Cooler Master MasterCase 5 Review

Some builders must modify, and Cooler Master thinks it can help with the MasterCase 5 mid-tower. But is modularity enough to win an award?

Specifications, Exterior & Interior

Designed to offer builders a wide range of component layout options in a single ATX mid-tower shell, Cooler Master’s MasterCase 5 is actually a bit more than an ATX mid-tower, as it supports oversized motherboards up to 11.5” deep — far larger than the 10.5” to 10.7” that some premium consumer boards usually label as EATX. But what else can the MasterCase 5 do, beyond holding deeper-than-ATX motherboards?

Specifications

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Exterior

Even though it’s oversized on the inside, Cooler Master was still able to keep the MasterCase 5 within relatively ordinary 9.3” by 20.7” (W x D) dimensions. Carrying handles on top extends maximum height to 21.6”, which still isn’t huge relative to the gaming mid-tower market.

The MasterCase 5 is factory-equipped with two 5.25” external bays, two USB 3.0 ports, headphone and microphone jacks. The external bay brackets can be removed internally to make room for an included fan bracket. One 140mm front fan is included, and up to three are supported.

Around back we find seven expansion slots, a 140mm exhaust fan, and a removable power supply support plate. Slot-style screw holes allow the fan to be slid up and down to make room for radiator tanks and fittings, and a second set of screw slots are spaced for 120mm fans and/or radiators.

Dust filtration includes removable face panel mesh and a slide-out power supply screen.

A dual fan drop-in top panel rests 1.5” above the motherboard. Corsair sells an expansion kit for radiator installation, as well as an upgraded “Pro” version that already has the expansion kit installed.

Interior

The MasterCase 5 has enough space on the motherboard tray for boards up to 11.5”, but anything greater than standard ATX will partially obscure the forward cable passages. For example, users with a 10.625” board will only have around ½” of cable hole remaining — though it’s also possible to route cables around the front of the motherboard tray, or through other cable passages both above and below the motherboard.

The above as-delivered configuration shows the hardware box located in one of the two 3.5” drive trays. Both the hard drive cage and 5.25” drive brackets are removable, and the hard drive cage is re-positionable.

Two more drive trays are found on a partition between the motherboard and power supply zones. Access holes are too far away for some of our right-angle cables to reach, so we used straight cables.

A single fan fills the center fan mount, and the lower fan mount is partially obscured by a removable bracket. The bracket supports optional repositioning of the two-bay 3.5” cage, and removing it provides extra room for front-mounted radiators.

Space behind the motherboard tray is adequate for routing the main ATX power lead, and the 2.5” drive brackets can also be repositioned here. Cooler Master adds Velcro straps to the front of the cable space for easier management.

Though the MasterCase 5 is factory-equipped with only two of the four possible 2.5” trays, the 3.5” trays are also drilled for 2.5” drives.

The hardware box on the left clips back into a 3.5” tray if desired.

The Build & Accessories

The MasterCase 5 features a single USB 3.0 front panel lead, HD-Audio without the vestigial AC-97 tail, and a split power LED connector that works with both standard and Asus motherboards.

The basic installation kit includes a bag of screws with standoffs, cable ties, two 3-pin to 4-pin fan adapters, and a pair of fan brackets for the upper front panel bays.

A mounting panel must be removed so that the power supply can be slid in from the back of the case. The panel is then screwed back into position.

As with the side panel and drive cages, these screws are narrowed in the center so that they’ll stay attached to the panel even after it is removed.

The 3.5” drive cage is rendered to spare parts in this SSD-only build, though the lower drive cage mount could have been a non-invasive place to store it.

Buttoned-up, front panel lights are the only way to tell the basic MasterCase 5 is housing a system.

Optional Accessories

Cooler Master sent a box of accessories in separately from the basic MasterCase 5, including most of the parts needed to make it a MasterCase Pro 5.

While the basic MasterCase 5 includes only a two-drive 3.5” cage, the Pro adds a 3-drive unit. Cooler Master sent one of each, along with a spare 2.5” tray.

A closeup of the motherboard tray shows where two additional 2.5” drives can be installed. Users who want to hide their SSD’s can likewise relocate the original trays to this location.

Though the bottom space could have also held a drive cage, putting them all up top shows the MasterCase 5’s maximum capabilities. There’s enough room up top for a single 2-drive and two 3-drive cages, plus room below the partition for another 2-drive cage (once the external bay brackets are removed).

With the rear carrying handle cover removed, the radiator mount drops in place of the original top panel. It's secured with screws and can then be covered by a new top panel section. This design enables “drop-in” radiator installation.

The main difference between this configuration and the reference MasterCase 5 Pro is that both sets of drive cages are installed, and the Pro's second intake fan is not.

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Test Results & Conclusion

How We Test

Drivers & Settings

ChipsetIntel INF 9.4.2.1019
CPU4.2GHz (42x 100MHz) @ 1.2V Core
MotherboardFirmware 17.8 (02/10/2015)
RAMXMP CAS 16 Defaults (1.2V)
GraphicsMaximum Fan for Thermal Tests | Nvidia GeForce 347.52


Comparison Cases

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Test Results

There’s no good way to test a case that’s designed to be used in non-stock configuration, but that’s exactly what was required in order to get some clue about its performance. After all, nobody has picked a “standard non-stock" configuration yet.

With only a single intake fan installed by the factory, the MasterCase 5 has nearly the same thermal profile as the cheaper Zalman Z11 Neo. Of course, there are reasons the Neo is cheaper, such as its lack of re-configurability (which requires extra brackets and braces) and break-away slot covers.

The MasterCase 5’s mesh front panel does it no favors in the noise department, allowing all of the noise from the CPU fan (fixed at 100%) and graphics card (fixed only when loaded) to escape. On the other hand, users who would like to install a dual 120mm radiator on the front panel actually need that open flow path, so we’re looking at slightly different variations of the gaming case market compared to, say, the Z11 Neo.

If we compare the MasterCase 5 to a slightly larger open-flow design, we see that it still has better acoustic efficiency than the GT1. Yet we’re still looking at different target buyers, since the GT1 has two more expansion slots, factory support for a quad 120mm top-mounted radiator, and no space in front to put a second radiator.

Falling between the Zalman and Azza models in internal volume, acoustic efficiency and price, the MasterCase 5 also sits between those two cases in value. It’s starting to look like the Z11 Neo should have gotten a value-specific award, and that might have happened if they hadn’t decided to use those annoying break-out slot covers. Yet it’s still hard to draw direct parallels to a case that’s not directly parallel, so how would the MasterCase 5 stand on its own?

Conclusion

Designed to use at least one radiator, the Cooler Master MasterCase 5’s mediocre cooling-to-noise ratio in this air-cooled test configuration is somewhat forgivable. That’s statement gains even more credibility as we consider its possible use of two large radiators, the slight added expense put towards its reconfigurable drive bays, the 23 pounds of steel it took to make this feel like a quality unit, and even added conveniences such as the steel carrying handles. Most of that stuff is wrapped up in “features for the money”, and the money on this model is reasonably low at $110.

Yet for all of Cooler Master’s flexibility considerations, the lack of a single feature keeps it from being a “high-end case at mid-market price”, and that’s its inclusion of only seven expansion slots. The unit is solid enough to hold high-end components and designed with enough radiator space to cool them, yet can’t hold a graphics card in an ATX motherboard’s bottom slot. For that configuration, you’ll need a case with an eighth slot.

Bumping the MasterCase 5 out of the high-end features class makes it tougher to issue a value award. The Pro version of this case looks even more like a high-end model, with its top panel radiator support and extra drive bays, but it costs even more and still lacks the eighth slot.

Rather than put any further effort into justifying a recommended award, we’re simply giving the MasterCase 5 our stamp of approval.

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Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware, covering Cases, Cooling, Memory and Motherboards. Follow him on Twitter.

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