Best PC Chassis: Cooler Master ACTS 840

Notable Mentions: Akasa Omega, Cooler Master HAF 932

2008 has been a pretty interesting year in the world of enthusiast cases, with some new and innovative designs combining with tweaked versions of classic chassis to impress throughout the year.

While Akasa’s Omega, a tweaked version of the classic Eclipse chassis, impressed us with its flexible cooling setup and excellent build quality and the Cooler Master HAF932 showed us a high airflow case doesn’t need to sound like a jet engine thanks to the use of massive 230mm fans, there was only one case this year that not only met our expectations, but hugely exceeded them – the Cooler Master ATCS 840.

A relaunch of Cooler Master’s iconic ATCS range of yesteryear, this brushed aluminium colossus has managed to tick every single box for what we look for in a high end chassis.

The bit-tech Hardware Awards 2008 Best PC Chassis & Cooling Product The bit-tech Hardware Awards 2008 Best PC Chassis & Cooling Product

Aesthetically it’s gorgeous, with smooth lines and an understated style we love, and it’s also stunningly quiet thanks to the use of large low RPM 230mm cooling fans. The bit-tech Hardware Awards 2008 Best PC Chassis & Cooling ProductThe switch from 120mm to larger fan sizes now seems as inevitable as the move from 80mm to 120mm was, and we fully expect to see more and more cases fitted with 200mm+ fans in 2009.

The ATCS 840 has also been put together phenomenally well, with excellent build quality and dozens of tiny thoughtful touches that help justify its admittedly very steep price tag.

A pop-out front panel, ball bearing lined motherboard tray rails, a hugely customisable drive bay and capable cooling setup and more included extras than you can shake a stick all contribute to what is a truly excellent case.

Sadly though, with the Credit Crunch biting and ultra premium luxury cases becoming less attractive to many, we’re worried that this mighty aluminium titan might be overlooked by those looking to build a system on the cheap.

It's lucky then that Cooler Master is looking to bring out a smaller and more affordable version of the ATCS 840 in 2009 – hurry up please, we can’t wait!

Best Cooling Product: ThermalRight Ultra 120 eXtreme

Noctua NH-U12P, Akasa Blue Aurora, Akasa 965BL

We’ve looked at plenty of CPU coolers this year and have got to admit, there has been an awful lot of mediocrity. Striking the balance between cooling and tolerable noise levels seems to be something that heatsink manufacturers still struggle with, with all too many compromising one way or the other.

From this sea of mediocrity though have risen a few truly excellent coolers and credit must go to Akasa for producing two of the best this year with its 965 and 966 LGA 775 heatsinks. The 965 is phenomenally capable little heatsink available for just over ten pounds and the 966 “Blue Aurora” manages to combine not only excellent high end thermal performance and reasonable noise levels, but does so for a price tag that’s hard to ignore.

The bit-tech Hardware Awards 2008 Best PC Chassis & Cooling Product

Noctua has continued to impress us again this year as well, improving upon the NH-U12F with the enhanced NH-U12P. The mounting system woes are still present, but the company has offered free LGA1366 mounting kit upgrades for those who have already purchased a Noctua cooler – this is a breath of fresh air in this industry and it shouldn’t go unrecognised. What’s more, we think the Noctua’s 1366 mounting kit is better than any other on the market today.

The bit-tech Hardware Awards 2008 Best PC Chassis & Cooling ProductHowever, there is one heatsink this year that has impressed us again and again, and amazingly it was already a year old when we looked at it back in January.

Yes, it’s the Thermalright Ultra eXtreme 120 (or TRUE as you’ve affectionately dubbed it), a product as capable now as it was when first released and arguably worthy of a lifetime achievement award in the world of enthusiast hardware after outperforming every new heatsink this year.

While it might not be the easiest to fit, and the price will put many off, you simply cannot get better air cooling performance anywhere else and it’s the perfect partner for an overclocked Q6600 or new Core i7 system thanks to its phenomenal ability to dissipate heat from your CPU thanks to six huge heat pipes and uncompromising build quality.

Yes it’s pretty big, yes you’ll need to buy a 120mm cooling fan separately and yes, for its price you can buy a budget dual core processor, but we don’t care. Cooling this capable on deserves credit and not a small amount of respect.
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