Cooler Master’s modular future goes beyond the MasterCase

Cooler Master introduced its MasterCase chassis at Computex last week, but there's more to this story than just a case. The modular mid-tower is part of a new focus that will eventually spread across the company's products. We spoke to regional marketing chief Rajiv Kothari to get a better sense of what's in store.

One of the central themes is a reduction in the deluge of products in Cooler Master's catalog. The plan is to offer fewer products with greater variation through modular design. Cooler Master wants to help PC users achieve a greater sense of ownership through customization. It also wants the community to help drive the initiative forward. Top modders from around the world were drafted to help create the concept chassis that inspired the MasterCase design.

Modders collaborate on the concept chassis. Source: Cooler Master

Initially, the MasterCase will be available in two variations based on the same internal scaffolding. Users will be able to adjust the exterior to match their tastes via modular panels that snap into the frame. The number of panel options will grow over time, but they probably won't deviate too much from the initial aesthetic. According to Kothari, Cooler Master wants to adhere to a common theme and leave more extreme customization to modders.

Tempered glass panels are in the pipeline, and Cooler Master is looking at offering body panels in different colors. Functional upgrades are also possible. The MasterCase's front-panel connectors can be replaced easily, opening the door to USB Type-C upgrades, and we could see optional side panels lined with acoustic foam.

Interestingly, Cooler Master is encouraging modders to resell panels and pieces that have been painted or otherwise customized. At its Computex booth, the company even had people making panels with 3D printers. When asked whether Cooler Master would release detailed panel specifications so that folks can make their own parts, Kothari said "why shouldn't we?" The info required to 3D-print compatible panels will probably end up online in some form, he added, even if it's not formally published.

First step: the MasterCase Pro 5

The MasterCase's modular internals aren't an entirely new idea. For years, case makers have offered reconfigurable drive cages that let users add more storage or accommodate longer graphics cards. It looks like Cooler Master's "clip and click" mounting system offers more flexibility in how cages are positioned, though. There are also plans to sell reservoirs and other liquid cooling components that hook into the same mounts.

Community demand will ultimately determine the MasterCase's modular options. The case and its various pieces will be sold separately to start, but Cooler Master's long-term goal is to let customers customize cases at the time of purchase, sort of like how you can customize the components inside pre-built PCs today.

Over time, the modular mantra will spread not only to cases with different form factors, but also to the company's other product categories. Kothari told us that Cooler Master envisions keyboards with swappable switches and mice with interchangeable grips and adjustable sensor positioning. Coolers and PSUs will get in on the action, too, though there are limits to how much one can customize a power supply.

Time will tell whether Cooler Master's "make it yours" approach resonates with PC enthusiasts. The concept sounds promising, but we'll have to get our hands on actual products to see how it translates to reality.

Comments closed
    • VincentHanna
    • 5 years ago

    For the record, If this thing were truly modular/customizable, you could adjust the height/width of the case, change the orientation of the graphics cards or storage compartments, and replace any component you see with any other component they offer… you know, in addition to making the case black/ white or powder coating it blue.

    Heck… You don’t even need a “modular” case to change the color of your external panels. A little sand paper, some tape and a can or two of spray paint and bob’s your uncle.

    I fail to see what is so special about this implementation.

    • Nevermind
    • 5 years ago

    No cupholders?

      • ronch
      • 5 years ago

      It’s an add-on for $40.

    • TheMonkeyKing
    • 5 years ago

    Okay, snap in design.

    But I am looking for something much more. I want collaboration with motherboard makers. I want the mobo to really be deconstructed. We’ve had riser cards for ages so lets go even further.

    – SoC are the new motherboards.
    – Daughter cards flesh out the extensions from the built-in north bridges of the SoCs. You want dual ethernet, add that card.

    Actually I was going to go down the list of things USBs, PCI lanes but why don’t we even reconsider how these things should connect in the future? Do we even need ‘cards’? Do we need PCI connectors? What about ribbons or something more compact like Redmere HDMI cables?

    We’ve shrunk the die; we’ve crammed and crammed transistors. For our computer environment, home and office, we’ve miniaturized down to where form no longer needs to be obey function. Just look at the HTPC cases of just four years ago. They were as large as the AV receiver that it sat next to. (And for that matter, why are the receivers still that large? All the analogue connectors and wiring.) And yet, I can use the Raspberry Pi 2 in pretty much the same capacity yet it nearly fits into a tin mints box.

    Yeah this is okay but it is another cycle of what has been done before. No, let’s be really daring and innovative. Let’s get the mobos and form factor cases really push the boundaries of it means to have computers everywhere.

      • Srsly_Bro
      • 5 years ago

      and if you want much higher costs, go your route with 200 additional production lines and many more employees. You can go with higher prices, I’ll stick with limited ability to customize and much lower prices. There’s a reason cell phones do many things. Can you imagine the headache and the large increased parts and inventory for companies to carry all of these additional products? Can you also imagine the frustration of a customer going to Best Buy and picking 10-20 different components they know nothing about to add to their PC? Your idea is so ludicrous I’m not going to go on any further — although I’d like to.

      Stick with being king of w/e you are king of. it surely isn’t efficiency and practicality.

        • EndlessWaves
        • 5 years ago

        But we do need new and sensibly sized form factors.

        With the normal PC size approaching one litre, having to put up with ATX-based gaming PCs that are ten times the size as an absolute minimum is not acceptable.

        What we need is someone with sufficient financial clout to design and invest in a new small form factor that combines mainstream component compatibility (SODIMM, M.2 etc.) with a decent enough amount of cooling/power delivery that it’s not an embarrassment as a gaming system. While also ensuring it’s not too large (3-5L would seem sensible).

        • TheMonkeyKing
        • 5 years ago

        Srsly_Bro? (I guess that name fits.) We don’t have to live in the early 90s anymore. The ATX, m-ATX, etc (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_form_factor) all depend on the shell being a box, whether it is a cube or rectangle. It’s a box. And it was designed to be a standalone workstation. That’s not us, not anymore.

        I’m saying mobo companies have the opportunity to work with case companies to provide more useable, more environment friendly designs than just a box.

        Also, when you break apart the convention of the current motherboard form factors, you do get a sense of reduced costs because the normal shared hardware items can be designed for whatever SoC comes out. Yes, indeed to the user trying to buy ala carte, it will cost more than a single board solution. However, like my hardware costs for a new PC, I reduced the overhead costs because I am carrying hardware (like hard drives, cables) from the older unit to the new. With a high startup cost of purchasing everything as a component, you reduce the long term investment by just upgrading or replacing what is needed, not the whole mobo.

        I guess what I am trying to say is that, pre-SoC, we made incremental investments on our PCs by buying a new GPU or CPU that fit on to our mobos, as long as the pins fit right? Well with SoCs why can’t we ask the mobo folks to make boards (or components) that allow us to swap out the SoC and keep our investment in the other components.

        And to the case people, yes, I understand you want the whole world to see your cases. But in a lot of homes today, we as customers don’t really want to see them. We just want to know our computers work and that access is easy. (Like the Nest, the Chromecast stick, etc.)

          • Khali
          • 5 years ago

          I happen to like big PC cases with room for lots of drives and a big motherboard that can support up to 4 GPU’s.

          Some of you love small cases. All the more power to you. But do you really have to insist that every PC user conform to your choice of form factor? Seems to me that if everyone agreed with you on case size then there would be no market for ATX cases and the manufactures would all abandon it because of lack of sales. I don’t see any evidence of that happening any time soon.

          Yeah yeah, I know what your thinking, “he’s just a dinosaur”, for liking what you call 90’s tech. I hate to tell you this but your ideal small cases are even more of a dinosaur going back to the 80’s. Small cases with no room for expansion at all. Thus you end up with drives and other peripheral’s scattered all over the desk. Been there done that in the 80’s with a series of Commodore and Apple systems.

            • VincentHanna
            • 5 years ago

            That’s exactly what I was thinking… It totally sounds like he’s advocating a trip back in time to the 80s…

            I don’t “like” big cases… I “like” being able to reconfigure my workstation within about 30 minutes and 4′ tall, 50lb cases aren’t conducive to that type of an environment, however, I do like having my NIC attached to my Mobo. Should I have to go out, buy a $50 component, install it, configure it, and configure the game to use it? Wouldn’t it be nice if the mobo manufacturer just had the foresight to add it in because I *might* want it someday? 3 dollars now vs $50 aftermarket. hmm. tough choice. I can spare an extra 1 square inch… I’ll survive somehow.

          • ronch
          • 5 years ago

          Dude, you remind me of Bas Landsdorp of Mars One.

      • ronch
      • 5 years ago

      Oh Jeez! Who are you, some kind of revolutionary guy?

      Honestly, I just pick a case I like, put the components inside, and be done with it. Not everyone has tons of time to even bother with what you said. I go home everyday tired, and I don’t care if this knick knack is bigger than that or it’s blue.

      • LoneWolf15
      • 5 years ago

      nm

      • VincentHanna
      • 5 years ago

      A) I’m not convinced that you understand what a SoC is. SoC stands for System on a Chip, and its basically the exact opposite of what you are advocating. SoC means taking mobo real-estate and burning it into the silicon lithography to save space. As a result, replacing individual components on the motherboard itself becomes IMPOSSIBLE. Components are much more likely to be soldered on/ permanently affixed to the chip/board itself, and you can’t just “replace” one SoC with another because hey, half the Mobo is on there too! Today, they are working on affixing things like RAM, wireless, video processing, Bluetooth, (the entire north bridge), etc directly to the chip.

      B) Systems on Chips are, at least for the moment, not desktop chips. I can’t wait for the day when you can have a desktop class GPU/CPU/ Power supply/ 32GB HBM-RAM/ 6TB storage all affixed directly to a mobo at a reasonable price, and the whole thing literally fits inside a shoebox. Its coming. Some tablets are already sporting i7 CPUs (i7 in name only :/ ), flash memory, and a host of other things…

      C) If you want to live your entire life on a tablet, hey, that’s fine, but I guarantee you don’t want to live MY life on a tablet. I don’t know why you are here advocating for something that’s already on the market. Go buy yourself a Surface Pro or Apple doodad and dongle the living bajeezus out of it. Live it up.

    • tootercomputer
    • 5 years ago

    “Cooler Master wants to help PC users achieve a greater sense of ownership through customization.”

    Sounds like a way to cut down production costs. A little bit of Tom Sawyer here perhaps?

    • Neutronbeam
    • 5 years ago

    Let’s hope that the cases are more than the sum of their parts. 😉

      • Shobai
      • 5 years ago

      They’ll definitely /cost/ more than the sum of their parts…

    • ronch
    • 5 years ago

    Good grief.

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