Affordable Gaming Cases: Corsair Carbide 200R and Thermaltake Chaser A41 Review

The system cases in this review belong to two different price categories: while Corsair carbide 200R is one of the most affordable gaming option, Thermaltake Chaser A41 is from more of a mainstream price range.

by Dmitry Vasiliev
04/11/2013 | 01:06 AM

We're already familiar with the senior models of Corsair’s Carbide computer cases released earlier. We tested the 300R, 400R and 500R and were overall pleased, but the most affordable 300R model proved to be the least attractive of them. The recently issued 200R is considerably cheaper, lowering the bar of our expectations and requirements, but hasn’t Corsair gone too far with that cost-cutting?

 

The second computer case we’re going to discuss today, Thermaltake's Chaser A41, is almost twice as expensive as the Corsair Carbide 200R. It continues the Chaser gaming series launched in 2011 which currently includes Chaser MK-I (the original model of the series) and Chaser A31 (it differs from the A41 in exterior design and a larger disk rack).

Of course, it’s not really correct to compare these two products directly because of the twofold price difference, but we just don't have same-class computer cases to compare them with.

Testing Participants

Corsair Carbide 200R

The most affordable Carbide is $20 cheaper than the next model in the series, Carbide 300R. According to the manufacturer’s website, the 200R comes at a recommended price of $69.99.

 

The Corsair Carbide 200R looks unexpectedly impressive for its price. It’s got a blank façade, blue USB 3.0 connectors, metallic rims around the headphone and microphone sockets and an original swing button that combines both Power and Reset. The exterior design resembles the more expensive Carbide 300R but the blank front panel (instead of a hackneyed black mesh) looks interesting.

There are a number of minor flaws in practice, though. For example, the faceplates of external disk bays are not fitted tight because of their loose fastening. The swing button crunches when pressed and doesn't always let you realize by touch whether it has been pressed or not.

On the bottom panel we can note a removable dust filter opposite the PSU bay and a seat for a 120/140mm fan. The feet are not typical for an affordable computer case:

Although simple and inexpensive, they are splendid when it comes to keeping the computer steady. Instead of monolithic hard plastic feet typical of entry-level products, these are rubber pads glued to the feet pressed out in the bottom of the chassis. Simple and efficient - we'll see more examples of this design approach during our exploration of the Carbide 200R.

 

The back panel doesn’t offer holes for the pipes of a liquid cooling system that have become a typical feature of any computer case positioned as a gaming product. It's quite normal here, though. We don't think many people would want to implement liquid cooling in this entry-level case.

The expansion-slot brackets are reusable. They are fastened with thumbscrews. The exhaust fan is fitted with vibration-absorbing pads. You don’t often see such features even in more expensive products.

 

The fan seats on the top and side panels are equipped with similar vibration-absorbing pads, too. The pads are in the mounting holes for 120mm fans by default but you can use them in the mounting holes for 140mm fans as well.

All of the Carbide 200R’s I/O ports, buttons and indicators are placed in a line in the top part of the front panel, above the 5.25-inch bays. We can see here two USB 3.0 ports (placed far enough from each other), headphone and microphone connectors and a combined Power/Reset button. Below the latter, there are white-colored Power and Disk indicators. They are bright but not blinding.

The side panels have a lot of catches at the top and bottom as is typical of inexpensive computer cases. That’s not a problem at all because the large cable compartment allows to easily put the panel in place even if there's a lot of cables hidden behind the mainboard. The other panel can't have such problems just because there are no components bulging from its side.

The front panel being blank, the front fans get their air through the vertical slits in the sides of the decorative façade. These slits are protected with a dust filter.

The seats for optional fans on the bottom, top and side panels lack such filters, but it’s good that the preinstalled intake fan has such protection.

The front part of the Carbide 200R is simple in design. It is just a solid (except for the Power/Reset button and external bay faceplates) sheet of plastic. Even its fasteners are part of the chassis. We must confess that unfastening six plastic locks to take the front panel off is somewhat troublesome.

The accessories are not numerous: fasteners, a few single-use cable straps, a user guide, and a couple of warranty coupons. It would have been too optimistic to expect more.

The interior is painted black, which seems to be normal even for entry-level products nowadays. Inexpensive computer cases from Thermaltake's MS series we tested earlier were also painted inside.

The unusual position of the front fan should be noted – it is above the disk rack. The chassis offers a lot of space for your graphics card if it’s installed within the top four expansion slots.

The only sign of cost-cutting we can spot here is the lack of rubber edging on the holes for cables but that’s normal for an entry-level computer case.

The disk rack is designed in an unconventional way. It consists of one section for four 3.5-inch disks with integrated quick fasteners and another section above it which can be used to densely pack four 2.5-inch drives.

The front fan only cools the 2.5-inch section although 2.5-inch SSDs and HDDs are not as hot as their 3.5-inch counterparts which are yet the only means of ensuring maximum storage capacity.

An additional fan can be installed opposite the disk rack (or you can move the preinstalled fan there). This fan is going to be on the outer side of the chassis, under the decorative front panel, so there may be problems with air intake. There is but a tiny gap between the blank front panel and the fan.

The efficiency of the front fan is also questionable because the disk rack has but very small vent holes opposite the fan. The whole rack is supported by this panel, so it has to have fewer vents in order to be rigid.

Devices are packed very densely in the disk rack, which is another negative factor when it comes to the performance of a fan you can install opposite them.

Thus, we don’t think 3.5-inch drives are going to be cooled well even if you put in an additional fan. We’ll check this supposition out in practical tests, with and without such a fan.

Devices are fastened in the external 5.25-inch bays in an unusual way, using detachable plastic fasteners. As is typical of entry-level quick fasteners, the optical drive is rather loose in its bay, so you may want to fix it with screws instead.

A device can only be fastened with screws on the other side of an external bay.

The PSU bay is protected with a dust filter which is installed into the guides under the chassis. Besides it, the Carbide 200R’s dust protection is limited to the mesh on the sides of the front panel that prevents the front fans from drawing dust in.

 

We had no problems assembling our configuration in this computer case. The quick fasteners are easy to use. There are no sharp edges inside. And there’s a generous amount of space, especially for a graphics card. The single inconvenience is about taking the front panel off, which you have to do in order to install an additional front fan and remove external bay faceplates.

 

The cable compartment is wide, so you can easily close the corresponding side panel.

There’s a large cutout in the mainboard’s mounting plate and you can install and uninstall your CPU cooler without taking the mainboard out of the case. A cutout for a CPU power cable can also be noted here.

The default ventilation system consists of two 120mm fans: an intake one on the front panel (above the disk rack) and an exhaust one in its usual position on the back panel. Besides, there are as many as five seats for 120/140mm fans (two on the top panel, two on a side panel, and one on the bottom panel of the chassis) and one seat for a 120mm fan on the front panel opposite the disk rack.

In the mainboard’s Silent mode, the front fan worked at 800 RPM whereas the rear one, at 1280 RPM. The fans are actually identical but the mainboard’s header for the rear fan didn’t support speed regulation.

Our Thermalright TR-FDB-12-1300 fan, rated for 1300 RPM, also worked at 800 RPM in the mainboard’s Silent mode.

The assembled Corsair Carbide 200R looks much more expensive than it really is.

Highs:

Lows:

Thermaltake Chaser A41

The second product in this review comes from a higher price category and sports more advantages in its appearance as well as inside.

The Chaser A41 has an originally shaped front panel, a side window, and a few blue-colored elements in its appearance (in its feet and drive bay faceplates). Otherwise, it is a standard enough product with a typical meshed facade.

 

A large dust filter can be seen from below. It protects the PSU bay as well as the seat for an optional bottom fan.

There’s one small problem about that filter. Its frame is not fastened to the chassis and slides backwards when you lift up the front part of the case.

Here you can also see the feet which are the same as in the Thermaltake Armor Revo we reviewed earlier.

The top view allows you to see an exhaust 200mm fan and a panel with I/O connectors indicating that this computer case is supposed to stand on the floor (or in a desk niche).

The I/O ports are the same as those of the above-discussed Corsair: two USB 3.0 ports (connected to a mainboard header) and microphone and headphone sockets. The connectors are placed far from each other, so you can easily use all of them simultaneously.

The buttons and indicators are designed in a more conventional way than in the Carbide 200R. The Reset button is separate, just like the Disk indicator. The Power button is combined with a Power indicator, though. The LEDs aren’t very bright and won’t be distracting.

There’s a small depression in the top panel behind the buttons and indicators. You can store some small things in there.

The accessories are somewhat better compared to the Corsair, including reusable cable straps and a PC speaker.

More sophisticated than the Corsair’s, the front panel can be taken off much easier. It features a detachable dust filter.

There’s a large gap between the front fan’s impeller and the filter, so the fan is going to get unclean air as well.

The drive bay faceplates are designed as usual: a sheet of foam rubber behind the metallic mesh keeps dust away. The plastic frame with handy locks allows to easily remove a faceplate without taking the entire front panel off. In fact, you only have to remove the front panel when you want to clean the filter.

The side panels are similar to the Carbide 200R in terms of fastening. You have to align the catches in the top and bottom part of the panel against the chassis.

And like with the Corsair case, this provokes no problems because the cable compartment is even wider in the Chaser A41 while the corresponding side panel is extruded.

The thumbscrews for side panels remain in their holes when unfastened, so you can’t lose them.

Like in many other computer cases from Thermaltake, the individual expansion-slot brackets are covered with a common retention plate whose purpose evades us. It doesn’t provide any benefits in terms of fastening, but makes the assembly process longer and the whole product, a little more expensive.

 

Talking about the external details, we should note the headset holder you can see in many modern Thermaltake products.

This holder may be suitable in a computer case that stands on a desk, but the Chaser A41 is obviously designed to be somewhere below the user. We don’t think it’s handy to have your headset in your knee zone.

 

With the side panel removed, we can see more colored details: the quick fasteners of external 5.25-inch bays. Like the feet, they are the same as in the Thermaltake Armor Revo and ensure rather good fastening. If you want more reliability, you can always use good old screws.

In the bottom part of the case there is a disk rack with four individual bays. In between it and the external 5.25-inch bays there are two 3.5-inch bays: the top one is external and the bottom one is internal (and compatible with 2.5-inch drives).

There are three openings with rubber gags in the top part of the back panel. They are meant for the pipes of a liquid cooling system. The openings in the mainboard’s mounting bracket are rubberized, too.

The disk bays support 3.5-inch (using the side mounting points with vibration-absorbing pads) and 2.5-inch (using the drive’s bottom mounting points) devices.

The sides of the bays are so high that they block any air flows, which may have a negative effect on ventilation. The manufacturer’s website shows different disk bays with lower sides, by the way.

 

Assembling our configuration in this computer case was simple and easy. Securing each drive with four screws took us the most time.

 

The Chaser A41 offers less space for expansion cards than the Carbide 200R if you use the top disk bays. On the other hand, 315 millimeters should be enough for any modern graphics card irrespective of the position of your drives.

The cable compartment is deep, so you can easily hide away your cables and have no problems closing the corresponding side panel.

The CPU cooler cutout is as large as that of the Corsair Carbide 200R. It’s going to be hard to find a mainboard whose CPU socket won’t fit into that window.

The default ventilation system consists of three preinstalled fans: one highlighted 120mm intake fan on the front panel, one highlighted 200mm exhaust fan on the top panel, and one 120mm exhaust fan on the back panel.

There’s also one seat for a 120/140mm fan on the bottom of the chassis. Instead of the top 200mm fan you can install two 120mm fans or a 120x240mm radiator of a liquid cooling system with two such fans.

A perforated sheet of plastic under the top panel protects the chassis against dust.

A 140mm fan might have been installed opposite the disk rack (there are appropriate mounting holes there) but Thermaltake put in a smaller fan there to reduce the cost. As you can see in the photo, there’s a lot of blank metal behind the fan, which may have a negative effect on cooling.

In the mainboard’s Silent mode, the fans had the following speeds: 615 RPM (the front 120mm fan), 990 RPM (the rear 120mm fan) and 540 RPM (the top 200mm fan).

The assembled computer looks good enough thanks to the clever highlighting and the unconventional outline of the front panel.

Highs:

Lows:

Testbed and Testing Methodology

We test assembled system cases at a constant ambient temperature of 23°C maintained by an air conditioner. As we assume that most users prefer low-noise computers, we set the speed of the CPU and system fans (connected via the mainboard’s 3-pin connectors) at Silent (the quietest mode in the mainboard’s BIOS). If a system case has its own speed controller, we switch it to its minimum speed, too. We do not change the default configuration of air flows determined by system case design.

The following components are installed into each system case:

We test system cases with their bundled PSUs if they have one. If not stated otherwise, the HDDs are listed in the order of their placement from the top HDD bay downwards without any gaps.

The temperature of the CPU is measured with Core Temp 0.99.8. HDD, GPU and mainboard temperatures are measured with CPUID Hardware Monitor. The speed of the fans is measured with an optical tachometer Velleman DTO2234. There are the following test modes:

Every temperature is read after the system has worked for half an hour in the current test mode. The following table shows the temperatures of the components if the system is assembled without an enclosure (“open testbed”).

Open testbed

The noise level is evaluated subjectively.

Test Results

We don’t change anything in our testing methods today (except that we test the Corsair Carbide 200R with and without an additional fan), so we can get straight to business.

Corsair Carbide 200R

As expected, the Corsair Carbide 200R isn’t good at cooling hard disks. On the other hand, our very hot Raptors have a peak temperature of only 55°C, which isn’t so bad for a computer case that doesn’t have a dedicated fan for the disk rack.

Otherwise, the results are average except for the rather high GPU temperature both when idle and under load. It is especially strange because the preinstalled fan blows right at the graphics card, so the GPU should be colder than usual.

Corsair Carbide 200R + fan

The Carbide 200R isn’t as bad in its out-of-box configuration as we had feared. However, our apprehensions come true concerning the additional fan. It doesn’t improve the temperature of the HDDs much whereas the other temperatures have got even higher. So, the additional fan is useless here (at least at comfortable speeds).

Thermaltake Chaser A41

The Thermaltake Chaser A41 is overall better in terms of cooling – and quite expectedly so considering its higher price and extra 200mm fan. But it’s only in terms of HDD temperature that it is much better. The WD Raptor drives only get hotter than the safe 40°C in the random-access mode. Today’s more economical HDDs are going to be much colder.

The following diagrams compare the two products at the maximum speeds of their fans:

Conclusion

The Corsair Carbide 200R offers an attractive selection of features for its modest recommended price. Its quality/price ratio looks better to us compared to its Carbide 300R cousin. Easy to install components in, roomy, with USB 3.0 support and good ventilation, the Carbide 200R is one of the best products in its price category. The only notable downside we can find about it is the temperature of HDDs. However, it may only get crucial if you’ve got a full rack of hot drives. Modern economical HDDs will feel at ease in the 200R, especially if you only have one or two of them. It must be noted that there have appeared many new products in this price category that offer a roomy interior and support modern interfaces too, so the Carbide 200R is not without alternatives.

The Thermaltake Chaser A41 cools hard disks well but is inferior to the Thermaltake Level 10 GTS in other temperatures. The latter product is also cheaper, offers more I/O ports and has an integrated Easy Swap disk connection system. Corsair’s Carbide 400R is also better in terms of cooling and offers a lot of I/O ports and a larger disk rack at a somewhat lower price. So notwithstanding its good performance in our tests, the Chaser A41 is hardly a hit in its price category, yet it’s not a disappointment, either.