In the PC enthusiast realm, Corsair is a brand that needs no introduction. After establishing itself as a go-to source for quality computer memory, this plucky bunch from Fremont, California dropped a bomb on the computer enclosure world in the form of the Obsidian 800D. We loved the case's new innovations and attention to detail, and the freshman effort quickly became a favorite among PC enthusiasts with a penchant for full-sized towers.
The nearly $300 price tag attached to the 800D allowed the competition some breathing room, but over time, Corsair has methodically cut off the air supply at lower price points with follow-up cases like the Obsidian 700D and 650D, and the Graphite 600T. Now, Corsair has put yet another kink in the air hose by bringing its repertoire of enthusiast-friendly features down to $100 with the Carbide 400R.
Corsair cases have always felt expansive and inviting to work inside, and the Carbide 400R provides even more internal volume for cables and fans thanks to a pair of bulging side panels. They may come off as a little pudgy in glamor shots, but these love handles can be put to good use. The flared panel on the case's left-hand side provides enough clearance for the installation of two optional 140-mm fans without getting all up in your video card's business. A symmetrical bulge on the right side panel offers builders a welcome cavity for tucking cables behind the motherboard tray.
Having previously seen the 400R in various press shots, as well as in passing—while I pushed my way to the front of the 650D line at CES this past January—I can attest that the Carbide looks even better in person. Perhaps it's just a classic case of the camera adding 10 pounds. Whatever the reason, as the Carbide 400R slipped out of its shipping box and into something more comfortable, I caught myself staring. The overall fit and finish is impeccable, as we've come to expect from Corsair's enclosures. The plastics used for the front panel feel sturdy, and despite being made of steel, the case is actually lighter than you'd expect, tipping the scales at a reasonable 18.5 lbs. This should be welcome news to LAN party goers without a gym membership and a bucket full of creatine.
The front fascia of the 400R features a metal mesh similar to that of the Graphite 600T. Surrounding the mesh is a rounded plastic bezel that extends slightly beyond the top of the case, forming a convenient handle for grab-and-go transportation. The handle feels sturdy, even with the added heft of a fully built system's internal components.
Behind the mesh are two 120-mm intake fans with white LEDs. The illumination of these fans smartly complements the matching white power and hard drive activity indicators. However, if LED bling isn't your thing, Corsair kindly provides a button on the front panel that disables the subtle glow while keeping the fans spinning. I typically find LED accent lighting gaudy and distracting, but these toe the line between flash and class well enough that, like Motel 6, I've opted to keep the lights on.
Atop the chassis' face, just above the 5.25-inch drive bays, resides the power button and front I/O port array. Like many of the newer cases seeping onto the market, the 400R incorporates a pair of SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports that utilize an internal motherboard header instead of an unsightly pass-through cable that plugs into the rear I/O cluster. In our recent test drive of the Fractal Design Define R3, we derided the lack of accommodation for users with motherboards only equipped with USB 2.0 headers. Corsair has foreseen this eventuality and includes a USB header adapter that enables the front ports to be used with USB 3.0 or 2.0 headers. My only quibble is that our adapter did not mate securely to the case's USB connector, necessitating the liberal use of electrical tape to hold things together. We're not sure whether this is an isolated incident or a larger-scale issue with these adapters.
In addition to the USB 3.0 ports, the 400R's front panel squeezes a FireWire connector and 3.5-mm headphone and microphone jacks between the buttons for power, reset, and fan lighting. For some reason, the ribbon cable connecting the front panel's buttons and LEDs was disconnected when I received the case. Whether it was jostled loose during shipping or was simply overlooked at the factory, I can't be sure. This issue became painfully evident during the first system boot attempt, when absolutely nothing happened. Some quick troubleshooting revealed the system would boot successfully when the power pins on the motherboard were directly shorted with a screwdriver, so the issue had to reside somewhere up the chain, in either the wiring or the switch assembly itself.
After removing the front face plate and unscrewing the I/O-panel board, I discovered the detached cable. For experienced builders, having to reconnect this cable is a moderately annoying but easily remedied issue. For novice system builders still learning the ropes, such an issue may not be as readily identifiable, and it could result in the initiation of a frustrating RMA. Applying a quick dab of hot glue at the factory could prevent such incidents.
The back side of the case features four holes replete with rubber grommets, allowing cabling or water-cooling tubing to pass through. Corsair decided to bring eight expansion slots to this party, giving system builders the opportunity to experiment with Quad SLI or Crossfire configurations if they so desire. Otherwise, the back of the 400R looks fairly standard, revealing a bottom-mounted power supply emplacement and a single 120-mm exhaust fan without any LED bling.