Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

Corsair Carbide Series AIR 540 Computer Case Review

Corsair is adding a somewhat nonconformist computer case design to its product stack with the AIR 540. Its product features tout better cooling, easier adaptation of high end air and water cooling, all while being a quieter solution. The AIR 540 looks to be a simple cube shape, but inside it holds an uncommon dual chamber design.

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Sound Levels:

Now that we know how well the three 140mm fans included with the Corsair Carbide Series AIR 540 cool your components, let's take a look (listen) at just how loud these fans are.

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We know throwing numbers like that out there with a dB chart is the way most people do things but unless your hobby is acoustical engineering, that number may not tell you much. Hopefully the video clip below will give you some idea of the sound levels and sound profile produced by the Corsair Carbide Series AIR 540.

We took sound level readings from four feet away from the case, with two off the shelf dB meters, from two different angles (side and front). The case, with all the fans running at full speed, registered 40dB.

As demonstrated by the video above, the Air Series AF140L 140mm fans move a good deal of air without being obnoxiously loud. The fans emitted a slight humming noise but nothing that was too noticeable or annoying.

Mod-ability

The question of whether or not a case is a good candidate for modding is highly subjective and varies on a case by case basis. As modders ourselves, more often than not, a plain case that offers a "blank slate" to express our creativity is preferable to a case with large pre-cut side windows, pre-installed 200mm LED fans and so on. It has been our experience that, aside from some very specific projects, most modders prefer not to spend extra money on features they are simply going to cut off and remove anyway.

The Corsair Carbide Series AIR 540 is a gorgeous case right out of the box with very little need to be modded. It already has a large window, great ventilation and can accommodate a wide variety of water cooling systems without resorting to mounting radiators externally. On the other hand, this case could very well also be the foundation for some truly fantastic mods. It will be interesting to see what the modding community comes up with using the AIR 540 as the starting point for their mod projects.

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Having said all that, I found that the easiest way to drastically change the appearance of the AIR 540 is to simply turn it on its side. This orientates the optical drives in a standard position and gives you a neat way to put your hardware on display. Personally, I would use the AIR 540 just like this, rotate the case badge, set it on my desk and call it good. cool

Conclusion

There are a few things we would like to see changed on the Corsair Carbide Series AIR 540. An additional magnetic filter to cover the holes in the bottom of the case would be nice, even if it is just the mesh type used in the Obsidian Series 550D and the Obsidian Series 900D. The limited number of mounting locations for 3.5" drives may be an issues for some and, while not really a "minus," this case takes up more desktop real estate than a traditional case. A fan controller would have been nice but that can also easily remedied by the end user.

Corsair has hit it out of the park with the design of the AIR 540. Sure, there are other "cube" cases out there with similar features to the AIR 540 but none at this price. The company's Direct Airflow Path design may sound like a gimmick but it actually works. By removing major obstacles to airflow (hard drive racks, PSUs, etc.), separating the heat generating components from the rest of the system and incorporating a free flow design, Corsair delivered on its promise to provide "revolutionary" cooling.

Building a system in the AIR 540 was a pleasure. The case is extremely well designed, has room to spare and working in and around this case was a breeze. No tight spaces or cramped conditions, no skinned knuckles; the AIR 540 is a system builder’s dream.

Cable management is a no-brainer thanks to all the room behind the motherboard tray. That isn't to say you won't have to be neat and tidy when you route your cables, it just means that, instead of having a 1" channel to cram your cables into, you essentially have a 7" x 19" x 20" cavern for cable management.

While it may not be for everyone, we really liked the stacking solid state drive mounting system. In fact, we liked it so much that we would love to see Corsair do this for 3.5" drives as well. Being able to configure the tool-less drive cage for up to four drives and the ease of installation (drives slide in - out) makes this one of the "easiest" cases we've ever used.

Let's move on to the two areas that the Carbide Series AIR 540 is head and shoulders above the competition.

First of all, let's talk watercooling. This case can accommodate so many different configurations that it will satisfy a huge portion of the market. Want to install a dual loop system without modding the case? No problem. If you want to go big, you can install a 280mm radiator in the top and a 420mm radiator in the front with up to ten 140mm fans (in a push pull configuration) at the same time in the AIR 540. Want to run a 240/280mm all-in-one system for your CPU and two separate 120/140mm all-in-one systems for your graphics cards? You can do that too, again with fans on both sides in a push pull configuration. Watercooling aficionados will have a field day with this case without having to lift a tool to mod it.

Secondly, the air cooling performance of the AIR 540 is phenomenal. In fact, there were several times during testing when we would have to reset the system, let everything cool back down and re-run our tests because we just couldn't believe the numbers we were seeing. The Air Series AF140L 140mm fans fed a solid, uninterrupted stream of cool outside air directly over our hardware. This direct stream of air insured that our test system, even under full load, wouldn't blow its top. Given that you can install up to five 140mm fans (or a total of six 120mm fans) in the AIR 540, the performance we saw during testing can be considered the baseline for what you, the end user, can expect from this chassis.

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The Bottom Line

Surviving our enthusiast testing process isn't a chore to be taken lightly. Every case that comes through the HardOCP labs is thoroughly examined, pushed to the limit, and tested in ways that we feel gives you an accurate assessment of the product's ability to perform in the manner you would use it at home. The Corsair Carbide Series AIR 540 is a uniquely designed chassis that delivers on its promises. If you call yourself an enthusiast, the AIR 540 should be at the top of your list.

Corsair Carbide Series AIR 540 is available from Amazon for $128.38 with free shipping. Taking everything into consideration, the great design, unique features, phenomenal performance and great price, the AIR 540 is deserving of our [H] Editor's Choice Gold Award.

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Corsair Carbide Series AIR 540

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