|Model||Graphite Series 600T|
Corsair’s first foray into the case market left quite an impression on us, earning a TR Recommended award and, later, a spot in our system guides. Unfortunately, Corsair’s Obsidian Series 800D can’t exactly be called affordable. Quite the opposite, in fact, considering it still sells for about $260. Such a price might not be too onerous for a high-end PC build with an Extreme Edition CPU and dual graphics cards, but not everyone has that kind of cash, especially these days.
Enter the Graphite Series 600T. With a $160 price tag and many of the same features as the 800D, like intelligent cable management, an ample interior, and a sober exterior, this case seems almost tailored for those with shallower pockets who’ve been drooling over the 800D all this time. $160 still ain’t cheap for a computer case, but it’s about what one can expect to pay for established enthusiast favorites like the Antec P183 and Cooler Master Cosmos.
Corsair hasn’t actually released this puppy into the wild yetNewegg currently quotes a September 23 availability datebut it shipped us one to pick and apart and study earlier this month. Is the Graphite Series 600T worthy of an entry in your holiday shopping list, then? Is it so good that you should pre-order one right now, even to store your aging Athlon XP rig, or is this a swing and a miss for Corsair? Read on, and you’ll find out.
We first got to see the 600T at Computex in June. The case’s external design immediately betrayed its less upscale roots. Unlike the Obsidian Series 800D, which stands at an impressive two feet tall (or the slightly cheaper 700D, which has the same dimensions but no window or hot-swap bays), the Graphite Series 600D is decidedly more manageable at 20″ x 23.3″ x 10.4″. It has a more rounded appearance, too, with a sort of plastic lip that surrounds the front and back surfaces. Corsair designed the enclosure to be picked up by that lip, making the 600D easier to move around than its higher-priced siblings.
Three months later, as I was unwrapping the 600T and setting it on my test bench, the weight and solidity of the case’s steel frame were foremost on my mind. This thing is nowhere near as heavy as the Thermaltake Level 10 we reviewed recently, but don’t mistake it for a flimsy plastic or aluminum contraption. Unless an obese LAN party attendee slips on some pizza grease and, falling stomach-first, topples an entire rows of PCs and monitors in a single, helpless tumble, you needn’t worry about putting a dent in the 600T. By the way, Corsair did have LAN parties in mind when building this enclosure. That’s why the 600T is relatively straightforward to carry and comes with a locking mechanism to keep the left side panel shut.
Once Big Bob recovers from his fall, cleaning the Cheeto dust and Mountain Dew splatters off the 600T shouldn’t be too difficult, either. The case has a matte, gun-metal finish that, at the very least, shouldn’t showcase smudges. The metal side panels are a little shiny, but not to the point where fingerprints will make you feel like reenacting an episode of NCIS.
Turn the case around, and you’ll notice the right panel has the same two door handles as the left one, meaning it’s just as easy to take off. If you’ve ever used enclosures that only make one of the side panels easily removable, you’ll probably appreciate this touch. Admittedly, Corsair encouragesnay, expectsusers to route cables behind the motherboard tray, so requiring a screwdriver to remove either side panel would have been unwise.
Before we remove both of these panels to take a gander inside, we should take a brief moment to lay out the 600T’s key specs. You know, for the nerds out there who don’t want to find out as we go along. This enclosure has eight expansion slots, support for ATX or Micro-ATX motherboards, four 5.25″ bays, six 3.5″ bays that can also accommodate 2.5″ drives, two 200-mm fans, one 120-mm fan, and two liquid-cooling holes at the back. The front panel hosts four USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, one FireWire port, and headphone and microphone jacks. Oh, and a fan controller. That’s actually better in some respects than the 800D, provided you don’t need hot-swappable storage bays or room for an Extended ATX motherboard.
Popping off those side panels
External fit and finish matter, no doubt about it, but internals make or break an enclosure like this one. If you’re shelling out $160 for a case, chances are you’re expecting a smooth, hassle-free building experience, not to mention easy upgrades down the road. Not cutting yourself on jagged edges is always a plus, as well.
Prying away the 600T’s left panel reveals a surprisingly roomy interior, which leaves a ton of space around the motherboard area. The power supply goes at the bottom of the case, just like in the 800D, but there are no compartments to separate the PSU from the rest of the system. Normally, the power supply should suck in air from the bottom vent and blow it out the back of the system, so its impact on overall system temperatures shouldn’t be too significant.
Corsair pre-mounts the motherboard standoffs, so if you’re in a hurry, you can toss in a mobo and get started right away. Another thoughtful touch: one of the central standoffs has a little stud that goes through the matching screw hole on the motherboard, holding said board steady so you can easily get the rest of the screws in. As dirty as that description might sound, the stud is quite helpful. Really.
If you’re familiar with the Obsidian Series 800D, you’ll know that those rounded, rubber-lined holes are for cable management. There are eight of them, although you’ll only get access to seven if you install a full-sized ATX board. Corsair also includes a big square hole at the bottom right for power or storage cables; a small, rounded hole at the top left for the 120-mm fan wire (and, potentially, the CPU power cable); and a huge gap behind the motherboard’s CPU socket area. We’ll get to that in a minute, but first, check this out:
The 600T’s six hard-drive caddies come in two detachable cages. You can remove the top one and mount it next to the bottom one with a pair of thumbscrews, leaving room for extra-long graphics cards that might not otherwise have fit (the 600T can accommodate graphics cards as long as 13.5″ with the cages in their default position and cards that stretch to 18.5″ with the setup pictured above). In either configuration, the caddies are mounted sideways, which makes drive installation and removal a piece of cake even in a fully built system.
Lifting the right panel shows us the 600T’s cable management area. If you do everything right, most of your PC’s internal wiring and cabling will stay tucked away right here, conveniently out of the path of airflow. If you still haven’t figured out the point of that huge hole at the top right, think about aftermarket processor heatsinks. Many of them bolt through the motherboard, which means you’ll probably need to tighten some nuts or put a backplate under the socket. That endeavor would normally involve removing the board from the case, but in enclosures like the 600T, all you need to do is lift the side panel and get to work.
The little bundle of wires at the very top lets you connect the enclosure’s three fans to the fan controller and power the lot using a four-pin, pass-through Molex plug. There are actually four three-pin connectors dangling up top, allowing users to hook up their CPU fan if the motherboard’s fan controls are that atrocious. Controlling the CPU fan speed manually has its dangers, though… like forgetting to crank things up during a drunken StarCraft II match and having the CPU’s automatic overheating protection throttle clock speeds.
My fans are bigger than yours
If the 600T had a voice and could speak to other enclosures, that’s probably what it would tell them. I expect William Shatner might make a similar observation if he ever meets Justin Biebertweens have nothing on well-fed Trekkies. The 600T’s dual 200-mm fans can generate some serious airflow, and because they’re so big, they don’t need to spin very quickly. At least in theory, that should translate into low temperatures and quiet noise levels.
Corsair covers the front intake fan with an easily removable dust filter. To extract the filter, push the upper part until you hear a click, then release, remove, and clean. Very straightforward. Just make sure the wind isn’t blowing in when you open the window to get the dust off.
There’s another 200-mm fan on the top panel, although this one serves as an exhaust. Consequently, the removable cover really doesn’t do much filtering. It has big honeycomb holes and no fabric or thinly woven film to keep dust out. So, if you’re too lazy to open the window, don’t scrape dust from the front fan filter over the top of the case. I’d expect the upward airflow generated by the fan to prevent too much dust from falling in through the top of the case during regular use.
The bottom vent under the power supply comes with a proper filter, thankfully. You can just pull that one out with a simple horizontal motion whenever you feel like doing your spring cleaning. Note the lips around the intake area, which should prevent dust from sneaking in through the sides.
Taking a closer look at the top of the 600T shows those aforementioned honeycomb holes. More to the point, we’re looking at the “front-panel” connectors, the fan controller, and the power and reset buttons. Those components normally go at the front of a case, but these days, anyone with a big enough PC will probably want to keep it tucked away under their desk. With the connectors and buttons positioned the way they are, those users won’t have to lean down to plug in a USB drive, hit the power button, or turn up the fan speed. Everything should be right within reach.
I already listed the various connectors a couple of pages back, but it’s worth reiterating that Corsair includes four USB 2.0 ports and a USB 3.0 port on this thing. There’s no special trick to connecting that USB 3.0 port to your PCyou’ll just find a blue USB type-A plug dangling next to the other internal connectors.
Wonder Twin powers, activate! Form of… a fully assembled PC
Okay, so we didn’t exactly work our way up to the assembly part. There really isn’t a whole lot to it, though, and connecting our hard drive and optical drives was surprisingly quick. The hardest part for me was routing those PSU cables. Our build’s BFG power supply isn’t modular, and its cables are almost too short for an inverted setup like this. Still, I was able to route the CPU power cable behind the motherboard tray and through that hole at the top left. With some tugging, the motherboard power connector made its way through a couple of the rubber-lined openings to its destination, as well.
The result, as you can see above, is an impressively tidy PC with little cabling to impede airflow or obstruct access to vital components. I should point out, once again, how much room this case leaves around the motherboard. If you’ve ever fought trying to plug those awful little power, reset, and LED connectors into the corresponding motherboard pins while working in a cramped enclosure, you’ll see the appeal.
Cue horror music crescendo. The interior’s impressive tidiness comes at the cost of a spaghetti salad on the other side. I probably could have done a better job, had I used the cable ties Corsair ships with the case and tossed in a modular PSU. If you’re going to have a mess of cables, though, it might as well be on this side of the caseas long as the tangled mess doesn’t prevent the right panel from closing, that is.
Note the orientation of the hard drive. Since the internal storage bays are wide open from both sides, you can leave the connectors on the messy side and slide 3.5″ drives in with no problem. Corsair definitely deserves props for the tool-less hard-drive caddies, too. The caddies are made out of a flexible plastic, and they snap onto hard drives using rubber-grommeted studs. All you have to do is flex the caddy until the studs pop into the drive’s screw holes.
Corsair deserves additional praise for outfitting the caddies with screw holes for 2.5″ drives. The only caveat is that you’ll need to pull out one of the grommeted studs (so the 2.5″ drive sits flush against the edge) and use a screwdriver. With solid-state drives becoming increasingly affordable, making all internal storage bays dual-purpose like this seems like a great idea. Just because someone only spends $160 case now doesn’t mean they’re not going to be building a four-drive SSD RAID array down the road, right?
How does one install an optical drive inside the Graphite Series 600T? Step one: reach in and remove the bay cover. Step two: pull the tab on the side of the bay. Step three: push your optical drive in until you hear a click. Congratulations, you’re done. Too bad optical drives are going out of fashion, because the installation process is satisfyingly simple. (If you must know, lifting the tab frees a sort of see-saw with two studs on one side and a wedge on the other. Sliding the drive in pushes the wedge outward, which brings the studs inward and locks the drive into place.)
The power supply goes here. My only complaint is about that little metallic bracket with the two thumb screws. The bracket doesn’t actually slide in to meet the edge of the PSU; you must remove both screws and move the whole apparatus up toward a different set of holes. Re-seating and securing the bracket is tedious and possibly unnecessary, since it didn’t sit flush against our BFG PSU when I was done.
Did we mention that both of those 200-mm fans have white LED backlights? Look on my bling, ye mighty, and despair:
In all seriousness, the lighting is reasonably tasteful and definitely not overdone. I don’t think there’s a way to disable it, though, which might be a downside for folks who happen to sleep in the same room as their PC. Then again, PCs can sleep, too.
Once you’ve got everything up and running, you can lift the top cover and lock the left panel using one of the provided keys. That way, any thieves roaming around your next LAN party won’t be able to run off with your graphics card, even if they’re drawn to the LED lighting like moths to a flame.
Our testing methods
This is our second case review using the same set of components, but you won’t find comparative benchmarks on the next page. Why not? Because the ambient temperature was quite different when we tested Thermaltake’s Level 10, which would make our two data sets difficult to compare. The Level 10 is a different class of product entirely from the 600T, anyway.
You’ve already seen our test components on the preceding pages, but here’s an exhaustive list with all of the nitty-gritty details. We used Thermaltake’s V1 cooler on our CPU:
|Processor||AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition|
|Memory size||2GB (2 DIMMs)|
|Memory type||Corsair Dominator DDR2-1142 at 800MHz|
|Audio||Realtek ALC889A with default Windows drivers|
|Graphics||EVGA GeForce GTX 280 with GeForce 257.21 drivers|
|Hard drive||Western Digital RE3 1TB|
|Optical drive||Samsung SH-W163A DVD burner|
|Power supply||BFG Tech 800W Power Supply|
|OS||Windows 7 Home Premium x86|
These parts are admittedly getting long in the tooth, but keep in mind that the Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition has a 125W thermal envelope, and that Nvidia rates the GeForce GTX 280 for top power draw of 236W. Using current top-of-the-line components wouldn’t change the picture very much, since we’d only be up to 130W for a Core i7-980X and 250W for a GeForce GTX 480. Also, since we’ll be looking at just thermals and noise levels, performance doesn’t matter one bit.
We used the following versions of our test applications:
Most of the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.
Let’s take a look at individual component temperatures inside a fully built 600T system. We ran our tests once with all fans running at their lowest speed and a second time with everything cranked up, including the CPU fan.
For our first test, we booted up the machine and allowed temperatures to stabilize before taking readings using Speedfan and GPU-Z:
Then, we loaded up the Unigine Heaven benchmark and waited a few minutes for temperatures to stabilize again. We looped that benchmark with stereoscopic 3D and tessellation disabled, “high” shaders, 16X anisotropic filtering, and 4X antialiasing in a 1920×1080 window. Frame rates were a little choppy, so we expect our GeForce GTX 280 broke a sweat.
After logging temperatures with our GPU load, we waited for temperatures to drop, then looped the Heaven benchmark and a Prime95 torture test simultaneously. Once temperatures peaked, we took the following readings:
The numbers above tell us a couple of things. First, running the fans at full blast doesn’t reduce temperatures all that much. Even under a very heavy load, we only registered a 3-4°C delta between the lowest and highest fan speeds. Also, even with all the fans turned down, the CPU temperature didn’t rise very much under loadonly by about 7°C. The modesty of that temperature increase is impressive considering we’re dealing with a 125W chip.
Being able to turn down the fans is all well and good, but does it really make the 600T a whole lot quieter? While we were running our temperature tests, we probed noise levels using an Extech 407727 Digital Sound Level Meter to find out.
At idle with the fan speeds set on low, our sound meter couldn’t get a reading from the left side of the case, suggesting that noise output was below its 40dB threshold. Not bad at all. It seems we’re looking at a 4-5dB delta between minimum and maximum fan speeds, which isn’t small potatoeskeep in mind that the decibel scale is logarithmic, and the human ear typically registers a 10dB increase as a doubling in intensity.
Subjectively, however, raising the fan speeds only amplified the case’s faint wooshing sound, which wasn’t unpleasant at all. Out of curiosity, I tried unplugging the hard drive and stopping the GPU’s blower fan with my finger. With the case fans at their lowest setting, the system became no louder or more aggravating than a faint summer breeze. Those 200-mm fans really do a good job of keeping noise levels low and airflow at a still-respectable level.
The GPU fan and hard drive were undoubtedly the loudest two components in our test build. The former wouldn’t be hard to switch out for something a little quieter, but hard drive noise reduction isn’t quite as simple. In effect, the 600T has nothing to shield the user from the whine, chirps, and clicks of mechanical hard drives, since the front panel is all a big honeycomb mesh. If you’re hoping to fashion a silent-but-deadly gaming rig out of the 600T, you’ll probably want to invest in some SSDs and low-speed “green” hard drives for mass storage.
Okay, so I’ll admit it: I was one of those longing for an affordable derivative of the Obsidian Series 800Dnot just because of my personal appreciation for sober industrial design and enthusiast-friendly conveniences, but also because of our system guide, whose Sweeter Spot build could really use an enclosure as slick as the Antec P183 but with more goodies for inveterate tweakers. Corsair has pretty much fulfilled my unspoken wish with the Graphite Series 600T.
While it’s a little pudgier than the 800D, this enclosure still does a fantastic job of marrying elegance and convenience. Building a PC in this thing is just a blast, and the result is not only cool and quiet but also childishly easy to take apart and upgrade. Aside, perhaps, from the little PSU bracket we talked about earlier, everything inside the 600T seems well thought-out, be it the dual-purpose drive caddies, the rubber-lined cable routing holes, or the easy-to-use fan controller. Everything seems to be built in the right way to keep frustration at a minimum.
Of course, the 600T isn’t without faults. If I had my way, this case would probably have some sort of noise-dampening front panel to prevent hard drive activity from getting distracting. I’m not sure I would keep the LED lighting, either, and I’d probably put a proper dust filter over that top fan, just in case. Those are minor nitpicks, however.
The truth is, the 600T is pretty much a home run for Corsair. Here we have a competitively priced, expertly designed enclosure with all the right bits and pieces for hardcore enthusiasts, and it doesn’t look garish or cheesy. I’m genuinely considering ditching my Antec P180 and assembling my desktop PC in this thing. If that doesn’t warrant an Editor’s Choice award, I don’t know what does.