There are several ways to tell a budget shirt from an expensive one. You have the fit and style, of course, and the quality of fabric used also plays a significant role. Aesthetics and materials count for a lot with desktop enclosures, too, but there are other less obvious factors that really separate luxury cases from cheap ones. Enthusiasts expect premium enclosures to be easy to work with through multiple upgrades, to offer ample airflow for power-hungry components, and to keep noise levels low enough to enable nearly silent builds.
Corsair has traditionally done a good job of catering to enthusiasts, and the company's first entry into the enclosure market dives right into the deep end as one of the largest and most expensive cases I've ever used. The case's designers have obviously done their homework, because in addition to using a blend of aluminum and powder-coated steel, they've outfitted the Obsidian 800D with extensive cable routing, four hot-swap hard drive bays, a wealth of cooling features, and a strikingly well-done paint job. With all of these features, the Obsidian definitely looks the part of an enclosure that could last through several generations worth of upgrades. Time to find out if that's really the, er, case.
Obsidian is a good name for the 800D
I've been excited to take a closer look at the 800D ever since spy shots started showing up around May of this year. As an enclosure enthusiast, I was anxious to see what Corsair would do with the common tower case. That's not to say there's been a shortage of innovation lately; indeed, a plethora of new ideas have come to market, including snail-shaped enclosures, sideways-facing external drives, and cases with the motherboard turned 90 degrees. I have a feeling that a lot of those designs will soon be forgotten, however.
Rather than thinking way outside the box, the new features Corsair has brought to the table with the 800D are much more subtle and sensible. And with a classic, monolithic exterior, the Obsidian stands a better chance of staying aesthetically appealing over the long haul. Fans of Lian Li's industrial styling should appreciate the 800D's boxy look, as well.
At 24" high, the 800D stands an inch taller than the already towering Lian Li X500. You won't find any vents or optical drive bay doors on the expanse of black, brushed aluminum that is the front bezel, but there are five external 5.25" bays, a stealthily-concealed card reader and port cluster, another door covering the four hot-swap hard drive bays, and a small logo just a couple inches from the bottom.
Unfortunately, removing the protective plastic skin that covers the front bezel lifted off some of the logo. This is a shame considering that the rest of the front panel looks so clean and polished, but truth be told, I almost like the grittier, distressed look better. Corsair tells us this is a rare problem that should be resolved soon.
The top of the 800D is strictly business, with three adjacent 120-mm vents providing plenty of room for even the largest aftermarket water-cooling radiators. One could also add three large case fans to provide a healthy dose of improved airflowor simply leave the case as is, allowing natural convection to make use of the ample ventilation. The flat surface atop the 800D also makes a handy place to set a cell phone, MP3 player, or flash drive, which is more than can be said for some super-sized cases.
In case you were wondering, the Obsidian is as deep as it is tall. The case's overall dimensions are 24" x 24" x 9", and it weighs in at 35 pounds.
Behind the squarish aluminum door on the front panel, you'll find the one feature probably most responsible for the hype surrounding the 800D: four server-style, hot-swap SATA hard drive bays. In addition to looking sweet, the hot-swap bays allow users to add, remove, and replace hard drives without cracking open the casea major convenience. We'll take a closer look at the hot-swap bays in a moment, but first, let's check out the rest of the exterior.
The power button and hard drive activity light sit just above the highest 5.25" drive bay alongside a port cover shielded by a drop-down, push-button door. Behind the door, you'll find four USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire port, and headphone and microphone jacks. The rings of chrome around the power button and activity LED are nice touches, and I love how the whole port cluster looks, especially when closed. However, the ports are all recessed, which could create problems for fatter USB thumb drives. Such a high-end case should really have an eSATA or hybrid eSATA/USB connector in its port cluster, as well. I do like how Corsair puts the power button and port cluster at the top of the case's front face, though. This approach should work equally well for folks who run the case on or under their desks.
A sail-shaped acrylic window takes up most of the case's left-side panel, providing an unrestricted view of a system's internals. The rest of the panel, and the entirety of the right-side panel, is black, powder-coated steel.
On the back side of the 800D, one can see first of three included 140-mm case fans, this one functioning as an exhaust. Two rubber-lined holes easily large enough for 1/2" outer diameter tubing lie above the motherboard area. Near the top corners of the case are a couple of buttons to activate the latches that hold the side panels in place.
Like many newer enclosures, the 800D mounts the PSU at the bottom of the case. However, the mounting holes are simply stamped into the back plate, which means the power supply can only be installed in one orientation. This design should work just fine for the vast majority of PSUs on the market, but with other premium cases offering mounting brackets that allow users to flip a PSU's orientation, the Obsidian's lack of flexibility is a little disappointing.
Looking for the 800D's air intake? Check the bottom of the case. Hexagonal-pattern venting provides an unrestricted path for airflow, although the case doesn't come with any intake fans attached directly behind the vents. You do get a handy nylon air filter that neatly slides out from the back of the case to allow for relatively easy cleaning, though.
To keep the Obsidian elevated enough to make the underbelly intake useful, Corsair sits the case on three rails that lift it about an inch off the ground. That should be enough clearance for most situations, but those with thick shag carpet might want to set the Obsidian down on a flat board to ensure optimal airflow. Of course, if you have thick shag carpet, you might want to look into a flooring upgrade before dropping $300 on a computer case.