visitors spending many days immersed in reading SPCR until the penny finally drops.

If you are new to the idea of PC silencing, please read the article Cases: Basics & Recommendations in the Recommended section. It will provide a broad view, a view of the forest that will help you from getting lost among the trees. This case review — as well as our other case reviews — will make more sense when you've absorbed the contents of Cases: Basics & Recommendations.

The same can be said of all the reviews in all the sections. Most of the component categories have a corresponding core information article in the Recommended section. You are strongly advised to read those core articles for a broader understanding of the issues that pertain to noise in each component category.

DESIGN

Subjective opinions are just that, but I really enjoy the looks of the Centurion
5. It's understated, subtle class. Not flashy, although it does
have the super bright blue LED's that all the rage. The front bezel is where
the real design innovation is on the Cent V. Essentially the entire bezel
is a fine perforated steel mesh, backed by a foam filter material, which
we will examine in detail once we get inside.

The lower bezel holds the Power / Reset / LED panel, and the I/O ports which includes the usual audio, 2 USB 2.0 and a Firewire port. The buttons
are large, and aluminum, with a responsive quality feel. I could do
without the emblem, but to each their own.

The bezel removes easily without struggle. Once off, the heft of the
assembly is surprising. The anodized aluminum extrusions combine with the
metal mesh to produce a very sturdy unit. Flipping it over provides
a better look at the mesh and foam. The external drive bay covers are screwed
to the aluminum extrusions, requiring the bezel to be removed each time you
want to remove a cover. This is not a terrible inconvenience, so long as you
remember that you cannot just pop the covers off as you can on most other
cases.

The foam itself is thin, perhaps 3mm. Given its thinness and visual openness,
I wouldn't expect it to have a great impact on airflow. The downside is that
the openness may also reduce its effectiveness as a filter media. Only time
will tell.

Once the bezel is off, the plain-Jane steel chassis is revealed.
Nothing terribly remarkable, neither good nor bad. Considering the openness
of the bezel, the interior bay covers seem like the logical first thing to
be relocated to the trash bin. The extra external 3.5" drive bay, which
has no corresponding opening in the bezel, demonstrates the interchangeable modularity
of chassis manufacturing and marketing. Snap a different bezel on the front, and you have
a completely new case model, without the huge cost of retooling the chassis.



The 80mm intake fan is partially obstructed by the bezel I/O
and button panels, but other than that, it has a fairly open grill pattern.

The two side panels are interchangeable, each with an identical
pattern of ventilation holes, and a recessed slide grip. The fit-and-finish
is decent, if unremarkable.

The most obvious feature of the rear of the case is the 120mm
fan opening. While not the most open grill we've seen, its not terrible either.

INTERIOR

The interior volume of the Centurion is uncramped and easy to
work in, if a bit Spartan in the detailing. In keeping with Cm's reputation,
the fit and finish is quite nice, with all the obvious metal edges having
been rolled or deburred.

All of the drive bays are tool-less, utilizing a sliding plastic
mechanism to lock them in place. For the internal HDD bays a sheet metal clip
on the far side provides a friction fit. While quite secure, the rigid attachment
does not lend itself easily to decoupling. The internal 3.5" bay rack
extends fully to the floor, eliminating one of the preferred locations for
resting an HDD. Suspending the drive in one of the five 5.25" is the
next likely location, although that does move the drive out of the air stream
from the 80mm intake fan. It's also possible to suspend two hard drives on edge in the bottom 3.5" rack.

The intake fan is a 80mm Coolermaster branded unit.
A search for the model number turned up no matches, but with a labeled amperage
of 0.06A, it's safe to assume it to be a fairly low flow model. While the
amperage may imply low airflow, listening showed the fan to be noisy. At 12V it has a distinct buzz, with a very noticeable
whirring, rasping bearing noise. It's bad enough that the testing was actually
stopped to check to see if a scrap of paper had become lodged inside the hub.
That was not the problem. While raucous at full voltage, drop the voltage below about 9V,
and the whirring dies away, the buzz diminishes, and it becomes a fairly well
behaved fan. Most likely it will find use either at the lowest of voltages,
or not at all.

The tool-less-ness continues at the PCI slots, with all-plastic clips doing
the securing. Unlike several other tool-less PCI slots, the Centurion's still
maintains the options of using conventional screws in addition to the plastic
clip. That's a nice touch.

The mainboard tray is not removable, but does have its own nifty little
feature: the standoff holes are labeled... and labeled correctly! Not exactly
mind-blowing, I know, but sometimes it is the little things that make a case
easier to use. Not having to do the "mainboard shuffle" to get
all the standoffs in the right locations is right up there with sliced bread.

After hearing the front 80mm fan,
the 120 in the rear was powered up with much trepidation; after all, it
lists the same 0.06A rating as the 80mm. Thankfully, this is a
much different fan. In a side by side comparison with the reigning champion
of 120mm fans, the Nexus, this Coolermaster put in a respectable showing:
Louder, with a slight buzzing component, but blowing more air than
the Nexus. The bearing noise of the 80mm fan is completely absent.
This 120mm fan undervolts nicely, with the real sweet spot in terms of noise/airflow
coming in the 7-9 volt range.

Rather than just hanging the PSU from the rear of the case as
it typical, Coolermaster included the rare top-mounted screw holes. It is
another nice touch. For PSUs that have the proper holes (such as many of the Fortron models and Fortron-made brands), attaching it to
the ceiling of the case provides two benefits:

  • It helps prevent the possibility
    of the PSU rattling on its shelf, and
  • by connecting the PSU shell to both
    the back and the top of the case, the entire case structure is reinforced,
    reducing flex and the possibility of resonance.

The Centurion 5 came bundled with a Coolermaster Real
Power RS-350-AMSR
350 watt PSU. Again, here are Coolermaster's own words on the product:

PSU information from Coolermaster

Power Supply is a key component to supply all power
requirements in supporting PC operation to maintain continuous stability
and reliability of a computer system. Cooler Master power supply lets
your PC operate better and more efficient, with the best power source
as it comes into your PC. It also enhances system reliability by preventing
mains abnormal supply from spikes and surges. In addition, the power
supply provides your system with perfect protection. RS-AMSX is a standard
ATX-12V PS2 power supply offering more power capacity for CPU usage.
Features

Super Silent 350W with intelligent fan control ()

Fully supports Intel ATX 12V V1.2 for Intel® and
AMD systems

High efficiency and reliability (MTBF > 100,000
Hrs @ full-load / 25 Degree C)

Green power
design to meet blue angel and energy star (

SATA and external
fan connectors for next hard drive and system fans


Real power
capacity satisfy hungry hi-end system operation

Over voltage,
current, temperature, and short circuit full protection

Specifications
Voltage
90V~132V or 180V~264V (Selectable)
Current
10A @ 115Vac / 5A @ 230Vac
Frequency
47Hz~63Hz
Hold-Up Time
> 16ms @ Nominal Input Voltage
Efficiency
>
70% @ Full Load
Dimensions
PS/2-ATX
form factor: approx 15cm x 8.6cm x 14cm
Operation Ambient
0
to 50 degrees C, to 90% relative humidity, 10,000 ft
Storage Ambient
-20
to 60 degrees C, to 95% relative humidity, 50,000 ft
MTBF
>
100,000 Hours
EMC
FCC
/ CE / CNS
Safety
UL
/ cUL / TUV / NEMKO
Output
Specifications
Output Voltage Line +3.3V +5V +12V -12V +5Vsb
Max. Current 18 25 16 1.0 2.0
Max. Power 160W 168W 12W 10W
Max Combined
Power
328W 22W
Static Regulation +/-5% +/-5% +/-5% +/-10% +/-5%
Ripple/Noise 50mV 50mV 120mV 120mV 50mV
Cabling
* 2 dedicated fan only connectors, which supply 12V only

* Pair of SATA connectors

* 2 strings of 2 4-pin Molex,, 1 floppy

* 1 AUX 12V connector

* ATX connector

PSU TESTING

A recent addition to the testing tools at my disposal is a PSU loading and testing device from Seasonic, the power supply company. In essence
it is a rudimentary version of the elaborate PSU-tester that Mike employs for
in-depth PSU reviews. It consists of two components: A
two-step PSU loader, and a Power Angel multifunction meter.

The PSU loader has two
preset load levels:

  • 75.1 Watts (comprised of 12.0 amps on the +3.3V, 3.5 amps on
    the +5V, and 1.5 amps on the +12V rails)
  • 137.6 Watts (12.0A, 10.0A, and
    4.0A, respectively)

These are pretty good average loads for a typical PC at idle or low load, and at maximum load.

The Power Angel is a new-and-slightly-improved model of
the Kill-a-Watt AC power meter that has been in use on SPCR for quite some time.

Seasonic PSU load tester on top left: It is housed in an ATX PSU enclosure and has a cooling fan, but it is not a PSU. The Seasonic Power Angel AC power meter is directly beneath it, showing 88W AC power input to the PSU under 75W DC output load on the right. (Note: This is not the PSU tested in this review.)

By loading the PSU at the two preset wattage levels, and then recording the
AC power from the Power Angel, a snapshot of the PSU's efficiency can
be calculated.

PSU TEST RESULTS
DC OUTPUT AC INPUT Efficiency Power Factor
75.1W 114W 66% 0.62
137.6W 184W 75% 0.63

The testing confirms Coolermaster's claim of >70% efficiency
at load. That's a pleasant surprise from what is an otherwise unremarkable unit.
The power factor readings are a clear indication that the RS-350-AMSR has neither
active nor passive PFC.

One claim on the spec sheet that cannot be validated is the noise level
of the noise only climbs as the load increases. The no-name ball bearing fan is
clattery, and exhibits a high degree of turbulent wind noise. The relatively
high efficiency may make the RS-350-AMSR a good candidate for a fan swap, however,
which would go a long way towards improving the sonic character of the unit.

ASSEMBLY AND TESTING

The assembly process went smoothly, with nary a hiccup. It is a simple matter
of screwing the standoffs into their respective spots, installing the mainboard
and sliding the drives in. If for some reason you did get stuck, the manual
could walk you though the entire process step by step.

The small opening through the mainboard tray at the PSU shelf provides just
enough space to tuck extraneous wires into, hiding them between the tray and
the right side of case. Combine that with the openings between the tray and
the drive racks at the front of the case, and with a little creativity you can
really take cable-gami to the extreme. (EDITOR'S NOTE: For those new to the concept, try a search for cablegami in the SPCR Forum -- or go directly to the SPCR cablegami sensei's definitive forum post.)

With the apparently unending growth trend in the size of CPU heatsink / fans,
the distance between the mainboard and the PSU is often critical. With that
in mind, a measurement was taken from the edge of the installed mainboard
to the underside of the PSU. It measured a fairly healthy 18mm. That information,
plus the relevant dimensions from your mainboard and heatsink should head
off any “will X mainboard plus Y heatsink fit?” questions.

For complete system testing the following hardware configuration
was used:

  • Gigabyte
    GA-7VM400M M-ATX
    Socket A mainboard w/ onboard video
  • AMD XP 1900+ Processor
  • Scythe Samurai
    HSF
    , set to minimum speed
  • 512Mb RAM
  • 200Gb Seagate 7200.7 hard drive, in standard mounting rails.
  • Whatever CD drive happened to be lying on the workbench.
  • Coolermaster Real Power RS-350-AMSR PSU
  • Stock 120mm exhaust and 80mm intake fans.

TESTING

Conditions and setup:

  • Ambient temperature was 21°
  • CPU/Case Load temperatures were achieved by running CPUBurn
  • HDD idle temperatures were recorded simultaneous with the CPU max temps,
    while the HDD load temps were generated by 30 minutes of file transfers between
    partitions.

CONFIG 1: Both fans at 12V

From a cooling perspective, this configuration turns in impressive results.
Full load CPU temps of 12° above ambient, and HDD temps at or below 30°
are nothing to be scoffed at. The downside is, of course, the noise. As expected,
the front 80mm fan is the worst noise offender of the entire system. Its worst
qualities seem to be amplified by its rigid mounting to the case. The
intake fan's volume is so out of proportion to the rest of the components that
determining which of the remaining sound belongs to who is virtually impossible.
Even non-SPCR readers would likely consider this setup to be annoyingly loud.

CONFIG 2: 80mm intake removed, 120mm exhaust at 12v

Acoustically, eliminating the front fan makes a huge, instantaneous improvement.
As expected, the hard drive temperature increases,
but 34°C after 30 minutes of intense use is still excellent. Anything under 40°C is barely lukewarm for a hard drive.

Without the intake fan, the individual remaining noise sources can
be clearly identified. From the front, the Seagate hard drive is now clearly audible. Its
distinctive whine can be heard clearly through the open bezel, and the seek
noises telegraph crisply through the rigid mounting. Careful listening allows you to pick
out each of the remaining fans, with the PSU fan contributing the lion share of the noise.
A "typical" user would probably consider this machine to be fairly
quiet.

The double edged sword of an open bezel is becoming clear: It lets the
air in, and it lets the noise out.

CONFIG 3: 80mm intake removed, 120mm exhaust at 5V

This is the configuration that most SPCR readers would be most likely to use. The temps
rise by another few degrees across the board, but none of them are anywhere
close to uncomfortable levels.

The noise level has dropped another notch, with an obviously larger portion
of the remaining noise coming from the PSU. No further improvements in acoustic performance
would be achievable without first dealing with the PSU. Stopping the
PSU fan temporarily results in a blissful near-silence, with the 120mm exhaust
fan and 80mm heatsink fan purring away at a low level. From a dead-on front
listening position the Seagate is very present, but shifting as little at 30°
off axis greatly reduces its noise, a further indication of acoustic openness
of the bezel

FINAL THOUGHTS

The above examples are only three of the endless combinations of fans and components that a user might assemble. Althought the thermal demands of the test rig are modest compared to that of a more current-edge system, it's clear that there is plenty of thermal headroom for this case to handle much hotter components. One obvious alternative is a quieter 80mm fan to act as an intake.

The marriage of aluminum for cosmetics and steel for inexpensive sturdiness works well. It's a combination that is perfect for offering the advantages of the two metals with little of the drawbacks.

The interior design offers no dramatic advances, nor does it exhibit obvious flaws. A SPCR diehard would consider the unremoveable 3.5" drive cage that goes down to the floor a no-no because of the challenge this poses to easy HDD suspension. But that same diehard would cheerfully overcome this challenge with one of the many DIY options outlined in SPCR's storage sections in the main site or in the forums.

The Coolermaster Centurion 5 can be summed up succinctly: It is an excellent case
for keeping already quiet components cool, but perhaps not the best choice for
trying to contain the sound from noisier components.

Pro

  • The bezel, the bezel, the bezel
  • Solid steel case + sexy aluminum trim
  • Good accessories bundle
  • Relatively high efficiency PSU
  • Nice attention to detail on interior design
  • Good price/design-quality ratio
  • Excellent cooling
  • One very nice case fan

Con

  • Design innovation from the bezel doesn't carry through to rest case
  • Noisy stock PSU
  • Free flowing bezel lets noise leak out
  • One very bad case fan.

Our thanks to Coolermaster for providing
the Centurion 5
sample.

* * *

Discuss this article in the SPCR Forum.

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