Corsair’s Carbide Series Air 740 case reviewed

If Corsair didn’t invent the dual-chamber case design, it’s certainly done a lot of the work behind making it popular. The Carbide Series Air 240 earned a TR Recommended award from me two years ago for its solid cooling performance and generous stock fan complement. Corsair expanded that same basic design into an ATX-friendly case with its Air 540, although we never got to test that case’s performance in the TR labs. We’re making up for that oversight today with Corsair’s next evolution of its dual-chamber tech: the beastly Carbide Series Air 740

To bring the Air 740’s style in line with its modern case lineup, Corsair traded the chunky longitudinal grating and hard corners of the Air 540 for a slightly curvier design that’s at once softer and more aggressive. The 740’s skin of gently-sloping plastic cladding is broken up by hard, chamfered horizontal bars and tightly-radiused curves at its edges, all set off by two broad curves running down the front of the case. That arresting design reminds me of Ford’s Raptor pickup, and it doesn’t need dozens of RGB LEDs or wild colors to stand out in today’s crowded case market—a real achievement.

The Air 740 also makes a statement by bucking the downsizing trend that some case manufacturers are going for right now in favor of an unapologetically outsized footprint. Compared to the already-ginormous Carbide Series 600C we reviewed earlier this year, the Air 740 is a whole three inches wider. In fact, its 13.4″ girth would let it swallow most high-end graphics cards across its width, never mind its length.

When we first received this case, the 740’s full-length side panel window and huge size made me wonder where I could start stowing the six-packs inside. As with the Carbide 600C’s expansive window, the Air 740’s side panel rests on two sturdy metal pins at the rear of the case, and it can be lifted off for full access to the case’s main chamber.

Since the Air 740’s design moves a system’s storage devices and power supply into their own separate area, the main chamber of the case can hold most any high-end component one might want to install these days. The 740 boasts 6.7″ (170 mm) of space for tower-style heatsinks, 240-mm or 280-mm radiator mounts on its top and bottom panels, and a 280-mm or 360-mm radiator mount on its front panel. Graphics cards up to 13″ (330 mm) long will find a cozy home inside the Air 740, as well. Corsair blesses the Air 740 with a pair of its AF140L fans, the same spinners we saw in the 600C.

Clean freaks might be troubled by the Air 740’s unfiltered top and bottom fan mounts. Though those mounts are covered by a coarse metal grating, they aren’t backed with filters that would stop dust from making its way into the case. The Air 740’s front fans are protected by such a filter, at least, but that panel is surprisingly difficult to remove. That might be because of its unusual metal expanding pins, which felt stiffer than the average plastic pin and proved rather stubborn in the face of some help from squeezing fingers.

A healthy tug on the front panel did break it free of the case, but we’d be wary of breaking the panel itself during removal because of the comparatively fragile plastic that surrounds the screwed-in metal retainers. It’s easiest to get a handle on the front panel by removing the thumbscrew-secured top panel and pulling from the top of the case, but be careful when yanking on this cover and don’t hesitate to help the process along by squeezing the retainers from inside the case.

One victim of the Air 740’s refit is the Air 540’s optical-drive bays. Corsair ditched those 5.25″ mounts entirely, so builders who still rely on spinning discs will need to plug an external drive into the case—perhaps into one of its twin USB 3.0 front-panel ports. The Air 740’s front panel also offers hookups for headphones and microphones. A power button, reset button, and an on-off switch for the company’s upcoming LED fan controllers dot the front panel, and a punch-out plug beneath the USB 3.0 ports will eventually make room for a front-panel VR port block.

The Air 740’s Kardashian-esque back panel holds its 140-mm rear fan, eight expansion slots, and a vertical power supply mount. From this angle, we can also see the filtered intake for the PSU fan.

Four rather dainty rubber feet support the Air 740’s heft on desks or other surfaces. From this view, we can also get a glimpse of the case’s bottom 240-mm or 280-mm radiator mount.

Here are the Air 740’s most important specs in convenient tabular form:

  Corsair Carbide Series Air 740
Type Dual-chamber ATX mid-tower
Dimensions (W x H x D) 13.4″ x 20″ x 16.8″  (340 x 510 x 426 mm)
Supported motherboards Mini-ITX, microATX, ATX
3.5″ drive mounts 3
2.5″ drive mounts 4
5.25″ drive bays None
Fan mounts 3 120-mm or 2 140-mm front fans

2 120-mm or 140-mm top fans

1 140-mm rear fan

2 120-mm or 140-mm bottom fans

Radiator mounts Front radiators up to 280 mm or 360 mm long

Top radiators up to 240 mm or 280 mm long

140-mm rear radiator

240-mm or 280-mm bottom radiator

Included fans 2x Corsair AF140L 140-mm front fans

1x Corsair AF140L 140-mm rear fan

Front panel I/O 2x USB 3.0

Headphone

Microphone

Max. graphics card length 13″ (330 mm)
Max. CPU cooler height 6.7″ (170 mm)

The Air 740 goes for $149.99 on Newegg right now, placing it in the upper echelon of ATX cases available today. That’s $10 more than the already-high-end Carbide Series 600C and about $20 less than Cooler Master’s MasterCase Maker 5. We’ll be expecting a smooth build and great performance for that kind of money. Let’s get inside the Air 740 and get to building.

 

Open plan

Much like the Carbide Series 600C, the Air 740’s interior design presents an unobstructed path for airflow from the intake fans to the exhaust. Unlike Corsair’s inverted uber-tower, the Air 740 sticks with a traditional orientation for the motherboard tray and the components attached to it.

The motherboard tray is ringed with nine grommets to meet nearly any cable-routing or liquid-cooling challenge a builder might throw at the Air 740. Three more ungrommeted cable-routing passthroughs provide even more options for solving the cable-management puzzle. Aside from the three 140-mm fans pre-installed in the case, the Air 740’s motherboard chamber is refreshingly unadorned, and it shouldn’t present any challenges during the build process.

Flipping the Air 740 around reveals its storage and power compartment. The 3.5″ drive cage in the upper-left corner of the case can hold three drives on a trio of tool-free sleds. Just above the power-supply mount, a quartet of the snap-together SSD trays used in several older Corsair cases can hold up to four 2.5″ storage devices. While these 2.5″ sleds don’t take up much space all together, unused ones can be snapped off the stack for cleanliness if builders desire. 

The 740’s vertical power-supply mount uses a thumbscrew-secured bracket to provide extra support and security for PSUs of practically any reasonable length in addition to the traditional four-screw ATX mounting scheme. With that, we’ve seen the bones of the Air 740—now it’s time to put some meat on them.

The build

As one might expect from such a large, roomy case, I had almost no issues putting a system in the Air 740.

Thanks to its entirely open main chamber, putting our motherboard, CPU, and graphics card inside the 740 was a painless process. I had no trouble finding a workable cable grommet for every cord I needed to pass through from the power-supply chamber, and every screw and standoff went into the case without protest. I did run into one small problem with the built-in cabling, however—routing the front-panel connectors through one of the ungrommeted holes at the bottom of the case stretched those cords to their limits. That one challenge aside, the most important parts of our system went in without a hitch.

It’s a similar story in the Air 740’s storage-and-power chamber. Thanks to the tool-free 2.5″ and 3.5″ bays, installing our test rig’s storage devices was a snap. The only obstacle I ran into on this side of the case was with the 740’s adjustable power-supply support bracket. Since that bracket cradles a corner of the PSU, it just barely cleared the fan-mode switch on my SeaSonic SS660-XP2 unit. Not all modern power supplies have this switch, but for builders with units that do, it’s worth considering whether this bracket will cause interference with them. With a little convincing, the bracket still slid into place, but Corsair could give builders a little more peace of mind by shaving a few millimeters off the height of that support.

All told, the Air 740’s huge size and open design make it a pleasure to build in for the most part. Let’s see whether that ease of use is matched by solid cooling performance now.

 

Our testing methods

Here are the specifications of our test system:

Processor Intel Core i5-6700K
Motherboard ASRock Z170 Extreme7+
Memory 16GB (2x8GB) G.Skill Trident Z DDR4-3000
Graphics card Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming
Storage Two Kingston HyperX 480GB SSDs

WD Black 1TB 7200 RPM hard drive

Power supply Seasonic SS-660XP2
CPU cooler Cooler Master MasterLiquid Pro 280
OS Windows 10 Pro

Our thanks to Intel, ASRock, G.Skill, Gigabyte, Kingston, WD, and Cooler Master for their contributions to our test system. Our thanks to Corsair for providing the cases we’re testing today, as well. We’ll be pitting the Air 740 against Corsair’s own Carbide Series 600C for comparison purposes.

Our case-testing cycle consists of the following phases:

  • 10 minutes idling at the Windows 10 desktop
  • 10 minutes running the Prime95 CPU torture test
  • 10 minutes running the Prime95 CPU torture test and the Unigine Heaven GPU torture test
  • 10 minutes idling at the Windows 10 desktop

Cooling performance

Here are the results of our thermal tests, plotted over time:


And here are the minimum and maximum temperatures reached during each testing phase:


The Air 740 takes a slight edge over its 600C cousin in our thermal tests, for the most part. That’s not a surprise given its conventional layout and more open design. Although they trade a degree or two here and there, both of these cases turn in excellent thermal performance with this version of our test system. Let’s see if the noise levels of each case reveal a more clear-cut winner.

Noise levels


Both at idle and under load, the Air 740 and its 600C cousin turn in admirably low dBA numbers. On the whole, the Air 740 is slightly quieter under load, while the 600C has a slight edge at idle.

As always, though, those absolute numbers don’t tell the whole story about how these cases sound with our test system inside. For some reason, the Air 740 seems to resonate with predominantly bassy tones from our Cooler Master MasterLiquid Pro 280 CPU cooler and its twin 140-mm fans, almost like a speaker cabinet. Despite its sometimes-lower dBA readings on our sound meter under load, the Air 740 makes more perceptible noise in operation thanks to this resonance. The 600C is much better at suppressing those low tones.

The 740’s performance also isn’t helped by the rather chuggy-sounding Corsair AF140L fans common to both it and the Carbide Series 600C. While the 600C’s upside-down main chamber and mostly solid side and top panels do a good job of suppressing the noise from those fans, the Air 740 has no such insulation—its main chamber is largely open to the elements. That openness allows more of the noise character of the fans (and the rest of the system) to escape.

The resonance issues we noted with our Cooler Master cooler won’t arise with every possible system build in the Air 740, of course, but it’s worth noting for folks trying to cool high-end CPUs like the Core i7-6700K in our test system. A different cooler with a less bassy pair of fans attached might be just the ticket for achieving a quiet system in the Air 740, since the case’s load noise levels are still promising. A smoother-sounding set of 140-mm fans might also help, either in the box from Corsair or as an aftermarket set. For a $150 case, we think Corsair ought to consider the former option. Corsair might also consider an Air 740Q with solid side panels and more noise-dampening material inside. 

 

Conclusions

There are times in life where you just want to be comfortable. Maybe that involves driving a full-size truck when you could do with a subcompact instead, or wearing cargo shorts when a slim pair of flat-fronts might look better. Corsair’s Carbide Series Air 740 is a 180° turn from the small, trim cases that are all the rage right now, and you know what? It’s kind of nice.

Of course, not everybody needs the huge interior, multiple radiator mounts, and Texas-sized footprint of the Air 740. Unless you’re taking advantage of every bit of its copious volume, the 740’s bulk might be a turn-off. We were also surprised by how resonant the 740 was with the bass tones from our 280-mm Cooler Master liquid cooler, and Corsair’s included 140-mm fans aren’t the smoothest-sounding we’ve ever heard. The minor clearance issue we experienced with the 740’s adjustable power-supply bracket and our SeaSonic power supply would have us double-checking the fan switch position of prospective PSUs for Air 740 builds, too.

Those minor issues aside, the Air 740 boasts solid build quality, ample user-friendliness, and excellent cooling performance. Choose the right CPU cooler to go with it, and we have no doubt it’d be a quiet runner, as well. We’re also fans of the 740’s muscular, distinctive styling. It doesn’t look like anything else on the market, and it doesn’t have to rely on gimmicky or faddish features to make a statement. Once the RGB LED craze has passed by, the Air 740’s quietly aggressive style will still look good.

Despite its many virtues, the Air 740’s $150 price tag makes us a little hesitant. If you don’t plan to fill the 740 to the brim, lesser cases are more than up to the task of handling the basic single-graphics-card, air-cooled ATX system these days for less money. Sometimes, though, only that full-size truck will do. For folks that want plenty of space to realize their high-end systems without any hassle in the process, the Air 740 delivers. We’re happy to call it TR Recommended.

Comments closed
    • Thresher
    • 3 years ago

    Corsair cases continue to get uglier and uglier.

    I miss the metal monolith designs. I’m not in my 20’s anymore and I don’t need blinky lights or something that looks like it’s going 90mph while just sitting on the floor. I need a capacious case, all metal preferably, that fades into the background and doesn’t stand out in my office. I miss the old 650D and 800D. The 750D is nice, but it’s not constructed as well as the older designs.

      • RickyTick
      • 3 years ago

      I agree. I have the 650D and love it. I’m about to pass it on to my son and my next build is in the 450D. It’s everything the 650D has but just a bit smaller.

    • JosiahBradley
    • 3 years ago

    As a 540 Air owner and having built with it 3 times, I hate the 740. It’s like they took the things I love about the 540 removed them and then made a larger case. The aesthetic is un-Corsair like, treding into ThermalTake territory with those stupid fins. The glass siding has a handle obscuring the clean side view. The size of the 540 was just right and you could fit massive watercoolers in the top already. And where did the hot swap drive cages go? I’ve used those on more than one occasion.

    • Chrispy_
    • 3 years ago

    I love the look of this thing but despite being unapologetically huge, it’s really not all that capable in terms of how much hardware you can put in it.

    The styling and layout would work really well for a well-cooled mATX box with an SFX PSU in the back though.

    [i<]Edit: I forgot to mention - Why the frack is it called "Air" when this thing makes several huge compromises specifically for [u<]water[/u<]cooling?! Storage compromised, space compromised, cooling compromised (there's easily room for a 200mm fan with that shape if they weren't catering to [u<]water[/u<] radiators first and foremost)[/i<]

      • Anovoca
      • 3 years ago

      [quote<]Why the frack is it called "Air" when this thing makes several huge compromises specifically for watercooling?! [/quote<] My guess would be because Corsair doesn't make Air coolers for CPU. Why build something that could cut into future profitability.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 3 years ago

      Liquid coolers still need fans, right? According to the product page there’s room for eight fans. That’s a lot of air.

        • Chrispy_
        • 3 years ago

        I guess so.

        I would like to know from a TR or Steam survey how large the multi-radiator watercooling crowd is though.

        There are so many potentially good cases needlessly ruined by [i<]Excessive Radiator Support Syndrome[/i<]. How many people really need to run more than one radiator? I'd be willing to bet it's fewer than 1-in-1000 enthusiasts which means fewer than 1-in-100,000 regular folk. I also know a lot of people who have watercooled with an AIO and then gone back to air cooling once the non-serviceable water loop gunks up and corrodes to the point of failure. AIOs are expensive for their limited lifespan and less money spent on a good air cooler will last until a new socket that is incompatible appears.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 3 years ago

          I hear you don’t need a radiator to use the fan ports on this case. I don’t get the axe you’re grinding.

            • Chrispy_
            • 3 years ago

            The axe I’m grinding is that bays have been lost for the sake of front radiators and radiator support makes cases two inches taller, wider, deeper for 0.1% of the market who do want multiple radiators, whilst making it needlessly large for the remaining 99.9% of the market that just have 1 or 0 radiators.

            Despite being huge, this thing is really quite limited in what you can build into it so by my standards it’s not even a good case irrespective of the poor space efficiency.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 3 years ago

            I will grant you I don’t get why this apparent junker is “TR recommended”, but lots of cases put together space for multiple rads AND lots of drives. The Define R4 and R5 have removable drive cages that let you do either one, for example.

            There’s just way better stuff on the market for less money. It’s a head scratcher. But making room for rads is not mutually exclusive regarding drive bays.

            • Shobai
            • 3 years ago

            Well, not mutually exclusive unless you want to actually use both in the same space =P

            • derFunkenstein
            • 3 years ago

            Right. I just mean that one case (Define R5) can cater to both markets. It’s apparently not impossible.

      • Freon
      • 3 years ago

      Loading up a case with half a dozen 140mm fans leads to a lot of mass airflow for very, very little noise. I have the Air540 and together with an MSI Gaming X 1070 and Kraken X61 CPU cooler the entire PC is virtually silent. I pretty much have to shove my ear up to the front to hear anything.

      With a smaller case you simply have to use fewer and/or smaller fans, which require higher speeds to get the same mass airflow, which makes more noise.

      Water or not is really besides the point, though the same problem exists as you drill down to the component level. Larger fans spinning slower will have the same mass airflow but be quieter, that’s really why radiators work, it has less to do with H20 being magic and more to do with having a much higher cross section to work on. Net air speed is lower while maintaining the mass air flow rate with a higher cross section. Air mass flow is our best first approximation of cooling performance envelope available. Air speed translates to noise, again at least in a first approximation.

    • Anovoca
    • 3 years ago

    I have never been one of those voices decrying the use of a visual window on a case, but this case has an identity crisis. Let’s face it, if you are buying this, it is not because you think it looks pretty. About the only plus to aesthetics the window adds to this case, is that it will prevent anyone from accidentally mistaking your computer for a heating register.

    Edit: Upon further considerations, this case looks the most like a heating vent on the dashboard of my truck. All it is missing is a little nob to open and close the air vents.

      • EzioAs
      • 3 years ago

      [quote<]Let's face it, if you are buying this, it is not because you think it looks pretty.[/quote<] Speak for yourself, I think it looks pretty good. I prefer the aesthetics of the Air 240/540 more but this one doesn't look too bad either.

    • Starfalcon
    • 3 years ago

    Seems a silly case with a serious lack of storage, and tons of wasted space. A huge case like this with no 5 1/4 bays is confusing, and the spaces for hard drives seems very poorly planned. I would think they designed this case first, then tried to figure out how to lay out the interior second.

    Heck my last 2 cases by Lian-Li can fit way more inside and are smaller than this one. My current case can fit 2 5 1/4, 12 3.5 drives, and 3 2.5 drives in it for around the same price of this case, and it is all aluminum with no tacky plastic on it.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 3 years ago

      Yeah it’s a weird machine. I’d rather load up a Define R5. It can hold so much more than this and takes up less space, puts out less-resonant noise, and still keeps things cool.

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