Today’s enthusiast systems look quite a bit different from the old-school rigs I cut my teeth on back in the day. Years ago, it seemed like everyone was running full tower cases loaded with enough fans for lift-off. These systems were as loud as they were imposing, and they were probably a little bit vulgar. Looking back on them now, it’s a wonder no one ever accused us of overcompensating. Or maybe they did, and we just couldn’t hear them over the drone of system fans and the piercing whine of the classic Alpha.
Way back when, we tuned for performance and little else. Our priorities have shifted over the years, though. These days, noise levels and power consumption are just as important as frames per second, part of a larger and more mature measure of overall goodness. We still want to blow your doors off, of course, but now we don’t want you to hear it coming. And we’d prefer not to burn through a tank of gas in the process.
I’ve seen this trend play out with my own personal systems. They used to live in monolithic towers that proudly trumpeted their presence with a turbine-like howl, but today they sit quietly in the corner and blend in with the furniture. Perhaps that’s why I was so taken aback by Cooler Master’s new Cosmos 1000 enclosure. This is a full-tower case that harkens back to the days of old, offering plenty of room for Extended ATX motherboards, loads of drive bays, and enough fans to power a small wind tunnel. Unlike the enclosures of my misspent youth, though, the Cosmos has an air of sophistication. It’s all grown up, and more importantly, nearly silent.
Has Cooler Master created the ultimate full-tower enclosure for the evolved sensibilities of seasoned enthusiasts? Read on to find out.
Full tower enclosures tend to be rather large, and the Cosmos is no exception. The case may only be about 10 inches wide, but it’s nearly two feet tall and extends just beyond two feet deep. Those gargantuan proportions cut an imposing profile, allowing the Cosmos to lord its size over mere mid towers like a big Mercedes SUV peering down on a puny hatchback. Next to it, my Sonata feels more than just a little inadequate. And to be honest, so do I.
Of course, like a big SUV, the Cosmos also weighs a ton. When empty, it tips the scales at a portly 37 pounds. That bulk comes courtesy of the case’s largely steel construction, which at least ensures a sturdy chassis. It also requires a lot of heft to lug around, particularly when loaded with system components.
Fortunately, Cooler Master has been wise enough to include firmly-anchored handles that run along the top and bottom of the case. The case actually sits on its bottom rails, so there are no little rubber feet to fall off eventually and get lost. Rails make it easy to slide the case aroundmore specifically, under a deskon carpeted surfaces, but you’ll want to be careful with hardwood or other fine finishes.
Speaking of finishes, Cooler Master has done a good job with the Cosmos’ exterior. Brushed metal side panels add a touch of industrial class, and the glossy black strip that runs up the middle of the enclosure’s face is polished to a near-mirror finish. Those contrasting materials look particularly good set against each other; however, there’s also a lot of silver plastic filler between them. The silver plastic cheapens the aesthetic a little for me, in part because it looks so dull next to the mirrored gloss and textured metal. There’s no accounting for taste, though.
Cooler Master has been able to keep dull plastics away from the case’s drive bay door. The door itself has an oddly satisfying action, swinging its ample weight smoothly and closing with a satisfying thud. Magnets hold the door in place when it’s closed, and it can easily be configured to swing left-to-right or right-to-left, depending on your preference.
Lurking behind the drive bay door are five external 5.25″ drive bays faced with black metal mesh. One of the 5.25″ bays can also be converted to accommodate external 3.5″ drives, should you wish to install a memory card reader or floppy drive.
Integrating a memory card reader directly into the case would’ve been a nice touch. It might have fit well on the case’s top panel, which includes all the goodies you’d expect to find on the front. Just above the requisite power and reset buttons you’ll find a flurry of connectivity, including HD-compatible analog audio jacks, a whopping four USB ports, and even an external Serial ATA interface. Just beyond the port cluster lies a recessed tray that’s perfect for holding an MP3 player, cell phone, digital camera, or other gadgets you might have plugged into the system.
I tend to stuff my PCs under my desk, so having the Cosmos’ expansion ports and buttons on the top of the case is perfect. However, this arrangement is obviously less than ideal if you prefer to have a full tower looking down on you from atop your desk.
Moving aft, and scrolling past what is possibly the tallest picture we’ve ever had on TR, we get a good view of the Cosmos’ rear panel. At the top, you can see a couple of small holes designed to allow the tubing used in water-cooled systems to enter and exit the case cleanly. Flanking those holes on either side are a couple of latches that, when lifted, release the case’s side panels.
At the bottom of the rear panel, you can see a gaping hole meant for the system’s power supply. The Cosmos is one of those new-fangled upside-down cases, and putting the PSU at the bottom makes a lot of sense. First, it gives the Cosmos a lower center of gravity, which is, um, essential for something that’ll sit under a desk and probably never move. More importantly, putting the PSU at the bottom moves it away from a hot spot around the processor.
Moving the power supply to the bottom of the case also allows it to draw cooler air from directly below. The Cosmos features venting along its bottom panel to facilitate airflow, with a filter ensuring that dust, crumbs, and the unsuspecting insects feeding on them aren’t sucked up into the case.
This lower vent should be particularly effective with newer power supplies that feature bottom-facing cooling fans. Traditional PSU designs that use fans mounted at the rear aren’t likely to benefit as much.
Peeling away the panels
With Cooler Master’s clever latches at the rear, it’s easy to pop off the Cosmos’ left and right side panels to get at the case’s internals. Before diving inside, though, it’s worth spending a moment on the side panels themselves.
A testament to Cooler Master’s desire to lower noise levels, the panels feature a layer of foam to absorb noise generated inside the system. The foam also adds a measure of insulation, but given the Cosmos’ array of cooling fans and vents, that shouldn’t be a problem.
There isn’t much action over on the right-hand side of the case, but a few features demand our attention. Note that all the cables for the top panel’s expansion ports and connectors snake down this side of the case, nicely out of the way. A couple of long vertical holeswhose sharp edges are neatly draped in protective plasticprovide access to the other side of the case. In addition to front-panel connectors, hard drive cabling also needs to be run through these holes to get at the motherboard.
Note that there are also a couple of holes cut into the top and bottom of the motherboard tray. Ideally, these would allow you to stealthily run power cables from the PSU at the bottom of the case to motherboard power connectors located at the top. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work out so well in practice. See that horizontal strut running across the inside of the case near the top? It contains the latching mechanism that holds the side panel in place, requiring a tight fit that doesn’t play well with cables running across it.
Around the other side of the system, we get a better look at the Cosmos’ internals, including the plastic ducting that runs across the middle of the case. Cooler Master calls this the case’s “wind tunnel,” and it’s meant to provide increased airflow for graphics cards. However, it doesn’t actually contain any active cooling elements. Wind, in this case, is caused by the negative pressure generated by the case’s fan layout.
“Negative pressure” sounds like marketing-speak, but it’s a simple concept. The Cosmos comes with four 120mm fans, only one of which actually sucks air into the system. The rest serve as exhaust outlets, and for the airflow to balance out, air is drawn into the case through a number of vents. One of those vents just happens to sit alongside the wind tunnel.
Another sits in the case’s bottom panel just below the power supply, with additional venting found below the hard drives bays. The case’s bottom panel also contains its sole intake fan, which is covered by a plastic grill to protect it from stray cables.
The bottom-mounted intake faces a pair of exhaust fans located at the top of the system. With the power supply tucked out of the way at the bottom of the case, these exhaust ports should have no problem exhausting hot air from around the CPU socket. If the stock 120mm units that come with the Cosmos don’t move enough air for your needs, the case is also drilled to accept larger 140mm units along its top panel.
Out of the box, the Cosmos uses the same 120mm fans throughout. They’re quiet models, spinning at just 1200 RPM when plugged into a standard four-pin molex connector. The molex plugs ensure compatibility with standard ATX power supplies, and the fans will even benefit from speed control on PSUs that offer fan-specific molex headers. However, those who prefer to govern system fan speeds via three-pin motherboard connectors will need adapters for the Cosmos.
The Cosmos’ final exhaust fan is predictably found at the rear of the case, sitting just next to the I/O shield above an array of expansion slots. There are seven slots in total, with brackets conveniently held in place by thumbscrews. Just below the thumbscrews in the picture above, you can see the venting for the case’s graphics card ducting.
Drive bays and extras
Peering deeper into the Cosmos reveals the case’s hard drive rack. Located along the bottom of the case, the rack contains six 3.5″ bays, each of which is held in place by a single thumb screw.
The individual drive cages slide out with ease thanks to little handles that neatly snap into plastic holders when not in use. These clips prevent the handles from rattling around when the hard drives spin up. Rubberized dampers also isolate the cages from drive-level vibrations to keep noise levels low.
Drive cables are all run on the other side of the case, keeping everything nice and clean around the cages. Cooler Master also offers an optional hard drive fan to provide the rack with additional cooling should the venting directly below the drives provide insufficient airflow for larger disk arrays.
Just above the hard drive rack, we find an array of internal 5.25″ drive bays. Rather than requiring pesky screws, these bays hold optical drives in place with plastic tabs activated by large buttons on one side of each bay. It’s a neat little retention system, and it holds drives surprisingly tightly.
So far, the Cosmos is looking pretty stacked, with loads of quiet fans, tool-free drive bays, and fancy panels. However, the case is missing one feature commonly found in high-end enclosures: a removable motherboard tray. This omission isn’t a deal-breaker, particularly because the case’s generous dimensions leave plenty of room for poking around. However, you may miss it if you like being able to pull the guts of your system out on a single, convenient platter.
You may not get a motherboard tray, but the Cosmos a few other extras that we’d be remiss not to point out. Many of these goodies come in a fancy little box buried within the enclosure.
The box contains a packet of screws, motherboard mounting posts, and other hardware required for system assembly. Also included are a couple of tiny screwdrivers to help you put everything together and a fistful of zip ties to clean up the cabling once you’re finished. The zip ties are particularly useful, but they’re not the only cable management accessories in the box.
Cooler Master also throws in a handful of larger cable binders that can be affixed to the case’s internal walls. These reusable binders are much larger than the zip ties, giving users two ways to neatly route and hide cables within the Cosmos.
The last little extra we find will be the most important, at least for some users. Upside-down cases like the Cosmos aren’t compatible with all motherboard and power supply combos because some PSU auxiliary power cables aren’t quite long enough to reach some motherboard connectors. To alleviate this issue, Cooler Master throws in an eight-pin ATX 12V extension cable to bridge the gap. The extension cable won’t help if your primary 24-pin power connector is too short, but we’ve yet to encounter a power supply and motherboard combo where that was the case.
With retailers selling the Cosmos 1000 for less than $200, this grown-up full-tower enclosure clearly comes at a price. Not an exorbitant one, though. Full tower cases have always cost a little more than their mid-tower counterparts, but they do things smaller cases can’t, like accommodate Extended ATX motherboards. Even when used with a standard ATX mobo, the Cosmos leaves loads of room for multi-GPU graphics configurations, internal water-cooling kits, and massive RAID arrays.
In addition to its ample size, the Cosmos comes with plenty of thoughtful touches that should appeal to discerning enthusiasts, including largely tool-free internals, generous connectivity options, and everything you’ll need to clean up cabling in a complete system. Combine those features with insulated side panels and a quartet of low-RPM 120mm fans that generate plenty of airflow, and you have an enclosure primed for mature enthusiast systems that shroud their immense power behind a veil of silence.
The Cosmos doesn’t look half-bad, either. Painted plastics mar the industrial look a little for me, but Cooler Master has succeeded in building a handsome tower whose subtle design cues soften its otherwise imposing frame.
Weight is really the Cosmos’ only problem. At 37 pounds empty, the case requires more muscle than competing solutions wrapped in lightweight aluminum, but that’s only a problem if you plan on lugging your system around. If it’s just going to sit under your desk, the weight should keep it nicely anchored at your feet.
In the end, then, Cooler Master has created a fantastic full tower in the Cosmos 1000. A few rough edges prevent it from being the ultimate enclosure for evolved enthusiast sensibilities, but it comes close enough to win Editor’s Choice distinction.