Manufacturer:Corsair UK price (as reviewed):£117 (inc VAT) US price (as reviewed): $140 (ex TAX)
Dual-chamber cases are nothing new. In fact, examples such as YeongYang's cube server case is over 10 years old. As such, while it might sound harsh, a lot of the hype surrounding Corsair's new Carbide Air 540 that dubbed it as out-of-the-box thinking is simply down to inexperience and over-excitement. However, there's definitely something appealing about these types of cases that gets you all enthusiastic about the prospect of building a system into one.
The huge towers doing the rounds at the moment are just that - huge, and we've seen many instances where they literally don't fit under a desk. By splitting a cube case into two compartments, you essentially gain the best of two worlds - enough space to build a tidy system with ample space for water-cooling hardware, and also a relatively compact case, at least in terms of depth and height.
Of course there's no point just copying a design that was around ten years ago because it simply won't work. These days you need SSD mounts, 140mm fan mounts and decent cable routing for starters. For this reason, Corsair has of course applied some very modern tweaks to the Carbide Air 540 that make it very much a case your modern enthusiast will be interested in. We're particularly keen on putting Corsair's claim of it being 'the best air-cooling case in the world' to the test.
The Carbide Air 540's bulk makes it look deceptively large, when in fact it's only a couple of centimetres taller and deeper than the BitFenix Prodigy. It's the fact that the PSU and 5.25in mounts have been shifted to the second chamber that meant Corsair could shrink the other dimensions of the case, yet there's still loads of room to spare inside. The front panel definitely grew on us as we played with it for a few hours, too - it looks rather spartan, but in a ruggedly good way.
The front is as plastic as the inside of your average Asian-made family car, but the lop-sided features, including a huge top-to-bottom grille and front panel mean you instantly forget about this, especially as the case in general is extremely well-made and solid - there's no rattling here. The only real issue cosmetically-speaking is the rotated 5.25in bays - the best thing to install here would be two bay reservoirs perhaps catering for two water-cooling loops in two coolant colours. Of course not all of us can be as extravagant, but it's unlikely fan controllers or optical drives are going to look particularly attractive, or be all that practical, here.
By far our favourite feature is the huge side window and before you ask - which someone always does - no the 5.25in bays aren't visible because they're in the other chamber. Hooray! Coupled with the fact the PSU is hidden in the rear chamber, the Carbide Air 540 really is a tidy system-lover's delight, because all that will be on show is the motherboard, graphics card and any cooling gear you have installed.
While the case's design results in some features of its own, others are a little bare. There are two USB 3.0 ports, but that's it - no fan control, no lighting and only a front dust filter. At a little over £100, you're still getting a lot of case for your money and once again Corsair probably has the excuse that you should be considering one of its all-in-one liquid coolers with their fan control software instead.
However, little niggles like the lack of a dust filter on the bottom of the case, which has large vents beneath the hard disk mounts, and cable ties rather than anything more lavish to secure cables in the otherwise excellent cable routing system, are flies in the ointment of what is so far a very promising case.
Dimensions (mm) 332 x 415 x 458 (W x D x H)
Material Steel, plastic
Available colours Black (reviewed)
Front panel Power, reset, 2 x USB 3, stereo, microphone
Drive bays 2 x external 5.25in, 2 x internal 3.5in/2.5in, 4 x internal 2.5in
Form factor(s) EATX, ATX, micro-ATX
Cooling 2 x 140mm/3 x 120mm front fan mounts (2 x 140mm fans included), 1 x 140mm rear fan mount (fan included), 2 x 120mm/140mm top fan mounts (fan not included)